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Midrash of Genesis 12: Sarah's Abduction

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In the second half of Genesis 12, Abram brings Sarai to Egypt to survive a famine. Both of them were forced into a difficult situation; if they went to Egypt, Sarai might get abducted by the Pharaoh, but if they did not they would starve. Why would a bad thing happen to a good righteous man like Abram? This story illustrates that even though you are faced with tough decisions that may challenge your faith in G-d, your steadfastness will ultimately be rewarded. In modern times, people always question their faith because they are looking for proof in order to believe.
There was a time of great famine in Canaan. As the crops died and harvests did not come in, people starved. The nomads and people of the desert sought out food from the only reliable source, in the area. Pharaoh had stored excess grain in silos for years in case of such a famine. Pharaoh was even charitable enough to give some handouts to the poor because he recognized that living in the desert left people vulnerable to such a famine.
As Abram’s cattle died and his own water stores dried up, he knew that he and his wife would have to sojourn to Egypt for relief. Sarai was a very beautiful woman and did not want to Egypt because she knew that there was a chance that she would be taken into the Pharaoh’s harem. Abram was afraid that he would lose the woman he loved, but Sarai believed in him and in his relationship with G-d. She took comfort in the fact that G-d was looking after them, and because of Sarai’s faith, they decided that they should travel to Egypt despite the danger. To ensure his own survival, knowing that she would be kept alive if she was abducted, Abram tells Sarai, “please say that you are my sister, that it may go well with me because of you, and that I may remain alive thanks to you” (Genesis 12:13). If the Pharaoh did take Sarai, he would have killed her husband and brought her home to his palace. Abram told her to say that he was her brother so he would remain alive because a brother would not be slain. This way, even if Sarai did get abducted, at least they both would be alive. Abram surmised that if G-d did not protect him from the famine, he would have to solve the problem of finding food for himself. Feeling confident that G-d would protect them from Pharaoh; they traveled to Egypt. Unluckily, as soon as they arrived, “Pharaoh’s courtiers saw her and praised her to Pharaoh, and the woman was taken into Pharaoh’s palace” (Genesis 12:15). Abram could not object to his wife being taken because confronting the Pharaoh would have been fatal. So, they followed their plan and Sarai said that Abram was her brother and he was spared. Abram could only act as if he wished to give his ‘sister’ to Pharaoh. H was compensated for his ‘sister’ and was given slaves, sheep, oxen, donkeys, and camels. Abram took his new worldly possessions outside the city and set up camp with the rest of the arriving people, feeling ashamed for keeping them because he traded his wife for them.
Before Pharaoh could touch Sarai, G-d sent mighty plagues upon him. Pharaoh went to summon his priests to ask them why he and his household were being afflicted, but Sarai interrupted. She told Pharaoh that the plagues were being rained down because Abram was righteous and blessed by G-d and was in fact her husband. Pharaoh angrily called his guards to bring him Abram, and twenty minutes later they led a distraught Abram in by the arms. Pharaoh yelled at Abram, “what is this you have done to me! Why did you not tell me that she was your wife? Now, here is your wife; take her and begone!” (Genesis 12:18-19). Abram quickly collected his wife and safely escaped Pharaoh’s palace. Pharaoh had neglected to take back what he had given Abram for Sarai because he realized that G-d protected Abram and Sarai. Pharaoh realized that it would be in his best interests to leave a man who was in G-d’s favor alone. Abram and Sarai, now much richer than they had been, set off for their home with all their new gifts.
Abram’s initial purpose was to get food, but then Sarai was abducted. Abram did not plead for his wife’s life and could only wait for the situation to resolve itself. Even though Abram and Sarai predicted that Pharaoh would spirit her away, Abram accepted that he lost his wife. When G-d presented the opportunity for Sarai to get herself out of trouble, she returned unharmed. Abram realized that his faith had carried him through his visit to Egypt. Pharaoh recognized that the reason the plagues were sent upon him, so instead of asking for the gifts he had given to Abram, he let Abram keep them. All in G-d’s plan, the gifts he got for Sarai that he did not have to return are now Abram’s reward for faith. Abram leaves Egypt much richer than when he had arrived and was no longer in danger of the famine. With confidence, faith in yourself, and faith in G-d, you can get through difficult times.
This story illustrates that one’s faith in G-d will be rewarded, even though there will be adversity along the way. G-d wants to empower people to make good decisions instead of making their decisions for them. He wants people to live their own lives. We solve our problems or push past them. One cannot wait for G-d to solve all of their problems, i.e., we do not wait for miracles to happen, but G-d will reward us for good deeds no matter how small.



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