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Bible Commentaries

John Dummelow's Commentary on the Bible

Genesis 18

 

 

Verses 1-33


The Visit of the Angels to Abraham. The Judgment of Sodom announced. Abraham intercedes on its Behalf

In this beautiful narrative the writer dwells on the unique revelations of God's purposes with which Abraham was favoured. In after times the patriarch received the title of 'the friend of God' (2 Chronicles 20:7; Isaiah 41:8; James 2:23). The chapter is from the Primitive document. The religious lessons, the vivid description, and the consciousness of God's immediate presence and interest in the affairs of men are all characteristic of that source. See on Genesis 11:5; Exodus 24:10 and Intro. Exodus, §3, for the anthropormorphisms of the c.

1. In the plains of Mamre] RV 'by the oaks of Mamre,' i.e. Hebron: cp. Genesis 13:18.

2. Three men] heavenly visitors, angels, as appears from Genesis 19:1. With one, God identifies Himself (Genesis 18:13).

3. My Lord] This was only a title of respect; it is not Lord, i.e. Jehovah. Abraham was entertaining angels unawares (Hebrews 13:2).

4. The difficulty of procuring the necessaries of life when travelling in the East causes the duty of hospitality to be observed to an extent unknown to ourselves. Lane, in 'Modern Egyptians,' says that we have here a perfect picture of the manner in which a modern Bedawee sheikh receives travellers arriving at his encampment. He immediately orders his wife or woman to make bread; slaughters a sheep or some other animal, and dresses it in haste; and bringing milk and any other provisions that he may have ready at hand, sets all before his guests. If these be persons of high rank, he stands by them while they eat, as Abraham did in this case. The ready hospitality of Abraham is in striking contrast with the conduct of the Sodomites to the same visitors. Wash your feet] since they only wore sandals.

6. Measure] Heb. Seah, nearly a peck and half. From Matthew 13:33 it seems that three measures made a batch of bread. Cakes] thin biscuits of meal, baked on an iron plate on the heated hearthstone.

7. A calf] Owing to the hot climate only fresh meat can be used, but it is tender if cooked at once. Animal food is very rarely eaten except at festivities, or on the arrival of a distinguished visitor. A quick method usually practised is to broil slices of meat on skewers.

8. Butter] rather, 'curdled milk,' which is very refreshing and still constantly drunk in Palestine and Arabia. Cp. Judges 5:25. The Arabs make butter by shaking cream in a leather bag: but owing to the heat it does not get firmly set.

10. According to the time of life] RV 'when the season cometh round,' 'at the time reviving,' i.e. 'when this time revives, a year from now' (D.): cp. 2 Kings 4:16, 2 Kings 4:17.

12. Laughed] in unbelief, not in joy.

14. Is any thing too hard, etc.] Cp. the Angel Gabriel's words to Mary, 'With God nothing shall be impossible' (Luke 1:37).

17-21. God reveals to Abraham the purpose of the visit to Sodom. It was essential that His servant as founder of a great nation should understand God's dealings with nations generally; that He is concerned in their affairs, and that whilst 'slow to anger and of great kindness 'He is a righteous God who will by no means clear the guilty.

19. I know him, that he will command] rather, 'I have known Him in order that He may command,' etc. To 'know' means to take notice of, regard. 'The mission of Israel was to preserve a pure faith and pure morals amid the corruptions of mankind till the Messiah should come.'

20. Cry] i.e. evil report.

21. I will go down now, and see] The expression means that in His visitations on men God acts with absolute justice and a perfect knowledge of all the circumstances. I will know] the whole truth.

22. Stood yet before the Lord] as if to stay His departure until he had interceded for Sodom, and especially with a thought for his kinsman Lot, who dwelt there.

23-32. We have here 'the effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man,' humble, yet earnest, and even bold. In his anxious sympathy for others Abraham forgot, perhaps, that 'the love of God is broader than the measures of man's mind,' but he was right in believing that God allows His purposes to be influenced by prayer and repentance: cp. Jonah 3. For we observe that God's sentence upon Sodom was not yet passed (Genesis 18:21): He would grant the prayer of His servant if the necessary conditions were forthcoming. They were not, however, as the people of Sodom were universally depraved; but Abraham learned that God prefers mercy to judgment, and that those who have the least claim on His mercy receive it, as was the case with Lot and his family. Nor should we overlook another side of this narrative, viz. the value of a good man. Ten righteous men in Sodom will save the city. So our Lord calls His disciples 'the salt of the earth,' Matthew 5:13. Another point to be noted is that while Abraham thought all along that the righteous would perish with the wicked unless the whole city was saved, God distinguished between the innocent and the guilty, and saved four persons.

 


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Bibliography Information
Dummelow, John. "Commentary on Genesis 18:4". "John Dummelow's Commentary on the Bible". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/dcb/genesis-18.html. 1909.

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