As recorded in Genesis 12 & 20:

Abraham was afraid that Abimelech would kill him and take his Sarah from him if the king knew that they were married, so he said she was his sister instead. How did presenting her as his sibling rather than wife protect her from that? Couldn't the king still have killed him and taken her?

  • It's pretty obvious from the text that he wasn't interested in protecting her, he was trying to save his own skin. I'm not sure how you could ralead that passage and come to the conclusion that he was doing it to protect her. If he were her husband they would have to kill him to free her from the marriage, but if he were the brother that's not a problem. Later verses the king is s upset with the deception because he thought Abraham was setting the king up to commit adultery unknowingly. Commented Apr 25, 2017 at 1:07
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2 Answers 2


As David Stratton states, Abraham was simply trying to not get killed. She was a beautiful woman, so another, more powerful man could simply kill him and take her as his wife. So to save himself Abraham simply said Sarah was his sister, which was a half truth.

So the Pharaoh made Abraham rich by offering gifts, but when he was going to take Sarah as his wife, God intervened. Pretty much the same thing happened in Chapter 20 with Abimelech, king of Gerar.

Genesis 12:11-13 Pretty much explains the reason:

11 And it came to pass, when he was close to entering Egypt, that he said to Sarai his wife, “Indeed I know that you are a woman of beautiful countenance. 12 Therefore it will happen, when the Egyptians see you, that they will say, ‘This is his wife’; and they will kill me, but they will let you live. 13 Please say you are my sister, that it may be well with me for your sake, and that I may live because of you.”

  • So - either way, isn't she being taken against her will as someone's wife? I mean Sarah is going to turn down any offer of marriage, right? And wouldn't Abraham object to that, whether as her husband or as her brother? So why does it matter whether she turns it down as his sister or as his wife? Either way, she'll say no, Abraham will back her up, and... won't he end up dead, whether as a husband or supposed sibling, so that Pharaoh can coerce her into marriage without challenge? Commented Apr 26, 2017 at 7:52
  • @mattlohkamp They were in strange lands. These people could very well have taken her by force and killed him anyway had she refused. Of course, if Abraham would have trusted God, He would have defended them and nothing would have happened. However, Abraham did not trust God in these instances and lied twice. Commented Apr 26, 2017 at 14:38

Not to discount the self-survival aspect, there is more to it than just that - as his sister, the traditions etc. would dictate a negotiation for her. You can do a lot of stalling and burn tons of time in a negotiation if you're willing and able.

Where this plan backfired was that Pharaoh took advantage of his rights as Pharaoh and skipped the negotiations and went right for the getting.

  • Welcome to Christianity.SE, and thanks for taking the site tour. For more on what this site is all about, please see: How we are different than other sites. And for some tips on writing good answers here, see: What makes a good supported answer? Commented Apr 25, 2017 at 18:35
  • ah now that's an interesting take - that they'd play along with the marriage proposal long enough to escape. That would make a lot more sense. Commented Apr 26, 2017 at 7:54

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