Posted by: Terry | January 27, 2009

Feast or famine, Egypt or Canaan

Now there was a famine in the land. So Abram went down to Egypt to sojourn there, for the famine was severe in the land. (Genesis 12:10 ESV)

Yet another test for Abram, God led him to an unfamiliar land and a famine soon followed; it must have seemed an odd kind of blessing. He left abundance in Haran, entered a land that was occupied, and now there was a shortage of food, grain specifically.

Confronted with the famine we can only surmise the thoughts of Abram. The option of returning to Haran would be logical. Do we not frequently conclude that difficulty is God’s way of closing a door, of telling us that we are going in the wrong direction? Abram resisted, “If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return.” (Hebrews 11:15 ESV) This was certainly an opportunity to return, yet Abram resisted. Instead of returning to Haran, Abram took the opportunity of plenty in Egypt.

Egypt was not as susceptible to draught as was Canaan; the great Nile River flooded annually, watering the land and ensuring crops. Many nations depended on Egypt in periods of need. For centuries the Bedouins have gone to Egypt in times of famine. Centuries after Abraham the Romans would use large ships to import much of their wheat from Egypt.

Now it is important that he was not abandoning the Promised Land. The key word is “sojourn” – “live there for awhile” (NIV). The word is used of one who stops at an inn for the night, a temporary lodging. This was a provisional situation; he never stopped, “longing for a better country.”

Abram would be confronted with a number of challenges when he got to Egypt, yet never is he criticized for going. We have no evidence that God told him to stay in Canaan, so we must be careful if we claim that he was out of God’s will sojourning in Egypt. (See Psalm 105.13)

Abram had lessons to learn, “he flees for refuge to Egypt, and the Lord having a lesson for him, there permits him to enter that land of plenty.” Barnes

One lesson is that God provides, “See how wisely God provides, that there should be plenty in one place, when there was scarcity in another.” Wesley

Truly we will be called upon to endure difficulties in this life, but it is not an act of faith to ignore the provision or blessing that God provides.



  1. This is something we need to be aware of every day and any time we don’t understand what is happening in our life.

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