And Jehovah appeared to him by the oaks of Mamre. And he was sitting at the door of the tent in the heat of the day. And he lifted up his eyes and looked; and, behold, three men were standing by him. And he saw, and he ran to meet them from the entrance of the tent. And he bowed to the ground. And he said, My Lord, if now I have found favor in Your sight, I beg You, do not leave from near Your servant. — Genesis 18:1-3, Green’s Literal.
(1) This narrative begins with the statement that Jehovah appeared to Abraham, and then Abraham saw three men, whom he went out to meet. Although it is often assumed that Jehovah made his appearance here as the three “men”, such is not clearly stated in the record, and thus has to be assumed. It could be that the appearance of Jehovah in verse one is separate from and before Abraham saw the three men. The term “angel” means messenger, as one who delivers messages for someone else. (See Genesis 19:13) We accept the possibility that Jehovah’s appearance to Abraham began before he saw the three men approaching, but at the same time admit that the scriptural testimony is not clear enough to come to a definite conclusion. That these three “men” were actually angels sent by Jehovah can be seen from Genesis 19:1,13; thus the default conclusion is that these three men were not actually Jehovah who sent them.
(2) Regardless, however, angels sent by Jehovah are sometimes addressed as “Jehovah” in the Hebrew Scriptures. (Exodus 3:2,4,14; Judges 6:12, 14; Zechariah 3:1,2) This does not mean the angels themselves were actually Jehovah, but rather that they spoke for him (similar to a manner in which interpreters might speak for another person in a court of law) as they always behold the face of Jehovah, something which man cannot do. (Matthew 18:10; John 1:18; 1 John 4:1) As we have shown, Genesis 19:13 lets us know that these men (angels) were sent by Jehovah.
(3) Nevertheless, it is often claimed that the three angels who appeared to Abraham were actually the three persons of the alleged holy trinity. Some claim that one of the three angels is called Jehovah in Genesis 18:1 and it is further claimed that this angel was actually Jesus — the second person of the alleged trinity — in his prehuman existence. This would seeSome have noted that the New World Translation has Abraham saying: “Jehovah, if, now, I have found favor in your eyes, please do not pass by your servant.” (Genesis 18:3) Thus it has been claimed that in verse three all three angels are addressed by Abraham as Jehovah (Jehovah) in the singular and then in verse four they are addressed in the plural. However, is the New World Translation correct in placing Jehovah in this verse? They do so because this verse is listed as one of the places that the Jewish scribes allegedly replaced Jehovah with Adoni or Adonai. See Appendix 32 of the Companion Bible:
See also Appendix Two below.
(4) It is not certain, and probably unlikely, that the tetragrammaton originally appeared in verse 3, since, the Dead Sea Scroll of Isaiah indicates that most of the places where these scribes claimed that they made a substitution do not actually have the tetragrammaton. (Some have claimed that in many places where the Masoretic text has vowel points to make the word Adonai, the vowel points should have been put for Adoni — “my Lord”, as the Masoretic text has in Genesis 18:3). Given this, we have little reason to believe that Abraham was addressing the three angels as Jehovah in Genesis 18:3.
See: Adonay, the Tetragammaton, and the Great Isaiah Scroll
(5) Nevertheless, the text does have Abraham using the singular pronoun in verse three, whereas in verses 4 and 5 he uses plural pronouns. Does this mean that Abraham was addressing the holy trinity as one in verse 3 and then as individuals in verses 4 and 5? Such would have to be an assumption based on such a preconceived notion, for there is nothing here to indicate such. It would assume that Abraham knew of the alleged trinity doctrine in order to address the three as one, and further that he knew he was addressing this alleged trinity as recorded in Genesis 18:3. (Some trinitarians claim that the trinity was not revealed until the New Testament — although in reality there is nothing at all in the New Testament about three persons in one God.) Since there were three men present there, however, there is no reason to assume that Abraham was addressing all three as one, but rather the logical assumption is that he was addressing one of the three angels.
(6) The comments from the 1599 Geneva Study Bible states concerning Genesis 18:3, that Abraham was “speaking to the one who appeared to be most majestic, for he thought they were men.”* This agrees with Hebrews 13:2, for Paul tells of those who entertained angels without knowing it. That Abraham viewed these three as men, and not angels, is seen in the fact that he asked them to ‘rest themselves under the tree.’ Had he thought he was addressing the supposed Holy Trinity, or the Almighty Jehovah himself, it is doubtful that he would have stated such a thing. It also agrees with the reference to these angels as men, for they had assumed bodies in the appearance of men. Thus we conclude that Abraham simply addressed one of the angels in verse 3 and in verses 4 and 5 he was addressing all three of the angels. This is much more reasonable than to read into this that all three were Jehovah, or three different persons of Jehovah, and Abraham knew he was addressing a triune God. But the fact that the latter has to be read into this scripture is itself enough to see the circular reasoning one has to use to think that this scripture is some kind of proof of three persons in one God.
*Beza, Theodore. “Commentary on Genesis 18“. “The 1599 Geneva Study Bible”. 1600-1645.
(7) Again in Genesis 18:13, Jehovah speaks. Many believe that one of the angels is being called “Jehovah”, but this is not stated, and thus has to be assumed. It could be that Jehovah had appeared to Abraham totally separate from the three men, as we mentioned in paragraphs one and three above. Likewise in verses 17-21; while it could have been one of the angels speaking for Jehovah, it is not stated as such. Another point to be made is that if one of these angels was referred to as “Jehovah”, we should not view this as meaning that the angel himself is Jehovah, anymore than reference to these angels as “men”* should be viewed as meaning that these angels were actually men. — See Psalm 8:5.
*It has been claimed by some that these were actually men, and not angels who made an appearance as men. The claim is that the Hebrew word ‘enowsh (Strong’s Hebrew #582) is derived from the Hebrew word anash which it is claimed Thayer defines the Hebrew word means: “incurable, desperate/desperately wicked, woeful.” (We have not found any Hebrew Lexicon by Thayer. If anyone has knowledge concerning this, as to whether such actually exists, please contact us at the address below.) It is true that mankind is under the curse, but mankind was not that way from the beginning. Adam was created and pronounced “good”. The Hebrew word ‘enowsh as well as the Hebrew word ‘adam (Strong’s #120) are employed in Psalm 8:4,5 in speaking of the creation of man: “What is man [‘enowsh], that you think of him? The son of man [‘adam], that you care for him? For you have made him a little lower than [elohim], And crowned him with glory and honor.” This does not sound like the actual usage carries the thought of that man was originally created wicked, although we do agree that man is so now, since God “through one trespass, all men were condemned,” (Romans 5:18) and “gave them up to vile passions,” (Romans 1:26) so that “fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23) In Hebrews 2:6, both words are rendered by the one Greek word *Anthropos*, which tends to indicate that the two Hebrew words ‘enowsh and ‘adam are being used interchangeably in Psalm 8:4. At any rate there is nothing in the idea that these men were actually flesh and blood men and not angels who appeared as “men”.
(8) The narrative shows that the men went to Sodom, but that Jehovah remained in the presence of Abraham. (Genesis 18:22) Genesis 19:1 speaks, not of three angels, but of two angels, thus it is assumed that one of the angels, who is referred to as “Jehovah”, stayed with Abraham while the other two went to Sodom. This could be; however, this is not actually stated but assumed. Jehovah was in the presence of Abraham, but we read that he departed from Abraham, presumably to go down to Sodom as he had stated he was going to do, with the intention of destroying Sodom and Gomorrah. (Genesis 18:20,21) Abraham showed that he understood that this is what Jehovah meant by the questions he asked Jehovah as recorded in Genesis 18:23-32. Nevertheless, we admit that it is possible that one of the angels was being addressed as Jehovah, and the other two went to Sodom before the one who was being addressed as Jehovah. Notwithstanding, that these angels did not consider themselves to be Jehovah can be seen from Genesis 19:13 (Green’s Literal), where it is recorded that they state: “We are about to destroy this place, for the cry of them is great before Jehovah, and Jehovah has sent us to destroy it.”
(9) Again the New World Translation has Lot referring to one of the angels as “Jehovah” in Genesis 19:18. Jehovah does not appear here in the Masoretic text, but it is one of the places that the Jewish scribes claim they substituted Adoni for Jehovah. For the same reasons given in paragraphs 3 and 4 above regarding Genesis 18:3, we highly doubt that Lot originally used the divine name here. But even if he did, it should be considered in a representative sense, in accordance with Genesis 19:13.
(20) What we do not find in any of these scriptures is any reference to three persons in one God, nor do we find anything that clearly backs up the claims of many trinitarians that this account has all three persons of their alleged trinity present before Abraham. See also our document on Genesis 19:24.
Addendum: Angel Worship?
The question is raised concerning Genesis 3:2: If these are men are merely angels, then why does Abraham bow down in front of them; isn’t this angel worship?
To answer this question with either a yes or no would be misleading. There is a proper “worship” that can be given to angels which could be considered “angel worship”, but the phrase “angel worship” seems to mean to give to the angels worship that should only go to Jehovah. However, to respectfully honor any man or angel by bowing down before such is not giving to the creature the worship that only belongs to Jehovah. Nevertheless, the Hebrew word used, and which are often rendered as “bow down to/before”, etc. , is the word that means “worship”. If such worship is given to any man or angel as that which is due in honor of such a man or angel, then such worship is not giving to the creature that which only belongs to the Most High.
Since we have provided studies on this elsewhere, we refer one to those studies:
We do not necessarily agree with the conclusions given by the authors.
Russell, Charles Taze. The Atonement Between God and Man
http://www.agsconsulting.com/htdbv5/htdb0123.htm#x2662, page 43.
http://www.agsconsulting.com/htdbv5/htdb0123.htm#x2781, page 73.
http://www.agsconsulting.com/htdbv5/htdb0124.htm#x2848, page 94.
It is claimed that when scripture says that no man has seen God, that this refers only to the Father, and not the son, and thus it is claimed that Abraham was Jehovah as the Son, but not the Father. The assumption being added to and read into the scripture, based on the assumption that God is three persons, is that only the alleged first person of the alleged triune God that cannot be seen, while the alleged and assumed second and third persons of the alleged triune God can be seen. The scriptures, of course, no where ever present such a thought. Jesus stated that his Father is the only true Supreme Being. (John 17:1,3) No where in the Bible do we find that any Bible writer ever speaks of the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob as being more than one person, or that Jesus is a separate and distinct person of God, or that God’s Holy Spirit is a separate and distinct person of God. All such has to be imagined beyond what is written, added to, and read into what is written. Nevertheless, many would seem to claim that only one of the angels was actually “Jehovah” while the other two were not Jehovah. This line of argument appears to be that Abraham saw the alleged Jehovah the Son, but that he did not see Jehovah the Father. Some who make this claim will at the same time refer to the three men/angels as being the alleged three persons of the trinity, evidently without seeing the contradiction.