What does Genesis 12:11 mean?
ESV: When he was about to enter Egypt, he said to Sarai his wife, “I know that you are a woman beautiful in appearance,
NIV: As he was about to enter Egypt, he said to his wife Sarai, 'I know what a beautiful woman you are.
NASB: It came about, when he was approaching Egypt, that he said to his wife Sarai, 'See now, I know that you are a beautiful woman;
CSB: When he was about to enter Egypt, he said to his wife, Sarai, "Look, I know what a beautiful woman you are.
NLT: As he was approaching the border of Egypt, Abram said to his wife, Sarai, 'Look, you are a very beautiful woman.
KJV: And it came to pass, when he was come near to enter into Egypt, that he said unto Sarai his wife, Behold now, I know that thou art a fair woman to look upon:
Verse Commentary:
God has promised the land of Canaan to Abram's descendants (Genesis 12:7). However, Abram's large company are forced to leave the land of Canaan, and to enter the land of Egypt, in order to escape a severe famine. It is important to read verses 11–13 together to understand the full context of the scene which unfolds. For the first time, we get a glimpse of Abram's fearfulness in spite of his belief in the promises of God.

Abram plans to tell a half-lie to the people of the land of Egypt to protect himself from harm, at his wife's expense. Abram begins here by acknowledging to Sarai that she is a woman of great beauty. In the next verse, he will tell her why that's a problem. His concern seems to be that those interested in taking Sarai as their own wife might choose to kill her husband in order to make her available.
Verse Context:
Genesis 12:10–20 tells a story of Abram's fearfulness and God's faithful intervention to keep His promises. A famine forces Abram's large company to enter the land of Egypt in search of food. Pharaoh's sons quickly notice Sarai's great beauty, and Pharaoh takes her for one of his wives. This occurs because Abram, fearful for his life, has claimed that Sarai is his sister. In spite of Abram's lie and failure to trust Him, God afflicts Pharaoh's household for this dishonor, bringing the truth to light. Pharaoh, angry and fearful, sends Abram, Sarai, and the company back to the land of Canaan.
Chapter Summary:
Genesis 12 contains one of the key moments in the history of the world. God chooses Abram as the first step in building His people Israel. Abram obeys God's call, and heads into the land of Canaan, territory which God promises to Abram's offspring. Quickly, though, Abram fails a test of faith in the land of Egypt while seeking food in a famine. God does not fail, however, to step in to save Abram's family and protect His agenda for Abram's life.
Chapter Context:
The end of Genesis 11 tells the story of Terah, Abram's father, and the family's journey to a new home in Haran. Genesis 12 shifts the story to Abram and his journey on into the land of Canaan. God promises to make Abram the father of a great nation, and to give Abram's descendants that very land. Abram begins to worship the Lord, but quickly fails a test of his faith in Egypt. God shows Himself faithful in a miraculous way, preparing Abram for what's to come in chapter 13.
Book Summary:
The book of Genesis establishes fundamental truths about God. Among these are His role as the Creator, His holiness, His hatred of sin, His love for mankind, and His willingness to provide for our redemption. We learn not only where mankind has come from, but why the world is in its present form. The book also presents the establishment of Israel, God's chosen people. Many of the principles given in other parts of Scripture depend on the basic ideas presented here in the book of Genesis. Within the framework of the Bible, Genesis explains the bare-bones history of the universe leading up to the captivity of Israel in Egypt, setting the stage for the book of Exodus.
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