My dear readers, every time I use the PARDES technique, applying it to a particular Scripture text, I always tremble in excitement and anticipation when I reach the final level – SOD, secret or mystery. So far, I have never been disappointed: the things that are revealed on this level, for me, indeed have been mind boggling. So, what is the SOD, what is the mystery of the strange Egyptian episode we’ve been discussing for the last few weeks? Why did this episode happen – and even more importantly, if it did happen, why was it recorded in Scripture? What is the secret message hidden for us in this text?
LET THE JOURNEY BEGIN
We know that Abraham was a man of faith and obedience: he loved God with all his heart, he had great faith, and had proved his faith many times by being completely and unreservedly obedient. And even though, as we see from the Egyptian episode, he also loved his own life and feared for it, his love for God was even greater than this love for his own life. That is why he was still able to obey God so unreservedly and completely, even when this obedience implied uncertainty and risk. God called Abraham his friend – and this friendship, this relationship, began with a personal encounter in Genesis 12. Abraham met God – and ever since then, he had been growing into “God’s friend”.
But what about Sarah? Sarah didn’t hear Lech Lecha. She didn’t have the same personal encounter with God that her husband had. Have you ever thought what she must have been going through when her husband (not so young anymore), suddenly decided to move – and he was not even sure where they were going. Of course, as a loving and obedient wife, she followed him – and yet, the difference between these journeys is very profound: if Abraham’s going to Canaan was based on his love for and obedience to God, Sarah’s going to Canaan was based on her love for and obedience to her husband.
We don’t hear much from her in these first chapters of Abraham’s saga; in fact, the first time we hear her, she asks her husband to go in to Hagar. Before that, Sarah is completely silent – silent and obedient – perhaps a bit too silent and too obedient. An attentive reader cannot miss the fact that she traveled more in those first few chapters than any wife would normally agree to (unless she had special reasons to agree). Not only did she move to Canaan, but in Canaan we see Abraham wandering endlessly throughout the Land, and it goes without saying that his wife followed him everywhere:
Abram passed through the land to the place of Shechem…
And he moved from there to the mountain east of Bethel…
So Abram journeyed, going on still toward the South.
Eventually, after all this wandering around the Land, they go down to Egypt:
…and Abram went down to Egypt.
Why was she so silent? Why didn’t Sarah ever question or argue with Abraham’s decisions (at least, Scripture doesn’t mention her doing so)? Why don’t we hear anything from her in these chapters?
We are touching Sarah’s sore spot now –a sore spot that had been aching for years. For most of her life, Sarah had lived with a terrible pain in her heart. Have you ever noticed that the very first thing we hear about Sarah is the fact that she was barren: But Sarai was barren; she had no child. This short message (repeated twice) occurs in Genesis 11, even before Lech Lecha, and speaks volumes: for a married woman to be barren at that time was a terrible calamity and, in everyone’s eyes, a clear sign of God’s (or gods) displeasure. It meant that the pain of inadequacy, shame, and guilt was something that Sarah had lived with, and no doubt struggled with, for many, many years, since the very first years of her long marriage.
Now perhaps we can understand why she was so silent: even a regular woman in that society was not supposed to be heard; how much more then, should a woman humiliated by “barrenness” be silent and obedient! And Sarah was indeed silent and obedient. She continued to follow her husband, not only out of obedience, but also out of shame and guilt. It’s interesting that the Hebrew word עֲקָרָה (akarah) “barren” – “is not only connected with such words as “unfruitful”, but also “displaced”, “destroyed” and “uprooted”. The ancient linguistic logic is as follows: “If a woman has no children she has no roots and therefore has a sense of displacement.”
If we were puzzled by Abraham’s behavior in the “Egyptian episode,” we are stunned when it comes to Sarah. What happened between the husband and the wife on the way there? How did she react to Abraham’s suggestion (although she had probably heard it before as well)? Was she offended? Upset? Mad? Disappointed? Whatever her emotions were, whatever storms shook her heart, outwardly she remained absolutely silent–we don’t hear anything from her throughout the whole story.
Everything went exactly as Abraham had planned: the woman was taken to Pharaoh’s house. He treated Abram well for her sake. Can you imagine? Not only did her husband fail to protect her, he actually used her to save his life and to become rich! This would be an incredible offense to any woman – and I think it must have been an incredible offense to Sarah as well!
And then, God Himself did what her husband failed to do. God Himself saved Sarah from Pharaoh. Scripture doesn’t tell us exactly what happened there, exactly how Pharaoh realized that all those great plagues were because of Sarah, Abram’s wife. It’s not that important, after all. What is important, however, is that in Egypt, out of her Egyptian misery, when God Himself interceded for her, Sarah’s own faith was born. When she followed Abraham in chapter 12, she was just acting as an obedient wife (all the more so, since she felt guilty, humiliated, and ashamed because of her barrenness), but in Egypt, for the first time in her life, she had a personal encounter with God. She experienced firsthand the truth that God Himself protects those who are left without human protection, that the Lord executes righteousness and justice for all who are oppressed. He Himself saved her, and the gratitude, the overwhelming feeling of safety and protection, and the deep inner knowledge that she could always rely on Him, would stay with her forever. From that time in Egypt forward, she knew that she could trust God completely. Her husband might fail her, as happened in Egypt, but the Lord would never fail her. That is why later, she could say to Abraham: “The Lord judge between you and me” – because she knew she could always rely on Him.
I believe that from this moment on, God becomes the main passion of Sarah’s life – and her journey also becomes a journey of faith. And, for me, this is the SOD of this Egyptian episode – it is not just one journey of faith that begins in Genesis 12, but two: while Abraham’s journey starts from Lech Lecha, Sarah’s journey begins in Egypt. “Now we believe not because of what you said, for we ourselves have heard and know” …
If these articles whet your appetite for discovering the hidden treasures of the Hebrew Bible, I would be happy to provide more information (and also a discount) regarding eTeacher courses. I also encourage you to read my book, Abaraham had two sons: this is the only Messianic book that is written according to PARDES layers of meaning, (click here for my books: https://blog.israelbiblicalstudies.com/julia-blum/.)
 Genesis 16:2
 Genesis 11:30
 DHB-Torah, Unit 12, slide 18
 See Gen.20:13
 Genesis 12:14-16
 Psalms 103:6
 Genesis 16:5