Genesis 12:10-20

Genesis 12:10-20

[10] And there was a famine  in the land:  and Abram  went down  into Egypt  to sojourn  there; for the famine  was grievous  in the land.  [11] And it came to pass, when  he was come near  to enter  into Egypt,  that he said  unto Sarai  his wife,  Behold  now,  I know  that thou art a fair  woman  to look upon:  [12] Therefore it shall come to pass, when the Egyptians  shall see  thee, that they shall say,  This is his wife:  and they will kill  me, but they will save thee alive.  [13] Say,  I pray thee,  thou art my sister:  that  it may be well  with me for thy sake; and my soul  shall live  because of thee.  [14] And it came to pass, that, when Abram  was come  into Egypt,  the Egyptians  beheld  the woman  that she was very  fair.  [15] The princes  also of Pharaoh  saw  her, and commended  her before  Pharaoh:  and the woman  was taken  into Pharaoh's  house.  [16] Abram  well  for her sake: and he had sheep,  and oxen,  and he asses,  and menservants,  and maidservants,  and she asses,  and camels.  [17] And the LORD  plagued  Pharaoh  and his house  with great  plagues  because of  Sarai  Abram's  wife.  [18] And Pharaoh  called  Abram,  and said,  What is this that thou hast done  unto me? why didst thou not tell  me that she was thy wife?  [19] Why saidst thou,  She is my sister?  so I might have taken  her to me to wife:  take  [20] And Pharaoh  commanded  concerning him: and they sent him away,  and his wife,  and all that he had.

What does Genesis 12:10-20 Mean?

Contextual Meaning

The second crisis Abram faced arose because of a famine in Canaan. Abram chose to sojourn in the Nile Valley until it ended. In this incident Abram misrepresented Sarai because he feared for his life. By doing Song of Solomon , he jeopardized his blessing since he lost his wife temporarily to Pharaoh. However, Yahweh intervened to deliver Abram and Sarai from Egypt.
"The account of Abraham"s "sojourn" in Egypt bears the stamp of having been intentionally shaped to parallel the later account of God"s deliverance of Israel from Egypt ( Genesis 41 - Exodus 12). Both passages have a similar message as well. Thus, here, at the beginning of the narratives dealing with Abraham and his seed, we find an anticipation of the events that will occur at the end.... Behind the pattern stands a faithful, loving God. What he has done with Abraham, he will do for his people today and tomorrow." [1]
Though Bible students debate the point, I believe Abram rushed ahead of God by going to Egypt without a divine revelation that he should do so. [2] God blessed Abram in Egypt, ironically mainly through Sarai, in spite of Abram"s lack of faith and then returned him to the Promised Land. Another severe famine ( Genesis 12:10) later encouraged Jacob and his family to sojourn in Egypt ( Genesis 47:4), but God gave Jacob permission to go ( Genesis 46:2-4). It was evidently fear rather than faith that made Abram leave the Promised Land.
"Throughout Genesis 12-50 Egypt is a symbol of safety and provision for the patriarchs and their families. If anything, Egypt is the oppressed in Genesis. Note that it is Sarai who "dealt harshly" with her Egyptian maidservant, forcing her "to flee" ( Genesis 16:6). Later she urges her husband to "cast out" this Egyptian." [3]
Some commentators have concluded that in dealing with Sarai as he did Abram was relying on a custom of the land from which he had come to protect him. They suggest that this custom was evidently unknown in Egypt. Because he failed to perceive this, Abram got into trouble.
"The thrice repeated story [4] has been the subject of much discussion by commentators through the ages, but only with the discoveries at Nuzi has it become clear that Abraham and Isaac were not involved in any trickery, but were endeavoring to protect their respective wives from molestation by invoking the Hurrian custom or law of wife-sistership. According to the Nuzi tablets a woman having the status of wife-sister rather than that of just an ordinary wife, enjoyed superior privileges and was better protected. The status was a purely legal one, a wife-sister being quite distinct from the physical relationship usually understood by the word "sister." In order to create the status of wife-sistership two documents were prepared-one for marriage and the other for sistership. Thus, we find a Nuzi tablet, according to which a person by the name of Akkuleni, son of Akiya, contracted with one Hurazzi, son of Eggaya, to give to Hurazzi in marriage his sister Beltakkadummi. Another tablet records that the same Akkuleni sold his sister Beltakkadummi as sister to the same Hurazzi. If such a marriage was violated, the punishment was much more severe than in the case of a straightforward ordinary marriage. It would appear that the actions of Abraham and Isaac reflect this custom." [5]
In the Hurrian culture from which Abram came people evidently viewed the husband wife-sister relationship as even more sacred than the husband wife relationship. According to this view, when Abram went to Egypt he assumed that the Egyptians also regarded the husband wife-sister relationship as more sacred than the husband wife relationship. Therefore he presented Sarai as his wife-sister and expected that the Egyptians would not interfere with his relationship with Sarai. However proponents of this view assume the husband wife-sister relationship was foreign to Pharaoh. He took Sarai because he believed that she was Abram"s physical sister. When he discovered that Sarai was also Abram"s wife he returned Sarai to Abram because Pharaoh regarded the husband wife relationship as sacred. He was angry with Abram because in Pharaoh"s eyes Abram had misrepresented his relationship with Sarai.
Those who hold this view see this incident as an example of failure to adjust to a foreign culture and failure to trust God. They usually understand Abram"s motivation as having been confidence in a cultural custom from his past rather than faith in God. [6]
Most interpreters have concluded that Abram, on the contrary, was not being completely honest and straightforward about his relationship with Sarai, but was telling a half-truth to save his own life (cf. Genesis 20:12). Evidently it was possible for brothers to fend off suitors of their sisters with promises of marriage without really giving them away (cf. Genesis 24:55; Genesis 34:13-17). How would God fulfill His promises if Abram died now? His fears were understandable; Pharaoh did take Sarai into his harem. Nevertheless God intervened supernaturally to reunite Abram with Sarai and to return them to the Promised Land (by deportation). [3]
Abram"s fear for his physical safety in a strange land ( Genesis 12:2) led him to take an initiative that was not God"s will. He should have told the truth and continued trusting God. Yet even in his disobedience and lack of faith God blessed Abram ( Genesis 12:16) and preserved him ( Genesis 12:20) because of His promises ( Genesis 12:1-3).
"One cannot miss the deliberate parallelism between this sojourn of Abram in Egypt and the later event in the life of the nation in bondage in Egypt. The motifs are remarkably similar: the famine in the land ( Genesis 12:10; Genesis 47:13), the descent to Egypt to sojourn ( Genesis 12:10; Genesis 47:27), the attempt to kill the males but save the females ( Genesis 12:12; Exodus 1:22), the plagues on Egypt ( Genesis 12:17; Exodus 7:14 to Exodus 11:10), the spoiling of Egypt ( Genesis 12:16; Exodus 12:35-36), the deliverance ( Genesis 12:19; Exodus 15), and the ascent to the Negev ( Genesis 13:1; Numbers 13:17; Numbers 13:22). The great deliverance out of bondage that Israel experienced was thus already accomplished in her ancestor, and probably was a source of comfort and encouragement to them." [8]
We sometimes feel tempted to fear for our welfare, especially in a foreign environment. This fear sometimes leads us to seize the initiative and disobey God. We can count on God to fulfill His promises to us in spite of threatening circumstances. We should remain faithful and honest.
"The integrity and honesty of a child of God are among his most potent weapons in spreading the gospel." [9]
The Pharaoh (lit. Great House) Abram dealt with in Egypt was probably Inyotef II (2117-2069 B.C.), a ruler of the eleventh dynasty, Middle Kingdom period. His capital was in Memphis, very near modern Cairo.
Identifications of Significant Pharaohs in the Genesis Period
PREHISTORY (to ca3100 BC)||EARLY DYNASTIES (dynasties1-2; ca3100-2686 BC)||Menes (first Pharaoh) united upper and lower Egypt.||OLD KINGDOM (dynasties3-6; ca2686-2181BC) Capital: Memphis (Noph). Period of absolute power. Age of pyramid building (archaeologists have identified almost80).||Djoser (Zoser; 2Pharaoh of3dynasty) built the first stepped pyramid (south of Cairo).||Cheops (Khufu; 2Pharaoh of4th dynasty) built the Great (largest) Pyramid at Gizeh (near Cairo).||Chephren (Khafre; 4th Pharaoh of4th dynasty) built the still capped pyramid near the Sphinx (near Cairo).||FIRST INTERMEDIATE PERIOD (dynasties7-10; ca2181-2040 BC) Capital: Thebes (No)||MIDDLE KINGDOM (dynasties11-14; ca2033-1603BC) Capital: Memphis (Noph). Period of culture and civilization.||Inyotef II (2117-2069 BC 3Pharaoh of11th dynasty) entertained Abram ( Genesis 12:15).||Ammenemes II (1929-1895 BC 3Pharaoh of12th dynasty) ruled when Joseph arrived in Egypt ( Genesis 37:36).||Sesostris II (1897-1878 BC 4th Pharaoh of12th dynasty) had his dreams interpreted by Joseph and exalted Joseph ( Genesis 40:2; Genesis 41:1; Genesis 41:14-45).||Sesostris III (1878-1843BC 5th Pharaoh of12th dynasty) ruled when Jacob entered Egypt and received a blessing from Jacob ( Genesis 46:31; Genesis 47:10).||Ammenemes III (1842-1797 BC 6th Pharaoh of12th dynasty) ruled when Joseph died ( Genesis 50:26).
Synoptic Chronology of the Ancient Near East||DatesPeriodsAncient Near EastCanaanScripture3150-2200 B.C.Early Bronze Age (Early Canaanite)Egypt:Old Kingdom (pyramid builders).Mesopotamia: Sumer and Akkad.No written records until the Ebla tablets.Excavations show rich and powerful city-states.Genesis 5-112200-1500 B.C.Middle Bronze Age (Middle Canaanite)Egypt:Middle Kingdom.Amorites (Hyksos) control Egypt and Canaan.Amorites and Hebrew patriarchs in Canaan and EgyptGenesis 12-501500-1200 B.C.Late Bronze Age (Late Canaanite)Egypt expels the Amorites and controls Canaan.Egyptians, Canaanites (El Amarna Age).Conquest by Joshua.Early Judges , Philis-tines, Midianites, Ammonites, Moabites, etc. Exodus -Judges1200-930 B.C.Iron Age I (Israelite I)Egyptian influence weakening. Syrian and Assyrian influence not yet developed.Later Judges , Samuel, Saul, David, Solomon. Judges -1Kings930-586 B.C.Iron Age II (Israelite II)Egypt weak, but Shishak attacks Canaan after Solomon's death. Syria (Aram) develops into serious rival for Israel.Divided Kingdom 1 Kings -2Kings
In Old Testament studies some writers describe the "before Christ" (B.C.) period as B.C.E. This stands for "before the common era." These writers also refer to the A.D. (Lat. ano domini, "year of our Lord") period as C.E, the "common era."
The first reference to camels in Scripture occurs in Genesis 12:16. For many years, scholars believed that the ancients did not domesticate camels until much later than the patriarchal period. They believed that references to camels in Genesis indicated historical inaccuracies. However, the archaeological evidence for the early domestication of camels has proved these critics wrong. [10] The Hebrew word does not distinguish whether these were one or two-humped camels.
God will protect His plan even when His people complicate it with deception. Consequently believers should not try to deliver themselves from threatening situations by deceptive schemes but should continue to trust and obey God.
"Here Abram"s failure in the face of hostility, like Israel"s sinfulness in the wilderness, is surely recorded as a warning for later generations (cf. 1 Corinthians 10:11) and as an illustration of the invincibility of the divine promises (cf. Romans 11:29)." [11]
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