It seems there’s a long history of God’s beloved having difficult relations with Egypt. Due to a famine in the land (sounds like Joseph’s story, doesn’t it?), Abram took Sarai and his family into Egypt to find relief. Knowing his wife would be pleasing to Pharaoh, they decided to tell a little white lie, that Sarai was Abram’s sister, not wife. Instead of killing Abram for his wife, Pharaoh blessed Abram for his sister.
Now, aside from the revolting lie that essentially prostituted his wife in exchange for sheep, oxen, donkeys, camels, and slaves – no, sorry it’s hard to set that aside. It was a terrible decision with lasting consequences and God would have none of it. God afflicted Pharaoh for taking another man’s wife, and the affliction finally led to the unearthing of the lie and Pharaoh sending them away. Not empty handed, though – Abram got to keep all that he had acquired in exchange for giving his “sister” away.
This is one of those stories that cements for me my opinion that the Bible is not made up of saints and sinners. It is made up of God and God’s people. And those people are inevitably flawed, even as they carry the blessings of a loving God. Abram blew it. Sarai bore the brunt of the decision. Pharaoh was punished for it. But in the end, God kept God’s part of the covenant, even making use of the indiscretion by blessing Abram with the riches he would need to continue his travels and settle in the land of God’s choosing. The most important thing I walk away with is the reality that people are flawed and that God loves us anyway.
Now there was a famine in the land. So Abram went down to Egypt to reside there as an alien, for the famine was severe in the land. When he was about to enter Egypt, he said to his wife Sarai, “I know well that you are a woman beautiful in appearance; and when the Egyptians see you, they will say, ‘This is his wife’; then they will kill me, but they will let you live. Say you are my sister, so that it may go well with me because of you, and that my life may be spared on your account.”
When Abram entered Egypt the Egyptians saw that the woman was very beautiful. When the officials of Pharaoh saw her, they praised her to Pharaoh. And the woman was taken into Pharaoh’s house. And for her sake he dealt well with Abram; and he had sheep, oxen, male donkeys, male and female slaves, female donkeys, and camels. But the Lord afflicted Pharaoh and his house with great plagues because of Sarai, Abram’s wife. So Pharaoh called Abram, and said, “What is this you have done to me? Why did you not tell me that she was your wife? Why did you say, ‘She is my sister,’ so that I took her for my wife? Now then, here is your wife, take her, and be gone.” And Pharaoh gave his men orders concerning him; and they set him on the way, with his wife and all that he had.
So Abram went up from Egypt, he and his wife, and all that he had, and Lot with him, into the Negeb.