Abraham welcomes the Lord and the angels. — V.1. And the Lord appeared unto him in the plains, that is, the groves of terebinths, the oaks of Canaan, of Mamre, the Amorite, at Hebron. This was the sixth visit, or appearance, of the Lord to His servant. And he sat in the tent-door in the heat of the day, shortly before noon. V.2. And he lift up his eyes and looked, and, lo, three men stood by him. It was not a case of a slow approach, but of a sudden appearance. A moment before no one had been in sight, and now three men stood by him, looming over him as he reclined on his chair or couch. And when he saw them, he ran to meet them from the tent-door, and bowed himself toward the ground. As the strangers were still a few steps away, Abraham, with true Oriental hospitality, ran forward to meet them, and since he recognized in one of them the Lord, he bowed down before them in worshipful homage. Two of the visitors were angels, chap. 19, 1; the third was the Lord Himself, Heb. 13, 2, the Angel of the Lord in the peculiar sense of the word, as it is applied to the Son of God in the Old Testament. V.3. And said, My Lord, if now I have found favor in Thy sight, pass not away, I pray Thee, from Thy servant. V.4. Let a little water, I pray you, be fetched, and wash your feet, and rest yourselves under the tree; v.5. and I will fetch a morsel of bread; and comfort ye your hearts. After that ye shall pass on; for therefore are ye come to your servant. The entire invitation of Abraham shows that this was not a case of ordinary hospitality to passing strangers, but a work of love performed for the Lord. He wanted the favor of the Lord, of which he was sure by reason of the covenant, to abide with him; hence the urgency of the prayer. There is nothing lacking in the cordial nature of the invitation: Let a little water be taken, and wash your feet. The sandals of the travelers having been removed, the house-slaves provided the water for washing off the dust. Under the tree they were then to recline, resting upon their arms as supports, while Abraham hurried to have dinner prepared, the principal meal being eaten at noon, 1 Kings 20, 16. He spoke in a deprecating way of the small meal which he was able to offer them: a bit of bread. Yet he hoped that what he had to offer would be sufficient to refresh their hearts before continuing their journey. Thus the assurance that their entertainment would cause neither trouble nor expenditure was intended to remove any hesitation about accepting his hospitality. And they said, So do as thou hast said. They did not want him to go to any trouble; they accepted only with the condition that he would serve but a simple repast. V.6. And Abraham hastened into the tent unto Sarah and said, Make ready quickly three measures of fine meal, knead it, and make cakes upon the hearth. With three seahs, about three pecks, or thirty liters, of the finest flour Sarah was quickly to bake round, unleavened cakes on the hot stones of the hearth. V.7. And Abraham ran unto the herd, and fetched a calf, tender and good, and gave it unto a young man; and he hasted to dress it. Abraham personally selected a young and tender calf from the corral and entrusted it to one of the house-boys, who was to see to its preparation. V.8. And he took butter and milk and the calf which he had dressed, and set it before them; and he stood by them under the tree, and they did eat. Although the meal was simple, it was plentiful. Abraham himself did not sit down with his guests, but stood in order to wait upon them and carry out their slightest wish. The eating of physical food on the part of the heavenly beings was a true partaking of the meal, something like that of the resurrected Christ, Luke 24, 41 ff.; but it remains a miracle to our comprehension. The entire incident pointed forward to the time when the Son of God visited His people, lived among them, and, above all, let them see His kindness and His love.
The specific promise of Isaac’s birth. — V.9. And they said unto him, Where is Sarah, thy wife? And he said, Behold, in the tent. V.10. And He said, I will certainly return unto thee according to the time of life; and, lo, Sarah, thy wife, shall have a son. The Lord Himself, as the spokesman, opened the conversation by inquiring after Sarah. Abraham, without the hesitation which the modern perverted life might cause him to feel, could answer that she was inside the tent. Then the Lord announced to him his visit at the same time in the next year, stating that Sarah would then have a son. And Sarah heard it in the tent-door which was behind Him. V.11. Now Abraham and Sarah were old and well stricken in age; and it ceased to be with Sarah after the manner of women. They were both beyond the usual age when procreation was normally possible. V.12. Therefore Sarah laughed within herself, saying, After I am waxed old, shall I have pleasure, as the result of the return to youthful vigor, my lord, my husband, who is the head of the household, being old also? That was not the joyful laughter of faith, as in the case of Abraham, but a sneer of incredulity, of doubt. V.13. And the Lord said unto Abraham, Wherefore did Sarah laugh, saying, Shall I of a surety bear a child, which am old? Sarah had supposed herself unnoticed, since she was behind the curtain of the tent, and her laughing had been in her heart only. But the omniscient Lord knew her thoughts and reproved her doubts. V.14. Is anything too hard for the Lord? At the time appointed I will return unto thee, according to the time of life, and Sarah shall have a son. The Lord, the almighty God, is nevertheless also the merciful God, for He did not withdraw His promise to visit Abraham and Sarah in the gift of the son whom they had long waited for; there was nothing too difficult for Him to perform. V.15. Then Sarah denied; saying, I laughed not; for she was afraid. And He said, Nay; but thou didst laugh. In her chagrin at being discovered, Sarah hastily denied the charge, but the Lord added a second reproof, convicting her of her falsehood. As the following events showed, Sarah accepted the reproof and turned to the Lord in true faith, for through faith she received strength to conceive seed, and was delivered of a child, Heb. 11, 11. Even now the Word of God reproves the sins and weaknesses of the believers, especially their lack of trusting faith. And we should at all times receive His reprimands with all humility.
The Lord reveals his plan regarding Sodom. — V.16. And the men rose up from thence and looked toward Sodom; and Abraham went with them to bring them on the way. The rising of the Lord and His two companions and their looking over into the direction of Sodom was a signal to Abraham that their mission in his house had been accomplished, and so he, as a thoughtful host, accompanied them for some distance. V.17. And the Lord said, Shall I hide from Abraham that thing which I do, v.18. seeing that Abraham shall surely become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him? V.19. For I know him, that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the Lord to do justice and judgment, that the Lord may bring upon Abraham that which he hath spoken of him. These words of the Lord were apparently addressed to the angels. The question was whether He should let Abraham know at once that the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah was an act of His avenging justice. He had destined Abraham to be not only the father of a great and mighty nation, the children of Israel, but also the spiritual father of the true Israel of all times. Besides, Abraham not only led a life conforming to the will of the Lord for himself, but the Lord also knew, in prevenient love, and had chosen him for that purpose, that he would teach his children and all his progeny carefully to keep the way of Jehovah, of true piety, to exercise righteousness and judgment, and the Lord could thus fulfill all His promises upon them. Thus the destruction of Sodom and the surrounding country should be before the eyes of the children of Israel always as a monument of God’s avenging justice, as an example of the end of the wicked. In revealing to Abraham the reason for the destruction of the wicked cities, the Lord wanted Abraham to see the justice of the punishment, which no intercession could hope to turn aside. V.20. And the Lord said, turning now directly to Abraham, Because the cry of Sodom and Gomorrah is great, and because their sin is very grievous, v.21. I will go down now and see whether they have done altogether according to the cry of it which is come unto Me; and if not, I will know. The sins of Sodom and Gomorrah were of a nature to cry to heaven for revenge and punishment: “The cry about Sodom and Gomorrah — yea, it is great; and their sin — truly it is very heavy!” The Lord’s purpose, therefore, was to convince Himself whether the inhabitants of these cities, according to the cry that had come to Him, had reached the limit of wickedness or not. It was a case of mercy’s meeting together with righteousness. V.22. And the men turned their faces from thence and went toward Sodom; but Abraham stood yet before the Lord. As the two angels continued their journey toward Sodom alone, Abraham stood before the Lord, his bold attitude signifying that he had an important matter to communicate. As the friend of God, a designation which is shared by all believers, Jas. 2, 23, he dared to enter a bold plea in behalf of such children of God as might possibly be found in the doomed cities.
Abraham’s intercession. — V.23. And Abraham drew near and said, Wilt Thou also destroy the righteous with the wicked? It was a holy boldness which Abraham here displayed, both in drawing near to the Lord until he stood face to face with Him, and in speaking as he did: Surely Thou wilt not sweep off the righteous with the godless! V.24. Peradventure there be fifty righteous within the city; wilt Thou also destroy and not spare the place for the fifty righteous that are therein? V.25. That be far from Thee to do after this manner, to slay the righteous with the wicked; and that the righteous should be as the wicked, that be far from Thee! Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right? The form of the petition is almost presumptuous, but it is the presumption of faith. It is not Abraham’s personal interest in his nephew Lot that prompts him to such boldness, but the belief in the righteousness of God, who surely would not permit the righteous to be slain with the wicked. V.26. And the Lord said, If I find in Sodom fifty righteous within the city, I will spare all the place for their sakes. This assurance of the Lord encourages Abraham to continue his pleading, although in a lowly, humble form. V.27. And Abraham answered and said, Behold now, I have taken upon me to speak unto the Lord, which am but dust and ashes. V.28. Peradventure there shall lack five of the fifty righteous; wilt Thou destroy all the city for lack of five? And He said, if I find there forty and five, I will not destroy it. This is a glorious example for the believers of all times, for they also are dust as to their origin and ashes as to their end, and yet, as children of God by faith in Christ Jesus, they may freely and boldly speak to their heavenly Father and implore Him with the greatest daring V.29. And he spake unto Him yet again and said, Peradventure there shall be forty found there. And He said, I will not do it for forty’s sake. V.30. And he said unto Him, Oh, let not the Lord be angry, and I will speak: Peradventure there shall thirty be found there. And He said, I will not do it if I find thirty there. V.31. And he said, Behold now, I have taken upon me to speak unto the Lord: Peradventure there shall be twenty found there. And he said, I will not destroy it for twenty’s sake. V.32. And he said, Oh, let not the Lord be angry, and I will speak yet but this once: Peradventure ten shall be found there. And he said, I will not destroy it for ten’s sake. The entire prayer is a splendid example of the importunity of the believer’s prayer. Cp. Luke 11, 8. That is the chief content of the true intercessory pleading, namely, to ask the Lord for mercy, for forgiveness. Such prayer is well-pleasing to the Lord; for its sake He still preserves the sinful world, giving to the unbelievers time for repentance. The lesson of true prayer cannot be learned too well. V.33. And the Lord went His way as soon as He had left communing with Abraham; and Abraham returned into his place. The Lord had patiently and gladly listened to the intercession of Abraham, and it was for his sake that He arranged for the escape of Lot. But so far as the cities were concerned, the measure of their sins was full, their punishment was bound to come. And so the Lord made arrangements to carry out His intention, while Abraham returned to his home near Hebron.