Endangering Sarai in Egypt

Introduction

Trading Your Wife for Your Life?

Bereshit 12 describes the first trials Avram and Sarai face after arriving in Canaan.  When heavy famine forces them to leave Israel, they travel to Egypt.  On the way, Avram realizes that Sarai's beauty is a threat to his life, as the Egyptians will have no qualms about killing him in order to marry her.  He thus requests that she pass herself off as his sister so that he will be saved.  Almost every line of the story raises questions regarding the propriety of Avram's conduct:

Did Avram Have a Plan?

Two other aspects make one wonder what Avram was thinking.  En route to Egypt, Avram tells Sarai "Behold, now I know that you are beautiful", perhaps suggesting that he had never before realized this. Is it possible that Avram was really oblivious to this fact until now, and that, had he known earlier, he never would have taken this course of action?

Furthermore, why did he specifically request that Sarai pretend that she is his sister? Was this simply the easiest way of disguising Avram's status as husband while still explaining why they were traveling together? Or, was there some other advantage to being viewed specifically as siblings?  Was Avram looking to save only himself, or was this part of a ruse whereby he hoped to save Sarai as well?

Déjà Vu

Another troubling aspect of the story is the fact that an almost identical incident occurs in Chapter 20, when Avram moves to Gerar.  There, too, Sarai passes herself off as Avram's sister just to be taken by the king.  Given the near disastrous results the first time around, how could Avram repeat the same error?  Did he not learn from his mistakes, or did he have reason to believe that his actions would produce better results the second time around?
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