To Egypt And Back (Genesis 12:10-13:18)

The geographical progression so far begins with Ur, then to Harran.  From Harran to Canaan, and then from there to Egypt. Finally from Egypt back to Canaan.


Down to Egypt.  Follow along with me in verses 10-20….

SUMMARY:  While in Canaan a severe famine causes Abram to pack up and go to Egypt.  When he gets there he lies about his wife and says she’s his sister.  And while he’s there he gets very rich. 

First of all, what in the world is he doing lying about his wife?  Ironically, he would do the same thing again in a different country later on in chapter 20.  Incidentally, Abraham and later his son Isaac would lie this same lie to the same king, the king of Gerar (20:11-13 and 26:8-10)

Actually he wasn’t lying, because his wife was also his half-sister (20:12).  Apparently it was not uncommon that while in “enemy territory” a husband would be killed for his wife (BKC).  So Abram had a reason to be afraid for his life, and Sarai’s good looks wasn’t helping his chances of survival.  Abram knew that once he stepped foot in Egypt he would have a target on his back.  So, to protect his life they hide their marriage (12:11-13; 20:11-13).  Then, sure enough, she gets noticed.  Of all people it was Pharaoh, and he swoops her up and marries her.  

Lets take a poll:  How many of you think Sarai never let Abraham live this down?  That was her get out of jail free card for the rest of her life.  “I don’t care if you like my cooking, it’s not like I’m your wife!”  “I’d be happy to wash your socks – if you were my husband!”  How many times do you think Sarai was laying down in a tent to go to sleep on some hard desert ground and said in the dark, “You know, I could’ve been in a palace right now”?  🙂

We have to connect the dots here:  Abraham in a sense was putting God’s plan into jeopardy.  God’s plans are never in jeopardy, He will fulfill his purposes regardless of man.  But, Abraham’s actions here certainly weren’t consistent with God’s promises.  God was going to make him into a great nation, meaning he would have many descendents, YET, here he was giving his wife away – the wife God was going to bring that great nation from.  Pharaoh took his wife, thinking she was his sister. 

The man of faith is still a man.  He was not acting by faith in this situation.  He was not factoring in the promise God gave him and basing his choices on God’s words.  God said that he would bless him, which required his wife was indeed HIS wife! 

APPLICATION:  A lot of the life of faith means we take what we know of God of his promises and of his word and we “reason” from what we know into a wise decision.  It takes knowledge of these things first of all, thoughtfully thinking through God’s word and our situations second of all, and prayer.  

The other development for Abram while in Egypt was he gained great wealth. Look at verse 16…. And look at 13:2 “Abram had become very wealthy….”  All of this is God beginning to fulfill his 2nd promise to Abram, found in verse 2, “and I will bless you.”

APPLICATION:  God providentially uses circumstances to move us around.  A famine causes Abram to leave Canaan and go to Egypt.  Famine is one way God moves people around geographically.  Later it would be a famine that caused Jacob and his family to go to Egypt. 

A lot of commentators believe Abraham’s trip to Egypt was from a lack of faith.  He left the land God brought him to when he should have stayed.  Maybe they’re right and we could even ask why Abram didn’t consult with the LORD in whether to go down to Egypt or stay.  That’s a fair question.  

But, I think its a little hard on Abram to fault him.  For three reasons.  First, because the famine was “severe” it says.  And God does use providential means to move people where He wants them.  God didn’t have to verbally tell Abram to go to Egypt.  

Secondly, up to that point Abram was only told that his descendents would get the land.  God didn’t say that he personally would get it yet.  That’s coming up in a moment.  So Abraham could have gone to Egypt reasoning that God would give that land to his descendents whether he booked a mule to Egypt or not.  

Thirdly, whether God sovereignly moved Abram to Egypt or not, God sovereignly used Abram’s trip to Egypt.  Abraham got rich while there.  He wasn’t doing bad at all before Egypt, but after Egypt he was loaded.  

So Abram’s trip to Egypt resulted in a blunder with his wife, but, a boon in his net worth.  


After being outed for lying Abraham packs up all his goods and leaves Egypt.  He had a lot too – becoming the brother in law to Pharaoh came with benefits.  He heads back where he came from:  back to the Negev, retracing his steps back north and east.  He finally arrives at a location that is personally significant to him:  Bethel.  Bethel is the place where he built his first altar to God.  It is the first altar to the LORD that Abram built in the land God promised him.  In chapter 12 Abram worshipped God after God made promises to him.  Now, after his trip to Egypt he comes back to this location and does what he did before:  he worships.  Notice 13:4, “There Abram called on the name of the LORD.”  

Psalm 116:17 says, “I will sacrifice a thank offering and call on the name of the LORD.”  Calling on the name of the LORD is an expression of faith in God and worship of Him.  Genesis 4:26 says that during the days of Enosh, the grandson of Adam and Eve, that men first began to call on the name of the LORD.”  Romans 10:12 and 13 says, “The LORD richly blesses all who call on him, for ‘Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’”  His whole life Abram “called on the name of the LORD.”  The LORD was his God in whom he trusted and whom he worshipped.

The timing of Abram’s worship is telling.  It doesn’t say he called on the LORD in Egypt.  It isn’t until he returns from Egypt that he goes back to that familiar altar and worships.  His actions in Egypt couldn’t be attributed to faith.  Could it be that after his blunder in a foreign land he came back and this altar reminded him of what God promised him?  That his “worship” of God was revived because his faith in God’s promises was revived?  What I mean is this:  God promised to make him into a great nation, which requires his wife Sarai in the plans too.  If Abram was “reasoning” from his faith then he would have known God was going to protect him in Egypt.  Of course:  did Abraham even pray for God’s guidance in whether he should go to Egypt in the first place?  When entering Egypt did he pray and ask God for protection, or reassurance that his life would be safe?  No.  He doesn’t consult God, he becomes afraid, and then he acts from fear and not faith, and nearly blows the whole operation.  How did it nearly blow it?  Because Abram Sarai could not go and become the wife of Pharaoh when God promised him that through her he would become a great nation.  Yeah the promise to Abram to become a great nation would be through Sarai, his wife, his legitimate wife.  God’s redemptive plan was through legitimate sexual relations in marriage.  The redeemer wouldn’t come through some extramarital fling, through some mistress – but through the bonafide wife of Abraham, the one who was “one flesh” with him as God created in the beginning.  Abram, out of fear and self-preservation handed her over.  

APPLICATION:  Last week we saw that we worship God because of our faith in God’s promises.  This week we see that sometimes we can forget all God has done for us and promised us and we need worship to remind us of those things.  That’s what preaching does, that’s what singing does, that’s what public reading of Scripture does, that’s what memorizing does, that’s what coming into this place does – it reminds us.  Peter wrote, “I know you know these things, but I will keep on reminding you of them.”  Or how God told the Israelites they should remind themselves of His Word in Deuteronomy 6:4-9….Or Hebrews 10:25, “Do not give up meeting together…but encourage each other and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”  It has that “Hey we’re all always reminding each other that Christ is coming back to keep our eyes where they should be” sort of feel to it.  

Can you see the utter grace of God here?  No rebuke of Abram is seen in the text, but rather through this blunder God enriched Abram greatly.  


The third event we see is Abram and Lot part ways.  Read verses 5-13…

Lot is the son of Abram’s dead brother.  They have been together since Ur.  THey have a very tight bond.  But both have become so wealthy the land was too small for them and their servants were quarreling.  

Abram takes the initiative to preserve their relational unity and recommends they part company.  In a very generous offer Abram gives Lot first choice.  “If you go east, I’ll go west; if you go south, I’ll go north.  If you go left, I’ll go right.  I won’t fight you for any real estate, you can have first pick.”  

Lot takes a look around all the land and he chooses Sodom and Gomorrah.  This is before God destroyed those two cities.  Now there are two things it says about Sodom and Gomorrah to take note of here:  it was absolutely beautiful and it was absolutely wicked.  Verse 10 says it was like the Garden of the LORD, which was Eden, and like Egypt – it was well-watered.  Verse 13 however says, “Now the people of Sodom were wicked and were sinning greatly against the LORD.”  Sodom and Gomorrah were beautiful places to see and yet they were filthy places to see. 

APPLICATION:  How do you make decisions?  Lot chose prosperity and beauty over purity and holiness.  Did he even pray for guidance?  He looked around and made a choice based on what appealed to his eyes (“looked around and saw” v 10).  And based on what appealed to his eyes he was willing to live among wickedness for gain.  The irony is that all the beauty of the land and all the gain he made while there was destroyed by God.  Lot lost everything in the end.  God destroyed his city and Lot escaped with nothing but the clothes on his back and his two daughters.  La Fontaigne said, “In everything one must consider the end.”  If only Lot would have thought of that

APPLICATION:  Don’t dwell with the wicked.  David expressed the right attitude in Psalm 26:5, “I abhor the assembly of evildoers, and refuse to sit with the wicked.”  Proverbs 24:1 offers the same wisdom, “Do not envy the wicked, do not desire their company.”  


After Lot leaves God comes to Abram again.  Read.  

This is the 4th time God has come to Abram (Ur, Harran, Bethel, and Bethel again).  God seems to keep coming to Abram when Abram loses someone.  In Ur Abram’s brother Haran, Lot’s father, died and God came to him and called him to leave Ur.  He left with his father and they landed in Harran and stayed.  His father died and God came to him again and told him to leave Harran and go to Canaan.  He got into the land and God came to him.  Now, Lot leaves and God comes to him again.

APPLICATION:  God is with you no matter who you lose.  He never leaves you.  

God comes to Abram and gives him a message.  His message is a reaffirmation of the promises He already made to Abram in 12:2 and 7.  God told him that he would make him into a great nation (12:2) and his descendents would live in all the land he was now standing in (12:7).  But there are a few new details.  First God says his descendents would be too many to count and they would live in the land FOREVER.  Quite the promises for a childless wanderer.

APPLICATION:  God gives revelation progressively.  You see that God gives a few details in the beginning, but, he reveals more as time goes on.  What he reveals later builds on what he revealed earlier.  This is what he’s doing here with Abram:  First he says, “I will make you into a great nation and your offspring will live in this land.”  Then he gives more details and says “Your offspring will be too many to count and you and your descendents will live in the land forever.”  Too many to count and forever are new details.  

The promise of land would have been comforting because he just “split” the land with Lot.  The promise of descendents would have been comforting because Lot was like a son to Abram, he was his beloved nephew.  Abram had no children.  Now it was just him and Sarai and no family.  Can you see how meaningful the promise God made to Abram was?

Here we see the faithfulness of God to move Redemptive history forward. He has chosen his “man”, Abram.  Abram would have many offspring, but, he would also have ONE offspring.  That offspring would be the Messiah.  The “great nation” Israel was one of his “descendents” and through them the world would be blessed because through them the Messiah would enter the world.  Jesus was a Jew.  And through Jesus “all the nations of the world” are blessed with the promises given to Abraham.

In closing I just want to point out some of my favorite words from God in this text from verse 15 and 17, “I am giving it to you.”  God does not say, “You’ve earned it, Abram.  You’ve done well, here is your reward.”  He says, “I am giving it to you.”  In those words we see the great generosity of God flowing out of His divine kindness.  God is a “giving” kind of God.

Do you know he says the same thing to you?  He is giving you a “land” too, did you know that?  Its the land of salvation.  It’s the land of light, of blessing, of love, of forgiveness, of fellowship with God, of joy of peace of new life, of eternal life.  He is offering it to you too.  He is “giving” it to you, if you want it.  You’re in a land right now, a dark land, a place that will burn to the ground from God’s judgment, a place of fear, condemnation and evil.  You live in that land and you live like that in that land.  But God has built a bridge from the dark land you’re in to the land of salvation He is offering to you.  You can’t build a bridge yourself, you have to go across the one and only bridge he has built.  That bridge is Jesus Christ.  You must go to Him.  “I am the way, the truth and the Life, no one comes to the Father but through me.”  But.  Through.  Me.  Jesus and Jesus alone is the way to salvation.  “There is no other name given to men under heaven by which we must be saved.”  (Acts 4:12).  Have you believed on that name?

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