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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.

15. And commended her before Pharaoh351351     She must therefore have been unveiled. The monuments show, that, according to Egyptian customs, she could only so appear in public. ‘We find from the monuments,’ says Taylor, ‘that the Egyptian women, in the reign of the Pharaohs, exposed their faces, and were permitted to enjoy as much liberty as the ladies of modern Europe. But this custom was changed after the conquest of the country by the Persians.’’ — Hengstenberg’s Egypt and the Books of Moses, p. 199. Although Abram had sinned by fearing too much and too soon, yet the event teaches, that he had not feared without cause: for his wife was taken from him and brought to the king. At first Moses speaks generally of the Egyptians, afterwards he mentions the courtiers; by which course he intimates, that the rumor of Sara’s beauty was everywhere spread abroad; but that it was more eagerly received by the courtiers who indulge themselves in greater license. Whereas he adds, that they told the king; we hence infer, how ancient is that corruption which now prevails immeasurably in the courts of kings. For as all things there are full of blandishments and flatteries, so the nobles principally apply their minds to introduce, from time to time, what may be gratifying to royalty. Therefore we see, that whosoever among them desires to rise high in favor, is addicted not only to servile batteries, but also to pandering for their master’s lusts.

And the woman was taken into Pharaoh’s house. Since she was carried off, and dwelt for some time in the palace, many suppose that she was corrupted by the king. For it is not credible, that a lustful man, when he had her in his power, should have spared her modesty. This, truly, Abram had richly deserved, who had neither relied upon the grace of God, nor had committed the chastity of his wife to His faithfulness and care; but the plague which immediately followed, sufficiently proves that the Lord was mindful of her; and hence we may conclude, that she remained uninjured. And although, in this place, Moses says nothing expressly on the subject, yet, from a comparison with a similar subsequent history, we conjecture, that the guardianship of God was not wanting to Abram at this time also. When he was in similar danger, (Genesis 20:1,) God did not suffer her to be violated by the king of Gerar; shall we then suppose that she was now exposed to Pharaoh’s lust? Would God have thought more about subjecting her, who had been once dishonored, to a second disgrace, than about preserving her, who had hitherto lived uprightly and chastely? Further, if God showed himself so propitious to Abram, as to rescue his wife whom he exposed a second time to infamy; how is it possible that He should have failed to obviate the previous danger? Perhaps, also, greater integrity still flourished in that age; so that the lusts of kings were not so unrestrained as they afterwards became. Moreover, when Moses adds, that Abram was kindly treated for Sarai’s sake; we hence conclude, that she was honorably entertained by Pharaoh, and was not dealt with as a harlot. When, therefore, Moses says, that she was brought into the king’s palace; I do not understand this to have been for any other purpose,352352     Non interpretor fuisse factum, ut statim cum rege dormiret, sed ut rex solemni ritu eam duceret uxorem.” than that the kings by a solemn rite, might take her as his wife.

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