Genesis 18:10
And he said, I will certainly return unto thee according to the time of life; and, lo, Sarah thy wife shall have a son. And Sarah heard it in the tent door, which was behind him.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(10) According to the time of life.—Heb., according to the living time. It is evident from Genesis 18:14, and 2Kings 4:16-17, that these words denote some fixed period, but the exact rendering is in dispute. “When the season revives” = next spring, is entirely remote from Oriental thought, and the rendering of Zunz “at the living time” is poetical, but meaningless. The true rendering is probably “a year hence,” as when the year is over it dies, and a new year lives in its place. Jewish tradition is strongly in favour of this view, translating “according to this time next year,” and adding that the season was the Passover. The only other tenable rendering is “in course of time.”

Which was behind him.—The LXX. has a preferable reading, and she was behind it. The door, as we have seen, was an opening made by looping back the curtain, which would effectually conceal Sarah’s person.

Genesis 18:10. I will certainly return unto thee, and visit thee according to the time of life — That is, nine months hence, and, in fulfilment of my promise, Sarah shall have a son. God will return to those that bid him welcome.

18:9-15 Where is Sarah thy wife? was asked. Note the answer, In the tent. Just at hand, in her proper place, occupied in her household concerns. There is nothing got by gadding. Those are most likely to receive comfort from God and his promises, who are in their proper place, and in the way of their duty, Lu 2:8. We are slow of heart to believe, and need line upon line to the same purport. The blessings others have from common providence, believers have from the Divine promise, which makes them very sweet, and very sure. The spiritual seed of Abraham owe their life, and joy, and hope, and all, to the promise. Sarah thinks this too good news to be true; she laughed, and therefore cannot as yet find in her heart to believe it. Sarah laughed. We might not have thought there was a difference between Sarah's laughter and Abraham's, ch. 17:17; but He who searches the heart, saw that the one sprung from unbelief, and the other from faith. She denied that she had laughed. One sin commonly brings in another, and it is not likely we shall strictly keep to truth, when we question the Divine truth. But whom the Lord loves he will rebuke, convict, silence, and bring to repentance, and if they sin before him.The promise to Sarah. The men now enter upon the business of their visit. "Where is Sarah thy wife?" The jealousy and seclusion of later times had not yet rendered such an inquiry uncourteous. Sarah is within hearing of the conversation. "I will certainly return unto thee." This is the language of self-determination, and therefore suitable to the sovereign, not to the ambassador. "At the time of life;" literally the living time, seemingly the time of birth, when the child comes to manifest life. "Sarah thy wife shall have a son." Sarah hears this with incredulous surprise, and laughs with mingled doubt and delight. She knows that in the nature of things she is past child-bearing. "Is anything too hard for the Lord?" Sarah laughed within herself, within the tent and behind the speaker; yet to her surprise her internal feelings are known to him. She finds there is One present who rises above the sphere of nature. In her confusion and terror she denies that she laughed. But he who sees what is within, insists that she did laugh, at least in the thought of her heart. There is a beautiful simplicity in the whole scene. Sarah now doubtless received faith and strength to conceive.

Verse 16-33

The conference concerning Sodom. The human manner of the interview is carried out to the end. Abraham convoys his departing guests. The Lord then speaks, apparently debating with himself whether he shall reveal his intentions to Abraham. The reasons for doing so are assigned. First. Abraham shall surely become a nation great and mighty, and therefore has the interest of humanity in this act of retribution on Sodom. All that concerns man concerns him. Second. Blessed in him shall be all the nations of the earth. Hence, he is personally and directly concerned with all the dealings of mercy and judgment among the inhabitants of the earth. Third. "I have known him." The Lord has made himself known to him, has manifested his love to him, has renewed him after his own image; and hence this judgment upon Sodom is to be explained to him, that he may train his household to avoid the sins of this doomed city, "to keep the way of the Lord, to do justice and judgment; and all this to the further intent that the Lord may bring upon Abraham what he hath spoken of him." The awful judgments of the Lord on Sodom, as before on the antediluvian world, are a warning example to all who are spared or hear of them. And those who, notwithstanding these monuments of the divine vengeance, will cease to do justice and judgment, may be certain that they will not continue to enjoy the benefits of the covenant of grace. For all these reasons it is meet that the secret of Lord be with him Psalm 25:11.

10. Sarah heard it in the tent door, which was behind him—The women's apartment is in the back of the tent, divided by a thin partition from the men's. I will certainly return unto thee, not in a visible shape, but with my powerful and effectual presence, to fulfil my promise.

According to the time of life: this time may respect, either,

1. Abraham and Sarah, in the time of life, i.e. when you shall be both alive and in health. But if it belonged to them, it might seem better to understand it thus; in the time when God shall restore life, i.e. vigour and activity to you; for till then both Abraham’s body and Sarah’s womb are expressly said to be dead, Romans 4:19, to which deadness this life may be opposite; and the time of restoring this lost power of generation may well be called a time of life, it being a kind of life from the dead, and an empowering of him for a vital action from which he was before disenabled, and for the conveying of life to a child, and perpetuating his own life in him. Or,

2. To the child, according to the time of life, i.e. in the time which is usual for the conception, quickening, and bringing forth of a living child. Which interpretation receiveth some countenance from 2 Kings 4:16, where we have the same phrase. Or,

3. To the year, according to the time, or this time of life, or living time, i.e. when this time or season of the year shall revive, i.e. return or be restored; as cities and buildings are said to be revived, when they are repaired or rebuilt, as 1 Chronicles 11:8 Nehemiah 4:2. And this season might more properly be said to revive, and be called the time of life, because it may be gathered from the heat, Genesis 18:1, and their refreshing themselves under the shadow of a tree, that it was the spring time, when herbs and plants and trees, which seem to be dead in the winter, recover and show forth their life and vigour: and so the sense may be this, according to this time, which is a time of life, or reviving, wherein as the beauty and fruits of the earth will be renewed and revived, so thou and Sarah shall be revived, or receive, as it were, a new life in the son that shall be born to you. This sense seems more probable than either of the former, because he speaks of a certain set or appointed time, Genesis 18:14 Romans 9:9 Genesis 21:2, and that time was about a year after this, as may appear by comparing Genesis 17:24, and Genesis 21:5.

In the tent door which was behind him, i.e. at the back of the angel that spoke with him; which is here added, to show that he knew her laughter, not by the sight of his eyes, but by his all-seeing knowledge.

And he said,.... The same that put the question, Jehovah himself, as appears by what follows:

I will certainly return unto thee according to the time of life; not by a personal appearance as now, but by the fulfilment of his promise which he had before given to Abraham, that he should have a son by Sarah, and now renews it; and this would be about the same time in the next year, perhaps at the spring of the year, which may be called "a time of life", when all things revive, which in the winter season seem to be dead; a fit emblem this of the case and condition of Abraham and Sarah, both as they now were, and afterwards would be; for, though their bodies were as it were dead and unfit for generation, yet nature would revive in them again: unless it be understood of the whole time of the conception, quickening, and birth of an infant, at the usual time a woman goes with child, which is nine months, when the infant is a perfect living child. All the Targums paraphrase it,"in which ye shall be alive,''safe and well, and so most of the Jewish commentators; as if it was a promise to Abraham and Sarah, that they should live to see the promise made good next given; but this seems not so agreeable as either of the former, see 2 Kings 4:16,

and, lo, Sarah thy wife shall have a son; it was by degrees that this was made known to Abraham; first he was told he should have a son, but it was not said by whom he should have it; some years after that he is informed he should have a son by Sarah, but not when; but now it is revealed to him, that he should have one by her the next year:

and Sarah heard it in the tent door, which was behind him; or, "and it was behind him" (u); that is, the tent door was at the back of the person speaking; Sarah, hearing her name mentioned, got to the tent door to listen to what might be further said; and the place where she was, was behind the speaker, who stood between her and Abraham, with whom he was conversing; Abraham was before high, and Sarah behind him, so that he could not see her when she laughed, and yet he knew she did; and for the sake of that, this circumstance is remarked: both the Targums of Jonathan and Jerusalem paraphrase the clause,"and Ishmael stood behind it,''the tent door; and the former adds, and hearkened to what the angel said.

(u) "et ipsum post eum", Montanus.

And he said, I will certainly return unto thee according to the time of {f} life; and, lo, Sarah thy wife shall have a son. And Sarah heard it in the tent door, which was behind him.

(f) That is, about this time when she shall be alive, or when the child shall come into this life.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
10. I will certainly] A first hint of Divine knowledge of the parents’ grief over their childlessness.

when the season cometh round] R. V. marg. Heb. liveth, or, reviveth. A strange phrase, probably meaning “at this time a year hence,” as in Genesis 17:21. Cf. 2 Kings 4:16-17, LXX κατὰ τὸν καιρὸν τοῦτον εἰς ὥρας, Lat. tempore isto, vita comite. Skinner conjectures, with a slight alteration of the vowel points, “according to the time of a pregnant woman,” on the ground that the Heb. word for “liveth” means in modern Heb. “a woman in child-birth.”

Sarah … in the tent door] Sarah was not visible, but the conversation of the men under the tree was easily audible to her at the tent opening.

heard] Better, “was listening,” which reproduces the Heb. participle.

which was behind him] Probably the LXX preserves the right reading, “and she was behind it,” i.e. the door.

Verse 10. - And he said (the Principal Guest, as above, who, by the very nature and terms of his announcement, identifies himself with Jehovah), I will certainly return unto thee according to the time of life. Literally, at the time reviving; i.e. when the year shall have been renewed, in the next year, or rather spring (vide Ewald, 'Hebrews Synt.,' § 337; Rosenmüller, Drusius, Keil, Kalisch, Lange, Ainsworth, 'Speaker's Commentary'); though other interpretations of the phrase have been suggested, as, e.g., "according to the time of that which is born," i.e. at the end of nine months (Willet, Calvin, Bush, Murphy). And, lo, Sarah thy wife shall have a son. I.e. at the time specified. And Sarah heard it in the tent door, which was behind him. Genesis 18:10During the meal, at which Abraham stood, and waited upon them as the host, they asked for Sarah, for whom the visit was chiefly intended. On being told that she was in the tent, where she could hear, therefore, all that passed under the tree in front of the tent, the one whom Abraham addressed as Adonai (my Lord), and who is called Jehovah in Genesis 18:13, said, "I will return to thee (חיּה כּעת) at this time, when it lives again" (חיּה, reviviscens, without the article, Ges. 111, 2b), i.e., at this time next year; "and, behold, Sarah, thy wife, will (then) have a son." Sarah heard this at the door of the tent; "and it was behind Him" (Jehovah), so that she could not be seen by Him as she stood at the door. But as the fulfilment of this promise seemed impossible to her, on account of Abraham's extreme age, and the fact that her own womb had lost the power of conception, she laughed within herself, thinking that she was not observed. But that she might know that the promise was made by the omniscient and omnipotent God, He reproved her for laughing, saying, "Is anything too wonderful (i.e., impossible) for Jehovah? at the time appointed I will return unto thee," etc.; and when her perplexity led her to deny it, He convicted her of falsehood. Abraham also had laughed at this promise (Genesis 17:17), and without receiving any reproof. For his laughing was the joyous outburst of astonishment; Sarah's, on the contrary, the result of doubt and unbelief, which had to be broken down by reproof, and, as the result showed, really was broken down, inasmuch as she conceived and bore a son, whom she could only have conceived in faith (Hebrews 11:11).
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