Genesis 18

A Son Promised; a City Warned

At Mamre, God once again visited Abraham with two purposes—to repeat the promise of the birth of his son to Sarah and to inform Abraham of his plan to destroy the cities where his nephew Lot was living.

Abraham, the Host (1-8)

During the time of the day when people in the Middle East would rest, Abraham was sitting at the door of his tent watching Ishmael play, or talking to his servants, when he looked up from what was occupying his attention to see three men standing some small distance from him. Abraham jumped up, ran to the men and bowed, and asked the men to give him the honor of hosting them (1-3). He told them he would bring a "little water" for their feet while they rested and a "small morsel of bread," so they could refresh themselves before they continued on. Abraham was using "little" and "small" to assure the visitors they would be no problem to care for.

The visitors agreed, and Abraham and Sarah quickly made more food than the three men could have possibly eaten, while Abraham served them (4-8).

Abraham, the Husband

During the meal, the men asked Abraham where his wife was. This would not have been an inappropriate question for strangers, but Abraham answers them respectfully, announcing she was in the tent (9).

Needing to raise Sarah's faith to act, the promise was reiterated. The men began by using Sarah's new name and announcing she would have a son the following year (10). Of course both Abraham and Sarah were old, so Sarah chuckled to herself in the tent, imagining they were both too worn out to even enjoy sex, much less have a child. In this cynical laugh within the tent, the problem was revealed.

Yahweh had already promised a child, but there was something the couple needed to do to conceive and Sarah's faith was ebbing so low that she had checked out of that part of her life. The Lord had come to stir her to faith and the actions necessary for any couple to conceive (11-12). It was clear that the man and two men visiting Abraham were Yahweh and the angels. Abraham had entertained them unaware of who they were (Hebrews 13:2).

Yahweh confronted Sarah on her cynical laughing and then asked two questions, “Why does she question her ability to conceive?" and “Is there anything too hard for the Lord?" Then the Lord announced with certainty that He would return in a year and Sarah would be nursing a son (13-14).

Of course Sarah, once learning she had encountered the Lord, sought to deny her laugh, downgrading it to a harmless chuckle, but the Lord pressed the matter and told her the laugh was the laugh of cynicism and unbelief (15). As all of history points out, Sarah's faith was moved and she re-entered into sexual intimacy with her husband, which reawakened her beauty so much that Abraham again lied about her being his sister to King Abimelech to keep him from harm (Genesis 20).

Abraham, the Host (16-22)

The men departed Abraham's tent, and as a good host, Abraham walked with them for a short distance to send them on their way with courtesy (16). Yahweh began conversing with the angels, asking them if he should hide from Abraham what he knew he was about to do. So talking about Abraham to the two angels in front of Abraham, Yahweh laid out reasons why he should tell Abraham what He was about to do (17).

Right here in Scripture, we find the beginning reasons the Lord stepped in and allowed nations and cities to come to points of destruction, and Abraham was informed so what he learned could be handed down through generations.

Yahweh's Reasons for Informing Abraham

  1. Abraham was going to become a great nation, and his nation needed to be warned that unrestrained sexual immorality would bring the downfall of governing powers and cultures (18).

  2. Abraham was going to grow a nation from a family, and that family needed to be warned against the evils and consequences of unrestrained immorality (19).

The Lord told Abraham the outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah had become great because their sin was grave. "Their sin was grave" meant their excessive sexual immorality had led people into unbridled lust, and unbridled lust made them unusually callous and abusive, causing them to engage in horrific acts against others (20). Yahweh sent His two angels into the cities so the cities’ treatment of the angels could be used as evidence to reveal just how monstrous their lustful actions had become (21).

Abraham's warning to his family and the nation his family would form was fairly simple—sexual immorality destroys the sensitivity and sensibility of a culture, causing them to confuse right and wrong, love and abuse. In this chaotic mess, destruction would somehow erupt.

Abraham, the Intercessor  (22-33)

As the two angels went on to their mission, Yahweh stayed behind with Abraham. Abraham, filled with confidence that he could intercede for Sodom and Gomorrah, boldly approached Yahweh (22).

Abraham's praying revealed some interesting premises:

  1. Abraham was certain Yahweh would not treat righteous people like wicked people (23).

  2. Abraham was certain Yahweh was the Lord of the whole earth, and the Lord would do the right thing (25).

  3. Abraham was certain he could pray with unrelenting boldness. Abraham invented six hypothetical scenarios around which Yahweh would preserve a wicked city for the righteous living in it. Abraham began with 50, then 45, then 40, then 30, then 20, and finally if 10 righteous were found in the city, would it be enough for Yahweh to save it (24-32)?

  4. Abraham was certain Yahweh should be spoken to in honor and with reverence (24-32).

Once Yahweh had said all He had come to say, He went His way and Abraham returned to his home, likely certain that his intercession had saved his nephew’s life (33).