8th Feb 2012

E100 Q & A The Patriarchs

By Andy Jarvis

Questions Arising From Passages on Abraham, Isaac and Jacob

Did Sarah become Pharaoh's wife?

Gen 12:15-20 says; And when Pharaoh's officials saw her, they praised her to Pharaoh, and she was taken into his palace. He treated Abram well for her sake, and Abram acquired sheep and cattle, male and female donkeys, male and female servants, and camels. But the LORD inflicted serious diseases on Pharaoh and his household because of Abram's wife Sarai. So Pharaoh summoned Abram. “What have you done to me?” he said. “Why didn't you tell me she was your wife? Why did you say, 'She is my sister', that I took her to be my wife? Now then. Take her and go!”; Then Pharaoh gave orders about Abram to his men, and they sent him on his way, with his wife and everything he had.

I believe the text suggests that Sarah was taken into Pharaoh's harem (She was taken into his palace)with the intention that she should become his wife (“I took her to be my wife”). However, as we see later in Scripture with Esther, the issue of disease is taken very seriously and wives and concubines are prepared thoroughly before being allowed to sleep with the King. Esther 2:12-13 says Before a young woman's turn came to go in to King Xerxes, she had to complete twelve months of beauty treatments prescribed for the women, six months with oil of myrrh and six with perfumes and cosmetics. This is how she would go to the king

We can't assume that because one culture took so much trouble, that another did the same, but it is worth remembering that whilst the king of Persia was a man, the Pharaoh of Egypt was seen as a god.

The author is determined in Gen 12:19-20 to make it very clear that Sarah remained Abram's wife and never became Pharaoh's, by twice describing her, not as Sarah but as Abram's. Pharaoh said “take your wife” and he sent Abram with his wife.

Whether or not Sarah became Pharaoh's wife, Abram's betrayal of her and his dependence on his own judgement before God's, puts both of them in grave danger. Thankfully, God had not given up on them and marvellously restores Sarah and all his belongings to Abram. Abram realizes the need for forgiveness so he heads back to Bethel and Ai where he has built an altar to the Lord.

Gen 27/28 Why did God carry on blessing Jacob when he had deceived Isaac?

It may appear that God has blessed Jacob (28:14 renewal of covenant promises) but the story continues in chapters 29 and 30 with Jacob being taught some serious lessons about deception (Gen 29:23) as 'the deceiver' is deceived into an unwanted marriage. Laban knows what Jacob wants or rather who, but he wants more free service out of Jacob and has already prepared his placating suggestion. It reminds us of Jesus' words in Luke; “With the measure you use, it will be measured to you” God fulfilled His promises to Jacob, because He is faithful to His word and to His purpose of building a nation through whom 'all nations will be blessed'. God does not ignore sin, but He can work despite it to bring about good.

Gen 32 Why did God put Jacob's hip out of joint?

It ended the struggle in an aggressive sense and left Jacob with only one tactical option, the message that God wanted Jacob to know so clearly, that surrender rather than defiance was the way and clinging to God the best response. If God had put a shoulder out of joint, or kicked him in the groin, Jacob would not have been able to cling. God has purpose in every detail.

Andy was a schoolteacher for eleven years before training for ministry, while based on a large council estate just outside Portsmouth. Originally from Brighton, Andy has been the Minister at South Molton Baptist Church since 2001. He is married to Helen and has three children and a granddaughter.