Notes & Commentary:
Ver. 1. Said: not after his father’s death, but before he left Ur; (Menochius) unless, perhaps, Abram received a second admonition at Haran, which, from his dwelling there with his father, &c., is styled his country. He leaves his kindred, Nachor and his other relations, except Sarai and Lot, who go with him into Chanaan; and even his own house, or many of his domestics and effects, and full of faith, goes in quest of an unknown habitation, Hebrews xi. 8. (Haydock) — St. Stephen clearly distinguishes these two calls of Abram. From the second, the 430 years of sojournment, mentioned Galatians iii; Exodus xii, must be dated. (Calmet) — This is the third grand epoch of the world, about [the year of the world] 2083, when God chooses one family to maintain the one faith, which he had all along supported. See Worthington &c.
Ver. 3. In thee, &c., or in the Messias, who will be one of thy descendants, and the source of all the blessings to be conferred on any of the human race, Galatians iii. 16. Many of the foregoing promises regarded a future world, and Abram was by no means incredulous, when he found himself afflicted here below, as if God had forgot his promises. (Calmet) — He was truly blessed, in knowing how to live poor in spirit, even amid riches and honours; faithful in all tribulations and trials; following God in all things, ver. 1.
Ver. 5. Gotten, (fecerant): made or acquired, either by birth or purchase, &c. (Menochius)
Ver. 6. Sichem. At the foot of Mount Garizim, where Abram offered his first sacrifice in the land, Deuteronomy xi. 30. (Kennicott) — Noble; on account of the many tall and shady oaks, whence the Septuagint have the high oak. Hebrew Elon more, the plain of Moreh, or of ostension, because God shewed Abram from this place, situated about the middle of the promised land, what countries he would give to him in his posterity, after having exterminated the Chanaanites, who then occupied the land as their own. The mentioning of these idolatrous nations here, gives us reason to admire the faith and constancy of Abram, who neither doubted of the fulfilling of this promise, nor hesitated to adore the true God publicly, ver. 7. Hence there is no reason for accounting this an interpolation. (Haydock)
Ver. 8. Bethel, as it was called in the days of Moses, being the ancient Luza, chap. 28. On the west, Hebrew, towards the sea or Mediterranean, which lay west of Palestine. Bethel signifies the house of God, being honoured with two altars. (Haydock)
Ver. 9. Proceeding to the south, Hebrew: means also the desert, as the Septuagint generally translate negeb: other interpreters agree with the Vulgate. (Calmet)
Ver. 10. Down into Egypt, which lies lower than Judea: here the famine did not rage. God would not allow him to go back to his friends. (Menochius)
Ver. 11. Beautiful: having yet had no children, though she must have been 65 years old. Abram acts with prudence, and does not tempt God: if he had made known that the woman was his wife, he would have exposed his life to imminent danger, amid a cruel and lascivious people; and being convinced of the chastity of Sarai, he did not, in the least, apprehend that she would consent to any violation of her conjugal engagements. He did not, therefore, expose her virtue as the Manichees pretended. (St. Augustine, contra Faust. xxii. 33; City of God xvi. 19.) (Haydock; Calmet) — The event proved the justice of Abram’s suspicions, and God’s interference shewed that he was not displeased with his concealing part of the truth. Who can be so simple as to suppose, that we are bound to explain all our concerns to a foe? Do not we every day act with the like caution as Abram did, when we have reason to fear danger? Do not we wish, when fleeing from an enemy’s country, that he should conclude we were taking a walk of pleasure? (Haydock)
Ver. 13. My sister. This was no lie; because she was his niece, being daughter to his brother Aran, and therefore, in the style of the Hebrews, she might truly be called his sister; as Lot is called Abraham’s brother. (Genesis xiv. 14.) See Genesis xx. 12. (Challoner) — Others say, Sarai was the half-sister of Abraham, by another mother. (Haydock)
Ver. 15. Pharao: the usual title of the kings of Egypt, in Ezechiel’s time, Ezechiel xxxii. 2. Courtiers are often too ready to flatter the passions of the prince: these are punished along with Pharao (ver. 17); whence we may conclude, that they concurred with him, to take Sarai against her will.
Ver. 16. Well. Perhaps they made him some presents to gain his favour; (Menochius) or, at least, they suffered him to remain quietly among them.
Ver. 17. Scourged Pharao with unusual pains, sterility, &c. that he might easily perceive that his taking Sarai was displeasing to God. (Haydock) — He did not intend to commit adultery indeed, but his conduct was tyrannical and oppressive to the stranger, whom God protects, Psalm xliv.[cxlv. 9.?] (Menochius)
Ver. 20. Led him away: perhaps without allowing him time to vindicate his conduct, and with a degree of contumely, to shew the king’s displeasure; who durst not, however, injure Abram in his effects, nor suffer any of his subjects to hurt him. The holy patriarch received his wife untouched, and departed with joy. (Haydock)
Bible Text & Cross-references:The call of Abram, and the promise made to him. He sojourneth in Chanaan, and then, by occasion of a famine, goeth down to Egypt.
1 And the Lord said to Abram: *Go forth out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and out of thy father’s house, and come into the land which I shall shew thee.
2 And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and magnify thy name, and thou shalt be blessed.
3 I will bless them that bless thee, and curse them that curse thee,* and in thee shall all the kindreds of the earth be blessed.
4 So Abram went out as the Lord had commanded him, and Lot went with him: Abram was seventy-five years old when he went forth from Haran.*
5 And he took Sarai his wife, and Lot his brother’s son, and all the substance which they had gathered, and the souls which they had gotten in Haran: and they went out to go into the land of Chanaan. And when they were come into it,
6 Abram passed through the country unto the place of Sichem, as far as the noble vale: now the Chanaanite was at that time in the land.
7 And the Lord appeared to Abram, and said to him: *To thy seed will I give this land. And he built there an altar to the Lord, who had appeared to him.
8 And passing on from thence to a mountain, that was on the east side of Bethel, he there pitched his tent, having Bethel on the west, and Hai on the east: he built there also an altar to the Lord, and called upon his name.
9 And Abram went forward, going and proceeding on to the south.
10 And there came a famine in the country:* and Abram went down into Egypt, to sojourn there: for the famine was very grievous in the land.
11 And when he was near to enter into Egypt, he said to Sarai his wife: I know that thou art a beautiful woman:
12 And that when the Egyptians shall see thee, they will say: She is his wife: and they will kill me, and keep thee.
13 *Say, therefore, I pray thee, that thou art my sister: that I may be well used for thee, and that my soul may live for thy sake.
14 And when Abram was come into Egypt, the Egyptians saw the woman that she was very beautiful.
15 And the princes told Pharao, and praised her before him: and the woman was taken into the house of Pharao.
16 And they used Abram well for her sake. And he had sheep and oxen and he asses, and men servants, and maid servants, and she asses, and camels.
17 But the Lord scourged Pharao and his house with most grievous stripes for Sarai, Abram’s wife.
18 And Pharao called Abram, and said to him: What is this that thou hast done to me? Why didst thou not tell me that she was thy wife?
19 For what cause didst thou say, she was thy sister, that I might take her to my wife? Now therefore there is thy wife, take her, and go thy way.
20 And Pharao gave his men orders concerning Abram: and they led him away and his wife, and all that he had.
1: Acts vii. 3.
3: Genesis xviii. 18. and xxii. 18. and xxvi. 4.; Galatians iii. 8.; Hebrews xi. 8.
4: Year of the World 2083, Year before Christ 1921.
7: Galatians iii. 17.[16.?]; Genesis xiii. 14. and xv. 18. and xxvi. 2.; Deuteronomy xxxiv. 4.
10: Year of the World 2084, Year before Christ 1920.
13: Genesis xx. 11.