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Bible Commentaries

L. M. Grant's Commentary on the Bible
Genesis 18

 

 


Verses 1-33

A DIVINE VISITATION

Though previous to this chapter we read twice of the Lord appearing to Abraham (ch.13:7; 17:1), we are not told in what way He appeared. Now, in chapter 18 we are faced with what is called a "theophany," for the Lord Himself appears in manhood form, and two angels accompany Him, also appearing as men. They are called angels in chapter 19:1. The occasion is not confirmed to leaving a message, but involves having a prolonged visit with Abraham. It is clear that the Lord desired this time of fellowship with His servant before He must engage in the solemn work of judging Sodom and Gomorrah. In what body He came remains a mystery: we do not know, though it was certainly miraculous.

Abraham was no doubt meditating as he sat in the tent door in the heat of the day (v.2). It was not the time for work, but for relaxation. Sitting in the tent door reminds us of his pilgrim character. Very likely his thoughts were centered around his Lord, for when He saw the three men nearby, he immediately recognized one of them as the Lord (v.3). He ran to meet them, though he was not a young man. The energy of his faith and affection for the Lord is lovely to observe. He bowed himself to the earth and entreated the Lord to remain with him in order to partake of his hospitality, offering water to wash their feet and asking them to rest under the shade of the tree. Then he only mentions a piece of bread for food, though he had much more than that in mind (v.5).

When his suggestion is accepted, he enlists the help of Sarah to quickly prepare three measures of fine flour to make bread cakes. Matthew 13:33 speaks of "three measures of meal" also. Typically this speaks of the Lord Jesus in the detailed perfection of His manhood, the number three implying His resurrection from among the dead. Besides this, Abraham ran to his herd to find a tender and good calf, having a young man slaughter and cook it. Of course this would occupy some time, and he added butter and milk to the nourishing meal, setting it before them to eat while he stood by (v.8). The calf speaks of Christ in His patient, lowly service, and His blood shed in sacrifice. Milk symbolizes the word of God in its simplest form shed in sacrifice. while butter is the cream of the milk churned and solidified, thus typically the word of God becoming substantial to one who is exercised by it. How good is such food! Let us keep always in mind too that the heart of God is delighted with that which speaks to Him of His beloved Son. Thus we too may have practical fellowship with the Gather and with His Son Jesus Christ.

But the Lord had a message for Sarah too. He asks Abraham where she was, which was certainly intended to attract Sarah's attention, specially when her name was mentioned (v.9). Therefore she understood well what the Lord said to Abraham, "I will certainly return to you according to the time of life, and behold, Sarah your wife shall have a son" (v.19). However, Sarah did not stop to consider who it was who was speaking in this unusual way. . . She only thought of the fact that Abraham and she were very old, and being far past the age of childbearing. She laughed inwardly (v.12) in total disbelief, and her silent words are forever recorded in the word of God (In fact, to her credit, 1 Peter 3:6 speaks of this very occasion when she called Abraham "lord," indicating her subjection to him even in her private thoughts).

The Lord therefore asked Abraham why Sarah laughed, questioning the truth of what He had said about her. Then He has a question for her that she must face directly: "Is anything too hard for the Lord?" (v.14). So that He repeats what He had said, and not the slightest questioning of it can be permitted: "Sarah shall have a son."

Sarah did not again show her disbelief, but she did deny that she had laughed. She may have meant she did not laugh audibly, but the Lord insisted, "No, but you did laugh" (v.15). The Lord had the last word, and no doubt this occasion was the turning point for Sarah; for we read in Hebrews 11:11, "By faith Sarah herself received strength to conceive seed, and she bore a child when she was past age, because she judged Him faithful who had promised." Her unbelief was changed into genuine faith through the plain word of God given to her, and that faith bore fruit. To take deeply to heart the truth of God's word is the very essence of faith. As to this same occasion, Abraham's faith is commended in Romans 4:19-21.

Abraham has therefore had the wonderful privilege of ministering comfort to the Lord and the two angels as they are on their way to do the painful work of judging Sodom and Gomorrah. It is a reminder to us that the Lord now seeks the comforting fellowship of the church of God previous to His having to pour out His judgment upon an ungodly world. Is there not a special emphasis on this truth involved in the Lord's words to His disciples on the night of His betrayal, "With fervent desire I have desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer" (Luke 22:15)? Today He seeks that same fellowship with us before He must judge the world.

ABRAHAM INTERCEDES FOR SODOM

Following the Lord's refreshing, comforting experience with Abraham, there is solemn, dreadful work to be done. The men rise up from their enjoyable meal, and look toward Sodom. Abraham, not realizing their purpose, accompanies them for a distance (v.16). Then the Lord spoke, evidently to the two angels, "Shall I hide from Abraham that thing which I do, seeing that Abraham shall surely become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in Him? For I have known him, in order that he may command his children and his household after him, that they keep the way of the Lord, to do righteousness and justice, that the Lord may bring to Abraham what He has spoken to him."

It is a wonderful principle that the Lord affirms here. His own future purposes are not to be hidden from the man of faith. Because the Lord has known Abraham to be a man of solid, dependable character, He will reveal to Him His thoughts as to the future. Indeed, He had already told Abraham that he would be the father of a great and might nation and that in Him all the nations of the earth would be blessed. More than this, the Lord knew Abraham well, and knew that Abraham would command his children and his household. This is just what God Himself does, in contrast to great numbers who show irresponsibility in regard to so serious a matter. It is not merely that Abraham would give orders to his children, but that his character and conduct were such as to command their respect. Compare Genesis 22:7-9.

But not only does God have thoughts of future blessing for those who trust Him. He will reveal to them also another side of the truth, most solemn and terrible. He must punish the rebellion of evil doers. This is just as faithfully recorded in the word of God as is the blessing of the godly. He speaks to Abraham therefore of the sin of Sodom and Gomorrah: the outcry of the city was becoming so alarming, their sin so extremely grave, that He would go down to fully investigate its condition (v.21). Of course the Lord knew every detain of the evil of those cities, but He is always slow to judge until the wickedness is demonstrated to be beyond remedy.

The Lord personally, however, remained with Abraham to give him opportunity to intercede, while the two others left and went toward Sodom, plainly as being representatives of the Lord (v.22). Now as Abraham pleads with the Lord, we know he has Lot particularly in mind. Yet he could evidently not bring himself to think that Lot might be the only righteous person in Sodom. The Lord had mentioned both Sodom and Gomorrah (v.20), but in Abraham's intercession only Sodom is considered (v.26). He begins by asking if God would destroy the righteous with the wicked, and questions, if only 50 righteous were in the city, would all be destroyed? He cannot imagine the Judge of all the earth making the righteous suffer together with the wicked, for certainly the Judge will do right (vs.23-25). Fifty would be a very small percentage, yet Abraham probably remembered that God had saved eight people only out of the whole world when He destroyed it by a flood (Genesis 7:7).

The Lord gives Abraham full assurance that He would not destroy the city if He found fifty righteous there. This surely reminds us that believers are "the salt of the earth" (Matthew 5:13). Their presence preserves the world from the judgment that seems so imminent. At the Rapture, when all believers are transferred into the presence of the Lord, this preserving character will be gone, and judgment will fall in all its terror on the ungodly world.

When Abraham lowers the number to forty-five (v.28), he takes the humble place of recognizing that he is only a creature of dust speaking to his infinitely great Creator, yet he asks out of confidence in the living God. Again God gives His word that He would not destroy the city if forty-five righteous were found there. Then Abraham reduces the number to forty, and receives the same gracious assurance that the city would be spared for the sake of forty. The to thirty (v.30), and lower yet to twenty, and finally to ten (v.32). Each time he shows that he feels his own unworthiness of making these requests, but the Lord loves to encourage confidence in His grace, and declares that He would not destroy the city if even ten righteous were found there.

No doubt Abraham may have gone further yet in his intercession, for evidently Lot was the only righteous person in the city. But this surely tells us that we generally always underestimate the fulness and perfection of the grace of God. Our prayers might have much more confidence in them than we usually show. Whether Abraham thought there must be at least ten righteous in Sodom, or whether he decided that he had gone low enough in his intercession, yet he ends it here, and the Lord leaves while he returns home. Yet Abraham would certainly be left with subdued thoughts, and his eyes would be turned in apprehension toward Sodom.

 


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Bibliography Information
Grant, L. M. "Commentary on Genesis 18:4". L.M. Grant's Commentary on the Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/lmg/genesis-18.html. 1897-1910.

Lectionary Calendar
Tuesday, December 1st, 2020
the First Week of Advent
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