In this chapter, God chooses Abram as his special buddy: blessing all who bless him, cursing all who curse him, and making his name great. But first, Abram must obey God’s command to “go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you” (Gen. 12:1).

As we saw in the story of the Tower of Babel, God is a destroyer of human relationships. In that case, he made cooperation among humans impossible by confusing their language. In this instance, he is breaking up a family by bribing Abram to leave them. Nice.

Abram “typifies the man of faith” by abandoning his family for God, and he leaves Haran with Sarai and Lot. They head to Canaan, and then on to Shechem. Unfortunately, the Canaanites are there for now, but God promises that he will be giving the land to Abram’s descendants. Abram is terribly grateful for this promise, so he pitches his tent and builds an altar to God before moving on toward the Negeb.

Once there, he finds that there’s a famine in the area, so he moves on to Egypt.


Pharaoh takes Sarah by unknown illustrator of Henry Davenport Northrop's 'Treasures of the Bible' 1894

Pharaoh takes Sarah by unknown illustrator of Henry Davenport Northrop’s ‘Treasures of the Bible’ 1894

As they approach Egypt, Abram tells his wife that she’s so beautiful that he’s worried the Egyptians will kill him to get her. His awesome solution is to pretend that Sarai is just his sister. This can only end well.

As Abram predicted, the Egyptians find Sarai very beautiful. We don’t know how old she is, but we’re told that Abram is 75-years-old at this point. So it’s possible that the Egyptians are gerontophiles. In any case, Pharaoh (just “Pharaoh” – no names) hears about her beauty and marries her. “And for her sake he dealt well with Abram; and he had sheep, oxen, he-asses, menservants, maidservants, she-asses, and camels” (Gen. 12:16).

That’s right – Abram just prostituted his wife for personal gain. Pretty awful, right? One can imagine what God’s reaction will be!

“The Lord afflicted Pharaoh and his house with great plagues because of Sarai” (Gen. 12:17).

Just to recap, Abram sells his wife into sexual slavery for personal gain, and God punishes the hapless John who had no idea what he was getting into. Just why is this called the good book, exactly?

Pharaoh’s reaction is precisely what one might expect. He goes to Abram and says: “What is this you have done to me? Why did you not tell me that she was your wife?” (Gen. 12:1), and he kicks the two of them out of Egypt.