God continues his plan to alienate humanity and fracture families, bribing Abram with land and the promise of a great nation if he abandons his family. Abram takes the bait and leaves, but manages to bring his wife and nephew and slaves with him. God appears and tells Abram to stop walking, this is his promised land (despite the fact that it is currently occupied with other people). He builds a couple altars and starts preaching about Jehovah, but there is a famine, so he has to keep going towards Egypt. Wow, great land Jehovah provided Abram, “here, take this land that you will have to fight for. Oh, and by the way, it doesn’t even have enough food to feed three of you.”
As they approach Egypt, Abram decides to whore out his wife to save his own skin. That’s right, this is not the cheeky story I remember where clever Abram plays a harmless ruse to stay out of trouble. He tells his wife “thou [art] my sister,” then sells the same lie to the Egyptians. He doesn’t discuss with her what course of action to take, he totally abdicates and throws Sarai into Pharoah’s bed. When the Egyptians see that she is good looking she is “taken to Pharaoh’s house.” He apparently gets what he wants, because
16 to Abram he hath done good because of her, and he hath sheep and oxen, and he-asses, and men-servants, and handmaids, and she-asses, and camels.
You don’t get sheep and oxen and asses and servants and camels for nothing. She put out. She really had no choice after Abram put her in that situation.
That’s pretty fucked up, but it gets worse. After Abram lies to the Egyptians and abandons his wife to a lustful stranger, God punishes Pharoah with plagues “for the matter of Sarai, Abram’s wife.” (Verse 17). Pharoah is a complete innocent at this point, only doing what is natural after having been lied to by Abram, and he gets “great plagues.” As soon as Pharoah figures out why he’s being punished, he confronts Abram on his lie. It also becomes abundantly clear at this point what went on between the two, because Pharoah says that he took Sarai for a wife. (Verse 19). Pharoah asks why Abram didn’t just tell him the truth, and Abram has no reply, so Pharoah sends them all away. That last point is important, because it indicates that Abram may have misjudged Pharaoh and lied and prostituted his wife for nothing. It seems unlikely that a Pharoah who just sends Abram away with this wife and all his belongings after being lied to and stricken with plagues is the type of guy that would have killed Abram for showing up with his wife in the first place.
The Bible is still proving to be remarkably thin in many ways, especially morally and theologically. There is no cohesion. God is a schizophrenic, jealous asshole who takes life arbitrarily. Abram, who is a liar and a coward, ends up becoming wealthy, and gets emphatic blessings from God. These stories are taught to children, highly edited and enhanced, for moral instruction, but a close reading, the literal reading which many, many Christians insist upon, they have no value whatsoever in teaching morals. They’re extremely counterproductive, in fact, with xenophobic, slave-holding liars and drunken, abusive fathers for protagonists.
1 And Jehovah saith unto Abram, `Go for thyself, from thy land, and from thy kindred, and from the house of thy father, unto the land which I shew thee.
2 And I make thee become a great nation, and bless thee, and make thy name great; and be thou a blessing.
3 And I bless those blessing thee, and him who is disesteeming thee I curse, and blessed in thee have been all families of the ground.’
4 And Abram goeth on, as Jehovah hath spoken unto him, and Lot goeth with him, and Abram [is] a son of five and seventy years in his going out from Charan.
5 And Abram taketh Sarai his wife, and Lot his brother’s son, and all their substance that they have gained, and the persons that they have obtained in Charan; and they go out to go towards the land of Canaan; and they come in to the land of Canaan.
6 And Abram passeth over into the land, unto the place Shechem, unto the oak of Moreh; and the Canaanite [is] then in the land.
7 And Jehovah appeareth unto Abram, and saith, `To thy seed I give this land;’ and he buildeth there an altar to Jehovah, who hath appeared unto him.
8 And he removeth from thence towards a mountain at the east of Beth-El, and stretcheth out the tent (Beth-El at the west, and Hai at the east), and he buildeth there an altar to Jehovah, and preacheth in the name of Jehovah.
9 And Abram journeyeth, going on and journeying towards the south.
10 And there is a famine in the land, and Abram goeth down towards Egypt to sojourn there, for the famine [is] grievous in the land;
11 and it cometh to pass as he hath drawn near to enter Egypt, that he saith unto Sarai his wife, `Lo, I pray thee, I have known that thou [art] a woman of beautiful appearance;
12 and it hath come to pass that the Egyptians see thee, and they have said, `This [is] his wife,’ and they have slain me, and thee they keep alive:
13 say, I pray thee, thou [art] my sister, so that it is well with me because of thee, and my soul hath lived for thy sake.’
14 And it cometh to pass, at the entering of Abram into Egypt, that the Egyptians see the woman that she [is] exceeding fair;
15 and princes of Pharaoh see her, and praise her unto Pharaoh, and the woman is taken [to] Pharaoh’s house;
16 and to Abram he hath done good because of her, and he hath sheep and oxen, and he-asses, and men-servants, and handmaids, and she-asses, and camels.
17 And Jehovah plagueth Pharaoh and his house — great plagues — for the matter of Sarai, Abram’s wife.
18 And Pharaoh calleth for Abram, and saith, `What [is] this thou hast done to me? why hast thou not declared to me that she [is] thy wife?
19 Why hast thou said, She [is] my sister, and I take her to myself for a wife? and now, lo, thy wife, take and go.’
20 And Pharaoh chargeth men concerning him, and they send him away, and his wife, an all that he hath.