Okay, for those who read this blog, and think I'm too long-winded, here's the short version of the commentary for chapter 12: Yes, Abram essentially lied to Pharaoh, and it was wrong for him to do so. See you on Monday.
Now the long-winded version that touches on the finer points. There's a lot that I hear said about the early part of Abram's life that is far less admirable than much of the latter part of his life. Some people tend to think that Abram was this guy who, upon hearing God's word on a matter, just dropped everything and ran off to do God's will. After all, this is the guy who's often referred to by people as the "father of faith". Well, although I've already responded to the question of Abram's age at the time of his leaving Haran, there is something else that needs to be noted about Acts 7:4; the Lord told Abram to leave his family and country, but he waited until his father died to leave. Also, you'll note in Acts 7:2 that Abraham got the message from God before he lived in Haran to leave it all behind, but he went with his whole family to Haran. Then he stayed there for some time, until his father died, and Haran (although it's not real clear from the story) isn't actually in Canaan, but a bit to the north of that land. Assuming Stephen got his story straight, which I haven't heard anyone question except for in a few minor details, then Abram is really dragging his feet about following God's orders. In the end, when his father finally dies and he goes, he brings along his nephew!
Eventually, Abram makes it to Canaan, and God gives him some sort of vision. Now, this is one of those odd sticking points about Judeo-Christian theology that's hard to explain well. The SAB asks here, as in many places, whether or not God can be seen, and it's obviously a tough question to answer, since the obvious answer is "yes and no..." God, in His true form, is a spirit being, and therefore not visible in the normal sense. On the other hand, there are many verses in the Bible, starting with this one, that say that God "appeared" to someone. How does that work? Well, if this is a vision or a dream, there are things that can happen in a dream or vision that don't quite make sense in normal terms. I once met President Clinton in a dream, myself, and have had a few "visions" of Jesus Christ, although not of a prophetic sort like Abram seems to be having here. I think the thing with these sort of "appearances" is that God is not so much physically visible as that He is creating some sort of physical manifestation of Himself as a physical representative of Himself on earth. Although men cannot see God, He does make Himself known in various ways. Really, this sort of "appearance" of God, although hard for me to put into words well seems less of a difficulty to reconcile with claims of God being invisible than the incarnation of God in the person of Jesus. Jesus Himself said that, "He that hath seen me hath seen the Father;" yet also had said, "Not that any man hath seen the Father..." Jesus is being very cryptic, no doubt about it.
So after Abram spends so much time dragging his feet getting to Canaan, he ends up leaving there shortly after he arrives, and heads down to Egypt. Apparently, Abram hasn't yet learned to trust that God will see him through the famine, nor to keep him safe in Egypt. He also may have made the mistake of assuming that the Egyptians were men with no moral scruples, and he asks his wife Sarai, well, not so much to lie as just hold back a little part of the truth. Really, though, holding back such an important part of the truth is no better than flat-out lying, and certainly when they came to take Sarai away to Pharaoh, he should have told the truth at that time, at the very least.
So "the Princes of Pharaoh" (I assume his sons) take Sarai away to Pharaoh, and he apparently thinks she's pretty hot, because it appears he's getting ready to marry her. He gives Abram a bunch of stuff (a bride-price?), gives her a place to stay in his house, and in verse 19, says that marrying her was a high likelihood. (I think this shows that Abram should have thought higher of the Egyptians than he did, but too late for that!) Of course, she's already married to Abram, and God is apparently not happy this is going on, so He sends some plagues on Egypt. Now, it may seem very unfair, and I myself think that Abram should have been punished more than simply being thrown out of the country, which seems to be what happens at the end of the chapter. However, I think in this case it's less about fairness than appropriateness. God is sending a message to Pharaoh that despite Abram's reluctance to stand up for what's right, He's not going to stand for this going forward. The nature of the plague is not specified, and I'd suppose it was just enough to get Pharaoh's attention, and it worked. Pharaoh gives Sarai back, and kicks the couple out, so they go back to Canaan where they belong.
That's pretty much the facts of the story, but there's an interesting hidden agenda that's more in the area of speculation, and worth noting. There's an interesting overarching theme that runs through the Old Testament in a subtle fashion, and we see a facet of it in the life of Sarai and Abram. In chapter 16, we have the odd incident of Sarai giving her maid Hagar as a concubine to her husband, but God rejects Hagar's son Ishmael as the rightful heir. Later on, after being renamed Abraham, and his wife dies, Abram has more children, but he sends all of them (including Ishmael) away from Canaan, knowing that eventually it will belong to the descendants of his true heir born of Sarai, Isaac. God is manipulating the events of the lives of the patriarchs so that the right heirs will be born at the right times in the right places; He's got a plan, and His plan involves some timing. For whatever reason, it was meant to be that Sarai's one and only child would be Isaac, and that Isaac would be born when Abraham was 100 years old. Why? All of this sets up for the maneuvering of the nation of Israel to be carried away into Egypt for a time to grow strong, until God could judge Egypt at the right time, and send the nation of Israel back to judge the Canaanites at the right time. Also, in the midst of all this, God is setting up a proper lineage specially selected for the future king of Israel, David, and his eventual descendant, Jesus Himself. This, as far as I can see, is the reason for the Bible setting up strange stories like not only this one, but the story of Judah and Tamar, and the story of Ruth and Boaz.