"So Abram departed as the LORD had spoken to him, and Lot went with him. And Abram was seventy-five years old when he departed from Haran. Then Abram took Sarai his wife and Lot his brother's son, and all their possessions that they had gathered, and the people whom they had acquired in Haran, and they departed to go to the land of Canaan. So they came to the land of Canaan. Abram passed through the land to the place of Shechem, as far as the terebinth tree of Moreh. And the Canaanites were then in the land. Then the LORD appeared to Abram and said, 'To your descendants I will give this land.' And there he built an altar to the LORD, who had appeared to him. And he moved from there to the mountain east of Bethel, and he pitched his tent with Bethel on the west and Ai on the east; there he built an altar to the LORD and called on the name of the LORD. So Abram journeyed, going on still toward the South" (Gen. 12:4-9).
After receiving the promises from God, Abram relocated to Canaan with many possessions and servants. This is no small caravan! We get a glimpse in 14:14 of the extent of Abram's wealth where it states that there were 318 servants who had been born and trained in his home. Although he was instructed to leave his family behind, he did take his nephew (Lot) with him. We do not have enough information to know whether this was partial disobedience or whether taking Lot along was acceptable to God. When in doubt, we would be wise to give this great man of faith the benefit of the doubt, despite the fact that he sinned later on in this chapter by intentionally deceiving others about his relationship with his wife. The Canaanites inhabited the land at this time historically, but God would eventually displace them for the Israelites to reside there. He promises this to Abram. Abram expressed gratitude for the continued blessings of the LORD. He built an altar and worshiped God.
"Now there was a famine in the land, and Abram went down to Egypt to dwell there, for the famine was severe in the land. 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. 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. Please say you are my sister, that it may be well with me for your sake, and that I may live because of you'" (Gen. 12:10-13).
Although Abram was willing to take a decisive step of faith by pulling up the tent stakes (literally) and relocating without making excuses, even at age 75, here he shows himself to a be a man of fear. He is not afraid of the famine, for he is wisely traveling to where food was available. But he is afraid of forfeiting his life on account of his wife's beauty, however. So, he instructs her to lie on his account, thinking it would help keep himself alive. Here is an illustration of the fact that even strong men of faith sometimes fail to trust God as they should. Some might quibble based on 20:12, where it is learned that Sarai is actually a half-sister to Abram. But, clearly, his approach here is misleading and intentionally deceptive. Sarai, who would have been 65 years old at this time (cf. 17:17), must have been an amazing sight to behold for Abram to think she would attract such attention from foreigners. Yet, this is not a delusion of an infatuated husband; he is exactly right about how her beauty would be perceived, as the following verses show.
"So it was, when Abram came into Egypt, that the Egyptians saw the woman, that she was very beautiful. The princes of Pharaoh also saw her and commended her to Pharaoh. And the woman was taken to Pharaoh's house. He treated Abram well for her sake. He had sheep, oxen, male donkeys, male and female servants, female donkeys, and camels. But the LORD plagued Pharaoh and his house with great plagues because of Sarai, Abram's wife. And Pharaoh called Abram and said, 'What is this you have done to me? Why did you not tell me that she was your wife? Why did you say, "She is my sister"? I might have taken her as my wife. Now therefore, here is your wife; take her and go your way.' So Pharaoh commanded his men concerning him; and they sent him away, with his wife and all that he had" (Gen. 12:14-20).
Pharaoh is attracted to Sarai, and Abram does nothing to communicate that she is already married! Pharaoh treats Abram well because of Sarai, though it is impossible to know how things may have unfolded differently had Abram simply told the truth and trusted fully in the God who had just issued such great promises concerning himself (cf. Psa. 105:9-15)! Often men feel as if they have no choice but to lie or deceive, when in fact there are other options to be pursued if one trusts the Lord fully. Moses does not detail precisely what plagues Pharaoh and his house suffered because of Sarai, but they appear to be significant! Pharaoh rightfully rebukes Abram and sends him and Sarai on their way.