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Who Were Avraham Avinu’s Guests?

October 26, 2013

The simple answer, the one that fits the plain meaning of the verses, is that God showed up accompanied by two angels (Genesis 18-19):

And the LORD appeared unto him by the terebinths of Mamre, as he sat in the tent door in the heat of the day; and he lifted up his eyes and looked, and, lo, three men [i.e. God and two angels] stood over against him; and when he saw them, he ran to meet them from the tent door, and bowed down to the earth,  and said: ‘My Lord, [addressing God] if now I have found favour in thy sight, pass not away, I pray thee, from thy servant…. And He [God] said: ‘I will certainly return unto thee when the season cometh round; and, lo, Sarah thy wife shall have a son.’ … And the LORD said unto Abraham: ‘Wherefore did Sarah laugh, saying: Shall I of a surety bear a child, who am old?…And the men [God and his entourage] rose up from thence, and looked out toward Sodom; and Abraham went with them to bring them on the way. 17 And the LORD said: ‘Shall I hide from Abraham that which I am doing; 18 seeing that Abraham shall surely become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him? …And the men [the two angels] turned from thence, and went toward Sodom; but Abraham stood yet before the LORD. 23 And Abraham drew near, and said: ‘Wilt Thou indeed sweep away the righteous with the wicked? … And the LORD went His way, as soon as He had left off speaking to Abraham; and Abraham returned unto his place.1 And the two angels came to Sodom at even…

The question is, why would this not be the interpretation offered by by the Midrashim and classical medieval commentators? The answer: Christianity. Because believers in the trinity would jump on such an interpretation, Jews started to shy away from it, and would instead explain that none of the three visitors were G-d.

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