Abraham showed hospitality to three strangers by inviting them to sit with him and eat a meal. He referred to one as adon (Hebrew אֲדֹנָי) which can be translated lord or master; throughout Scripture, this form of the word is used 420 times to refer to both God and people of respected social status. While the reader knows that these three men were messengers from Yehovah (18:1, 10), it is not immediately clear if Abraham knew this. Was his hospitality the result of knowing that these men were messengers from God, or was he practicing love for strangers as God commands us to do?
The messengers informed Abraham on behalf of Yehovah that his wife Sarah would have a son, at which time Sarah doubted due to her old age making it physically impossible to have a son. Though she denied having doubted, the men knew that she doubted and repeated their claim with the time reference of within the year. Sarah’s doubting is described as tsichaq (Hebrew צְחַק) which is translated laugh (18:12), showing a connection between laughing and doubting. When Sarah birthed the son, Abraham named him Yitschaq (Hebrew צְחַק) which means he laughs (21:3). Though previously, laughing was the result of doubting, after the birth of the son, the laughter is the result of happiness (21:6-7).
Two of the three messengers left to survey actions of the people in the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah that Yehovah may know if he should execute judgment on the cities. We know that God knows all things and the intentions of the heart (Psalm 44:21; 139:4; 147:5; Hebrews 4:13), so why does he need to survey the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah? Though he knows all things, we also know that he gives people opportunity to act on their heart’s intentions before he decides to execute judgment, as in the case of delayed judgment of the Canaanites (Genesis 15:16) and the city of Nineveh (Jonah 3:10). James, the brother of Yeshua, explained the process actions, sin, and judgment: “But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust. Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death” (James 1:14-15).
Abraham interceded for Sodom, where his nephew Lot lived. He negotiated with Yehovah that the city would not be judged if 10 righteous people were found in the city. God could not find 10. Lot invited the two messengers from Yehovah into his home, and every man in the city surrounded the house, demanding that Lot give them the visitors so that they may commit homosexual rape (sodomy) with them. This treatment of the foreigners was in direct contrast to Abraham’s treatment of these men. Lot showed himself to be socially influenced by the city in which he lived as he offered his two daughters to the men of the city to satisfy them. In the end, the messengers took Lot and his family out of the city, but Lot’s wife turned back (19:26) and died in the rain of sulfur on the city.
The origin of some of the people groups that would historically be opposed to Israel can be found in this Torah portion. They were Ammon, Moab, and other Arabian tribes. These people groups caused difficulty for Israel after their exodus from Egypt, at the establishment of the kingdom of Israel, and afterward. They were geographically located in Arabia and represent much of the Middle East nations surrounding Israel today.
Lot’s descendants Ammon and Moab:
After escaping from the Sodom, Lot and his daughters resided in a cave in the mountains. Again showing how the society of Sodom had influenced Lot and his family, his two daughters make him drunk and rape him in order to have children and a family. The role of women at this time was to have and care for the family, so that in their minds they justified the actions done against their father. Their children became the nations of Moab and Ammon (19:37-38). Abraham’s wife Sarah witnessed Isaac’s older half-brother Ishmael, the son of the Egyptian servant Hagar, laughing at Isaac (21:9). This laughing is the word metsacheq (Hebrew מְצַחֵק), from the word tsichaq (Hebrew צְחַק) which was used to refer to Sarah’s doubting (18:12), Sarah’s happiness (21:6-7), and the origin of Isaac’s name. However, in this context, it means fondling or sexually touching as it is used for the adult Isaac’s relations with his wife Rebekah (26:8-9). The result of Ishmael’s conduct with his younger brother, Sarah banishes Hagar and Ishmael. Despite this, Yehovah provided for Hagar and Ishmael, and promises to bless Ishmael by making his descendants into nations (21:15-21), whose patriarchs were listed later in Genesis 25:13-18.