Sarai was taken to live in Pharaoh's house, but only in a state of semi-betrothal (v19). Apparently, it was a widespread practice for a wealthy man to take his prospective bride into his house--often against her will--as a sort of hostage in order to influence negotiations with her family and to forestall other potential suitors. Other possible reasons for this practice may have been to ensure the bride's purity and to watch for indications of sickness which appear over time. The same practice can be seen in...
- The similar events at Gerar (Genesis 20:1-18).
- In the story of Dinah and Shechem (Genesis 34).
- The betrothal of a captured war bride (Deuteronomy 21:10-14)
- In the story of Queen Esther (Esther 2:1-18).