1 Then the Lord appeared to him by the terebinth trees of Mamre, as he was sitting in the tent door in the heat of the day.
2 So he lifted his eyes and looked, and behold, three men were standing by him; and when he saw them, he ran from the tent door to meet them, and bowed himself to the ground,
3 and said, “My Lord, if I have now found favor in Your sight, do not pass on by Your servant.
4 Please let a little water be brought, and wash your feet, and rest yourselves under the tree.
5 And I will bring a morsel of bread, that you may refresh your hearts. After that you may pass by, inasmuch as you have come to your servant.” They said, “Do as you have said.”
6 So Abraham hurried into the tent to Sarah and said, “Quickly, make ready three measures of fine meal; knead it and make cakes.”
7 And Abraham ran to the herd, took a tender and good calf, gave it to a young man, and he hastened to prepare it.
8 So he took butter and milk and the calf which he had prepared, and set it before them; and he stood by them under the tree as they ate.
9 Then they said to him, “Where is Sarah your wife?” So he said, “Here, in the tent.”
10 And He said, “I will certainly return to you according to the time of life, and behold, Sarah your wife shall have a son.” (Sarah was listening in the tent door which was behind him.)
11 Now Abraham and Sarah were old, well advanced in age; and Sarah had passed the age of childbearing.
12 Therefore Sarah laughed within herself, saying, “After I have grown old, shall I have pleasure, my lord being old also?”
13 And the Lord said to Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh, saying, ‘Shall I surely bear a child, since I am old?’
14 Is anything too hard for the Lord? At the appointed time I will return to you, according to the time of life, and Sarah shall have a son.”
15 But Sarah denied it, saying, “I did not laugh,” for she was afraid. And He said, “No, but you did laugh!”
The context of Genesis 18 and 19 makes it clear that the other two men were angels, who later were sent to Sodom and Gomorrah to bring God’s judgment on those wicked cities. The leader of the three men could have been none other than God Himself and, therefore, Christ in His preincarnate state (John 1:18). — Morris, page 337
There is no indication that [the three men] had been riding or even walking; as Abraham looked up, there they were. … [Abraham’s] whole manner suggests and urgency about his conversation with them and, although it was no doubt the custom of men in the East to be very hospitable toward guests, there is clearly an element of more than normal hospitality here. First, he ran to meet them, and then “bowed himself toward the ground.” The phrase “bowed himself” is actually the Hebrew shachah, the usual word for “worship.” This, in fact, is the first use of this word in Scripture. Although it is often also used to describe bowing down in obeisance before men, the fact that it is used first in connection with worshiping God in human appearance seems significant as setting the standard for its primary meaning throughout Scripture.
Abraham then urged the men to rest themselves while he fetched water to wash their feet and had a meal prepared for them. He addressed the spokesman as “my Lord” (Hebrew Adonai), which is one of the divine names. …
This is the first time we read of the fine meal of fine flour in the Bible. The word is used approximately one hundred times and is the standing type of the fine, lovely, smooth, white, pure, nourishing life of Christ in whom there was no foreign substance but only grace, purity, love, holiness, and perfect smoothness. All roughness and rudeness was far from Him. Often the fine flour was mingled with oil, Leviticus 2:7; 7:12; Numbers 6:15; and in Numbers 7 we find this ordered twelve times. The oil typified the Holy Spirit as the find flour foreshadowed the human nature of Christ. he was filled with the Spirit if anyone ever was. The soleth or fine flour, may have given rise to the word “solemnity” which we received from the Latins and which originally meant to sacrifice with soleth, or an offering of fine flour. When we speak of a solemn occasion, we have forgotten the origin of this word, just as when we speak of an ovation, we do not think of the fact that this word originated in the sacrifice of a sheep at some minor triumph. — Bultema, page 50
[The Lord] said, literally, “I will surely return unto thee when the season lives.” This might refer either to the return of the same season of the year in the following year, or to the reviving of Sarah’s bodily functions when the Lord returned. “It had ceased to be with Sarah after the manner of women.” She had passed her “change of life,” but her “season” for child-bearing was to be revived, all the more miraculously since her womb had been barren even when she was young.
When Sarah heard this promise, she “laughed within herself,” not a laugh of joy, but a cynical laugh, knowing that it was impossible for her and her husband any longer to enjoy the pleasures of sexual relations or of child-bearing. … Abraham must have told her earlier about God’s great promise (17:19), even if she had not been present at the theophany. She must have found it difficult to believe, even coming from God. Without a doubt, her faith needed to be strengthened, if indeed she was ever going to “receive strength to conceive seed, and be delivered of a child when she was past age” (Hebrews 11:11).
On thing that helped strengthen her faith was the Lord’s question: “Wherefore did Sarah laugh?” The man could neither see her behind the tent flap nor hear her laugh, since only laughed within herself. She must quickly have realized that this indeed was either an angel or God Himself, in order for Him to know these things.
In embarrassment, she called out, denying that she had laughed. The Lord insisted, correctly that she had, even though Abraham had no heart her. The Lord also repeated the promise.
Verse 14 is one of the mountain-peak verses of the Bible. “Is anything too hard for the Lord?” To ask the question is to answer it. “With God, all things are possible” (Matthew 19:26). He who created all things surely controls all things. He who enacted the laws of nature can change them if He wills. The adjective “hard” is the same as “wonderful,” the same word describing the coming Messiah in Isaiah 9:6. — Morris, pages 340-341
15 And God said to Abraham, “As for Sarai your wife, you shall not call her name Sarai, but Sarah shall be her name.
16 I will bless her, and moreover, I will give you a son by her. I will bless her, and she shall become nations; kings of peoples shall come from her.”
17 Then Abraham fell on his face and laughed and said to himself, “Shall a child be born to a man who is a hundred years old? Shall Sarah, who is ninety years old, bear a child?”
18 And Abraham said to God, “Oh that Ishmael might live before you!”
19 God said, “No, but Sarah your wife shall bear you a son, and you shall call his name Isaac. I will establish my covenant with him as an everlasting covenant for his offspring after him.
20 As for Ishmael, I have heard you; behold, I have blessed him and will make him fruitful and multiply him greatly. He shall father twelve princes, and I will make him into a great nation.
21 But I will establish my covenant with Isaac, whom Sarah shall bear to you at this time next year.”
22 When he had finished talking with him, God went up from Abraham.
23 Then Abraham took Ishmael his son and all those born in his house or bought with his money, every male among the men of Abraham’s house, and he circumcised the flesh of their foreskins that very day, as God had said to him.
24 Abraham was ninety-nine years old when he was circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin.
25 And Ishmael his son was thirteen years old when he was circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin.
26 That very day Abraham and his son Ishmael were circumcised.
27 And all the men of his house, those born in the house and those bought with money from a foreigner, were circumcised with him.
Romans 4 makes it clear that Abraham’s laughter in v. 17 was the laughter of faith and not of unbelief. It was the joyful laughter of a worshiper when Abraham fell upon his face. His words in effect were, “Oh what joy, Sarah and I, though so aged, are to have a child!” The Lord in John 8:56 no doubt pointed to this occasion when He said that Abraham rejoiced to see His day and was glad. The exclamation, “Oh that Ishmael might live before thee” was not the cry of unbelief—as is plain from v.20—nor was it a prayer that Ishmael should be the child of promise, but it was a cry of faith that Ishmael might receive some measure of Divine blessing, though he was to be set aside in favor of the unseen child now promised.— Williams, pages 21-22.
Sarah (v.15) = princess
Abraham was so elated at God’s promise that he laughed with joy and surprise. That it was not a laugh of doubt is evident from the fact that God gave him no rebuke, as He later did Sarah when she laughed (Genesis 18:13). The questions which Abraham asked likewise were not in doubt, but in wonder and happy amazement.
Then he remembered Ishmael, and it seemed as though God’s new promise would cut Ishmael altogether out of His favor. He therefore interceded for Ismael, desiring God to bless him as well.
Yes, God assuredly would bless Ishmael too; but first He emphasized again to Abraham that His covenant was with Isaac alone, and with his seed. In recognition of Abraham’s joy, God told him to name his son Isaac (meaning “laughter”). He also gave him the glad news that Isaac would be born in only one year. …
Even though Ishmael was not to inherit the promises with Isaac, Abraham rightly desired to have him included among those receiving the spiritual blessings that would stem from the fulfillment of those promises. All this was done on the same day God had spoken to him. This required a particular act of faith on Abraham’s part, since it no doubt incapacitated all the males in his community for several days, thus leaving his home and possessions with no protection at all (save God!). — Morris, pages 335-336.
Wechsler takes a different view.
After establishing the rite of circumcision God changes Sarai’s name to Sarah, just as He earlier changed Abram’s to Abraham (v.5), further underscoring His active role as the Covenant Maker versus the “passive” role of His chosen covenantee(s). Following this he once again affirms His promise to give Abraham a son by her, in response to which Abraham fell on his face and—rather then worshiping God, as He does in v.3—laughed, asking instead that Ishmael be confirmed as his heir and inheritor of the Promise. To this God responds—as we’ve now come to expect—with gentle patient unflappable grace (a perfect Father!), declaring that it will not be Ishmael with whom He will maintain (which is preferable here to “establish,”) His covenant, but rather the son whom Sarah will bear to Abraham the following year. God also tells Abraham to name that son Isaac—meaning “he laughs”—thus serving as a continual reminder to the parents, from the moment of Isaac’s birth, of their faithless response (Sarah laughs also in Genesis 18:13) to the promise that God nonetheless faithfully fulfilled (the negative nuance of the laughter is also given a positive twist per Genesis 21:6). —Wechsler, page 196.
So which is it? Did Abraham respond to God in doubt or in faith. On my first reading of the passage, my view was that of Wechsler, but I also think Williams and Morris make some good points. So … I’m not sure. I think I’m still inclined toward Wechsler’s view based on a straightforward reading of the passage and since the Bible explains how Sarah was later rebuked for laughing and no explanation is given regarding how her response was different.
9 And God said to Abraham: “As for you, you shall keep My covenant, you and your descendants after you throughout their generations.
10 This is My covenant which you shall keep, between Me and you and your descendants after you: Every male child among you shall be circumcised;
11 and you shall be circumcised in the flesh of your foreskins, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between Me and you.
12 He who is eight days old among you shall be circumcised, every male child in your generations, he who is born in your house or bought with money from any foreigner who is not your descendant.
13 He who is born in your house and he who is bought with your money must be circumcised, and My covenant shall be in your flesh for an everlasting covenant.
14 And the uncircumcised male child, who is not circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin, that person shall be cut off from his people; he has broken My covenant.”
God here established a visible seal and sign of His covenant relation with Abraham’s physical seed. Those males who would participate in the covenant not only must be descended from Abraham in the line of promise through Isaac (v. 19), but also must be circumcised. This requirement was to apply not only to all male children born into the family, but also to those coming into the household as servants, along with any children born to them. This aspect of the covenant also was to be “everlasting” (v. 13).
At first, this requirement of circumcision seems very strange. To some extent, no doubt, sanitary and health reasons were involved. If the nation so formed was indeed to endure and to be a witness for God through all generations to come, then it must by physically strong and clean.
However, if this is a factor, it can be only incidental. God does not imply such a purpose; rather, circumcision was commanded strictly as a sign of the covenant. It thus must symbolize in some distinct way the purpose and results of the Abraham covenant.
The emphasis of the covenant, of course, was on the promised seed, and on the abundance of progeny which would accrue to Abraham. The male sexual organ is the remarkable, divinely created vehicle for the transmission of this seed from one generation to another. The circumcision (“cutting round”) of this channel would thus picture its complete enclosure within God’s protective and productive will.
Furthermore, it was primarily a sign only to the individual concerned, his parents, and his wife. It was not a sign to be shown to people in general, but was uniquely personal. To his parents it would confirm that they had been faithful in transmitting the seed to the son with whom God had blessed their union, and that they were trying to follow God’s will in training him. To his wife, it would give assurance that he indeed was a descendant of Abraham, to whom she could joyfully submit in the marriage relation, in faith that God would bless their home and their children. To the man himself, it would be a daily testimony that he and his family were consecrated to the God of Abraham and that they shared in his calling and ministry to the world.
The “cutting” of the foreskin spoke of a surgical removal, a complete separation, from the sins of the flesh so widely prevalent in the world around them, such sins largely centered in the misuse of the male organ in sin. As it directly, therefore, symbolized to the Jewish man that he was a member of an elect nation, a peculiar people, distinctly holy before God, in relation to sexual conduct, so it came indirectly to speak of holiness in every phase of life (note Deuteronomy 10:16; 30:6, etc.).
To one who refused to submit to circumcision, there was no other concession to be shown. His refusal would demonstrate his overt unwillingness to follow God, and he must therefore “be cut off from his people.” — Morris, pages 333-334.
We are taught, in Romans 4:11, that circumcision was “a seal of the righteousness of faith.” “Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness.” Being thus counted righteous, God set His “seal” upon him. The seal with which the believer is now sealed is not a mark in the flesh, but “that Holy Spirit of promise, whereby he is sealed unto the day of redemption. This is founded upon his everlasting connection with Christ, and his perfect identification with Him, in death and resurrection. as we read in Colossians, And you are complete in Him, who is the head of all principality and power. In Him you were also circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the sins of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, buried with Him in baptism, in which you also were raised with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead. And you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He has made alive together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses. (Colossians 2:10-13). This is a most glorious passage, unfolding to us the true idea of what circumcision was meant to typify. Every believer belongs to “the circumcision” in virtue of his living association with Him who, by His cross, has forever abolished everything that stood in the way of His Church’s perfect justification. There was not a speck of sin on the conscience, nor a principle of sin in the nature of His people, for which Christ was not judged on the cross; and they are now looked upon as having died with Christ, lain in the grave with Christ, been raised with Christ, perfectly accepted in Him,—their sins, their iniquities, their transgressions, their enmity, their uncircumcision, having been entirely put away by the cross. The sentence of death has been written on the flesh; but the believer is in possession of a new life, in union with his risen Head in glory. — Mackintosh, pages 190-192.
Circumcision [was] given by God as a rite or, as He otherwise designates it in v. 11, a “sign” of the Promise (i.e., “covenant” in the larger sense) that already exists between Him and His people Israel. — Wechsler, page 196.
1 When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the Lord appeared to Abram and said to him, “I am Almighty God; walk before Me and be blameless.
2 And I will make My covenant between Me and you, and will multiply you exceedingly.”
3 Then Abram fell on his face, and God talked with him, saying:
4 “As for Me, behold, My covenant is with you, and you shall be a father of many nations.
5 No longer shall your name be called Abram, but your name shall be Abraham; for I have made you a father of many nations.
6 I will make you exceedingly fruitful; and I will make nations of you, and kings shall come from you.
7 And I will establish My covenant between Me and you and your descendants after you in their generations, for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and your descendants after you.
8 Also I give to you and your descendants after you the land in which you are a stranger, all the land of Canaan, as an everlasting possession; and I will be their God.”
“Almighty God—Shaddai—is the name of God characteristically used by the patriarchs prior to the giving of the law at Sinai. It’s most frequent occurrence is in the book of Job, where Shaddai occurs thirty-one times. The name Jehovah largely replaces it from Exodus 6 onward, where attention is centered more particularly on Israel as God’s covenant people.
(1) El Shaddai is the name of God which sets Him forth primarily as the strengthener and satisfier of His people. It is to be regretted that Shaddai was translated “Almighty.” The primary name, El or Elohim, sufficiently signifies almightiness. “All-sufficient” would far better express the characteristic use of the name in Scripture.
(2) El Shaddai not only enriches but makes fruitful. This is nowhere better illustrated than in the first occurrence of the name. To a man ninety-nine years of age, and “as good as dead” (Hebrews 11:12), He said, I am the Almighty God … I will make my covenant between me and thee, and will multiply thee exceedingly.” To the same purport is the use of the name in Genesis 28:3-4.
(3) As bestower of fruitfulness, El Shaddai chastenes His people. For the moral connection of chastening with fruit-bearing, see John 15:2; cp, Ruth 1:20; Hebrews 12:10. Hence, Almighty is the characteristic name of God in Job. The hand of Shaddai falls upon Job, the best man of his time, not in judgment but in purifying unto greater fruitfulness (Job 5:17-25). —Scofield, page 25.
Fourteen years of silence on the part of God follow upon Abraham’s folly in the matter of Ismael; but man’s foolish plannings cannot undo God’s eternal counsels. The time is fulfilled and the child of promise must be born. But faith must be energized if Isaac is to be begotten; and accordingly there is a new and abrupt revelation made of Jehovah to Abraham’s soul as “El-Shaddai.” This is the first occurence of this great Divine title. It assured Abraham that what God had promised, He was almighty to perform. … Throughout the chapter, man is dead and God is the actor; and it is not so much what God was for Abraham, but what He was Himself—not “I am thy shield,” but “I am El-Shaddai.” Hence, the third verse in contrast with Genesis 15:2-3, pictures the patriarch as a silent worshiper listening to Elohim who talks with him.
In the first verse God, as El-Shaddai, says, “Walk before me and be thou perfect.” “Perfect” here means “guileless”; that is, God says, be simple, leave all to me, let me plan for you. I am Almighty. No longer scheme to began an Ismael, but trust me to give you an Isaac. This is the meaning of “perfect” in this passage. It does not mean that Abraham could be sinlessly perfect, for he could not. This word “perfect” occurs four times in the New Testament: Matthew 5:48; Matthew 19:21; Philippians 3:12; and Hebrews 10:1. These four passages treat of benevolence, self-denial, glory and assurance of salvation. None of them teach sinless perfection. — Williams, page 21.
First, [God] admonished Abram to be careful to walk in fellowship with Him (as occasionally in the past he had forgotten to do), and to be wholly dedicated to performing the will of God (the word is translated “perfect,” but means, simply, “whole”). These admonitions were not stated as conditions of the covenant, however, but simply as commands.
God again promised to make Abram a father of many nations, and then changed his name to Abraham (“father of a multitude”) instead of Abram (“exalted father”) in token thereof. God stressed also that His covenant was not only with Abraham, but with “thy seed after thee,” as an everlasting covenant. Specifically He said that Canaan would be an everlasting possession; so it it clear no action on the part of Abraham’s descendants can ever permanently sever the land from them. — Morris, page 332.
God’s statement in verses 2 and 7 should properly be rendered: “I am upholding my covenant …”—and hence His previous command to “walk before me and be blameless” is intended not as a condition to ensure that the covenant will be made, but rather as a response to the fact that the covenant has been made.—Wechsler, page 194.
7 Now the Angel of the Lord found her by a spring of water in the wilderness, by the spring on the way to Shur.
8 And He said, “Hagar, Sarai’s maid, where have you come from, and where are you going?” She said, “I am fleeing from the presence of my mistress Sarai.”
9 The Angel of the Lord said to her, “Return to your mistress, and submit yourself under her hand.”
10 Then the Angel of the Lord said to her, “I will multiply your descendants exceedingly, so that they shall not be counted for multitude.”
11 And the Angel of the Lord said to her: “Behold, you are with child, and you shall bear a son. You shall call his name Ishmael, because the Lord has heard your affliction.
12 He shall be a wild man; his hand shall be against every man, and every man’s hand against him. And he shall dwell in the presence of all his brethren.”