What does Genesis 12:13 mean?
ESV: Say you are my sister, that it may go well with me because of you, and that my life may be spared for your sake.”
NIV: Say you are my sister, so that I will be treated well for your sake and my life will be spared because of you.'
NASB: Please say that you are my sister so that it may go well for me because of you, and that I may live on account of you.'
CSB: Please say you're my sister so it will go well for me because of you, and my life will be spared on your account."
NLT: So please tell them you are my sister. Then they will spare my life and treat me well because of their interest in you.'
KJV: Say, I pray thee, thou art my sister: that it may be well with me for thy sake; and my soul shall live because of thee.
Verse Commentary:
In the previous two verses, Abram presented his fear to his wife Sarai as they prepared to enter the land of Egypt. She was a woman of great beauty. What was to keep the Egyptians from killing him, a vulnerable immigrant seeking food, and taking Sarai for their own?

Now he reveals his plan: "Tell them you're my sister." This was a half-truth. Sarai and Abram were both children of Abram's father Terah, though they had different mothers. Apparently, it was not uncommon at the time to marry a half-sister. Later, God would later forbid such marriages for the people of Israel, but He had not yet done so.

Of course, Abram's statement was also a lie—it was spoken specifically to mislead others about his relationship to Sarai. Sarai was fully Abram's wife. He was asking her to pretend not to be his wife to protect himself, obviously putting her at great risk. It's possible that Abram hoped that being viewed as Sarai's brother would give him the opportunity to reject any marriage proposals she might receive, rather than being a target for a jealous suitor. The following verses will reveal that it won't work out that way.

Abram's failing here began with not trusting the Lord to protect him. God had promised the land to Abram's offspring, along with promises of protection and greatness (Genesis 12:1–3). Since Abram didn't have any children yet, God's promise meant that he would not be killed. Abram was not yet willing to believe God in a potentially dangerous situation.
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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