Yesterday I told you about the new book I'm reading and things pertaining to the Canaanites and Ancient Egypt. I'd planned to tell about a very interesting chapter, "Rape in the Palace," but ran out of room. So here are the things that caught my eye about the story of Abram and Sarai as they traveled to Egypt to escape the horrible famine in Canaan. (Read it here in Genesis 12.)
Knowing how beautiful his wife was, Abram devised a plan for keeping himself safe, well, alive while in Egypt. But it was at the expense of his wife's purity! The Bible's account says Sarai was taken into Pharoah's palace. Was she made part of his harem? Did he take her as a wife or concubine? The Bible doesn't go into those details though it does use the Hebrew word for "took" which is "ambiguous enough to allow for the possibility that they did have sex." (pg. 58) Scandalous!
I chuckled when I read that Abraham's inaction when Sarai was taken by Pharoah earned him "the contempt of one famously opinionated woman: England's Queen Victoria declared on her deathbed that she did not expect to see Abraham in heaven after his betrayal of Sarah." (pg. 53) Ha, ha....now, I don't agree with Queen Victoria, of course, but her thoughts amused me. I think Abraham was like any one of us: human, a sinner, imperfect. So, yeah, he was selfish sometimes.
Some good things stemming from this time in Egypt -- "Pharoah's capture of Sarai exposed him, and Egypt, to the power of the Biblical God." (pg. 59) "Pharoah, who was now profoundly frightened of the wrath of the foreigner's God, did not simply cast out the couple. He showered them with gifts of jewelry, donkeys, camels, and cattle in hope of appeasing their deity." (pg. 61)
She continues, "Compared to Abram, the Egyptian ruler comes off as rather sympathetic. The moment he discovers Sarai is married, he stops his advances. He appears shocked at the wrongdoing that Abram has allowed him to perpetuate and appalled at Abram for delivering his wife into sexual slavery. The question he asks Abram -- 'What is this that you have done to me?' - is exactly the same question God asks Eve in the Garden of Eden. This is a remarkable reversal for a Biblical story, as Pharoah is depicted as the virtuous man, the one allied more closely to righteous action than the patriarch." (pg. 61)
Ohhhh, something interesting about Hagar. Tradition says she was Pharoah's daughter and that "Pharoah was so impressed with the power of Abram and Sarai's God that he declared, 'I would rather Hagar be a slave in Abram's household, than a princess in my palace.'" Whether or not she was truly Pharoah's daughter, "legends are firm that she joined Abram and Sarai at this point in the story."
As the author concludes about this, "Not only would Hagar's arrival change Abram and Sarai's lives - as well as the course of human history - she would also be a constant reminder to Abram and Sarai of a painful and divisive time in their marriage." (pg. 62)
quotes from Charlotte Gordon in The Woman Who Named God
What do you think about what she wrote? Is it different from your own thoughts? If so, how? Do you think her thoughts of Abram are too harsh? Her thoughts of Pharoah too good? What is your "take" on this story and on what do you base your thoughts?