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Bible Commentaries

Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments
Genesis 18

 

 

Verses 1-33

Genesis 18:1. The plains, or the oak, of Mamre, which became a far-famed place, because of Abraham’s intercourse with the heavenly guests.

Genesis 18:2. Three men. The manners of the east, and the ancient rule of hospitality, are here exemplified. Strangers of rank and decency were often entertained as friends, while common travellers lodged in sheltered places of the streets. Genesis 19:2. 19:18. These visitors were standing over against him. When a traveller visits an Indian town of America, he sits down at a little distance till the men confer together, and come and invite him to some hut.—The three men were three angels, whom Abraham entertained unaware, one of whom was the Lord Christ, Malachi 3:1; which is a farther proof of his Godhead, and of the Holy Trinity. The christian fathers have laid great emphasis on this passage. The Council of Antioch urge it, with the corresponding history, very forcibly against Paulus Samosaten. “This Son of God,” say they, “personally distinct from the Father, appeared to Abraham at the oak of Mamre. He was one of the three in human form, with whom the patriarch conversed as with the universal Lord and Judge. He was the Lord who rained fire and brimstone on Sodom and Gomorrah. He was his Father’s hallowed Agent, in his intercourse with the patriarchs. He is also the same person, distinguished by the several names of Angel of the divine Council, Angel of the Lord, and of God. Now assuredly it must imply the most horrid impiety and irreligion, to imagine that Moses would call any angelic power Ton Theon ton olon, the God of the universe and of the whole creation. And yet, He who is thus the Lord and God, is both the Son and the angel of the Father.” Council, tom. 1. col. 846.

Genesis 18:3. My Lord. Adonai, not Jehovah; for Abraham knew these persons only as men of rank and patriarchal respectability; and by consequence addressed himself to him, who had the appearance of priority. This person is called Jehovah in the subsequent parts of this history, and is with one voice among the christian fathers understood of Christ. They will not allow that Jehovah ever lent his name to an angel.

Genesis 18:8. They did eat, having temporary bodies or vehicles, the better to try Abraham’s faith; and they ate merely to support the character of strangers.

Genesis 18:10. I will certainly return, at the end of nine months, and Sarah shall have a son. The like promise is made to the Shunamite. 2 Kings 4:16. St. Paul seems to allude to this promise when he says, 1 Timothy 2:15, She shall be saved in childbearing, if she continue in the faith; a promise of peculiar comfort to pious females in such circumstances. To Sarah it was assuredly the promise of a happy issue.

Genesis 18:12. My lord being old. This example of Sarah’s reverence for her husband, in calling him “lord,” is commended in the scriptures, and enforced upon all married females. 1 Peter 3:6.

Genesis 18:13. Wherefore did Sarah laugh. She laughed with pleasure; but her unbelief, knowing her age, was greater than her pleasure. Women were not admitted into promiscuous company, yet through the curtain of the tent they might often enjoy the conversation of strangers. It is christianity which has introduced women to their proper rank in society, there being neither male nor female in Christ Jesus; but in him all are one.

Genesis 18:17. Shall I hide from Abraham the thing that I do? God made Abraham here his friend, by admission to his council, that he might command his children with the greater authority, and teach them to do justice and judgment. This was a high mark of confidence which God put upon a worm.

REFLECTIONS.

The Lord here once more appears to Abraham, and on a mission of mercy and of judgment. Formerly he had appeared to this patriarch in his glorious angelic character, to enlarge the promises, and defend his person; now he appears as man to try his faith in those promises, a proof that providence never for one moment lost sight of the promise of our redemption by Jesus Christ. Learn then, oh my soul, to keep thine eye stedfastly fixed on the same promise, and on the same hope.

Abraham’s piety was distinguished by hospitality; he courteously received the three strangers approaching his tent, and feasted them with one plain but excellent dish. He received them as men, but before their departure he found he had received his master also. Let us learn to follow him in acts of benevolence and love. Hebrews 13:2-3. The Lord came likewise to try Sarah’s faith, which, on account of her age, seemed totally lost; for she laughed when she heard of a son; and when reproved, being confounded with shame, she would fain have dissembled her weakness. Lord, and can faith weak and faulty, like Sarah’s, obtain a blessing? Then let my confidence be revived, and let my soul have its portion in the same Messiah.

Abraham having received the Lord as a friend, went not without his reward: the Lord made a friend of Abraham in return. He acquainted him with the secrets of his providence in regard to Sodom; for he is wont to make man a witness of his ways, and fully apprized him of the equity and wisdom of his conduct. And mark the ground of God’s friendship; it was because he knew Abraham would command his household after him to keep the way of the Lord. Let us learn then to contract no particular friendship but with God’s friends. No bonds are lasting but the bonds of those who act with a single eye to the glory of God.

The cry of Sodom was great: Gomorrah, Admah, Zeboim, and nine other towns, according to Josephus, were included. The cry of blood, of violence, and wrongs; the cry of unprotected innocence, and sins which cannot be named, all ascended in one dark cloud to heaven, and so long that they seemed to reproach God with supineness and delay. And what shall we say for Britain! Our crimes are great and grievous. Our luxury and dissipation, our impiety and profaneness, our infidelity and debauchery are great in the sight of the Lord. And our day * * * Ah what would my fears suggest! I check myself. But let the minister cry aloud, let the magistrate punish vice, and let the parent restrain his children; then the Lord will punish the guilty alone, and not involve the whole land in the calamity.

The Lord having informed the patriarch that he would destroy Sodom, in case he found the reports true; and Abraham, but too well assured of its wickedness, feeling as a man for men, and trembling for the situation of Lot, enters, in some sort, unawares into the highest strains of supplication and deprecatory devotion. Trace the characters of his intercession; he appeals to the Judge of all the earth for equity; and on being assured that the righteous should not be destroyed with the wicked, he ventures to fix the number at fifty, for whose sake the whole should be spared. The more the Lord condescends to the supplicant in reducing the number on every petition, the more he humbles himself as dust and ashes, till at last the Lord said, I will not destroy the city for ten’s sake. What an example of a mortal man pleading with his Maker, and in so bad a cause! How happy, how very happy must they be, who have Jesus Christ pleading for them at God’s right hand. Let us learn therefore ever to pray for our king and our country, for the church and the whole human race.

But did Abraham leave off pleading on the number being reduced to ten? There is a point, an awful point, when the righteous can no longer protect the wicked. When God protests that Noah, Daniel, and Job, should not deliver them; then there is no remedy, no more help in the Lord.

 


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Bibliography Information
Sutcliffe, Joseph. "Commentary on Genesis 18:4". Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jsc/genesis-18.html. 1835.

Lectionary Calendar
Wednesday, June 3rd, 2020
the Week of Proper 4 / Ordinary 9
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