A Daily Genesis

Genesis 18:1-8

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[B][COLOR=#ff0000]†.[/COLOR] Gen 18:1a . .The Lord appeared to him by the terebinths of Mamre;[/B]

The Hebrew word for "appeared" is [I]ra'ah[/I] (raw-aw') which doesn't necessarily indicate a visible apparition. The word is really ambiguous. It has several meanings; one of which simply indicates a meeting. That the Lord was present during this meeting is certain but whether He is physically present is uncertain; though not impossible. (cf. Ex 24:9-11)

The three men upon whom we are about to eavesdrop are said by some to be angels; but the Hebrew word for angel is nowhere in the entire narrative.

This visit occurred very shortly after the last one because Isaac wasn't born yet and his birth had been predicted in 17:21 to be little more than a year away.

Mamre's terebinths were a grove of oaks situated near modern day Hebron about 20 miles south of Jerusalem at an elevation of 3,050 feet above sea level.

[B][COLOR=#ff0000]†.[/COLOR] Gen 18:1b-2a . . he was sitting at the entrance of the tent as the day grew hot. Looking up, he saw three men standing near him.[/B]

It wouldn't be accurate to think of Abraham's tent as something akin to a hiker/camper's basic portable shelter. Bedouin sheiks lived in pavilions, since they served as the family's home.

The entrance of the tent likely had a large canopy over it like a roofed porch so that Abraham wasn't sitting out in the sun, but rather in the shade. Poor guy's heart must have stopped when he looked up at these three guys just standing there saying nothing. I'm not sure if Abraham was aware at this point that one of those men was Yhvh. So his next reactions are very interesting. They reveal just how hospitable this rich and famous sheik was to total strangers.

[B][COLOR=#ff0000]†. [/COLOR]Gen 18:2b-3a . . As soon as he saw them, he ran from the entrance of the tent to greet them and, bowing to the ground, he said: My lords,[/B]

Abraham was 99 so I don't think he actually sprinted. The word [I]ruwts[/I] (roots) can mean either to run or just simply to hurry.

The word for "lords" is from [I]'adown[/I] (aw-done') and/or the shortened [I]'adon[/I] (aw-done') which mean: sovereign (human or divine. 'Adown is a versatile word often used as a courteous title of respect for elders and or superiors; for example Sarah used the very same word of her husband at Gen 18:12, Rachel addressed her dad by it at Gen 31:5, and Jacob addressed his brother Esau by 'adown at Gen 33:8.

[B][COLOR=#ff0000]†.[/COLOR] Gen 18:3b-5a . . if it please you, do not go on past your servant. Let a little water be brought; bathe your feet and recline under the tree. And let me fetch a morsel of bread that you may refresh yourselves; then go on-- seeing that you have come your servant's way.[/B]

There was a custom in the Olde American West that when travelers came by your spread, it was considered neighborly to offer them a meal and some tobacco, along with water and provender for their horses. This sometimes was the only means of support for off-season, unemployed cowboys known as drifters and saddle bums; but what the hey, you took the good with the bad; no questions asked.

Traveling was neither a tourist's vacation nor a Sunday drive in Abraham's day. No cushy motels, no gas stations or convenience stores. It was very far in between communities and few people along the way so a camp like Abraham's was a welcome sight in that day.

You can imagine how refreshing it would be on a hot day to soak your feet in a tub of cool water and recline in the shade of a big oak tree. In an era without refrigeration, electric fans, and/or air conditioning, that was just about the best there was to offer. Anyway it all just goes to show that Abraham was a very hospitable man, and really knew how to make people feel at home.

[B][COLOR=#ff0000]†.[/COLOR] Gen 18:5b . .They replied: Do as you have said.[/B]

There is something here important to note. Although the text says "they" replied, it doesn't mean all three men spoke at once, nor spoke in turn. If only one in a group speaks, and the others are silent, it's understood to mean the others are consensual; and that the one speaks for all if no one objects or has anything to add.

[B][COLOR=#ff0000]†.[/COLOR] Gen 18:6-8a . . Abraham hastened into the tent to Sarah, and said: Quickly, three seahs of choice flour! Knead and make cakes! Then Abraham hurried to the herd, took a calf, tender and choice, and gave it to a servant-boy, who hastened to prepare it. He took curds and milk and the calf that had been prepared and set these before them;[/B]

The word for "calf" is from [I]baqar[/I] (baw-kawr') which means: beef cattle or an animal of the ox family; of either gender.

It's interesting that Abraham served beef. In the early days of olde California; the Spanish Franciscans raised cows primarily for their hides and tallow; and found a ready market for those products in the east. Tallow of course was used for candles, soap, and lubricants; and the hides for leather goods like shoes, gloves, saddles, reins, and hats. In those days, pork and fowl were the preferred table meats. It was actually the change-over from pork to relatively cheap Texas longhorn beef that fueled the cattle baron era of the 1800's.

The word for "curds" is from [I]chem'ah[/I] (khem-aw') which means: curdled milk, or cheese. Later to come Kosher laws would forbid serving dairy and meat together; but in Abraham's day it didn't matter.

The only ingredient listed for the cakes-- which, considering the time constraints, were probably more like pancakes and tortillas rather than muffins and biscuits --is choice flour. There's no mention of a leavening agent so the dough could have been matzo; which takes less time to prepare than regular bread so it's a good choice when you're in a hurry.

With a little imagination, one could confect a pretty decent deli sandwich from what Abraham put on their plates. Anyway, all this took an appreciable amount of time; like preparing a thanksgiving dinner from scratch; including butchering the turkey. Plus, they cooked in those days by means of open flame and/or wood-fired ovens so it's not like Abraham served the men packaged meals warmed up in a microwave oven.

[B][COLOR=#ff0000]†.[/COLOR] Gen 18:8b . . and he waited on them under the tree as they ate.[/B]

Targum authors-- convinced the men were celestial beings --couldn't believe they would actually partake of food. According to them, the foods were before them, but they didn't actually eat it.

[COLOR=#006400][B]T.[/B][/COLOR] and [Abraham] served before them, and they sat under the tree; and he quieted himself to see whether they would eat. (Targum Jonathan)

In major English versions of the Hebrew Bible-- e.g. The JPS and the Stone --Gen 18:8 is translated "they ate". It isn't translated that Abraham stood by to see if they would eat, nor is it translated they pretended to eat, nor that they appeared to eat. Genesis is quite clear: the men actually dined on the food that Abraham set before them. (cf. Chabad.org)

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