Scripture Portion of Week 4: Vayera

Genesis 18:1-22:24

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:

kingdoms-around-israel

Ishmael’s descendants:

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.

2 Kings 4:1-37

Luke 2:1-38

About Jonathan Lankford

Jonathan has a Bachelor of Arts degree (BA) in Bible with a concentration in missions and intercultural communication. He also earned his Master's in Business Quality Management (MBQPM) and graduated Summa Cum Laude with a Master's in Education (MEd) focusing on Administration. He has been an educator since 2007, teaching English and humanities in Vietnamese universities. He currently holds the position of Associate Registrar at Tan Tao University, Vietnam.
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3 Responses to Scripture Portion of Week 4: Vayera

  1. tben says:

    Recently I was reading about the differences between Hebrew, Israelites, Jews
    Ammon, Moab, Edomites can qualify themselves as Hebrews For Hebrews also defined as one from the other side (of the river).’””

    Israelites are used for the 12 specific tribes of Jacob, and Jews are specific to the tribe of Judah and Benjamin which are the Kingdom of Judah.

    I read with interest about how they gave problems to the Israelites as Moses lead them out of Egypt. But interestingly, it seem that God choose to settle them as Neighbours of the children of Israel deliberately

    ‘Do not harass Moab, nor contend with them in battle, for I will not give you any of their land as a possession, because I have given Ar to the descendants of Lot as a possession.’”.- Deut 2:9

    “And when you come near the people of Ammon, do not harass them or meddle with them, for I will not give you any of the land of the people of Ammon as a possession, because I have given it to the descendants of Lot as a possession.’” – Deut 2:19

    “Do not meddle with them, for I will not give you any of their land, no, not so much as one footstep, because I have given Mount Seir to Esau as a possession”- Deut 2:5

    That chapter went on to describe how God help these Hebrew tribes gain their lands. Sometimes it sets me wondering. why did God place these people all around Israel knowing they will eventually give him problem. What was God thinking about.? Just asking to get some discussion going.

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    • Why did God allow Moab and Ammon to continue to exist? I can give 2 reasons, but of course, this is outside the scope of the basic reading of the text and mere opinion:
      1. Their sin was not complete at the time Israel was to enter the Promised Land. We see in last week’s reading that Abraham’s descendants would journey in Egypt because the sin of the Canaanites was not yet complete” (15:16). It seems as though God gave the Canaanites time to repent and do justice before bringing another nation, Israel, in to execute his judgment.
      2. God gave Lot’s descendants the land on behalf of his covenant with Abraham. The verses in Deuteronomy 2 quoted above state that God gave the land to Lot’s descendants. It could be that he made a covenant with Lot, or more plausibly, honored his covenant with Abraham. Lot’s descendants were not alone as the only non-Israelite nations in Abraham’s family with whom he made a covenant. He gave Esau’s descendants portions of the land as well (Deuteronomy 2:22). To me, this shows the level of commitment involved in the unilateral contract that he made with Abraham (Genesis 17). Of course, this leads to the next question: Why did God choose to include Lot and Esau? To that who knows but him alone? ;-)

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      • tben says:

        Hi Jon
        I find Deut 2 interesting because Deut 2 is a kind of indication that it was Gods will to settle these tribes around Israel, even if they are not the ones to inherit the promise of Abraha, (Reading of Deut 2 will tell you that it was God who gave these tribes their victory and allowed them to conquer the land

        Of course, as quoted by you , what I think is a mere opinion as well.
        Even though those tribes are not to inherit the promise, God wanted them tob e near their neighbours. Assuming if Israel live up to God standards, their conducts will be seen first hand by their bretherns. He wanted to influence them.

        Even though they do not follow God, but when any of them wanted to be part of GOd people (IE Ruth the Moabitess) God still extent his hand to include them in.

        Ultimately, when the Messiah had come and sacrifice himself and open up the way of salvation to all the gentiles God wanted these people to know of the gospel soonest (Remember Jeruslaem, Judea, Samaria and ends of the world.)

        I believe God had the heart to save these people as well. Perhaps they may not be as sinful as the Canaanite in the past, God had never desired the death of the wicked, he would rather want them to repent. So somehow I believe God placed them there with a hope that one day they too will be saved. (despite all the trouble they give to Israel)

        But again, opinion only, the real answer will only be revealed when you asked God directly in heaven ;)

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