Summary: Abraham saw three Visitors near his tent. How he, Sarah, and the Visitors interacted makes for a very interesting story. One of these Visitors had a special message for Abraham and for Sarah.
Introduction: Genesis 17 describes two events in Abram’s life which took place after Ishamel was born. First, God appeared to him and revealed another of His Names as “the Almighty God” or “El Shaddai”. Then, God established a covenant (firm and binding contract) with Abram, God changed Abram’s name to Abraham and Sarai’s name to Sarah. God also commanded Abraham and all the men of his household to become circumcised (a surgical procedure). All this took place when Ishmael was 13 years old, Abraham 99 and Sarah 89, respectively. The final promise was that Sarah would indeed bear a child. Abraham laughed at the idea, and then asked God to bless Ishmael. God said He would but that the promises He had made were to Abraham and the son to be born to Sarah. Then God ended this conversation with Abraham.
But God wasn’t finished with Abraham. Genesis 18 has the story when God paid Abraham a visit—up close and personal, as some might say! Three Persons came to Abraham’s home one day, giving Abraham some very good news. They also heard some good laughs, as well. Let’s take a look at the story.
1 The men who came to Abraham
Text, Genesis 18:1-6, KJV: 1 And the LORD appeared unto him in the plains of Mamre: and he sat in the tent door in the heat of the day; 2 And he lift up his eyes and looked, and, lo, three men stood by him: and when he saw them, he ran to meet them from the tent door, and bowed himself toward the ground, 3 And said, My Lord, if now I have found favour in thy sight, pass not away, I pray thee, from thy servant: 4 Let a little water, I pray you, be fetched, and wash your feet, and rest yourselves under the tree: 5 And I will fetch a morsel of bread, and comfort ye your hearts; after that ye shall pass on: for therefore are ye come to your servant. And they said, So do, as thou hast said.
It’s no secret that God enjoys fellowship with His people. It’s also no secret that the vast majority of people, from Adam’s day to ours, either don’t or won’t have fellowship with Him. I love this statement from a lady who opened every radio by asking if the listeners “had a real good prayer today”, adding, “If you’re too busy to pray, then you’re just too, too, too, too busy,” She made an excellent point!
Abraham was indeed a busy man, what with flocks, herds, servants and who knows what else but when time came for him to be a gracious host, he promptly went into action. The first verse of this passage states the LORD Himself appeared to Abraham in “the plains of Mamre”, which was the same as Hebron (Gen. 13:18, 23:19, e.g.), in the southern part of Canaan. We can guess that he decided to take a “breather’ or pause during the “heat of the day”, generally about 12 noon to about 2 or 3 pm when the afternoon sun begins to set. Abraham was just trying to get some rest and/or relief, we can suppose, when all of a sudden, he noticed something!
Or, Some One. In truth, there were three Persons.
Verse 2 says Abraham “lift (ed) up his eyes and looked (I can imagine he did!)” and saw three People standing by him. The text doesn’t say this but at other times, people would take rest during this period of time: example, Ish-bosheth, the last surviving son of Saul, Israel’s first king. He went into his house to rest “about noon”, 2 Samuel 4:5)”, during the heat of the day. Hence, it was unusual for people to be traveling when it seems other people were resting.
Whether resting or not, Abraham immediately ran to meet them “from the tent door”. The Bible doesn’t mention running very often, and especially when the runner is 99 years of age! But his age didn’t stop Abraham from running to meet these three Visitors. As an aside, several years ago, I read one commentator’s observation that when someone came to visit, there were three responses: if the guest/s had a lower social standing or rank, they approached the host; if equal, the host would walk towards the guest; but if higher, the guest would run towards the visitors. By Abraham’s response, he knew he was in the presence of very important people!
Now, I believe, Abraham must have had a question: Where did they come from? Even more important, at least to Abraham, how did they get so close that he didn’t notice they were there! But they were there, and Abraham responded with great hospitality.
He first requested them to stay for a while, showing courtesy and concern for those traveling under the usually very hot sun of the Middle East. Then as now, there must have been a risk of heat exhaustion, dehydration, or any number of problems facing travelers during that time of the day and in a land that didn’t seem to have much to offer those traveling.