Sarah Reacts to the Angels
“The Lord appeared again to Abraham near the oak grove belonging to Mamre. One day Abraham was sitting at the entrance to his tent during the hottest part of the day.
He looked up and noticed three men standing nearby. When he saw them, he ran to meet them and welcomed them, bowing low to the ground.
‘My lord,’ he said, ‘if it pleases you, stop here for a while. Rest in the shade of this tree while water is brought to wash your feet. And since you’ve honored your servant with this visit, let me prepare some food to refresh you before you continue on your journey.’
‘All right,’ they said. ‘Do as you have said.’
So Abraham ran back to the tent and said to Sarah, ‘Hurry! Get three large measures of your best flour, knead it into dough, and bake some bread.’
Then Abraham ran out to the herd and chose a tender calf and gave it to his servant, who quickly prepared it.
When the food was ready, Abraham took some yogurt and milk and the roasted meat, and he served it to the men. As they ate, Abraham waited on them in the shade of the trees.
‘Where is Sarah, your wife?’ the visitors asked.
‘She’s inside the tent,’ Abraham replied.
Then one of them said, ‘I will return to you about this time next year, and your wife, Sarah, will have a son!’
Sarah was listening to this conversation from the tent. Abraham and Sarah were both very old by this time, and Sarah was long past the age of having children.
So she laughed silently to herself and said, ‘How could a worn-out woman like me enjoy such pleasure, especially when my master – my husband – is also so old?’
Then the Lord said to Abraham, ‘Why did Sarah laugh? Why did she say, ‘Can an old woman like me have a baby?’ ‘Is anything too hard for the Lord? I will return about this time next year, and Sarah will have a son.’
Sarah was afraid, so she denied it, saying, ‘I didn’t laugh.’
But the Lord said, ‘No, you did laugh.’” – Genesis 18: 1-15
This episode describes another appearance of God (theophany) to the patriarch Abraham, this time not in full glory but “disguised” in the form of a man traveling with two others through Hebron in the middle of the day. We later read that the two men traveling with God are actually angels who have an important mission yet to accomplish (Sodom and Gomorrah).
The first verse tells us most plainly that this is not a vision – that God himself actually appears outside of Abraham’s camp. The text gives no indication that the trio had been mounted, or even that they had been walking for some time. Fact is, they just appeared. Abraham noticed them, and probably had some sense they were special visitors, perhaps sent by God to answer his prayers.
Verses 6 and 7 hint that Abraham sensed these men had some sort of special message for him in that he encouraged his wife to “hurry” with the meal preparations while the servant “quickly” prepared the calf selected from the herd by Abraham himself.
What’s the hurry?
As we mentioned, Abraham must have realized these men had a message for him and Sarah, and he wanted to get the obligatory practice of hospitality out of the way so that they could get down to the point of the visit.
Abraham wasn’t disappointed. God dropped a bombshell on the couple: Sarah would indeed give birth to a son in the near future.
Sarah was listening to the conversation. Her reaction? She laughed, albeit “silently to herself.” Yet God heard her laughter and reproached her. She just couldn’t believe that an old woman such as herself could bear a child. Her reaction to God’s reproach? Naturally, she denied it, but God knew the truth, answering, ‘No, you did laugh.”
As we all know, the Lord kept his word and within a year, Sarah gave birth to a son whom she named Isaac.
According to the Jewish historian Josephus, the name Isaac means “laughter.”
And we’re left to wonder whose laughter is referred to — Isaac’s as a baby or Sarah’s laughter of doubt?