Past and future do not exist in the Olam Haba (World to come), it is The Eternal, present.
The trust of Hebrews 11:1 is emunah (אמונה) whereas the trust of Proverbs 3:5-6 is b'tach (בטח). They have similarities but are different forms of trust. Emunah (אמונה) is trust completed outside of time and space, whereas b'tach (בטח) is the trust we apply within time and space in order to recieve the trust (emunah: אמונה) that transcends time and space. B'tach (בטח) is a temporary trust that must be chosen continually, it leads us to the eternal trust (emunah: אמונה) that continually chooses us.
It’s as if Hashem were saying, “I don’t need your fancy voodoo sticks Yaakov, but play in the mud if you must, I’ll prosper you anyway for My Own Name’s sake and for the sake of the redemption of your household.”
This chapter continues the record of the sons of Yaakov, seeing his eleventh son born, and then it turns to the account of Yaakov seeking to leave Laban as a response to a day dream he will reveal to his wives in the following chapter. Subsequently Yaakov amasses herds by the hand of HaShem, prior to returning to the land of his birth.
Many have debated the actions of Yaakov with regard to the streaked, spotted and speckled goats and lambs, and it is true that there are a number of factors to consider regarding both Yaakov’s use of the branches of various trees in the present chapter and the dream which he explains to his wives in the following chapter (31:10-13).
Regardless of the conclusions reached over the two accounts, the chapter begins and ends with God’s provision. It remains that in spite of humanity’s propensity for wives tales, folklore, superstition and witchcraft, it is God Who provides according to His will, and often in spite of ours.
Gen 30:1 And when Rachel (Ewe) saw that she bore Yaakov (Follows after the heel) no children, Rachel envied her sister; and she said unto Yaakov: 'Provide me with children, or else I’ll die.'
It is quite possible that up to this point Rachel and Leah had gotten along just fine. Keeping in mind that Rachel must have known about and may well have been complicit in the deception that saw her sister marry Yaakov. The text now marks the reason for the change in relationship between the two sisters, “When Rachel saw that she bore Yaakov no children, Rachel envied her sister”.
Rachel’s plea is a mournful indication of the grief and worthlessness felt by barren women in a society that placed great importance upon offspring and in particular male offspring. There was a significant stigma attached to barren women at the time and superstitious beliefs surrounding sin and fate often exacerbated a barren woman’s position of shame in the community.
However, as is still the case today, the provision of children was the husband’s responsibility. The Ketuva (Marriage covenant agreement) was written and given to the bride by the groom. This contract promises to provide for her every need, including housing, food, clothing, security and seed for the producing of offspring. A husband was in fact obligated to provide for his wife’s procreative needs. As much as there may be shame attached to the barren woman, there is even greater shame attached to the husband who is unable to provide his wife with children according to the Ketuva agreement he has given her.
Gen 30:2 And hot with anger, nostrils flaring, Yaakov turned to Rachel and said; 'Am I in God's place, Who has withheld from you the fruit of the womb?'
Yaakov seeks to distinguish himself from Rachel. His response alludes to the fact that it is Rachel who has a barren womb, after all, his seed has produced children in Leah’s womb. His anger may be due to his having become tired of the constant pleading of Rachel, or it may be due to his own frustration over her predicament and his knowledge that he is obligated by the Ketuva to provide her with offspring. We should also remember that she is the wife whom he loves and his angry response is in some sense a cry of frustration aimed at God, “Am I in the place of God?”
The Targum of Yonatan and the commentary of Onkelos both paraphrase Yaakov’s response:
“Why do you seek them (children) from me? Shouldn’t you be seeking them (children) of the Lord?”
The same Hebrew phrase, “Elohiym anochi” (Am I God?) appears in Genesis 50:19 where Rachel’s firstborn Yoseph uses it in recognition of the Authority of God over death and judgement. Therefore, Yaakov’s use of the phrase acknowledges that it is God alone Who gives life, and Yoseph’s use of the phrase denotes God’s ultimate authority over the taking of life. Thus, as the prophet Yob says, “HaShem gives and HaShem takes away, Blessed is the name of HaShem”(Job 1:21).
It is also worth noting that the phrase is used in both the present text and the later in response to sibling rivalry. The conclusion is that it is God alone Who brings true reconciliation.
Additionally, the emphasis on the fact that God alone provides for life and death alludes to Yaakov’s deluded actions later in the text when he attempts to help God out with the provision of speckled, streaked and spotted animals by placing sticks in front of the animals, thinking that this practice was causing them to birth the desired offspring.
Gen 30:3 And she said: 'Hinei, Behold my maid Bilhah (troubled), go in unto her; that she may bear upon my knees, and I also may be built up through her.'
Rachel’s suggestion is probably born of both common practice and in recollection of what she knows of Sarah and Hagar (Genesis 16:2).
By offering her maid servant to Yaakov, Rachel was binding her husband to yet another marriage relationship and the obligations that go with it. The phrase, “bear upon my knees” is a Hebrew idiom meaning, “a child to be counted as my own” and is used in Genesis 50:23 to mean the same thing (See also Isaiah 66:12). Thus culturally speaking the sons born to the maidservants of Yaakov’s wives’ will be counted as the offspring of Rachel and Leah.
We should not treat lightly the great sacrifice Rachel is making by offering her maidservant to Yaakov. Nor should we forget Bilhah and her feelings as she gives herself to be subject to both Yaakov and Rachel. If not for the servants Bilhah and Zilpah, Israel would be incomplete.
Gen 30:4 And she gave him (Yaakov) Bilhah her handmaid as a wife (l’ishah); and Yaakov went in unto her.
We note that Bilhah is given the status of a, “Ishah” wife in the Biblical text. This means that Yaakov has now entered into yet another marital obligation and must give Bilhah all the privileges of a wife, thus exalting her status from indentured servant to wife of a Patriarch. Whilst this may seem misogynistic to the modern reader, it is in fact a costly and honourable undertaking, given the historical cultural context of this account.
Gen 30:5 And Bilhah conceived, and bore Yaakov a son. Gen 30:6 And Rachel said: 'Dadani, judged me, has Elohiym God (Judge), and has also heard (shama) my voice, and has given me a son.' Therefore she called his name Dan (A judge).
As in almost every case in Scripture, the name corresponds to the events surrounding the birth. Rachel sees herself vindicated by the birth of Dan. She reasons that it is because God has judged her righteous that He has given her a son through Bilhah. Thus she names her son, “A judge” after The Judge.
Gen 30:7 And Bilhah Rachel's handmaid conceived again, and bore Yaakov a second son. Gen 30:8 And Rachel said: 'Naftuleiy wrestling Elohiym (God, judge), I have wrestled with achoti my sister, also prevailing.' And she v’tikra proclaimed (called out) his name Naftali (My wrestler).
Verse 8 is often translated, “And Rachel said: 'With mighty wrestling have I wrestled with my sister, and have prevailed.' And she called his name Naphtali.”
This translation is at best presumptuous and at worst misleading. The Hebrew text literally says, “Naftuleiy Elohiym” I wrestled God. In fact, the full statement is reminiscent of the transformative naming of Yaakov when he becomes Israel (Gen. 32:24-30). Here Rachel says, “I have wrestled with God and with my sister and have overcome”, and in the Genesis 32 account, the Malakah Ha-Adonai (Messenger of The YHVH) says, “Your name will no longer be Yaakov, but Yisrael, because you have struggled/wrestled with God and with man and have overcome."
In fact, the naming of Naphtali is a prophetic foreshadowing of the coming events.
Gen 30:9 When Leah (weary) saw that she had ceased bearing, she took Zilpah (A trickling of myrrh) her handmaid, and gave her to Yaakov as a wife. Gen 30:10 And Zilpah Leah's handmaid bore Yaakov a son. Gen 30:11 And Leah said: 'Gad, a cutting fortune/circumstance has come!' And she called his name Gad (cutting/invading fortune/circumstance).
As in the case of Bilhah, Zilpah is given the status of a wife and Yaakov is once more bound to elevate her status and provide for her needs. The child born seems to be named for Leah’s heartbreak rather than her “good fortune” as some translations suggest. The Hebrew denotes a cutting circumstance, and would seem to contradict the more common English reading.
Gen 30:12 And Zilpah Leah's handmaid bore Yaakov a second son. Gen 30:13 And Leah said: 'I’m Happy (B’ashri)! for the daughters have advanced me (Ishruni) and proclaim me happy.' And she called his name Asher (Walk/advance in Happiness).
Asher is named by combining the Hebrew words, “ashri” and, “Ishruni” to mean, “Advance in Happiness”.
The following section, which covers the remainder of this chapter verses 14-43, begins with the superstitious use of an aphrodisiac and continues with trickery, human effort, mistrust and ultimately ends in Yaakov being prospered according to God’s will and in spite of his own deluded actions.
Yaakov shows the full spectrum of human behaviour, at one extreme, trusting God unequivocally and at the other, practicing idolatrous superstition in an attempt to help God out. Yaakov has yet to meet HaShem face to face (Gen. 32), and thus, he is still seeking after HaShem with all the frailty of his humanity. This should be of great comfort to each of us as we try to understand our own frailty and somewhat bipolar spiritual practices. The good news is that God blesses and provides for His children based on His righteousness alone.
Gen 30:14 And Reuven (See a son) went in the days of wheat harvest, and found mandrakes in the field, and brought them to his mother Leah. Then Rachel said to Leah: 'Give me, I beg you, some of your son's mandrakes.'
The Hebrew, “Dudaim” is translated various ways, but in the end the meaning remains the same. Whatever dudaim are, they are considered an aphrodisiac (Song of songs 7:14) by the women and are therefore bargained with due to the perceived benefit they offer. There is no reason to believe that these plants facilitated fertility, nor is there any reason to presume that either Rachel or Leah were above superstitious belief. In fact, later, as Yaakov and his wives seek to escape Laban, Rachel is found in possession of Laban’s household idols. It turns out that syncretism is not a second century Christian invention after all.
Gen 30:15 And she said to her: 'Is it a small matter that you have taken away my husband? and would you take away my son's mandrakes also?' And Rachel said: 'Therefore he (Yaakov) shall lie with you tonight in exchange for your son's mandrakes.'
The text infers either that Leah had been denied the marital bed for a time, or that she was seeking to get an extra opportunity to cohabitate with Yaakov by purchasing Rachel’s night from her.
Gen 30:16 And Yaakov came from the field in the evening, and Leah went out to meet him, and said: 'You must come in unto me; for I have secured your hire with my son's mandrakes.' And he lay with her that night. Gen 30:17 And Elohiym God heard Leah, and she conceived, and bore Yaakov a fifth son. Gen 30:18 And Leah said: 'God has given me my s’chari wages, because I gave my handmaid to my husband. And she called his name Yisashchar (Lifting up/exalted wages).
We note that it is Leah who has decided that her actions in giving her servant to her husband have caused her to give birth by way of reward from God. However, the text says simply that God heard her and as a result she gave birth. Once again the text makes it clear that God acts in mercy, not based on what His beloved do but rather because of His love for them.
Gen 30:19 And Leah conceived again, and bore a sixth son to Yaakov. Gen 30:20 And Leah said: 'Z’vadani endowing me, God Elohiym has given me a sign, a good gift; now exalting me (yiz’b’leiniy) my husband will dwell with me, because I have borne him six sons.' And she called his name Zevulun (Exalted, endowed).
Leah’s proclamation is not just in response to the birth of Zevulun but also in recognition of the fact that she has now birthed six of Yaakov’s sons. Thus she has birthed Yaakov the sum of the children of his other three wives combined. Zevulun (endowed) is a memoriam of the great endowment of the six sons and is prophetic of the perpetual endowment of Israel up until this day and beyond into the Olam Haba.
Gen 30:21 And afterwards she bore a daughter, and called her name Dinah (Judgement, justice).
Dinah’s honour will become the subject of great consternation in chapter 34. Thus, a demand for judgement and justice.
Gen 30:22 And Elohiym God remembered Rachel, and Elohiym God heard her, and opened her womb. Gen 30:23 And she conceived, and bore a son, and said: 'Elohiym God has taken away my shame.'
As discussed in the past, God doesn’t forget and therefore does not need to remember in the modern sense. Here God is memorializing (zachar) rather than remembering. He has chosen Rachel to bear the son who will deliver Israel from famine and set in motion events that will lead Israel into the Promised Land. Thus God speaks into time the conception of Yoseph. The birth of this boy truly acts to take away any shame Rachel may have endured.
Based on the Hebrew, “zachar” commemoration, the Talmud concludes that Rachel conceived Yoseph on Rosh Ha-Shanah (Yom Teruah), the secular New Year (b. Rosh. Hash. 11a). This is also said to be the date when both Sarah and Channah (Hannah) conceived. As a result all three women are featured in the Rosh Ha-Shanah liturgy.
Gen 30:24 And she called his name Yoseph (HaShem YHVH: Mercy added), saying: ‘HaShem (YHVH: Mercy) add to me another son.'
This is both an observation and an invocation. “HaShem add to me another son”. It is an observation because God has added a son to Rachel, of her own womb, in addition to the sons born to her of Bilhah. It is an invocation because she is calling on Hashem (Mercy) to add yet another son (Benyamin), so that she might have two sons of her own womb.
It is important that the birth of Yoseph is recorded prior to Yaakov’s accumulation of herds and his subsequent prosperity, because the name Yoseph means, “HaShem will add”. Nothing Yaakov does in the following verses purchases his prosperity. HaShem alone provides for him.
Gen 30:25 And it came to pass, when Rachel had birthed Yoseph, that Yaakov said to Laban (White): 'Send me away, that I may go to my own place of standing, and to my land.
The verb shalach translated, “Send me away” is a term used repeatedly to describe the request for freedom, issued at the going forth of the Hebrew slaves of Egypt. Yaakov began as a relative to Laban but is now being treated like an indentured servant, a slave. As an indentured servant he has the right to be freed after seven years of service according to the Torah (Deut. 15:12-15). Thus, having served two seven year periods, he has both a moral and legal right to freedom. However, the wives and children of an indentured servant remain the property of the master (Exod. 21:2-4; Gen. 31:43). The counter point to this is that Laban agreed beforehand to give his daughters in payment for Yaakov’s work, thus selling his daughters to Yaakov. We should also note that if Yaakov’s work for Laban is a bride price for Laban’s daughters, then Laban is obligated to give this price to his daughters as their security according to the marriage traditions of the ancient East. Therefore, both Yaakov’s wives and his offspring are legally his because the agreement predates the servitude and any benefit generated from Yaakov’s fourteen years of service belongs not to Laban but to Leah and Rachel.
It is here that we should note Yaakov’s dream, as he explains it retrospectively in Genesis 31:10-13.
“Gen 31:10 And it came to pass that when the flocks were mating, that I lifted up my eyes, and saw in a dream, and, behold, the he- goats which leaped upon the flock were streaked, speckled, and spotted. Gen 31:11 And Malakh ha-Elohiym the angel of God said to me in the dream: ‘Yaakov;’ and I said: ‘Hineini Here I am, ready and obediant.’ Gen 31:12 And He said: ‘Lift up now your eyes, and see, all the he-goats which leap upon the flock are streaked, speckled, and spotted; for I have seen all that Laban is doing to you. Gen 31:13 I am the God of Beiyt-el, where you anointed a pillar, where you vowed a vow to Me. Now arise, get you out from this land, and return to the land of your birth.'
The reason I’ve placed this text here is because it appears from the recounting of this dream that Yaakov dreamed it while watching the flocks mating at a time prior to his offering the solution of ownership of the speckled, streaked and spotted animals as a wage. At the end of this account Yaakov is commanded by God to return to the land of his birth. Thus, because Yaakov has said Hineini (Here I am, ready and obedient), it seems likely that he approached Laban with his request to leave soon after having the dream encounter with The Messenger of God, Malakh Ha-Elohiym.
The fact that we have just read of the birth of Israel’s greatest dreamer Yoseph is profound. Yaakov’s experience of relating to God has been, to this point, entirely through dream encounters. Now his beloved wife Rachel gives birth to the dreamer who will deliver Israel and act as a type for the coming Messiah. Wallah (wow)!
One of the most prominent elements of this dream interaction is the emphasis God places on the fact that it is as a result of the harm He has witnessed Laban doing to Yaakov that He (God) will increase the streaked, speckled and spotted members of the herds. This should be understood to teach that Yaakov’s efforts will not bring this about, rather it is God Who both gives the dream and fulfils it.
Gen 30:26 Give me my wives and my children for whom I have served you, and let me go; for you know my service and the way I have served you.'
Yaakov is appealing to Laban’s conscience, or lack thereof. He knows that Laban cannot find fault in the service Yaakov has faithfully given him.
Gen 30:27 And Laban said unto him: 'If now I have found favour in your eyes - I have observed the signs (nichash’tiy), practiced divination, and have concluded that HaShem (YHVH: Mercy) has blessed me for your sake.'
Here we see that God acts as ruler over lesser deities and erroneous spiritual practices. HaShem has allowed Laban to see His blessing and favour over Yaakov in spite of Laban’s witchcraft and idolatry (Lev. 19:26; Deut. 18:10). HaShem has not done this for Laban’s sake but for Yaakov’s sake, in order that He might prosper him.
The Hebrew nichash’ty (my divination) shares its root with nachash (snake/serpent), a figurative representation of Ha-Satan (Satan). Thus these events find a link to the entry of sin and death.
Gen 30:28 And he said: 'Specify to me your wage, and I will give it.' Gen 30:29 And he said unto him: 'You know how I have served you, and how your herds have fared with me. Gen 30:30 For you had very little before I came, and your possessions have increased abundantly; and HaShem (YHVH: Mercy) has blessed you wherever my feet have stepped. And now how long will it be before I can provide for my own house also?' Gen 30:31 And he said: 'What shall I give you?' And Yaakov said: 'You shall not give me anything extra; providing you will do this thing for me, I will again feed your flock and keep it. Gen 30:32 I will pass through all your flock today, removing every speckled and spotted one, and every dark one among the sheep, and the spotted and speckled among the goats; and these shall be my wages. Gen 30:33 So shall my righteousness witness against me from now on, when you shall come to look over my wage that is before you: every one that is not speckled and spotted among the goats, and dark among the sheep, if found with me, shall be considered stolen.'
It seems that based on the dream he has received, Yaakov is setting the scene for what he believes will be the means through which God will prosper him by divinely effecting the breeding of streaked, speckled and spotted herds. This is a wonderful act of trust and faithfulness on Yaakov’s part. It shows that he has listened to God and believes in God’s provision. It also stands in contrast to his subsequent actions in relation to invoking superstition in an attempt to aid the fulfilment of the dream.
Gen 30:34 And Laban said: 'Hein Now, may it be according to your word.' Gen 30:35 And he removed that day the he-goats that were streaked and spotted, and all the she-goats that were speckled and spotted, every one that had white in it, and all the dark ones among the sheep, and gave them into the hand of his sons.
Laban agrees to Yaakov’s terms, but before Yaakov can do what he had agreed to (30:32), Laban steals away the streaked, speckled and spotted animals that were meant to be Yaakov’s wages and instead, gives them to his sons. Perhaps the meaning of Laban’s name is not simply, “White” but, “White washed wall”.
Gen 30:36 And he set three days' journey between himself and Yaakov. And Yaakov fed the rest of Laban's flocks.
To further prevent the possibility of more streaked, speckled and spotted animals being born to the flocks under Yaakov’s care, Laban moves these animals three days distance away so that they will not mate with the animals of standard appearance.
Gen 30:37 And Yaakov took him rods of fresh poplar (White poplar, exuding white gum), and of the almond (a nut tree) and of the plane-tree (bark shedding tree); and peeled white streaks in them, making the white appear which was in the rods.
Here it seems that Yaakov’s tenacity begins to turn into pride. He may believe that HaShem will do as He has said He would in the dream (and rightly so), however, by using inanimate physical objects in order to aid the desired outcome Yaakov is not acting out of trust but out of self-determination. If the Scripture enforces one theme above all others (The existence and supremacy of God acknowledged), it teaches that humanity is unable to prosper or redeem itself.
The practical reason for Yaakov’s actions may be to expose the black haired goats and sheep to the white sap, thus marking their hair with streaks, speckles and spots. This does not however translate to the birth of streaked, speckled and spotted offspring, a genetic anomaly which is entirely reliant on God’s creation and not subject to human manipulation in this historical cultural context (Genetic modification was non-existent at this time in human history).
My dear Mizrachi brother Aharon, a member of our community who has lived in Iraq all his life up until recently, says that the majority of sheep and goats in Iraq are now speckled, streaked and spotted. That it is in fact the standard dark haired sheep and goats that are now the minority and that streaked, speckled and spotted goats and sheep are considered by modern Iraqi farmers to be a blessing from God. It seems that the blessing upon Yaakov has reached far beyond its origins.
Gen 30:38 And he set the rods which he had peeled over against the flocks in the gutters in the watering-troughs where the flocks came to drink; and they conceived when they came to drink. Gen 30:39 And the flocks conceived at the sight of the rods, and the flocks brought forth streaked, speckled, and spotted.
In spite of Yaakov’s acknowledgement of God’s hand for the provision of streaked, speckled and spotted animals in Genesis 31:10-13, here Yaakov is acting on the folk superstition that a vivid sight during pregnancy or at conception will affect the embryo (Radak on Gen. 30:39:3; Rashbam on Gen. 30:40:1). This superstition has proved to be unfounded (D. M. Blair, A doctor looks at the Bible IVF 1959). This is affirmed by subsequent verses where he places the animals of Laban’s flock toward his streaked, speckled and spotted animals in order to invoke results based on the aforementioned superstitious belief.
The genetic anomalies present within a species to produce variations in appearance are not altered by visual stimulants. Therefore, we can only understand Yaakov’s actions here in one of two ways. Either he displayed the rods from the trees as a symbol of trust in the provision of God. That is, a visual prayer of sorts (unlikely, given that trees and stones are used by way of memorial in his culture and are set up once in memoriam rather than as a continuing means of producing a physical reward. Also, he was not commanded by God to employee any means in order to facilitate the miracle of the herds). Or he had adopted some of the idolatrous ways of his father in law and was bowing to common superstition, believing that he was somehow effecting the conception and subsequent progeny of the flock.
Regardless of Yaakov’s motivation, God provided spotted, streaked and speckled livestock for Yaakov according to the blessing He had pronounced over him. God’s ability to bless is neither limited nor prospered by our actions. What He promises He does, He cannot lie.
Gen 30:40 And Yaakov separated the lambs and young goats - he also set the faces of the flocks toward the streaked and all the dark in the flock of Laban - and put his own droves apart, separating them from Laban's flock.
The reference to the flocks of Laban facing the speckled and spotted flocks of Yaakov seems to emphasise the fact that Yaakov held to an ill-founded belief that the birthing process was somehow being effected by visual stimulation. On the up side, God provides the desired result and the reality is that not only did Yaakov receive offspring from his own herd, he was now to receive offspring from Laban’s herd, thus making the standard sheep and goats the minority. Laban’s herd was merely maintaining its number while Yaakov’s herd grew exponentially.
The more we see Yaakov relying on his own understanding of how he is being prospered, the more it appears that he is approaching his prosperity in a carnal way rather than trusting entirely in God’s provision. After all, trust says that, “God is able to provide regardless of my ability”, whereas doubt says, “I need to do something in order for God’s provision to come about”. This is in fact the greatest hurdle believers’ face, the idea that we can’t redeem ourselves is counterintuitive to us. Our fallen nature (Yetzer ha-ra) detests this idea. Death (Yetzer ha-ra: Yetzer ha-mot) seeks to become God and dies, whereas Life (Yetzer ha-tov: Yetzer ha-chayim) seeks God and lives.
Gen 30:41 And it came to pass, whenever the stronger of the flock conceived, that Yaakov laid the rods before the eyes of the flock in the gutters, that they might conceive among the rods; Gen 30:42 but when the flock were feeble, he kept them from the rods; so the feebler were Laban's, and the stronger Yaakov’s. Gen 30:43 And the man (Yaakov) meod, meod increased exceedingly, and had large flocks, and maid-servants and men-servants, and camels and asses.
The repetition of this practice only affirms that it is based on superstition and continues to give weight to the probability that Yaakov believes it is he himself that is manipulating the birthing process via occult means. The fact that the stronger animals bear before the rods while the weaker do not is not proof of the effectiveness of Yaakov’s efforts, to the contrary, it only affirms that God is gracious. It’s as if Hashem were saying, “I don’t need your fancy voodoo sticks Yaakov, but play in the mud if you must, I’ll prosper you anyway for My Own Name’s sake and for the sake of the redemption of your household.”
What is clear from the text is that Yaakov’s herds grew from the seed of strong animals and as a result he was able to trade his herds for servants and livestock, and due to God’s miraculous provision Yaakov became exceedingly great, meod meod: in spite of his own efforts and not because of them.
What God promises He provides because He cannot lie, He is absolutely trustworthy, His fidelity is unchanging.
© Yaakov Brown 2017
Genesis 18: HaShem, Three Men, The Promised Son, Sodom’s Demise & the Triumph of Mercy over Judgement
The refusal of the wicked to accept G-d’s mercy is the vehicle of their own demise.
In Rashi’s view the events of Chapter 18 follow directly on from the previous chapter, taking place three days after Avraham’s circumcision. I see no reason for disputing this. Even if understood as a tradition rather than an inspiration, Rashi’s idea adds to our understanding rather than detracting from it. If Rashi is correct, Avraham is now at the most painful stage of the healing process and is sitting, not only due to the heat of the day but also due to his need for rest and recovery.
As in the case of the previous events, this Divine encounter (theophany) and its outcome teach us a number of spiritual principles and further illuminate the character of G-d and the nature of humanity. The Holy Name of G-d YHVH, which denotes mercy, is used eleven times in this account (12 if the rabbinical interpretation of Adonai in verse 3 is accepted). This seems unusual given that the latter emphasis of the account is on the coming judgement against S’dom and Amorrah. However, it seems that G-d appears to Avraham as Mercy Himself for the purpose of conveying the idea that mercy triumphs over judgement. Avraham in turn, trusting the heart of G-d, becomes a type for the Messiah, pleading for justice seasoned with mercy, something that G-d intended all along.
With regard to Avraham and Sarah, a stark contrast is drawn between trust and disbelief. We are challenged by both Avraham’s eager hospitality and loving kindness, and by Sarah’s disbelief and denial.
When compared to chapter 19, this noon encounter stands in stark contrast to the night scene in Sodom. In the full light of midday G-d comes to Avraham for an intimate meeting of promise, sustenance, common unity and intercession. This is both a beginning and a counterpoint to the events of chapter 19, where in the darkness of night, an already condemned city establishes its wickedness by seeking to soil G-d’s messengers with acts of moral decay born of a depraved worldview, thus refusing intercession. The resulting destruction answers the loveless squalor of the citizens of S’dom and Amorrah, who have rejected G-d’s mercy outright. There is a correlation to Yeshua’s (Jesus) Revelation to Yochanan (John) here.
Verses 1-5 add nothing to the promises of 17:15. What differentiates the accounts is the intimate setting and the challenge to Sarah’s faith or lack thereof. The final result will be Sarah’s decision to trust G-d for the child, in response to His disciplining of her by way of a gentle challenge:
“By trust even Sarah herself received ability to conceive when she was barren and past the age, since she considered the One who had made the promise to be trustworthy.” – Hebrews 11:11
Gen 18:1 And HaShem (YHVH: Mercy) appeared to him (Avraham) at the trees of Mamrei (strength): and he (Avraham) sat in the tent door in the heat of the day;
What is clear from the outset is that HaShem Himself is appearing to Avraham. Regardless of how we interpret what follows, we must not lose sight of this fact. Accepting Rashi’s assertion, I see this scene set with the recovering Avraham seated at midday in the shade of his tent, still in a great deal of pain from having been obedient to G-d’s instruction to circumcise both himself and all the males of his household.
Whether we interpret, “the trees” or, “the plain” of Mamrei (strength), the result is the same. Having been obedient to G-d Avraham finds that in his weakness G-d is his strength.
“By trusting they conquered kingdoms, administered justice, obtained promises, shut the mouths of lions, quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, were made strong out of weakness…” –Hebrews 11:33-34a
Gen 18:2 And he lifted up his eyes and looked, and, behold, three men stood by him: and when he saw them, he ran to meet them from the tent door, and prostrated himself on the ground,
“Lifted up his eyes” suggests that Avraham was either at rest or in prayerful meditation prior to this theophany (Divine visitation).
Avraham’s response to the appearance of the three men, whom he obviously sees as being representatives of The L-rd, is both courageous and reverential. Imagine getting up to run in the 45 degree (Celsius) plus heat of midday only three days after a painful operation on your private parts and then prostrating yourself before your guests, coming to rest on those very same parts in the hot sand. It’s safe to say, Avraham was extremely excited to see The L-rd and His messengers. This action shows the wonderful tension between friendship and awe in his relating to the Holy G-d. Avraham runs toward G-d and His messengers like a giddy school girl and then prostrates himself, an awe inspired servant.
It has been popular in Christian circles to try and affix the doctrine of the trinity to this meeting. However, it is clear from the remainder of this account (v.22) and the subsequent arrival of the two messengers at Sodom in 19:1, that at least two of the three men are not G-d.
Or HaChaim (Light of Life) suggests that G-d’s visit to Avraham in this instance was intended to demonstrate that Avraham had become a, “Chariot of the Divine Presence” (Bereshit Rabbah 82:6), meaning that Avraham’s physical being became a resting place for the Divine Presence of G-d (John 14:16-18; Romans 8:10, 15; James 4:5).
“I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper so He may be with you forever-- the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not behold Him or know Him. You know Him, because He abides with you and will be in you. I will not abandon you as orphans; I will come to you.” –Yochanan (John) 14:16-18
“Or do you think that in vain the Scripture says, ‘He yearns jealously over the Spirit which He made to dwell in us’”? –Yaakov (James) 4:5
Traditional rabbinic Judaism considers each of G-d’s angels to serve a specific purpose. Thus each angel (Messenger) is named for his function. The Midrash says, “One angel does not perform two missions”. Gur Aryeh explains Rashi’s view of the three angels, by providing the following names and functions:
My personal view is that if we are to accept Rashi/Gur Aryeh’s view, we should swap the functions and order of the Malakhim (Angels) so as to match them to their well-documented Biblical roles and functions. Thus my list would read as follows:
Given that we know two of the men (angels) will depart for Sodom (19:1) leaving one angel to remain behind, and adding to this the fact that Avraham speaks to the remaining lord as if he were speaking directly to HaShem; it seems unlikely that the third angel was Raphael (an angel not mentioned directly in Scripture). However, the name Raphael, which is a composite of Rapha (Healing, wholeness, and rescue) and El (G-d), is certainly symbolic of the attribute of healing and wholeness in the G-d head. There is then a healing messenger of G-d Who comes to mind, being represented here as one of the three men, that is Yeshua our Messiah.
It is important to note that the Hebrew anashim meaning men is being used here to describe angelic beings. This is an opportunity to remind ourselves that the Hebrew malakh (angel) means, messenger.
Gen 18:3 And said, “My L-rd (Adonai: Master), if now I have found favour in Your eyes, please, don’t pass away from your servant:
Most rabbinical interpretations of this verse claim that the Hebrew Adonai used here in its standard form refers to YHVH, which is usually pronounced Adonai in respect for the Holy Name HaShem. Based on this view, HaShem: YHVH:Mercy, is referred to directly 12 times in total during this account.
Notice that Avraham rushes out to the three men but addresses only one of them, using the singular, “Adonai” (My lord). If he had intended to address all three as lord he would have said “Adonim”.
Gen 18:4 Please let a little water be fetched, and wash your feet, and rest yourselves under the tree:
The washing of the feet of weary travellers is a common Middle Eastern custom that has been practised by Jews and Arabs alike for thousands of years. It refreshes the entire body and in ancient times was usually performed by the lowliest servant in the household, however, it seems that Avraham’s intention was to wash the feet of the travellers himself, an act reminiscent of the Mashiyach (John 13:3-17).
Gen 18:5 And I’ll fetch a morsel of bread, and comfort your hearts; after that go on your way: for it is for this purpose that you’ve come to your servant”. And they said, “So do, as you have said”.
“I’ll fetch a morsel of bread” is a hospitable understatement given the feast that Avraham organizes for the three men. This is part of a rhythm of nomadic custom that is still practised today among Arab Bedouin and Mizrahi Jews. The Hebrew idiom, “comfort your hearts” uses lev in the traditional Hebrew sense to convey the centre of the being where all parts of the being converge. Thus the inference is that they might be refreshed in their entire being based on the complete performance of hospitable practice.
Notice that, “they” respond. This kind of interchangeable tense is familiar to theophany, as is the case in Jacob’s wrestling with the Angel of Hashem (Gen. 32) and the meeting the Angel of HaShem has with the parents of Samson (Judges 13). We must not lose sight of the fact that we have significant clues within the text (v.22, 19:1) that allow us to deduct which of the three is being called lord and who the remaining two are.
Michael (Who is like G-d) is known in Scripture as the arch angel who guards Israel and is representative of G-d’s might. He is a warrior messenger (Daniel 10:13, 21; 12:1, Jude 1:9, Rev. 12:7). It seems that he plays a similar role here (Chapter. 19) in protecting Lot, while Gavriel (Mighty one of G-d), who is known in Scripture as a herald of G-d (Daniel 8:16; 9:21, Luke 1:19, 26) is seen here proclaiming blessing for Avraham and then enforcing G-d’s judgement against the people of S’dom and Amorrah. Notice that in the book of Daniel both angels are associated with G-d’s proclamation of blessing for Israel and His judgement against His enemies.
Gen 18:6 And Avraham (Father of a Multitude) hastened into the tent to Sarah (Princess, Noble woman), and said, “Make ready quickly three measures of fine meal, knead it, and make round bread upon the hearth (convex metal surface)”.
The first thing we observe is the speed with which Avraham operates in order to care for his guests. Second, we see that Avraham does not instruct Sarah to add yeast to the bread, therefore, this is maztot (unleavened bread). It is from this verse and the subsequent reference in 19:3 that the rabbis’ determine that this was the season of Pesach (Passover) and that Avraham was prophetically observing the future deliverance of his progeny. This text was written down by Moses at Sinai following Israel’s first Pesach. Thus the attention to detail with regard to the type of bread being prepared in this story is intended by the author to draw the reader’s attention to this particular season in the Jewish religious year.
The three men, three measures of fine meal and the three days since Avraham’s circumcision all point to an established promise of G-d. The son that is to come has been firmly established and as has the judgement that is to come against the wickedness of S’dom and Amorrah. While the complex unity of G-d is not present in the plain meaning of the text, it is revealed in the remez (hint) of symbolic Biblical numerology. The number three reminding us of the Father (Av), Son (Ben) and Holy Spirit (Ruach Ha-Kodesh).
Gen 18:7 And Avraham ran to the herd, and fetched a calf tender and good, and gave it to a young man; and he rushed to prepare it.
Avraham is close to 100 years old and still recovering from circumcision, and yet he personally runs to select a calf for his guests. He had any number of servants he could have called upon to perform this act, however, these three men were extremely important to him. In particular, one of the men is G-d with us, the manifest humanoid form of that person of the One G-d we know to be, the Angel of HaShem, The Healer, the Son.
“Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers—for in doing so, some have entertained angels (Messengers) without knowing it.” –Hebrews 13:2
“For I was hungry and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger and you invited Me in;” –Mattitiyahu (Matthew) 25:35 (TLV)
Gen 18:8 And he took butter, and milk, and the calf which he had prepared, and set it before them; and he stood by them under the trees, and they ate.
The custom of standing by while guests eat their fill is still practiced today in many Middle Eastern homes and among the Arab Bedouin and Mizrahi Jews.
They were eating beneath the trees of Mamrei (strength). The strength of G-d had formed a canopy over Avraham in his weakness and his longing for an heir. In his weakness Avraham placed his trust in G-d’s strength.
Gen 18:9 And they said to him, “Where is Sarah your wife?” And he said, “Behold, in the tent.”
Here, “they” speak, asking after Sarah. However, in the following verse, “He” speaks the promise. G-d knows where Sarah is, He need not ask. He asks, all be it through His Angel, in order to show Avraham His desire for relationship with the entire household, beginning with Sarah.
Gen 18:10 And He said, “I will certainly return to you according to the time of life (season); and, behold, Sarah your wife shall have a son.” And Sarah heard from inside the tent door, which was behind him.
The, “He” here is clearly not Avraham because the words are being spoken as a promise to Avraham concerning his wife Sarah and the birth of Isaac. Nor is it, “they” speaking together. So who is left? HaShem appeared to Avraham at the beginning of the encounter and has not left. So too the three men arrived and have not left. Therefore the speaker here is one of the three men and is also a manifestation of the person of G-d (18:14). Only one individual in all of Biblical history fits this description, Yeshua the Messiah, Emmanuel (G-d with us).
Sarah, being modest, had stayed within the tent according to protocol, but was listening intently to the conversation of the men outside. The man speaking to Avraham has His back to Sarah.
Gen 18:11 Now Avraham and Sarah were old and well stricken in age; and it ceased to be with Sarah after the manner of women (She had already experienced menopause).
Gen 18:12 Therefore Sarah laughed within herself, saying, “After I am waxed old shall I have fine skin (a return of fertility), my lord (husband) being old also?”
What is clear from Sarah’s response is that either Avraham hadn’t told her of the promise of the child or he had told her and she had maintained disbelief. Either way she responds here in a way that emphasizes her doubt, laughing out of a place of mistrust. Where Avraham laughed in joyous awe asking, “How will this occur?” thus inviting the probability, Sarah laughs in disbelief asking, “Shall it occur?” thus denying the possibility. Notice that Sarah laughs within, her words are thoughts contained in her inner being, no one could have known how she responded unless they could see into her core being. Only G-d is truly capable of this. Picture then the awesome scene that follows when the man responds to Sarah’s inner musings.
According to both Radak and Sforno, Sarah believed that such a radical rejuvenation was as impossible a miracle as the raising of the dead. This is interesting given the fact that Isaac, who is later to be offered by Avraham in sacrifice and then saved by the Ram (A type for Messiah: Genesis 22), is spoken of in the book of Hebrews in relationship to trust in the Messiah Yeshua, Who was raised from the dead for our redemption.
“He (Avraham) reasoned that God was able to raise him (Isaac) up even from the dead—and in a sense, he did receive him back from the dead.” –Hebrews 11:19
Gen 18:13 And HaShem (YHVH: Mercy) said to Avraham, “Why did Sarah laugh, saying, ‘Shall I be certain that I’ll bear a child, when I’m old’?”
Gen 18:14 Is anything too hard for HaShem (YHVH: Mercy)? At the time appointed I will return unto you, according to the time of life (season), and Sarah shall have a son.
Avraham is perhaps thinking, “What laughter? I didn’t hear her laugh or say anything?” In turn Sarah is probably thinking, “How is it possible that this man knows my inner thoughts?”
We note here that it is HaShem who has heard Sarah and that it is He Who will return in a year’s time at this season (Pesach) to witness the birth of the son.
With the words, “Is anything too hard for HaShem” G-d challenges Sarah’s unbelief (mistrust).
Gen 18:15 Then Sarah denied it, saying, “I didn’t laugh”; for she was afraid. And He said, “Not so; you did laugh.”
Sarah, now caught in her disbelief and being fearful of G-d, choses to lie rather than confess. However, G-d, Who is present in mercy (YHVH), disciplines Sarah as a beloved child, refuting her lie with the simple statement, “Not so; you did laugh”. Here, “laugh” is synonymous with, “doubt”. Therefore, we can read, “Not so; you did doubt”.
Remember that up to this point the man (G-d with us) has had His back turned to Sarah, now He turns to look her in the eye and gently challenge her unbelief.
We know that Sarah took HaShem’s challenge to heart because she eventually found trust in HaShem, and considering Him trustworthy, believed she would give birth to the promised child.
“By trust even Sarah herself received ability to conceive when she was barren and past the age, since she considered the One who had made the promise to be trustworthy.” – Hebrews 11:11
It is also worth noting here the similarities between the birth of Isaac and the later birth of the Messiah. The Ram which delivers Isaac in Genesis 22 is a type for the Messiah and his sacrificial death and His resurrection. Thus, when we see the proclamation to Sarah, we also hear the proclamation to Miriyam (Mary). When we hear of the miraculous birth that is to take place, we’re also reminded of the miraculous birth of our Messiah. When we see the two angels that accompany G-d with us (Emmanuel: the third man), we also think of the angel that visited Miriyam (Mary) and the angel who brought a legion of angels to announce the Messiah’s birth to the shepherds of Israel’s sacrificial flocks.
Gen 18:16 And the men rose up from there, and turned their faces toward S’dom (burning): and Avraham walked with them on the way.
We know that two of the three men arrived in S’dom, named as messengers (malakhim: angels) 19:1.
It seems that Avraham, went with the men for part of their journey as they began to head toward S’dom.
Gen 18:17 And HaShem (YHVH: Mercy) said, “Shall I hide from Avraham the thing which I am doing; Gen 18:18 seeing that Avraham shall surely become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him? Gen 18:19 For I know him, that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of HaShem (YHVH: Mercy), to do justice and judgment; that HaShem (YHVH: Mercy) may bring upon Avraham that which He has spoken of him.”
This conversation seems to be taking place between HaShem and the men (angels). Given our former deduction regarding Who the third man is, we can suggest that G-d with us (Yeshua), the third man, is conversing with Michael and Gavriel. These two angels already know what G-d has instructed them to do in S’dom, thus, for the reader’s sake the text alludes to a sort of legal tribunal being conducted in line with the attributes of mercy, justice and judgement, which are the attributes G-d is trusting Avraham to pass on to his offspring. This therefore is the reason for the consultation and the subsequent opportunity for Avraham to offer a righteous argument for the consolation of justice and mercy. Not because G-d is unjust or unmerciful but because G-d has imparted His attributes to Avraham a heart of mercy and justice which will be a light to the nations.
“Shall I hide” infers a friendship between G-d and Avraham (Isaiah 41:8). Yeshua illuminates the relationship between G-d and His servants when He says:
“I am no longer calling you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing. Now I have called you friends, because everything I have heard from My Father I have made known to you.” –Yochanan (John) 15:15 (TLV)
This friendship is further emphasized by the phrase, “I know him” the Hebrew, “yada” denoting intimate knowledge of a person. In this case it is a knowledge that transcends time and space, an observation of the present eternity spoken into time and space in this conversation between G-d and the angels. In other words, G-d has already seen Avraham’s future righteousness and is speaking it into time and space.
Gen 18:20 And HaShem (YHVH: Mercy) said, “Because the cry of S’dom (Burning) and Amorrah (Submersion) is great, and because their sin is very grievous;
Ibn Ezra notes that the, “Outcry” is either the outcry of the rebellion of the Sodomites or the outcry of those who had suffered as a result of the evil conduct of the Sodomites. Rambam claims that it is the cry of the oppressed looking for liberation.
The opinion of the Jewish sages is that the cruelty of S’dom stemmed from the maxim, “What is mine is mine and what is yours is yours” (Avot 5:10). A similar modern idiom says, “Neither a borrower or a lender be”. Both colloquialisms offer the pretence inherent in worldly wisdom but directly oppose the charitable mission of G-d’s people.
Gen 18:21 I will descend, and inspect what they have done according to the outcry, which is come unto me; and if not, I will know (I will be known).”
“I will descend” is for the sake of the human audience. G-d uses kinetic terms to convey a sense of His present action within time and space, however, He remains invisible and immutable, existing outside of all things, the eternal G-d.
G-d, within Whom all things exist and have their being, need not descend. Additionally, G-d with us (Emmanuel), the angel, will descend. The inspection of S’dom is intended to emphasize the judicial nature of this judgement. S’dom is being given a just and fair trial, her destruction will not be without merit.
The phrase, “And if not, I will know (yada)” may mean, “If they repent, I will know (yada) them” or, “I will be known by them”.
Gen 18:22 And the men turned their faces from there, and went toward S’dom: but Avraham remained standing before HaShem (YHVH: Mercy).
The present reading of verse 22 is according to the Masoretic scribal correction of the text. Possibly intended to avoid conjecture over the position of Avraham in relation to G-d. However, there is a good case for reading the original Hebrew as, “but HaShem remained standing before Avraham”. This reading qualifies the former correlation between the manifestation of G-d in humanoid form and the third man (angel). Regardless, only two men (angels) arrive at S’dom (19:1), leaving the third to remain. Thus it is the L-rd with us (Emmanuel) as the man (angel) Who remains standing before Avraham, or if you like, before Whom Avraham stands.
Gen 18:23 And Avraham drew near (nagash: an intimate closeness), and said, “Will You also destroy the righteous with the wicked?”
Avraham now draws near, an intimate positioning of himself close to the third man, face to face. This is the intense relational context of the conversation that follows.
In the previous chapter Avraham had received his new name and had become the Father of the nations. He takes this role seriously by drawing near to G-d as an intermediary on behalf of the people of S’dom and the surrounding cities who will be destroyed by the ensuing destruction brought about by G-d’s righteous judgement. G-d has placed in him the desire to see justice tempered with mercy. Thus the G-d of mercy is seen at work within the heart of His servant.
Avraham had intervened on S’dom’s behalf in the past (Genesis 14:14) for the sake of his nephew Lot. His continued concern and deep connection to his nephew can be heard in his pleading for mercy.
Gen 18:24 “What if there were fifty righteous within the midst of the terror (the city): will You also destroy and not spare the place for the fifty righteous that are there?
“So it was, as God destroyed the cities of the surrounding area, that God remembered Abraham, and sent Lot out of the midst of the upheaval, when He demolished the cities where Lot had dwelt.” –Bereishit (Genesis) 19:29 (TLV)
Based on Genesis 19:29 Rashi suggests that all five of the cities mentioned in Genesis 14:2 are to be condemned in the judgement against S’dom. Thus the plea for the holding back of judgement on account of 50 righteous ones is in fact a plea for 10 (a quorum for worship/prayer—minion) from each of the five condemned cities. This infers that the number of righteous is related to the potential for their faithful worship of G-d, to have a redemptive effect upon those around them and thus cause the cities to repent and turn away from evil. This is consistent with the continual use of the Holy Name YHVH: mercy, throughout the chapter.
Gen 18:25 That be far from You to do after this manner, to slay the righteous with the wicked: and that the righteous should be as the wicked, that be far from You: Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?”
Simply put Avraham is saying, “It is not in Your Character to punish the righteous with the wicked”. In other words, “that be far from You” means, “It’s not Who You are”. Additionally, “Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?” is rhetorical and best understood to mean, “I know that the Judge of the earth will do what is right”.
Gen 18:26 And HaShem (YHVH: Mercy) said, “If I find in S’dom fifty righteous within the city, then I will spare all the place for their sakes.”
The key phrase here is, “within the city” which means inside the walls, in the midst of the evil behaviour.
Gen 18:27 And Avraham answered and said, “Behold now, I have taken it upon myself to speak unto HaShem (YHVH: Mercy), although I am but dust and ashes: Gen 18:28 If there are five less than fifty righteous: will You destroy all the city for lack of five? And He said, “If I find there forty five, I will not destroy it.”
Notice the humility and respect Avraham pays to G-d as he continues to petition Him for mercy. Given the inference in the Holy Name we could read, “I have taken it upon myself to speak unto Mercy”. Rashi notes according to the Midrash that even with five subtracted from the number of the righteous each city would still have nine and G-d would become the tenth member of the quorum for worship and prayer.
Gen 18:29 And he spoke to Him yet again, and said, “ If there are forty found there?” And He said, “I will not do it for forty's sake.” Gen 18:30 And he said unto him, “Oh let not my Lord (Adonai) be angry, and I will speak: if there are thirty found there?” And He said, “I will not do it, if I find thirty there.” Gen 18:31 And he said, “Behold now, I have taken upon me to speak unto my Lord (Adonai): If there were twenty found there?” And He said, “I will not destroy it for twenty's sake.” Gen 18:32 And he said, “Oh let not my Lord (Adonai) be angry, and I will speak but once more: if ten are found there?” And He said, “I will not destroy it for ten's sake.
We might be tempted to see this dialogue as some sort of haggling over the judgement of the people of S’dom, however, that is not what’s happening. This dialogue between Avraham the advocate and G-d the Merciful Judge is intended to express G-d’s desire to see all come to a saving knowledge of Him (1 Timothy 2:3-5). Avraham is acting as a type for the then future coming of the Messiah, the greatest advocate of all time. One of the key evidences for this being a conversation of friendship, or of Teacher and disciple, is the fact that G-d does not respond with a counter to Avraham’s requests, He simply concedes to each of Avraham’s demands until at last Avraham learns that G-d has shown great mercy already and that the refusal of the wicked to accept G-d’s mercy is the vehicle of their own demise.
The petitioning for mercy ends at the number 10, the number for a single complete quorum of worship and prayer or alternatively, 2 people in each of the five condemned cities grouped together with S’dom and Amorrah. It is interesting to note that Yeshua seems to have used the traditional rabbinical requirement for a quorum of ten as a platform for conveying the reality that G-d is present and active even when two are gathered in His Name (Matthew 18:20).
Gen 18:33 And HaShem (YHVH: Mercy) went His way (departed), as soon as he had finished communing with Avraham: and Avraham returned unto his place.
G-d didn’t leave until Avraham had finished petitioning Him. This, in and of itself is a clear representation of G-d’s merciful character. Because G-d is everywhere in the sense that all things are in Him, He cannot leave or depart from Himself. However, as explained previously, in order for human beings to read relational interaction in this encounter, kinetic language must be used to convey the tangible sense of relationship that Avraham experienced with G-d. Additionally, the third man still had to depart and did not arrive at S’dom in 19:1, therefore G-d with us (Yeshua), the man (angel), departed.
Avraham returned to his place because he had previously left with the three men toward S’dom and then stopped at a point on the way where he continued to speak with G-d while the two angels (Michael and Gavriel) went to S’dom. He now returned to his tents at the trees of Mamrei.
My daughter’s teachers ask them to put what they term a, “hook” in their essay writing. A repeated phrase, an idea that reconciles each element of the essay. If there is a hook in this theophany, it is this, “Mercy triumphs over judgement”.
“So speak and act as those who will be judged according to a Torah that gives freedom. For judgment is merciless to the one who does not show mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment.” –Yaakov (James) 2:12-13 (TLV)
© Yaakov brown 2016
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