Commentary of the Old and New Testaments

Genesis 18

By Joseph Benson


Verse 1
Genesis 18:1. This appearance of God to Abraham seems to have had in it more of freedom and familiarity, and less of grandeur and majesty, than those we have hitherto read of, and therefore more resembles that great visit, which in the fulness of time the Son of God was to make to the world. He sat in the tent-door in the heat of the day — Not so much to repose himself, as to seek an opportunity of doing good, by giving entertainment to strangers. And when there were no inns where travellers could refresh themselves or lodge, it was as common, as it was necessary, for hospitable persons to invite such at noon, or at eventide, to their houses or tents.

Verse 2
Genesis 18:2. And lo, three men — These three men were three spiritual, heavenly beings, now assuming human shapes, that they might be visible to Abraham, and conversable with him. Some think they were all three created angels; others, which is more probable, that one of them was the Son of God. He bowed himself toward the ground — Religion doth not destroy, but improve good manners, and teaches us to “honour all men.”

Verse 3-4
Genesis 18:3-4. And he said, My Lord — He addressed himself to one of the three, who seemed to have the pre-eminence, probably because of some peculiar majesty which appeared in his countenance, or the respect which the other two paid him. Let a little water be fetched — As in those hot climates people went bare-footed, or wore only sandals, washing the feet often was both customary and necessary.

Verse 7
Genesis 18:7. Abraham ran to the herd — In the several particulars here mentioned, we have a lively picture of the hospitality, simplicity, benevolence, and liberality of these ancient patriarchs. How different was their manner of life from the refinement and modish formality of the higher classes in modern times!

Verse 9
Genesis 18:9. Where is Sarah thy wife? — By naming her, they gave intimation to Abraham, that though they seemed strangers, yet they well knew him and his family: by inquiring after her, they showed a kind concern for the family of one whom they found respectful to them. And by speaking of her, she overhearing it, they drew her to listen to what was further to be said.

Verse 10
Genesis 18:10. I will certainly return unto thee, and visit thee according to the time of life — That is, nine months hence, and, in fulfilment of my promise, Sarah shall have a son. God will return to those that bid him welcome.

Verse 12
Genesis 18:12. Sarah laughed within herself — It was not a laughter of faith, like Abraham’s, (Genesis 17:17,) but a laughter of doubting and distrust. The great objection which Sarah could not get over was her age. I am waxed old — And past child-bearing in a course of nature, especially having been hitherto barren, and, which magnifies the difficulty, My lord is old also. Observe here, that Sarah calls Abraham her lord, and the Holy Ghost takes notice of it to her honour, and recommends it to the imitation of all Christian wives, 1 Peter 3:6, Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord, in token of respect and subjection.

Verses 13-15
Genesis 18:13; Genesis 18:15. And the Lord (Hebrews, Jehovah) said, Wherefore did Sarah laugh? — By showing that he knew what Sarah did secretly, in another apartment of the tent, he manifested that he could accomplish his word, however contrary to the ordinary course of nature.

Verse 17
Genesis 18:17. Shall I hide from Abraham that thing which I do — Thus doth God in his counsels express himself after the manner of men, with deliberation. “The secret of the Lord is with them that fear him.” Those that by faith live a life of communion with God, cannot but know more of his mind than other people. They have a better insight into what is present, and a better foresight of what is to come.

Verse 19
Genesis 18:19. I know Abraham that he will command his children, and his household after him — This is a bright part of Abraham’s character. He not only prayed with his family, but he taught them, as a man of knowledge; nay, he commanded them, as a man in authority, and was prophet and king, as well as priest, in his own house. And he not only took care of his children, but of his household: his servants were catechised servants. Masters of families should instruct, and inspect the manners of all under their roof. And this is given as the reason why God would make known to him his purpose concerning Sodom; because he was communicative of his knowledge, and improved it for the benefit of those that were under his charge.

Verse 21
Genesis 18:21. I will go down now and see — Not as if there were any thing concerning which God is in doubt; but he is pleased thus to express himself after the manner of men, and to show that he ascertains the criminal’s guilt before he passes sentence.

Verse 22
Genesis 18:22. And the men — That is, two of them, who appear to have been created angels: turned their faces from thence — And went toward Sodom, which they entered in the evening; but the one called Jehovah throughout the chapter continued with Abraham, who stood yet before the Lord, evidently the same person with whom he had hitherto been communing.

Verse 23
Genesis 18:23. Abraham drew near — This expression intimates a holy concern, and a holy confidence; he drew near with an assurance of faith.

Verse 27
Genesis 18:27. Behold now, I have taken upon me to speak unto the Lord, who am but dust and ashes — He speaks as one amazed at his own boldness, and the liberty God graciously allowed him, considering God’s greatness, who is the Lord, and his own meanness, but dust and ashes. Whenever we draw near to God, it becomes us reverently to acknowledge the vast distance that there is between us and him. He is the Lord of glory, we are worms of the earth.

Verse 30
Genesis 18:30. O let not the Lord be angry — The importunity which believers use in their addresses to God is such, that if they were dealing with a man like themselves, they could not but fear that he would be angry with them. But he with whom we have to do is God and not man, and he is pleased when he is wrestled with. But why then did Abraham leave off asking, when he had prevailed so far as to get the place spared if there were but ten righteous in it? Either, 1st, Because he could not in modesty proceed any further, and being a good man himself, he had a charitable opinion of others, and thought there must be so many good men in all those cities, especially including Lot and his family. 2d, Because he owned that it deserved to perish if there were not so many: as the dresser of the vineyard (Luke 13:9) consented that the barren fig-tree should be cut down if one year’s trial more did not make it fruitful. Or, 3d, Which is most probable, because God restrained his spirit from asking any further. When God hath determined the ruin of a place, he forbids it to be prayed for. No doubt Abraham remembered Lot in his prayers; but his large and generous mind could not be content with Lot’s preservation, but aims at the preservation of the whole city; which when he saw to be doubtful or unlikely, he prayed for Lot’s deliverance out of the common destruction, as appears from Genesis 19:29.

Verse 33
Genesis 18:33. Abraham returned to his place — To wait what the event would be; and it proved that his prayer was heard; and yet Sodom was not spared, because there were not ten righteous persons in it.