Abram had traveled almost 1200 miles, eager to see this land God had promised. When they arrived, the land was already inhabited, and none of it seemed up for grabs. Nevertheless, God had confirmed, “To your descendants I will give this land,” and Abram had commemorated the occasion with an altar to the Lord.
They had been content to set up temporary living quarters in the area, but the famine that came was fierce, wasting the land. When they could stay no longer, they packed up again, heading this time towards the rich delta of Egypt.
As they approached Egypt, Abram became increasingly uneasy. People had remarked on Sarai’s exceptional beauty from the time she was a child, and ever since Sarai had become his wife, Abram had considered it a kind of personal asset. But in a strange place where they had no allies, such beauty could be a liability, attracting the wrong kind of attention.
Abram turned to Sarai, “Look, don’t tell them you’re my wife, okay? Just say you’re my sister.” Sarai looked at him puzzled. He reached out to touch her face in the moonlight. “You know how beautiful you are. If they find out you’re my wife, they’ll probably kill me to get you. But if you tell them you’re my sister, they’ll be nice to us both. Besides, you are technically my half sister.”
Sarai was hesitant, but she too had sensed the danger. It seemed a small price to pay for their safety. “I guess I could do that,”she said.
In Egypt, word quickly circulated that an unusually beautiful woman had come into town. As soon as the rumor was confirmed, Pharaoh’s officials brokered a deal. Abram was at a loss for words, his mind searching for alternatives but finding none. Behind her veil, Sarai blinked back tears as she mounted the litter that would take her to Pharaoh’s harem. In exchange, the officials gave Abram servants, sheep, oxen, donkeys, and camels. Pharaoh’s compensation was generous, reflecting his opinion of Sarai’s worth, but no amount could make up for Abram’s loss.
God had called them to Canaan and Abram had obeyed. Surely God had known the famine would drive them to Egypt. Surely he had anticipated their lives would be in danger. Would he now return to Canaan alone? And what would become of Sarai? Would he ever see her again? Had he completely misunderstood God’s plan?
That night, Sarai heard the moaning and the cries. God had struck Pharaoh and his household with plagues. In the court of the harem, Sarai alone had not been touched. She was grateful, but afraid. It was not quite dawn when the officials rushed in demanding to see her. Her heart skipped a beat, but they were strangely reverent and respectful as they watched her gather her things.
They ushered her into Pharaoh’s court, gingerly, as if afraid to touch her. What now? She was surprised to see Abram standing in front of Pharaoh looking sheepish. “What have you done to me?” Pharaoh was asking, his anger barely controlled. “Why didn’t you tell me she was your wife? You said she was your sister, and I took her based on what you said.” Sarai drew in a quick breath. They had been found out.
“Now then,” Pharaoh said, waving his arm in her general direction, “here is your wife. Take her and go.”
They left Egypt together, Abram avoiding Sarai’s eyes. Sarai sat in silence remembering. When Pharaoh’s officials had come to take her, she had been outraged. She had maintained her composure, but had shot Abram a look that told all. During that long night (was it only a few hours ago?) the thought that she would never see Abram again had turned her anger to regret. She could feel only sadness for lost dreams and mistakes they had both made.
Now here they were, together, alive — their second chance, a miraculous reversal of fortune (or was it going this way all along?). Sarai looked over at Abram so awkward in his silence, and she burst out laughing. Abram was startled, but then he laughed as well, more from relief than anything else.
How Sarai almost became Pharaoh’s wife. It was a story they would retell often, and they would always laugh. The road back to Canaan, with all the gifts Pharaoh had let them keep, was a joyous and hopeful one. God coming to their rescue in that miraculous way had reminded them that he had a plan. And now they were going home.
What happened next:
Abram & Sarai: The Big Idea, Part 1
What came before:
Abram & Sarai | A Love, a Lie, and a Promise: Part 1
Note: Though I try to remain faithful to the events and characters as described in the Bible, I take some liberties where the Bible is silent, especially regarding what the characters might have thought or felt. I encourage you to read the original story to separate fact from fiction.