And there was a famine in the land
The land of Canaan, which was a very fruitful country, abounding with all kind of provisions usually; but now there was a scarcity of all; and which was both for the sins of the inhabitants of the land, and for the trial of Abram's faith, who was brought out of his own country, where was bread enough and to spare, into one in which there was a famine; and this might be a temptation to Abram to return from whence he came, and to slight and despise the country that was given him:
and Abram went down into Egypt to sojourn there;
not to dwell there, only till the famine was over; and rightly is he said to go down to Egypt, since that lay lower than the land of Canaan; and his going thither only to sojourn, and with an intention to return again to Canaan, shows the strength of his faith in the promise; and so far was he from going back to his own country, from whence he came, that he went directly the contrary, for Chaldee lay north east of Canaan, and Egypt south west: this country is in the Hebrew text called Mizraim, from the second son of Ham, see ( Genesis 10:6 ) it had its name Egypt not from Aegyptus, one of its kings, as some F12 say, but from the blackish colour of its soil, and also of its river Nile, and of its inhabitants; which colour is by the Greeks called "aegyptios", from "aegyps", a vulture, a bird of that colour: it is bounded on the south by the kingdom of Sennar, tributary to the king of Ethiopia, and the cataracts of the Nile; on the north by the Mediterranean sea; on the east by the Arabian Gulf, or Red sea, and the isthmus of Suez; and on the west by a region of Lybia, called Marmorica F13.
For the famine was grievous in the land;
in the land of Canaan, and perhaps nowhere else; God ordering it so in his wise providence, that there should be plenty of food in one land, when there is a scarcity in another, that countries may be helpful to one another: of this famine, and of Abram's going down to Egypt on account of it, mention is made by Heathen writers; Nicolaus of Damascus says F14, that Abram came out of Chaldee into Canaan, now called Judea, and a grievous famine being there, and understanding there was plenty in Egypt, he readily went thither, partly to partake of their plenty, and partly to hear what the priests would say of the gods; and Alexander Polyhistor relates, from Eupolemus F15, that Abram removed from the place of his nativity, Camarine, called by some Urie, and settled in Phoenicia, where being a famine, he went with all his family into Egypt, and dwelt there.
F12 Apollodorus, l. 2. in initio.
F13 Vid. Universal History, vol. 1. p. 391.
F14 Apud Euseb. Praepar. Evangel. l. 9. c. 16. p. 417.
F15 Apud ib. c. 17. p. 418, 419.