Notes for Gen 18:1(LEB)

Heb "him"; the referent (Abraham) has been specified in the translation for clarity.


Or "terebinths."


The disjunctive clause here is circumstantial to the main clause.


The Hebrew noun translated "entrance" is an adverbial accusative of place.


Notes for Gen 18:2(LEB)

Heb "he"; the referent (Abraham) has been specified in the translation for clarity.


Heb "lifted up his eyes."


Heb "and saw, and look." The particle הִנֵּה (hinneh) draws attention to what he saw. The drawn-out description focuses the reader’s attention on Abraham’s deliberate, fixed gaze and indicates that what he is seeing is significant.


The Hebrew preposition עַל (’al) indicates the three men were nearby, but not close by, for Abraham had to run to meet them.


The pronoun "them" has been supplied in the translation for clarification. In the Hebrew text the verb has no stated object.


The form וַיִּשְׁתַּחוּ (vayyishtakhu, "and bowed low") is from the verb הִשְׁתַּחֲוָה (hishtakhavah, "to worship, bow low to the ground"). It is probably from a root חָוָה (khavah), though some derive it from שָׁחָה (shakhah).


The reader knows this is a theophany. The three visitors are probably the Elohim and two angels (see Gen 19:1)(LEB). It is not certain how soon Abraham recognized the true identity of the visitors. His actions suggest he suspected this was something out of the ordinary, though it is possible that his lavish treatment of the visitors was done quite unwittingly. Bowing down to the ground would be reserved for obeisance of kings or worship of the Elohim. Whether he was aware of it or not, Abraham’s action was most appropriate.


Notes for Gen 18:3(LEB)

The MT has the form אֲדֹנָי (’adonay, "Master") which is reserved for Yahweh. This may reflect later scribal activity. The scribes, knowing it was the Elohim, may have put the proper pointing with the word instead of the more common אֲדֹנִי (’adoni, "my master").


Heb "do not pass by from upon your servant."


Notes for Gen 18:4(LEB)

The imperative after the jussive indicates purpose here.


The word "all" has been supplied in the translation because the Hebrew verb translated "wash" and the pronominal suffix on the word "feet" are plural, referring to all three of the visitors.


Notes for Gen 18:5(LEB)

The Qal cohortative here probably has the nuance of polite request.



Heb "a piece of bread." The Hebrew word לֶחֶם (lekhem) can refer either to bread specifically or to food in general. Based on Abraham’s directions to Sarah in v. 6, bread was certainly involved, but v. 7 indicates that Abraham had a more elaborate meal in mind.


Heb "strengthen your heart." The imperative after the cohortative indicates purpose here.


Heb "so that you may refresh yourselves, after [which] you may be on your way – for therefore you passed by near your servant."


Notes for Gen 18:6(LEB)

The word "take" is supplied in the translation for stylistic reasons. In the Hebrew text the sentence lacks a verb other than the imperative "hurry." The elliptical structure of the language reflects Abraham’s haste to get things ready quickly.


Three measures (Heb "three seahs") was equivalent to about twenty quarts (twenty-two liters) of flour, which would make a lot of bread. The animal prepared for the meal was far more than the three visitors needed. This was a banquet for royalty. Either it had been a lonely time for Abraham and the presence of visitors made him very happy, or he sensed this was a momentous visit.


The bread was the simple, round bread made by bedouins that is normally prepared quickly for visitors.


Notes for Gen 18:7(LEB)

Heb "the young man."


The construction uses the Piel preterite, "he hurried," followed by the infinitive construct; the two probably form a verbal hendiadys: "he quickly prepared."


Notes for Gen 18:8(LEB)

Heb "he"; the referent (Abraham) has been specified in the translation for clarity.


The words "the food" are supplied in the translation for stylistic reasons. In the Hebrew text the verb has no stated object.


The disjunctive clause is a temporal circumstantial clause subordinate to the main verb.


Notes for Gen 18:9(LEB)

The particle הִנֵּה (hinneh) often accompanies a gesture of pointing or a focused gaze.


Notes for Gen 18:10(LEB)

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 Elohim (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 Elohim.


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


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?


Heb "as/when the time lives" or "revives," possibly referring to the springtime.


Heb "and there will be (הִנֵּה, hinneh) a son for Sarah."


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


Notes for Gen 18:11(LEB)

Heb "days."


Heb "it had ceased to be for Sarah [after] a way like women."


Notes for Gen 18:12(LEB)

Heb "saying."


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.


The word "too" has been added in the translation for stylistic reasons.


Notes for Gen 18:13(LEB)

Heb "Why, this?" The demonstrative pronoun following the interrogative pronoun is enclitic, emphasizing the Elohim’s amazement: "Why on earth did Sarah laugh?"


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


Notes for Gen 18:14(LEB)

The Hebrew verb פָּלָא (pala’) means "to be wonderful, to be extraordinary, to be surpassing, to be amazing."


Sarah will have a son. The passage brings Yahweh’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 Elohim fixed an exact date for the birth of the child, the promise became rather overwhelming to Abraham and Sarah. But then this was the Elohim 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.


Notes for Gen 18:15(LEB)

Heb "And he said, ‘No, but you did laugh.’" The referent (the Elohim) has been specified in the translation for clarity.


Notes for Gen 18:16(LEB)

Heb "And the men arose from there."


Heb "toward the face of."


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


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.


Notes for Gen 18:17(LEB)

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


Notes for Gen 18:18(LEB)

Heb "And Abraham." The disjunctive clause is probably causal, giving a reason why Yahweh 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?"


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


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 12:2LEB; Gen 18:18LEB; Gen 28:14.)(LEB) 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 22:18LEB; Gen 26:4)(LEB) 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 29:18LEB; Ps 72:17LEB; Isa 65:16LEB; Jer 4:2LEB. Gen 18:18LEB; Gen 12:2(LEB) 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 48:20LEB; Ruth 4:11(LEB).


Notes for Gen 18:19(LEB)

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


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").


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


Heb "bring on." The infinitive after לְמַעַן (lémaan) indicates result here.


Heb "spoke to."


Notes for Gen 18:20(LEB)

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


Heb "heavy."


Notes for Gen 18:21(LEB)

The cohortative indicates the Elohim’s resolve.


I must go down. The descent to "see" Sodom is a bold anthropomorphism, stressing the careful judgment of Yahweh. The language is reminiscent of the Elohim going down to see the Tower of Babel in Gen 11:1–9LEB.


Heb "[if] according to the outcry that has come to me they have done completely." Even the Elohim, who is well aware of the human capacity to sin, finds it hard to believe that anyone could be as bad as the "outcry" against Sodom and Gomorrah suggests.


The short phrase if not provides a ray of hope and inspires Abraham’s intercession.


Notes for Gen 18:22(LEB)

Heb "And the men turned from there." The word "two" is not in the Hebrew text, but is supplied here for clarity. Gen 19:1 mentions only two individuals (described as "angels"), while Abraham had entertained three visitors (18:2)(LEB). The implication is that the Elohim was the third visitor, who remained behind with Abraham here. The words "from there" are not included in the translation for stylistic reasons.


Heb "went."


An ancient Hebrew scribal tradition reads "but the Elohim remained standing before Abraham." This reading is problematic because the phrase "standing before" typically indicates intercession, but the Elohim would certainly not be interceding before Abraham.


Notes for Gen 18:24(LEB)

Heb "lift up," perhaps in the sense of "bear with" (cf. NRSV "forgive").


Notes for Gen 18:25(LEB)

Or "ruler." Will not the judge of the whole earth do what is right? For discussion of this text see J. L. Crenshaw, "Popular Questioning of the Justice of Yahweh in Ancient Israel," ZAW 82 (1970): 380-95, and C. S. Rodd, "Shall Not the Judge of All the Earth Do What Is Just?" ExpTim 83 (1972): 137-39.


Notes for Gen 18:27(LEB)

The Hebrew term translated "Elohim" here and in vv. 30, 31, 32 is אֲדֹנָי (’adonay).


The disjunctive clause is a concessive clause here, drawing out the humility as a contrast to the Elohim.


Notes for Gen 18:28(LEB)

The Hebrew verb שָׁחַת (shakhat, "to destroy") was used earlier to describe the effect of the flood.


Heb "because of five."


Notes for Gen 18:29(LEB)

Heb "he"; the referent (Abraham) has been specified in the translation for clarity.


The construction is a verbal hendiadys – the preterite ("he added") is combined with an adverb "yet" and an infinitive "to speak."


Notes for Gen 18:30(LEB)

Heb "he"; the referent (Abraham) has been specified in the translation for clarity.


Heb "let it not be hot to the Elohim." This is an idiom which means "may the Elohim not be angry."


After the jussive, the cohortative indicates purpose/result.


Notes for Gen 18:31(LEB)

Heb "he"; the referent (Abraham) has been specified in the translation for clarity.


Notes for Gen 18:32(LEB)

Heb "he"; the referent (Abraham) has been specified in the translation for clarity.


Notes for Gen 18:33(LEB)

Heb "And the Elohim went."


The infinitive construct ("speaking") serves as the direct object of the verb "finished."



Heb "to his place."