Go Thy Way: When Abram went to Egypt

by Jonathan S Spurlock
(Holts Summit, MO)

Denomination: Southern Baptist

Text: Genesis 12

Scripture from the King James Version of the Bible

Introduction

Even the best of God’s saints will face problems at one time or another. Abram had his share of troubles, too, and the passage below gives a few details of one episode which Abram would probably just as soon forget! When famine came, Abram left the land of promise and wound up in the land of problems. This is the first time the phrase “go thy way” appears in the King James version of the Bible—ironically, it’s spoken by a pagan king to a saint of God!

The text comes from Genesis, chapter 12, verses 10-20, from the King James Version:

Gen 12:10-20 KJV 10 And there was a famine in the land: and Abram went down into Egypt to sojourn there; for the famine was grievous in the land. 11 And it came to pass, when he was come near to enter into Egypt, that he said unto Sarai his wife, Behold now, I know that thou art a fair woman to look upon: 12 Therefore it shall come to pass, when the Egyptians shall see thee, that they shall say, This is his wife: and they will kill me, but they will save thee alive. 13 Say, I pray thee, thou art my sister: that it may be well with me for thy sake; and my soul shall live because of thee. 14 And it came to pass, that, when Abram was come into Egypt, the Egyptians beheld the woman that she was very fair. 15 The princes also of Pharaoh saw her, and commended her before Pharaoh: and the woman was taken into Pharaoh's house. 16 And he entreated Abram well for her sake: and he had sheep, and oxen, and he asses, and menservants, and maidservants, and she asses, and camels. 17 And the LORD plagued Pharaoh and his house with great plagues because of Sarai Abram's wife. 18 And Pharaoh called Abram, and said, What is this that thou hast done unto me? why didst thou not tell me that she was thy wife? 19 Why saidst thou, She is my sister? so I might have taken her to me to wife: now therefore behold thy wife, take her, and go thy way. 20 And Pharaoh commanded his men concerning him: and they sent him away, and his wife, and all that he had.

Problem 1: the famine

Abram was living in the southern part of the “land of Canaan (Genesis 12:9)” when the famine took place. This famine, also, wasn’t the first or the last to affect this area, apparently, as another famine struck this land in Joseph’s day, over 100 years later. God recorded that story in Genesis 42 and 43, and related chapters. We aren’t told how severe this particular famine was, (just that it was grievous, according to verse 10) or how long it lasted. We can see that it was enough for Abram to leave the land of promise and head for a foreign land.

Clearly, Abram made some mistakes in this situation. First, we don’t read in this passage that he asked the Lord what to do, or that he asked the Lord for relief. We shouldn’t be too hard on Abram, though, as he was probably a new believer, at best, in those early days of his walk with the LORD. We also find that he hadn’t had too much in the way of problems until this time. Now, we don’t read that he actually “believed in the LORD” until Genesis 15, some time and events later, but Abram still had enough faith to follow God’s leading: except in a case like this.

Problem 2: the falsehoods

Abram made another mistake, and caused another problem, just before he and his followers got to Egypt. He seems to have forgotten how beautiful Sarai was! So not only has he left the land where God led him, he’s about to make a blunder that could have cost him his wife! I wonder how he came to the conclusion that the Egyptians would kill a man for his wife (and thus, add a widow to who knows what) but would leave a man’s (unmarried?) sister alone. Regardless, he told Sarai to lie, saying, “He’s my brother”. We can read how well that strategy worked!

Sarai went along with it and found herself carried off to Pharaoh’s house (see verse 15). Pharaoh, it seems, wanted to buy or trade Sarai for a number of animals and servants—and not one word as to whether or not he would let Sarai return to Abram.

Again, Abram was in a problem of his own making here. He had not asked God’s guidance as to what to do or where to go when the famine hit. We don’t even know why he chose to head for Egypt, but we do know that God didn’t tell him to go there.

He’s also in the dilemma of losing his wife, whom he had said was his sister, and had soon realized, I think, that his falsehood had consequences. There is a Bible verse that reads, "Be sure, your sin will find you out" and it sure came true on this occasion.

Maybe he had begun to lose hope that he’d ever see Sarai again? Lies and falsehoods are easy to make up, but are hardly easy to live through. Abram would testify to that!

Problem 3: the failed testimony

Sarai might have stayed in Pharaoh’s house until she died if something hadn’t happened. That “something” was the plagues which God brought on Pharaoh himself as well as his house, or entire household. We’re not given specifics, including the length of time that Sarai was part of Pharaoh’s house, but we do know that this was enough to get Pharaoh’s attention.

Pharaoh’s reaction was and is interesting. He called Abram and basically shames him by asking, “What is this that you’ve done to me? Why didn’t you tell me she was your wife and not your sister?” Even more striking is his admonition to Abram, “take your wife and GO thy way!” He even commanded his men to give them an “escort (!)” out of the land of Egypt.

It’s never right to lie, or stretch the truth, because God knows the heart of all people. He did protect Abram and Sarai and all the rest of the household, but if Abram had been honest at the first, the whole journey may have been a much different experience.

Problem 4: the fruitless journey

Abram’s reaction to Pharaoh’s charge is dead silence. We don’t have one single word of his response in the chapter—clearly, he was wrong and had little, if anything, to say in return! Even though he had obtained more animals and plenty of servants (and how did he plan to feed them?), we don’t read that he found enough food, which was the primary reason he went there in the first place! We don’t know for sure where Abram and his extended household were living, although verse 8 mentions Bethel. So he’s come back to where he started, with more than he started out with, but with the realization that he had made a huge mistake in going to Egypt in the first place.

Conclusion

When a pagan king tells a child of God to “go thy way”, meaning “Scram!”, in this case, it’s easy to see that God didn’t bless anyone. This first encounter with the phrase, “go thy way”, isn’t very pleasant, and not even encouraging, but we can find a lesson. Trust the LORD when hard times come! If the LORD doesn’t tell you to move to somewhere else, don’t. If He tells you to go somewhere, do it. To emphasize the point, Abram didn’t ask God for guidance, he told lies when he got to wrong place, and risked losing his very wife! Even worse, he was basically kicked out of Egypt after being told, “go thy way”, and wound up right back where he started.

My prayer is that we will never hear the unsaved world telling us to “go thy way”!

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