Matthew Poole's Commentary
And the LORD appeared unto him in the plains of Mamre: and he sat in the tent door in the heat of the day;The Lord appears to Abraham, Genesis 18:1. He sees three men, Genesis 18:2; invites them, Genesis 18:3-5. They accept it, Genesis 18:5. He prepares for them a calf, &c.; they eat, Genesis 18:6-8. The promise of a son by Sarah renewed; the time appointed, Genesis 18:9,10. Sarah, being old, laughs, Genesis 18:11,12. God reproves her, Genesis 18:13; and confirms the promise, Genesis 18:14. Her denial, and God’s reply, Genesis 18:15. The men go towards Sodom, Genesis 18:16. God resolves to show Abraham his purpose to destroy Sodom, Genesis 18:17. The reason of it, Genesis 18:18. God’s testimony of him, Genesis 18:19. God reveals his purpose to him, Genesis 18:20-22. Abraham’s intercession for Sodom oft repeated, and God’s condescension, Genesis 18:23-32.
1898 Waiting for strangers which might pass that way; for whom no public places being provided in those times and places, virtuous persons used to entertain them in their houses. See Hebrews 13:2.
In the heat of the day, the time when travellers, especially in those hot contries, used to divert and refresh themselves.
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,Three men, as they seemed to be, though indeed they were angels in men’s shape.
Bowed himself toward the ground; a respect usually paid to persons of quality, such as these seemed to be.
And said, My Lord, if now I have found favour in thy sight, pass not away, I pray thee, from thy servant:He directeth his speech to one, who, by the majesty of his countenance, and the respect which the other two showed him, seemed to be the chief of them.
Let a little water, I pray you, be fetched, and wash your feet, and rest yourselves under the tree:A practice usual in those parts, Genesis 19:2 24:32 43:24 John 13:4,5 1 Timothy 5:10, because they used to travel either bare-footed, or only with sandals to cover and secure the bottom of their feet.
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.Therefore are ye come to your servant; not that he saith or thought that this was their design, but an effect of Divine Providence. The meaning is, Therefore hath God directed you this way, that I might have an occasion of performing my duty to you, which I cheerfully embrace.
And Abraham hastened into the tent unto Sarah, and said, Make ready quickly three measures of fine meal, knead it, and make cakes upon the hearth.Three measures, containing each the third part of an ephah. See Exodus 16:36.
Upon the hearth; upon the coals, or in the warm cinders, or in an oven. He had doubtless other bread ready, but he would have new bread for them, which he thought most grateful.
And Abraham ran unto the herd, and fetcht a calf tender and good, and gave it unto a young man; and he hasted to dress it.No text from Poole on this verse.
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.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 they said unto him, Where is Sarah thy wife? And he said, Behold, in the tent.They said unto him, i.e. one of them, in the name of all, said; which he did not for his own satisfaction, for he who knew her name knew also where she was, but to give occasion for the following discourse.
In the tent; in her tent; for men and women had then their several tents or apartments.
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.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.
Now Abraham and Sarah were old and well stricken in age; and it ceased to be with Sarah after the manner of women.As to those monthly effluviums peculiar to her sex, which are necessary to conception, compare Genesis 31:35.
Therefore Sarah laughed within herself, saying, After I am waxed old shall I have pleasure, my lord being old also?Sarah laughed within herself; not from joy and admiration, but from distrust and contempt, as if it were incredible. Heb. In her heart, i.e. she secretly derided it, though none but herself, as she thought, knew it.
Shall I have pleasure? Not so much in the conception, as in the education and fruition of a child.
And the LORD said unto Abraham, Wherefore did Sarah laugh, saying, Shall I of a surety bear a child, which am old?No text from Poole on this verse.
Is any thing too hard for the LORD? At the time appointed I will return unto thee, according to the time of life, and Sarah shall have a son.Is any thing too hard for the Lord? Heb. Hid from God? So the sense is: Though she laughed only in her heart, it is not unknown to me. Or rather, too wonderful for God to effect? Which best suits with the following words.
Then Sarah denied, saying, I laughed not; for she was afraid. And he said, Nay; but thou didst laugh.Sarah denied, from the sense of guilt, and the discovery of her shame, and the expectation of a sharp rebuke, both from this person, and from her husband.
And the men rose up from thence, and looked toward Sodom: and Abraham went with them to bring them on the way.A civility usual then and afterwards. See Acts 20:38 21:5 Romans 15:24 1 Corinthians 16:11.
And the LORD said, Shall I hide from Abraham that thing which I do;q.d. I will not, cannot hide it; it is against the laws of friendship to conceal my secrets from him. The interrogation here is in effect a negation, as elsewhere. Compare 2 Samuel 7:5, with 1 Chronicles 17:4; and Matthew 7:16, with Luke 6:43. See also Amos 3:7.
Seeing that Abraham shall surely become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him?q.d. Seeing I have done greater things for him, how can I deny him the less? Compare the argument, Romans 8:32. God’s ways are not like men’s ways. Former favours to men are arguments why they should do no more, but to God they are motives for the adding of new ones.
For I know him, that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the LORD, to do justice and judgment; that the LORD may bring upon Abraham that which he hath spoken of him.For I know him; I know him to be such a one as I am now describing; or I know this concerning him which now follows. Others, I love him, and therefore cannot conceal this from him. Words of knowledge being oft put for love, as Jeremiah 1:5 24:5 Hosea 13:5 Amos 3:2.
That he will command, or instruct, as the word is used, Leviticus 14:5 Deu 20:18 27:4. It will not be in vain that I tell him this, and give him occasion to pray and to taste my goodness in answering prayers, because he will not smother these things in his own breast, but manifest them to others, and teach them how good God is, who so readily complies with the desires and prayers of men, and how terrible he is to incorrigible sinners, and how evil and bitter a thing it is to sin against God. And so I shall get the end I aim at in all my works, which is, that they may be known for the good of others; that they may learn by such examples.
His children and his household, who will live when he is dead. He will so diligently imprint these things in their minds, that they shall never forget them.
They shall keep the way of the Lord, i.e. observe and walk in the way of God’s precepts: q.d. He shall not lose his design or labour; for what he teacheth they shall learn and practise. See Psalm 51:15, &c.
To do justice and judgement, i.e. to do all things that are good, and right, and just, both to God and men: compare Psalm 119:121. That Abraham and his posterity, keeping the conditions of the covenant required on their part, God may without any blemish to his honour or justice give all those good things which he hath promised to them.
And the LORD said, Because the cry of Sodom and Gomorrah is great, and because their sin is very grievous;Sins are said to cry when they are gross, and manifest, and impudent, and such as highly provoke God to anger. He names only these two cities, as being the most eminent in state, and exemplary in wickedness; but under them he includes the rest, as appears by the story.
I will go down now, and see whether they have done altogether according to the cry of it, which is come unto me; and if not, I will know.i.e. I will inquire into the truth of the thing. God here speaks after the manner of men, and for the example and instruction of judges to search into causes ere they pass sentence.
Whether they have done altogether; Heb.
Whether they have made a consummation or accomplishment; i.e. whether they have filled up the measure of their sins. Compare Genesis 15:16 Matthew 23:32 Jam 1:15.
And the men turned their faces from thence, and went toward Sodom: but Abraham stood yet before the LORD.And the men, i.e. two of them; for the third staid with Abraham, as it here follows.
Before the Lord, the third of these persons, whom now he perceived to be the Lord himself, who had assumed a human shape.
And Abraham drew near, and said, Wilt thou also destroy the righteous with the wicked?i.e. He approached unto God to inquire of him, and to pray unto him; for so the phrase of drawing near to God is used, 1 Samuel 14:36 Psalm 73:28 Isaiah 29:13 Hebrews 10:22.
Peradventure there be fifty righteous within the city: wilt thou also destroy and not spare the place for the fifty righteous that are therein?Within the city, i.e. in the cities concerned, as appears by Genesis 18:20, and Genesis 19:25; the singular number for the plural, as is frequent, as Genesis 3:22 1 Chronicles 10:1, compared with 1 Samuel 31:1, and oft elsewhere. Or the city Sodom alone is mentioned, but the rest are comprehended under it, either because of its eminency, or because they were subject or subordinate to it, as may seem probable from the history, Genesis 14:1-24.
That be far from thee to do after this manner, to slay the righteous with the wicked: and that the righteous should be as the wicked, that be far from thee: Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?Now he clearly perceiveth that this person was no less than the Creator, Governor, and
Judge of the world, even the second person in the blessed Trinity, to whom that title and work is ascribed, as John 5:22,27 Ac 10:42 17:31. He speaks not this as if it were simply unjust for God to involve the righteous in the same temporal destruction with the wicked; for he knew very well, and by his own experience, that there was not a just man upon earth, that did good and sinned not, Ecclesiastes 7:20, and therefore no such just man who did not for his own sin deserve that death and destruction which is the proper wages of sin, Romans 6:23. But he speaks not here of strict and rigorous justice, but of that moderate and equitable way which God is pleased to use with the sons of men, and of that right to temporal deliverances which by virtue of God’s gracious covenant and promise did accrue to pious and virtuous persons, especially in the times of the Old Testament, when temporal promises were more expressly and particularly made to good men.
And the LORD said, If I find in Sodom fifty righteous within the city, then I will spare all the place for their sakes.No text from Poole on this verse.
And Abraham answered and said, Behold now, I have taken upon me to speak unto the Lord, which am but dust and ashes:In regard of the composition of my body, which was taken out of the dust, and shall return into it again. See Genesis 3:19 Job 4:19 Ecclesiastes 12:7 1 Corinthians 15:47,48.
Peradventure there shall lack five of the fifty righteous: wilt thou destroy all the city for lack of five? And he said, If I find there forty and five, I will not destroy it.Lack of five, Heb. for five, or because of five, to wit, which are lacking or wanting. The same supplement we have also Psalm 119:24 Lamentations 4:9.
And he spake unto him yet again, and said, Peradventure there shall be forty found there. And he said, I will not do it for forty's sake.No text from Poole on this verse.
And he said unto him, Oh let not the Lord be angry, and I will speak: Peradventure there shall thirty be found there. And he said, I will not do it, if I find thirty there.No text from Poole on this verse.
And he said, Behold now, I have taken upon me to speak unto the Lord: Peradventure there shall be twenty found there. And he said, I will not destroy it for twenty's sake.No text from Poole on this verse.
And he said, Oh let not the Lord be angry, and I will speak yet but this once: Peradventure ten shall be found there. And he said, I will not destroy it for ten's sake.Abraham in modesty could proceed no further; and being a good man himself, he had a charitable opinion of others, and thought there certainly were so many good men in all those cities, especially including Lot and his family. No doubt Abraham remembered Lot in his prayers; but that large and generous soul could not content himself with Lot’s preservation, but aims at the saving of the whole cities, which when he saw was doubtful and unlikely, he prayed for his deliverance out of that common destruction, as may be gathered from Genesis 19:29.
And the LORD went his way, as soon as he had left communing with Abraham: and Abraham returned unto his place.No text from Poole on this verse.