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Genesis 18:1

Three Special Visitors

18:1 The Lord appeared to Abraham 1  by the oaks 2  of Mamre while 3  he was sitting at the entrance 4  to his tent during the hottest time of the day.

Genesis 18:10-20

18:10 One of them 5  said, “I will surely return 6  to you when the season comes round again, 7  and your wife Sarah will have a son!” 8  (Now Sarah was listening at the entrance to the tent, not far behind him. 9  18:11 Abraham and Sarah were old and advancing in years; 10  Sarah had long since passed menopause.) 11  18:12 So Sarah laughed to herself, thinking, 12  “After I am worn out will I have pleasure, 13  especially when my husband is old too?” 14 

18:13 The Lord said to Abraham, “Why 15  did Sarah laugh and say, ‘Will I really 16  have a child when I am old?’ 18:14 Is anything impossible 17  for the Lord? I will return to you when the season comes round again and Sarah will have a son.” 18  18:15 Then Sarah lied, saying, “I did not laugh,” because she was afraid. But the Lord said, “No! You did laugh.” 19 

Abraham Pleads for Sodom

18:16 When the men got up to leave, 20  they looked out over 21  Sodom. (Now 22  Abraham was walking with them to see them on their way.) 23  18:17 Then the Lord said, “Should I hide from Abraham what I am about to do? 24  18:18 After all, Abraham 25  will surely become 26  a great and powerful nation, and all the nations on the earth will pronounce blessings on one another 27  using his name. 18:19 I have chosen him 28  so that he may command his children and his household after him to keep 29  the way of the Lord by doing 30  what is right and just. Then the Lord will give 31  to Abraham what he promised 32  him.”

18:20 So the Lord said, “The outcry against 33  Sodom and Gomorrah is so great and their sin so blatant 34 

1 tn Heb “him”; the referent (Abraham) has been specified in the translation for clarity.

2 tn Or “terebinths.”

3 tn The disjunctive clause here is circumstantial to the main clause.

4 tn The Hebrew noun translated “entrance” is an adverbial accusative of place.

5 tn Heb “he”; the referent (one of the three men introduced in v. 2) has been specified in the translation for clarity. Some English translations have specified the referent as the Lord (cf. RSV, NIV) based on vv. 1, 13, but the Hebrew text merely has “he said” at this point, referring to one of the three visitors. Aside from the introductory statement in v. 1, the incident is narrated from Abraham’s point of view, and the suspense is built up for the reader as Abraham’s elaborate banquet preparations in the preceding verses suggest he suspects these are important guests. But not until the promise of a son later in this verse does it become clear who is speaking. In v. 13 the Hebrew text explicitly mentions the Lord.

6 tn The Hebrew construction is emphatic, using the infinitive absolute with the imperfect tense.

sn I will surely return. If Abraham had not yet figured out who this was, this interchange would have made it clear. Otherwise, how would a return visit from this man mean Sarah would have a son?

7 tn Heb “as/when the time lives” or “revives,” possibly referring to the springtime.

8 tn Heb “and there will be (הִנֵּה, hinneh) a son for Sarah.”

9 tn This is the first of two disjunctive parenthetical clauses preparing the reader for Sarah’s response (see v. 12).

10 tn Heb “days.”

11 tn Heb “it had ceased to be for Sarah [after] a way like women.”

12 tn Heb “saying.”

13 tn It has been suggested that this word should be translated “conception,” not “pleasure.” See A. A. McIntosh, “A Third Root ‘adah in Biblical Hebrew,” VT 24 (1974): 454-73.

14 tn The word “too” has been added in the translation for stylistic reasons.

15 tn Heb “Why, this?” The demonstrative pronoun following the interrogative pronoun is enclitic, emphasizing the Lord’s amazement: “Why on earth did Sarah laugh?”

16 tn The Hebrew construction uses both הַאַף (haaf) and אֻמְנָם (’umnam): “Indeed, truly, will I have a child?”

17 tn The Hebrew verb פָּלָא (pala’) means “to be wonderful, to be extraordinary, to be surpassing, to be amazing.”

18 sn Sarah will have a son. The passage brings God’s promise into clear focus. As long as it was a promise for the future, it really could be believed without much involvement. But now, when it seemed so impossible from the human standpoint, when the Lord fixed an exact date for the birth of the child, the promise became rather overwhelming to Abraham and Sarah. But then this was the Lord of creation, the one they had come to trust. The point of these narratives is that the creation of Abraham’s offspring, which eventually became Israel, is no less a miraculous work of creation than the creation of the world itself.

19 tn Heb “And he said, ‘No, but you did laugh.’” The referent (the Lord) has been specified in the translation for clarity.

20 tn Heb “And the men arose from there.”

21 tn Heb “toward the face of.”

22 tn The disjunctive parenthetical clause sets the stage for the following speech.

23 tn The Piel of שָׁלַח (shalakh) means “to lead out, to send out, to expel”; here it is used in the friendly sense of seeing the visitors on their way.

24 tn The active participle here refers to an action that is imminent.

25 tn Heb “And Abraham.” The disjunctive clause is probably causal, giving a reason why God should not hide his intentions from Abraham. One could translate, “Should I hide from Abraham what I am about to do, seeing that Abraham will surely become a great and powerful nation?”

26 tn The infinitive absolute lends emphasis to the finite verb that follows.

27 tn Theoretically the Niphal can be translated either as passive or reflexive/reciprocal. (The Niphal of “bless” is only used in formulations of the Abrahamic covenant. See Gen 12:2; 18:18; 28:14.) Traditionally the verb is taken as passive here, as if Abram were going to be a channel or source of blessing. But in later formulations of the Abrahamic covenant (see Gen 22:18; 26:4) the Hitpael replaces this Niphal form, suggesting a translation “will bless [i.e., “pronounce blessings upon”] themselves [or “one another”].” The Hitpael of “bless” is used with a reflexive/reciprocal sense in Deut 29:18; Ps 72:17; Isa 65:16; Jer 4:2. Gen 18:18 (like 12:2) predicts that Abraham will be held up as a paradigm of divine blessing and that people will use his name in their blessing formulae. For examples of blessing formulae utilizing an individual as an example of blessing see Gen 48:20 and Ruth 4:11.

28 tn Heb “For I have known him.” The verb יָדַע (yada’) here means “to recognize and treat in a special manner, to choose” (see Amos 3:2). It indicates that Abraham stood in a special covenantal relationship with the Lord.

29 tn Heb “and they will keep.” The perfect verbal form with vav consecutive carries on the subjective nuance of the preceding imperfect verbal form (translated “so that he may command”).

30 tn The infinitive construct here indicates manner, explaining how Abraham’s children and his household will keep the way of the Lord.

31 tn Heb “bring on.” The infinitive after לְמַעַן (lÿmaan) indicates result here.

32 tn Heb “spoke to.”

33 tn Heb “the outcry of Sodom,” which apparently refers to the outcry for divine justice from those (unidentified persons) who observe its sinful ways.

34 tn Heb “heavy.”

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