Traditionally, American culture has been chivalrous. Chivalry means that men open doors for women, carry heavy items for them, pay the cost of dates, and if necessary protect women even to the point of suffering injury or death. In recent decades, as feminism has become dominant, chivalry has declined and more and more women are being left to fend for and protect themselves. How far will our culture move away from chivalry? Do we really want to keep moving in the direction we are going? There is a story in Genesis that illustrates the opposite of chivalry and may be a picture of where our culture is headed. Let’s look at this picture, then we will come back to the question of whether we really want our culture to go in this direction.
The story in Genesis involves Abram and Sarai visiting Egypt. As they approached Egypt, Abram was afraid. What was Abram afraid of and why? What was his solution?
Gen. 12:10 ¶ Now there was a famine in the land; so Abram went down to Egypt to sojourn there, for the famine was severe in the land.
Gen. 12:11 It came about when he came near to Egypt, that he said to Sarai his wife, “See now, I know that you are a beautiful woman;
Gen. 12:12 and when the Egyptians see you, they will say, ‘This is his wife’; and they will kill me, but they will let you live.
Gen. 12:13 “Please say that you are my sister so that it may go well with me because of you, and that I may live on account of you.”
Abram had to go to Egypt because of the famine, but he was afraid the Egyptians would kill him in order to take his wife. Apparently, in that culture, it was taboo to take a man’s wife, but it was okay to kill a man and then take his wife. Or perhaps the conventional wisdom was that if you take a man’s wife and leave the man alive, then he will come back and seek revenge, but if you kill the man before taking his wife, then he can’t come back and seek revenge because he is dead. Whatever the reason, Abram was afraid of being killed and his solution was to say that Sarai was his sister.
The following verses tell us what happened next. Keep in mind that when we read this, it appears that all this action happened right away; however, the text does not include any time references, so it is possible that a year or several years elapsed before Pharaoh learned about Abram and Sarai. What happened to Sarai while they were staying in Egypt?
Gen. 12:14 It came about when Abram came into Egypt, the Egyptians saw that the woman was very beautiful.
Gen. 12:15 Pharaoh’s officials saw her and praised her to Pharaoh; and the woman was taken into Pharaoh’s house.
Gen. 12:16 Therefore he treated Abram well for her sake; and gave him sheep and oxen and donkeys and male and female servants and female donkeys and camels.
Pharaoh took Sarai and gave Abram many possessions. In chivalry, men sacrifice themselves in order to protect women. In this case, Sarai was sacrificing herself in order to protect Abram’s life. What did Yahweh do?
Gen. 12:17 ¶ But the LORD struck Pharaoh and his house with great plagues because of Sarai, Abram’s wife.
Yahweh took action to restore Sarai to Abram. As you read what Pharaoh did next, notice that Pharaoh seemed to be afraid.
Gen. 12:18 Then Pharaoh called Abram and said, “What is this you have done to me? Why did you not tell me that she was your wife?
Gen. 12:19 “Why did you say, ‘She is my sister,’ so that I took her for my wife? Now then, here is your wife, take her and go.”
Gen. 12:20 Pharaoh commanded his men concerning him; and they escorted him away, with his wife and all that belonged to him.
Gen. 13:1 ¶ So Abram went up from Egypt to the Negev, he and his wife and all that belonged to him, and Lot with him.
In a chivalrous culture, men sacrifice themselves in order to protect women. The opposite of that is for women to sacrifice themselves in order to protect men. This story of Abram and Sarai illustrates what it looks like for women to sacrifice themselves in order to protect their men. In our culture, we are moving away from chivalry and towards the opposite of chivalry. Women in our culture are now serving in the armed forces and as police officers. In these roles, women are putting themselves at risk in order to protect men.
Is this really what we want in our society? Do we want women to sacrifice themselves in order to protect men? Do we want Abram and Sarai’s behavior to be the norm for us? Are there any Biblical commands telling us what kind of a society we should have?
Consider the following verses? Notice the words in red.
Eph. 5:25 ¶ Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her,
Eph. 5:26 so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word,
Eph. 5:27 that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless.
Eph. 5:28 So husbands ought also to love their own wives as their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself;
Eph. 5:29 for no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ also does the church,
Eph. 5:30 because we are members of His body.
Eph. 5:31 FOR THIS REASON A MAN SHALL LEAVE HIS FATHER AND MOTHER AND SHALL BE JOINED TO HIS WIFE, AND THE TWO SHALL BECOME ONE FLESH. Eph.
5:32 This mystery is great; but I am speaking with reference to Christ and the church. Eph.
5:33 Nevertheless, each individual among you also is to love his own wife even as himself
Christ sacrificed Himself for the church. Likewise, husbands are to love their wives the way Christ loved the church. This implies that husbands are to sacrifice themselves for their wives. As we make decisions in our lives and determine what kind of a culture we are going to have, we should keep in mind that husbands are commanded to love their wives as Christ loved the church.
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