This is the second week focusing on the character of Sarah in Genesis. Last week, Rachel did a brilliant job of introducing the character and her main struggle, which was with infertility. You can read this in her Sarah: Named and Shamed post.
This week, we’re looking at a bit of a strange incident, which is described in Genesis 12. To summarise, God tells Abram to go to Canaan, the promised land. The Canaanites were in the land, but God tells Abram that He will give his offspring this land. Abram goes to Bethel, but there is famine in the land and they go to Egypt for food.
Then we have our verse for this week: 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.” Genesis 12:11-13.
There is so much that is fascinating about this verse. Personally, I found myself getting quite angry with Abram. God has been with him all this way, speaking to him, appearing to him… And then he decides not to trust God at all. He decides to lie and to deceive others, and to put Sarai in a very difficult position. This really stood out to me in the pronouns used here – ‘I… me… my… I… my…” It seemed to me that Abram really did only have his own interests at heart.
Some members of our Mummy Meditations community stood up for Abram. Perhaps he had been up all night worrying about what might happen to Sarai when they went to Egypt. Perhaps he really was doing what he felt was best. I’m sure he might have felt a bit let down by God – God promised that he would have descendants, but that hadn’t happened yet; God promised that he would have Canaan but that hadn’t happened yet (and the land was in famine). So perhaps he felt unable to trust God.
I think it’s interesting the way Abram speaks to Sarai. He calls her “beautiful,” and is convinced the Egyptians will take her. As she was about 65 years old at this point (and lived until 127), we might consider her middle-aged, so perhaps our Western understanding of beauty has changed slightly. In the light of last week’s verse, I think it’s important that Abram still seems devoted to her, despite her infertility. Interestingly, Abram and Sarai are half-brother and sister, as described in Genesis 20:12. Perhaps Abram really is trying to do the best for her.
In HER Shoes
In Sarai’s shoes… Poor Sarai. She must have had so many conflicting feelings. Fear, of what the Egyptians might do. Shame, because of her infertility. Gratitude, that her husband loved her. Anger, because he was trying to use her to protect himself. I wonder if she had the courage to stand up to him and tell him he should be trusting God?
To skip to the end of this passage, Sarai does become Pharaoh’s wife. Pharoah gives Abram livestock and servants, so Abram does well out of this. But God inflicts diseases on Pharoah’s wife, who summons Abram and sends him on his way, with Sarai and all his possessions.
Abram does it again
Then, we had a look at Genesis 20. You see, Abram does exactly the same thing again. In Gerar, Abram claims Sarai is his sister. The king of Gerar, Abimelek, marries Sarai. Once again, God curses Abimelek’s household, and all the women become infertile. God appears to Abimelek in a dream and tells him Sarai is married to Abram, so Abimelek return Sarai, giving Abram silver and livestock.
Once again, Abram did not trust God. Once again, he used Sarai. I really hope Sarai did shout at him after that!
Still valuable to God
What struck me most was that their marriage survived. Sarai stayed with Abram, and he with her, through all of these issues, and many more. More importantly, God used these people in incredible ways. They kept making mistakes. They kept letting Him down, and still he forgave them. Still, he used them.
Studying this verse has given me a real insight into Sarai’s life and situation. When I’ve thought about her before, I’ve always thought about her infertility. But her life was so much more than that! Mother to the Nation of Israel, she’d also experienced life as the wife to a Pharaoh and a king. She’s certainly turning out to be a fascinating lady.
Next week, we’ll be looking at Genesis 16:1-2: “Now Sarai, Abram’s wife, had borne him no children. But she had an Egyptian slave named Hager; so she said to Abram, “The Lord has kept me from having children. Go, sleep with my slave; perhaps I can build a family through her.” Rachel will be leading the discussion in our Facebook Group and writing up her thoughts on her blog. I think it will be an absolutely fascinating one.