Genesis 18 & 19 (incomplete)
Table of Contents
Now the LORD appeared to Abraham by the oaks of Mamre while he was sitting at the tent door in the heat of the day. When he raised his eyes and looked, behold, three men were standing opposite him; and when he saw them, he ran from the tent door to meet them and bowed down to the ground,
Tents were designed to hold in heat at night but flaps can open to allow breezes during the day.
Abraham does not yet know that these three are supernatural, and we aren’t told when he realizes that they aren’t. Without any fanfare, all of a sudden, he knows he’s talking to the LORD
and said, “My Lord, if now I have found favor in Your sight, please do not pass Your servant by. “Please let a little water be brought and wash your feet, and make yourselves comfortable under the tree, and I will bring a piece of bread so that you may refresh yourselves; after that, you may go on since you have visited your servant.” And they said, “So do as you have said.”
By the standards of the day, Abraham was required to do this, but he went above and beyond, as we shall see in the next passage.
Hospitality may have had a pragmatic goal – you never knew when someone approaching could be an enemy. Here was a chance to potentially transform an enemy into a friend, at least temporarily.
Washing the feet of guests was a standard act of hospitality, given the often dry and dusty roads of the ancient near east.
Often a bowl was placed by the door and the guest washed their own feet – this appears to be what Abraham offers here.
Some commentators will note that feet washing was so nasty, typically only the lowest servant could be assigned to wash another’s feet.
Of course, this makes Jesus’ act at the Last Supper all the more remarkable.
Walking in His Dust
Hebrews 13:2 Do not neglect hospitality to strangers, for by this some have entertained angels without knowing it.
We typically think of entertaining and hospitality as something like a fellowship meal.
While it includes that, more broadly, hospitality includes any act of aid and comfort.
Think of the Good Samaritan.
Hospitality is loving your neighbor.
Notice again God’s ways vs the World’s ways.
The world says look out for #1, never deny our own desires.
- Entertaining is OK as long as you get something out of it (showing off the fact that you have the means to host a big party, or maybe cultivate a new business contact).
God says to give selflessly to help others who may never be able to repay you.
Peter elaborates on this: “Above all, keep loving one another earnestly since love covers a multitude of sins. Show hospitality to one another without grumbling. As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace: whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen. (1 Peter 4:8-11).
So Abraham hurried into the tent to Sarah and said, “Quickly, prepare three measures of fine flour, knead it, and make bread cakes.” Abraham also ran to the herd and took a tender and choice calf and gave it to the servant, and he hurried to prepare it. He took curds and milk and the calf which he had prepared and set it before them, and he was standing by them under the tree as they ate.
Abraham was not obligated to prepare a calf; yogurt and bread would have been sufficient.
A measure is a seah, which is about 20 quarts. This was a banquet.
One of the more onerous of the Jewish dietary restrictions is that one cannot mix dairy and meat; this is curious as right here, Abraham is doing just that.
- In restaurants, there are designated dairy and non-dairy sections; even if your meal doesn’t have any dairy, you are not allowed to sit in the dairy section.
The restriction comes from Exodus 23:19, which only says, “you are not to boil a young goat in the milk of its mother.”
This tree is venerated in Hebron today.
Then they said to him, “Where is your wife, Sarah?” And he said, “There, in the tent.” He said, “I will certainly return to you at this time next year; and behold, your wife Sarah will have a son.” And Sarah was listening at the tent door, which was behind him. Now Abraham and Sarah were old, advanced in age; Sarah was past childbearing. So Sarah laughed to herself, saying, “After I have become old, am I to have pleasure, my lord being old also?”
- Sarah was in the tent, likely because the tradition was women did not eat with men.
But the LORD said to Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh, saying, ‘Shall I actually give birth to a child when I am so old?’ “Is anything too difficult for the LORD? At the appointed time, I will return to you, at this time next year, and Sarah will have a son.” Sarah denied it, however, saying, “I did not laugh”; for she was afraid. And He said, “No, but you did laugh.” Then the men rose up from there and looked down toward Sodom, and Abraham was walking with them to send them off.
Without any prior notice, we now learn that the LORD is among the visitors.
- We have to piece things together but since three men showed up initially and we learn that only two will be in Sodom and those two are angels, the makeup of the three visitors is most likely (allowing for other permutations) the LORD (possibly in the form of pre-incarnate Jesus) and two mighty angels.
We note that both Abraham and Sarah laughed but only Sarah was chided for it.
In this case, it might not be the crime but the cover-up that got her in trouble.
Hard to top the KJV here “Nay, but thou didst laugh.”
Remember, the word for laugh is Tzahaq which is linguistically related to Ytzhaq, Isaac.
The LORD said, “Shall I hide from Abraham what I am about to do, since Abraham will certainly become a great and mighty nation, and in him, all the nations of the earth will be blessed? “For I have chosen him, so that he may command his children and his household after him to keep the way of the LORD by doing righteousness and justice, so that the LORD may bring upon Abraham what He has spoken about him.”
Abraham’s grandfather and Shem were alive at the same time; no doubt the story of the Flood was still “fresh” in everyone’s mind.
Potentially Abraham would see the destruction of Sodom and think the world is ending in judgment.
God averts that by reassuring him this is only a local judgment
And the LORD said, “The outcry of Sodom and Gomorrah is indeed great, and their sin is exceedingly grave. “I will go down now and see whether they have done entirely as the outcry, which has come to Me indicates; and if not, I will know.” Then the men turned away from there and went toward Sodom while Abraham was still standing before the LORD.
Our just God is investigating the situation before issuing the judgment.
The first part of Genesis 19, with the men banging on the door, was the trial
Verse 13 will be the verdict “The Lord has sent us to destroy it.”
The hailfire was the penalty.
Abraham approached and said, “Will You indeed sweep away the righteous with the wicked? “Suppose there are fifty righteous people within the city; will You indeed sweep it away and not spare the place for the sake of the fifty righteous who are in it?
“Far be it from You to do such a thing, to kill the righteous with the wicked, so that the righteous and the wicked are treated alike. Far be it from You! Shall not the Judge of all the earth deal justly?” So the LORD said, “If I find in Sodom fifty righteous within the city, then I will spare the entire place on their account.” And Abraham replied, “Now behold, I have ventured to speak to the Lord, although I am only dust and ashes. “Suppose the fifty righteous are lacking five; will You destroy the entire city because of five?” And He said, “I will not destroy it if I find forty-five there.”
And he spoke to Him yet again and said, “Suppose forty are found there?” And He said, “I will not do it on account of the forty.”
Then he said, “Oh, may the Lord not be angry, and I shall speak; suppose thirty are found there?” And He said, “I will not do it if I find thirty there.”
And he said, “Now behold, I have ventured to speak to the Lord; suppose twenty are found there?” And He said, “I will not destroy it on account of the twenty.”
Then he said, “Oh, may the Lord not be angry, and I shall speak only this once: suppose ten are found there?” And He said, “I will not destroy it on account of the ten.” As soon as He had finished speaking to Abraham the LORD departed, and Abraham returned to his place.
Middle eastern haggling is a well-earned stereotype.
Justice is not served by ignoring wickedness.
Had there been higher numbers of righteous, the city might have been spared only if they could have exerted a reforming influence.
As it turns out, there will not even be 10 righteous.
Now the two angels came to Sodom in the evening as Lot was sitting at the gate of Sodom. When Lot saw them, he stood up to meet them and bowed down with his face to the ground.
And he said, “Now behold, my lords, please turn aside into your servant’s house, and spend the night, and wash your feet; then you may rise early and go on your way.” They said, “No, but we shall spend the night in the public square.” Yet he strongly urged them, so they turned aside to him and entered his house; and he prepared a feast for them and baked unleavened bread, and they ate.
The downward progression of Lot. Now he’s sitting at the gate, which is equivalent to being on the city council or chamber of commerce.
Unleavened bread here because they arrived in the evening and there was not time for the bread to rise prior to baking. When they arrived at Hebron it was the middle of the day.
In our Gospels study, we noted that John 3 took place at night and John four took place during the day (Jesus moves us from darkness to light).
Here Genesis 18 takes place during the day and most of Genesis 19 talkes place at night (sin such as Sodom moves us from light to darkness)
Another aspect of hospitality is that the host is responsible for the safety and well-being of his guests.
- Lot will take this extremely seriously.
Before they lay down, the men of the city—the men of Sodom—surrounded the house, both young and old, all the people from every quarter; and they called to Lot and said to him, “Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us that we may have relations with them.”
But Lot went out to them at the doorway, and shut the door behind him,and said, “Please, my brothers, do not act wickedly. “Now look, I have two daughters who have not had relations with any man; please let me bring them out to you, and do to them whatever you like; only do not do anything to these men, because they have come under the shelter of my roof.” But they said, “Get out of the way!” They also said, “This one came in as a foreigner, and already he is acting like a judge; now we will treat you worse than them!” So they pressed hard against Lot and moved forward to break the door.
But the men reached out their hands and brought Lot into the house with them, and shut the door. Then they struck the men who were at the doorway of the house with blindness, from the small to the great, so that they became weary of trying to find the doorway.
Then the two men said to Lot, “Whom else do you have here? A son-in-law and your sons and daughters, and whomever you have in the city, bring them out of the place;for we are about to destroy this place, because their outcry has become so great before the LORD that the LORD has sent us to destroy it.”
So Lot went out and spoke to his sons-in-law, who were to marry his daughters, and said, “Up, get out of this place, for the LORD is destroying the city.” But he appeared to his sons-in-law to be joking.
When morning dawned, the angels urged Lot, saying, “Up, take your wife and your two daughters who are here, or you will be swept away in the punishment of the city.” But he hesitated. So the men grasped his hand and the hand of his wife and the hands of his two daughters, because the compassion of the LORD was upon him; and they brought him out and put him outside the city. When they had brought them outside, one said, “Escape for your life! Do not look behind you, and do not stay anywhere in the surrounding area; escape to the mountains, or you will be swept away.”
But Lot said to them, “Oh no, my lords! “Now behold, your servant has found favor in your sight, and you have magnified your compassion, which you have shown me by saving my life; but I cannot escape to the mountains, for the disaster will overtake me and I will die;
20 now behold, this town is near enough to flee to, and it is small. Please, let me escape there (is it not small?) so that my life may be saved.” And he said to him, “Behold, I grant you this request also, not to overthrow the town of which you have spoken. “Hurry, escape there, for I cannot do anything until you arrive there.” Therefore the town was named Zoar. The sun had risen over the earth when Lot came to Zoar.
Then the LORD rained brimstone and fire on Sodom and Gomorrah from the LORD out of heaven, and He overthrew those cities, and all the surrounding area, and all the inhabitants of the cities, and what grew on the ground. But Lot’s wife, from behind him, looked back, and she became a pillar of salt.
Now Abraham got up early in the morning and went to the place where he had stood before the LORD; and he looked down toward Sodom and Gomorrah, and toward all the land of the surrounding area; and behold, he saw the smoke of the land ascended like the smoke of a furnace.
So it came about, when God destroyed the cities of the surrounding area, that God remembered Abraham, and sent Lot out of the midst of the destruction, when He overthrew the cities in which Lot had lived. Now Lot went up from Zoar with his two daughters and stayed in the mountains, because he was afraid to stay in Zoar; and he stayed in a cave, he and his two daughters.
Then the firstborn said to the younger, “Our father is old, and there is not a man on earth to have relations with us according to the custom of all the earth. “Come, let’s make our father drink wine, and let’s sleep with him so that we may keep our family alive through our father.” So they made their father drink wine that night, and the firstborn went in and slept with her father; and he did not know when she lay down or got up. On the following day, the firstborn said to the younger, “Look, I slept last night with my father; let’s make him drink wine tonight too, then you go in and sleep with him, so that we may keep our family alive through our father.” So they had their father drink wine that night too, and the younger got up and slept with him; and he did not know when she lay down or got up.
And so both of the daughters of Lot conceived by their father. The firstborn gave birth to a son, and named him Moab; he is the father of the Moabites to this day. As for the younger, she also gave birth to a son, and named him Ben-ammi; he is the father of the sons of Ammon to this day.