What the story is about:
God has a long term plan for humanity that involves Sarah and Abraham: they are to be the forebears of a great nation.
Undeterred by human foolishness and sin, God continues to protect and guide them, and eventually a son is born to Sarah and Abraham, a boy called Isaac.
His name means 'laughter'. But who is laughing? People? Or God?
The story contains 7 episodes:
1 Sarah and the Pharaoh of Egypt, Genesis 11:29-12:1-20
2 Sarah, Hagar and Ishmael, Genesis 16
3 The Promise, Genesis 17
4 The Three Visitors, Genesis 18
5 God Warns Abimelek Off Sarah, Genesis 20
6 The Birth of Isaac, Hagar Sent Away, Genesis 21
7 The End of Sarah's Story, Genesis 22, 23:1-2
1 Sarah and the Pharaoh of Egypt
The opening verses of the story throw us in at the deep end.
Famine drives Sarah, her husband Abraham and their flocks southwards into Egypt.
In this strange land they are small fish in a big pond, uncertain of the treatment that will be meted out to them by the Egyptians - especially as Sarah is strikingly beautiful and likely to attract men's attention.
So Abraham decides on a strategy. He will pass her off as his sister, not his wife. This way, men will be more likely to treat the group well. If they see Abraham as her husband, they may try to kill him to get Sarah.
Sarah agrees. Is she coerced into living this lie? Or is she the originator of the plan? It is impossible to tell, since we don't know what she feels about the matter.
Despite the later veneration of Sarah and Abraham, the Book of Genesis describes two people who are far from being saints. Later readers of the Bible gloss over the uncomfortable truths in this story.
What Abraham feared, happens. Reports of her beauty reach Pharaoh. Accustomed to the best, he has his soldiers take Sarah from her family, and pleased with her, he places her in his harem.
The reader is puzzled. Aren't Abraham and Sarah supposed to be paragons of moral behavior? Well, no. The hero of this story is God, not humans, and time and again he rescues people from themselves.
God has a long-range plan, and He is not going to let humans mess it up.
So Pharaoh and his country become afflicted with plagues, and when he finds out that Sarah is Abraham's wife, he views his misfortune as punishment from the gods for his inadvertent sin. He hastily restores Sarah to Abraham, and pays compensation - even though it is clearly Abraham who is at fault. Pharaoh's generosity contrasts sharply with Abraham's venal behavior.
Genesis 11:29 And Abram and Nahor took them wives: the name of Abram's wife was Sarai;
(= my princes)
and the name of Nahor's wife, Milcah, the daughter of Haran, the father of Milcah, and the father of Iscah.
30 But Sarai was barren; she had no child.
31 And Terah took Abram his son, and Lot the son of Haran his son's son, and Sarai his daughter in law, his son Abram's wife; and they went forth with them from Ur of the Chaldees,
(A city of great pretensions. Recent excavation shows luxury and attainment. Abraham no nomad)
to go into the land of Canaan; and they came unto Haran,
(not Haran but Charran, the frontier town of Babylonian Empire, devoted to worship of the Moon-god)
and dwelt there.
32 And the days of Terah were two hundred and five years: and Terah died in Haran.
(Abraham recognized the covenant that God made with Noah, and he followed the teachings and standards that came from God. Abraham was a righteous man before God, and this is why God wanted to separate Abraham from the rest of his family; for God will deal with Abraham individually.
Abraham believed God's teaching and followed His instructions to the point that Abraham did exactly what God said, and trusted God to provide the protection. That was Abraham's faith, for he knew that it was right, and believed and acted upon that belief. Abraham's actions were sustained by his confidence that if God said it, God would keep His word. That is faith.
Faith must have a object to focus it's actions upon, and to Abraham that object was God's instructions and His covenants with his forefather Noah. Abraham departed from both his father, and the ways of Babel, or confusion; to follow the ways of God. God knew and recognized this faith in Abraham, and God will also bless you today when you place God and His holy Word above all in your life. God is the same yesterday, today, and He will be that way for ever.
You show your genuine love for God when you study his Word, and follow the teaching in your everyday life. This pleases our Heavenly Father. You will be blessed by Him for your commitment.)
Genesis 12:1 Now the LORD had said unto Abram, "Get thee out of thy country,
(i.e. whatever others may do. Death had broken the link of nature's tie, which hindered Abram's obedience)
and from thy kindred,
(leaving Nahor and his family [except Lot])
and from thy father's house, unto a land that I will shew thee:
(God is telling Abram to get out of the land of Babylon, the land of Confusion; and separate himself from the ties that hold him to it. Just as in the Babylon of ancient times, this Babel, or confusion is forming today on a massive scale, and God is telling us to get out of it.)
2 And I will make of thee a great nation,
(Note 7-fold promise with 7-fold blessing. Ex. 6:4-8)
and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing:
3 And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed."
(God's Word and God's people do bless the peoples of the earth in many ways. Abram listened to God and believed what God had told him. Then he acted upon what God had said. We read in Galatians 3:17; "And this I say, that the covenant, that was confirmed before of God in Christ, the law, which was four hundred and thirty years after [the flood], cannot disannul, that it should make the promise of none effect."
Paul is telling us that this covenant that God made with Abram four hundred and thirty years after Noah's flood was not done away with by the "New Covenant", which is confirmed in Christ. They are both in effect, and they are both eternal. Part of the Abrahamic covenant will be fulfilled in the Millennium, but it has and will continue right through this day.
Today; Israel [the Christian Nations] around the world are prospering and well blessed, and from it the entire world is being fed.)
4 So Abram departed, as the LORD had spoken unto him; and Lot went with him: and Abram was seventy and five years old when he departed out of Haran.
5 And Abram took Sarai his wife, and Lot his brother's son, and all their substance that they had gathered, and the souls that they had gotten in Haran; and they went forth to go into the land of Canaan; and into the land of Canaan they came.
(This time: not when they started from Chaldea.
Abram and his entire household are separating themselves from his father's household, and they are migrating south. This is why saints are called the "set aside ones". We are to separate ourselves from those who don't care about the truth, and keep in fellowship with those who are like-minded, and care about the truth.)
6 And Abram passed through the land unto the place of Sichem,
(Shechem = back or shoulder. The place of Abram's first altar, Jacob's altar, and the Savior's first mission)
unto the plain of Moreh. And the Canaanite was then in the land.
(It is evident that from Terah's and Abraham's Call, Satan knew the line by which "the Seed of woman" [3:15] was coming into the world. In Chapter 6 he aimed at the whole human race. Now he aims at Abraham and his land. Here is the second explanation of the words "after that" in 6:4. He pre-occupies the territory ready to dispute the advance. The Canaanite "was then" = being already there [cp. 13:7]. The progeny of the latter attempt to corrupt the race had to be destroyed by the sword of Israel, as those "in the days of Noah" had been by the Flood.)
7 And the LORD appeared unto Abram, and said, "Unto thy seed will I give this land:" and there builded he an altar unto the LORD, who appeared unto him.
(This altar to God that was built by Abram was to honor and worship God. It is not like the altar of chapters ten and eleven, which was man's effort to build his own salvation; to create their own way to heaven.)
8 And he removed from thence unto a mountain on the east of Bethel,
(= the house of God, an ancient Canaanite sacred pillar, doubtless from previous time, called Luz [= almond tree]. When Moses wrote he used the latter name.)
and pitched his tent, having Bethel on the west, and Hai on the east: and there he builded an altar unto the LORD,
(Betwen Beth-el and Ai would probably be Gerizim [= cutters] and Ebal [= stone, bare mountain], which were already or thus became sacred places)
and called upon the name of the LORD.
9 And Abram journeyed, going on still toward the south.
(The Negeb or hill country south of Judah. The Egyptian text mentions Negeb. Town taken by Shishak are mentioned as being there, e.g., Jerameel, Gerar, Kadesh, and Gaza.)
10 And there was a famine in the land:
(Satan's attempt [thus early] to destroy Abraham's seed, through Sarah. 13 famines mentioned in Scripture. 13 in biblical numerics = rebellion.)
and Abram went down into Egypt to sojourn there; for the famine was grievous in the land.
11 And it came to pass, when he was come near to enter into Egypt, that he said unto Sarai his wife, "Behold now, I know that thou art a fair woman to look upon:
("Fair" in the Hebrew text, meant "beautiful"; even though she was over sixty five years old, she maintained her beauty. She lived to age one hundred and twenty five, and bear her son Isaac at age one hundred.)
12 Therefore it shall come to pass, when the Egyptians shall see thee,
(In Egypt the women went unveiled)
that they shall say, 'This is his wife:' and they will kill me,
(Satan's next assault, working on Abraham's fear. If God had not interfered, v.17, where would His promise have been?)
but they will save thee alive.
13 Say, I pray thee, thou art my sister: that it may be well with me for thy sake; and my soul shall live because of thee."
14 And it came to pass, that, when Abram was come into Egypt, the Egyptians beheld the woman that she was very fair.
15 The princes also of Pharaoh
(The official title of all kings of Egypt, like Kaiser, Czar, &c. Pharaoh = "the sun" or "the great house")
saw her, and commended her before Pharaoh: and the woman was taken into Pharaoh's house.
16 And he entreated Abram well for her sake: and he had sheep, and oxen, and he asses, and menservants, and maidservants, and she asses, and camels.
(All these pictured on the Monuments in Egypt. No horses in Egypt till 18th Dynasty)
17 And the LORD plagued Pharaoh and his house with great plagues because of Sarai Abram's wife.
(Divine intervention. Everything became barren in Egypt, and Pharaoh was told that Sarah was Abram's wife, and that this was the cause. The Pharaoh came to know the power of Abram's God, and he did not want to challenge that power and authority.)
18 And Pharaoh called Abram and said, "What is this that thou hast done unto me? why didst thou not tell me that she was thy wife?
19 Why saidst thou, 'She is my sister?' so I might have taken her to me to wife: now therefore behold thy wife, take her, and go thy way."
20 And Pharaoh commanded his men concerning him: and they sent him away, and his wife, and all that he had.
(Notice this thing Abram did will come back to him in Jacob. You reap what you sow!
The Pharaoh didn't take back any of his gifts to Abram, so Abram is leaving Egypt a lot richer then when he came. Pharaoh commanded his men to leave Abram alone, and see to it that he has safe passage out of Egypt. It didn't take Pharaoh long to see the full divine power of Abram's God, and to respect that power.
Our lesson today is that Satan will try to destroy us whenever he has a chance, in whatever position we find ourselves. Satan thought he had victory over the lineage that the Messiah was to come through, when Sarai was married to the Pharaoh; but it is God that straightened out the the path. Sarai would not have a child until God's appointed time for that child, and when Sarai was one hundred years old, that was the appointed time. Isaac was not just another child, but a God given miracle, born to Sarai when humanly it was impossible.)
2 Sarah, Hagar and Ishmael
Sarah comes much more strongly into focus in the second part of the story. After many years in a loving marriage with Abraham, she is still childless - a terrible curse for any Israeli woman of the period, but especially for the wife of a tribal leader.
Eventually she has an idea. Speaking with great courtesy and formality to her husband, Sarah gives him her female slave, in the hope the girl with conceive a child to him. It is an ancient legal form of surrogate motherhood practiced at that time - see for example Genesis 30.
A related situation is covered by the Laws of Hammurabi, in items 146 and 147:
146. If a man has married a votary* and she has given a maid to her husband, and the maid has borne children, and if afterward that maid has placed herself on an equality with her mistress because she has borne children, her mistress shall not sell her, she shall place a slave-mark upon her, and reckon her with the slave-girls. (*a priestess who left her duties to marry; she was not supposed to have children)
147. If she has not borne children, her mistress shall sell her.
Children born in this way were counted as the offspring not only of the husband who fathered them, but of the wife who owned the slave. The slave in question was usually happy to comply, since her status if she bore a child was considerably raised, and her life became easier. She also had a large part in looking after the child, even though legally it belonged to the wife.
In Sarah's case, the plan is initially successful. The slave Hagar becomes pregnant, which is what Sarah thought she wanted.
But things go wrong. Neither woman can accept the change in Hagar's status: Hagar is rude and disdainful to her former mistress; Sarah resents what she sees as Hagar's new airs and graces. Dominance is the issue.
Her disappointment comes spilling out in bitter words: 'Sarai said to Abram "May the violence done to me be on you! I gave my slave-girl to your embrace, and when she saw that she had conceived, I became contemptible in her eyes. May the Lord judge between you and me!"(16:5)
Abraham points out that the girl belongs to Sarah, not him. Sarah, in other words, has legal jurisdiction over her - as she has to a lesser extent over the free-born women of the tribe.
The problem between the two women escalates into a real conflict, and eventually reaches the point where Hagar runs away, out into the desert - even though running away, if you are a slave, is a serious crime. Despite her pregnancy, Hagar is still a servant in the household - her words, and those of the angel, make this clear. (Genesis 16:8)
Hagar heads for Egypt, and home.
But God has pity on the unfortunate girl. God sends a messenger to save her, and she returns to Sarah, gritting her teeth and accepting harsh treatment from her mistress. (See Hagar for a fuller version of her story.)
Hagar's baby is born. It is a boy. There is great celebration. Sarah, it seems, has achieved her goal.
But things get gradually worse. Her status within the tribe is greatly diminished, and as mother to the tribal heir, Hagar flaunts her newfound power. Sarah struggles against the humiliation and pain she endures, and lets Abraham know about it in no uncertain terms.
Her complaint is in vain. Nothing changes.
Then God steps in again.
Genesis 16:1 Now Sarai Abram's wife bare him no children: and she had an handmaid, an Egyptian, whose name was Hagar.
(Sarai was still barren, and much time has passed and Abram still does not have the son that God promised to him. So we can see Sarai is going to do something about it, and try to help God out. She simply thinks that God has forgotten them.)
2 And Sarai said unto Abram, "Behold now, the LORD hath restrained me from bearing: I pray thee, go in unto my maid; it may be that I may obtain children by her." And Abram hearkened to the voice of Sarai.
(Abram found no problem with that, for this time he listened to his wife, and acted on her wishes.)
3 And Sarai Abram's wife took Hagar her maid the Egyptian, after Abram had dwelt ten years in the land of Canaan, and gave her to her husband Abram to be his wife.
(This was strictly in accordance with the enactment of Khammurabi [‡ 146] which Abram had brought from Ur.)
4 And he went in unto Hagar, and she conceived: and when she saw that she had conceived, her mistress was despised in her eyes.
5 And Sarai said unto Abram, "My wrong be upon thee: I have given my maid into thy bosom; and when she saw that she had conceived, I was despised in her eyes: the LORD judge between me and thee."
6 But Abram said unto Sarai, "Behold, thy maid is in thine hand; do to her as it pleaseth thee." And when Sarai dealt hardly with her,
(Heb. afflicted her. The Code of Khammurabi [‡ 119] forbade her being sold. Sarah could only lay tasks on her)
she fled from her face.
7 And the angel of the LORD found her by a fountain of water in the wilderness, by the fountain in the way to Shur.
(Shur = wall. The nearest way to her native land. Shur was the name of the great fortified wall shutting Egypt from Palestine.
"The Angel of the Lord" in the Hebrew text is "Spirit of God". This messenger met Hagar as she is almost back home to her fathers, and spoke to her.)
8 And he said, "Hagar, Sarai's maid, whence camest thou? and whither wilt thou go?" And she said, "I flee from the face of my mistress Sarai."
9 And the angel of the LORD said unto her, "Return to thy mistress, and submit thyself under her hands."
10 And the angel of the LORD said unto her, "I will multiply thy seed exceedingly, that it shall not be numbered for multitude."
(It is from Hagar, and this child Ishmael that some of the Arab nations came.)
11 And the angel of the LORD said unto her, "Behold, thou art with child and shalt bear a son, and shalt call his name Ishmael;
(= who God hears)
because the LORD hath heard thy affliction.
12 And he will be a wild man; his hand will be against every man, and every man's hand against him;
(True today and for over 3,000 years. Cp. 21:29. Isa. 21:13. Jer. 3:2. Ezra 8:31. Ps. 10:8,9)
and he shall dwell in the presence of all his brethren."
(Esp. with the Midianites [37:28], Midian being his half-brother, by Keturah [cp. Judg. 8:22,24]. Cp. the fulfillment in 25:18.)
13 And she called the name of the LORD that spake unto her, "Thou God seest me:" for she said, "Have I also here looked after him that seeth me?"
(I.e. "Do I live, after seeing God?")
14 Wherefore the well was called Beerlahairoi;
(= the well of living after seeing)
behold, it is between Kadesh and Bered.
15 And Hagar bare Abram a son:
(Through infirmity of Sarah's faith. So the Law [parenthetically] "because of transgression" [Gal. 3:19]. Levitical law given, as Ismael was, until Christ the anti-type of Isaac should be born [Gal. 4:1-5, 19,31])
and Abram called his son's name, which Hagar bare, Ishmael.
16 And Abram was fourscore and six years old, when Hagar bare Ishmael to Abram.
3 The promise
God comes to Abraham and tells him that Sarah, despite her advanced age, will have a son.
Abraham is perplexed, to say the least, since both of them are so old. But nothing is impossible to God.
Sarah is not present at this encounter with God, and Abraham does not seem to have told her about it.
Genesis 17:1 And when Abram was ninety years old and nine, the LORD appeared to Abram, and said unto him, "I am the Almighty God;
(El Shaddai. First occ. This title assures Abram that He Who has called him was almighty to supply all his needs. Cp. first occ. in N.T. 2 Cor. 16:18 which assures us of the same supply)
walk before Me, and be thou perfect.
2 And I will make My covenant between Me and thee, and will multiply thee exceedingly."
3 And Abram fell on his face:
(Cp. Mary, John 11:32, and contrast Martha, John 11:21)
(Elohim = Creator. Used in this chapter because He created new names [vv. 5,15], a new Sign of Covenant [vv. 9-14], and a new thing, from one as good as dead [Heb. 11:12].)
talked with him, saying,
4 "As for Me, behold, My covenant is with thee, and thou shalt be a father of many nations.
5 Neither shall thy name any more be called Abram,
(= high father)
but thy name shall be Abraham;
(The fifth letter of the Heb. alphabet [h] put in the middle of his name, #5=Grace. His name means father of a multitude)
for a father of many nations have I made thee.
6 And I will make thee exceeding fruitful, and I will make nations of thee, and kings shall come out of thee.
(This promise is continued even to our generation today, for the lineage of the British throne, Queen Elizabeth II, goes back through King David, and to Abraham. So also do the other thrones of European royalty, as does those of Arab royalty. Abraham is the Father of many kings and many nations. Besides the House of Israel [10 Northern tribes] and the House of Judah, he was the father of the Ishmaelites, Midianites, and the Arabs. God made a promise to Abraham, and that promise extends to you and I today.)
7 And I will establish My covenant
(Unconditional. Through Jesus Christ all men [women] come into that family. There is no end to this promised covenant, nor are there any conditions attached to it. It is a legal document; that upon repentance of our sins in Jesus name, we have an legal right before Almighty God to be an "heir" to the inheritance of God's kingdom. These things are ours by simply claiming them, on the authority of God the Father, Himself; in the name of His Son, Jesus Christ.)
between Me and thee and thy seed after thee in their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be a God unto thee, and to thy seed after thee.
8 And I will give unto thee, and to thy seed after thee, the land wherein thou art a stranger, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession; and I will be their God."
9 And God said unto Abraham, "Thou shalt keep My covenant therefore, thou, and thy seed after thee in their generations.
(Do you keep the covenant, and claim the promises? If you do not, God is saying you will become as a stranger, alienated from the family of God, and you will have no part in the inheritance. You must give the importance to this covenant, and claim it, as you would a will or deed, before the Heavenly Father. We keep that covenant by showing our love for the Heavenly Father, and telling Him that we do, and studying His word to know more about Him, and what He expects of us. Part of keeping the covenant is thanking the Lord for what He has given you, and the many ways that He has given us His protection.
God could count on Abraham to keep his word, for Abraham trusted God and believed God. Can God count on you when the going gets tough?)
10 This is My covenant, which ye shall keep, between Me and you and thy seed after thee; Every man child among you shall be circumcised.
11 And ye shall circumcise the flesh of your foreskin; and it shall be a token of the covenant betwixt Me and you.
(Still practiced by Ishmaelites and others. Non-circumcision was the "reproach" of Egypt-Josh. 5:9. Today it is not necessary, but can be done for cleanliness. Today both men and women need to be circumcised of the heart = mind, to put off things of this flesh world and to accept the sacrifices of Christ Jesus, Who did fulfill and became these things, and they were done away with forever [i.e. blood rituals])
12 And he that is eight days old
(8 = the number of Resurrection; associated here with circumcision, the sign of death)
shall be circumcised among you, every man child in your generations, he that is born in the house, or bought with money of any stranger, which is not of thy seed.
13 He that is born in thy house, and he that is bought with thy money, must needs be circumcised: and My covenant shall be in your flesh for an everlasting covenant.
(Circumcision happened to be one of the blood sacrifices of the Old Testament, and is changed by Christ's death on the cross. However, is is still accepted as a tradition around the world in many nations of Abrahamic generations.)
14 And the uncircumcised man child whose flesh of his foreskin is not circumcised, that soul shall be cut off from his people; he hath broken My covenant."
(When you cut yourself off from the family of God today, and reject Jesus Christ, you remain part of the uncircumcised. You do not have the changing of the heart and mind.)
15 And God said unto Abraham, "As for Sarai thy wife, thou shalt not call her name Sarai,
(Sarah = princess, the fifth letter "h" being added = Grace, as in Abraham's case, and Joshua's [Num.13:16], the letter "h" is common to both the names of Yahaveh and Elohim)
shall her name be.
16 And I will bless her, and give thee a son also of her: yea, I will bless her, and she shall be a mother of nations; kings of people shall be of her."
(Sarah will become the mother of nations, many nations, just as Abraham is the father of many nations. Not only shall many kings be of her offspring, but the King of all Kings, Jesus Christ, the Savior to all. This will be a miracle birth, for Sarah is eighty nine years old by this time, and not only is she barren, but she is far past the time that is child bearing years.)
17 Then Abraham fell upon his face, and laughed,
(cp. John 8:56, "rejoiced to see my day....and was glad". The laughter of faith, Rom. 4:19. Sarah did not fall down as Abraham did)
and said in his heart, "Shall a child be born unto him that is an hundred years old? and shall Sarah, that is ninety years old, bear?"
18 And Abraham said unto God, "O that Ishmael might live before Thee!"
(As though he though Ishmael was to die: showing his faith in Isaac's birth. This is proven in v. 20)
19 And God said, "Sarah thy wife shall bear thee a son indeed; and thou shalt call his name Isaac: and I will establish My covenant with him for an everlasting covenant, and with his seed after him.
20 And as for Ishmael, I have heard thee:
(Showing the subject of Abraham's prayer)
Behold, I have blessed him, and will make him fruitful, and will multiply him exceedingly; twelve princes
(#12 = governmental perfection/completeness)
shall he beget, and I will make him a great nation.
21 But My covenant will I establish with Isaac, which Sarah shall bear unto thee at this set time in the next year."
(Only 4 appointed times in Gen. 1:14; here, 18:14; 21:2)
22 And he left off talking with him, and God went up from Abraham.
(Notice God ended the conversation)
23 And Abraham took Ishmael his son, and all that were born in his house, and all that were bought with his money, every male among the men of Abraham's house; and circumcised the flesh of their foreskin in the selfsame day, as God had said unto him.
24 And Abraham was ninety years old and nine, when he was circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin.
25 And Ishmael his son was thirteen years old,
(Symbolic; and in contrast with Isaac on the 8th day. Ishmaelites and Arabians still circumcise in the 13th year. #13 denotes rebellion, apostasy, defection, disintegration, revolution, &c.)
when he was circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin.
26 In the selfsame day was Abraham circumcised, and Ishmael his son.
27 And all the men of his house, born in the house, and bought with money of the stranger, were circumcised with him.
(This circumcision of the old blood sacrifice is replaced by the circumcision of the heart for the Christian today. This is part of the contract, and part of the deed that God has with each of us, when we accept Christ into our hearts. It is also part of our inheritance that God has promised us, but it is up to you personally to claim your right of inheritance. When God created you, He gave you the freewill right to chose and become part of this covenant. When you reject the covenant, you reject God's only Son, Jesus Christ, and all that comes with the eternal inheritance that comes with it.)
4 The Three Visitors
Later, God appears to Abraham again, but this time in disguise.
Abraham is sitting in the open front section of the tent. Sarah is in the back part, a private section for women and children separated from the front section by a heavy woven curtain.
Three men approach the tent
Abraham greets the men with the ritual hospitality of the East. He runs forward, bows, offers and gives food and drink.
Meanwhile Sarah stays hidden behind the heavy curtain, as is proper (and safe) for a woman in the presence of strange men.
When they have finished eating, they ask about Sarah.
Where is she? She is to have a son, they say.
Listening from behind the curtain, Sarah hears this, and laughs. It is after all an absurd thing at her age. The English version of the Bible describes her as 'old', but the original Hebrew word is more like 'worn out', as if she was an old rag ready to be thrown away. Her laughter suggests that she and Abraham have not had sexual intercourse for a long time.
The angels/men admonish her, even though Abraham also laughed in an earlier scene and was not reprimanded (Genesis 17:17).
Is anything impossible for God? the angels ask.
Frightened, off balance, Sarah denies laughing. Has she recognised the real identity of these strangers? Is this why she is suddenly afraid? But they insist: 'Oh yes, you did laugh.'
Genesis 18:1 And the LORD appeared unto him in the plains of Mamre: and he sat in the tent door in the heat of the day;
(The word "Mamre" in the Hebrew means "oaks", and Abraham was sitting at his tent door, among the oaks)
2 And he lift up his eyes and looked, and, lo, three men stood by him:
(God and two angels called men here, but in 19:1,15 are called "angels". #3 = the number of Divine perfection. When two departed, God [the Divine presence] remained)
and when he saw them, he ran to meet them from the tent door, and bowed himself toward the ground,
3 And said, "My LORD, if now I have found favour in Thy sight, pass not away, I pray Thee, from Thy servant:
(Lord = YHVH, Yahaveh)
4 Let a little water, I pray You, be fetched, and wash Your feet, and rest yourselves under the tree:
(Note "the tree", not "a tree")
5 And I will fetch a morsel of bread, and comfort ye your hearts; after that ye shall pass on: for therefore are ye come to your servant." And they said, "So do, as thou hast said."
6 And Abraham hastened into the tent unto Sarah, and said, "Make ready quickly three measures of fine meal, knead it, and make cakes upon the hearth."
7 And Abraham ran unto the herd, and fetcht a calf tender and good, and gave it unto a young man; and he hasted to dress it.
8 And he took butter, and milk, and the calf which he had dressed, and set it before them; and he stood by them under the tree, and they did eat.
(We do not totally understand this mystery, but the spiritual body does have substance. We read of "angel's food"; and that Christ ate after His Resurrection.)
9 And they said unto him, "Where is Sarah thy wife?" And he said, "Behold, in the tent."
10 And He said, "I will certainly return unto thee according to the time of life; and, lo, Sarah thy wife shall have a son." And Sarah heard it in the tent door, which was behind him.
(So we see that in the following year Sarah will bare Isaac. The "time of life" is the regular nine month carrying time for pregnancy.)
11 Now Abraham and Sarah were old and well stricken in age; and it ceased to be with Sarah after the manner of women.
12 Therefore Sarah laughed within herself, saying, "After I am waxed old shall I have pleasure, my lord being old also?"
13 And the LORD said unto Abraham, "Wherefore did Sarah laugh, saying, 'Shall I of a surety bear a child, which am old?'
14 Is any thing too hard for the LORD? At the time appointed I will return unto thee, according to the time of life, and Sarah shall have a son."
15 Then Sarah denied, saying, "I laughed not;" for she was afraid. And He said, "Nay; but thou didst laugh."
(Sarah was old, and though the task seemed even more impossible then winning a lottery, it was the joy of knowing this would definitely come to pass. Sarah had accepted this fact as a young woman, and in the course of many years, she had grown weary of the faith that it would come to pass. God had His appointed times so that in those times, man can not boast of anything that are of God. This child, Isaac, will be a miracle and everyone will know that He was from God.
Sarah had faith, and could see the working of the Almighty God, and she was excited; wouldn't you be? Nothing is impossible for God! When you pray for something in your life, are you ready to accept and receive it when it comes? It may take time, and happen in ways that you never expected, however, that faith must continue even into old age, or a time of death. How it is answered is up to our Lord, at His appointed time.)