Genesis 18:2 MEANING

Genesis 18:2
(2) Three men.--Jewish commentators explain the number by saying that, as no angel might execute more than one commission at a time, one of the three came to heal Abraham, the second to bear the message to Sarah, and the third to destroy Sodom. More correctly one was "the angel of Jehovah," who came as the manifestation of Deity to Abraham, and the other two were his companions, commissioned by him afterwards to execute judgment on the cities of the plain, The number three pointed also to the Trinity of Persons in the Godhead, and is therefore read by our Church as one of the lessons for Trinity Sunday. But we must be careful not to use it as a proof of this doctrine, lest the inference should be drawn of a personal appearance of the Father and of the Holy Ghost, which would savour of heretical impiety.

Verse 2. - And he lift up his eyes and looked, and, lo, three men stood by him. Not in addition to (Kalisch), but including (Keil), Jehovah, whose appearance to the patriarch, having in the previous verse been first generally stated, is now minutely described. That these three men were not manifestations of the three persons of the Godhead (Justin Martyr, Ambrose, Cyril), but Jehovah accompanied by two created angels (Keil, et alii, may be inferred from Genesis 19:1. When first perceived by the patriarch they were believed to be men, strangers, who were approaching his tent, and indeed were already close to it, or standing by him. And when he saw them (i.e. understood that one of them was Jehovah, Jarchi rightly explaining that the word translated above "looked," i.e. with the bodily vision now implies an act of mental perception), he ran to meet them from the tent door, and bowed himself toward the ground. The expression denotes the complete prostration of the body by first falling on the knees, and then inclining the head forwards till it touches the ground. As this was a mode of salutation practiced by Orientals towards superiors generally, such as kings and princes (2 Samuel 9:8), but also towards equals (Genesis 23:7; Genesis 33:6, 7; Genesis 42:6; Genesis 43:26), as well as towards the Deity (Genesis 22:5; 1 Samuel 1:3), it is impossible to affirm with certainty (Keil, Lunge) that an act of worship was intended by the patriarch, and not simply the presentation of human and civil honor (Calvin). If Hebrews 13:2 inclines to countenance the latter interpretation, the language in which Abraham immediately addresses one of the three men almost leads to the conclusion that already the patriarch had recognized Jehovah.

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.And he lifted up his eyes and looked,.... To see if he could observe any passengers coming that way:

and, lo, three men stood by him; having perhaps descended at once from heaven upon the spot near where Abraham sat; for these, whoever they were, appeared in an human form, and they were took by Abraham at first sight to be men, and as such he treated them: some have taken these to be the three divine Persons, as some of the ancients; of which opinion was Dr. Lightfoot, who expressly says (h),"three months after this, (i.e. the institution of the circumcision,) the three Persons in the Trinity dine with Abraham, and foretell the birth of Isaac; again, the Son and the Holy Ghost go down to Sodom, but the first Person in the Trinity stayeth with Abraham''and elsewhere (i),"the three Persons in the Trinity, in the shape of three men, appear to Abraham and dine with him, and eat the first flesh mentioned eaten in all the Scripture.''But to this may be objected, that the Father and the Holy Spirit are never said to appear in an human form, see John 5:37; or are ever called angels, as these are, Genesis 19:1; but they rather seem to be angels, as the Targums of Jonathan and Jerusalem call them, in the likeness of men, who were sent on three messages, as they suggest; one to bring the news of Sarah's bearing Isaac; the other to deliver Lot; and the third to overthrow Sodom and Gomorrah; which is a much better sense than that of Ben Gersom, who takes them to be three prophets, and mentions the names of two of them, Shem and Heber; for two of these are expressly called angels, Genesis 19:1; and the apostle seems to refer to this history, Hebrews 13:2; in the Talmud (k) they are said to be Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael: the truth of the matter seems to be this, that one of them was the son of God in an human form, that chiefly conversed with Abraham, and who rained from heaven brimstone on Sodom; and the other two were angels in the like form that accompanied him in that expedition:

and when he saw them, he ran to meet them from the tent door; for, though they are before said to stand "by him", it must be understood of their being near him, but at some little distance; and as soon as he saw them, he did not stay for their coming up to him, but, to show how ready he was to entertain them, he arises from his seat at the tent door and ran to meet them, and gave them an hearty welcome to what he would provide for them:

and bowed himself toward the ground; not in a way of religious adoration, for, had he took them for angels, be could not have done that, and he knew not as yet that one of them was Jehovah; but in a civil manner, as was the custom of those countries when in the presence of, or when they received? great personages, and such, by their look and habit, Abraham took these to be.

(h) Works, vol. 1. p. 13. (i) Ib. p. 695. (k) T. Bab. Yoma, fol. 37. 2.

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