Genesis 18:8
And he took butter, and milk, and the calf which he had dressed, and set it before them; and he stood by them under the tree, and they did eat.
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(8) Butter.—Heb. curds, or curdled milk. Neither the Hebrews, Greeks, nor Romans knew how to make butter, and the word itself signifies cheese made of cows’ milk. This is less prized in the East than that made from the milk of sheep, or of goats, while camels’ milk is regarded by the Arabs as best for drinking. In a hot climate milk is more refreshing when slightly sour; but Abraham brought both fresh milk (probably from the camels) and sour milk (from the sheep), and this with the cakes and the calf made a stately repast. With noble courtesy “he stood by them, and they did eat.” The Targum of Jonathan and other Jewish authorities translate “and they made show of eating,” lest it should seem as though angels ate (Judges 13:16). There is the same mystery as regards our risen Lord (Luke 24:43).

18:1-8 Abraham was waiting to entertain any weary traveller, for inns were not to be met with as among us. While Abraham was thus sitting, he saw three men coming. These were three heavenly beings in human bodies. Some think they were all created angels; others, that one of them was the Son of God, the Angel of the covenant. Washing the feet is customary in those hot climates, where only sandals are worn. We should not be forgetful to entertain strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares, Heb 13:2; nay, the Lord of angels himself; as we always do, when for his sake we entertain the least of his brethren. Cheerful and obliging manners in showing kindness, are great ornaments to piety. Though our condescending Lord vouchsafes not personal visits to us, yet still by his Spirit he stands at the door and knocks; when we are inclined to open, he deigns to enter; and by his gracious consolations he provides a rich feast, of which we partake with him, Re 3:20.Abraham hastened. - The unvarying customs of Eastern pastoral life here come up before us. There is plenty of flour and of live cattle. But the cakes have to be kneaded and baked on the hearth, and the calf has to be killed and dressed. Abraham personally gives directions, Sarah personally attends to the baking, and the boy or lad - that is, the domestic servant whose business it is - kills and dresses the meat. Abraham himself attends upon his guests. "Three seahs." About three pecks, and therefore a superabundant supply for three guests. An omer, or three tenths of a seah, was considered sufficient for one man for a day Exodus 16:16. But Abraham had a numerous household, and plentifulness was the character of primitive hospitality. "Hearth cakes," baked among the coals. "Butter" - seemingly any preparation of milk, cream, curds, or butter, all of which are used in the East.8. milk—A bowl of camel's milk ends the repast.

he stood by them under the tree—The host himself, even though he has a number of servants, deems it a necessary act of politeness to stand while his guests are at their food, and Abraham evidently did this before he was aware of the real character of his visitors.

The calf, to wit, the choicest parts of the calf.

He stood by them, to wait upon them, as the word standing is used, Nehemiah 12:44 Jeremiah 52:12.

They did eat; either seemingly, as the Scripture oft speaks of things according to appearance; or really, they received the meat into the bodies which they assumed, where it was consumed by a Divine power. And he took butter and milk,.... Jarchi says, it was the fat of the milk gathered from the top of it, he means cream, and is different both from butter and from milk: this was either Abraham himself, who took and brought these, as Sarah or her maidens might bring the cakes when baked; or else Abraham's young man, since it follows:

and the calf which he had dressed; either the whole of it, or some principal parts of it, reckoned the finest and choicest; though by what follows it seems to be Abraham himself, who may be said to dress the calf, it being done by his orders:

and set it before them; a table being placed under the tree, he set, or ordered to be set, all those provisions before the three men, to feed upon, the cakes and butter, the milk and fatted calf:

and he stood by them under the tree; not only to bid them welcome, but to minister to them; nor will this seem strange, or that the above several things were chiefly done by Abraham and Sarah, when it is observed that the greatest personages in the eastern countries, in early times, used to perform such services, and still do to this day, as a late traveller (r) informs us:"it is here (says he) no disgrace for persons of the highest character to busy themselves in what we should reckon menial employments; the greatest prince assists in the most laborious actions of husbandry; neither is he ashamed to fetch a lamb from his herd and kill it, while the princess his wife is impatient till she has prepared her fire and her kettle to seethe and dress it: the custom that still continues of walking either barefoot or with slippers requires the ancient compliment of bringing water upon the arrival of a stranger to wash his feet; and who is the person that presents himself first to do this office, and to give the "mar habbeh", or welcome, but the master of the family himself? who always distinguishes himself by being the most officious; and, after his entertainment is prepared, accounts it a breach of respect to sit down with his guests, but stands up all the time and serves them.''All which serves greatly to illustrate this passage; and the same learned author observes, that in this manner we find Achilles and Patroclus employed, as described by Homer (s), in providing an entertainment:

and they did eat; or seemed to eat, as the Targum of Jonathan and Jarchi; though as they assumed bodies so animated as to be capable of talking and walking, why not of eating and drinking? and there must have been a consumption of food some way or other, or Abraham would have known they had not eaten: we read of angels' food, Psalm 78:25; our English poet had a notion of angels eating, and represents Eve providing a repast for the angel, which he owns to be no ungrateful food (t).

(r) Dr. Shaw's Travels, p. 237, 238. Ed. 2.((s) Iliad. 9. ver. 205. (t) Milton's Paradise Lost, B. 5. ver. 412, &c.

And he took butter, and milk, and the calf which he had dressed, and set it before them; and he stood by them under the tree, and {e} they did eat.

(e) For as God gave them bodies for a time, so he gave them the abilities of them, to walk, to eat and drink, and such like.

8. butter, and milk] Butter (ḥem’ah, LXX βούτυρον) is not what we should call butter, but rather “curds,” mentioned here and Jdg 5:25, as a cool and refreshing delicacy to be offered to a guest. It is called in the East leben. It is probably this which we find so often mentioned with honey, e.g. 2 Samuel 17:29; Isaiah 7:22. The milk (ḥâlâb) would be the fresh milk of sheep or goats.

they did eat] The manifestation of the Deity is here, as in Genesis 19:3, associated with a meal. Cf. Exodus 24:11; Jdg 6:19-20. God’s Presence may bless the simplest duties of home life.Verse 8. - And he took butter, - חֶמְאָה, from the root חמא, to curdle or become thick, signifies curdled milk, not butter (βούτυτρον, LXX.; butyrum, Vulgate), which was not used among Orientals except medicinally. The word occurs seven times in Scripture with four letters (Deuteronomy 32:14; Judges 5:25; 2 Samuel 17:29; Isaiah 7:15, .22; Proverbs 30:33; Job 20:17), and once without א (Job 29:6; vide Michaelis, 'Supplement,' p. 807) - and milk, - חָלָב, milk whilst still fresh, or containing its fatness, from a root signifying to be fat (cf. Genesis 49:12; Proverbs 27:27) - and the calf which he - i.e. the young man - had dressed, and set it before them; and he stood by them under the tree, - a custom still observed among the Arabs, who honor their guests not by sitting to eat with, but by standing to wait upon, them - and they did eat. Not seemed to eat (Josephus, Philo, Jonathan), nor simply ate after an allegorical fashion, as fire consumes the materials put into it (Justin Martyr), but did so in reality (Tertullian, Delitzsch, Keil, Kurtz, Lange). Though the angel who appeared to Manoah (Judges 13:16) refused to partake of food, the risen Savior ate with his disciples (Luke 24:43). Physiologically inexplicable, this latter action on the part of Christ was not a mere φαινόμενον or simulation, but a veritable manducation of material food, to which Christ appealed in confirmation of the reality of his resurrection; and the acceptance of Abraham's hospitality on the part of Jehovah and his angels may in like manner have been designed to prove that their visit to his tent at Mamre was not a dream or a vision, but a genuine external manifestation. When sitting, about mid-day, in the grove of Mamre, in front of his tent, Abraham looked up and unexpectedly saw three men standing at some distance from him (עליו above him, looking down upon him as he sat), viz., Jehovah (Genesis 18:13) and two angels (Genesis 19:1); all three in human form. Perceiving at once that one of them was the Lord (אדני, i.e., God), he prostrated himself reverentially before them, and entreated them not to pass him by, but to suffer him to entertain them as his guests: "Let a little water be fetched, and wash your feet, and recline yourselves (השּׁען( sevle to recline, leaning upon the arm) under the tree." - "Comfort your hearts:" lit., "strengthen the heart," i.e., refresh yourselves by eating and drinking (Judges 19:5; 1 Kings 21:7). "For therefore (sc., to give me an opportunity to entertain you hospitably) have ye come over to your servant:" כּן על כּי does not stand for כּי כּן על (Ges. thes. p. 682), but means "because for this purpose" (vid., Ewald, 353).
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