Genesis 18: Who were the three men?


#1

Hello. Pardon me if this has been asked before.

In today’s readings we have a passage from Genesis 18 in which Abraham and Sarah are visited by three men who tell the married but childless couple that they will have a son within a year. Is there a special significance to the three men? Maybe a model of the Trinity? Are they angels?

I’m sure there is a lot of thought on this but I’m not exactly sure where to go to find it.

Thanks.


#2

My thoughts on this are that the two of the three men are angels and the third is the Lord himself.

I have several Study Bibles which suggest the above and personally I believe it was two angels and the Lord.


#3

St Justin Martyr discussed this topic at length in his Dialogue with Trypho the Jew, chapter 56. While Trypho the Jew thought the three “men” were angels, Justin thought one “man” was God (God the Son) and the other two “men” were angels.


#4

Thank you.

So is this the possible second pre-incarnation incarnation of Jesus? The first possibly being Melchizedek?


#5

I believe it was another pre-incarnation of Jesus.
We don’t know if Abraham immediately recognized who these visitors were. Though the LORD (in the Person of Jesus Christ) appeared to Abraham twice before (Genesis 12:7, 17:1), we don’t know if Jesus looked the same each time, or if Abraham could just know who this was.


#6

Eusebius says in his Church History that this was Jesus. He also says that He is the one who wrestled with Jacob as well, because he “saw the Lord and lived”.


#7

Tradition holds that these three men were the Holy Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit and they were traveling looking for the person from whose lineage Jesus would take His body from. They came across Abraham and they choose him because he was looking for a way to please God. He didn’t wait for the three strangers to come to his tent, he ran out in the heat of the day, when nobody goes out, and begged them to allow him to serve them. Abraham was looking for a way, anyway to please God, by serving his neighbors.

At least that was today’s homily at my parish, well lots more than that but the main point of it.


#8

No. Jesus was only “incarnate”, once. Incarnate meaning “made flesh” as in “conceived in the womb”.

It is a pre-incarnation **appearance **of Christ. He manifested Himself and made Himself visible.

The first possibly being Melchizedek?

Melchizedek is not Jesus. He is a “type” of Christ. Like Adam, Moses and many others.

The appearance of Jesus in the OT is technically called a “theophany”. This (the three men) would be a visible manifestation of God, like the Rock in the desert, the Angel of the Lord and Man who wrestled with Jacob.


#9

Harold,here is the USCCB bible online.
You will find the verses explained.
This online bible is very useful and it has footnotes.

usccb.org/bible/genesis/18


#10

I just check a bunch of study bibles and do further searches if I’m not yet sure. Sometimes you can’t be positively sure as there are various possibilities possible. I agree with ‘many of the Fathers’ that ‘saw a foreshadowing of the doctrine of the Trinity’ and your ‘Maybe a model of the Trinity?’.

The Dominican Biblical School in Jerusalem (aka the JB footnote guys) (whom I trust) provide this information:

18a. In its definitive form this ‘Yahwistic’ narrative recounts an apparition of Yahweh (vv. 1,3,10f,13:22) accompanied by two ‘men’ who, according to 19:1, are angels.

As the variants of the Greek and Sam. prove, the text is frequently uncertain in its choice of singular or plural. It would seem that the primitive tradition spoke only of three ‘men’ and was content to leave their identity mysterious.

In these three, to whom Abraham addressed a single act of homage, many of the Fathers saw a foreshadowing of the doctrine of the Trinity, a doctrine that was revealed only in the N.T.

18b. Not a religious act of adoration but simply a mark of respect. At first, Abraham sees his guests as mere human beings and welcomes them warmly; their superhuman character is only gradually revealed, vv. 2,9,13,14.

This is from the New Oxford Annotated Bible With The Apocrypha (RSV):

2-8: A fine description of oriental courtesy and hospitality. When the visitors appeared at the noontime siesta, Abraham did not recognize them as divine beings (Heb.13.2).

The relation of the three men to the LORD (v. 1) is difficult.

All three angels (19.1) may represent the LORD (see 16.7 n.); thus the plurality becomes a single person in vv. 10,13. On the other hand, v. 22 and 19.1 suggest that the LORD is one of the three, the other two being his attendants.

And this is from the Haydock:

Ver. 2. Men in outward appearance, but angels indeed. Heb. xiii. 2. S. Aug. de C. D. xvi. c. 29.
Some have supposed, that one of them was the Son of God, whom Abraham adored, and who bears throughout the chief authority. Tres vidit et unum adoravit. He saw three and adored one, as we read in the Church office. In the former supposition, which is generally adopted, this adoration was only a civil ceremony, if Abraham considered them as mere men; or it might be mixed with a degree of religious, though inferior veneration, if he imagined they were angels; or in fine, he adored God in his representatives. H.


#11

Ver. 2. Men in outward appearance, but angels indeed. (Hebrews xiii. 2; St. Augustine, City of God xvi. chap. 29.) Some have supposed, that one of them was the Son of God, whom Abraham adored, and who bears throughout the chief authority. Tres vidit et unum adoravit. He saw three and adored one, as we read in the Church office. In the former supposition, which is generally adopted, this adoration was only a civil ceremony, if Abraham considered them as mere men; or it might be mixed with a degree of religious, though inferior veneration, if he imagined they were angels; or in fine, he adored God in his representatives. (Haydock

)

Ver. 21. I will go down, &c. The Lord here accommodates his discourse to the way of speaking and acting amongst men: for he knoweth all things, and needeth not to go any where for information. — Note here, that two of the three angels went away immediately for Sodom; whilst the third, who represented the Lord, remained with Abraham.


#12

I get lost in that though. Why in this case did he even need to be born by Mary if he could have just come down already fully man and fully divine?


#13

He needed to born by Mary, as to fulfill the prophecy of Isaiah:

*Isaiah 7:14 King James Version (KJV)

14 Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.*


#14

So why did they name him Jesus and not Immanuel?


#15

This prophecy refers to the birth of Jesus in Matthew 1:22-23, “All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: ‘The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel’ which means, ‘God with us.’” This does not mean, however, that the Messiah’s name would actually be Immanuel.

There are many names given to Jesus using the phrase “He shall be called,” both in the Old and New Testaments. This was a common way of saying that people would refer to Him in these various ways. Isaiah prophesied of the Messiah, “His name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6). None of these titles was Jesus’ actual name, but these were descriptions people would use to refer to Him forever. Luke tells us Jesus “shall be called the Son of the Highest” (Luke 1:32) and “son of God” (1:35), but neither of these was His name.

In two different places, the prophet Jeremiah says in referring to the coming Messiah, “And this is His name by which He shall be called, YHWH, OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS” (Jeremiah 23:5-6; 33:15-16). Now we know that God, the Father, is named Yahweh. Jesus was never actually called Yahweh as though it was His name, but His role was that of bringing the righteousness of Yahweh to those who would believe in Him, exchanging that righteousness for our sin (2 Corinthians 5:21). Therefore, this is one of the many titles or “names” which belong to Him.

In the same way, to say that Jesus would be called “Immanuel” means Jesus is God and that He dwelt among us in His incarnation and that He is always with us. Jesus was God in the flesh. Jesus was God making His dwelling among us (John 1:1,14). No, Jesus’ name was not Immanuel, but Jesus was the meaning of Immanuel, “God with us.” Immanuel is one of the many titles for Jesus, a description of who He is.


#16

Thanks for the very intelligent explanation. The Immanuel thing always did confuse me, especially during Advent when and Christmas when that reading is read. I always kind of thought “Okay so why isn’t his name Immanuel then” I figure a lot of people have wondered that before. Thanks for clarifying.


#17

Thank you jas84173. I have several study bibles, as I always study bible readings whenever I can. My favorite Study Bible is the NIV Study Bible.


#18

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