Exchange of wife for social and food security: A famine refugee’s strategy for survival (Gn 12:10–13:2)
This essay studies Genesis 12:10–13:2 with a literary close reading approach that takes seriously the text’s literary, historical and theological constituent elements. After a brief history of interpretation, it situates the narrative in its historical context, which is followed with a narrative critical reading of the text. The analysis of the text unveils the dissimulations of Abram, who manipulated his wife, Sarai, into thinking her beauty posed a threat to him, while his primary motive rested with the pursuit of economic gain in the face of the severe famine that had impoverished him in Canaan. Abram also succeeded in making Pharaoh believe that Sarai was his sister, on which account he exchanged her for material again. This analysis affords insight into the insecurity, anxiety, feelings of alterity of immigrant populations in their liminal conditions, the mistrust of immigrants by the state and host communities, and the ensuing power play (including sexual politics and/or commerce) with its concomitant perils. Through these, the passage speaks anew to contemporary communities of faith in view of the prevalent and ever-increasing migratory trends of the 21st century.