When Faith is Stumbling Faith
Now there was a famine in the land, and Abram went down to Egypt to dwell there, for the famine was severe in the land. And it came to pass, when he was close to entering Egypt, that he said to Sarai his wife, “Indeed I know that you are a woman of beautiful countenance. Therefore it will happen, when the Egyptians see you, that they will say, ‘This is his wife’; and they will kill me, but they will let you live. Please say you are my sister, that it may be well with me for your sake, and that I may live because of you.” So it was, when Abram came into Egypt, that the Egyptians saw the woman, that she was very beautiful. The princes of Pharaoh also saw her and commended her to Pharaoh. And the woman was taken to Pharaoh’s house. He treated Abram well for her sake. He had sheep, oxen, male donkeys, male and female servants, female donkeys, and camels. But the LORD plagued Pharaoh and his house with great plagues because of Sarai, Abram’s wife. And 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’? I might have taken her as my wife. Now therefore, here is your wife; take her and go your way.” So Pharaoh commanded his men concerning him; and they sent him away, with his wife and all that he had. (Genesis 12:10-20)
Although the text doesn’t say so specifically, some Bible commentators believe that Abram should not have gone down to Egypt to escape the famine. They believe Abram should have remained in the land of promise, and that the LORD would have somehow provided for him there. They point out that later in the Bible’s history, Egypt became a picture of the world; therefore, for Abram to go to Egypt in a time of trouble was tantamount to going to the world for help instead of going to God Himself.
This is a tenable point of view. After all, God called Abram to Canaan, not to Egypt. And, Abram being in Egypt did not work out too well. On top of what happens in Genesis 12, they brought an Egyptian slave girl back to Canaan with them, and that resulted in further complications for this family (Genesis 16).
Nevertheless, Abram ended up in Egypt. Then another problem was created, stemming from the fact that Sarai was a very beautiful woman. To have her, the Egyptians could very well have killed Abram. So Abram concocted a plan which involved the telling of a half-truth. Sarai was indeed Abram’s half-sister, as they had the same father (Genesis 20:12). But the fact remained: she was primarily Abram’s wife. Thus, his half-truth was really a lie.
Pharaoh had no idea he had been lied to. God’s mercy kept him from sinning against Him and against Abram, although it required radical measures (the plagues against Pharaoh’s household) to get the king’s attention. Apparently, that was what Pharaoh needed. Later, ten plagues were required to convince another Pharaoh that he should let Israel go away from Egypt.
While being merciful to Pharaoh, the LORD was also being merciful to Abram. He too was kept from egregious sin … he was kept from sinning against the LORD, and from sinning against his wife by putting her into an immoral and potentially dangerous situation.
For Further Review
1. Have you ever relied upon the world (1 John 2:15-16) in a situation wherein you actually should have relied on the Lord? What was the outcome? What did you learn from that situation?
2. Why is a half-truth actually a lie? Why is it morally wrong to lie?
3. Cite an example in your own life when the Lord kept you from committing a horrible sin. Now consider Matthew 6:13. Why is it important to pray that prayer every day?