I forgot to mention one last Japanese word from last time that I didn’t know: funin, or “barren.” Sarai’s inability to bear children (and Abram’s able to have children with other women, so the infertility is either her, or the combination of her and Abram) hangs heavy over the events of everything that follows.
For the time being, though, this chapter has two short stories. In the first, God promises to give Abraham a great nation and make him a blessing to the whole world, if he leaves his family in Haran and heads to Canaan. Abraham does so, leaving with his orphaned nephew Lot, all his possessions, and “all the persons whom they had acquired,” a nice euphemism for “slaves.” Actually, the Japanese instead renders this as “people who had joined up with them,” implying hired hands or other voluntary employees. I imagine that in the reality of the time, it would have been a mix of both.
In Canaan he does the Biblical version of planting flags by making altars at the oaks of Moreh in Shechem, and at Bethel. I know Bethel shows up later in the Bible, and I’ll keep an eye out for the other to see if the mention here is significant.
In the second story, Abram is kind of horrible. Sometime later (no mention exactly how long) there’s a famine in Canaan so Abram moves down to Egypt, where he lets his wife get taken into the Pharaoh’s harem because he’s scared for his own life. Plus, he gets lots of stuff from the Pharaoh in exchange for his “sister.” Pharaoh somehow (it’s not explained) figures out what’s going on after he gets hit by some plagues.
It’s a bizarre story for a couple of reasons. First, as I noted, it has a completely unexplained bit where Pharaoh figures out that Sarai is Abram’s wife. Second, it portrays the new protagonist of the story as a complete ass. He only thinks of himself, he lets his wife get taken away, where she was in danger of rape, and then lets God curse an entire country because he wouldn’t risk his own skin. Abram gets a serious You Suck Speech from the Pharaoh that gets no answer because Pharaoh is right. And finally, right after this, they head right back to Canaan again.
What was the point of this story? I’ll have to keep it in the back of my mind as I read more, particularly as to whether it might have a connection to interaction between Abram and Sarai. I mean, your husband basically says, “Hey, go off and be in some other guy’s harem so I don’t get in any trouble,” that’s got to put a strain on your relationship…
Of course, it’s also possible that this story is included merely to be an early example of God fulfilling his promise of looking out for Abram, even in a situation that is 100% Abram’s fault.
Japanese this time: takuwaeta zaisan “stored up property,” tazusaeru “to carry in hand,” kuwawaru “to join up” (v 5), kashi no ki “oak tree” (v 6), utsuru “to move” (v 8), kikin “famine,” taizaisuru “to stay, to sojourn” (v 10), and kashin “retainer” (v 15).