Genesis 18:1-19 “Is Anything Too Hard for the Lord?”
God had previously promised Abraham a posterity greater than the stars in the heavens and the dust of the earth (Genesis 13:16; 15:5; Abraham 3:14; see also Genesis 17:4; 18:18). In Genesis 18:1, the Lord appeared unto Abraham (verse 1), and then Abraham was visited by three men (JST Genesis 18:23 says that they were “holy men … after the order of God,” and the JST for verse 3 says they were “brethren”):
- What things did Abraham do in verses 2-8 that displayed his character?
- What blessing did the men promise Abraham and Sarah in return? (verses 9-14).
- Regarding Sarah’s having “laughed” (verses 12, 15), the footnote for Genesis 21:6 teaches that the Hebrew word means both “laugh” and “rejoice.” It seems more within Sarah’s character to rejoice at this pronounced blessing, rather than to mockingly laugh.
- What else do we learn about Abraham from verses 16, 19? (see also 2 Chronicles 20:7).
Let us do all we can to justify the Lord’s confidence in us and our families to “keep the way of the Lord” (verse 19).
Genesis 18:20-33 Sodom and Gomorrah
Abraham “stood yet before the Lord” and felt sufficient confidence to draw near to Him and speak (verses 22-23). Although Abraham confessed that he felt as “dust and ashes” before God (verse 27), he pled that the Lord would not destroy Sodom and Gomorrah, for the sake of whatever righteous there could be found among them; even if there were only 10 righteous people to be found. The Lord was persuaded (verse 32). What positive influence can you have in the lives of those who choose not to follow God?
Genesis 19:1-28 Destruction of the Wicked
When Abraham and Lot separated, Lot chose to live in the plain of Jordan, where Sodom and Gomorrah were (Genesis 13:7-13). In chapter 19, the wickedness of Sodom and Gomorrah is displayed in the account of the visit of three angels with Lot (see verses 1-11; see also JST Genesis 19:1; Ezekiel 16:49-50). These “holy men” (JST Genesis 19:18) urged Lot and his family to depart before the Lord’s destruction would come upon Sodom and Gomorrah, instructing Lot and his family not even to look back as they fled (verses 12-17). The destruction came, meaning that ten righteous souls could not be found among them (verses 24-26). We can consider this act of God as an act of love—like the Flood of Noah—in which He removed His children from their wickedness and placed them in the spirit world, to work with them there (see 2 Nephi 26:24).
Lot’s wife did look back (presumably meaning that she was reluctant to leave or longingly wished to return, or did return) and thus she “became a pillar of salt,” meaning she died (verse 26). Two-thousand years later, as Jesus was speaking of His second coming, He enjoined worthy preparation, reminding His listeners of the conditions and attitudes of those in Sodom and Gomorrah, saying, “Remember Lot’s wife” (Luke 17:28-33). May we always have “first things first” in our lives, being prepared for the Second Coming or any other prior eventuality.
Genesis 19:30-38 Lot and His Daughters
The Old Testament has a number of perplexing stories and situations, and this is one of them. We do not know how fully and accurately such stories have been written nor preserved, but we can consider what is there and see if we can draw lessons for ourselves.
In the case of Lot’s two daughters managing to get themselves pregnant by their father, some have suggested that perhaps they assumed that all mankind had been killed in the destruction they had witnessed (as is suggested in verse 31). Additionally, the Joseph Smith Translation for Genesis 19:31 adds that Lot’s “firstborn dealt wickedly, and said …,” thus devising a plan contrary to the Lord’s will (the JST for verse 35 adds, “they did wickedly”). And, it is possible that Lot’s daughters were imitating corrupt behavior that they had observed among the people of Sodom and Gomorrah.
Genesis 20 Abimelech
One never knows what faith in God may exist in the hearts of others, including those we may consider to be ungodly. Find in Genesis 20 the ways God blessed Abraham, Sarah, Abimelech, and Abimelech’s household. What additional lessons do you see in these verses?
Genesis 21:1-21 “Sarah Conceived”
In Genesis 16, Sarah arranged for Abraham to take her handmaid, Hagar, as his wife, so that Abraham could have posterity. This resulted in the birth of Ishmael. Then in chapter 18, the Lord promised through His servants that Abraham and Sarah would be blessed with a son. This is fulfilled when Abraham (age 100) and Sarah (age 90) are blessed with a son, Isaac (Genesis 21:1-7). Isaac is to be the son through whom the covenant and its blessings are to be passed down and fulfilled (Genesis 17:19).
Contention between Sarah and Hagar results in Hagar’s departure and trials in the wilderness, but the Lord miraculously preserved the lives of Hagar and Ishmael, promising that Ishmael’s posterity would become “a great nation” (Genesis 21:9-21).
Genesis 22 Abraham’s Test
In verse 1 it says that “God did tempt Abraham,” but the footnote indicates that the word test is a better translation. Read this well-known story (verses 1-13), noting:
- God referred to Isaac as Abraham’s “only son” (verse 2), even though Ishmael was also the son of Abraham, by Hagar (Genesis 21). But Isaac is the only son through whom the Abrahamic covenant was to continue.
- One of the great promises of the Lord’s covenant with Abraham is seed/posterity. If Abraham sacrifices Isaac, how can that promise be fulfilled? Abraham did not know the answer, yet he “rose up early in the morning” to carry out the Lord’s command.
- Abraham himself had been taken by the priests of Pharaoh, in order to be sacrificed to the Egyptian gods (Abraham 1:5-14), yet even this horrendous experience did not deter Abraham’s determination to obey this unusual command.
- Abraham traveled three days to “the land of Moriah” (verses 2, 4), where the Lord had told him to go. Mount Moriah was the same place that later became Jerusalem. Not only is Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his only covenant son a similitude or pattern of Heavenly Father’s willingness to sacrifice His Only Son Jesus Christ (see Jacob 4:5), but the Lord directed Abraham to do it at or near the same place where some two-thousand years later the atoning sacrifice of Jesus would take place—thus, the need to travel three days.
- Isaac carried the wood that would be used in the offering (verse 6), just as Jesus Christ carried the cross upon his back as He made his way to Calvary (see also JST Genesis 22:7).
- It is likely that Isaac is an adult, and easily capable of physically resisting the instructions of his aged father Abraham. Yet Isaac submits himself—as did Jesus—to the Lord’s will (verses 9-10; see also the chapter heading).
- In verse 12 the angel/Lord tells Abraham, “Now I know that thou fearest God.” But clearly, this testing experience was not for the benefit of God, but rather for Abraham.
- The Apostle Paul commented on this episode, saying, “By faith Abraham, when he was tried, offered up Isaac: and he that had received the promises offered up his only begotten son, of whom it was said, that in Isaac shall thy seed be called: Accounting that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead” (Hebrews 11:17-19).
- Read the beautiful re-stating of some of the blessings of the Abrahamic covenant, as recorded in Genesis 22:15-18.
Genesis 23 Sarah Dies
Sarah passed away at age 127 (verses 1-2), and Abraham wished to provide a special burial place in the land of Canaan, where Abraham considered himself “a stranger and sojourner” (verse 4); even though the Lord had promised to give this land to Abraham and his seed. Read verses 4-15 to see once again the kinds of relationships that Abraham created, wherever he went. How may we interact with all others in such a way that they may consider us as “princes” (or “princesses”) among them?