Genesis 18


The Lord appears unto Abraham in Mamre, 1.

Three angels, in human appearance, come towards his tent, 2.

He invites them in to wash and refresh themselves, 3-5;

prepares a calf, bread, butter, and milk, for their

entertainment; and himself serves them, 6-8.

They promise that within a year Sarah shall have a son, 9, 10.

Sarah, knowing herself and husband to be superannuated,

smiles at the promise, 11, 12.

One of the three, who is called the LORD or Jehovah, chides

her, and asserts the sufficiency of the Divine power to

accomplish the promise, 13, 14.

Sarah, through fear, denies that she had laughed or showed

signs of unbelief, 15.

Abraham accompanies these Divine persons on their way to Sodom, 16;

and that one who is called Jehovah informs him of his

purpose to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah, because of their

great wickedness, 17-21.

The two former proceed toward Sodom, while the latter (Jehovah)

remains with Abraham, 22.

Abraham intercedes for the inhabitants of those cities, entreating

the Lord to spare them provided fifty righteous persons should be

found in them, 23-25.

The Lord grants this request, 26.

He pleads for the same mercy should only forty-five be found there;

which is also granted, 27, 28.

He pleads the same for forty, which is also granted, 29;

for thirty, with the same success, 30;

for twenty, and receives the some gracious answer, 31;

for ten, and the Lord assures him that should ten righteous

persons be found there, he will not destroy the place, 32.

Jehovah then departs, and Abraham returns to his tent, 33.


Verse 1. And the Lord appeared] See Clarke on Ge 15:1.

Sat in the tent door] For the purpose of enjoying the

refreshing air in the heat of the day, when the sun had most

power. A custom still frequent among the Asiatics.

Verse 2. Three men stood by him] nitstsabim alaiv,

were standing over against him; for if they had been standing by

him, as our translation says, he needed not to have "run from the

tent door to meet them." To Abraham these appeared at first as

men; but he entertained angels unawares, see Heb 13:2.

Verse 3. And said, My Lord, &c.] The word is Adonai, not

Yehovah, for as yet Abraham did not know the quality of his

guests. For an explanation of this word,

See Clarke on Gen 15:8.

Verse 4. Let a little water-be fetched, and wash your feet, &c.]

In these verses we find a delightful picture of primitive

hospitality. In those ancient times shoes such as ours were not

in use; and the foot was protected only by sandals or soles, which

fastened round the foot with straps. It was therefore a great

refreshment in so hot a country to get the feet washed at the end

of a day's journey; and this is the first thing that Abraham


Rest yourselves under the tree] We have already heard of the

oak grove of Mamre, Ge 12:6, and this was the

second requisite for the refreshment of a weary traveller, viz.,

rest in the shade.

Verse 5. I will fetch a morsel of bread] This was the third

requisite, and is introduced in its proper order; as eating

immediately after exertion or fatigue is very unwholesome. The

strong action of the lungs and heart should have time to diminish

before any food is received into the stomach, as otherwise

concoction is prevented, and fever in a less or greater degree


For therefore are ye come] In those ancient days every

traveller conceived he had a right to refreshment, when he needed

it, at the first tent he met with on his journey.

So do as thou hast said.] How exceedingly simple was all this!

On neither side is there any compliment but such as a generous

heart and sound sense dictate.

Verse 6. Three measures of fine meal] The seah, which is

here translated measure, contained, according to Bishop

Cumberland, about two gallons and a half; and Mr. Ainsworth

translates the word peck. On this circumstance the following

observations of the judicious and pious Abbe Fleury cannot fail to

be acceptable to the reader. Speaking of the frugality of the

patriarchs he says: "We have an instance of a splendid

entertainment in that which Abraham made for the three angels. He

set a whole calf before them, new bread, but baked on the hearth,

together with butter and milk. Three measures of meal were

baked into bread on this occasion, which come to more than two of

our bushels, and nearly to fifty-six pounds of our weight; hence

we may conclude that men were great eaters in those days, used

much exercise, were probably of a much larger stature as well as

longer lives than we. Homer (Odyss. lib. xiv., ver. 74, &c.)

makes his heroes great eaters. When Eumaeus entertained Ulysses,

he dressed two pigs for himself and his guest.

'So saying, he girded quick his tunic close,

And issuing sought the styes; thence bringing two,

Of the imprisoned herd, he slaughtered both,

Singed them and slash'd and spitted them, and placed

The whole well roasted, banquets spits, and all,

Reeking before Ulysses.' COWPER.

On another occasion a hog of five years old was slaughtered and

served up for five persons:-

'��-His wood for fuel he prepared,

And dragging thither a well-fatted brawn

Of the fifth year:��

Next piercing him, and scorching close his hair,

The joints they parted,' &c.

Ibid. ver. 419. COWPER.

Homer's heroes wait upon themselves and guests in the common

occasions of life; the patriarchs do the same. Abraham, who had

so many servants, and was nearly a hundred years old, brought the

water himself to wash the feet of his guests, ordered his wife to

make the bread quickly, went himself to choose the calf from the

herd, and came again to serve them standing. I will allow that he

was animated on this occasion with a desire of showing

hospitality, but the lives of all the rest of the patriarchs were

similar to this."

Make cakes upon the hearth.] Or under the ashes. This mode is

used in the east to the present day. When the hearth is strongly

heated with the fire that has been kindled on it, they remove the

coals, sweep off the ashes, lay on the bread, and then cover it

with the hot cinders.

Verse 8. And he stood by them under the tree, and they did eat.]

Nothing is more common in Hindostan than to see travellers and

guests eating under the shade of trees. Feasts are scarcely ever

held in houses. The house of a Hindoo serves for sleeping and

cooking, and for shutting up the women; but is never considered

as a sitting or dining room.-Ward.

Verse 10. I will certainly return] Abraham was now ninety-nine

years of age, and this promise was fulfilled when he was a

hundred; so that the phrase according to the time of life must

mean either a complete year, or nine months from the present time,

the ordinary time of pregnancy. Taken in this latter sense,

Abraham was now in the ninety-ninth year of his age, and Isaac was

born when he was in his hundredth year.

Verse 11. It ceased to be with Sarah after the manner of women.]

And consequently, naturally speaking, conception could not take

place; therefore if she have a son it must be in a supernatural or

miraculous way.

Verse 12. Sarah laughed] Partly through pleasure at the bare

idea of the possibility of the thing, and partly from a conviction

that it was extremely improbable. She appears to have been in the

same spirit, and to have had the same feelings of those who,

unexpectedly hearing of something of great consequence to

themselves, smile and say, "The news is too good to be true;", see

Ge 21:6. There is a case very similar to this mentioned

Ps 126:1,2. On Abraham's laughing,

See Clarke on Ge 17:17.

Verse 13. And the LORD (Jehovah) said, &c.] So it appears that

one of those three persons was Jehovah, and as this name is never

given to any created being, consequently the ever-blessed God is

intended; and as he was never seen in any bodily shape,

consequently the great Angel of the covenant, Jesus Christ, must

be meant. See Clarke on Ge 16:7.

Verse 14. Is any thing too hard for the Lord?]

hayippale meihovah dabar, shall a word (or thing) be wonderful

from the Lord? i.e., Can any thing be too great a miracle for him

to effect? The Septuagint translate the passage, μηαδυνατησει

παρατωθεωρημα; which St. Luke adopts almost literatim, only

making it an affirmative position instead of a question: ουκ

αδυνατησειπαρατωθεωπανρημα, which we translate, "With God

nothing shall be impossible," Lu 1:37. Many copies of the

Septuagint insert the word παν before ρημα, as in St. Luke; but it

makes little difference in the sense. It was to correct Sarah's

unbelief, and to strengthen her faith, that God spoke these most

important words; words which state that where human wisdom,

prudence, and energy fall, and where nature herself ceases to be

an agent, through lack of energy to act, or laws to direct and

regulate energy, there also God has full sway, and by his own

omnific power works all things after the counsel of his own will.

Is there an effect to be produced? God can produce it as well

without as with means. He produced nature, the whole system of

causes and effects, when in the whole compass of his own eternity

there was neither means nor being. HE spake, and it was done; HE

commanded, and it stood fast. How great and wonderful is God!

Verse 16. Abraham went with them to bring them on the way.] This

was another piece of primitive hospitality-to direct strangers in

the way. Public roads did not then exist and guides were

essentially necessary in countries where villages were seldom to

be met with, and where solitary dwellings did not exist.

Verse 17. Shall I hide from Abraham] That is, I will not hide.

A common mode of speech in Scripture-a question asked when an

affirmative is designed. Do men gather grapes of thorns? Men do

not gather grapes of thorns, &c.

Verse 18. Shall surely become a great and mighty nation] The

revelation that I make to him shall be preserved among his

posterity; and the exact fulfilment of my promises, made so long

before, shall lead them to believe in my name and trust in my


Verse 19. And they shall keep the way of the Lord] The true

religion; God's WAY; that in which God walks himself, and in

which, of course, his followers walk also; to do justice and

judgment; not only to preserve the truth in their creed, but

maintain it in their practice.

Verse 20. Because the cry of Sodom and Gomorrah]

See Clarke on Ge 13:13.

Verse 21. I will go down now, &c.] A lesson to magistrates,

teaching them not to judge according to report, but accurately to

inquire into the facts themselves.-Jarchi.

Verse 22. And the men turned their faces] That is, the two

angels who accompanied Jehovah were now sent towards Sodom; while

the third, who is called the LORD or Jehovah, remained with

Abraham for the purpose of teaching him the great usefulness and

importance of faith and prayer.

Verse 23. Wilt thou also destroy the righteous with the wicked?]

A form of speech similar to that in Ge 18:17, an invariable

principle of justice, that the righteous shall not be punished for

the crimes of the impious. And this Abraham lays down as the

foundation of his supplications. Who can pray with any hope of

success who cannot assign a reason to God and his conscience for

the petitions he offers? The great sacrifice offered by Christ is

an infinite reason why a penitent sinner should expect to find the

mercy for which he pleads.

Verse 25. Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?] God

alone is the Judge of all men. Abraham, in thus addressing himself

to the person in the text, considers him either as the Supreme

Being or his representative.

Verse 27. Which am but dust and ashes] aphar

vaepher, words very similar in sound, as they refer to matters

which so much resemble each other. Dust-the lightest particles of

earth. Ashes-the residuum of consumed substances. By these

expressions he shows how deeply his soul was humbled in the

presence of God. He who has high thoughts of himself must have

low thoughts of the dignity of the Divine nature, of the majesty

of God, and the sinfulness of sin.

Verse 32. Peradventure ten shall be found there] Knowing that

in the family of his nephew the true religion was professed and

practised, he could not suppose there could be less than ten

righteous persons in the city, he did not think it necessary to

urge his supplication farther; he therefore left off his

entreaties, and the Lord departed from him. It is highly worthy of

observation, that while he continued to pray the presence of God

was continued; and when Abraham ended, "the glory of the Lord was

lifted up," as the Targum expresses it.

THIS chapter, though containing only the preliminaries to the

awful catastrophe detailed in the next, affords us several lessons

of useful and important information.

1. The hospitality and humanity of Abraham are worthy, not only

of our most serious regard, but also of our imitation. He sat in

the door of his tent in the heat of the day, not only to enjoy the

current of refreshing air, but that if he saw any weary and

exhausted travellers he might invite them to rest and refresh

themselves. Hospitality is ever becoming in one human being

towards another; for every destitute man is a brother in distress,

and demands our most prompt and affectionate assistance, according

to that heavenly precept, "What ye would that men should do unto

you, do even so unto them." From this conduct of Abraham a Divine

precept is formed: "Be not forgetful to entertain strangers, for

thereby some have entertained angels unawares. Heb 13:2.

2. Whatever is given on the ground of humanity and mercy is

given unto God, and is sure to meet with his approbation and a

suitable reward. While Abraham entertained his guests God

discovers himself, and reveals to him the counsels of his will,

and renews the promise of a numerous posterity. Sarah, though

naturally speaking past child-bearing, shall have a son: natural

obstacles cannot hinder the purpose of God; nature is his

instrument; and as it works not only by general laws, but also by

any particular will of God, so it may accomplish that will in any

way he may choose to direct. It is always difficult to credit

God's promises when they relate to supernatural things, and still

more so when they have for their object events that are

contrary to the course of nature; but as nothing is too hard for

God, so "all things are possible to him that believeth." It is

that faith alone which is of the operation of God's Spirit, that

is capable of crediting supernatural things; he who does not pray

to be enabled to believe, or, if he do, uses not the power when

received, can never believe to the saving of the soul.

3. Abraham trusts much in God, and God reposes much confidence

in Abraham. He knows that God is faithful, and will fulfil his

promises; and God knows that Abraham is faithful, and will command

his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the

way of the Lord to do justice and judgment; Ge 18:19. No man

lives unto himself; and God gives us neither spiritual nor

temporal blessings for ourselves alone; our bread we are to

divide with the hungry, and to help the stranger in distress. He

who understands the way of God should carefully instruct his

household in that way; and he who is the father of a family should

pray to God to teach him, that he may teach his household. His

ignorance of God and salvation can be no excuse for his neglecting

his family: it is his indispensable duty to teach them; and God

will teach him, if he earnestly seek it, that he may be able to

discharge this duty to his family. Reader, if thy children or

servants perish through thy neglect, God will judge thee for it in

the great day.

4. The sin of Sodom and the cities of the plain was great and

grievous; the measure of their iniquity was full, and God

determined to destroy them. Judgment is God's strange work, but

though rarely done it must be done sometimes, lest men should

suppose that right and wrong, vice and virtue, are alike in the

eye of God. And these judgments must be dispensed in such a way as

to show they are not the results of natural causes, but come

immediately from the incensed justice of the Most High.

5. Every man who loves God loves his neighbour also; and he who

loves his neighbour will do all in his power to promote the

well-being both of his soul and his body. Abraham cannot prevent

the men of Sodom from sinning against God; but he can make prayer

and intercession for their souls, and plead, if not in arrest, yet

in mitigation, of judgment. He therefore intercedes for the

transgressors, and God is well pleased with his intercessions.

These are the offspring of God's own love in the heart of his


6. How true is that word, The energetic faithful prayer of a

righteous man availeth much! Abraham draws near to God by

affection and faith, and in the most devout and humble manner

makes prayer and supplication; and every petition is answered on

the spot. Nor does God cease to promise to show mercy till

Abraham ceases to intercede! What encouragement does this hold

out to them that fear God, to make prayer and intercession for

their sinful neighbours and ungodly relatives! Faith in the Lord

Jesus endues prayer with a species of omnipotence; whatsoever a

man asks of the Father in his name, he will do it. Prayer has

been termed the gate of heaven, but without faith that gate cannot

be opened. He who prays as he should, and believes as he

ought, shall have the fulness of the blessings of the Gospel of


Copyright information for Clarke