Through the Bible: The Three Visitors

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So, we really liked this one growing up because it was a Christophany. Or it could be anyway. It was very possibly an example of Jesus showing up, in the Old Testament, before he was actually born as Jesus. How exciting is that? And he comes to Abraham’s tent and they all eat together and have good chats and then Abraham is told that it’s finally time. He’s definitely going to have a son next year. And Sarah, who is listening from inside the tent, laughs because that’s pretty funny. And then she gets in big trouble and we all talk about how much Sarah sucks for lying because people shouldn’t lie and God was definitely angry at her for doing that.

I was definitely very bothered by the Sarah thing growing up? I mean, her laughing seemed so normal and then to be called out like that seemed so mean and of course she lied! Why wouldn’t she? That is really my strongest memory of this story. Anyway, let’s take a look.

The Three Visitors

18 The Lord appeared to Abraham near the great trees of Mamre while he was sitting at the entrance to his tent in the heat of the day. Abraham looked up and saw three men standing nearby. When he saw them, he hurried from the entrance of his tent to meet them and bowed low to the ground.

He said, “If I have found favor in your eyes, my lord,[a] do not pass your servant by. Let a little water be brought, and then you may all wash your feet and rest under this tree. Let me get you something to eat, so you can be refreshed and then go on your way—now that you have come to your servant.”

“Very well,” they answered, “do as you say.”

So Abraham hurried into the tent to Sarah. “Quick,” he said, “get three seahs[b] of the finest flour and knead it and bake some bread.”

Then he ran to the herd and selected a choice, tender calf and gave it to a servant, who hurried to prepare it. He then brought some curds and milk and the calf that had been prepared, and set these before them. While they ate, he stood near them under a tree.

“Where is your wife Sarah?” they asked him.

“There, in the tent,” he said.

10 Then one of them said, “I will surely return to you about this time next year, and Sarah your wife will have a son.”

Now Sarah was listening at the entrance to the tent, which was behind him. 11 Abraham and Sarah were already very old, and Sarah was past the age of childbearing. 12 So Sarah laughed to herself as she thought, “After I am worn out and my lord is old, will I now have this pleasure?”

13 Then the Lord said to Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh and say, ‘Will I really have a child, now that I am old?’ 14 Is anything too hard for the Lord? I will return to you at the appointed time next year, and Sarah will have a son.”

15 Sarah was afraid, so she lied and said, “I did not laugh.”

But he said, “Yes, you did laugh.”

Response: Okay, so most of the reasons people feel this is a Christophany come in the next part of the story, other than that at the end it refers to the visitor as the Lord. So I’m going to focus mainly on the Sarah thing, because I still feel like it’s the most interesting part of the story.

It still seems a little weird to me that the Lord decides to use humiliating Sarah as a way to prove his power. I mean, that’s essentially what this is, right? He proves in this scene that he knows that she laughed and knows exactly what she thought and said behind that curtain. Which, incidentally, is not that powerful of a thing because her reaction is a completely logical one. It’s like a fortune teller trick, really. But a humiliating one.

Still, the other thing I can’t help but notice in this story is that the story itself does not explicitly condemn Sarah for lying. I mean, I heard her condemned all up and down in sermons. Constantly. But the story says “Sarah was afraid, so she lied…” That actually seems kind-of understanding. It could have just said she lied, after all. We would have probably figured she was afraid and ashamed about being called out like that. It’s easy to read into that situation. But instead, it makes a point of saying she was afraid, which is why she did this. I don’t know if that’s actually intended to be a more merciful take but I’m going to choose to read it that way, because heaven only knows I could use a bit more mercy in this extremely brutal story. A story which is about to get a whole lot worse.

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