Question: : Please advise if Sarah had sex with the king when her husband Abraham had her lie about being his sister the first time. I know this is a strange question, but it came up in our small group. I have always believed that because she honored her husband and obeyed him that God protected her. The other night it was pointed out that the king laid with her. I am trying to understand if she should have refused to lie for her husband out of obedience to God or was she supposed to obey her husband regardless of her convictions about obeying God. Thanks for looking into this for me.
Answer: There were two instances in which Abraham had Sarah lie and say she was his sister (a half truth) and not his wife, so that powerful men in the region Abraham was visiting would treat him favorably and not kill him in order to acquire Sarah as wife. In Genesis 12 Abraham and Sarah are in Egypt due to famine in Canaan and the Pharaoh takes Sarah as his wife. The King James Version says, “Why saidst thou, She [is] my sister? so I might have taken her to me to wife” (12:19), which suggests that he didn’t actually take her as wife. But the Hebrew, as most modern versions reflect, is better translated as in the NIV, “so that I took her to be my wife.” It does not say that Pharaoh lay with her, though that is a possibility.
Abraham handles things the same way while sojourning in the Negev of the Promised Land, Canaan, when he fears Abimelech (Genesis 20). But here it specifically says that God kept Abimelech from touching Sarah (v.6). Does this mean God did the same thing with Pharaoh? If we honor those in authority over us and obey them, will God see to it that we are not harmed? If Sarah had refused to obey Abraham because he was asking her to do something against God’s revealed will, would God have protected her from her husband or from her husband being killed and then being taken as the Pharaoh’s or Abimelech’s wife?
When I think of other situations in which people obeyed God instead of the human authority in their lives, it did not always result in protection from harm. When Peter and John appeared before the Jewish court, the Sanhedrin, they were told to stop preaching in Jesus’ name (Acts 4). When they refused they were beaten. Later James, the son of Zebedee, one of the original 12 apostles, was killed and Peter was imprisoned (Acts 12).
I’m reminded of Jesus’ saying in Matthew 10:28, “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul.” I think our perspective should be that of the friends of Daniel who were commanded to bow and worship Nebuchadnezzar’s image and refused. They said, “If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and he will rescue us from your hand, O king. But even if he does not, we want you to know, O King, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up” (Daniel 3:17,18).
Did Sarah have sex with Pharaoh against her will because of obedience to her husband Abraham? The text is not clear. I do not think it would have been something she could even have conceived of doing in that culture to disobey her husband in this matter. But perhaps she should have told him no. Even so, there doesn’t seem to be any promise that if we disobey our earthly authority in order to obey God, that God will protect us from the consequences of it. He did protect Daniel’s friends. He didn’t protect the apostles. But He does protect our souls, the most important protection of all.