The Oaks of Mamre

“The Lord appeared to him by the oaks of Mamre, as he sat at the door of his tent in the heat of the day” (Gen. 18:1).

- Genesis 18:1–5

After Adam’s fall despoiled His creation, God did not leave all men to perish in sin but purposed to destroy the serpent through His chosen seed (Gen. 3:15). By grace, the Lord had witnesses on the earth, like Abel (4:4) and Enoch (5:24), before the days of Noah, with whom God covenanted in order to protect the world from the wrath of His wholesale destruction. With Abraham, Yahweh pledged to do whatever was necessary to ensure His elect would keep covenant and inherit life and land ­— the benefits of salvation (chap. 15). Though the patriarch would sin (chap. 16), his continual repentance and commitment to the Lord revealed his true faith; thus, God reaffirmed His word to multiply His servant into a set-apart nation through which the world would be blessed (17:1–21).

Abraham’s fidelity shines through yet again in Genesis 18. While sitting at his tent, three men arrive to visit the patriarch. Quickly, he rises and offers to refresh these travelers, and they accept (vv. 1–5).

Abraham goes out of his way to be hospitable. The visitors arrive in the “heat of the day” (18:1), the time when the patriarch would have taken the customary afternoon nap. But Abraham abandons this luxury so that he can show the proper hospitality to those who traveled in that region — shaded rest and water to cool the feet (v. 4). He also offers a morsel of bread (v. 5) in order to persuade them to stay for a feast he will later provide (vv. 6–8). Abraham likely supposed the men would not visit had they known he would serve a lengthy banquet, and so he downplays his gift to convince them to stay. We can see how very eager he was to honor God with his generosity.

Such “friendly deception” was unnecessary, for among Abraham’s guests, the reader knows, is the Lord Himself (18:1). Despite his words of respect in verse 3, we know Abraham was at first unaware he was speaking with the Creator and His angels (Heb. 13:1–2). The patriarch’s actions, therefore, reveal a man of noble character who obeyed God’s command to love the sojourner (Deut. 10:19). In wanting to serve those apparently in need, Abraham shows the Lord’s grace is operating to make him a covenant keeper.

Coram Deo

Matthew Henry comments: “It becomes those whom God has blessed with plenty to be liberal and open-hearted.” The Lord does not bless people so that they will keep that blessing all for themselves. Instead, He wants us to share our time, money, possessions, homes, and so on, with others. Consider how you might give of your time this week to help someone in need. Spend some time with a grieving person, or volunteer to do a task at your church.

Passages for Further Study

Prov. 14:31
Prov. 22:9
Isa. 58:1–12
2 Cor. 8:1–15
Gal. 6:6

First published in Tabletalk Magazine, an outreach of Ligonier. For permissions, view our Copyright Policy.