April 2, 2014

Commentary on the Book of Genesis

By: Tom Lowe

                      

Lesson II.D.1: Abraham Entertains Three Angels. Gen. 18:1-15.         

                                              

Genesis 18:1-15 (KJV)

 

1 And the LORD appeared unto him in the plains of Mamre: and he sat in the tent door in the heat of the day;

2 And he lift up his eyes and looked, and, lo, three men stood by him: and when he saw them, he ran to meet them from the tent door, and bowed himself toward the ground,

3 And said, My Lord, if now I have found favour in thy sight, pass not away, I pray thee, from thy servant:

4 Let a little water, I pray you, be fetched, and wash your feet, and rest yourselves under the tree:

5 And I will fetch a morsel of bread, and comfort ye your hearts; after that ye shall pass on: for therefore are ye come to your servant. And they said, So do, as thou hast said.

6 And Abraham hastened into the tent unto Sarah, and said, Make ready quickly three measures of fine meal, knead it, and make cakes upon the hearth.

7 And Abraham ran unto the herd, and fetcht a calf tender and good, and gave it unto a young man; and he hasted to dress it.

8 And he took butter, and milk, and the calf which he had dressed, and set it before them; and he stood by them under the tree, and they did eat.

9 And they said unto him, Where is Sarah thy wife? And he said, Behold, in the tent.

10 And he said, I will certainly return unto thee according to the time of life; and, lo, Sarah thy wife shall have a son. And Sarah heard it in the tent door, which was behind him.

11 Now Abraham and Sarah were old and well stricken in age; and it ceased to be with Sarah after the manner of women.

12 Therefore Sarah laughed within herself, saying, After I am waxed old shall I have pleasure, my lord being old also?

13 And the LORD said unto Abraham, Wherefore did Sarah laugh, saying, Shall I of a surety bear a child, which am old?

14Is any thing too hard for the LORD? At the time appointed I will return unto thee, according to the time of life, and Sarah shall have a son.

15 Then Sarah denied, saying, I laughed not; for she was afraid. And he said, Nay; but thou didst laugh.

 

Introduction

Abraham is given the special title, “the friend of God” in 2 Chronicles 20:7{7]; Isaiah 41:8{8]; and James 2:23{9], and he is the only person in the Bible to have it. Jesus called Lazarus His friend (Jn. 11:11){10], and He calls “friends” all who believe on Him and obey Him (15:13-15{11]). As His friends, we can share His love and fellowship, and we can know His will.

 

Commentary

1 And the LORD appeared unto him in the plains of Mamre: and he sat in the tent door in the heat of the day;

 


And the LORD appeared unto him in the plains of Mamre. It is expressly stated that the Lord (Jehovah) appeared to Abraham, and then we are told the manner of His appearing. Three men visited Abraham near the great trees of Mamre at Hebron (cf. 13:18{5]; 14:13{6]) to confirm the time of fulfillment of the promise. These three were the Lord (18: 1, 10, 13) and two angels.

 

 

And he sat in the tent door in the heat of the day. It appears that Abraham may have been setting just inside the door of his tent taking his daily rest during the heat of the day. He may have been watching the road for some weary traveler for that would give him the opportunity to entertain them with refreshment and cooling shade, and to get the latest news from them. There were no inns at this early date so this was a necessary kindness.

 

 

2 And he lift up his eyes and looked, and, lo, three men stood by him: and when he saw them, he ran to meet them from the tent door, and bowed himself toward the ground,

 

 

And he lift up his eyes and looked, and, lo, three men stood by him.  Abraham saw from the door of his tent three men coming toward him. Travelers in that quarter, start out at sunrise and continue until midday when they look out for some resting-place. Few people ever traveled when the sun was so hot, so Abraham was immediately both curious and courteous. Hospitality was the first law of the East, and Abraham faithfully obeyed it. These three men were spiritual, heavenly beings who may have assumed human form in order for Abraham to see them and converse with them. Some think they were all angels; others believe one of them was the Lord, the Angel of the covenant, whom Abraham distinguished from the rest—he is called Jehovah in  verse 13, “the LORD said unto Abraham.” Why did the Angel of the Lord approach Abraham in this manner? Why didn’t He use a prophet, a vision, or a voice? Possibly He meant it as a test for both Abraham and Sodomites. The moral states of Abraham and Sodom may have been indicated by their different treatments of strangers. Abraham’s peaceful, quiet visit contrasted greatly with Sodom’s outbursts of brutality and inhumanity (cf. chaps. 18-19). But more likely Abraham’s visitors meant to convey intimate fellowship. To eat together was important to fellowship, peace offerings and treaties. When the Lord was ready to specify the fulfillment of the covenantal promise. He came in person and ate in Abraham’s tent. Nothing could more significantly communicate their close relationship.

 

 

This verse is a bit confusing because the first part seems to suggest they suddenly appeared; they had not been seen approaching; but Abraham doesn’t immediately recognize the significance of this. And the last part says Abraham “ran to meet them” which would indicate that he saw them coming while they were some distance from his tent.

 

 

And when he saw them, he ran to meet them from the tent door, and bowed himself toward the ground. All of a sudden, Abram is completely involved in making these three strangers comfortable and providing them with a meal. Abraham . . . ran to meet them (18:2), hastened back to the tent (v. 6), ran to the herd (v. 7), and his servant hasted to dress it (v. 7); Abraham bowed himself toward the ground (v. 2); he served them freshly baked cakes (v. 6), a calf tender and good (v. 7), butter, and milk (v. 8), and he stood while they were eating (v. 8; cf. vv. 1-2). All this suggests that he knew who his visitors were.

 

 

The statement that he “bowed himself toward the ground” does not mean that he recognized his visitors to be divine beings. The act was an expression of the self-deprecating courtesy of the Orient (cf. Gen. 23:7; 1 Sam. 24:8{18]; 2 Sam. 14:4, 22; 1 Ki. 1:31).

 

 

When the visitor is an ordinary person, the host merely rises; but if he is a person of superior rank, the custom is to advance a little ways toward the stranger, and after a very low bow, to turn and lead him to the tent, putting an arm around his waist, or tapping him on the shoulder as they go, to assure him that he is welcome.

 

 

3 And said, My Lord, if now I have found favour in thy sight, pass not away, I pray thee, from thy servant:

 

 

Abraham’s hospitality was freely offered, even though no place does it say that there was anything about their appearance that told Abraham who they were. The words “My Lord,” although perhaps at first used as the customary respectable address of a host to a visitor; later in their interchange it was used knowingly by Abraham when addressing his true and sovereign Lord (vv. 22, 30-32{19]), and whom he must have recognized when the visitor spoke of himself as “Lord” (v. 14).

 

 

4 Let a little water, I pray you, be fetched, and wash your feet, and rest yourselves under the tree:

 

 

Washing the feet was both customary and necessary in those days when men walked dusty roads wearing only sandals. It is probably the oldest custom known. Remember, in the Upper Room our Lord washed the disciple’s feet—and there is a tremendous spiritual message there. Here Abraham says, “Wash your feet.” It was a token of real hospitality when someone came into a home to have him to take off his shoes and wash his feet. In that day they did not take off their hat, but they did take off their shoes. Today we have reversed it. When you come to visit somebody, you leave your shoes on and take off your hat. I’m not sure which is right. I like the idea, myself, of taking off my shoes. I like to go barefoot at home. I wish I could go bare foot more often. It sure would make you feel at home to take off your shoes, wash your feet, and rest yourself under the shade of a tree. Abraham is really entertaining these men royally.

 

 

Though one is tempted here to see lessons about hospitality, the angels certainly did not visit Abraham for the purpose of teaching him the etiquette of hospitality.

 

 

The “tree” was the sacred oak of Mamre.

 

 

5 And I will fetch a morsel of bread, and comfort ye your hearts; after that ye shall pass on: for therefore are ye come to your servant. And they said, So do, as thou hast said.

 

 

Abraham’s service was marked with humility. He bowed to his guests (Gen. 18:2), called himself a servant (vv. 3, 5), and called the feast “only a morsel of bread” (v. 5). He invited them to rest (AV) or recline and comfort themselves while the meal was being prepared.

 

 

No questions were asked. But Abraham knew their purpose by the course they took, approaching directly in front of the chief sheik’s tent, which is always distinguishable from the rest of the tents, which showed their wish to be his guests. That’s why he said, “For therefore are ye come to your servant.” Abraham was certain they had come specifically to see Him, and was anxious to know why.

 

 

6 And Abraham hastened into the tent unto Sarah, and said, Make ready quickly three measures of fine meal, knead it, and make cakes upon the hearth.

 

 

“Three measures of fine meal” would be about four pecks, which not only indicates Abraham’s extravagant generosity, but it may be the first indication that the visitors were divine beings and Abraham may have picked up on that idea.

 

 

Bread is baked daily, and no more than is required for family use, and always by the women, commonly the wife. It is a short process. Flour mixed with water is made into dough, and after being rolled out into cakes, it is placed on the earthen floor, previously heated by a fire. The fire is removed, the cakes laid on the ground, and covered over with hot embers, are quickly baked, and eaten as soon as they are taken off.

 

 

7 And Abraham ran unto the herd, and fetcht a calf tender and good, and gave it unto a young man; and he hasted to dress it.

 

 

Keep in mind that this is an old man running around in the heat of the day. Only after he served his guests did Abraham stand still (v. 8).

 

 

Meat is never provided except for visitors of a superior rank, when a kid or lamb is killed. A calf is still a higher stretch of hospitality, and it would probably be cooked as is usually done when haste is required—either by roasting it whole or by cutting it up into small pieces and broiling them on skewers over the fire. It is always eaten along with boiled corn swimming in butter or melted fat into which every morsel of meat, laid upon a piece of bread, is dipped, before being conveyed by the fingers to the mouth—A bowl of camels milk ends the repast.

 

 

8 And he took butter, and milk, and the calf which he had dressed, and set it before them; and he stood by them under the tree, and they did eat.

 

 

Abraham served the Lord generously and gave Him the best that he had. Sarah made bread from “fine meal” (v. 6), and the meat was “tender and good” (v. 7). No left overs or second rate fare for such important guests. After he served them, Abraham stood nearby to be available if needed.

 

 

Now this was something unusual; that Abraham served them personally. Remember, Abraham was ninety-nine years old and a wealthy sheik, and he could have trusted this task to his chief steward or one of his more than three-hundred servants (14:14){11]. Instead he decided to minister to his Lord personally.

 

 

Today there is a reluctance to invite a stranger into one’s home due to all the crime and violence that takes place, but at the same time we must remember that as Christians we are commanded to help those in need, and that may mean bringing them into our homes and feeding them. And may we be blessed like those who have entertained angels unaware (Heb. 13:2){1], even the Lord of angels, Himself, as indeed, we always do when for His sake we entertain the least of His brethren. That is Abraham, he didn’t really know who he was entertaining.

 

 

Though the Lord no longer visits his people in person, He still by His Spirit stands at the door and knocks, and when we are inclined to open, He graciously condescends to enter and by His gracious comforts He provides a rich delight where He sups with us, and we with Him (Rev. 3:20){2].

 

 

9 And they said unto him, Where is Sarah thy wife? And he said, Behold, in the tent.

 

 

And they said unto him, Where is Sarah thy wife? The Lord gradually revealed who He was by the personal knowledge He expressed of Abraham and Sarah. The question was asked, “Where is Sarah thy wife?”  How did they know her name?  They must be divine. The unspoken suggestion is that Abraham himself was startled by this strange display of knowledge. Now note the answer: “And he said, Behold, in the tent.” She was nearby, and she was occupied with the duties of caring for their home. It was not proper in that day—and even in the East today—for the wife to come out and be the one to entertain, especially because there were three male guests there.

 

 

Sarah had an important role to play in the working out of God’s plan of salvation for the world, and she did her part (Heb. 11:11{12]; 1 Pe. 3:1-7{13]; Rom. 4:18-21{14]). Sarah was now eighty-nine years old; yet she was still a desirable woman with charm and beauty (Gen. 20), partly because her husband loved her and treated her like the princess she was.

 

 

10 And he said, I will certainly return unto thee according to the time of life; and, lo, Sarah thy wife shall have a son. And Sarah heard it in the tent door, which was behind him.

 

 

The promise that God had made Abraham was renewed, and confirmed, that Sarah would have a son. In this manner the promise of the Messiah was often repeated in the Old Testament to strengthen the faith of God’s people. It is also the Word of promise which the apostle quotes (Rom. 9:9){3], and by virtue of which Isaac was born. The spiritual seed of Abraham owe their life, and joy, and hope, their all, to the promise. They are born by the Word of God (1 Pe. 1:23){4].

 

 

I think Sarah had her ear to the keyhole and had been listening to the conversation. Both Sarah and Abraham now discover they are entertaining angels unaware.

 

 

11 Now Abraham and Sarah were old and well stricken in age; and it ceased to be with Sarah after the manner of women.

12 Therefore Sarah laughed within herself, saying, After I am waxed old shall I have pleasure, my lord being old also?

 

 

Sarah lacked the faith to believe the Lord when He said she would have a son, so she laughed to herself. When something as incredible as this happens, the human response is consistent: like Sarah, people are taken off guard, laugh, and then out of fear deny that they laughed (v. 15). But God knows human hearts and that Christians often due stagger at what He says He can do. Questioning divine truth is a sin, and it often leads to committing another sin—denying the first sin. But whom the Lord loves He will rebuke, convict, silence, and bring to repentance, if they sin before Him. The Lord revealed who He was, by speaking with Divine authority, and by repeating the promise as His own.

 

 

13 And the LORD said unto Abraham, Wherefore did Sarah laugh, saying, Shall I of a surety bear a child, which am old?

 

 

The Lord had come all the way from heaven to give Abraham and Sarah an announcement: At that same time next year, Sarah would give birth to the promised son! The announcement was so incredible that Sarah laughed and questioned whether such a thing could happen to two elderly people. Abraham’s laughter had been born out of joyful faith (17:17){15]; but Sarah’s laughter was marked by unbelief, even though she tried to deny it.

 

 

Of course, whenever we doubt God, we are questioning both His veracity and His ability. Does He keep His promises? Does He have the power to do what He says He will do?  The answer to both questions is yes! (see Rom. 4:20-21){16].

 

 

The Lord knew immediately that Sarah had laughed at his announcement, and He asked Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh, saying, Shall I of a surety bear a child, which am old?” This was another indication of His supernatural character. Its effect upon Sarah is seen in verse 15 where it says, “She was afraid.”

 

 

14 Is any thing too hard for the LORD? At the time appointed I will return unto thee, according to the time of life, and Sarah shall have a son.

15 Then Sarah denied, saying, I laughed not; for she was afraid. And he said, Nay; but thou didst laugh.

 

 

Is a child from a dead womb too difficult for the One who called all things into existence? It is no laughing matter. He can do it. Nothing is impossible for those in covenant fellowship with the Lord because nothing is too difficult for Him. If you need proof, then listen to:

1)      Job; “I know that thou canst do every thing, and that no thought can be withholden from thee” (Job 42:2).

2)     Jeremiah; “Ah Lord GOD! behold, thou hast made the heaven and the earth by thy great power and stretched out arm, and there is nothing too hard for thee” (Jer. 32:17). . . “Behold, I am the LORD, the God of all flesh: is there any thing too hard for me?” (Jer. 32:27).

3)     The Angel Gabriel; “For with God nothing shall be impossible” (Lk. 1:37).

4)     The Apostle Paul; “Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us, 21 Unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen” (Eph. 3:20-21).

If God makes a promise, you can be sure He has the power to fulfill it; and He will remain faithful even if we are faithless (2 Tim. 2:13){22]. Sarah eventually repented and, with her husband, trusted God; and He gave them the promised son.

Sarah’s unbelief and her laughter was certainly an aggravated offence to the Lord (Acts 5:4){20] and nothing but grace saved her (Rom. 9:18){21].

 

 

 

scripture reference and special notes

 

{1] (Heb. 13:2)Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.

{2] (Rev. 3:20) Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.

{3] (Rom. 9:9) For this is the word of promise, At this time will I come, and Sara shall have a son.

{4] (1 Pe. 1:23) Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever.

{5] (Gen. 13:18)Then Abram removed his tent, and came and dwelt in the plain of Mamre, which is in Hebron, and built there an altar unto the LORD.

{6] (Gen. 14:13)And there came one that had escaped, and told Abram the Hebrew; for he dwelt in the plain of Mamre the Amorite, brother of Eshcol, and brother of Aner: and these were confederate with Abram.

{7] (2 Chronicles 20:7) Art not thou our God, who didst drive out the inhabitants of this land before thy people Israel, and gavest it to the seed of Abraham thy friend for ever?

{8] (Isaiah 41:8)But thou, Israel, art my servant, Jacob whom I have chosen, the seed of Abraham my friend.

{9] (James 2:23)And the scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God.

{10] (John 15:13-15) Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. 14Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you. 15Henceforth I call you not servants; for the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth: but I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you.

{11] (Gen. 14:14)And when Abram heard that his brother was taken captive, he armed his trained servants, born in his own house, three hundred and eighteen, and pursued them unto Dan.

{12] (Heb. 11:11) Through faith also Sara herself received strength to conceive seed, and was delivered of a child when she was past age, because she judged him faithful who had promised.

{13] (1 Pe. 3:1-7) Likewise, ye wives, be in subjection to your own husbands; that, if any obey not the word, they also may without the word be won by the conversation of the wives; 2 While they behold your chaste conversation coupled with fear. 3Whose adorning let it not be that outward adorning of plaiting the hair, and of wearing of gold, or of putting on of apparel; 4But let it be the hidden man of the heart, in that which is not corruptible, even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price. 5For after this manner in the old time the holy women also, who trusted in God, adorned themselves, being in subjection unto their own husbands: 6 Even as Sara obeyed Abraham, calling him lord: whose daughters ye are, as long as ye do well, and are not afraid with any amazement. 7Likewise, ye husbands, dwell with them according to knowledge, giving honour unto the wife, as unto the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life; that your prayers be not hindered.

{14] (Rom. 4:18-21)Who against hope believed in hope, that he might become the father of many nations, according to that which was spoken, So shall thy seed be. 19And being not weak in faith, he considered not his own body now dead, when he was about an hundred years old, neither yet the deadness of Sara's womb: 20He staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief; but was strong in faith, giving glory to God; 21And being fully persuaded that, what he had promised, he was able also to perform.

{15] (Gen. 17:17) Then Abraham fell upon his face, and laughed, and said in his heart, Shall a child be born unto him that is an hundred years old? and shall Sarah, that is ninety years old, bear?

{16] (Rom. 4:20-21)He staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief; but was strong in faith, giving glory to God; 21And being fully persuaded that, what he had promised, he was able also to perform.

{17] (2 Tim. 2:13) If we believe not, yet he abideth faithful: he cannot deny himself.

{18] (1 Sam. 24:8) David also arose afterward, and went out of the cave, and cried after Saul, saying, My lord the king. And when Saul looked behind him, David stooped with his face to the earth, and bowed himself.

{19] (Gen. 18:22, 30-32)And the men turned their faces from thence, and went toward Sodom: but Abraham stood yet before the LORD . . . 30 And he said unto him, Oh let not the Lord be angry, and I will speak: Peradventure there shall thirty be found there. And he said, I will not do it, if I find thirty there. 31 And he said, Behold now, I have taken upon me to speak unto the Lord: Peradventure there shall be twenty found there. And he said, I will not destroy it for twenty's sake. 32 And he said, Oh let not the Lord be angry, and I will speak yet but this once: Peradventure ten shall be found there. And he said, I will not destroy it for ten's sake.

{20] (Acts 5:4) While it remained, was it not thine own? And after it was sold, was it not in thine own power? Why hast thou conceived this thing in thine heart? Thou hast not lied unto men, but unto God.

{21] (Rom. 9:18) Therefore hath he mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will he hardeneth.

{22] (2 Tim. 2:13) If we believe not, yet he abideth faithful: he cannot deny himself.

Make a free website with Yola