Parashah 4: Yayera (He appeared)

Parashah 4: Genesis 18:1-22:4

Adonai appeared to Avraham by the oaks of Mamre as he sat at the entrance to the tent during the heat of the day.  When Avraham looked up, there were three men.  Immediately he responded with hospitality offering them water to wash their feet and to rest under the tree.  He then told Sarah to quickly make cakes while he ran to the herd and to take a calf and have it prepared with curds to serve the men.

It is these verses often used to support the idea that to eat kosher or parev, one must separate milk from meat.  However, it is clear from the preparations that Avraham made that meat from a calf was served with curds. 

The men asked about Sarah and told Avraham that by next year Sarah will give birth to a son.  Sarah over heard the conversation and laughed to herself.  Though Sarah denies laughing, the LORD knew that she did.  The Hebrew word for ‘laugh’ is tzchet – one of my personal favorite Hebrew words.  From this word came the name Isaac which means ‘laughter. 

Sodom and Gomorrah

Two of the men leave Avraham to go to Sodom and Gomorrah, but one remains.  In the Hebrew text, the one who remains is the yod-hey-vav-hey – the person of God.  Though there has not been the incarnation, Yahweh appears to Avraham as a person. He questions Himself about whether or not He should reveal to Avraham His plans for the two cities that had become very wicked.  The two then have a discussion about the righteous vs. the wicked living in the cities.  For the sake of 10, God will not destroy the cities, but alas, there are only Lot, his wife, and his two unmarried daughters.

“For I have made myself known to him, so that he will give orders to his children and to his household after him to keep the way of the LORD and to do what is right an just, so that the LORD may bring about for Avraham what he has promised him” (Genesis 18:19).  

There are two ‘points of view’ being expressed in these verses.  “I have made myself known” to Avraham so that he can “keep the way of the LORD.”   It is apparent that Yahweh is appearing to Avraham as a person, the person of Messiah before the actual incarnation.  In John 8:58 Yeshua says, “Yes indeed! Before Avraham came into being, I AM.”  Truly, Yahweh revealed all of Himself to Avraham through Yeshua in some capacity before the Word actually became flesh.   

“Then the Lord said, “The outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is so great and their sin so grievous that I will go down and see if what they have done is as bad as the outcry that has reached me. If not, I will know” (Genesis 18:20-21).

There have been different opinions about the reasons that caused the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah.  The outcry against them was so great and their sin so grievous that God had no other choice but to destroy the cities and the people within them.  The evidence of their perversion is seen when the two men, the angels of God, arrive at Lot’s door.  The men of the city want to have sex with them and reject Lot’s offer of his two virgin daughters.  Just imagine what his daughters must have felt like being offered as a sacrifice to these perverted men.

Yeshua says that the world will be like ‘Sodom and Gomorrah’ at the time of His return (Luke 17:26-30).  In today’s world,  homosexuals cry for equality, for acceptance.  They desire to marry one another, raise children together.  Their perversion will eventually mutate into pedophilia and maybe even beastiality.  These men hold parades in the streets of large cities and in their arrogance against God do not hide their abominations.   Though mankind may accept this behavior and try to bear it as normal, Scripture is clear that those who agree with such sin are as guilty as those who sin.  Yet, the Scripture says the sins of Sodom and Gomorrah were more than just homosexuality. 

Ezekiel 16:49-50 reveals the sins of Sodom and Gomorrah to be pride and gluttony.  The people no longer cared about the poor and they became complacent regarding those in need.   Along with these sins, they were arrogant against God and committed disgusting acts.

Isaiah 3:9 speaks of how blatant the sins of Sodom and Gomorrah were to God.  They paraded their sins with no shame; no willingness to hide their perversions.  Their own faces testified against them.

One other great sin that could have been happening in Sodom may have been with the Nephilim who were left on the earth after the flood.  The reason that Yahweh destroyed the earth earlier was because of the immoral behavior between angels and humans.   Some of these offspring may have inhabited the area of Sodom and Gomorrah.   Consider for a moment that the men of the city wanted to have sex with angels and NOT with Lot’s virgin daughters.  Ezekiel says the sins of Sodom involved the ‘daughters of Sodom’ who committed detestable acts.  Perhaps the daughters of Sodom were fornicating with the halfbreeds leaving human men in need of other men.   Unholy unions was the reason for Noah’s flood and could have brought Yahweh once again to this place of great wrath.  Because He had made a covenant not to destroy the earth by water, He poured out fire and brimstone on these two cities and destroyed a population that was morally and ethically out of control. 

The two angels or messengers, ha melakim,  go to Sodom and meet with Lot.  He makes them a meal, baking matzah, for them.  Matzah is unleavened bread.  Leaven is likened to ‘sin’ in Scripture so it is interesting that Lot, living in the midst of such a sinful place, serves unleavened bread.  This could symbolize his own sinless life in a culture of serious wickedness or that the sinless One who was going to deliver him from this place of destruction.  Unleavened bread also brings the allusion of Passover and matazh.  Though the appointed times have not yet be given by Yahweh, these symbols give us an idea of the season when these events may have happened. And, Lot experienced a ‘pass over’ and did not die in the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah.

As one of the righteous citizens of the cities, the people thought that Lot was judging them.  It doesn’t seem that Lot a bold evangelist or prophet, but when a man or woman lives even semi-righteously in the middle of a wicked world, he or she can appear to be judging.  However,  if the Spirit of God is around that righteous person, it is really the ruach convicting the world of sin and unrighteousness, a world that is so dark it doesn’t repent. 

The angels have to pull Lot back into the house after he offers his daughters to this immoral crowd.  Then they shut the door.  Shutting a door in Scripture is symbolic of ending a situation and being separated from what is on the other side, permanently.  Even with the shut door, Lot dallies in the morning not wanting to leave the city.  Though he appears to be righteous, it was really the intercession of his Uncle Avraham that saved his life.  Without Avraham, Lot may have perished with everyone else as the messenger had to pull him by the hand to remove him from the city. 

“Flee for your life, don’t look back” was the command given to Lot.  What was the significance of this command? In the Hebrew, the Scripture says, escape for your nephesh meaning ‘escape for your souls’.  This escape was more than just not looking back to see the destruction, it was a redemption for Lot’s soul and the soul of his wife and two daughters.  Unfortunately, Lot’s wife did look back and is turned into a pillar of salt.  She is often judged that she didn’t want to leave or her heart was still in Sodom.  Her two married daughters and sons-in-law had remained in the city and had just been incinerated. Though that may have been a pull to look back, I believe her nephesh was not the same has her husband’s as she was a native Sodomite. 

There is a midrash about why Lot’s wife turned into a pillar of salt.  Salt in the Middle East is a symbol of hospitality.  Hospitality was not the code of law in Sodom, one of their grievous sins.  Sharing salt requires peace between those sharing the salt, again a symbol of hospitality.   It is said in the midrash that Lot’s wife did not approve of Lot bringing the guests into her home.  Then, he asked her to bring out the salt.  She had none so she went door to door asking for some which revealed that her husband had broken the code of law against hospitality.  It was this action that brought the men of the city to Lot’s door.  The midrash concludes that because she sinned with salt, she was punished with salt. Thus the pillars of salt that surround that area of the Dead Sea are a reminder to Lot’s wife and her lack of hospitality for the angels of God.

Recently I read a midrash that suggested angels were created by fire like man was created by the dust of the earth.  As man returns to dust when he dies, the only way to destroy angels is with fire.  I wondered if again, part of the reason for the destruction of the cities had to do with the offspring of the fallen angels and their destruction.  Perhaps looking back and seeing angels consumed by fire with human eyes could have a devastating effect on the human nefesh – so much so that one would be transformed into a heap of salt!

Avraham woke up and saw the smoke rising and knew what had happened.  Lot goes to the mountains and his daughters get him drunk so they can sleep with him.  They have been so morally compromised by the sins of their former life that they didn’t really consider what they did was wrong.  It seems strange that they were not aware that there were other people alive on the earth, including their great-uncle Avraham and his family.  They both become pregnant and give birth to sons: Moab and Amon.  These men become the fathers of two nations.  Ruth, who is the grandmother of King David, was a Moabite and descendant of Lot and his oldest daughter.  The Amonites come from the union of Lot and his youngest daughter.  Amon is the capital of modern-day Jordan. 

Isaac and Ishmael

“At the very time God had said to him [Avraham],”  Sarah gives birth to a son.  Avraham has him circumcised when he is eight days old.  Sarah responded to the birth of Isaac, “God has given me a good reason to laugh; now everyone who hears about it will laugh with me” (Genesis 21:6).

As Isaac grows up, problems arise between him and his older brother that make it necessary for Avraham to send Ishmael and Hagar away.  At a weaning party, when Isaac is between 4 and 5 years old, Ishmael, who is between 17 and 19, tormented his little brother.  The Hebrew word for ‘making fun of’ or ‘playing’ with Isaac is matzchak.  This word has its roots in ‘sexual encounter’or ‘fondling’.  The type of ‘playing’ that Ishmael did with Isaac upset Sarah.

Hagar leaves with her son.  In the desert, he is hiding under a tree, dying while his mother cries out to God.  It would seem, in my opinion, that Ishmael who is nearly 20 years old, is a spoiled young man – one that really doesn’t appreciate nor take care of his own dying mother.  Yahweh comes to Hagar and promises to make her son into a great nation and directs her to well where she and Ishmael get water and live.

The Binding of Isaac

“Take your son, your only son, whom you love, Yitz’chak; and go to the land of Moriyah.  There you are to offer him as a burnt offering on a mountain that I will point out to you” (Genesis 22:2).

Mount Moriyah in Jerusalem has a long Biblical history.  It is the place of the first bunt offering by Noah after he left the ark.  It is where the threshing floor of Ornan the Jebusite was located; the place where Yahweh appeared to King David (2 Chronicles 3:1).  It is on Mount Moriyah where King Solomon built the first Temple. In the same place, on the same mountain, in the Temple courts of the second Temple, Yeshua would stand and proclaim that he is the Messiah (John 10:10).

Mount Moriah is the also location where God tested Avraham, the mountain where his descendants would worship the God of Israel.  Isaac questions his father regarding the missing lamb and Avraham states that “God Himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering.”  It can be understood from Isaac’s question and Avraham’s answer that Isaac clearly understood the concept burnt offerings and the need for a lamb, and Avraham understood that God Himself will see to it, El Yireh,  

As Avraham is about to offer up his son, an angel of the LORD stops him and he finds a ram caught in the thicket.  Just as a  lamb was used in the Garden of Eden to show Adam and Eve their coming redemption, God uses a ram to show Avraham and Isaac that the redemption would come through a substitute sacrifice. God sees Avraham’s faithfulness and says, “Now I know that you are a man who fears God, because you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me.”  In the same way, thousands of years later, God would not withhold His only son from us. 

It is from this account of the ram caught in the thicket that the shofar or the ram’s horn, came about.  The shofar is used to announce holy days and the Year of Jubilee.  One of the appointed times of the LORD is called Yom Teruah or the ‘day of blowing’ and focuses on four types of sounds representing a gathering together, repentance and a war cry.  It is believed that on Yom Teruah that the great shofar will sound and the dead in Messiah will rise (1 Thessalonians 4:16). 

Hebrews 11:17-19 relates the great faith that Avraham had on Mount Moriah of a resurrection of the dead.   “By faith Avraham, when God tested him, offered Isaac as a sacrifice. He who had embraced the promises was about to sacrifice his one and only son, even though God had said to him, “It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned.” Avraham reasoned that God could even raise the dead, and so in a manner of speaking he did receive Isaac back from death.”

This is exactly what happened to Yeshua, God’s only son.   Though he was sacrificed for the sin of the whole world, death and the grave could not hold him.  He was resurrected to prove that He is the Son of God, divine and eternal.  Someday, according to the prophet Daniel multitudes of those who sleep in the dust of the earth will awaken, some to everlasting life and some to everlasting destruction (Daniel 12:2). 

This parashah concludes with God promising to bless Avraham because of his obedience to God’s command.   He will increase his descendants to as many as there are stars in the heavens and grains of sand  on the shoreline.  Through his descendants, all nations of the earth will be blessed. 

Haftarah (Readings of the Prophets)

2 Kings 4:1-23

B’rit Hadashah (New Testament Readings)

Luke 17:26-37

Romans 9:6-9

Hebrews 6:14-20

James 2:14-24

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