Read Genesis 12:10-13
Now there was a famine in the land, and Abram went down to Egypt to live there for a while because the famine was severe. As he was about to enter Egypt, he said to his wife Sarai, “I know what a beautiful woman you are. When the Egyptians see you, they will say, ‘This is his wife.’ Then they will kill me but will let you live. Say you are my sister, so that I will be treated well for your sake and my life will be spared because of you.”
For context, read all of Genesis 12 and Genesis 20
I love it when my husband calls me beautiful. But I doubt that Sarai did. Why? Because twice, her husband, Abram, told her that she was beautiful and then threw her to the wolves.
Sarai was a woman during the age of the Old Testament patriarchs. During that time and in that culture, opportunities for women were limited. How much of a voice a woman had was likely determined by her family, especially by her husband. Women who were not married were vulnerable and often destitute.
Sarai was married but she was barren. Infertility was often interpreted by that society as a sign that a woman did not have God’s favor. Therefore, women who struggled with infertility were often humiliated and shamed.
Throughout Scripture, it appears that Sarai is submissive to her husband. Whenever her husband or father-in-law said it was time for the family to move, Sarai moved. It is not recorded in Scripture whether or not she ever voiced her opinion about moving, and it is doubtful that she would have had a choice in the matter regardless. Her submissiveness in this case ends up being a great blessing to her because her husband is obeying the Lord and following His commands in regards to His promise to make Abraham a great nation. A promise that would bless her as well.
However, even when Abram is not obeying or trusting the Lord, it appears that Sarai is also forced to submit. First, when they came to Egypt due to the famine, Abram was afraid that Pharaoh would kill him to get his hands on Sarai. So Abram convinced Sarai to tell a half lie and say that she is his sister, rather than his wife. In truth, she was his wife and his half-sister. This falsehood saved Abram, but left Sarai susceptible to Pharaoh’s devices and she was quickly added to Pharaoh's harem. It does not appear that Sarai had a choice whether or not she wanted to be a part of his harem. She is simply taken from Abram and given to Pharaoh. The sex trade is an ancient evil. If a powerful man saw a woman’s beauty, he could take her as his own.
For Abram, this arrangement worked well. He was alive and he was given gifts of livestock and servants from Pharaoh. He gained great wealth, but it was at the expense of his own wife’s honor.
Thankfully, the Lord is sovereign in every situation and this one is no exception. The Lord plagued Pharaoh’s household until he finally realized that he was being punished for taking another man’s wife as his own. He promptly returned Sarai to Abram and sent them on their way. But we do not know the full extent of Sarai’s exploitation during her stay in Pharaoh’s harem.
An all too similar situation is recorded in Genesis 20 with Abimelek. Once again, Abraham feared for his life and sacrificed his wife by lying about Sarai’s identity. And once again, the Lord steps into the situation to rescue her.
Men may abuse women and our own husbands may let us down. We are all human, living in a fallen world. But God is sovereign in every situation and yours is no exception. The WORD about women is that where men may fail us, God never will.
Lord, I know that men are not perfect. They may let me down. But You are perfect and mighty to save. Thank You for Your faithfulness and protection. Amen.