The Old Testament Lesson for this Sunday is written in the first book of the Torah. The text is Genesis 18:1-10a and I have included the extension verses of 10b-14. This is the well-known account of Abraham and the three visitors. One of the most discussed aspects of the text is the identification of the three companions. Some have argued they are the three persons of the Trinity. We have examples of this idea from the early Church Fathers. However, it provides us with some serious theological problems when we consider the splitting up of the three as two journey on to Sodom. Others have taken the position they are holy angels sent from Heaven to carry out the LORD’s work. Once again, this also provides some difficulties as we examine how Abraham treats them, even as he bows down in a worshipful way before them. The final position, and the one for which I would advocate, is the two who journey on to Sodom are indeed angels carrying out the LORD’s work, however the third visitor is the pre-incarnate Son of God, THE Angel of the LORD, Jesus Christ. The way Abraham conducts himself in His presence and the way in which he pleads the cause for the preservation of Lot and his family supports this view.

There are several interesting nuances in this account concerning the culture of hospitality and favor which are of help in understanding the setting:

  • The begging for the visitors to stop for a “morsel” of bread.
  • The great feast provided.
  • The waiting of the host to eat after the guests have had their fill.
  • The genuine attitude of humility and understatement from an important man such as Abraham.

Arguably, the most important aspect of the text is the promise of a son. While Abraham (and Sarah) have been promised an heir for quite some time, now they are given a date and it becomes an incredible idea. So, we hear how Sarah laughs at the promise. Generally, we have thought of this in a negative light; she does not trust, she is weak in faith, etc. However, the text never identifies the kind of laughter! Is it the laughter of derision and unbelief or is it the laughter of joy? I would suggest it is a laughter which encompasses both. Sarah wants to believe this promise, but it is so incredible. She laughs at the possibility, hoping it is true but at the same time struggling with the miraculous idea. Note the Angel of the LORD does not reprimand or scold her for her laughter, and she names the boy Isaac saying, “God has made laughter for me; everyone who hears will laugh over me.” To me, the laughter of Sarah in these verses seems more like hopeful joy.

One other thought which may provide a good preaching theme, note that the LORD comes to deliver His promise in person. We can see this as a foreshadowing of how the LORD always comes to His people, the people do not come to Him. So, it is God who sent His Son to us, His Promised One, up close and personal.

To me, the laughter of Sarah in these verses seems more like hopeful joy.

18:1 בְּאֵלֹנֵי. (be-e-lo-Nei) from: אלון (ay-lone) “oak; big tree; terebinth”

כְּחֹם (ke-Chom) from: חֹם (khome) “heat”

18:2 נִצָּבִים (nitz-tza-Vim) root: נצב (naw-tsab) Niphil, participle: “to stand”

18:3 חֵן (chen) “grace; favor”

18:4 וְרַחֲצוּ (ve-ra-cha-Tzu) root: רחץ (raw-khats) Qal: “to wash; wash off”

וְהִשָּׁעֲנוּ (ve-hish-sha-a-Nu) root: שּׁען (shaw-an) Niphil: “to support oneself; to lean; to rest against” Note the reflexive nature of this Niphil.

18:5 פַת; (fat) “morsel (of bread); piece; scrap”

וְסַעֲדוּ (ve-sa-a-Du) root: סעד (saw-ad) Qal: “sustain; strengthen; support; refresh”

18:6 וַיְמַהֵר (vay-ma-Her) root: מהר (maw-har) Piel: “to hasten; to go quickly”

מַהֲרִי; (ma-ha-Ri) root: מהר (maw-har) Piel: “to go quickly; hasten; to fetch quickly”

סְאִים (se-Im) “seah (a measure of flour/grain)”

קֶמַח, (Ke-mach) “flour; meal”

סֹלֶת (So-let) “fine flour”

לוּשִׁי (Lu-shi) root: לושׁ (loosh) Qal: “to knead”

עֻגוֹתu (u-Got) “cake of bread; flat, round loaf of bread”

18:7 רַךְ: (rach) “soft; tender”

18:8 חֶמְאָה, (chem-Ah) “curds; soured (milk); cream”

וְחָלָב (ve-cha-Lav) “milk”

18:11 חָדַל (cha-Dal) Qal: “to come to an end; to cease”

אֹרַח (O-rach) “way; menstruation; condition”

18:12 וַתִּצְחַק (vat-titz-Chak) root: צחק (tsaw-khak) Qal: “to laugh”

בְלֹתִי. (ve-lo-Ti) root: בְלה (baw-law) Qal: “to be worn out”

עֶדְנָה (ed-Nah) “delight; desire; lust”

זָקֵן (za-Ken) Qal: “to be old; to grow old”

18:13 אֻמְנָם (um-Nam) “really? Shall I indeed…”

18:14 הֲיִפָּלֵא] (ha-yip-pa-Le) root: פָּלֵא (paw-law) Niphal: “to be difficult; to be hard”


Additional Resources:

Concordia Theology-Various helps from Concordia Seminary in St. Louis, MO to assist you in preaching Genesis 18:1-10a (10b-14).

Text Week-A treasury of resources from various traditions to help you preach Genesis 18:1-10.