14 ¶ And it came to pass, that, when Abram was come into Egypt, the Egyptians beheld the woman that she was very fair. 15 The princes also of Pharaoh saw her, and commended her before Pharaoh: and the woman was taken into Pharaoh’s house. 16 And he entreated Abram well for her sake: and he had sheep, and oxen, and he asses, and menservants, and maidservants, and she asses, and camels. 17 And the LORD plagued Pharaoh and his house with great plagues because of Sarai Abram’s wife. 18 And Pharaoh called Abram, and said, What is this that thou hast done unto me? why didst thou not tell me that she was thy wife? 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. 20 And Pharaoh commanded his men concerning him: and they sent him away, and his wife, and all that he had.
Pharaoh’s princes saw Sarai as something worthy of the Pharaoh and perhaps were too afraid of his wrath to steal her for themselves but thought to use her as a way of gaining his favor. Abram, thought of as her brother, was treated very well and made wealthier for his supposed sister being part of the Pharaoh’s harem.
But, God plagued Pharaoh and his house for this action, thereby saving Sarai from suffering the humiliation, the unfinished murder of being forced sexually against one’s will. Pharaoh makes himself out to be a just man who is done wrong by Abram although we know by Abram’s repeat of this behavior and Isaac’s copying of it that the chance of Abram being eliminated was likely, regardless of this heathen’s protestations of his innocence. Still, he sent Abram and Sarai away with all of their possessions. The plagues put a fear in Pharaoh that would have served a later Pharaoh well if he had heeded them.
1 ¶ And Abram went up out of Egypt, he, and his wife, and all that he had, and Lot with him, into the south. 2 And Abram was very rich in cattle, in silver, and in gold. 3 And he went on his journeys from the south even to Bethel, unto the place where his tent had been at the beginning, between Bethel and Hai; 4 Unto the place of the altar, which he had made there at the first: and there Abram called on the name of the LORD.
Like the Hebrews in the Exodus, Abram leaves Egypt being given much goods by the Egyptians, only Abram gets his from the Pharaoh’s hand while the Hebrews received theirs from all their neighbors (Exodus 11:2). Abram, now a very wealthy man, returned to the place where he had built an altar to God and called upon His name in 12:8. We, too, in a time of great deliverance, should return to where we first called on God for help, at least in our minds, to get straightened out from the false self-confidence that often comes when we escape something bad ‘by the skin of our teeth.’ Here, Abram, at the place where he built the altar, calls on God again. This whole episode brings to mind that even when we are not praying, not acting out of concern for God’s will but for our own self-preservation, that God is directing the reality of our lives and manipulating events and people to push us toward the end He has set for us. I recommend stopping at this point to read Psalm 139 and contemplate God’s sovereignty over the affairs of men, even heathens like the Pharaoh. Abram and Sarai escaped Egypt by God’s will and not Abram’s dishonesty and cleverness or the Pharaoh’s self-glorying protestations of being morally offended. God used Pharaoh’s power to save them from harm for His purpose.
Psalm 105:15 Saying, Touch not mine anointed, and do my prophets no harm.