What does Genesis 12:12 mean?
ESV: and when the Egyptians see you, they will say, ‘This is his wife.’ Then they will kill me, but they will let you live.
NIV: When the Egyptians see you, they will say, ‘This is his wife.’ Then they will kill me but will let you live.
NASB: and when the Egyptians see you, they will say, ‘This is his wife’; and they will kill me, but they will let you live.
CSB: When the Egyptians see you, they will say, ‘This is his wife.’ They will kill me but let you live.
NLT: When the Egyptians see you, they will say, ‘This is his wife. Let’s kill him; then we can have her!’
KJV: Therefore it shall come to pass, when the Egyptians shall see thee, that they shall say, This is his wife: and they will kill me, but they will save thee alive.
NKJV: 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.
Verse Commentary:
Forced to immigrate with his large company into Egypt to escape a famine, Abram is worried about his safety. Why? His wife Sarai is a woman of great beauty. He is just an immigrant seeking food for his people. From Abram's perspective, this leads to a terrifying question: what's to keep the Egyptians from killing him to get his wife?

Was Abram exaggerating Sarai's beauty or the potential danger? Sarai would have been 65 years old at this point, after all. And yet, as the following verses will show, the Egyptians were indeed smitten with Sarai's beauty. Abram's concern that other men would desire his wife, at the least, were not entirely unjustified.

What we will see, though, is that Abram is not justified in the fearful action he takes to protect himself. At the risk of his wife, he will tell a half-truth which winds up going wrong (Genesis 12:15–19).
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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