The Abrahamic Covenant
As usual, the Genesis account is rather abbreviated. Important elements of the Abrahamic Covenant were somehow omitted from the record. For instance, when we read of the great blessing that Abram received of the Lord (Gen. 12:2-3), we don't have a clear record of what Abram did to receive such a great blessing. What was the contract that God made with Abram and Abram made with God?
A covenant is a two-way promise, "If you do this, I will do this." Covenants are associated with priesthood ordinances which are symbolic of the two-way promise. Since the contractual arrangements of the Abrahamic Covenant were conveniently omitted from the scriptural record, we must try to recreate the events which led to Abram's receipt of such a great promise.
The apostle Paul gets us started. He explained how it was that Abraham obtained favor from God. He was emphasizing that strict adherence to the Law of Moses was not the secret.
For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness...
For the promise, that he should be the heir of the world, was not to Abraham, or to his seed, through the law, but through the righteousness of faith. (Rom. 4:3, 13)
But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him. (Heb. 11:6)
Faith, the first principle of the gospel, was the secret to Abraham's greatness. He was not taught faith by his father; he sought out God on his own. He admitted, "I sought for the blessings of the fathers, and the right whereunto I should be ordained to administer the same; having been myself a follower of righteousness, desiring also to be one who possessed great knowledge, and to be a greater follower of righteousness, and to possess a greater knowledge, and to be a father of many nations, a prince of peace, and desiring to receive instructions, and to keep the commandments of God, I became a rightful heir, a High Priest, holding the right belonging to the fathers." (Abr. 1:2) The blessing of the Abrahamic Covenant came by faith. If we believe apocryphal writings about his young life, we see a pattern of faith in the life of Abraham.
By faith, Abraham rejected the idolatry of his father, Terah
By faith, Abraham confronted the powerful Nimrod, teaching him of the one true God
By faith, Abraham, when he was cast into the fiery furnace of the Chaldeans, walked amidst the fire without being burned
By faith, Abraham left the idolatry of Ur for a better land
By faith, Abraham was saved from the hand of the priest of Elkenah (Abr. 1)
Paul continues the record:
By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out, not knowing whither he went.
By faith he sojourned in the land of promise, as in a strange country, dwelling in tabernacles with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise:
For he looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God.
...And truly, if they had been mindful of that country from whence they came out, they might have had opportunity to have returned.
But now they desire a better country, that is an heavenly: wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God: for he hath prepared for them a city. (Heb. 11:8-10, 15-16)
Faith is the dominant driving force of Abram's righteousness. Yet, as always, the promises of the covenant would have been dependent upon continued faithfulness. What if Abram had received these great promises but failed to be obedient when the Lord asked him to offer Isaac? What if he expected the promised blessings but refused to leave Haran for the land of Canaan? His continued blessing was dependent as always upon continued faithfulness.
Also conspicuously absent from the scriptural record are the priesthood ordinances which allowed Abraham to receive the great blessings he received. Specifically, he needed baptism, ordination to the priesthood, and the everlasting covenant of marriage. The Bible Dictionary clarifies this point:
"Abraham first received the gospel by baptism (which is the covenant of salvation). Then he had conferred upon him the higher priesthood, and he entered into celestial marriage (which is the covenant of exaltation), gaining assurance thereby that he would have eternal increase. Finally he received a promise that all of these blessings would be offered to all of his mortal posterity (D&C 132:29-50; Abr. 2:6-11). Included in the divine promises to Abraham were the assurances that Christ would come through his lineage, and that Abraham's posterity would receive certain lands as an eternal inheritance (Gen. 17; 22:15-18; Gal. 3; Abr. 2)
"These promises taken together are called the Abrahamic covenant. It was renewed with Isaac (Gen. 26:1-4, 24) and again with Jacob (Gen. 28; 35:9-13; 48:3-4)
"The portions of the covenant that pertain to personal salvation and eternal increase are renewed with each individual who receives the ordinance of celestial marriage (see D&C 132:29-33)." (Bible Dictionary: "Abraham, covenant of")
Bruce R. McConkie
What, then, is the Abrahamic covenant? It is that Abraham and his seed (including those adopted into his family) shall have all of the blessings of the gospel, of the priesthood, and of eternal life. The gate to eternal life is celestial marriage, which holy order of matrimony enables the family unit to continue in eternity, so that the participating parties may have posterity as numerous as the sands upon the seashore or the stars in heaven. The Abrahamic covenant enables men to create for themselves eternal family units that are patterned after the family of God our Heavenly Father. A lesser part of the covenant is that the seed of Abraham have the Millennial destiny of inheriting as an everlasting possession the very land of Canaan whereon the feet of the righteous have trod in days gone by. (A New Witness for the Articles of Faith [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1985], 505)
If there is anything calculated to interest the mind of the Saints, to awaken in them the finest sensibilities, and arouse them to enterprise and exertion, surely it is the great and precious promises made by our heavenly Father to the children of Abraham. (History of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 7 Vols. 4:128)
Gen 12:1 Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father's house
Paul understood the symbolism of Abraham leaving Haran. God had in mind to give him a promised land. Why? Because Abraham had hoped for "a city whose... builder and maker is God" (Heb. 11:10). The act of leaving Haran would have been frightening. The people and culture were unfamiliar, making settling in Canaan an unsettling thought. The journey, however, is akin to leaving Babylon to go to Zion. This was the great and immediate act of faith which brought the covenant promise. It must not have been what Abraham wanted to do. Still, Paul reported "he went out, not knowing whither he went." (Heb. 11:8)
"It is difficult to leave one's land and to be an unprotected wanderer abroad; it is even more difficult to abjure all that is most dear in one's accustomed house... The passage makes it clear that God's demand represents a severe trial of faith for Abraham." (The Torah: A Modern Commentary, ed. by W. Gunther Plaut [New York, The Union of American Hebrew Congregations, 1981], 93-94)
"For those who would enter the wilderness of the Lord, a separation of sorts must occur as they leave behind those who do not wish, for whatever reasons, to travel where they are going. In our day this separation will usually be more spiritual and emotional than physical, but it will be just as real and difficult as a physical separation might be... Wilderness travelers must look forward to a certain amount of loneliness. If they talk of their experiences with others who are not fellow travelers (and truthfully there never seem to be many), they will either be misunderstood or, worse, maligned and mocked. One or two such encounters, and they soon learn to keep their mouths closed and to lean wholly upon the strength of the Lord for companionship. Thus does their journey become private and even occasionally secret.
"Hugh Nibley writes: 'He leadeth away the righteous into precious lands, and the wicked he destroyeth, and curseth the land unto them (1 Nephi 17:38). Such was always the Lord's way. When he brought Lehi out of Jerusalem, no one knew about it save it were himself and those whom he brought out of the land. Exactly so did the Lord bring Moses and the people in secret out of the wicked land of Egypt, and Abraham fled by night and secretly from Ur of the Chaldees as Lot did from Sodom and Gomorrah, and so was the city of Enoch removed suddenly to an inaccessible place. And in every case, the wicked world thus left behind is soon to be destroyed, so that those who leave the flesh-pots and the precious things behind and lose all for a life of hardship are actually losing their lives to save them. It would be hard to say whether this pattern is more clearly set forth in the Old Testament or the New, but certainly it is most fully exemplified in the Book of Mormon' (An Approach to the Book of Mormon, p. 139)." (Blaine M. Yorgason, Spiritual Progression in the Last Days, 135-137)
Gen 12:2-3 The Lord blesses Abram
The Book of Abraham is more detailed regarding the events of Genesis 12. Specifically, the promises which pertain to the Abrahamic Covenant came with a personal visitation of Jehovah to Abram. Abram had been faithful. He had sought for the blessings of the fathers. He had sought for the one true God. Now is the turning point in his life when God reveals himself, "Now, after the Lord had withdrawn from speaking to me, and withdrawn his face from me, I said in my heart: Thy servant has sought thee earnestly; now I have found thee... and I will do well to hearken unto thy voice." (Abr. 2:12-13) The more detailed Abraham account reads:
But I, Abraham, and Lot, my brother's son, prayed unto the Lord, and the Lord appeared unto me, and said unto me: Arise, and take Lot with thee; for I have purposed to take thee away out of Haran, and to make of thee a minister to bear my name in a strange land which I will give unto thy seed after thee for an everlasting possession, when they hearken to my voice.
For I am the Lord thy God; I dwell in heaven; the earth is my footstool; I stretch my hand over the sea, and it obeys my voice; I cause the wind and the fire to be my chariot; I say to the mountains-Depart hence-and behold, they are taken away by a whirlwind, in an instant, suddenly.
My name is Jehovah, and I know the end from the beginning; therefore my hand shall be over thee.
And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee above measure, and make thy name great among all nations, and thou shalt be a blessing unto thy seed after thee, that in their hands they shall bear this ministry and priesthood unto all nations;
And I will bless them through thy name; for as many as receive this Gospel shall be called after thy name, and shall be accounted thy seed, and shall rise up and bless thee, as their father; And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse them that curse thee; and in thee (that is, in thy Priesthood) and in thy seed (that is, thy Priesthood), for I give unto thee a promise that this right shall continue in thee, and in thy seed after thee (that is to say, the literal seed, or the seed of the body) shall all the families of the earth be blessed, even with the blessings of the Gospel, which are the blessings of salvation, even of life eternal. (Abr. 2:6-11)
Gen 12:2 I will make of thee a great nation
We must be careful not to interpret this promise too narrowly. Certainly, the nation of Israel in the days of king David and king Solomon was a great nation. Was this all the Lord meant? If we remember that Judaism, Islam, and Christianity all look to Abraham as their father, then all the nations of Judaism, Islam, and Christianity can be included in the fulfillment of this promise. Speaking of the Arabic descendants of Abraham's son Ishmael, the Lord promised "I will make him a great nation" (Gen. 17:20). "Although we accept a specific role for the House of Israel, in a general sense it is true that the descendents of both Ishmael and Isaac have been 'great' in population and achievement, a blessing to mankind." (Ensign, June 1979, 26-27) But with Isaac was the covenant established (Gen. 17:21). Therefore the promise of a "great nation" in the singular should be considered in the plural according to the word of the Lord to Abraham, "a father of many nations have I made thee. And I will make thee exceeding fruitful, and I will make nations of thee" (Gen 17:5-6).
The greatest nation of Abraham is yet to reach its pinnacle in the millennial House of Israel. The Lord has not yet returned to fight their battles and wipe away the tears from their eyes. In that day, the nation of Israel, speaking both politically and spiritually, will be so great that other nations will come unto her, "the forces of the Gentiles shall come unto thee. The multitude of... Midian and Ephah; all they from Sheba shall come: they shall bring gold and incense; and they shall shew forth praises of the Lord... For the nation and kingdom that will not serve thee shall perish; yea, those nations shall be utterly wasted" (Isa. 60:5-12).
Gen 12:3 in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed
Joseph Fielding Smith
We have already mentioned the fact that the Lord would have gladly conferred the blessings of the Gospel and the power of the Priesthood upon all peoples, if they would have received it, but in their failure he called Abraham and placed upon him this wonderful blessing, because of his faithfulness. This honor and blessing places Abraham as the father of all those who receive the Gospel from his day forth to the end of time. No person can receive the Gospel and the Priesthood without becoming of the seed of Abraham. The scattering of Israel, which came because of rebellion, the Lord turned into a blessing in behalf of all other nations by infusing the blood of Abraham among all other peoples. Notwithstanding the peoples of the earth in ancient times turned away from the truth to the worship of false gods, yet the Lord continued to reach after them and to extend to them the blessings of salvation. (Progress of Man, [Deseret Book Co: SLC, 1936], 117-118)
Dallin H. Oaks
The Bible tells us how God made a covenant with Abraham and promised him that through him all "families" or "nations" of the earth would be blessed (see Gen. 12:3; Gen. 22:18). What we call the Abrahamic covenant opens the door for God's choicest blessings to all of His children everywhere. The Bible teaches that "if ye be Christ's, then are ye Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise" (Gal. 3:29; see also Abr. 2:10). The Book of Mormon promises that all who receive and act upon the Lord's invitation to "repent and believe in his Son" become "the covenant people of the Lord" (2 Ne. 30:2). ("All Men Everywhere," Ensign, May 2006, 77-80)
Bruce R. McConkie
In the nearly four thousand years since Abraham, uncounted millions of his literal seed have lived in the world, most of them in a day when the gospel, with its saving ordinances and truths was not found among men. Yet the Lord promised Abraham, their father that these millions who have sprung from him, these millions who are his literal seed, these hosts of his posterity who comprise a major portion of a multitude of nations, that all these are entitled by lineage and as of right to the blessings of the priesthood, of the gospel, of salvation, and of eternal life.
Well, we are latter-day Israel; we are part of the seed of Abraham; we hold the power and authority of this priesthood; we are a light to the gentile nations, and as a result we are under command to carry the message of salvation to them. But we are also chosen and appointed to be saviors to Israel itself, to the seed of Abraham-to the whole kingdom and nation of people of the chosen lineage, who have lived in all the days since Abraham-whether they lived when the gospel was here or whether they did not. (Conference Report, April 1959, Afternoon Meeting 118)
Gen 12:4 Abram was seventy and five years old when he departed out of Haran
The Book of Abraham says that Abram was 62 when he left Haran (Abr. 2:14); the Book of Jasher states that he was 50 when he left. (Traditions About the Early Life of Abraham [Provo: FARMS, 2001], 149)
"'And they came unto Haran, and dwelt there' for a season, gathering 'substance' and 'souls' (Gen. 11:31; Gen. 12:5). From the area of Haran, in the Old Testament region of Padan-aram, also came Rebekah the wife of Isaac (Gen. 24) and Jacob's wife Rachel (Gen. 28-29). ("Ancient Lands: A Photo Essay," Ensign, Sept. 1980, 33)
Gen 12:5 Abram took Sarai his wife... the souls that they had gotten in Haran
The souls are the ones they had converted in Haran. He and Sarai immediately started work at conversion... According to the Sefer ha Yashar, the people of the land of Haran saw that Abraham was good and just toward God and man. Men from among the inhabitants of the land of Haran came to him and attached themselves to him, and he taught them discipline of the Lord and his ways. We have him here in Facsimile No. 3 teaching astronomy and the principles in the court of Pharaoh. "As he moved on his way, each altar raised by him was a center of activities as a missionary, he and Sarai diligently preaching and making proselytes wherever they went and pitched their tents." Midrash 39 says, "Abraham converted the men and Sarah the women." There was a tradition that all proselytes and heathen are the descendants of the infants of the pagan mothers, whom Sarah nursed. But all the followers of Abraham, including Abraham himself, were converts. It doesn't come by blood. As Lehi and Nephi explained to their sons, he who is righteous is favored of God. But you had to accept it. Abraham founded his Zion, and those who wished to follow became the followers of Abraham. By special rites and ordinances they were adopted into the family. (Ancient Documents and the Pearl of Great Price, edited by Robert Smith and Robert Smythe [n.p., n.d.], [p.11].)
Gen 12:6 Abram passed through the land unto the place of Sichem
"He journeyed southward until he reached the land of Canaan, the ancient name for the Holy Land. There the Lord appeared to him and promised to give him that land. (See Gen. 12:6-7.) Canaan became Abraham's home and that of his posterity for several hundred years, until Jacob's children moved to Egypt. Moreover, it became a holy place to the patriarchs, for the Lord often spoke and covenanted with them there...
"The ancient town of Shechem lies between Mt. Gerizim (left) and Mt. Ebal (right). The modern city of Nablus surrounds it. Shechem and the plain of Moreh before the mountains were Abram's first stop in Canaan. There, 'the Lord appeared unto Abram, and said, Unto thy seed will I give this land: and there builded he an altar unto the Lord.' (Gen. 12:6-7.) Jacob later bought a plot of land in Shechem and lived in the region for a time. Centuries later, the children of Israel carried Joseph's bones from Egypt and buried them in the plot Jacob had purchased. (See Gen. 33:18-19; Gen. 34; Gen. 50:25-26; Josh. 24:32.)" ("Land of the Patriarchs," Ensign, Jan. 1990, 38)
Genensis 12:10 there was a famine in the land
Abram could have murmured against the Lord. The Lord has asked him to leave Haran. Now he has to live in tents. Yet, Abram has a good attitude; instead of saying, "we didn't have a roof over our heads," he said we "dwelt in tents as we came on our way; Therefore, eternity was our covering and our rock and our salvation." (Abr. 2:15-16)
He gets to this land which has been promised to him and there is a famine. He can't even live there. The land can't support him and he is forced to go to Egypt for food. His wife's beauty is going to put the lives of Sarai and him in danger. Does Abram complain about this land that the Lord has given him? He certainly could have. He could have thought, "the Lord has said He will give this land unto my seed, but that is no great thing. This land is barren and prone to famine." Abram didn't complain. He understood that God's promises are fulfilled-even if they are reserved for a time to test our faith. His attitude was that he was searching for a holy city, "For he looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God." (Heb. 11:10)
Gen 12:13 Say, I pray thee, thou art my sister
"For Abraham and Sarah, Egypt constituted a place of refuge from the famine raging at the time of their arrival in Canaan (see Gen. 12:10). Interestingly, while Abraham and Sarah enjoyed respite from Canaan's drought, their visit to Egypt provided Sarah with one of her most difficult trials.
"Most are familiar with the story of Sarah posing as Abraham's sister (see Gen. 12:11-15). Even though Abraham later insisted that Sarah was his sister through his father, but not his mother (see Gen. 20:12), many students have felt confused with this explanation. It was not until the discovery of ancient Hurrian legal texts at the site of Nuzi, a city east of Ashur, the capital of ancient Assyria, that we obtained a clearer background for this incident.
"The Hurrians were people who flourished about the time of Abraham, and later. Their kingdom included the land of Haran in which Abraham and Sarah lived for a number of years before moving to Canaan (see Gen. 11:31; Gen. 12:5). Interestingly, only in stories dealing with Sarah and Rebecca [page 47] do we find the claim made that the wife was also a sister to her husband (see Gen. 12:10-20; Gen. 20:2-6; Gen. 26:1-11). Rebecca, like Sarah, spent her youth growing up in Haran, no doubt in contact with Hurrians.
"The contact is important when we learn that under Hurrian law women were frequently adopted as sisters by their husbands either before or during the marriage ceremony. Such a dual status, both wife and sister, had important consequences for a woman. It guaranteed to her special legal and social protections and opportunities which were simply not available to women in any other culture of the Near East. Because Sarah had lived within the Hurrian culture for a number of years, it is not unlikely that she enjoyed this status in her marriage, a status common among Hurrians. Therefore, Abraham's claim that Sarah was his sister upon their entry into the land of Egypt is not far-fetched in the least. Further, it is possible that Terah, Abraham's father, had adopted Sarah before her marriage to Abraham and that this is the meaning of the passage in Genesis 20:12. This particular practice, on the part of a prospective father-in-law, is documented from the Nuzi tablets. (See E. A. Speiser, "The Wife-Sister Motif in the Patriarchal Narratives," in Biblical and Other Studies, Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard Univ. Press, 1963, pp. 15-28.)
"In Genesis Abraham is said to have insisted that Sarah was his sister because he feared for his life. The incident is clarified in the book of Abraham where we learn it was revealed to Abraham that Sarah would maintain that she was his sister (see Abr. 2:21-25).
"This placed the burden on Sarah. Would she risk her own rights as wife in order to preserve the life of her husband as the Lord had asked? Indeed, Sarah's visit to Egypt became a period of intense trial for her. Even though the Lord protected her from the pharaoh's intent to make her his wife-and protected her virtue-the pharaoh was nevertheless allowed to take her into his household (Gen. 12:15-20). We see, then, that Egypt represented at the same time a haven from the famine and a place of testing for Sarah." (S. Kent Brown, "Biblical Egypt: Land of Refuge, Land of Bondage," Ensign, Sept. 1980, 45, 47)
God said, "thou shalt not kill;" at another time He said, "Thou shalt utterly destroy."... Whatever God requires is right, no matter what it is, although we may not see the reason thereof till long after the events transpire. (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 256)
Gen 12:14 the Egyptians beheld the woman that she was very fair
"And [Abram] had a wife of a most excellent disposition, who was also the most beautiful of all women of her time. The Egyptian magistrates, seeing her and admiring her exquisite form, for nothing ever escapes the notice of men in authority, gave information to the king
And the king, sending for the woman and beholding her extreme beauty, gave but little heed to the dictates of modesty or to the laws which had been established with respect to the honour due to strangers, but yielding to his incontinent desires, conceived the intention in name, indeed to marry her in lawful wedlock, but in fact to seduce and defile her.
But she, being destitute of all succor, as being in a foreign land, before an incontinent and cruel-minded ruler (for her husband had no power to protect her, fearing the danger which impended over him from princes mightier than he), at last, with him, took refuge in the only alliance remaining to her, the protection of God." (Traditions About the Early Life of Abraham [Provo: FARMS, 2001], 149)
"Women of Sarai's day considered travel the one thing most fatal to beauty; yet when Sarai arrived in Egypt, her still-radiant beauty was enough to cause a minor sensation. It was a matter of course in those days for a prince to help himself to any handsome woman who caught his eye, and to kill her husband if the husband objected. Knowing that Sarai's beauty would endanger Abram, the Lord suggested that he conceal his real relationship to her. (See Abraham 2:22-25.)
"Being so directed, Sarai agreed to call herself Abram's sister. It was a partial truth, as Sarai was indeed Abram's half-sister. They shared the same father." (Jerrie W. Hurd, Our Sisters in the Bible [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1983], 8)
Gen 12:17 the Lord plagues Pharaoh and his house with great plagues
Apocryphal writings tell much more of this story than we get from Genesis. The variety of plagues ranges from fever, to an evil spirit, to Pharaoh's arms withering every time he tries to touch Sarai. A few examples are given.
The Book of Jasher
And the woman was then brought to Pharaoh's house, and Abram grieved on account of his wife, and he prayed to the Lord to deliver her from the hands of Pharaoh.
And Sarai also prayed at that time and said, O lord God thou didst tell my Lord Abram to go from his land and from his father's house to the land of Canaan, and thou didst promise to do well with him if he would perform thy commands; now behold we have done that which thou didst command us, and we left our land and our families, and we swent to a strange land and to a people whom we have not known before.
And we came to this land to avoid the famine, and this evil accident has befallen me; now therefore, O lord God, deliver us and save us from the hand of this oppressor and do well with me for the sake of thy mercy.
And the Lord hearkened to the voice of Sarai, and the Lord sent an angel to deliver Sarai from the power of Pharaoh.
And the king came and sat before Sarai and behold an angel of the Lord was standing over them, and he appeared to Sarai and said to her, Do not fear, for the Lord has heard thy prayer.
And the king approached Sarai and said to her, What is that man to thee who brought thee hither? and she said, He is my brother.
And the king said, It is incumbent upon us to make him great, to elevate him and to do unto him all the good which thou shalt command us; and at that time the king sent to Abram silver and gold and precious stones in abundance, together with cattle, men servants and maid servants; and the king ordered Abram to be brought, and he sat in the court of the king's house, and the king greatly exalted Abram on that night.
And the king approached to speak to Sarai, and he reached out his hand to touch her, when the angel smote him heavily and he was terrified and he refrained from reaching to her.
And when the king came near to Sarai, the angel smote him to the ground, and acted thus to him the whole night, and the king was terrified.
And the angel on that night smote heavily all the servants of the king, and his whole household, on account of Sarai, and there was a great lamentation that night amongst the people of Pharaoh's house.
And Pharaoh, seeing the evil that befell him, said, Surely on account of this woman has this thing happened to me, and he removed himself at some distance from her and spoke pleasing words to her.
And the king said to Sarai, Tell me I pray thee concerning the man with whom thou camest here; and Sarai said, This man is my husband, and I said to thee that he was my brother for I was afraid, lest thou shouldst put him to death through wickedness.
And the king kept away from Sarai, and the plagues of the angel of the Lord ceased from him and his household; and Pharaoh knew that he was smitten on account of Sarai, and the king was greatly astonished at this. (Book of Jasher, 15:16-28 as taken from Tvedtnes, Hauglid, & Gee, Traditions About the Early Life of Abraham [Provo: FARMS, 2001], 152-153)
Dead Sea Scrolls
That night I [Abram] prayed, pleaded and entreated and said in my distress, while my tears flowed: Blessed are you, O God Most High, my Lord, through all the universe. For you are Lord and Master of everything and rule all the kings of the earth to judge them all. Now I lodge a complaint before you, my Lord, against Pharaoh Zoan, king of Egypt, because my wife has been taken away from me by force. Do justice for me against him and show your mighty arm against him, and against all his house. During this night, may he not be able to sully my wife, separated from me; and so they shall know you, my Lord. For you are the Lord of all the kings of the earth. And I wept and stayed silent. That night, the God Most High sent him a chastising spirit, to afflict him and all the members of his household, and evil spirit that kept afflicting him and all the members of his household. And he was unable to approach her, much less have sexual intercourse with her, in spite of being with her for two years. At the end of two years, the punishments and plagues, against him and against all the members of his household, increased and intensified. And he sent for all [the wise men] of Egypt to be called, and all the wizards as well as all the healers of Egypt, (to see) whether they could heal him of that disease, [him] and the members of his household. However, all the healers and wizards and all the wise men were unable to rise up and heal him. For the spirit attacked all of them and they fled. ("Genesis Apocryphon," Tvedtnes, Hauglid, & Gee, Traditions About the Early Life of Abraham [Provo: FARMS, 2001], 28)
And [Pharaoh] brought [Sarai] into his house, and set her upon his bed and Pharaoh the king of Egypt would have companied with her. But the Angel of the Lord appeared unto him by night carrying a sword of fire, and he drew nigh unto him, and he lighted up the whole chamber with his fiery flame, and he wished to slay Pharaoh. And Pharaoh fled from one wall of the chamber to the other, and from one corner of the chamber to the other; wheresoever he went the Angel followed him; and there was no place left whereto he could fell and hide himself. Then Pharaoh stretched out his hands and said unto the Angel, "O lord, forgive me this my sin." And the Angel said unto him, "Why dost thou attack the wife of [another] man?" And Pharaoh said unto him, "O lord, slay thou not innocent blood. For he said unto me 'She is my sister,' and therefore I took her to myself innocently. What shall I do to deliver myself from thy hands?" And the Angel said unto him, "Give Abraham's wife back to him, and give him a gift, and send him away to his own country." ("Extracts from the Kebra Nagast," Tvedtnes, Hauglid, & Gee, Traditions About the Early Life of Abraham [Provo: FARMS, 2001], 279-280)
Gen 12:19-20 Sarai's deliverance from Pharaoh is a type for Moses and the Exodus
Rabbinical writings compared Sarai's deliverance before Pharaoh to the deliverance of the children of Israel at the time of the Passover. The more we examine this idea, the more evident it becomes that Sarai before Pharaoh is a foreshadowing and prophetic type of the deliverance of Israel in the days of Moses.
This is the beginning of a common Old Testament symbolism-that Jehovah is betrothed or married to Israel. Prophets would later complain that Jehovah had been faithful to his bride but that Israel had played the harlot (Hosea 4:15). Now we can compare the marriage covenant between Abram and Sarai to the Mosaic covenant between Jehovah and Israel.
- Famine drives Abram and Sarai from Canaan into Egypt; famine drives the sons of Israel from Canaan into Egypt.
- Pharaoh considered Sarai as his personal possession just as Pharaoh felt he owned the children of Israel as slaves.
- Sarai's heart was to her husband not toward Pharaoh; the children of Israel's allegiance was to God not Pharaoh.
- Pharaoh and his household were plagued with terrible plagues by the hand of God before Sarai and before Moses.
- The magicians and wise men of Egypt were not able to stay the plagues in either instance.
- Pharaoh asks Sarai to leave him in order to stay the plagues; Pharoah asks Moses to take the children of Israel and go after ten plagues and the death of his son.
- Pharaoh gives a great spoil to Sarai upon leaving Egypt; the Israelites spoil the Egyptians upon their exodus.
- Abram and Sarai, now reunited, leave together for the land of Canaan; the Lord goes up with his people Israel to the promised land in Canaan.