The Patriarch as Tyrant

“say you are my sister, so that I will be treated well for your sake and my life will be spared because of you.”
Gen 12:13

Some more on the shadow stories of Abraham (

This is quite an extraordinary event. The great Patriarch flees down to Egypt because of famine and effectively gives his wife to the Pharoah in order to save his own life. After Pharoah’s household is struck down with some mystery disease (one midrash claims it was some form of disease, perhaps an std, which made sex difficult, but maybe this stems more from a desire to absolve Abraham and spare Sarai any more humiliation) he finds out about Abraham’s deception and sends him and his wife on his way. Incidentally, Abraham leaves even richer than he arrived – profiting from his deception.

First thing worth noting. If Abraham is accurate in v12, and it seems that he is, Pharoah had an international reputation for tyranny. He had the power to simply take anything he desired, not just things, but people as well. And so when he learns of Sarai’s beauty, he simply takes her. No questions asked. Not even by Abraham, he simply acquiesces with the voice of tyranny. I wonder how was Abraham’s conscience when he laid his head on the pillow at night, knowing what he had done to his wife, and what was happening to her in Pharaoh’s harem.

What makes this matter worse is that when Pharoah discovers the deception, even the world-renowned tyrant is appalled by Abraham’s actions, and it takes a tyrant to recognise a tyrant.

There is no suggestion Abraham had noticed Sarai’s beauty before. There is no conversation with her about the best strategy of staying safe in Egypt

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