Pharaoh took Soroi and benefited Abram for her sake 12 (16).

He did this on the understanding that Soroi was Abram's sister. He asked 12 (18)

“Why did you not tell me that she was your wife?”

When Pharaoh found out his error why did he not request a return of his presents to Abram?

My ideas are:

that it would not be consonant with the honour of a King to act in such a way.

that because of the dangers of immorality in Egypt, it was essential that Abram and Soroi left immediately.

(related to Why did Avraham take gifts from Pharaoh, but not the King of Sodom?; see msh210's answer in he name of the Hak'sav V'hakabala )

2 Answers 2


An article on thetorah.com describes how it was the perceived duty of the Egyptian king to keep cosmic balance. The article suggests that after accidentally taking Sarai, Pharaoh had to do something positive for Avram in return.

The relevant quotation from the article is below.

The king carries a special role as the sole mediator between the Egyptians and their gods. He is entrusted with the sacred balance known as the MA’AT= the Egyptian word for truth, but also used to describe the cosmic balance that rules the ancient Egyptian world. When the king does not uphold this balance terrible things might happen to Egypt.

Perhaps the reaction of the Pharaoh to the plagues in Gen 12:17-19 is a reflection of this concept- when finding out that he accidentally slept1 with Abraham’s wife, he reacts by balancing the scale, returning Abrahams wife to him and sending him off with all his estate.

1 From what I can tell, most commentators say that it didn't get to this point (this footnote is not in the article).

  • If you look in th Torah Hashem made Pharoh get Tzoraat bereishit 12,17 see Rashi so that he could not go with Sarah. This article does not fit with mainstream Judaism
    – user15464
    Jun 23, 2020 at 16:24
  • 1
    @user15464 While Rashi might say that, the text itself doesn't indicate that Pharaoh didn't sleep with her. Rashi's choice of midrash is not "the peshat". (And if you want to challenge that, ask that elsewhere.)
    – magicker72
    Jun 23, 2020 at 16:43
  • Even if midrash is true, it still doesn't take away from the plain meaning of the text. The text leaves you with the impression that something inappropriate happened.
    – Aaron
    Jun 23, 2020 at 18:29
  • Let us continue this discussion in chat.
    – magicker72
    Jun 23, 2020 at 22:11

Avraham Avinu said that they would kill him and take her. So, they would have taken her anyhow. The difference is that if he's a brother they'd give gifts as opposed to killing him. But they don't owe anything less to a husband than a brother.

After getting punished, Paroah returned her with the cover-story of not realizing, and that had he realized he would never have taken her.

We see that Avimelech asked Avraham why he did this, and Avraham had to explain why he figured it is necessary. Paroah, on the other hand, didn't wait around for an answer. He knew and understood exactly why he had to say she was his sister.

Bottom line: If he would owe a brother gifts, he's surely owes a husband.

  • 1
    Agreed "they would have taken her anyhow." But do you please have a source for "But they don't owe anything less to a husband than a brother."? It's not obvious to me. Oct 19, 2015 at 17:11

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