Genesis 12:11-13. “As he was about to enter Egypt, he said to his wife Sarai, ‘I know what a beautiful woman you are. When the Egyptians see you, they will say, ‘This is his wife.’ Then they will kill me but will let you live. Say you are my sister, so that I will be treated well for your sake and my life will be spared because of you.’”
Exegesis and Application
The Abrahamic passage in Genesis 12 is far too noteworthy to cover in a brief blog. But several salient points from this chapter can be made:
1) Abraham’s action in Egypt (Genesis 12) in averring that Sarah was his sister creates a problem for us. Abraham is lying to Pharaoh and the Egyptians to save his life, but not hers. As David illustrates centuries later, ancient rulers would abduct another man’s wife, have illicit sexual relations with the abducted wife and then murder the rightful husband (2 Sam. 11). So Abe’s motivate to lie is real. However, justification for his lie: Sarah and Abraham have the same father – Terah (Gen. 11:27) but different mothers (names unknown). Nevertheless, while Abraham’s statement is technically true it is a deceptive concealment of a greater truth. Further staining Abe’s character, we see in the incident with Abimelech in Genesis 20:13 that practiced lying was a premeditated policy of Abraham’s and not something that he did in the stress of the moment.
2) The deception leads to harm to other innocent individuals: Pharaoh and Pharaoh’s household (Gen. 12:17). I give Pharaoh a bit of leeway here because he immediately returns Sarai to Abraham once he discovers Abe’s deception.That is more than can be said of the father of our faith. To Pharaoh’s credit, he does not demand that Abe give the Egyptian animals and servants back to him as Abraham leaves town. Finally, Pharaoh gives Abraham and Sarai a safe-pass escort out of Egypt.
3) Abraham has the distinction of causing the children of God to reap true accusations and reproach on themselves for their sinful actions (Gen. 12:18-19). It seems that Abraham believed that if he told the Egyptians that Sarai was his sister they might back off of any advances towards her. After all, this strategy worked with Laban in Gen. 24 (Rebekah was his sister) and Jacob’s eleven sons in Gen. 34 (Dinah was their sister). The strategy backfired and Pharaoh took Sarai to be his wife and probably committed adultery with her since his divine punishment was sever – “serious diseases” (Gen. 12:17, 19).
4) Apparently, Sarai didn’t object to Abraham’s lie and would rather have sex with the pagan Pharaoh than tell the truth. This happened again with Abimelech.
What a pair!
5) Pharaoh’s sin of adultery is not mitigated because of ignorance. He is still culpable, and knows that he has committed is a moral evil. Natural law in his heart has told him so, even if the Bible hasn’t. In the Bible, the sin of ignorance can be through negligence or through true ignorance (Lev. 4). And the sin is not mitigated by the fact that Pharaoh was outside the covenant community. A sin is a sin regardless of covenantal relationship to Yahweh. An atheist doesn’t get a pass on the Ten Commandments simply because he doesn’t believe in Yahweh.
Christian journalist, your obligation is to report reality and when that reality involves the sin of a Christian leader and its deleterious effect on those around that leader, and then you are to report those damaging effects in an honest way.