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I would prefer an answer from the Hebrew for reasons that will become obvious I hope.

Reading through BH I come across the interpretation that Abraham saw the Lord and two angels in Gen18. My understanding of the text is that the three men were the Lord. I personally see no issue with God taking the form of one man, two or 100 men simultaneously.

I understand where the interpretation for the former view arises from, namely Gen19 where two angels arrive in Sodom but the text doesn’t say the angels were earlier with Abraham. That is an assumption not alluded to in the earlier chapter at all.

Apparently some English translations render the text to read that only two of the men went Sodom, however I’m not convinced this is a faithful translation

Gen 18:22, "And the two men turned away and went toward Sodom, but Abraham remained standing before the LORD."

What I read is that the men (all three turned away and based on v16 Abraham was following them all until they finally part ways

What the text does say is that the Lord Himself would go to see for Himself Sodom

“I will go down to see whether they have done altogether according to the outcry that has come to me. And if not, I will know.”” ‭‭Genesis‬ ‭18:21‬

Of which the text speaks nothing further about. Chapter 19 starts off with two angels arriving in the evening. The logical assumption would be that the Lord who isn’t a liar went down to Sodom as He said He would (my opinion); and not that the Lord sent two angels to exact judgment prior to Him going down to Sodom unlike what He said He would do.

Another assumption is therefore also that the same day that the Lord visited Abraham was the same day the angels arrived. But I don’t see this as being evident, necessary nor true, plausible I will concede.

Seeing that the Lord was to go Himself to inquire of Sodom it doesn’t follow in my mind that these events occurred within the same day. It seems far more logical that the two events occurred on separate days.

The question once again

Does Genesis 18 indeed from the text make it clear that it was the Lord and two others, two others that didn’t receive worship and didn’t read Sarah’s mind/heart came to see Abraham or does the language in the text indicate as I read it, that the Lord was visiting Abraham as three men and all three received worship and all three read Sarah’s heart?

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  • Does the text actually convey that Abraham addressed the men as 'Lord' or as 'lord' ? Does the Lord speak directly to Abraham, not via the men ? The passage is mysterious. There is an inference but it cannot be forced. (+1.)
    – Nigel J
    Sep 13 '20 at 7:14
  • In your view, who are you saying the Lord is?
    – Dave
    Sep 14 '20 at 4:54
  • The way I read the text @Dave all three men were the Lord. No where in chapter 18 are angels even hinted at not even v22 in the Hebrew. Chapter 19:1 speaks of two angels but from where they came from, what day did they arrive the text is silent on the matter and I don’t believe it’s right to infer what is not obviously stated whilst denying what is clearly stated, that the Lord Himself intended to see Sodom for Himself v21. Again the Lord manifested Himself in the form of three men and all three men received worship and all three men read the mind of Sarah which only God can do.see Radz post⬇️ Sep 14 '20 at 5:40
  • Interesting, as was the accepted response from Radz. [Which supports my understanding of ‘representation’ :-) , but that’s another debate.]. But, if you are assuming that the three were ‘God’? .... then why did they need to go to Sodom to verify the report? (18:21)
    – Dave
    Sep 14 '20 at 18:33
  • @Dave because as OT understanding goes there was the invisible God above (Father NT) and the visible God (Son NT) or the two powers. And according to John 17:5,24 the Second person of the Godhead volunteered some of His glory prior to Creation. Hence as the Angel of the Lord He was limited (volitionally) hence why He asks questions, says to Abraham, now I know, regrets having made man At the flood and so on. He was fully God but chose to be like the heavenly hosts, also the reason why Lucifer didn’t understand if He could be God why couldn’t Lucifer too? They seemed equal. Sep 14 '20 at 18:48
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According to Benjamin D. Sommer, the three men who appeared in Abraham could be Yahweh himself manifesting in three bodies. He argued that this concept is congruent with Ancient Near East and biblical worldview.

Below is the entire excerpt of Sommer discussing the Hebrew texts of Genesis 18 and explaining that the three men could be Yahweh himself manifesting to people.

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Source: The Bodies of God and the World of Ancient Israel, by Benjamin D. Sommer. (Page 40-41) Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009.

(The whole book can be accessed for free at https://archive.org/details/TheBodiesOfGodAndTheWorldOfAncientIsrael/page/n57/mode/1up)

Note

Benjamin D. Sommer is Professor in the Department of Bible and Ancient Semitic Languages at the Jewish Theological Seminary of America.

Benjamin D. Sommer is Professor of Bible at the Jewish Theological Seminary.

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  • 1
    Sommer’s work begins by allowing for a range of possibilities mainly because the text allows for the possibility that God was the three men. Sommer does however toward the end slip into the view that two were angels but solely based on 19:1 without explanation and constructs an argument purely off of 19:1 whilst overlooking that v22 doesn’t say two men left to Sodom but the men left and Abraham remained with them (escorted them). This small overlooked detail changed the whole narrative to lean toward two being angels without proper exegesis. Thank you for the references Sep 14 '20 at 19:17
  • While I agree that YHWH can reveal Himself in any way He chooses, some of the above verges on Modalism which was anathematized in the council of Chalcedon in the 5th century.
    – Dottard
    Jul 4 at 22:06
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Let me offer the following general observations.

  1. We often see the Bible referring to supernatural angels, when they appear to people, referred to as "men", see Mark 16:5, Luke 24:4, Acts 1:10 which refer to angels as men (contrast John 20:12 where they are referred to as "angels"). [The only angel in the Bible (other than Michael) given a name is the archangel, Gabriel גַּבְרִיאֵל (Dan 8:16, 9:21), meaning, "man of God".]
  2. The incident in Gen 18 and 19 initially starts out as three "men" (Gen 18:2), but it is made abundantly clear in the text that this consisted of the LORD (YHWH) as per Gen 18:1, 13, 17, 19(x2), 20, 22, 26, 33; and, two angels as per Gen 19:1 מֲלְאָךְ (malak).
  3. That it was the LORD who bargained with Abraham is also very clear from Gen 18:22, "And the two men turned away and went toward Sodom, but Abraham remained standing before the LORD."
  4. If we believe God/LORD is omniscient, then clearly He did not need to actually go to Sodom to judge the extent of wickedness there - He must have already known. There is further evidence of this in the actions of the two angels who made no attempt to survey the population and their piety. In any case, such a spiritual judgement could only be made by God Himself on the basis of information unavailable to anyone else.

Therefore, I suggest that the purpose of God's visit to Abraham before the judgement on Sodom was twofold:

  • To personally deliver a prophecy of the promised son (later Isaac)
  • To allow Abraham the opportunity to intercede for the wicked city of Sodom and give us some inkling of the extent of God's compassion and grace to save all people (1 Tim 2:4). In the end, only four reduced to three righteous people could be found.
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  • First point, Gabriel is not the only named angel (fallen or otherwise) in the canon, Michael, Gabriel, Abaddon/Apollyon, Satan, Beelzebub and if one were to include all the names of the gods of the nations in the OT such as Chemosh, Asherah. Second point is v22 in the Hebrew does NOT say as you quoted in English the TWO men but the men... and in context Abraham is following as per v16. Not quite what I was asking and given your answer was strictly based from the English, much is not conveying through translation. Sep 13 '20 at 12:26
  • No apology necessary. But I still think you are wrong about the names of angels not being titles. “They have as king over them the angel of the bottomless pit. His name in Hebrew is Abaddon, and in Greek he is called Apollyon.” ‭‭Revelation‬ ‭9:11‬ ‭ Sep 13 '20 at 22:04
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Rather than reading our own opinions into the verse why don't we just take it at face value for what it says. I fully believe the bible can explain itself without our biases. So three men appear to Abraham and he believes he is speaking to the lord. The lord says he is going to Sodom to check it out. The lord stays and speaks with abraham and two men leave for Sodom. Next chapter we see 2 angels in Sodom. The easiest straight forward explanation is the lord spoke to Abraham through the angels, and the lord went to sodom through the angels. The angels our his representatives and all three of the men were simply angels. Its pretty straightforward. If you wanted a hebrew perspective the talmud says that it was michael, gabriel and raphael. I don't take the talmud as scripture, but the explanation minus the names is pretty clear based off a simple reading of genesis.

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  • I’m sorry but you’re making your argument from the translation not for the Hebrew original. The original does not say two men left, the original says they left and Abraham stayed with them as one escorting them. So your response is an argument for the translation not for the inspired text which is the Hebrew text. This deserves a down-vote even if I won’t give it to you. Thank you but this was nothing helpful. Dec 13 '20 at 22:31
  • @NihilSineDeo The original does not say two men left, the original says they left and Abraham stayed with them as one escorting them. You are grossly confusing and conflating Gen 18:16 (where, indeed, it is said that "the men rose from there and looked toward Sodom, and Abraham walked with them to take leave of them" with Gen 18:22 (where it is said that "the men turned away from there and went toward Sodom, but [] Abraham still stood before the LORD". Check ... if you can ... Jul 5 at 7:34
  • The word עמד translated stood, means to remain. V16 you got right, Abraham is escorting ALL the MEN, doesn’t say angel, nor Lord. V22 Abraham continued to remain with the Lord. (Same pattern men plural, But they are addressed as Lord.) The LXX uses εστηκως a judicial form of standing, meaning to continue to plead. V23 if Abraham was already standing with the Lord why approach, unless He has departed? I’m not taking a side, I’m showing you that you can’t be dogmatic about your position because there is proof for the alternative and insufficient proof to be dogmatic about the consensus view Jul 5 at 13:08
  • @NihilSineDeo Please explain (possibly without a stretch ...): how is it that (Gen 18:22) the "men turned away from there and went to Sodom", but we are told that Abraham remained with the LORD? Careful ... Jul 5 at 18:19
  • I just did and you’re still arguing from the English. Reread my last comment carefully. When the Lord is going, and Abraham is remaining with Him, then Abraham by necessity is following too. Because the Lord is the MEN Jul 5 at 18:40
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The following is what you stated: "Reading through BH I come across the interpretation that Abraham saw the Lord and two angels in Gen18. My understanding of the text is that the three men were the Lord. I personally see no issue with God taking the form of one man, two or 100 men simultaneously."

To be "blunt" your understanding is seriously flawed. That is "the three men were the Lord." The Bible is explicit in teaching that there is only one God who manifest Himself in three distinct persons. The Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. The one God does not take the form of more than one man. Let me "biblically" explain why.

It's clear from Genesis 18:1 that the Lord appeared to Abraham, that's a given because that is what the text states. It is also clear that two men appeared with the Lord so there were three men who appeared to Abraham in the form of men.

When we get to Genesis 18:33 the Lord departs from Abraham. At Genesis 19:1 two of the men are clearly identified as angels. The Hebrew word for "messenger" is "malak." Angels, and I mean actual angels like Gabriel or Michael are messengers. Men are identified as "angels" from the word "malak" as well. Just read Malachi 3:1.

Now, paraphrasing Genesis 19 we read (verse 4) "the men of the city, the men of Sodom, surrounded the house of Lot. Verse 5, they called out to Lot and ask him where are the men who came to you? At verse 9 the men pressed hard against Lot's door.

At verse 10, "But the men/angels reached out their hands and brought Lot into the house. Verse 11, "And they/the men/the angels struck the men who were trying to break into Lot's house with blindness, both small and great."

At verse 12-13 the men said to Lot to gather his relatives and get out of this place. Why? Verse 13, "for we are about to destroy this place because their outcry is great before THE Lord that the Lord has sent us to destroy it.

Notice verse 15, "And when morning dawned the ANGELS urged Lot to get out of Dodge. It is inconceivable for these other two men who are clearly identified as angels to be two other Lords as you stated.

Also notice at verse 13, "their outcry has become so great before the LORD/singular Lord, that the singular Lord has sent us to destroy it." If you continue reading the rest of Genesis 19 you come to verse 24. "The the Lord (singular) rained on Sodom and Gomorrah brimstone and fire from the Lord (singular) out of heaven.

And at verse 29, "Thus it came about, when God/singular destroyed the cities of the valley, that God remembered Abraham, and sent Lot out of the midst of the overthrow, when He overthrew the cities in which Lot lived."

Just because the text may not use the word "angels" in Genesis 18 and uses the word "men" does not mean that two of the men are actual angels and one of the men is actually the Lord God in the person of the angel of the Lord, the preincarnate Jesus Christ. Look at it from Abraham's point of view. To him there were three men. At Genesis 16 to Hagar it was a man who appeared to her and she concluded that it was the Lord God. Also saying she remained alive after seeing Him. (Genesis 16:13).

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  • 1) It’s NOT clear that 19:1 are the same men nor the same day. You’re assuming and based on your presupposition you’ve constructed your argument. That’s fine except you’re still arguing from the English. 2) Even from the English ALL are referred to as men not just the two angels so that cancels that argument. 3) And if you were to argue all three men were angels and NONE was the Lord, they received worship and representatives are forbidden to receive worship on behalf of the represented. This actually deserves a -1 but I’ll let others make the call. This wasn’t helpful as it was about chapte19 Sep 13 '20 at 19:55
  • To paragraph 2, if my understanding is flawed then by your reasoning the second person of the Godhead must manifest as the Son always and not a Lamb, a man, a pillar of fire, a rock gushing with water, a lion and so on. Furthermore I didn’t say the Lord Father, Son and Holy Spirit came to Abraham but that the Second person of the Godhead came to Abraham as three men. Are you saying God the Son cannot appear as more than one person simultaneously? Why not? What’s your proof? God could manifest as a Thousand man army Or one man three heads if He wanted to. It’s confusing but not impossible. Sep 13 '20 at 20:15
  • @NihilSineDeo The Son does manifest Himself as a man always. He does not "literallly" manifest Himself as a real Lamb. Jesus said He is the bread of life, does He actually manifest Himself as a loaf of bread? Or is He literally a "lion?" Words like these are symbols consistent with His character. In the OT God says He will cover you with His pinions, does God literally have wings? And yes, I know what you said, "that the Second person of the Godhead came to Abraham as three men." That's pure nonsense. First of all, why would He? Secondly, why are the two men clearly identified as angels?
    – Mr. Bond
    Sep 13 '20 at 20:42
  • “And between the throne and the four living creatures and among the elders I saw a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain, with seven horns and with seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth.” ‭‭Revelation‬ ‭5:6‬ tell me about this man. Sep 13 '20 at 20:51
  • Once again the two men are NOT clearly identified as angels. They are NOT. Hope it’s clear now. It’s not clear that two of the men were angels. Sep 13 '20 at 20:53
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The Russian painter Andrej Roebljov has painted a famous icon of Abraham's three visitors, which has since become the icon of the Trinity. God the Father can be seen on the left, the Son in the middle and the Holy Spirit on the right, as a re-interpretation of the Old Testament through the knowledge revealed in the New Testament. enter image description here

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  • Welcome to Biblical Hermeneutics, Elise. However facsinating you may find Rublev's icon of the trinity, it is obviously not an argument in favor of a trinitarian reading of Genesis 18. Jul 4 at 16:12
-1

The Question contains a preference for "an answer from the Hebrew".

Let's examine, then, the relevant points of the Hebrew text of Genesis 18. I will provide the Hebrew of the relevant verses, followed by a word-from-word English translation (from right to left, like the Hebrew).

וַיֹּאמְר֣וּ |  אֵׄלָ֔ׄיׄוׄ|        אַיֵּ֖ה|  שָׂרָ֣ה|        אִשְׁתֶּ֑ךָ|     וַיֹּ֖אמֶר| הִנֵּ֥ה|   בָאֹֽהֶל׃     9
 in the tent|here |and he said|your wife[?]|Sarah|where [is]|to him|And they said

Notice that וַיֹּאמְר֣וּ ("And they said") is plural, and referred to all the "three men".

But, in the immediately following verse we read (I will only quote the initial part of the verse):

10      וַיֹּ֗אמֶר|                       שׁ֣וֹב|             אָשׁ֤וּב
        I will return    |surely                     |And He said 

Notice that וַיֹּ֗אמֶר ("And He said") is singular, and referred to only One of the "three men".

In verses 11-12, it is said that Sarah, at the thought that, in her old age, she will conceive and bear child, laughs.

In verses 13-14-15 יְהוָ֖ה (the LORD) repeatedly is named, always with the verb in the singular.

Then we have the critical verse 22:

22 וַיִּפְנ֤וּ|  מִשָּׁם֙|      הָֽאֲנָשִׁ֔ים|  וַיֵּלְכ֖וּ|    סְדֹ֑מָה| וְאַ֨בְרָהָ֔ם| עוֹדֶ֥נּוּ| עֹמֵ֖ד| לִפְנֵ֥י |יְהוָֽה׃
LORD|before|stood|still|but Abraham|to Sodom|and went|the men|from there|And turned away

Verse 22 does not specify how many are the "men" that "turned away and went to Sodom", but we are told that Abraham remained with the LORD.

This is in agreement with the fact that, at Genesis 19:1, two angels "came to Sodom".

Conclusion

From the analysis of the relevant verses in Hebrew, it is confirmed that the "three men" of Gen 18:2 are the LORD and two angels (מַּלְאָכִ֤ים) that accompany the LORD and then go to Sodom.

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  • From vs22 it's "inferred" there were two men/angels that went to Sodom. At vs1 "the Lord appeared to Abraham. At vs2 Abraham sees three men. One is the Lord in human form and two are angels in human form. At vs 22, (as you stated the Lord is talking with Abraham and the two angels went toward Sodom. The Lord and Abraham continuing talking up to vs33 where the Lord finishes speaking and departs. We are then clearly told at Genesis 19:1, "Now the two angels came to Sodom etc. It could not be more clear and we agree the three men were the Lord and two angels.
    – Mr. Bond
    Jul 4 at 18:32
  • @Mr.Bond you’re arguing from the English, that’s not what the Hebrew reads Jul 4 at 19:15
  • @NihilSineDeo Please be specific and tell me what part are you referring too in the text? Give me the verses?
    – Mr. Bond
    Jul 4 at 20:35
  • @Mr.Bond - I have given my Answer examining the Hebrew text. Nihil Sine Deo won’t concede defeat … Jul 4 at 20:51
  • I already explained it in past comments @Mr.Bond. One example, in the English it reads ”So the men turned from there and went toward Sodom, but Abraham still stood before the Lord.” ‭‭Genesis‬ ‭18:22‬ but the Hebrew says that Abraham continued to escort the men as they went. What the English appears to say is that two men left and one man and Abraham stayed behind. That’s NOT what the Hebrew reads, the Hebrews says all the men left and Abraham followed them closely all three. Jul 4 at 20:51

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