Genesis 18
Genesis 18 Kingcomments Bible Studies


In James 2 Abraham is called “a friend of God” (Jam 2:23). Another two times it is written of him he is a friend of God (2Chr 20:7; Isa 41:8). A friend is someone to whom you entrust secrets and considerations that you do not disclose to everyone (Jn 15:15). In this chapter the LORD informs Abraham of His purposes concerning him (Gen 18:9-15) and concerning the world (Gen 18:20-21).

The LORD Appears to Abraham

The place where Abraham is when the LORD appears to him is “by the oaks of Mamre” while he sits “at the tent door”. The word for ‘oak’ is derived from a word that means ‘strong’ or ‘hard’. The oak is known for its long life and also for the shade it provides against the heat of the sun. “Mamre” means ‘fatness’ or ‘vitality’. Abraham resides in a place that speaks of life force to which a long life is attached.

His place at the tent door makes him notice immediately that he gets visitors. He has control over what is coming his way and can see whether he should be hospitable or consider the visit dangerous and not receive it. This place at the tent door indicates the place that each father has to take in his family. Every father is responsible for what he does and does not allow to enter into his house. The hottest part of the day is the moment when people prefer to hide as far as possible, but Abraham is at his post.

The LORD appears to Abraham, together with two angels. Abraham knows the LORD and therefore recognizes Him. Instead of being scared, he runs to receive Him hospitably. He desires that the LORD refreshes Himself, of which the washing of the feet speaks, and offers Him a meal, which expresses fellowship and rest. He acknowledges and appreciates the enormous privilege of this visit.

We see how Abraham reacts to this visit from heaven with confidential freedom and at the same time with great reverence. He bows down to the ground and asks the LORD – Abraham speaks only to Him – not to pass him by (cf. Lk 24:28-29). He takes before Him the place of a servant. The LORD and the angels accept the invitation.

This is how the Lord Jesus would like to be invited to every family. Only those who live like Abraham in separation from the world and obedience to God’s Word will enjoy this privilege (Jn 14:23).

Besides being an example of intimate fellowship with God, Abraham is also an example of hospitality. We, too, are called to be hospitable and that without complaining (1Pet 4:9; Rom 12:13; Heb 13:2).

Announcement of Isaac’s Birth

The LORD and the angels ask for Sarah. There is interest not only in Abraham, but also in Sarah. For she will be the mother of the promised son and heir. She is not far away, she is in the tent. It points to the woman’s usual place in the family. This does not mean that the woman should not be allowed to work outside the home. At the announcement of Samson’s birth his mother is on the field and receives a visit from the LORD there (Jdg 13:9). It is about the motif, what is the reason why the woman works outside the home.

Although Sarah is not present during the conversation, she is a listener. Through the question asked about her where she is and Abraham’s answer, she knows that the others know that she can hear them. Her stay is behind the LORD. She has, as it were, no face-to-face contact with Him, as Abraham does.

While they eat, the LORD announces that the promised son and heir will soon be born. If with us there is fellowship with God, He will also make known His thoughts about His Son and the coming of His Son to us, for “the secret of the LORD is for those who fear Him, and He will make them know His covenant” (Psa 25:14).

What is already known in a general sense, is now regarded as an event that is near. We may also know from Scripture that the Lord Jesus comes, even that He will come soon, but it is something else to hear this from His mouth because there is fellowship with Him.

Sarah hears the announcement too, but does not believe it. She does not live in that close fellowship with God as her husband does. She judges the circumstances and measures them against what is possible or impossible to people (cf. Lk 1:18). Her perceptions are correct, but her conclusion is not, because she does not take God’s omnipotence into account.

At the same time, she calls her husband “my lord”. This is to her credit, and in it she is set as an example for all believing women (1Pet 3:6). Peter does not cite this example to make it clear that a woman must address her husband with ‘lord’. It is about Sarah not thinking it a shame to call her husband ‘lord’. The intention is to show that the woman must show due respect to her husband (Eph 5:33).

The fact that she obeys him does not mean that she is his slave. The subjection or obedience of the woman does not mean that a husband does not have to listen to his wife. Wives have been given their husbands to help to keep them from foolishness. We also have an example of this from the life of Abraham. Sarah later tells him to do something. If he does not want to listen to her, God tells him to listen to her (Gen 21:12).

This example is an illustration of the relationships in the marriage of the Christian and here in particular about the attitude of the Christian woman. When believing wife takes the attitude toward their husband that Sarah takes toward Abraham, they look like Sarah spiritually and can therefore be called “her children”. They then show her nature and attitude. Wives who follow Sarah in this, will also show that by doing good. For whoever does good and does the Lord’s will in it, may be protected by God.

It is important that a woman herself also lives in close fellowship with the Lord. Sometimes it is women who have a deeper fellowship with the Lord than men. Mary of Bethany (Lk 10:39) and Mary Magdalene (Jn 20:16) are telling examples of this.

The LORD, to Whom nothing and no one is hidden, knows what Sarah thinks to herself. He rebukes her for her unbelieving reasoning. Sarah denies that she laughed. At the same time we read that she is afraid. She fears. Therein we indirectly she her faith (Heb 11:11), for the fear of the LORD is the principle of knowledge and wisdom (Pro 1:7; Pro 9:10; Psa 111:10).

The LORD rises in His grace far above Sarah’s behavior by answering with the splendid, always encouraging word: “Is anything too difficult for the LORD?” We hear the answer to this question from the mouth of Jeremiah: “Ah Lord GOD! Behold, You have made the heavens and the earth by Your great power and by Your outstretched arm! Nothing is too difficult for You” (Jer 32:17). The LORD repeats the promise that Sarah will have a son in a year.

Considerations of the LORD

These verses begin and end with a message about the departure of the two angels to Sodom. They “looked down toward Sodom” (Gen 18:16) and they “went toward Sodom” (Gen 18:22). In the verses in between we are made partakers of the deliberations of the LORD. He discusses with Himself whether He will make known to Abraham what He will do with Sodom and Gomorrah. He mentions the conditions Abraham meets to involve him in His plans. Everything in his house is ruled by God’s Word. If things are so, God can make His thoughts known. God cannot make such announcements to people like Lot.

To convince us of His absolute righteousness, the LORD informs us that He will descend to get the confirmation of what has come to His attention. He knows everything that happens on earth. But also here He involves us in His way of working and describes this in a way that we can understand and imitate. He doesn’t judge without having examined the case thoroughly.

When the time of departure has come, Abraham bids his guests farewell. He sends them on their way “in a manner worthy of God” (3Jn 1:6). He wants to enjoy their company for as long as possible. This gives the LORD the opportunity to share His thoughts with Abraham (Pro 3:32b).

Intercession of Abraham

God’s communications concerning Sodom and Gomorrah have an effect on Abraham which is worth to be imitated. Instead of retreating into complacency because judgment does not affect him, he becomes an intercessor for others. Before that he comes “near” (Gen 18:23), he comes close to the LORD. This must also be the effect for us in everything the Lord reveals to us about the judgment that comes over the world.

This prayer of Abraham is the first prayer we find in the Bible and it is a prayer to spare Sodom. Abraham has already acted in favor of the city before and has freed its inhabitants from the hand of its enemies for the sake of Lot (Gen 14:11-16). Now he intervenes for the city in a different way, as an intercessor, again for the sake of Lot.

Abraham undoubtedly abhorred the wickedness of Sodom. He never would have chosen to live there, like Lot did. Yet he prayed fervently and urgently for the city. We must hate sin, but feel sorry for sinners and pray for them. God takes “no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that the wicked turn from his way and live” (Eze 33:11).

God’s desire should also be our desire. That desire is expressed in the first place in our intercession (1Tim 2:1-4). Intercession does not require a spiritual gift, but a heart that shares in God’s feelings. Or should He also be astonished about us, because He finds no spirit of intercession in us (Isa 59:16a; Eze 22:30; Eze 13:5)?

Abraham’s faith grows with every answer to his prayers. Each time he gets what he asks for. We see in him “the holy persistence” of prayer (Lk 11:8) that bridges the infinite distance between creature and Creator. This is the kind of prayer that constantly insists on God and doesn’t indulge until He gives in. Each time the LORD confirms that He will spare the city for the sake of the righteous if they are found there. It is an encouragement to us that we must continue to ask, for God hears the prayer of the righteous.

Abraham prays with knowledge of God. He knows Him as “the Judge of all the earth” Who deals justly (Gen 18:25; Job 34:10-11). That is the starting point and the basis of his intercession. He knows that God will never sweep away the righteous with the wicked. He also approaches God in the deep awareness of his own smallness before Him in the recognition that he is dust and ashes (cf. 2Sam 7:18; Job 42:5-6). If we approach in that attitude, we may know that our prayer is pleasing to Him (Pro 15:8b).

As long as Abraham asks, the LORD gives. We have here abundant evidence of prayer answering. When the LORD has finished speaking because Abraham doesn’t ask further, He goes away. It seems as if Abraham eventually does not get what he asked for, but in the next chapter we see that his prayer has been answered (Gen 19:29).

© 2023 Author G. de Koning

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