Genesis 12:10-20 is a text about Abram and Sarai in Egypt that is considered as one of the great epos narrated in the Book of Genesis. Before the narration of this story, Abram is portrayed as an individual with several positive attributes including righteousness and humility. However, the story highlights several troubling concerns and questions regarding Abram's character, beliefs, and behaviors in relation to God and Sarai. These troubling questions and concerns have become the subject of interest and study throughout the ages. Actually, the concerns have been examined in various commentaries, adaptations and interpretations, and plot extensions. The story has mainly been examined from two schools of thought starting with a description of Sarai's beauty, attractiveness, and sexuality from the male perspective
. The second school of thought is typical expressions of male sexual discourse in light of Abram's disturbing behavior. Therefore, Genesis 12:10-20 is a good story that applies to the contemporary world and can be taught in different ways to different age/interest groups.
Overview of the Text:
The beginning of the text shows that Abram's decision to go down to Egypt and live there for a while was influenced by the severe famine in the land. However, while on the border of Egypt, Abram started to contemplate the dangers that lay ahead. Actually, it seems Abram made the decision to go down to Egypt without consideration of the consequences of that decision. One of Abram's greatest fears was the beauty of his wife Sarai in light of the probable fate of a foreigner with an attractive wife. As a result, Abram pleaded with his wife to pose as his sister so that he would not be murdered. This plea can be regarded as Abram's solution to the problem of his safety while in Egypt.
While Abram's fears looked hypothetical initially, they came to reality though he was not the victim of his fears and concerns. He was the cause of what happened because of his fear for the future and faithless plan of action. Sarai was seen as a beautiful and an attractive woman, an account that was reported to Pharaoh. Since Abram and Sarai both claimed that she was his sister, Sarai was eligible for marriage and taken into Pharaoh's harem. In this case, Pharaoh's actions were justified because of Abram's and Sarai's claims. Moreover, Abram was treated well by Pharaoh to an extent that he received cattle and sheep, donkeys, camels, and servants for the sake of Sarai. In this case, Abram's desire and plan for the future came to pass, albeit for a short period of time.
The outcome of Abram and Sarai's plan are evident towards the end of the text where the Lord inflicted severe diseases on Pharaoh and his household. Pharaoh responded to God's punishment by questioning Abram about his actions and decision to lie. He discovered that Sarai was actually Abram's wife and not sister as he was told. Pharaoh decided to let Abram and Sarai to go and gave orders to his men to send them away together with the possessions he had.
Assessment of Genesis 12:10-20:
As previously mentioned, this passage has attracted huge interests among Biblical scholars and Christians alike to an extent that it has generated many commentaries and interpretations. There are various ways of evaluating this passage because of the different ways of looking at it. One of the major ways of interpreting and assessing this passage is looking at how people make plans for the future through worrying. Based on Abram's actions, worry approximates circumstances and plans for the future from the perspective of someone who does not believe in a Sovereign God
Secondly, the passages offer two major principles of living an extraordinary faith, especially in learning to trust in God and in His Word
. The two principles from this text include the expectation that an individual's faith will be tested through circumstances and obstacles that characterize daily life. Secondly, the text shows the significance of facing your fears with faith in light of the strong urge to please men rather than God. In essence, Genesis 12:10-20 shows the essence of living by faith and total dependence on God and the dangers of living in fear.
Third, the passage can be interpreted on the basis of sexual transgressions, which is a major issue in the contemporary world. The significance of this interpretation in today's world is evident in the typical expressions and descriptions of sexual discourse and behavior. Sexual behaviors have become a major issue in today's world because of the modern culture where sex sells. Therefore, this text reveals the typical expressions of male sexual discourse in light of description of a woman's attractiveness, beauty, and sexuality.
Application of Genesis 12:10-20 to the Contemporary World:
The application of Genesis 12:10-20 to the contemporary world can be understood through the different ways of interpreting this passage. While there are various interpretations and adaptations of this text, there are two major ways with which it applies to the contemporary world. One of these ways is the relevance of the text to the issue of fear and worry, which has characterized life in today's society. Given the rapid technological development and advancements in the modern world, life is characterized with fear and worry with regards to what will happen in the future. Worry in the modern world is mainly attributed to the uncertainties across global economies, which sometimes make it difficult for people to have suitable and effective plans for the future.
Similar to the contemporary world, the economic climate at the time was uncertain because of the severe famine that hit the land. Abram's decision to go down to Egypt was mainly influenced by the famine and harsh economic environment in the land. The famine contributed to several uncertainties and concerns on how people could survive. Actually, Abram's test of faith was the severe famine in the land, which brought concerns about suffering and trials. However, Abram did not take time to examine the consequences of his decision to go to Egypt despite of the increased severity of the famine in his land. It seems like Abram did not have any idea that suffering and trials were part of God's test of faith and demonstration of the Sovereignty of God. While it is unclear whether Abram should have gone to Egypt or not, the story implies that it was a bad decision. Even though he was not condemned, the developments in Egypt demonstrate that it was a bad decision that was fueled by worry.
Abram's worries are demonstrated at the border of Egypt when he expressed his concern for survival in Egypt due to the attractiveness and beauty of Sarai, his wife. As a result of this concerns and the potential outcome of foreigners with attractive wives, Abram did what most people in contemporary world would do for survival. Many people would lie when in times of trouble and seek for the easy way out in order to survive. Actually, he complimented his wife in order to gain favor from her and survive
. Men in today's world tend to compliment their wives when they want a favor or justify lies as long as it contributes to their well-being. The relevance of this passage to modern world is demonstration of how people are likely to go to extremes to survive including using inappropriate means. When faced with troubles and uncertainties people are likely to use illegitimate means for personal gain, which has contributed to the belief that the end justifies the means.
The second way with which Genesis 12:10-20 is applicable to the modern world is with regards to sexual discourse. Actually, the storyline usually expands when describing Sarai from a male perspective and in relation to her beauty, attractiveness, and sexuality. Similar to most men in the contemporary world, the passage presents Abram as a man with questionable moral standing. Men in today's society have questionable moral standing because of the tendency to lie about their marital status for selfish gains. In addition, the text highlights the issue of social status where a marriage seemingly gives man control over his wife.
Women in the contemporary world have increasingly fought for their rights to avoid being subjects to their men or being controlled by their husbands.
In essence, Genesis 12:10-20 conveys the idea that a man has the right to enforce his power and control over his/her wife. Actually, Sarai is treated like an object that is exchanged between patriarchal leaders, which shows how men can treat women if they have the power to do so. Women in today's society have continued to advocate for their rights because of the likelihood to be treated like Sarai. Men have a tendency of enforcing their power and control over women when allowed to do. This power and control is imposed without any consideration of the woman's dignity but for selfish and personal gain.