June 11, 2009

Genesis 12.10->

Now there was a famine in the land. So Abram went down to Egypt to live there as an alien, for the famine was severe in the land.

When he was about to enter Egypt, he said to his wife Serai, "I know well that you are a woman beautiful in appearance, and when the Egyptians see me, they will say, 'This is his wife;' then they will kill me, but they will let you live. Say you are my sister, so that it may go well with me because of you, and that my life may be spared on your account.'"

When Abram entered Egypt, the Egyptians saw that the woman was very beautiful. When the officials of Pharaoh saw her, they praised her to Pharaoh, and the woman was taken into Pharaoh's house. And for her sake he dealt well with Abram; and he had sheep, oxen, male donkeys, male and female slaves, female donkeys, and camels.

But the Lord afflicted Pharaoh and his house with great plagues because of Serai, Abram's wife.

So Pharaoh called Abram, and said, "What is this that you have done to me? Why did you not tell me that she was your wife? Why did you say, 'She is my sister,' so that I took her for my wife? Now then, here is your wife; take her and be gone!"

And Pharaoh gave his men orders concerning him, and they set him on the way, with his wife and all that he had.

2 Comments:

At 4:01 PM, Blogger Diane said...

I'll start what I can't finish... Abram means soul, in the Zohar. And Serai, I could only find as Sarai meaning contentious. If this is suffering that causes the soul to correct itself and learn, perhaps I could grasp some significance. Otherwise, I'm not sure where this heads.

 
At 4:51 PM, Blogger forrest said...

Well, as we see here, a beautiful woman could be a source of contention.

But this whole episode strikes me as extremely unQuakerly!

Is there some common cultural assumption, shared with the Egyptians, that poking somebody's wife will give one plagues, unless one kills him first? Does anyone here know?

Anyway, we've got a legend from a culture that idealized nomads, that must have formed among actual nomads, way back. There aren't any policemen out here in the Egyptian desert; all the cops in sight are working for Pharaoh. He isn't a proper nomad, won't follow the expected hospitality customs.

He probably does consider marrying one's sister to be entirely respectable, if one's lineage is prestigious enough. I wonder?: "Oh! You're married to your brother? I've been sacrilegious here! Please go away, and call off your plagues, and wouldn't you like some nice camels to take along?" [Actually, those camels wouldn't be domesticated until much later, sometime before this story was written.]

A little bit like the cop who crashed into my car & didn't cite me (driving without a license) when I signed an agreement not to sue him. But very much like that story about a later Pharaoh and some plagues; this book is full of recurrent themes!

 

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