Friday

“The Lord appeared to Abraham ...” (v. 1)

Genesis 18:1-15 Friday 18 September 2015

Psalm: Psalm 92


Background

Today's passage comes again from the Yahwist tradition* inGenesis. It tells of Abraham's hospitality to three men, althoughit would seem from verse one that in Abraham's eyes it is God hemeets with in the encounter. The true subjects of this visitationare however firmly stated as being three men who arrive at the tentdoor in Mamre. It is at the heat of the day which is surprising initself as it would normally be the time when people would beexpected to rest. As the biblical scholar Von Rad puts it "in asingle sentence, the Yahwist has given us a vivid picture of placeand time".

The other unusual thing about this encounter is that the menseem suddenly to appear, Abraham doesn't see them coming. He greetsthem when it is clear that they intend to stay for a while andoffers refreshment - according to the text just water for theirfeet and a little bread to alleviate their hunger (verses 4-5), butit seems the whole household is brought into play. Abraham runs tothe herd for meat to be prepared, and to his wife to begin to bakeand prepare other food. When it is ready the meal is set before themen and Abraham watches whilst they eat. Clearly there is somethingspecial about these visitors who have appeared from nowhere.

Then strangely these men ask about Sarah and her childlessness,and one of them gives a promise that he will return and that Sarahwill have a child (verse 10). Sarah's not unexpected response onoverhearing the conversation is to laugh and spell out clearly whyshe sees this as being impossible, but we are returned to thatfirst verse, where it is not one of the three anonymous men but theLord who rebukes her for laughing (verse 13), and it is he who hasbeen there amongst them as one of the men.

* The Yahwist tradtion in Genesis tells the story of increasingdisobedience, violence and corruption. This is in contrast to thepriestly writer's strand which views the world's beginnings andpeople's encounters with God as a confirmation of the goodness ofGod and the goodness of the people God created. Originally the twoaccounts formed separate texts, but the texts gradually werebrought together by the scribes until we have the account before ustoday.


To Ponder

  • Who do you think the three men were? Was it a physicalappearance by God and two attendants or is the voice of God at thebeginning and end of the narrative a separate visitation?
  • Did Abraham recognise God immediately the men appeared or didrealisation slowly dawn on him? What parallels are there in yourown life?
  • Do we sometimes recognise God in the most unexpected people ashe interacts with us in our lives? Give thanks to God for this, andpray for those through whom you recognise God.
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