Genesis Chapter 18 Questions and Answers

In Genesis Chapter 18 we see Abraham entertain three mysterious visitors but how do they read Sarah’s thoughts?  Also, we see how gracious hospitality honors God.    

About these Answers

Day One

1.  Although the text does not tell us, when in this narrative do you think Abraham actually recognized that one of his visitor's was God in fleshly form?

Verse one says the Lord appeared to Abraham but we see that Abraham doesn't initially recognize Him.  In verse two it says that Abraham looked up and saw "three men".  As Victor Hamilton point out in his commentary, "It is unlikely that Abraham, had he know the visitor to be God himself, would have offered him water for his feet and food for his stomach."  Then in verse three we see Abraham use the term "lord" translated from the Hebrew word "adona" which is a title of respect.  

Previously, Abraham had recognized God as Yahweh not lord.  In fact, after God initially appeared to Abraham (Genesis 12:7) the Bible tells us that Abraham called on God, and specifically that he called on "the name of Yahweh" (Genesis 12:8).  Then, after the defeat of the invading kings who carried Lot and his family captive, Abraham explains that he made an oath to "Yahweh, God Most High" (Genesis 14:22).

In the first occurrence where Abraham actually addresses God, he addresses Him as "Lord God" which is translated from a combination of the two Hebrew words adona and Yahweh (Genesis 15:2,8).  So here in chapter 18, had Abraham recognized one of the visitors was God Himself, he would have addressed Him appropriately.  The first verse of Genesis chapter 19 tells us the other two "men" were angels.

Although the text does not tell us when Abraham recognizes that his visitor is God Himself, it likely occurs after they ask Abraham about his wife.  This is likely because: 1) they know Abraham has a wife, and they know her name; 2) The Lord restates the promise He had given Abraham previously, specifically that his aged and barren wife will have a son.  In any regard, the fact is that Abraham recognizes the Lord as he begins his plea for the potentially righteous of Sodom.  In verses 25, he uses the term "judge of all the earth" to address God.

Day Two

2.  Hospitality was a big deal in the ancient near eastern culture.  It's ironic in light of this record in Genesis that the Hebrew Talmud, which outlined the teachings of Jewish rabbis, states that "Hospitality to strangers is greater than welcoming the Divine Presence" (Shabbat 127a).  The Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary offers the following insights on hospitality:

  • reception of strangers into one's home for food, shelter, and protection was a sacred duty
  • nomadic lifestyles forced travelers to rely on the kindness of others 
  • only the depraved would refuse a stranger hospitality

In what ways does Abraham demonstrate remarkable hospitality to the three men who appear before him?

First, Abraham acts with intense purpose.  This is seen in that he:

  • runs to meet them (verse 2)
  • bows to the ground in front of them (verse 2)
  • addresses them in a pleading manner to effectually say "please do me a favor and let me serve you" (verses 3 and 4)
  • offers to have their feet washed, feed them, and provides them rest from the heat of the day under the shade tree (verses 4 and 5)
  • hurries to Sarah and says quick bake some bread using fine flour (verse 6)
  • ran to the herd and had a servant hurriedly prepare a choice calf (verse 7)
  • serves or stands by them as they ate (verse 8)

Secondly, Abraham doesn't just give them morsel of bread, he prepared a feast for his guests.

In the New Testament, Christians are told not to neglect but to pursue hospitality (Hebrews 13:1-2; Romans 12:13), and to be hospitable without complaining (I Peter 4:9).  When Christians show gracious hospitality, it honors God and allows them to demonstrate the love God with others.

Day Three

3.  At this point in the story of Abraham, it had been twenty four years since God had promised that Abraham would have offspring (Genesis 12:7).  This was when Abraham was 75 years old (Genesis 12:4).  Ten years after this first mention of God's promise (Genesis 16:3), Sarah decided that she needed to "help God out" by giving her servant to Abraham, who is now about 85, so he could father a son.  Sarah's scheme didn't work out so well, but God had made a promise.

Now at this point in the story, Abraham is about 99 and Sarah is about 90 years old (Genesis 17:17, 24).  It has been about twenty four years since God first promised Abraham offspring.  Through Hagar Abraham did have a son Sarah had not provided any children to Abraham at this point.  

What's Sarah's perception of God's promise at this point in the story?

Sarah had given up on God's promise.  We see this because God asks why she laughed and then He asks the rhetorical question "Is anything impossible for the Lord?"  This demonstrates that Sarah thought it was impossible for her to have a child.

However, God had just told Abraham in a vision prior to this visit of the three visitors that Sarah would have a son (Genesis 17:19).  Now, God tells him in the person of a visitor again that Sarah will have a son because nothing is impossible with God (Genesis 18:14). 

Abraham believed God's promise (Genesis 15:6; Romans 4:20-22) but Sarah did not.  Sarah knew it was impossible for her to have a child from her understanding of what was possible from a human perspective.  She lacked an understanding of the power of God and therefore her perception of the power of the promise He made.

4.  Sarah responds to God's inquiry of why she laughed with a lie because she was afraid.  Abraham had previously asked her to be deceitful with the Egyptians about their marital status when he was afraid.  How has fear influenced your life and has it ever tempted you to be deceitful or lie?

Your answer here.

Day Four

5.  Abraham didn't fully understand the judgement of God.  God didn't say He was going to destroy the righteous with the wicked.  He only said He would judge the city of Sodom (verse 21).  We don't know where Abraham got the impression that God would do so (verse 23) because the Bible doesn't tell us that.

However, if you study the timelines in the Bible, Noah was alive about 75 years after the birth of Abraham and his son Shem about 208 years after Abraham's birth.  Certainly, the oral history of God's judgement in the great flood was prevalent in the time of Abraham and his generation.

Perhaps Abraham misunderstood the judgement of God in the flood where it may have seemed that the righteous were punished along with the wicked.  But Genesis 7:1 tells us God found that only Noah was righteous.  We don't know the perceptions of Abraham on God as "the Judge of the earth" but we do know that Abraham knew God in a personal way more so than most ever will.  He also understood that God alone was the judge and that he was mere dust and ashes.

Much like many in our world today, it may be that some had a misconception of the judgment of God.  Perhaps Abraham, who had only witnessed God's judgment on Pharaoh for taking Sarah from him, didn't yet have a clear understanding of the judgement of God at this point in his life.   

Review the following Scriptures.  What do they tell you about the fairness of God's judgement? 

  • I Peter 1:17
  • Romans 2:6-11
  • Colossians 3:25
  • Revelation 19:1-2

A review of these verses reveals the following about the fairness of God's judgement:

  • I Peter 1:17 - God will judge impartially based on every person's works
  • Romans 2:11 - God shows no favoritism in judging every human being
  • Colossians 3:25 - God shows no favoritism and punishes wrongdoers
  • Revelation 19:1-2 - God's judgments are true and righteous

This passage of Scripture in Genesis chapter 18 isn't about Abraham convincing God to withhold unfair judgment; it's about God judging fairly the hearts of men and women. 

Indeed, when we review these four Scripture passages about God's judgement, we see that Abraham, and all the people of the earth will be judged by God but His judgements are fair, true, and impartial.  He shows no favoritism and judges according to what each person has done.  Allen P. Ross notes in his commentary Creation and Blessing that verse 21 demonstrates that God's judgement is based on complete and accurate information, and therefore fair. 

Genesis 15:6 tells us that because Abraham believed God, he was judged to be righteous.  In other words, he had fulfilled the expectations of God in his relationship with Him.  The Bible also tells us in Romans chapter 4 that we're judged by God to be righteous, like Abraham, if we believe in the Lord Jesus Christ.

6.  When Lot separated from Abraham to live in Sodom we don't know much about him.  We don't know if he was married or how many servants he had, but it's likely he had a considerable household (Genesis 13:5).  If God blessed Ishmael as a result of Abraham's plea (Genesis 17:20), then it's likely God may have blessed Lot following a similar plea by Abraham for Lot. 

We know Abraham cared for Lot as his relative so much that he rescued him at great expense (Genesis 14).  It's likely that Lot might have considered Abraham more of a father than an uncle since his father died at a young age and Lot traveled with him to the Promised Land (Genesis 11:27-28; 12:4).  

Now, in Genesis chapter 18, we see Abraham pleading with God for the rescue of the righteous in Sodom, where Lot lived.  Share how you have also prayed for God to rescue someone you know from the evil of this world. What are some practical ways to persist in prayer?

Your answer here.

Day Five

7.  Read 2 Peter 2:4-10 to answer the following questions.

  • How are the people of Sodom described?
  • What did Lot see and hear in Sodom?
  • How did it affect him?

The people of Sodom are described as immoral or wicked.  Lot saw and heard the lawless deeds of the Sodomites.  Lot was tormented by their immoral behavior.

It's important to note from the passage in 2 Peter that Lot is not only rescued by God, his experience is offered as an example for us to understand that God can rescue us from the trials of our lives.  Also, from this passage we learn that God hears our prayers and He can rescue us, but that may not be until the day of judgement.

8.  Why did God reveal what He was going to do to Abram?

First of all the Lord does reveal to Abraham what He is about to do in verse 20.  But in verse 17, God asks Himself the rhetorical question: "Should I hide what I am about to do from Abraham?"  And then in verses 18 and 19, God reveals the two reasons for revealing His plans to Abraham.  It's as though God says to Himself:

  • I have promised Abraham that all nations are to be blessed through him.  However, I need to explain to Abraham that I never overlook sin.  Abraham needs to understand that the inhabitants of this city of Sodom aren't included in that blessing.
  • Abraham is about to become a father to the one I have chosen to fulfill my promises.  I need Abraham to understand that he needs to instruct his children and descendants to keep My ways by doing what is right and just.  In this way I will fulfill My promise. 

In his commentary Creation and Blessing, Allen P. Ross gives us the following insight on this:

"Verse 19 call for closer examination; it reports how Abraham will command his household to keep the way of the Lord, to do righteousness and justice, that they might enjoy the Lord's blessing.  The statement in verse 19 that the Lord knew Abraham confirms that the patriarch had a special relationship to the Lord and that, when he received further revelation of the righteousness of God, he would instill it in the way of his descendants.  To live in conformity with the will of God (righteousness) and to make the right decisions based on his will (justice) now become the conditions for inheriting the blessings of the promise."   

We pray these Genesis Chapter 18 questions and answers have been a blessing to you.

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