Genesis 18: 9-15: Did G-d lie to Abraham?


Didn’t three men visit Sarah and Abraham?



NABRE: Abraham’s Visitors.
1 The LORD appeared to Abraham by the oak of Mamre, as he sat in the entrance of his tent, while the day was growing hot.
2 Looking up, he saw three men standing near him. When he saw them, he ran from the entrance of the tent to greet them; and bowing to the ground,

3 he said: “Sir, if it please you, do not go on past your servant.
4 Let some water be brought, that you may bathe your feet, and then rest under the tree.
5 Now that you have come to your servant, let me bring you a little food, that you may refresh yourselves; and afterward you may go on your way.” “Very well,” they replied, “do as you have said.”
6 Abraham hurried into the tent to Sarah and said, “Quick, three measures* of bran flour! Knead it and make bread.”
7 He ran to the herd, picked out a tender, choice calf, and gave it to a servant, who quickly prepared it.
8 Then he got some curds* and milk, as well as the calf that had been prepared, and set these before them, waiting on them under the tree while they ate.
9 “Where is your wife Sarah?” they asked him. “There in the tent,” he replied.
10 One of them* said, “I will return to you about this time next year, and Sarah will then have a son.” Sarah was listening at the entrance of the tent, just behind him.
11 Now Abraham and Sarah were old, advanced in years, and Sarah had stopped having her menstrual periods.
12 So Sarah laughed* to herself and said, “Now that I am worn out and my husband is old, am I still to have sexual pleasure?”
13 But the LORD said to Abraham: “Why did Sarah laugh and say, ‘Will I really bear a child, old as I am?’
14 Is anything too marvelous for the LORD to do? At the appointed time, about this time next year, I will return to you, and Sarah will have a son.”
15 Sarah lied, saying, “I did not laugh,” because she was afraid. But he said, “Yes, you did.”

Notes from NABRE:
The mysterious men visit Abraham in Mamre to promise him and Sarah a child the following year and then visit Lot in Sodom to investigate and then to punish the corrupt city.

Abraham addresses the leader of the group, whom he does not yet recognize as the Lord; in the next two verses he speaks to all three men. The other two are later identified as angels. The shifting numbers and identification of the visitors are a narrative way of expressing the mysterious presence of God.


This passage is open to several interpretations. Some scholars say all three men are G-d (the Trinity); others that only one is G-d and the others are angels. Still others claim that the three men are all angels or just men. The number “three” is one of those mystical numbers: not only the Trinity but the three wise men and other biblical and literary references as well.


Could it be: God Spoke and His Spirit rests on THEIR creation?

Could the three, in a sense, be negative theology because our word just cannot handle the Infinite?

In English we grapple with breath of a human body and breath as His Spirit.

Does not the original Hebrew word have two meanings?


At least two meanings for the word “ruach”: breath and spirit, as well as wind. There are also the terms “nefesh” and “neshamah,” which take on different spiritual gradations with respect to the human soul. The use of these words in the Hebrew Bible varies in meaning, dependent on the context. Their meanings are also discussed in the Talmud and the Kabbalah, and the hermeneutics involved is quite complex.


There is no definitive dogmatic explanation of this Scripture in Catholic doctrine that demands any particular interpretation of this.

In the NABRE, the verses (18:12-14) read:

So Sarah laughed to herself and said, “Now that I am worn out and my husband is old, am I still to have sexual pleasure?” But the LORD said to Abraham: “Why did Sarah laugh and say, ‘Will I really bear a child, old as I am?’

The way the verses are written in this translation it reads as if Sarah’s reference to being “worn out” is what God means when telling Abraham that she claimed to be “old.”
Is this the only ways to interpret these verses? No. Scholars note that this very brief passage has many differing viewpoints, as many interpretations as their are exegetes. The “white lie” scenario is believed by some Christians and Jews, claiming that God was using a type of indirect speech to “spare Abraham’s feelings” by not telling him directly what Sarah was thinking. But this is not a universally accepted interpretation, even among Jews.

The Common English Bible (CEB), translated by a committee of Jews and Christians, renders these verses:

So Sarah laughed to herself, thinking, I’m no longer able to have children and my husband’s old. The Lord said to Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh and say, ‘Me give birth? At my age?’ Is anything too difficult for the Lord? When I return to you about this time next year, Sarah will have a son.”

In the CEB, the translators state that Sarah merely believes she is “no longer able to have children,” and the Lord tells Abraham that it because Sarah is thinking to herself: “Me give birth? At my age?” This translation interprets God’s words as a paraphrase of Sarah’s thoughts on the matter. But it can also be read to imply the “white lie” scenario.

As there is no definitive agreement on what exactly is being said here, there is no definitive official Catholic view to share






Does Sarah’s LAUGH have a connection to Isaac?


No definitive Jewish interpretation on this and much else in the Bible almost goes without saying! The sparing of Abraham’s feelings might actually be secondary to G-d’s wishing the marriage between Abraham and Sarah not to be disrupted as per His divine plan for the Jewish people. Thus, the white-lie scenario here is infused into Jewish theology for the benefit of peace in one’s marriage, which may on occasion trump honesty. Thanks for the information regarding Catholic theology.


Yes, her laugh and the earlier laugh of Abraham both do. (Compare Genesis 17:17; 18:12; 21:6.) The name “Isaac” is Biblical Hebrew onomatopoeia in that the word used for the laughter associated with Isaac’s birth is the same as his name, yishaq. That this explanation occurs a third time shows that this was something the reader should not overlook.


These double meanings fill the Bible, don’t they?


I believe or hold the idea that there are many words in this narrative have two meanings.

I hold this belief for the Tabernacle (dwelling), Temple (palace), David (Beloved, and Solomon (Peace).

I hold the idea that all of the furniture in the Tabernacle and Temple are words with two meanings.

There are at least three authors that have enlightened me on this: St. John’s Gospel, Origen, and Maimonides.

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