In my devotional time today as I read through Genesis 12-15 I picked-up on an idea I had never seen before,
“Now there was a famine in the land; so Abram went down to Egypt to sojourn there, for the famine was severe in the land. 11 It came about when he came near to Egypt, that he said to Sarai his wife, “See now, I know that you are a beautiful woman; 12 and when the Egyptians see you, they will say, ‘This is his wife’; and they will kill me, but they will let you live. 13 Please say that you are my sister so that it may go well with me because of you, and that I may live on account of you.” 14 It came about when Abram came into Egypt, the Egyptians saw that the woman was very beautiful. 15 Pharaoh’s officials saw her and praised her to Pharaoh; and the woman was taken into Pharaoh’s house. 16 Therefore he treated Abram well for her sake; and gave him sheep and oxen and donkeys and male and female servants and female donkeys and camels.” (12:10-16)
Of course to our modern sensibilities this story is HIGHLY offensive. No decent man would ever put his wife in this situation. No chivalrous man would ever risk his wife’s reputation for his own life. No loving husband would willingly share his wife with another man. But can we maybe concede that this story wasn’t so offensive in Abraham’s day? Can we concede that this story wouldn’t have the shock factor in the day that Moses wrote it as it does now? Can we concede this isn’t even the most shocking story in regards to a “righteous” man and his treatment of women in the Bible? (Just wait ‘till we get to Genesis 19:4-8).
With all that those concessions verse 17 struck me like it has not before…
“But the Lord struck Pharaoh and his house with great plagues because of Sarai, Abram’s wife.”
I read this text not as God was punishing Pharaoh because of the potential or due to the sin he was committing with Sarai, in other words not as a consequence focused primarily on pharaoh. I read it this time as, “But the Lord struck Pharaoh and his house with great plagues (and then I substituted another meaning for the Hebrew word used for because) “care” of Sarai, Abram’s wife.”
In other words I saw this text suddenly condemning not just the sin but the overall treatment and view of women in that culture. Could it be that God was defending Sarai and her rights because in that culture at that time, no one else would, not even her husband?!? Can you see that? Am I off base?
So that is the largest point that struck me in my study today.
There are several other wonderful lessons, the humility of Abraham in his dealings with lot (13:9); his lack of greed in order to protect the reputation of God, “you will say I made Abram rich.” (14:23); and of course Abram’s righteousness by faith displayed in his trust in God’s promise (15:6).
Oh one other thing I just remembered as I read through my notes again written in the margins in regards to Abraham’s humility with Lot. He gave Lot the choice of the land, his desire was peace and he would trust God to take care of him with whatever land he ended-up in, and here was my thought, I wish conferences, churches would have the same attitude. Who cares who is in which territory, there are plenty of people to witness to and we shouldn’t be so territorial, we should trust God to provide the members and resources for all of us, just as Abram trusted God to bless both he and Lot! Of course one could argue well the whole point they separated was to create boundaries and avoid the fight. So maybe in a town of 500 we need to decide on one church but in a county of 1 million we should probably trust there is room enough for all of us to intermingle.
Tomorrow’s Reading: Joshua 16-20