“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. 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: 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. 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. And it came to pass, that, when Abram was come into Egypt, the Egyptians beheld the woman that she was very fair. The princes also of Pharaoh saw her, and commended her before Pharaoh: and the woman was taken into Pharaoh’s house. And he entreated Abram well for her sake: and he had sheep, and oxen, and he asses, and menservants, and maidservants, and she asses, and camels. And 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 that thou hast done unto me? why didst thou not tell me that she was thy wife? Why saidst thou, She is my sister? so I might have taken her to me to wife: now therefore behold thy wife, take her, and go thy way. And Pharaoh commanded his men concerning him: and they sent him away, and his wife, and all that he had” (Genesis 12:10-20).
Abraham is known as the “Father of Faith” (see Romans 4:16), but like all men of faith he had his weak moments and allowed unbelief to take control. Abraham had been called to leave Ur [Tell el-Mukayyar in Iraq] and go to what we know as the Land of Israel. This is where we take up the story.
Abraham was in the very place God wanted him to be. No doubt he had settled down and was beginning to enjoy life in this fertile part of the world, but suddenly famine strikes. Apart from anything else, this proves that troubles can come even when we are walking according to the will of the Lord. Some think that everything bad that happens is either a sign of God’s displeasure or punishment for some sin, but this just is not so.
Abraham ought to have trusted God, but understandably he allowed his concerns, worries and fear to get in the way. Instead of praying about the situation he looks for the logical way to solve it. Probably thousands were flocking to Egypt to find food for family and cattle, so maybe Abraham simple went with the flow. While it might be argued that this was all part of the plan of God, therefore it was His will for Abraham to go to Egypt, but the Lord never told him to do so. Besides this, while he might have prospered, he also found himself in very awkward circumstances that would not have materialised if he had remained where God had put him.
The sins of Abraham are clearly seen in this passage, but let us take note that they are rooted in fear. Fear took him to Egypt, and once there it began to entangle him in deceit and lies.
Sarah was sixty-five years old, yet remarkably she was very attractive, attractive enough for her husband to fear for his own life. Abraham now encourages his wife to lie on his behalf. Though later he would suggest that it was only a half-truth, a lie in any form is a lie. How common it is for people to say that minor deceptions are only so-called white lies. There is no such thing as a half-truth or a white lie, both are equally sinful. It was through Sarah that the promise was going to be fulfilled, so Abraham was in fact endangering that promise. Also, he was willing for his wife to be dishonoured just to save his own skin.
Here is the evidence of Abraham’s faltering faith, for he had lost his trust in God’s power to keep and protect him. Unless God intervened to stop Pharaoh’s intention to take Sarah as his wife, we would never read any more about Abraham and the Messianic line through him. Do we see yet another attempt by Satan to undermine God’s plans and purposes by getting Abraham off track?
Abraham’s sin of unbelief triggered a chain reaction which would cost him dearly. Here are some of the results of this.
1. All sin grieves God, “Grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption” (Ephesians 4:30). Therefore God could not continue to bless him while he remained ensnared by fear and unbelief.
2. Abraham’s testimony was in tatters, for even Pharaoh rebuked him for his wicked lies.
3. It is possible that his nephew Lot was influenced by this sin. Also we can conclude that Isaac followed his father’s bad example when he sinned in almost the same way (Genesis 26).
4. His personal faith in God was weakened, for in Genesis 20 we find him doing exactly the same thing again, and no doubt it was easier the next time around.
5. We have to wonder what effect this had on Sarah’s faith too, for she would later laugh in disbelief when she heard of God’s promise.
6. The innocent suffered for his sin.
There are five important truths that we need to understand with regards to this event in Abraham’s life:
1. Sin might be cheap to commit but the consequences are always costly.
2. Sin can discredit us in the eyes of those we are trying to witness to.
3. Sin becomes easier to commit if not curtailed.
4. Sin affects others.
5. Sin, and this is the most important fact of all, grieves God.