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The Call of Abram


Now the L ord said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. 2I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. 3I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”

4 So Abram went, as the L ord had told him; and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he departed from Haran. 5Abram took his wife Sarai and his brother’s son Lot, and all the possessions that they had gathered, and the persons whom they had acquired in Haran; and they set forth to go to the land of Canaan. When they had come to the land of Canaan, 6Abram passed through the land to the place at Shechem, to the oak of Moreh. At that time the Canaanites were in the land. 7Then the L ord appeared to Abram, and said, “To your offspring I will give this land.” So he built there an altar to the L ord, who had appeared to him. 8From there he moved on to the hill country on the east of Bethel, and pitched his tent, with Bethel on the west and Ai on the east; and there he built an altar to the L ord and invoked the name of the L ord. 9And Abram journeyed on by stages toward the Negeb.

Abram and Sarai in Egypt

10 Now there was a famine in the land. So Abram went down to Egypt to reside there as an alien, for the famine was severe in the land. 11When he was about to enter Egypt, he said to his wife Sarai, “I know well that you are a woman beautiful in appearance; 12and when the Egyptians see you, they will say, ‘This is his wife’; then they will kill me, but they will let you live. 13Say you are my sister, so that it may go well with me because of you, and that my life may be spared on your account.” 14When Abram entered Egypt the Egyptians saw that the woman was very beautiful. 15When the officials of Pharaoh saw her, they praised her to Pharaoh. And the woman was taken into Pharaoh’s house. 16And for her sake he dealt well with Abram; and he had sheep, oxen, male donkeys, male and female slaves, female donkeys, and camels.

17 But the L ord afflicted Pharaoh and his house with great plagues because of Sarai, Abram’s wife. 18So Pharaoh called Abram, and said, “What is this you have done to me? Why did you not tell me that she was your wife? 19Why did you say, ‘She is my sister,’ so that I took her for my wife? Now then, here is your wife, take her, and be gone.” 20And Pharaoh gave his men orders concerning him; and they set him on the way, with his wife and all that he had.

11. He said unto Sarai his wife. He now relates the counsel which Abram took for the preservation of his life when he was approaching Egypt. Andy since this place is like a rock, on which many strike; it is proper that we should soberly and reverently consider how far Abram was deserving of excuse, and how he was to be blamed. First, there seems to be something of falsehood, mixed with the dissimulations which he persuades his wife to practice. And although afterwards he makes the excuse, that he had not lied nor feigned anything that was untrue: in this certainly he was greatly culpable that it was not owing to his care that his wife was not prostituted. For when he dissembles the fact, that she was his wife, he deprives her chastity of its legitimate defense. And hence certain perverse cavilers take occasion to object,349349     Atque hinc latrandi materiam protervi quidam canes arripiunt.” that the holy patriarch was a pander to his own wife; and that, for the purpose of craftily taking care of himself, he spared neither her modesty nor his own honor. But it is easy to refute this virulent abuse; because, it may indeed be inferred, that Abram had far higher ends in view, seeing that in other things, he was endued with a magnanimity so great. Again, how did it happen, that he rather sought to go into Egypt than to Charran, or into his own country, unless that in his journeying, he had God before his eyes, and the divine promise firmly rooted in his mind? Since, therefore, he never allowed his senses to swerve from the word of God, we may even thence gather the reason, why he so greatly feared for his own life, as to attempt the preservation of it from one danger, by incurring a still greater. Undoubtedly he would have chosen to die a hundred times, rather than thus to ruin the character of his wife, and to be deprived of the society of her whom alone he loved. But while he reflected that the hope of salvation was centred in himself, that he was the fountain of the Church of Gods that unless he lived, the benediction promised to him, and to his seed, was vain; he did not estimate his own life according to the private affection of the flesh; but inasmuch as he did not wish the effect of the divine vocation to perish through his death, he was so affected with concern for the preservation of his own life, that he overlooked every thing besides. So far, then, he deserves praise, that, having in view a lawful end of living, he was prepared to purchase life at any price. But in devising this indirect method, by which he subjected his wife to the peril of adultery, he seems to be by no means excusable. If he was solicitous about his own life, which he might justly be, yet he ought to have cast his care upon God. The providence of God, I grant, does not indeed preclude the faithful from caring for themselves; but let them do it in such a way, that they may not overstep their prescribed bounds. Hence it follows, that Abram’s end was right, but he erred in the way itself; for so it often happens to us, that even while we are tending towards God, yet, by our thoughtlessness in catching at unlawful means, we swerve from his word. And this, especially, is wont to take place in affairs of difficulty; because, while no way of escape appears, we are easily led astray into various circuitous paths. Therefore, although they are rash judges, who entirely condemn this deed of Abram, yet the special fault is not to be denied, namely, that he, trembling at the approach of death, did not commit the issue of the danger to God, instead of sinfully betraying the modesty of his wife. Wherefore, by this example, we are admonished, that, in involved and doubtful matters, we must seek the spirit of counsel and of prudence from the Lord; and must also cultivate sobriety, that we may not attempt anything rashly without the authority of his word.

I know that thou art a fair woman to look upon350350     An aggravation of Abraham’s alarm arose from the complexion of his wife, — ‘Thou art a fair woman.’ Though the Egyptian ladies were not so dark as the Nubians and Ethiopians, they were of a browner tinge than the Syrians and Arabians: we also find on the monuments that ladies of high rank are usually represented in lighter tints than their attendants.... There is ample evidence, that a fair complexion was deemed a high recommendation in the age of the Pharaohs. This circumstance, so fully confirmed by the monuments, is recorded in no history but the book of Genesis; and it is a remarkable confirmation of the veracity of the Pentateuch.” — Gliddon’s Ancient Egypt, quoted in Hengstenberg’s Egypt and the Books of Moses, p.200. It may here be proper to remark, that much learned labor has been expended by the Anti-supernaturalist Divines on the Continent, in the fruitless attempt to prove that the Pentateuch could not be the work of Moses, nor of the age in which he lived; and, consequently, not an inspired production. This has led to a deeper investigation of Egyptian antiquities, the result of which has been to confirm, in every possible way, the authenticity of the Mosaic records. Monuments as ancient as the times of Moses, and bas-reliefs exhibiting different characters, and persons engaged in different occupations, all show, that no writer of comparatively modern times could have composed these books. We have here an additional proof to many which had been given before, that a slight acquaintance with facts may lead to scepticism; but that deep investigation of them invariably confirms the testimony of Scripture. — See note at p. 316. — Ed It is asked whence had Sarai this beauty, seeing she was an old woman? For though we grant that she previously had excelled in elegance of form, certainly years had detracted from her gracefulness; and we know how much the wrinkles of old age disfigure the best and most beautiful faces. In the first place, I answer, there is no doubt that there was then greater vivacity in the human race than there is now; we also know, that vigor sustains the personal appearance. Again, her sterility availed to preserve her beauty, and to keep her whole habit of body entire; for there is nothing which more debilitates females than frequent parturition. I do not however doubt, that the perfection of her form was the special gift of God; but why he would not suffer the beauty of the holy woman to be so soon worn down by age, we know not; unless it were, that the loveliness of that form was intended to be the cause of great and severe anxiety to her husband. Common experience also teaches us, that they who are not content with a regular and moderate degree of comeliness, find, to their great loss, at what a cost immoderate beauty is purchased.

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