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Bible Commentaries
Genesis 18

The Church Pulpit CommentaryChurch Pulpit Commentary

Verse 2


‘When he saw them, he ran to meet them.’

Genesis 18:2

Let us draw near and see this great sight.

I. First, the Lord Himself becomes the guest of mortal man.—Three men came to the tent, but in the presence of the One, whom Abraham addressed as Lord, the others are hardly noticed. When that mysterious personage is withdrawn, the two others destroy cities. Did not the patriarch see and entertain the Christ that day? It seems that he did, for Christ said, ‘Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it, and was glad.’ The Word of God ‘rejoiced in the habitable places of the earth’ before his Incarnation. His delights from of old were with the sons of men; and He is with us still, standing at the door to knock, that if any open the door He may come in and abide. To us He says, as during his earthly life, ‘Make haste, and come down; for to-day I must abide at thy house.’

The picture of God as the Guest of Abraham is a symbol of that spiritual relationship which is brought very clearly and beautifully before us in the New Testament. What an unspeakable privilege it is to have God as our guest, and for us to be His guest! ( John 14:23; Revelation 3:20).

II. Our life in relation to God can be summed up in four words—sonship, worship, stewardship, fellowship.—The believer is at once a son, a subject, a servant, and a friend of God. The last-named relationship marks the later period of Abraham’s life, and seems to be (as always) associated with growth and maturity of spiritual experience. In Genesis 18 there are several aspects of the believer’s fellowship with God, and it is probable that from this period commence those experiences which led to Abraham being called the ‘friend of God.’ He is the only one to whom this designation is given in the Old Testament.


Genesis 18:1: ‘Abraham sat in the tent door.’

Genesis 19:1: ‘Lot sat in the gate of Sodom.’

Lord, if ensnared by love of gain,

My eager steps I’ve bent

Toward sinful cities of the plain,

And, like Lot, pitched my tent

In Sodom, where the body’s fed,

But where the soul is famished,

Oh, help me to repent.

And in Thy mercy come to me,

And by Thy Spirit, say:—

‘Haste! fly thou hence, or sin will be

Thy ruin, if thou stay’;

And if, with ling’ring look, I stand,

In love with evil, take my hand

And lead Thou me away.

Thou bidd’st me seek for joys Divine

And oft to turn I vow;

Yet still entranced before the shrine

Of earthly good I bow.

Against myself, Lord, I complain;

Thou bidd’st me fly—I still remain;

Oh, help; and help me now.

I need not only Thy command

To shun the path of ill;

I need Thy kind and loving hand

To aid my falt’ring will,

And snatch me in temptation’s hour,

From evil’s dread ensnaring power,

To love and serve Thee still.

Oh, for Thy love my soul to fill;

Oh, for that time when never

Again shall waywardness of will,

My soul from Thee, Lord, sever!

But Thy will shall be wholly mine;

And mine be wholly lost in Thine,

Or rather, found for ever.

Verse 22


‘And the men turned their faces from thence, and went toward Sodom: but Abraham stood yet before the Lord.’

Genesis 18:22

Even under the Old Testament, there were certain visits of Christ to our world which we cannot but consider as earnests or shadows of His great advent. It is clear that in very ancient times God appeared to His servants in the form of a man.

I. From many passages in the Old and New Testaments (notably Isaiah 63:8-9, John 8:56) we are led to believe: (1) that Christ exercised great concern in the affairs of the Old Testament Church; (2) that He did at certain periods discover Himself in the garb which He was afterwards to assume, and which when assumed He went on to wear for ever; (3) that He was the superior angel whom we find speaking under that manifestation, and to whom, always, Divine honours were paid.

II. The narrative in this chapter opens by telling us generally that ‘the Lord appeared unto Abraham.’ How the Lord appeared is related in the rest of the chapter. (1) To all his three guests Abraham was kind, hospitable, reverential; but to one he was more. From the first that one attracted his regard. He addressed him at once as ‘my Lord.’ (2) In the conversation which ensued there are certain things which all said together, and certain things which only one says. The former are comparatively trivial; the latter most important. (3) When the men were gone, we have these very discriminating words; ‘Abraham stood yet before the Lord.’

III. Note some points in Christ’s character and work brought out in this chapter. (1) He was accompanied by the ministration of angels. (2) He condescended to receive from man. (3) He exercised the two offices of a promiser and a reprover. (4) He came to Abraham as a Friend in sympathy, but He came also as a mighty Deliverer and an avenging Judge.

—Rev. Jas. Vaughan.


‘My praying is conformed too little to the pattern which Abraham has set me. It is too selfish. My outlook should be much larger. My soul should be less wrapped up in its own wants and its own sorrows. I belong to a kingdom of priests—priests who are intended, who are set apart, to make supplication for saints and for sinners, and for sufferers everywhere. “Beloved, let us love one another; for love is of God; and everyone that loveth is born of God and knoweth God.” And the language of love, its mother tongue, is prayer.

“A frequent intercession with God,” says William Law, “earnestly beseeching Him to forgive the sins of all mankind, to bless them with His Spirit, and to bring them to everlasting happiness, is the divinest exercise that the heart of man can be engaged in.” It must be a divine exercise; for not only did Abraham, the father of the faithful, practise it, but my Lord Jesus Christ abandoned Himself to it often and gladly. And let me seek to learn better the blessed art.’

Verse 25


‘Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?’

Genesis 18:25

Abraham had learned that to address himself to God’s justice was better even than to appeal to His mercy. And for this reason,—it is a stronger basis. Justice is a more definite thing than mercy. Every man who feels his sins should lay firm hold on the thought that ‘He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins.’ Then we stand upon a rock.

I. The greatest requisite of a Judge is justice.—The last great judgment will be characterised by the most exquisite justice. All the justice of this world is merely a reflection of this attribute of the Almighty.

II. It seems essential to the dignity and uprightness of that tribunal that we believe equally two things: (1) That God having been pleased to lay down only one way of salvation, no man who, having been made acquainted with that way, attempts to get to heaven by any other, can be admitted; (2) that no man, who is in earnest about his salvation, can or shall be lost.

III. Here the question arises, What is the state before God now? what will be the final condition of those who have never heard the name of Christ? We must keep to the one thought—the justice of the last judgment shall be vindicated. We inherit from Adam an entail of condemnation. Jesus Christ by His death rolled back the entail of condemnation from all mankind. These two facts are co-extensive. No man perishes because of Adam’s sin: God has cancelled that evil by the death of His Son. From the second chapter of Romans we gather that every man will be judged and dealt with according to his conscience; and if any man have really lived up to the light that was in him, even though that light was only the light of reason and nature, that man will not eternally perish. The man who does not perish because he has obeyed his own conscience is saved for Christ’s sake, even though he never heard His name. He owes his salvation to an unknown Saviour.

IV. Does this view affect injuriously the work of missions? No; because ( a) it does not follow, because a heathen who obeys his conscience will not perish, that therefore he can attain the same degree of eternal happiness as a Christian. By making him a Christian we put him in a better position. ( b) Consider the very small chance there is that any heathen will follow his conscience. Christ bids us ‘preach the Gospel to every creature.’

Rev. Jas Vaughan.


‘Abraham’s intercessory prayer has not impressed all readers alike. Some have been offended by the bargaining spirit which they detect in it. A very sympathetic student has said, “The intimacy borders on irreverence. Even the Son of Man finds the ‘Be it far from Thee’ of Peter ( Matthew 16:22) unbearable.” But we may learn much from its nobler qualities. Think of the large-hearted love that is not content to have relatives spared, but would fain save unknown foreigners, the opposite pole to the Swiss peasant’s selfishness, on whose house was inscribed:—

Let this house, St. Florian, be free from alarm

Let others catch fire, but ours take no harm.

The humility which says: “I have taken upon me to speak,” acknowledging thus that it was a bold thing, and going on to add, “I am hut dust and ashes.” The boldness which argues out the case step by step, the expansion of hope, and so of prayer, till fifty is reduced to ten. Altogether, it is a noble example of the sort of pleading which our own poet urges:—

Be not afraid to pray—to pray is right,

Pray, if thou canst, with hope, but ever pray,

Though hope be weak, or sick with long delay:

Pray in the darkness, if there be no light.

Far is the time, removed from human sight,

When war and discord on the earth shall cease,

Yet every prayer for universal peace

Avails the blessed time to expedite.’

Bibliographical Information
Nisbet, James. "Commentary on Genesis 18". The Church Pulpit Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/cpc/genesis-18.html. 1876.
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