Genesis 12:17
And the LORD plagued Pharaoh and his house with great plagues because of Sarai Abram's wife.
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Genesis 12:17. And the Lord plagued Pharaoh and his house — We are not told particularly, in what way they were plagued; but, doubtless, there was something in the plagues themselves, or some explication added to them, sufficient to convince Pharaoh and his house that it was for Sarai’s sake they were thus plagued.12:10-20 There is no state on earth free from trials, nor any character free from blemishes. There was famine in Canaan, the glory of all lands, and unbelief, with the evils it ever brings, in Abram the father of the faithful. Perfect happiness and perfect purity dwell only in heaven. Abram, when he must for a time quit Canaan, goes to Egypt, that he might not seem to look back, and meaning to tarry there no longer than needful. There Abram dissembled his relation to Sarai, equivocated, and taught his wife and his attendants to do so too. He concealed a truth, so as in effect to deny it, and exposed thereby both his wife and the Egyptians to sin. The grace Abram was most noted for, was faith; yet he thus fell through unbelief and distrust of the Divine providence, even after God had appeared to him twice. Alas, what will become of weak faith, when strong faith is thus shaken! If God did not deliver us, many a time, out of straits and distresses which we bring ourselves into, by our own sin and folly, we should be ruined. He deals not with us according to our deserts. Those are happy chastisements that hinder us in a sinful way, and bring us to our duty, particularly to the duty of restoring what we have wrongfully taken or kept. Pharaoh's reproof of Abram was very just: What is this that thou hast done? How unbecoming a wise and good man! If those who profess religion, do that which is unfair and deceptive, especially if they say that which borders upon a lie, they must expect to hear of it; and they have reason to thank those who will tell them of it. The sending away was kind. Pharaoh was so far from any design to kill Abram, as he feared, that he took particular care of him. We often perplex ourselves with fears which are altogether groundless. Many a time we fear where no fear is. Pharaoh charged his men not to hurt Abram in any thing. It is not enough for those in authority, that they do not hurt themselves; they must keep their servants and those about them from doing hurt.The Lord, who had chosen him, unworthy though he was, yet not more unworthy than others, to be the agent of His gracious purpose, now interposes to effect his deliverance. "And the Lord plagued Pharaoh." The mode of the divine interference is suited to have the desired effect on the parties concerned. As Pharaoh is punished, we conclude he was guilty in the eye of heaven in this matter. He committed a breach of hospitality by invading the private abode of the stranger. He further infringed the law of equity between man and man in the most tender point, by abstracting, if not with violence, at least with a show of arbitrary power which could not be resisted, a female, whether sister or wife, from the home of her natural guardian without the consent of either. A deed of ruthless self-will, also, is often rendered more heinous by a blamable inattention to the character or position of him who is wronged. So it was with Pharaoh. Abram was a man of blameless life and inoffensive manners. He was, moreover, the chosen and special servant of the Most High God. Pharaoh, however, does not condescend to inquire who the stranger is whom he is about to wrong; and is thus unwittingly involved in an aggravated crime. But the hand of the Almighty brings even tyrants to their senses. "And his house." The princes of Pharaoh were accomplices in his crime Genesis 12:15, and his domestics were concurring with him in carrying it into effect. But even apart from any positive consent or connivance in a particular act, men, otherwise culpable, are brought into trouble in this world by the faults of those with whom they are associated. "On account of Sarai." Pharoah was made aware of the cause of the plagues or strokes with which he was now visited.16. he entreated Abram well for her sake—The presents are just what one pastoral chief would give to another. Most probably with some notable distemper of his body, which did both chastise him for and hinder him in the execution of his lust.

His house, i.e, his servants, who being some one way, some another, partners of his sin, are justly made partners in his plagues. And if any were innocent in this matter, they were obnoxious to God for other sins. Besides, as they were punished upon the occasion of Pharaoh’s sin, so Pharaoh was punished in their punishments.

Because of Sarai, i.e.

1. For the act of violence towards her; for the word taken, Genesis 12:15, implies that it was by constraint, and not with Abram’s and with her consent, which it is not probable that either of them would give in that case.

2. For an intention of uncleanness. For God, who is the Searcher and Judge of men’s hearts, may justly, and doth often, punish men for their evil purposes. Compare Genesis 20:3,4. And the Lord plagued Pharaoh and his house with great plagues,.... Perhaps with the same sort that Abimelech and his servants were smote with on a like account, Genesis 20:17. The Jews (h) say they were smitten with ulcers; not only Pharaoh was plagued, but those of his household also, his courtiers and servants, who were accessary to the bringing of Sarai into his house; for all this was

because of Sarai, Abram's wife; or "upon the word of Sarai" (i), as it may be literally rendered: hence the Jews have a notion, that an angel stood by Sarai with a scourge in his hand, and when Sarai bid him smite Pharaoh, he smote him (k); but signifies not a word only, but thing, matter and business: and so Onkelos renders it here: and the sense is, that Pharaoh and his courtiers were smitten, because of the affair and business of Sarai; because she was taken by them, and detained in Pharaoh's house, and designed to be made his wife or concubine; and thus for evil intentions was this punishment inflicted; so that evil designs, not brought into execution, are punishable; though the word of Sarai may mean what she was bid to say, and did.

(h) Jarchi in loc. Bereshit Rabba, sect. 41. fol. 35. 4. (i) "propter verbum Sarai", Montanus; "super verbo", Munster, Piscator. (k) Jarchi in loc. Bereshit Rabba, ut supra. (sect. 41. fol. 35. 4.)

And the LORD {o} plagued Pharaoh and his house with great plagues because of Sarai Abram's wife.

(o) The Lord took the defence of this poor stranger against a mighty king: and as he is ever careful over his, so did he preserve Sarai.

17. plagued … with great plagues] The words in the original run: “and Jehovah struck Pharaoh with great strokes, and his house.” The words “and his house” have all the appearance of being a later explanatory addition. The “great strokes” or “plagues” must have been some kind of epidemic (cf. Genesis 20:17; 1 Chronicles 16:21; Psalm 105:14), the cause of which could not be understood. Pharaoh and his house are guiltless; Abram and Sarai are deceitful and cowardly; Jehovah smites the Egyptian, in order to protect the patriarch and his wife. This representation of the Deity illustrates the immature stage of religious development presented by some of the early Israelite traditions.Verse 17. - And the Lord plagued (literally, struck) Pharaoh and his house with great plagues (or strokes, either of disease or death, or some other calamity - an indication that Pharaoh was not entirely innocent) because of Sarai Abram's wife. The effect of this was to lead to the discovery, not through the aid of the Egyptian priests (Josephus), but either through a special revelation granted to him, as afterwards (Genesis 20:6) to Abimelech in a dream (Chrysostom), or through the confession of Sarai herself (A Lapide), or through the servants of Abraham (Kurtz). Abram in Egypt. - Abram had scarcely passed through the land promised to his seed, when a famine compelled him to leave it, and take refuge in Egypt, which abounded in corn; just as the Bedouins in the neighbourhood are accustomed to do now. Whilst the famine in Canaan was to teach Abram, that even in the promised land food and clothing come from the Lord and His blessing, he was to discover in Egypt that earthly craft is soon put to shame when dealing with the possessor of the power of this world, and that help and deliverance are to be found with the Lord alone, who can so smite the mightiest kings, that they cannot touch His chosen or do them harm (Psalm 105:14-15). - When trembling for his life in Egypt on account of the beauty of Sarai his wife, he arranged with her, as he approached that land, that she should give herself out as his sister, since she really was his half-sister (Genesis 11:29). He had already made an arrangement with her, that she should do this in certain possible contingencies, when they first removed to Canaan (Genesis 20:13). The conduct of the Sodomites (Genesis 19) was a proof that he had reason for his anxiety; and it was not without cause even so far as Egypt was concerned. But his precaution did not spring from faith. He might possibly hope, that by means of the plan concerted, he should escape the danger of being put to death on account of his wife, if any one should wish to take her; but how he expected to save the honour and retain possession of his wife, we cannot understand, though we must assume, that he thought he should be able to protect and keep her as his sister more easily, than if he acknowledged her as his wife. But the very thing he feared and hoped to avoid actually occurred.
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