Genesis 12:19
Why saidst thou, She is my sister? so I might have taken her to me to wife: now therefore behold thy wife, take her, and go thy way.
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(19) So I might have taken her to me to wife.—The Hebrew is, and I took her to me to wife: that is, I took her with the intention of making her my wife. During the interval before the marriage Pharaoh and his household were visited with such marked troubles that he became alarmed, and possibly Sarai then revealed to him her true relationship to Abram. We find in Esther 2:12 that in the case of maidens there was a probation of twelve months duration before the marriage took place, and Sarai was probably saved by some such formality. The conduct of Pharaoh is upright and dignified; nor ought we to disbelieve his assurance that he had acted upon the supposition that Sarai might lawfully be his. The silence of Abram seems to indicate his consciousness that Pharaoh had acted more righteously than himself, and yet his repetition of the offence (Genesis 20) shows that he did not feel much self-reproach at what he had done; nor, possibly, ought we to judge his conduct from the high standpoint of Christian morality. When, however, commentators speak of it as Abram’s fall, they forget that he arranged this matter with Sarai at the very time when he was quitting Haran (Genesis 20:13).

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.Pharaoh upbraids Abram for his deception, and doubtless not without reason. He then commands his men to dismiss him and his, unharmed, from the country. These men were probably an escort for his safe conduct out of Egypt. Abram was thus reproved through the mouth of Pharaoh, and will be less hasty in abandoning the land of promise, and betaking himself to carnal resources. 18-20. Here is a most humiliating rebuke, and Abram deserved it. Had not God interfered, he might have been tempted to stay in Egypt and forget the promise (Ps 105:13, 15). Often still does God rebuke His people and remind them through enemies that this world is not their rest. I might have taken her to me to wife; though he had another before; polygamy being then commonly practised.

Why saidst thou, she is my sister?.... He could not imagine what could be the reason of it, what could induce him to give out such a story as this; for he knew not the fears that Abram was possessed with, which led him to it, and which might be in a good measure groundless, or else Pharaoh might have guessed at the reason; or this he said as being willing to be satisfied of the true one:

so I might have taken her to me to wife; ignorantly, and without any scruple, supposing her to have been free; and so should have been guilty of taking another man's wife, and of depriving him of her; which with him were crimes he did not choose to commit, though polygamy was not accounted any by him, for no doubt he had a wife or wives when about to take Sarai for one:

now therefore, behold thy wife, take her, and go thy way; Sarai it seems was present at this interview, who was delivered to her husband untouched, as his own property, and is ordered to depart the country, that so neither the king, nor any of his courtiers or subjects, might be under any temptation to do him an injury, by violating the chastity of his wife. The whole of this affair is related by Eupolemus (l), an Heathen historian, in a few words, in great agreement with this account; only he represents Sarai as married to the king of Egypt; he says, that Abram, on account of a famine, went to Egypt, with all his family, and there dwelt, and that the king of the Egyptians married his wife, he saying she was his sister: he goes on to relate more at large, says Alexander Polyhistor that quotes him, that the king could not enjoy her, and that his people and family were infected with a plague, upon which he called his diviners or prophets together, who told him that the woman was not a widow; and when the king of the Egyptians so understood it, that she was the wife of Abram, he restored her to her husband.

(l) Apud Euseb. ut supra. (Praepar. Evangel. l. 9. c. 18. p. 420.)

Why saidst thou, She is my sister? so I might have taken her to me to wife: now therefore behold thy wife, take her, and go thy way.
19. take her, and go thy way] Pharaoh, justly incensed with Abram, dismisses him with sternness and abruptness.

Genesis 12:19The princes of Pharaoh finding her very beautiful, extolled her beauty to the king, and she was taken to Pharaoh's house. As Sarah was then 65 years old (cf. Genesis 17:17 and Genesis 12:4), her beauty at such an age has been made a difficulty by some. But as she lived to the age of 127 (Genesis 23:1), she was then middle-aged; and as her vigour and bloom had not been tried by bearing children, she might easily appear very beautiful in the eyes of the Egyptians, whose wives, according to both ancient and modern testimony, were generally ugly, and faded early. Pharaoh (the Egyptian ouro, king, with the article Pi) is the Hebrew name for all the Egyptian kings in the Old Testament; their proper names being only occasionally mentioned, as, for example, Necho in 2 Kings 23:29, or Hophra in Jeremiah 44:30. For Sarai's sake Pharaoh treated Abram well, presenting him with cattle and slaves, possessions which constitute the wealth of nomads. These presents Abram could not refuse, though by accepting them he increased his sin. God then interfered (Genesis 12:17), and smote Pharaoh and his house with great plagues. What the nature of these plagues was, cannot be determined; they were certainly of such a kind, however, that whilst Sarah was preserved by them from dishonour, Pharaoh saw at once that they were sent as punishment by the Deity on account of his relation to Sarai; he may also have learned, on inquiry from Sarai herself, that she was Abram's wife. He gave her back to him, therefore, with a reproof for his untruthfulness, and told him to depart, appointing men to conduct him out of the land together with his wife and all his possessions. שׁלּה, to dismiss, to give an escort (Genesis 18:16; Genesis 31:27), does not necessarily denote an involuntary dismissal here. For as Pharaoh had discovered in the plague the wrath of the God of Abraham, he did not venture to treat him harshly, but rather sought to mitigate the anger of his God, by the safe-conduct which he granted him on his departure. But Abram was not justified by this result, as was very apparent from the fact, that he was mute under Pharaoh's reproofs, and did not venture to utter a single word in vindication of his conduct, as he did in the similar circumstances described in Genesis 10:11-12. The saving mercy of God had so humbled him, that he silently acknowledged his guilt in concealing his relation to Sarah from the Egyptian king.
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