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Barnes' Notes on the Bible
1And the LORD appeared unto him in the plains of Mamre: and he sat in the tent door in the heat of the day;
The Lord visits Abraham and assures Sarah of the birth of a son. Abraham is sitting in the tent door in the heat of the day, reposing. "Three men stood before him." Whenever visitants from the celestial world appear to men, they have the form of man. This is the only form of a rational being known to us. It is not the design of God in revealing his mercy to us to make us acquainted with the whole of the nature of things. The science of things visible or invisible he leaves to our natural faculties to explore, as far as occasion allows. Hence, we conclude that the celestial visitant is a real being, and that the form is a real form. But we are not entitled to infer that the human is the only or the proper form of such beings, or that they have any ordinary or constant form open to sense. We only discern that they are intelligent beings like ourselves, and, in order to manifest themselves to us as such, put on that form of intelligent creatures with which we are familiar, and in which they can intelligibly confer with us. For the same reason they speak the language of the party addressed, though, for ought we know, spiritual beings use none of the many languages of humanity, and have quite a different mode of communicating with one another. Other human acts follow on the occasion. They accept the hospitality of Abraham and partake of human food. This, also, was a real act. It does not imply, however, that food is necessary to spiritual beings. The whole is a typical act representing communion between God and Abraham. The giving and receiving of a meal was the ground of a perpetual or inviolable friendship.
He ran to meet him. - This indicates the genuine warmth of unsophisticated nature. "Bowed himself to the earth." This indicates a low bow, in which the body becomes horizontal, and the head droops. This gesture is employed both in worship and doing obeisance.
2And 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,
3And said, My Lord, if now I have found favour in thy sight, pass not away, I pray thee, from thy servant:
O Lord. - Abraham uses the word אדני 'adonāy denoting one having authority, whether divine or not. This the Masorites mark as sacred, and apply the vowel points proper to the word when it signifies God. These men in some way represent God; for "the Lord" on this occasion appeared unto Abraham Genesis 18:1. The number is in this respect notable. Abraham addresses himself first to one person Genesis 18:3, then to more than one Genesis 18:4-5. It is stated that "'they' said, So do Genesis 18:5, 'they' did eat Genesis 18:8, ' they' said unto him, Where is Sarah thy wife" Genesis 18:9. Then the singular number is resumed in the phrase "'and he said'" Genesis 18:10, and at length, "The Lord said unto Abraham" Genesis 18:13, and then, "and he said" Genesis 18:15. Then we are told "'the men' rose up, and Abraham went with them" Genesis 18:16. Then we have "The Lord said" twice Genesis 18:17, Genesis 18:20. And lastly, it is said Genesis 18:22 "'the men' turned their faces and went toward Sodom, and Abraham was yet standing before the Lord." From this it appears that of the three men one, at all events, was the Lord, who, when the other two went toward Sodom, remained with Abraham while he made his intercession for Sodom, and afterward he also went his way. The other two will come before us again in the next chapter. Meanwhile, we have here the first explicit instance of the Lord appearing as man to man, and holding familiar conversation with him.
The narrative affords a pleasing instance of the primitive manners of the East. The hospitality of the pastoral tribes was spontaneous and unreserved. The washing of the feet, which were partly at least uncovered in walking, the reclining under the tree, and the offer of refreshment, are indicative of an unchanging rural simplicity. The phrases "a little water, a morsel of bread," flow from a thoughtful courtesy. "Therefore are ye come." In the course of events it has so fallen out, in order that you might be refreshed. The brief reply is a frank and unaffected acceptance of the hospitable invitation.
4Let a little water, I pray you, be fetched, and wash your feet, and rest yourselves under the tree:
5And 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.
6And 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.
Abraham hastened. - The unvarying customs of Eastern pastoral life here come up before us. There is plenty of flour and of live cattle. But the cakes have to be kneaded and baked on the hearth, and the calf has to be killed and dressed. Abraham personally gives directions, Sarah personally attends to the baking, and the boy or lad - that is, the domestic servant whose business it is - kills and dresses the meat. Abraham himself attends upon his guests. "Three seahs." About three pecks, and therefore a superabundant supply for three guests. An omer, or three tenths of a seah, was considered sufficient for one man for a day Exodus 16:16. But Abraham had a numerous household, and plentifulness was the character of primitive hospitality. "Hearth cakes," baked among the coals. "Butter" - seemingly any preparation of milk, cream, curds, or butter, all of which are used in the East.
7And 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.
8And 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.
9And they said unto him, Where is Sarah thy wife? And he said, Behold, in the tent.
The promise to Sarah. The men now enter upon the business of their visit. "Where is Sarah thy wife?" The jealousy and seclusion of later times had not yet rendered such an inquiry uncourteous. Sarah is within hearing of the conversation. "I will certainly return unto thee." This is the language of self-determination, and therefore suitable to the sovereign, not to the ambassador. "At the time of life;" literally the living time, seemingly the time of birth, when the child comes to manifest life. "Sarah thy wife shall have a son." Sarah hears this with incredulous surprise, and laughs with mingled doubt and delight. She knows that in the nature of things she is past child-bearing. "Is anything too hard for the Lord?" Sarah laughed within herself, within the tent and behind the speaker; yet to her surprise her internal feelings are known to him. She finds there is One present who rises above the sphere of nature. In her confusion and terror she denies that she laughed. But he who sees what is within, insists that she did laugh, at least in the thought of her heart. There is a beautiful simplicity in the whole scene. Sarah now doubtless received faith and strength to conceive.
The conference concerning Sodom. The human manner of the interview is carried out to the end. Abraham convoys his departing guests. The Lord then speaks, apparently debating with himself whether he shall reveal his intentions to Abraham. The reasons for doing so are assigned. First. Abraham shall surely become a nation great and mighty, and therefore has the interest of humanity in this act of retribution on Sodom. All that concerns man concerns him. Second. Blessed in him shall be all the nations of the earth. Hence, he is personally and directly concerned with all the dealings of mercy and judgment among the inhabitants of the earth. Third. "I have known him." The Lord has made himself known to him, has manifested his love to him, has renewed him after his own image; and hence this judgment upon Sodom is to be explained to him, that he may train his household to avoid the sins of this doomed city, "to keep the way of the Lord, to do justice and judgment; and all this to the further intent that the Lord may bring upon Abraham what he hath spoken of him." The awful judgments of the Lord on Sodom, as before on the antediluvian world, are a warning example to all who are spared or hear of them. And those who, notwithstanding these monuments of the divine vengeance, will cease to do justice and judgment, may be certain that they will not continue to enjoy the benefits of the covenant of grace. For all these reasons it is meet that the secret of Lord be with him Psalm 25:11.
10And 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.
11Now Abraham and Sarah were old and well stricken in age; and it ceased to be with Sarah after the manner of women.
12Therefore Sarah laughed within herself, saying, After I am waxed old shall I have pleasure, my lord being old also?
13And 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.
15Then Sarah denied, saying, I laughed not; for she was afraid. And he said, Nay; but thou didst laugh.
16And the men rose up from thence, and looked toward Sodom: and Abraham went with them to bring them on the way.
17And the LORD said, Shall I hide from Abraham that thing which I do;
18Seeing that Abraham shall surely become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him?
19For I know him, that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the LORD, to do justice and judgment; that the LORD may bring upon Abraham that which he hath spoken of him.
20And the LORD said, Because the cry of Sodom and Gomorrah is great, and because their sin is very grievous;
The Lord now proceeds to unfold his design. There is justice in every step of the divine procedure. He comes down to inquire and act according to the merits of the case. The men now depart on their errand; but Abraham still stands before the Lord.
21I will go down now, and see whether they have done altogether according to the cry of it, which is come unto me; and if not, I will know.
22And the men turned their faces from thence, and went toward Sodom: but Abraham stood yet before the LORD.
23And Abraham drew near, and said, Wilt thou also destroy the righteous with the wicked?
Abraham intercedes for Sodom. His spiritual character is unfolded and exalted more and more. He employs the language of a free-born son with his heavenly Father. He puts forward the plea of justice to the righteous in behalf of the city. He ventures to repeat his intervention six times, every time diminishing the number of the righteous whom he supposes to be in it. The patience of the Lord is no less remarkable than the perseverance of Abraham. In every case he grants his petition. "Dust and ashes." This may refer to the custom of burning the dead, as then coexistent with that of burying them. Abraham intimates by a homely figure the comparative insignificance of the petitioner. He is dust at first, and ashes at last.
This completes the full and free conversation of God with Abraham. He accepts his hospitable entertainment, renews his promise of a son by Sarah, communicates to him his counsel, and grants all his requests. It is evident that Abraham has now fully entered upon all the privileges of the sons of God. He has become the friend of God James 2:23.
- The Destruction of Sodom and Amorah
9. גשׁ־<הלאה gesh-hāl'âh, "approach to a distant point," stand back.
11. סנורים sanevērı̂ym, "blindness," affecting the mental more than the ocular vision.
37. מואב mô'āb, Moab; מאב mē'āb, "from a father." בן־עמי ben-‛amı̂y, Ben-'ammi, "son of my people." עמון ‛amôn, 'Ammon, "of the people."
This chapter is the continuation and conclusion of the former. It records a part of God's strange work - strange, because it consists in punishment, and because it is foreign to the covenant of grace. Yet it is closely connected with Abraham's history, inasmuch as it is a signal chastisement of wickedness in his neighborhood, a memorial of the righteous judgment of God to all his posterity, and at the same time a remarkable answer to the spirit, if not to the letter, of his intercessory prayer. His kinsman Lot, the only righteous man in Sodom, with his wife and two daughters, is delivered from destruction in accordance with his earnest appeal on behalf of the righteous.
24Peradventure there be fifty righteous within the city: wilt thou also destroy and not spare the place for the fifty righteous that are therein?
25That be far from thee to do after this manner, to slay the righteous with the wicked: and that the righteous should be as the wicked, that be far from thee: Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?
26And the LORD said, If I find in Sodom fifty righteous within the city, then I will spare all the place for their sakes.
27And Abraham answered and said, Behold now, I have taken upon me to speak unto the Lord, which am but dust and ashes:
28Peradventure there shall lack five of the fifty righteous: wilt thou destroy all the city for lack of five? And he said, If I find there forty and five, I will not destroy it.
29And he spake unto him yet again, and said, Peradventure there shall be forty found there. And he said, I will not do it for forty's sake.
30And 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.
31And 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.
32And 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.
33And the LORD went his way, as soon as he had left communing with Abraham: and Abraham returned unto his place.