SECTION THREE - ABRAHAM
THE THREE MEN APPEAR TO ABRAHAM Gen. 18:1-23
Soon after the marvelous theophany and covenant described in Genesis 17, Abraham had another visit from God. The Rabbis connect this chapter with the preceding, and declare that God visited the
Patriarch during the disposition which resulted from his circumcision. This, however, was not an appearance of *God in His glory, but rather was in the form of a man and two friends traveling through Hebron in the heat of the day. The context of Genesis 18 and 19 makes it clear that the other two men were angels, who later were sent to Sodom and Gomorrah to bring Gods judgment on those wicked cities. The leader of the three men would have been none other than God Himself and, therefore, Christ in His preincarnate state (John 1:18).
18:2 BOWED HIMSELF TOWARD THE GROUND
There is clearly an element of more than normal; hospitality here. First, he ran to meet them, and then "bowed himself toward the ground." The phrase "bowed himself" is actually the Hebrew word shachah, the usual word for "worship." This, in fact, is the first use of this word in Scripture. Although it is often also used to describe bowing down in obeisance before men, the fact that it is used first in connection with worshipping God in human appearance seems significant as setting the standard for its primary meaning throughout Scripture.
18:8 AND THEY DID EAT
It might seem strange that angels would actually partake physically of human food. It certainly is not necessary for them to do so for their own sustenance. Nevertheless it is evidently possible for them to do so, in connection with their service as "messengers" (actual meaning of the word "angels") from God to man. When Jesus appeared to the disciples, after the resurrection, "did eat before them"
(Luke 24:43). The Lord also taught that, in the resurrection, we ourselves shall be "as the angels of God in heaven" (Matthew 22:30); and there is indication that the activities in the New Jerusalem include eating (Revelation 22:2,14).
18:10 I WILL CERTAINLY RETURN UNTO THEE ACCORDING TO THE TIME OF LIFE
In Jeremiah 1:5 God says, "Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee;" God stated that Sarah would indeed have a son, just as the Lord had promised Abraham probably several weeks before. "It had ceased to be with Sarah after the manner of women." She had passed her "change of life," but her "season" for child-bearing was to be revived, all the more miraculously since her womb had been barren even when she was young. This marvelous promise would require a miracle of physical regeneration, and therefore the presence of the Lord. (Hebrews 11:11).
18:13 WHEREFORE DID SARAH LAUGH
The man could neither see her behind the tent flap nor hear her laugh, since she only laughed within herself. She must quickly have realized that this indeed was either an angel or God Himself, in order for Him to know these things. That being the case, maybe He would indeed be able to fulfill this miraculous promise after all.
ANY THING TOO HARD FOR THE LORD?
This is one of the mountain-peak verses of the Bible. To ask the question is to answer it. "With God, all things are possible" (Matthew 19:26). He who created all things surely controls all things. He who enacted the laws of nature can change them if He wills.
18:20 THE CRY OF SODOM AND GOMORRAH IS GREAT
Although the iniquity of the Amorites was not yet full, the sin of Sodom and Gomorrah (Ezekiel 16:49,50), and probably also the other three cities of the plain, had become very grievous. The long-suffering of the Lord had been about exhausted in their case, and the time of their judgment was drawing nigh.
Their sin was particularly inexcusable in that they, more than any of the other cities in the land of Canaan, had seen the power of the Lord. They had been wonderfully delivered from a horrible fate at the hand of the kings of the East through Abrahams divinely empowered rescue, and had heard the testimony of Melchizedek. Even Lot must have witnessed to them in some degree, although his compromising position kept him from being effective in his testimony. God had given them a special opportunity to know Him, and they had rejected Him and fallen into even grosser wickedness than before.
18:23 WILT THOU ALSO DESTROY THE RIGHTEOUS WITH THE WICKED?
The Lord wanted Abraham to know His intentions toward Sodom and Gomorrah. After all, Lot and his family were there. Furthermore, as the "friend of God" (James 2:23), Abraham needed to know the reason for the terrible destruction the cities were about to undergo. He would need to explain it to his children, and they to all their descendants. The desolate region of Sodom would, in the centuries to come, be a perpetual warning to Israel that, although God is gracious and merciful and long-suffering, He is also a God of wrath (Jude 7), and He will not spare when the time of His judgment comes.
God gives a striking testimony to Abrahams character:
The verb "know" conveys the thought that God knew him as an intimate friend. He could trust him with the information He was to give, and could know that he would use it faithfully as a vehicle of instruction to his descendants.
We find two things in Gen. 18:20:
This could be because of the cries of those who suffered from the atrocious wickedness of the inhabitants of Sodom and who implored Heavens vengeance against their cruel oppressors. God gives some examples in Ezekiel 16:49, Pride, fullness of bread and abundance of idleness and did not strengthen the hand of the poor and needy. Also in Ezekiel 16:50, Haughty and committed abomination before me. "therefore I took them away as I saw good" says God. We find that God is ready to pardon (Ezekiel 33:11), if only He can do so consistently with justice.
The remainder of the chapter forms one of the sublimest passages in the Bible or out of the Bible. Abrahams plea for Sodom is a signal illustration of his nobility of character. Amid the hatreds and feuds primitive tribes who glorified brute force and despised pity, Abraham proves true to his new name and embraces in his sympathy all the children of men. Even the wicked inhabitants of Sodom were his brothers, and his heart overflows with sorrow over their doom.
These verses surely speak to our own times as well. The modern world, America in particular, has had the witness of the Christian gospel for a long time. But mankind has rejected it, and is descending into a morass of corruption and wickedness even greater than that of the pagan world before Christ. He has assured mankind, through His Word, that they will soon be coming to judgment. Until then, His people have the responsibility of intercessory prayer for the lost of this world.
ABRAHAM BARGAINS WITH GOD FOR THE SOULS IN SODOM Genesis 18:23-33
18:25 SHALL NOT THE JUDGE OF ALL THE EARTH DO JUSTLY?
These words make Justice the main pillar of Gods Throne; without it, the whole idea of the Divine totters. When Abraham could not find fifty righteous men in Sodom, and pleaded on behalf of forty, thirty, twenty, ten, that the great city might be spared, do you think God did not know all the time that there were not even ten righteous men in Sodom? But God wanted Abraham to show whether he was a man or not. See Job 38:3 God wants to go one on one with mankind, that why He paid the price for our salvation with the death of His Son.
THE FIRST EXAMPLE OF AN INTERCESSORY PRAYER RECORDED::
Abraham thought he knew of at least ten righteous people in Sodom. There dwelt Lot and his wife, their two sons (Gen. 19:12), two married daughters and their husbands (Genesis 19:14), and two unmarried daughters (Gen. 19:8), a total of ten. Since these were in one city, perhaps Abraham inferred there would be the same number in each of the other four cities.
There is no way of knowing whether God would have spared the city for, say, only four people-the number that actually were taken by the angels out of the city before the fire fell.
LOT IN THE GATES OF SODOM Genesis 19:1-29
The scene now shifts to Sodom itself, the chief and representative city of the five cities of the plain. It was to Sodom that Lot and his family gradually migrated, drawn like moths to a flame:
The "gate" of the city was the place where the business and commercial activities centered, and also where the judicial councils took place. Evidently Lot himself was now some kind of magistrate of the place, for this seems to be the meaning of the term "sitting in the gate." It is possible, however, that it refers simply to the apparent fact that he liked to sit at the city gate, where he could participate easily in the trade and conversation that thrived there.
Lot was well aware of Sodoms wickedness, even before he went there. The New Testament tells us, in fact, that "that righteous man dwelling among them, in seeing and hearing, vexed his righteous soul from day to day with their unlawful deeds" (II Peter 2:8). There is no indication, however, that he tried to witness to them in any way, in order to
turn them back to God and away from their sins. It is more likely that he tended to congratulate himself that he could do so well, commercially and politically, as a godly man living among an ungodly crowd.
19:3 UNLEAVENED BREAD
When the men entered his home, Lot prepared them a feast. It is significant, however, that the only ingredient of this feast which is specifically mentioned is "unleavened bread." This is the first mention of leaven in the Bible, and is in accord with all of its later usages. In Scripture, leaven is generally symbolic of evil doctrine or practice corrupting Gods people. The next time it is mentioned is in connection with the institution of the Passover feast, when Gods people were told to observe the feast without leaven, and in fact to put away all leaven out of their houses (Exodus 12:15). It is noteworthy that, when it is first mentioned, its absence is symbolically associated with the spiritual fellowship between a remnant of believers and their God, in the midst of an utterly corrupt society. Leaven, of course, being involved with the fermentation process, is a perfect symbol of decay and corruption, and it is important that spiritual fellowship not be contaminated with it.
19:8 MY ROOF
The duty of protecting a guest is sacred in the East. As soon as a stranger had touched the tent-rope, he could claim guest-right. But the price which Lot was prepared to pay is UNTHINKABLE in our eyes.
The very fact that he had two virgin daughters, in such a place, is itself testimony to the fact that he still had some influence, both over his own family and over the men of the city. See Rom. 1:21-32.
The situation had become so hopeless that even Lot must have realized there was no remedy except divine judgment. Evidently the door could not be opened from outside ( archaeology has revealed that the doors to the houses of this period did have strong hinges and were exceptionally heavy and sturdy); so the men opened the door to pull Lot inside, and then shut it again.
They then struck the men outside with blindness-a particular type of blindness mentioned elsewhere in the Bible only in II Kings 6:18, when God smote the vast Syrian army with blindness in order to save Elisha. Evidently, this blindness did not leave its victims sightless, but rather was a blindness of confusion, so that they could see but could not identify where they were. Somehow they were unable to find the door to break it in. See The Acts 9:8-18
DESTRUCTION COMETH Genesis 19:15-23
19:16 BUT HE LINGERED
Either to collect his valuables, or he was reluctant to leave. All that Scripture tells of Lot is characteristic of a weak, irresolute character.
The angels stressed the urgency of their leaving without any delay, without even looking behind them. They would have to flee to the mountains as rapidly as they could, if thy were to escape the judgment about to overwhelm the five cities and the plain they controlled. The spiritual lesson is obvious. A believer must flee the world, not looking back with regrets or longing, lest he himself be injured or destroyed in its overthrow.
19:22 I CAN NOT DO ANY THING TILL THOU BE COME THITHER
Lots salvation was determined by Gods relationship with Abraham just as our salvation is determined by the sacrifice of Jesus Christ the Son of God.
Presumably, of the five cities, Zoar was the smallest and least contaminated by the wickedness of Sodom, one would think he could trust God to keep him in the place where He told him to flee.
Possibly, Lots wife had been partially responsible for Lots delaying tactics. She didnt want to leave in the first place, and no doubt would much rather have moved to Zoar than to an unknown life in the mountains. As they rushed to Zoar, it does seem likely that she lagged behind, still resentful of having to leave her home and friends in Sodom.
The Dead Sea is the lowest spot on the earths surface, 1,286 feet below sea level. The Jordan River empties into it, and it has no outlet. The intense heat evaporates great quantities of water, so that the salinity of the sea continues to increase. It is about 40 miles long by 10 miles wide, and is divided into two parts which are connected by a narrow strait.
The southern segment, about 10 miles long, is only about 10 to 20 feet deep, whereas the northern segment is very deep, up to 1,400 feet in places. There is a possibility that Lot lived in the southern segment which was a fertile plain called "Vale of Siddim" Gen. 14:3,8,10. Many archaeologists believe that the five cities (except Zoar, which is apparently still in existence, called by the same name) were also on this plain, and that their remains are now covered by the waters of the Dead Sea. On the other hand, archaeological explorations within the past decade have shown that, at the time of Abraham, there were five large cities on the eastern side of this southern portion of the Dead Sea which could be these cities
19:26 HIS WIFE LOOKED BACK
She looked back and lingered behind, to be overtaken by the brimstone and fire from which the others escaped. A similar fate happened to those refugees at Pompeii who lingered. Her body became encrusted and saturated with a nitrous and saline substance, that very likely preserved it for some time from decay. Ancient writers refer to this pillar as being still in existence.
*This pillar of salt was, we see here, standing in the days of Josephus; and he had seen it. That it was standing then, is also attested by Clement of Rome, contemporary with Josephus; as also that it was so in the next century, is attested by Irenaeus.
When the Lord Jesus Christ, talking of the events to occur near the time of His second coming, referred by way of illustration to the event, He said: "Remember Lots wife. Whosoever shall seek to save his life shall lose it; and whosoever shall lose his life shall preserve it" Luke 17:32,33
LESSONS TO LEARN:
In this incisive commentary on Lots tragic story, the word "overthrow" is the Greek katastrophe In verb form, it is used to describe the action of Jesus when He "overthrew the tables of the moneychangers" (Matthew 21:12). It seems to refer to a complete physical upheaval. However, it refers only to a regional, not a world wide, catastrophe. Now contrast this word with the word Peter uses in the same passage to describe the Flood of Noah (II Peter 2:5), when he speaks of God "bringing in the flood [Greek kataklusmos] upon the world of the ungodly." The destruction of Sodom and the cities of the plain was a regional catastrophe; the Flood was a world wide cataclysm.
LOT AND HIS TWO DAUGHTERS DWELL IN A CAVE Genesis 19:30-38
Lot and his daughters apparently didnt stay long in Zoar. After losing the rest of their family in Sodom, the city no longer had the attraction for them it once did. The inhabitants of Zoar no doubt resented Lot as the only one who had not perished in the destruction of their sister city, and who seemed somehow therefore a participant in its destruction. Since Sodom and Gomorrah were south of them, and Admah and Zeboim north of them, they were right in the middle of the devastation.
19:31 THERE IS NOT A MAN
Some commentators state that Lots daughters believed that the destruction had been universal, and that but for them the world would be completely depopulated. This is not so seeing that they had just left Zoar. Their conduct proves them to be true children of Sodom.
19:32 DRINK WINE
They had lost all of their possessions, but they had managed to bring along a stock of wine!
19:32 SEED OF OUR FATHER
As yet there was no actual Scriptural ordinances against incest, and close marriages were not uncommon (Example Abram and his half-sister Sarai); so this could not have seemed as serious a crime to them as it would to us today.
Scripture does not tell us how Lot felt about this matter when he finally learned about it. In fact, it tells us absolutely nothing else about Lot. Presumably, however, he did act as a father to the two sons that were born of his two daughters, since they did grow to maturity and, in fact, became the ancestors of two nations. The son of the older daughter was named Moab (meaning "from the father"), and was the progenitor of the Moabites. The younger daughters son was named Benammi (meaning "son of my people"), and from him were descended the Ammonites.
The Moabites and the Ammonites were frequently at war with Israel in later years. They lived mostly in the mountainous regions east of the Dead Sea. Ruth, for example, was a Moabite woman and , as the wire of Boaz, became on the of ancestors of Jesus. Naamah, an Ammonite woman, was one of Solomons wives and the mother of King Rehoboam, who also was in the ancestral line leading to Jesus. They may be revived in the last days (Jeremiah 48:47; 49:6).
ABRAHAM DECEIVES ABIMELECH Genesis 20:1-18
In many respects, Genesis 20 is one of the most difficult chapters in the Bible to understand. The narrative is simple enough, of course; but how could Abraham and Sarah, at this time, repeat the very same sin they had committed many years ago in Egypt? It might be understandable that, in those days when their faith had not yet really been tested and Gods faithfulness fully confirmed, they could have fallen into such a trap; but how could they do it again? Because they were human.
For some unknown reason, Abraham at this time decided to take a trip down through the Negev and into Gerar, the capital city at that time of the land of the Philistines, near the Egyptian border. This was a prosperous city, as revealed by archaeological excavations there, and it may be that Abraham had some kind of business dealings in mind. The city controlled a lucrative caravan route and Abraham by this time was a wealthy and powerful chieftain.
Abraham knew little about them, evidently, but as he entered their land he saw enough to realize they were an ungodly people. The old fears he and Sarah had experienced in Egypt suddenly returned, and they agreed once again that Sarah would be presented as his sister, rather than his wife, for the same reasons as before.
Sarah was ninety years old, and it is perhaps surprising that she would still be physically attractive to a heathen king. However, she had in some measure been physically rejuvenated, in order to conceive, bear, and nurse Isaac, and possibly this manifested itself in renewed beauty as well.
Abimilki is the name of the Egyptian governor of Tyre in the Tell-el-Amarna tablets.
20:7 A PROPHET
This is the first time the word occurs in the Bible. It is here used to denote a man who stands in a specially near relationship to God, and is consequently under the Divine protection.
20:8 THE MEN WERE SORE AFRAID
Abimelech may or may not have known anything about the true God before, but he certainly became aware of His power now. Abimelech and all his servants were "sore afraid" (verse 8). He protested to God that he didnt know Sarahs real identity and that he had taken her into his household innocently. God told him to restore Sarah to Abraham, and to ask Abraham to pray for his healing.
The final outcome of this distasteful experience seems to have been that Abraham finally learned the full lesson of faith. Never again do we read of him questioning God or His guardianship.