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Chapter 18

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ch. 18:1 - 15  ch. 18:18 - 33

The Three Visitors (ch. 18:1 - 15)


Verse 1 tells us that the Lord appeared to Abraham one day during the heat of the day while he was sitting at the entrance of his tent.  It was the custom of the day because it would have been too hot to work.


Verse 2 tells us that three men appeared before Abraham.  Verse 1 says that the Lord appeared, and now verse 2 says three men appeared.  We learn from Genesis 19:1 that two of the men were angels.  Most scholars feel that the third man was the Lord who is mentioned in verse 1, who is in fact the pre-incarnate Jesus. 


Also in verse 2 we see that Abraham left his tent in a hurry, ran to them, and bowed before them.  There is an eastern tradition of bowing before your guests.  The entertaining of guests in this culture was a very high priority, that is why Abraham ran.  It is also why, as you will see, that Abraham acted as he did towards his three guests.  Without this understanding you might wonder why Abraham seemed so frantic in trying to help and serve these guests. 


Some might suggest that because Abraham ran to these guests, and served them as he did, tells us that this was something special.  Maybe he knew these men were angels.  I'm not convinced of this.  Abraham might have thought something was special about these guests, but I don't think you can say that due to his actions alone.


Verse 3 might confirm that Abraham thought these three men were heavenly visitors.  He said "if I have found favour in your eyes my lord, do not pass me by".  First of all we need to understand the difference between the word "lord' used here and the word "Lord" used in verse 1.  The verse one "Lord' with a capital "L" refers to God.  The word "lord' with a small "l" in verse 3 is more of a word of respect, as in the word "sir".  At the least, we can safely say that Abraham for one reason or another respected these visitors, especially one of them, who he called lord.  Beyond that, I would not be surprised that Abraham believed that the one special visitor was a manifestation of God, or else a real special angel. 


In verse 4 and 5 we see that Abraham had water and food brought to them. We also learn in verse 5 that Abraham viewed himself as a servant to these men.  Once again, Abraham viewed these men, and especially one of them as being special, if not heavenly.  These were not ordinary men in the sight of Abraham. 


In verse 6 Abraham rushes into see Sarah and told her to be quick.  He obviously wanted things done in a hurry.  He did not want to make these very important men wait.  To me, it's almost as if Abraham was running on nervous energy.  He had Sarah get "30 seahs of fine flower" to make bread.  That's about 20 quarts of fine flour, not just ordinary flour.  That's a lot of flower and a lot of bread.


In verse 7 Abraham continues in this nervous energy.  He ran to his herd and made his servant hurry and prepare tender a calf for the visitors to eat.  Abraham seems frantic at this point.  Although people in those days ate meat, it was not a daily occurrence, so this was a special meal for the three visitors.  


In verse 8 we see that Abraham brought the three visitors this great feast to eat.  We notice that Abraham did not eat the meal with the three men.  He stood a short distance away, as if he was indeed their servant as he said he was.  At this moment in time Abraham himself had gathered quite a large community of people around him.  In one real sense of the word, Abraham was an important man, but to these men, he was their servant.  These were special men.  IN fact, one was God in human flesh. That's the pre-incarnate Jesus.


One might ask, if these were angels and the pre-incarnate Jesus, why would they need to eat.  Well, they appeared as men, so they behaved as men.  Jesus ate after He rose from the dead and while He lived in His glorified body.  So just because these men ate food does not mean that two were angels, and one was the pre-incarnate Christ.


We don't know all of what the conversation was about but in verse 9 we do know that "they", meaning, all three, asked Abraham where Sarah was.  He answered by saying that she was in the tent.  I'm sure that the three knew where Sarah was, but as is often the case, God wants us to verbalize our thoughts.  He wants us to converse with Him so He asks us questions that He already knows the answer to. 


Verse 10 confirms that one of these men is "the Lord'.  The text says, "then the Lord said…"   So we know that one of these men was God in human flesh, and we also know that the other two were angels from chapter 19, verse 1.


The Lord told Abraham that He'd return to him in about a years time, and at that point, Sarah would have had a son.  This is a promise of God.  This is a promise because Sarah was way too old to have children.  This is an important fact in Jewish history, in Biblical studies, in prophetic history, and in the story of salvation.


It's my thinking that by now, or at least because of these words from the Lord Abraham knew who he was talking with. 


Some people might wonder at the timing here.  Women are pregnant for nine months.  The Lord does not say, as some might think, that in one year Sarah will have a baby.  What He does say is that He will return in a year, and when He returns. She will have already had a baby born to her. 


Verse 10 also states that Sarah was listening to the conversation.  I can picture Sarah hiding behind the tent doorway, with her ear up to a crack trying to hear every word that was being said by these important visitors.


Verse 11 confirms the fact that both Sarah and Abraham were past the age of having children.  Throughout our Genesis study we have been noting the ages of people declining from nine hundred plus years downward.  We're now down to the average age as being around one hundred to one hundred and twenty years old. 


Verse 12 says that "Sarah laughed to herself".  This suggests to me that this was not a loud laugh.  She laughed quietly because she laughed to herself. She probably didn't want the men to know that she was listening to their conversation so that is why she laughed to herself.   


After Sarah laughed she says, "after I am warn out and my master is old will I now have this pleasure."  We note a couple of things here.  Sarah calls her husband "her master", something that is completely foreign to western society today. 


I've seen two ways of the word pleasure being understood from well meaning scholars.  Some say this is the pleasure of the baby making process while others say it is simply the pleasure of having a baby that she has never had.  I lean to the second way of thinking. 


In verse 13 the Lord asked Abraham why Sarah laughed and asked what did she say, as if He didn't know .  Either the Lord supernaturally knew Sarah laughed, or else Sarah laughed loud enough and talked loud enough for all to hear, but once again, I don't believe Sarah laughed loud enough for the men to hear her.  I'm not sure why the Lord asked Abraham that, and why He didn't call Sarah out of the tent to ask her directly, other than she was not included n the discussion, and the culture of the day would not have included women into such a conversation.  Abraham might not have even known that Sarah laughed.


The Lord doesn't seem to give Abraham a chance to answer.  I don't really think the Lord expected, or even wanted Abraham to answer because the Lord knew that Abraham didn't know his wife laughed.  He only asked the question in the first place to make a point which is seen in the next verse.


In verse 14 the Lord tells Abraham that He will return next year, and in the "appointed time" Sarah will have a son.  This was a very specific promise God made to Abraham. God fulfilled His promise.  Note the words 'appointed time".  It's my opinion that God does everything according to His "appointed time", and He is neither early or late, but right on time.  A serious study of the gospels in the New Testament makes this very clear.  God has a timetable.  For example, He knows exactly when He will send Jesus back to earth.  There is an appointed time.  Not everyone believes this way, but I do.  Fore example, there is an exact day, and exact hour, and an exact minute when Jesus will return to earth. 


In verse 15 we see that Sarah was now afraid.  She actually lied and said that she did not laugh.  Fear often produces sin.  This fear made Sarah lie.  She did laugh and the Lord knew it.  Even in the very presence of God, people can still lie.  I wonder if people will lie on the day of judgment.


At this point Sarah might well have understood that the man talking with Abraham was really the Lord.  I say this because she was afraid.  This was not the first time the Lord told Abraham that they'd have a son, although this time, the promise is very specific concerning the time line.  Abraham would have talked about these things to Sarah before so when the Lord says what He says here, I think Sarah knew it was the Lord speaking. 


We know that she lied in the presence of the Lord because the rest of the verse says, "yes, you did lie," and these words were spoken by the Lord.   We don't know just where Sarah was standing at this point.  She might well have come to the entrance of the tent and conversed with the Lord herself.  One thing we know is that she lied to the Lord even though He was standing before her.  The fact that God appeared in human form clearly made it possible for humans to converse and see Him.  That would be the only way in which man  could actually see God.   


Abraham Pleads for Sodom (ch.18:18 - 33)


In verse 16 we have a new section in the NIV but in one sense of the word it is a carry-over  from the last section.  When the three men seen in the last section, that's two angels and the pre-incarnate Christ, were leaving Abraham they all looked over towards where Sodom was located.  I can imagine this taking place.  I can see these three men in a contemplative mood as they looked towards the direction of Sodom.  They knew what would soon take place.  Abraham for a few moments must of wondered what was going on in the minds of these three men.


The text actually says that Abraham walked along with the men to see them on their way, so there obviously was some conversation going on, which we see in verse 17. 


Verse 17 says, "then the Lord said, 'shall I hide from Abraham what I am about to do'?"  Here we see confirmation that one of these three men is actually "the Lord", and most commentators see "the Lord" as pre-incarnate Jesus.  Jesus, in the eyes of many Bible scholars makes numerous appearances to people in the Old Testament. This is just one such appearance.


At this point Abraham's attention must have really perked up and gotten curious.  What could the Lord be hiding from Abraham.  It must have had something to do with Sodom , since all three men were contemplating in Sodom 's direction. 


Some people take this verse and link it with others to suggest that God will speak to His people before He makes any major judgments on earth.  These people especially use this verse in connection with the end of this age.



Before the Lord addresses the subject of Sodom, he re-affirms some of the promises that He has already made to Abraham. God has on more than one occasion made more than one promise to Abraham.  This is yet another one of those occasions.


Some might say that since the Lord has just spoken of certain promises he made to Abraham, what He is now hiding from Abraham concerns these promises.  I don't see that.  The Lord already made these things known to Abraham, so He wasn't hiding this.  I think that the Lord just wanted to reconfirm these things before the conversation turned towards more negative things.    


The Lord promised that Abraham will be a great nation, that is, Abraham's family will turn into a great and powerful nation.  The family will actually become a nation.  The question should be addressed, when did, or when will Abraham, that's Israel , become such a nation. Some suggest that this took place in King David's day, but I don't think so.  Israel was great, but not as great as what seems to be suggested here.


The Lord also said that all nations of the earth would be blessed in Abraham.  I believe the fulfillment of this is seen in two ways.  I believe the ultimate fulfillment of this will take place when Jesus returns as King of the Jews, sets His feet on the Mount of Olives, takes the land for Himself and gives it to Israel. In that sense of the word, Abraham will finally be the great and powerful nation that is promised here.


In verse 19 the Lord said that "I have chosen him", that is Abraham.  God simply and sovereignty chose Abraham.  It had nothing to do with who he was, or what he did.  Beyond this, we don't know the specific reasons why God made this choice, but He did.  This is why we call Israel "the chosen people".  God chose them here, and I believe this choice remains in place throughout eternity.  God has said that He'd be Israel 's God forever, therefore Israel is God's chosen people forever. 


The Lord said that He chose Abraham for a purpose and that he would "direct his children and his household…"   You might wonder  if there is a distinction between children and household.  There might not be, but I will throw this our for interest sake.  I'm not saying I am right on this point.  It's just a thought.  Could children refer to biological descendents, and household refer to all of Abraham's descendents, including New Testament Gentile believers in Jesus. 


Abraham was to direct his children and household to walk in the ways of the Lord in order for God to keep His promises.  We need to note here that God will keep all of His promises He made to Abraham despite what His descendents do or don't do.  What this verse means is that individual descendents could be cut off from the promises if they don't walk within the boundaries of the covenant.  The apostle Paul speaks of this in Romans 9 through 11 when he says that certain Jews have been cut out of the tree, that represents the family of God.


This is an important verse, because some believe that God has withdrawn all of His promises to Israel because what God told Abraham to do, didn't get done. Israel was not faithful to God, so God withdrew His promises.  I don't believe that for a number of reasons.  The main reason is that God promised Himself that these promises would be fulfilled no matter what.  That alone tells me that the fulfilled promises do not depend on Israel's faithfulness but God's faithfulness to Himself. 


There's a good chance that when the Lord wanted Abraham to direct both his children and household in the ways of God that this will actually take place once Jesus is on earth ruling as King of the Jews.


The conversation now switches to Sodom and Gomorrah in verse 20 and 21.  The Lord tells Abraham that He will go down and see if what He has heard is in fact true.  There was a great outcry concerning the sin of these two cities.  You might ask, who were the ones crying out to God about this?  The text doesn't say, but I wonder if it was angels.  Remember, there are two angels with the Lord at the moment who might well be representatives of this outcry.  I'm not convinced that there were too many humans on earth at this time that would be disturbed at what was taking place in Sodom.


It's my thinking that angels do see what is happening on earth, and that they might well cry out to God, both in a negative way and a positive way.  I think angels are very much interested in what happens here on earth, probably much more interested than what we think.   They might well be very disgusted with what they see on earth, especially in light of the fact they were around when Lucifer rebelled against God, and he is the one behind all of the wickedness on earth.


Verse 22 states that the men turned from Abraham and walked towards Sodom while Abraham continued talking to the Lord.  So it is clear that when the text says "the men" headed towards Sodom, that was only the two other men who we know are angels.


Either the Lord told Abraham his intentions, or Abraham intuitively knew what the Lord was going to do to Sodom and Gomorrah, but it is clear from the dialogue that takes place that Abraham knew judgment was about to come.  He asked in verse 23, "will you sweep away the righteous with the wicked"?  Clearly, there were some righteous people in Sodom, and Abraham knew lot was there.  Abraham therefore considered Lot to be righteous, and we will see later that the angels did too.


In verse 24 Abraham qualifies his initial question by asking if there were fifty righteous people "would you really sweep"  away the city.  The word "really" is used for emphases.   Note the word "sweep".  This is in fact what God does at times.  He just simply sweeps away what is offensive to Him. He sweeps the floor clean.  This is why God brings judgment to earth.


Abraham finds great boldness in verse 25.  What Abraham in fact is doing at the moment is interceding.  He's petitioning God on the behalf of the righteous.  This is a prayer of intercession.  He says, "far be it for you  ...  to kill the wicked with the righteous … Will the Judge of all the earth do right?" 


Abraham felt that it would be unjust for God to kill righteous people in the process of judging the wicked.  I'm not really convinced that the Lord was thinking in these terms.  The text doesn't say God was going to destroy the righteous with the wicked.  Those words come from Abraham's lips, not God's.  This might well have simply been Abraham's unfounded fear.


Some people might suggest that God was in fact going to kill the righteous with the wicked by His response in verse 26.  God said that He wouldn't wipe out Sodom if there were fifty righteous people living there. He might be simply making a statement.  He might not have been thinking of wiping our this community if there was one righteous person there, yet for some reason, Abraham thinks He might just do that. Again, I'm not convinced that God would wipe out Sodom with Lot there.  His answer here is simply a direct answer to Abraham's specific requests.  He just says that He wouldn't wipe out Sodom if there were fifty righteous people living in the city. 


I think we need to get a picture of what is happening here.  Abraham and the angel of the Lord are walking together and conversing with one another, as  they talk, these things come to Abraham's mind because he has learned that God will judge Sodom.  Abraham is rightly concerned about what will happen, even though it appears that the angel doesn't say He will wipe out the righteous with the wicked.  I don't want to underestimate his concern.  What Abraham is doing is verbalizing his concern and the angel of the Lord is responding specifically to each statement or question that Abraham presents Him.


In verse 27 we see that Abraham knows he is being very bold in talking to God in such a way.  He says that even though he is bold, he realizes that he is but dust.  This should be our mentality as well.  We can intercede in prayer, but we must do so from a humble spirit, we are dust as well.


So in verse 28 Abraham lowers the number to less than fifty.  God says that if there is forty five righteous people he will not wipe out the city.


In verse 29 Abraham reduces the number to forty, and God responds by saying that He would not destroy the city if there were forty righteous people.


In verse 30 Abraham gets a little squeamish with his interceding and reduces the number to thirty.  The Lord replies in the same way.  He would not destroy the city if there were thirty righteous people living there.


Abraham gets over the hump in verse 31.  He said, "now that I've been so bold…"  He thought that he might as well go all the way now that he's gone this far with the Lord.  He reduces the number to twenty and the Lord says He wouldn't wipe the city out if there were twenty righteous people.


In verse 32 Abraham goes one step farther and asked that the Lord would not be angry with him.  He reduces the number to ten.  The Lord had no problem with the number ten.


At that point the Lord left Abraham and Abraham returned home.  At this point one wonders how Abraham felt.  I'm sure he knew Lot and his family lived in Sodom.  I wonder why Abraham's last request was the number ten.  Did Lot have ten family number in Sodom? 


We also might wonder what this was all about.  Was the Lord going to really wipe out the righteous with the wicked?  Again, I don't think so.  Paul, in 1 Timothy 5:9 says that the righteous weren't meant to suffer God's wrath.  I think Paul would feel that God doesn't kill the righteous with the wicked.  The dialog between Abraham and the Lord might well have been for Abraham's benefit, not the Lord's.  We often see this event as a negotiation between God and Abraham, but I'm not convinced it was. I'm not convinced that God would wipe out the city if it had ten righteous people in it. I view this as being more of a conversation than a negotiation.  If you want to make it more than a simple conversation, you might say it was a prayer of intercession on Abraham's part, an intercession that the Lord would certainly hear, but wasn't going to wipe out the righteous with the wicked anyway.  

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