Chick-fil-A Biblical Family of the Day

Chick-fil-A president Dan Cathy: “We support biblical families.”

Today’s Chick-fil-A Biblical Family of the Day: Abram in Egypt (Genesis 12:10-19).

Now there was a famine in the land. So Abram went down to Egypt to reside there as an alien, for the famine was severe in the land. When he was about to enter Egypt, he said to his wife Sarai, “I know well that you are a woman beautiful in appearance; and when the Egyptians see you, they will say, ‘This is his wife;’ then they will kill me, but they will let you live. Say you are my sister, so that it may go well with me because of you, and that my life may be spared on your account.”

When Abram entered Egypt the Egyptians saw that the woman was very beautiful. When the officials of Pharaoh saw her, they praised her to Pharaoh. And the woman was taken into Pharaoh’s house. And for her sake he dealt well with Abram; and he had sheep, oxen, male donkeys, male and female slaves, female donkeys, and camels.

But the Lord afflicted Pharaoh and his house with great plagues because of Sarai, Abram’s wife. So Pharaoh called Abram, and said, “What is this you have done to me? Why did you not tell me that she was your wife? Why did you say, ‘She is my sister.’ so that I took her for my wife? Now then, here is your wife; take her, and be gone.”

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  • Carstonio

    From my reading, Abram’s problem was that he was essentially prostituting his wife purely to save himself, not realizing how his lie would impact her and others. Is that how Judaism reads the story?

  • Kirala

    The problem here is reading this as a story, when clearly the Bible is intended as a rule book. It says quite clearly in Leviticus 20:17 “If a man takes his sister, a daughter of his father or a daughter of his mother, and sees her nakedness, and she sees his nakedness, it is a disgrace, and they shall be cut off in the sight of the children of their people. He has uncovered his sister’s nakedness, and he shall bear his iniquity.” When Abraham pulled this same sibling trick later, he claimed that it exonerated him that Sarah was actually his half-sister. Little did he know that he was confessing a sin that would lead to vilification and exclusion from the entire race of the holy.

    (It’s more to the point in the NIV I read this morning, which translates the act as “marries” rather than “takes and sees the nakedness of”. I went with the ESV here because it’s generally a more inclusive translation.)

    Still, I note that God has neither disowned nor discounted the families formed outside his laws. This, and other laws in Leviticus blatantly broken by the patriarchs and several thereafter.

  • I have always been inclined to give this story a more charitable reading.  Perhaps Sarai cooperated willingly because she loved her husband and wished to protect him.  Then again, maybe not.  The Bible is annoyingly vague on giving us any insight into what the women in the various narrative are thinking.

  • esmerelda_ogg

     “clearly the Bible is intended as a rule book”???!?

    Well, a few parts of it consist mostly of rules. A few parts consist of poetry. Substantial parts consist of advice – proverbial wisdom, prophetic “if this goes on” warnings, letters to distant followers. And more than anything else, the Bible contains stories, some horrifying and some odd and some inspiring, for us to make what we can of.

  • AnonaMiss

    Well, clearly Abram was being pretty savvy to know that if he came to town with a hot wife, Pharaoh would kill him so that she’d be available. What I want to know is, why didn’t Pharaoh kill him after he found out the truth?

  • ohiolibrarian

    So, why did God punish Pharaoh rather than Abram and how did Pharaoh trace his troubles to Sarai? Did Jaweh or Ra tell him?

  • aunursa

    From the notes in my Chumash:

    Genesis 12:10-20. “…Knowing that he and Sarah would be in grave danger in Egypt if fthey came as man and wife, Abraham concocted the claim that she was his sister. The honesty of the Patriarchs makes it impossible to believe that Abraham would have told an outright lie, which is why the Sages wonder: was she then his sister? She was really his niece (11:29). They explain that a man often refers to his relative as his sister (Midrash HaGadol). Though Abraham thought that this ruse would protect Sarah as well himself, Ramban comments that it was a “great sin” for him to put her in danger.

  • Carstonio

    Maybe Abram wasn’t giving the pharaoh enough credit. Or maybe he was simply hyperjealous.

  • aunursa

    Jewish commentary: My wife, My Sister

  • Carstonio

     I’m skeptical of the “low morality” claim – this could just as easily have been later xenophobia or war propaganda like “Belgian babies.” Maybe the scholars were reacting to the pharaonic tradition of sibling marriage.

  • Or possibly it’s some Hindu mythology which got incorporated into the Biblical narrative. (An interesting theory, but not necessarily one I’m prepared to stand over.)


  • Lori


    The honesty of the Patriarchs makes it impossible to believe that Abraham would have told an outright lie, 

    Wow. That’s really. Yeah, OK.

  • The_L1985

     True, but chronologically, Abram is pre-Leviticus by a few centuries.  It could be argued that he didn’t break the incest rule because it didn’t exist yet.

  • The_L1985

     I think Kirala was being sarcastic with that sentence.

  • aunursa

    What’s interesting is that a few chapters later, God Himself tells a little white lie … and a note in the Chumash acknowledges it…

    12 And Sarah laughed at herself, saying, “After I have withered shall I again have delicate skin? And my husband is old? 13 Then [the Lord] said to Abraham, “Why is it that Sarah laughed, saying: ‘Shall I in truth bear a child, though I have aged?’
    Genesis 18:12-13

    13. Though I have aged. Her actual words in verse 12 were, my husband is old, but for the sake of peace between husband and wife, Scripture [i.e., God] now changed the uncomplimentary reference from her husband to herself (Rashi).

  • Kirala

     Sorry, I was thinking as I was writing that that I should have added [/sarcasm] to the end of the first paragraph. I agree with you completely.

  • EllieMurasaki

    Huh. That…doesn’t make any sense. Men’s age might affect how fertile they are, but not whether they’re fertile. Women’s age? Sarah’s past menopause. She knows damn well she would be past conceiving even if she hadn’t had a lifetime of infertility.

  • aunursa

    In the previous chapter, Abraham was also surprised:

    17 And Abraham threw himself upon his face and laughed, as he thought, “Shall a child be born to a hundred-year old man? And shall Sarah — a ninety year-old woman — give birth?

    Genesis 17:17

    17.And laughed.  Abraham’s laughter was not skeptical, but jubilant; he laughed out of sheer joy at the news that Sarah would bear a son.

    All of the commentary I find discusses the little white lie that God told in Gen. 18:13.  I haven’t found any commentary on whether Abraham’s or Sarah’s statements about his advanced age was referring to his fertility, his ability to raise a son, or something else.

  • esmerelda_ogg

     Oops – sorry about the tone misreading.

  • esmerelda_ogg

     Yup – my mistake.

  • vsm

    I find it interesting that this same thing happens three times in Genesis, twice to Sarah and Abraham and once to Isaac and Rachel. I can understand including two creation stories, but I doubt anyone really needed three versions of this.

  • Kirala

     :) Oh, I take blame – from my experience I wasn’t even going near invoking Poe’s Law! And it’s nice to see onscreen the rant that loops through my head when dealing with certain of my neighbors and Leviticus.

  • thatotherjean

    What does YHWH have against the Egyptians?  He “hardens Pharaoh’s heart” so that he isn’t able to let Moses and the rest of the Jews in Egypt leave, then sends plagues because the Pharaoh didn’t let them go;  and in this story, YHWH sends more plagues to Egypt because  the Pharaoh married Abraham’s wife Sarah, although Abraham had said that she was his sister.  Seems grossly unjust to the people of Egypt.

  • Soror Ayin

    Perhaps Abram was “under-performing?”  Ahem.  It’s called impotence for a reason. ;)

    BTW: I read somewhere that sperm becomes less and less healthy as a man ages.  If a man of 50 or older inseminated a woman, the pregnancy would care risks similar to that of a baby conceived by a woman over 40.  Unfortunately, I cannot remember whether I got that from a scholarly source or from some bozo on FB.

  • Carstonio

     Thanks for the earworm…

  • Should point out that Abram was not lying when he said Sarai was his sister, they were half-siblings. So, technically Abram didn’t lie.
    As to the moral wrongs and rights of the situation, Abram didn’t trust in God to keep him and Sarai safe, Pharoah took a woman for his wife and we don’t see Sarai having much say in the matter (or Abram for that matter) and yet, in the end, Abraham became the father of the Jewish nation and showed that he did, ultimately, trust God’s promise.

  • banancat

    I once read an interesting theory that it wasn’t Yahweh who did those things to Pharaoh, but some Egyptian god. At the time the stories were written, it would have been generally accepted by the Israelites that other gods existed, but that they should worship only Yahweh. So it was Pharaoh’s own god that hardened his heart, because why would Yahweh harden his heart against himself? I forget the term for believing in many gods but worshipping only one. As they became truly monotheistic and the Bible was translated to other languages, any reference to any god was translated as the only god, Yahweh. I don’t know how plausible this theory is and I would love to see a linguistic analysis on the original words, but it does make some kind of sense.

  • EllieMurasaki

    Henotheistic, I believe. But there are references to other gods in the Bible–Asherah, Baal, maybe others, I forget.

  • Anton_Mates

    Abra(ha)m seems to have a real hangup about this, because he later does the exact same thing with Abimelech, the king of Gerar.  And Abimelech has the same reaction of “Dude, you could have just told me she was your wife.”

    Both royals seem to have treated Abraham awfully decently (though who knows what Sarah experienced.)  Pharaoh loaded Abram up with all that swag when he could have simply stolen Sarah and sent her “brother” packing.  And Abimelech gave Abraham a ton of swag and invited him to homestead in any part of his kingdom, even after Abraham’s deceit had gotten Abimelech punished and threatened by God.

  • esmerelda_ogg

     Maybe Abimelech was thinking “Huh, dude’s got a pretty irritable god on his side – maybe it’s a good idea to keep him happy so we don’t have more problems.”

  • banancat

     Yeah, I know that other gods are named, but in the case of the Pharaoh’s god, it might have been unspecific like “his god” and that’s why it was translated as just God.  Like I said, I’d love to see a linguistic analysis of the text and this is only a theory.

  • Anton_Mates

     Could be, although Abimelech could have given Abraham some gifts and then sent him on his way like Pharaoh did.  Usually, if you’re worried about someone carrying some kind of divine curse, priority #1 is getting them outside your borders so they’re not your problem anymore.