The Lord appears to Abraham. (1-8) Sarah's unbelief reproved. (9-15) God reveals to Abraham the destruction of Sodom. (16-22) Abraham's intercession for Sodom. (23-33)
Verses 1-8 Abraham was waiting to entertain any weary traveller, for inns were not to be met with as among us. While Abraham was thus sitting, he saw three men coming. These were three heavenly beings in human bodies. Some think they were all created angels; others, that one of them was the Son of God, the Angel of the covenant. Washing the feet is customary in those hot climates, where only sandals are worn. We should not be forgetful to entertain strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares, ( Hebrews 13:2 ) ; nay, the Lord of angels himself; as we always do, when for his sake we entertain the least of his brethren. Cheerful and obliging manners in showing kindness, are great ornaments to piety. Though our condescending Lord vouchsafes not personal visits to us, yet still by his Spirit he stands at the door and knocks; when we are inclined to open, he deigns to enter; and by his gracious consolations he provides a rich feast, of which we partake with him, ( Revelation 3:20 ) .
Verses 9-15 Where is Sarah thy wife? was asked. Note the answer, In the tent. Just at hand, in her proper place, occupied in her household concerns. There is nothing got by gadding. Those are most likely to receive comfort from God and his promises, who are in their proper place, and in the way of their duty, Lu. 2:8 . We are slow of heart to believe, and need line upon line to the same purport. The blessings others have from common providence, believers have from the Divine promise, which makes them very sweet, and very sure. The spiritual seed of Abraham owe their life, and joy, and hope, and all, to the promise. Sarah thinks this too good news to be true; she laughed, and therefore cannot as yet find in her heart to believe it. Sarah laughed. We might not have thought there was a difference between Sarah's laughter and Abraham's, ch. 17:17 ; but He who searches the heart, saw that the one sprung from unbelief, and the other from faith. She denied that she had laughed. One sin commonly brings in another, and it is not likely we shall strictly keep to truth, when we question the Divine truth. But whom the Lord loves he will rebuke, convict, silence, and bring to repentance, and if they sin before him.
Verses 16-22 The two who are supposed to have been created angels went toward Sodom. The one who is called Jehovah throughout the chapter, continued with Abraham, and would not hide from him the thing he intended to do. Though God long forbears with sinners, from which they fancy that the Lord does not see, and does not regard; yet when the day of his wrath comes, he will look toward them. The Lord will give Abraham an opportunity to intercede with him, and shows him the reason of his conduct. Consider, as a very bright part of Abraham's character and example, that he not only prayed with his family, but he was very careful to teach and rule them well. Those who expect family blessings must make conscience of family duty. Abraham did not fill their heads with matters of doubtful dispute; but he taught them to be serious and devout in the worship of God, and to be honest in their dealings with all men. Of how few may such a character be given in our days! How little care is taken by masters of families to ground those under them in the principles of religion! Do we watch from sabbath to sabbath whether they go forward or backward?
Verses 23-33 Here is the first solemn prayer upon record in the Bible; and it is a prayer for the sparing of Sodom. Abraham prayed earnestly that Sodom might be spared, if but a few righteous persons should be found in it. Come and learn from Abraham what compassion we should feel for sinners, and how earnestly we should pray for them. We see here that the effectual, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much. Abraham, indeed, failed in his request for the whole place, but Lot was miraculously delivered. Be encouraged then to expect, by earnest prayer, the blessing of God upon your families, your friends, your neighbourhood. To this end you must not only pray, but you must live like Abraham. He knew the Judge of all the earth would do right. He does not plead that the wicked may be spared for their own sake, or because it would be severe to destroy them, but for the sake of the righteous who might be found among them. And righteousness only can be made a plea before God. How then did Christ make intercession for transgressors? Not by blaming the Divine law, nor by alleging aught in extenuation or excuse of human guilt; but by pleading HIS OWN obedience unto death.
Genesis 18:1-8 . ENTERTAINMENT OF ANGELS.
1. the Lord appeared--another manifestation of the divine presence, more familiar than any yet narrated; and more like that in the fulness of time, when the Word was made flesh.
plains of Mamre--rather, terebinth or oak of Mamre; a tall-spreading tree or grove of trees.
sat in the tent door--The tent itself being too close and sultry at noon, the shaded open front is usually resorted to for the air that may be stirring.
2. lift up his eyes . . . and, lo, three men--Travellers in that quarter start at sunrise and continue till midday when they look out for some resting-place.
he ran to meet them--When the visitor is an ordinary person, the host merely rises; but if of superior rank, the custom is to advance a little towards the stranger, and after a very low bow, turn and lead him to the tent, putting an arm round his waist, or tapping him on the shoulder as they go, to assure him of welcome.
3. My Lord, if now I have found favor--The hospitalities offered are just of the kind that are necessary and most grateful, the refreshment of water, for feet exposed to dust and heat by the sandals, being still the first observed among the pastoral people of Hebron.
5. for therefore are ye come--No questions were asked. But Abraham knew their object by the course they took--approaching directly in front of the chief sheik's tent, which is always distinguishable from the rest and thus showing their wish to be his guests.
6. Abraham hastened . . . unto Sarah . . . make cakes upon the hearth--Bread is baked daily, 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 being rolled out into cakes, it is placed on the earthen floor, previously heated by a fire. The fire being removed, the cakes are laid on the ground, and being covered over with hot embers, are soon baked, and eaten the moment they are taken off.
7. Abraham ran unto the herd, and fetched a calf--Animal food 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.
8. milk--A bowl of camel's milk ends the repast.
he stood by them under the tree--The host himself, even though he has a number of servants, deems it a necessary act of politeness to stand while his guests are at their food, and Abraham evidently did this before he was aware of the real character of his visitors.
Genesis 18:9-15 . REPROOF OF SARAH. An inquiry about his wife, so surprising in strangers, the subject of conversation, and the fulfilment of the fondly cherished promise within a specified time, showed Abraham that he had been entertaining more than ordinary travellers ( Hebrews 13:2 ).
10. Sarah heard it in the tent door, which was behind him--The women's apartment is in the back of the tent, divided by a thin partition from the men's.
12. Therefore Sarah laughed within herself--Long delay seems to have weakened faith. Sarah treated the announcement as incredible, and when taxed with the silent sneer, she added falsehood to distrust. It was an aggravated offense ( Acts 5:4 ), and nothing but grace saved her ( Romans 9:18 ).
Genesis 18:16-22 . DISCLOSURE OF SODOM'S DOOM.
16. the men rose . . . Abraham went with them--It is customary for a host to escort his guests a little way.
17. the Lord said, Shall I hide--The chief stranger, no other than the Lord, disclosed to Abraham the awful doom about to be inflicted on Sodom and the cities of the plain for their enormous wickedness.
21. I will go down . . . and see--language used after the manner of men. These cities were to be made examples to all future ages of God's severity; and therefore ample proof given that the judgment was neither rash nor excessive ( Ezekiel 18:23 , Jeremiah 18:7 ).
Genesis 18:23-33 . ABRAHAM'S INTERCESSION.
23. Abraham drew near, and said, &c.--The scene described is full of interest and instruction--showing in an unmistakable manner the efficacy of prayer and intercession. (See also Proverbs 18:15:8 , 5:16 ). Abraham reasoned justly as to the rectitude of the divine procedure ( Romans 3:5 Romans 3:6 ), and many guilty cities and nations have been spared on account of God's people ( Matthew 5:13 , 24:22 ).
33. the Lord . . . left communing . . . and Abraham returned unto his place--Why did Abraham cease to carry his intercessions farther? Either because he fondly thought that he was now sure of the cities being preserved ( Luke 13:9 ), or because the Lord restrained his mind from further intercession ( Jeremiah 7:16 , 11:14 ). But there were not ten "righteous persons." There was only one, and he might without injustice have perished in the general overthrow ( Ecclesiastes 9:2 ). But a difference is sometimes made, and on this occasion the grace of God was manifested in a signal manner for the sake of Abraham. What a blessing to be connected with a saint of God!