Vayera (And He Appeared)
Genesis 18:1–22:24; 2 Kings 4:1–37; Luke 2:1–38
“The LORD appeared to Abraham near the great trees of Mamre while he was sitting at the entrance to his tent in the heat of the day.” (Genesis 18:1)
Last week, in Parasha Lech Lecha, Abraham, in obedience to the call of God, left the land of his fathers and journeyed to the Promised Land.
In this week’s Parasha, 99-year-old Abraham entertains angels who reveal to him that Sarah will give birth to a son in a year despite her advanced age. They also announce the coming destruction of Sodom.
Vayera begins with Abraham sitting at the entrance of his tent. According to Rashi, an 11th century Torah and Talmud (oral law) commentator, Abraham was convalescing.
It was only three days after he was circumcised in obedience to God as a sign of the covenant when he saw three strangers. (Genesis 17:11)
Even though Abraham did not know who these strangers were, he welcomed them and gave them his best!
While the Hebrew initially identifies the guests as anashim (men), we might understand from the rest of the text that Abraham perceives them as men at first.
Amazingly, however, the strangers that Abraham welcomed were not men, but angels.
In Jewish tradition, they are the angels Gabriel, Raphael and Michael; nevertheless, only two seem to be angels and the third someone far greater—YHVH, the Lord Himself.
That one of the strangers was the Lord seems clear: the opening verse of this Parasha states that “the LORD [YHVH] appeared to Abraham.” (Genesis 18:1)
And when the three guests were leaving, Abraham walked with them for a bit “to see them on their way.” At that point, the Lord spoke to Abraham saying, “Shall I hide from Abraham what I am about to do?” (Genesis 18:16–33)
Many believe that the angel who is called the Lord was a pre-incarnate appearance of Yeshua HaMashiach (Jesus the Messiah).
The two guests who continue on from their visit with Abraham to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah are clearly identified as angels in Genesis 19:
“The two angels arrived at Sodom in the evening.” (Genesis 19:1)
Hospitality: Showing Kindness
“If I have found favor in your eyes, my lord [adoni], do not pass your servant by. Let a little water be brought, and then you may all wash your feet and rest under this tree. Let me get you something to eat, so you can be refreshed and then go on your way—now that you have come to your servant.” (Genesis 18:3–4)
One theme in this Torah portion is showing hospitality and kindness to strangers.
Abraham sat at the entrance of his tent, watching for any visitors or strangers, determined not to miss an opportunity to be cordial or hospitable.
As well, when the angels visited Sodom, Lot was sitting at the gate of the city and invited them to his home.
This custom was rooted in something more than just good manners: at its heart was mercy.
In the harsh desert climate, the offer of hospitality could potentially save the life of a sojourner.
In Lot’s case, the danger for these visitors was not the harsh desert but the depraved men demanding that Lot hand them over to be raped.
Lot did his best to protect them but couldn’t. The angels supernaturally intervened to save Lot’s family by blinding the attackers.
The realization that hospitality is not merely entertaining guests might encourage us to be on the lookout for opportunities to be hospitable.
And when we offer hospitality to strangers, like Abraham and Lot, we may even be entertaining angels unawares.
“Let brotherly love continue. Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some have unwittingly entertained angels.” (Hebrews 13:1–2)
“About this time next year,” Elisha said, “you will hold a son in your arms.” (2 Kings 4:16)
Among the themes that connect the Sedra (Torah portion) and the Haftarah (Prophetic portion) are appointed times, supernatural conception and hospitality.
In the Torah portion, God promises to Abraham and Sarah that at a set time, a child of promise would be born to them despite their advanced age.
“I will return to you at the appointed time [mo’ed] next year, and Sarah will have a son.” (Genesis 18:14)
And it was done as God had spoken:
“Sarah became pregnant and bore a son to Abraham in his old age, at the very time God had promised him.” (Genesis 21:2)
In this week’s Haftarah, Elisha promises a Shunammite woman who was hospitable to him that God would give her the desire of her heart—a son—even though her husband was old.
Just like the Lord told Abraham, Elisha also prophesied that the child of promise would come at the set time (mo’ed). (2 Kings 4:16)
“The woman became pregnant, and the next year about that same time [mo’ed] she gave birth to a son, just as Elisha had told her.” (2 Kings 4:17)
There are great rewards in store for people who show hospitality to men and women of God who travel the world bringing the message of hope and salvation.
Elisha Raises a Child from the Dead
“When Elisha reached the house, there was the boy lying dead on his couch. . . As he stretched himself out on him, the boy’s body grew warm.” (2 Kings 4:32–34)
Years later, the Shunammite’s child developed a headache and died in his mother’s arms. How devastating—the child that had come by promise was dead!
His mother went directly to the prophet, Elisha, to plead for a miracle. Elisha was only too happy to comply. He came and raised her son from the dead. (2 Kings 4:3–35)
Of course, we can see in this healing a picture of the resurrection. It also parallels the account of God testing Abraham, asking him to sacrifice Isaac, the promised heir.
When Abraham brought Isaac to Mount Moriah to sacrifice him in obedience to God, in his heart he was entirely committed to following through, believing God could raise Isaac from the dead.
“By faith Abraham, when God tested him, offered Isaac as a sacrifice. … Abraham reasoned that God could even raise the dead, and so in a manner of speaking he did receive Isaac back from death.” (Hebrews 11:17–19)
Instead of killing Isaac, God stopped Abraham and provided a ram as a substitute. Though Abraham did not withhold giving to God his miraculous promised son, he was returned alive to Abraham.
“Do not lay a hand on the boy,” he said. “Do not do anything to him. Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from Me your son, your only son.” (Genesis 22:12)
In the same way that Abraham, who was in covenant with God, did not withhold his son from God when He asked, God did not withhold His Son, the Messiah, who was born by a Jewish maiden, as promised, died on the Roman execution stake, and was resurrected to life in three days.
Receiving the Promise
“He did not waver at the promise of God through unbelief; but was strengthened in faith, giving glory to God, and being fully convinced that what He had promised He was also able to perform.” (Romans 4:20–21)
Just as Abraham inherited the promises by faith and patience, we too must also wait with faith and hope for God’s promises to come to pass in our own lives, as well as on this earth.
If God has made a promise to you, it will be done as He has spoken, but only at His appointed or set time—the mo’ed—which God Himself has chosen.
God’s promises don’t always come to pass according to our timetable or agenda; nevertheless, He will fulfill them.
“He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.” (Ecclesiastes 3:11)