Question:

I just read Genesis 12:1-20 and I'm a little perplexed by it. Abram bent the truth concerning Sarai by getting her to say she was his sister rather than his wife when they came into Egypt. I know she was his half sister by his father, but it was still a lie. So why was Abram blessed with an increase and Pharaoh cursed by plagues by taking Sarai into his household when Pharaoh was a victim of Abram's deception?

I just can't comprehend God rewarding Abram for lying. I must be missing something.


Answer:

"Now there was a famine in the land, and Abram went down to Egypt to dwell there, for the famine was severe in the land. And it came to pass, when he was close to entering Egypt, that he said to Sarai his wife, "Indeed I know that you are a woman of beautiful countenance. Therefore it will happen, when the Egyptians see you, that they will say, 'This is his wife'; and they will kill me, but they will let you live. Please say you are my sister, that it may be well with me for your sake, and that I may live because of you."

So it was, when Abram came into Egypt, that the Egyptians saw the woman, that she was very beautiful. The princes of Pharaoh also saw her and commended her to Pharaoh. And the woman was taken to Pharaoh's house. He treated Abram well for her sake. He had sheep, oxen, male donkeys, male and female servants, female donkeys, and camels. But the LORD plagued Pharaoh and his house with great plagues because of Sarai, Abram's wife. And 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'? I might have taken her as my wife. Now therefore, here is your wife; take her and go your way." So Pharaoh commanded his men concerning him; and they sent him away, with his wife and all that he had" (Genesis 12:10-20).

Though Abram was a man of great faith, he wasn't perfect. He believed the promises God made to him, yet we see him frequently attempting to "help" God keep His promises. Abram feared that he would be killed in order for someone to take his wife, so he came up with a reason that he and Sarai were together without mentioning they were married. Yes, Abram lied through half-truths. And he nearly lost his wife because of it. Somehow he got it into his head that it was better to lose Sarai than his on life so that God's promises to him could be fulfilled. God intervened to stop both Abram and Pharaoh from making foolish mistakes.

God did not reward Abram for lying. Pharaoh gave gifts to Abram, probably as a dowry, before he found out he was being deceived. God plagued Pharaoh to stop the marriage and by this Pharaoh learned the truth. Notice how honorable Pharaoh was. He had no intentions of committing adultery and he was justly angry at Abram for almost causing such to happen. He had Abram thrown out of the country for his sin.

Why was Abram allowed to keep the gifts? Because they were gifts and likely because Pharaoh wanted to compensate for his own error. After all, it looks like Pharaoh just accepted the statement that Abram and Sarai were siblings and never thought to ask if they were married before having Sarai into his home. By the way, nothing states that God's plagues remained after Pharaoh righted the wrong.

What is fascinating is the subtle foreshadowing of the children of Israel's exit from Egypt over 700 years later. They too are given riches as they were thrown out of Egypt (Exodus 12:34-35).