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Bible Commentaries

Arthur Peake's Commentary on the Bible
Genesis 18

 

 


Introduction

Genesis 18-19. Abraham's Hospitality Rewarded by Promise of a Son; his Intercession for Sodom; the Vileness of the Sodomites and the Deliverance of Lot when Sodom is Destroyed? the Desperate Strategy of Lot's Daughters.—This long and admirably-told narrative belongs to J, apart from Genesis 19:29 (P). But it presents complicated critical problems. Genesis 18:22 b - Genesis 18:33 a seems to be a later insertion. In Genesis 18:22 a "the men" go on toward Sodom, presumably including Yahweh, who has just said He will go, and who seems from Genesis 19:17-22 to be in Sodom. In Genesis 18:22 b - Genesis 18:33 a He stays behind with Abraham. In Genesis 18:20 f. He is going to investigate on the spot the guilt of Sodom, in Genesis 18:22 b - Genesis 18:33 a its guilt has become clear enough for judgment to be passed upon it (similarly in Genesis 18:17-19, which accordingly seems to be an insertion). In the main story the conception of Yahweh is intensely anthropomorphic. He even eats the meal prepared for Him, and has to learn by personal inquiry on the spot whether Sodom deserves what He has heard about it; in the episode of Abraham's intercession, He is the judge of the whole earth. We have also a perplexing interchange of the singular and plural, sometimes "they" or "the men," sometimes "he." This may point to the origin of the main narrative by combination of two sources; or perhaps the original story spoke of three gods, and the necessary transformation has not been carried through so thoroughly as to obliterate all traces of its polytheistic origin. The story has not a few parallels, and it may be a variant of a widely-diffused account of a visit paid to earth by celestial beings, who rewarded with a child those who had hospitably entertained them, but destroyed those who were churlish and their homes with them. It does not follow, however, that our story is simply the application to this district of a legend originally located elsewhere. The overthrow was probably not wrought by volcanic eruption, but by an explosion in the bituminous soil, the matter flung skyward by the explosion falling back on the cities as a fiery rain ("brimstone and fire"). An earthquake may have taken place at the same time. The phenomena are quite suitable to the district (p. 33). The conduct of the Sodomites has a parallel in the hideous story of Judges 19.


Verses 1-15

Genesis 18:1-15. At the midday siesta Abraham suddenly becomes aware that three men are standing near his tent. That they appear with such mysterious suddenness does not, however, suggest their true character to him. He sees in them wayfarers, and treats them with prompt and generous hospitality. Addressing the leader, he proffers an invitation to rest and modest refreshment. He bids Sarah prepare cakes, kills a calf, procures soured milk and new milk, and sets this improvised meal, such as a Bedouin chief would offer to-day, before his guests, and while they eat stands in attendance. They ask after Sarah, and learn that she is in the tent. Yahweh promises that He will return and Sarah shall have a son. She is listening and laughs inwardly in incredulity. The visitors, who had shown themselves familiar with her name and childlessness, and who have promised a child, give a further proof of their mysterious powers to Sarah's dismay in detecting her unuttered thought, and repeat the promise, with a rebuke for her denial.

Genesis 18:3. My lord: the margin "O Lord" implies that Abraham recognised the Divine character of his guest, but this is incorrect.

Genesis 18:6. fine meal: literally "meal, fine flour"; the words "fine flour" are added by an editor, because meal offered to God must, according to P, be fine flour.

Genesis 18:12. laughed: the name "Isaac" means "he laughs"; at the promise of a child Abraham laughs (Genesis 17:17), and now Sarah. She refers in Genesis 21:6 to the laughter with which Isaac's birth will be greeted. She is roused to jealousy by seeing Ishmael's "sporting" (a participle from the same root) with him on equal terms when he is weaned (Genesis 21:9); in Genesis 26:8 Abimelech sees Isaac "sporting" with his wife.


Verses 1-33

Genesis 12:1 to Genesis 25:18. The Story of Abraham.—In this section the three main sources, J. E, P are present. Gunkel has given strong reasons for holding that J is here made up of two main sources, one connecting Abraham with Hebron, the other with Beersheba and the Negeb. The former associates Abraham with Lot. (For details, see ICC.) On the interpretation to be placed on the figures of Abraham and the patriarchs, see the Introduction. The interest, which has hitherto been diffused over the fortunes of mankind in general, is now concentrated on Abraham and his posterity, the principle of election narrowing it down to Isaac, Ishmael being left aside, and then to Jacob, Esau being excluded.


Verses 16-33

Genesis 18:16-33. Apart from the insertions (Genesis 18:17-19, Genesis 18:22 b - Genesis 18:33 a) the story went on to say that Abraham accompanied his guests, and Yahweh told him that he was going down to Sodom to ascertain if it was really as wicked as rumour declared; then the men went on towards Sodom and Abraham returned home. In the inserted passages judgment is already settled. Yahweh soliloquises and decides to take Abraham into his confidence in view of the great destiny reserved for him. After "the men" have gone on, Yahweh remains, and Abraham pleads that if a certain number of righteous persons be found in Sodom, a number which he brings down from fifty to ten, the city may be spared for their sake. To this Yahweh assents. The principle which Abraham lays down is that the righteous should not be slain with the wicked, but his actual proposal is not that the righteous should be permitted to escape, but that the wicked city should be spared if it contained ten righteous persons. It is noteworthy how the author, having to put six proposals in Abraham's lips, identical except for the numbers, contrives to introduce so much variety of form.

Genesis 18:19. known: i.e. chosen (cf. Amos 3:2).

Genesis 18:20. We should perhaps render, with the omission of one letter, "There is a report about Sodom and Gomorrah, that their sin is great, that it is very grievous."

 


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Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.

Bibliography Information
Peake, Arthur. "Commentary on Genesis 18:4". "Arthur Peake's Commentary on the Bible ". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/pfc/genesis-18.html. 1919.

Lectionary Calendar
Tuesday, October 27th, 2020
the Week of Proper 25 / Ordinary 30
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