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What could Pharaoh have done to avoid the plagues God sent to him on account of Sarai?


In Genesis 12, Abram and his wife Sarai (their names were later changed to Abraham and Sarah) traveled to Egypt due to a famine in Canaan. Abram instructed his wife to tell people in Egypt that she was his sister instead of his wife. His reason was to protect himself. Because Sarai was so beautiful, Abram feared someone would kill him and take Sarai as his wife. The plan to pass her off as his sister would ensure that Abram would be well received by those he met.

In Egypt, Sarai’s beauty attracted the attention of Pharaoh, the ruler of that country. Sarai was taken into Pharaoh’s house, and many gifts were given to Abram (Genesis 12:16).

“And the Lord plagued Pharaoh and his house with great plagues because of Sarai Abram's wife.” Genesis 12:17

This seems puzzling. After all, the king was the victim of Abram and Sarai’s deceit. The result of this punishment reveals the reason for it. When Pharaoh realized Sarai was Abram’s wife, he summoned Abram and said..

“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? 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.” Genesis 12:18-19

If God had not caused the plagues to come upon Pharaoh and his household, he may not have known anything was wrong. The affliction led to the discovery that Sarai was Abram’s wife. If Pharaoh had kept Sarai, Abram would not have had a son by Sarai in fulfillment of God’s promise to him (Genesis 12:2; 17:19). Abram was wrong to lie, but God intervened in order to keep His covenant with Abram.

In the end, Pharaoh returned Abram’s wife and provided protection for him: “And Pharaoh commanded his men concerning him: and they sent him away, and his wife, and all that he had.” Genesis 12:20

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