Abraham is a giant of our faith and the father of the nation of Israel but even he has moments where he does not always make the right decisions. We open the story up when God has made a covenant with Abram (later God changes it to Abraham).
Genesis 12:1 The Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you.”
This is no small thing for Abram. This is a typical patriarchal society where the family honors the father of the clan. They worship his gods, they help provide security and help support the clan by working in the father’s calling. If the father is a builder, many of the males in the family, sons, nephews, maybe younger brothers and cousins are all builders working for and with the head of the family.
To leave is a big deal and yet Abram does as God asks and in taking all of Lot’s family, he is now the patriarch of his own clan along with anyone he has brought in to be a part of the family including servants, hired hands and anyone else. In this culture, anyone invited in to be a part of the family or mishpucha (Yiddish for family) was considered to be part of the clan and the patriarch became responsible for their well being.
Now comes trouble, there is a famine in the land and Abram makes the responsible decision to go to the only place where there are water and food, Egypt. Perhaps this is his first mistake but an understandable one. Abram doesn’t yet trust the story and takes it upon himself to provide for his mishpucha.
Now it is about to get dicey…
As he was about to enter Egypt, he said to his wife Sarai, “I know what a beautiful woman you are. 12 When the Egyptians see you, they will say, ‘This is his wife.’ Then they will kill me but will let you live. 13 Say you are my sister so that I will be treated well for your sake and my life will be spared because of you.”
Before we lay into Abraham about this, understand how the culture works. Sarai was beautiful and Abram seeks to use this to their advantage. By not claiming her as a wife, he presents her as eligible for betrothal, the patriarch is then given gifts and much wealth to win his favor. At that point, I think they would leave Egypt with all of it… except for one small problem…
Pharaoh takes first then gives betrothal gifts.
Abram had not considered this possibility. In the end, Pharaoh sends them away very wealthy and Abram has provided for his family but at a cost. They now have so much wealth and livestock that he and Lot must separate. From this point on Abraham and his descendants will turn to Egypt in times of famine, they turn to Egypt for their security, eventually, this will enslave them.
In who do I trust? Do I look to my own abilities? Where does my security come from? Where does my help come from? Do I look for it in God or do I look for it in Egypt/Empire? And at what cost?