Reading the beginning of Genesis 18 created a headache -כְּאֵב רֹאשׁ – for the commentators of Genesis. When you read the first three verses, you can’t be quite sure about who is speaking with Abraham in verse three. Let’s take a look at the verses and then we will try to cure this headache:
“Now the Lord appeared to him by the oaks of Mamre, while he was sitting at the tent door in the heat of the day. When he lifted up his eyes and looked, behold, there were three people and he said, “My Lord, if now I have found favor in Your sight, please do not pass Your servant by.” (Genesis 18:1-3)
“וַיֵּרָא אֵלָיו יְהוָה בְּאֵלֹנֵי מַמְרֵא; וְהוּא יֹשֵׁב פֶּתַח-הָאֹהֶל כְּחֹם הַיּוֹם. וַיִּשָּׂא עֵינָיו, וַיַּרְא, וְהִנֵּה שְׁלֹשָׁה אֲנָשִׁים, נִצָּבִים עָלָיו…וַיֹּאמַר אֲדֹנָי אִם-נָא מָצָאתִי חֵן בְּעֵינֶיךָ אַל-נָא תַעֲבֹר מֵעַל עַבְדֶּךָ.”
When you read the first verse, it seems that God appeared to Abraham, whose name was just changed in the previous chapter after he was circumcised. However, suddenly, there three more people that Abraham saw, which we as readers throughout the years have assumed were angels. Was it one meeting with two different characters (God and then the angels)? Or was it one meeting with God and the angels represented God?
The traditional Jewish commentators preferred the first option over the second. God came to visit Abraham after the circumcision to see that he was healed. After he finished speaking to God, Abraham saw the three angels there and asked them stay, but it seems that he was only speaking only with one of them at the end of verse 3. Remember that at the beginning of the story Abraham said “Adonai” - that could be translated as “My Lords” or “My Lord”.
Rashi suggested that in verse 3 there were two conversations, one between Abraham and the angels at the beginning of the verse which continued in verse 4, and one between Abraham and God at the end of verse 3. According to this commentary Abraham said to God, “Wait until I host the angels!”
For me, Rashi’s interpretation solved one problem and created another one!
Do you have other suggestions about this meeting or these two meetings?
I would love to hear them! Share your comments with me here or on our Facebook fan page!
People- ‘ănāšîm – אֲנָשִׁים
My Lord-’ădōnāy – אֲדֹנָי
He preferred-he’ĕdîf –הֶעֱדִיף
Your servant-’avdechā – עַבְדֶּךָ