Posted by: Terry | January 30, 2009

The big lie or protecting a promise?

This week I have been wrestling with Genesis 12.10-20, Abram goes to Egypt during the famine.

In a previous post I discussed the question of whether Abram was wrong for going to Egypt. Most of the commentators find little fault with his decision to go, a few criticize him for leaving the promised land, yet they seem to assume that Abram had been told to settle down there, but there is no real indication that he had been so instructed.

The real difficulty with this passage is the issue of Sari claiming she was Abram’s sister. Most are quick to point out the evils of lying, and then interpret the rest of the story from that perspective. Here are the problems I see with that approach, or at least the questions that keep puzzling me:

  1. If this is a lesson regarding the evils of lying it is not a good one. Abram gets out of Egypt unharmed, with his wife, and far wealthier than when he went there. The lesson here is that lying at the right time pays off.
  2. It was not really a lie, she was his sister and from what we see in Gen. 20 they had planned this in Haran. They just told part of the truth, not all of the truth. Of course you can then discuss the fine difference between deception and lying. And one is hard pressed to argue that telling everything is required for honesty.
  3. There is hardly good scriptural support for complete honesty in every situation. Rahab of Jericho certainly told a lie, no partial truth there. Yet she is listed in Hebrews 11 as an example of faith. Some writers get creative as they talk about her repenting of the lie because they are uncomfortable with the record as it is written.
  4. Why Abram was never criticized for the plan, here or anyplace else? (Aside from Pharaoh)
  5. Why Pharaoh was plagued if Abram was in the wrong?
  6. Why was Abram blessed with wealth, instead of being punished?
  7. Pharaoh had every right, and probably was so inclined, to kill Abram for such an offence, yet he escorts (the Hebrew does not support the idea of drives) Abram out of Egypt with all of his new possessions.

These issues lead me to surmise that there is a deeper lesson here than lying.

The first one is that Abram and Sari are like the rest of us who live by faith; they used their own plans to face a potential problem, instead of relying on God. They acted on fear and God had to intervine.

The clue to the second and greater lesson is found in Psalm 105. God guaranteed the line of his anointed by defending the honor and chastity of Sari, while protecting and blessing Abram. Read Psalm 105.12-15.

Now here is something else to ponder, if the “seed” came from Abram, then why was Ishmael not the one? For some reason, which I have yet to sort out, Sari was critical to the process.

One conclusion is clear, God had a plan for the lineage that would result in the coming of the chosen one, Messiah, and nothing could thwart that plan. God determined this plan before the foundations of the earth (1 Peter) and he will bring his plans to fruition. He also said that what he begins in us he will complete (Phil 1.6), this account gives me confidence that “when he appears we will be like him” – why because he promised it!


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