An Atheist Reads the Bible

A godless heathen’s religious experience

Genesis 18

Posted by Urbane Spaceman on May 10, 2010

The Three Visitors

1 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. 2 Abraham looked up and saw three men standing nearby. When he saw them, he hurried from the entrance of his tent to meet them and bowed low to the ground.

3 He said, If I have found favour in your eyes, my lord, do not pass your servant by.

So what’s your first thought when you’re out camping and look up to find three men standing near by? That’s right – they are God incarnate. How could any right minded person think otherwise?

4 Let a little water be brought, and then you may all wash your feet and rest under this tree.

5 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. Very well, they answered, do as you say.

I’m sure they did. Who’d turn down a free footwash and slap-up meal?

6 So Abraham hurried into the tent to Sarah. Quick, he said, get three seahs of fine flour and knead it and bake some bread.

7 Then he ran to the herd and selected a choice, tender calf and gave it to a servant, who hurried to prepare it.

8 He then brought some curds and milk and the calf that had been prepared, and set these before them. While they ate, he stood near them under a tree.

9 Where is your wife Sarah? they asked him. There, in the tent, he said.

Is it just me or is this coming across as plain old intimidation? Three guys show up, the old guy hopes to pacify them with food and drink so they leave him alone and just go on their way. Then they suddenly ask after his wife … it doesn’t look as if this story is going to happy places.

10 Then the LORD said, I will surely return to you about this time next year, and Sarah your wife will have a son. Now Sarah was listening at the entrance to the tent, which was behind him.

So God, aka Three Burly Strangers in the desert, have eaten all his food, found his wife and suddenly (flash forward) one of them is sneaking out the back of the tent whilst zipping up his fly, and the others are telling her husband she’s “miraculously” with child.

Good cover story – should persuade most vulnerable old men out in the wilderness. Even if …

11 Abraham and Sarah were already old and well advanced in years, and Sarah was past the age of childbearing.
12 So Sarah laughed to herself as she thought, After I am worn out and my master is old, will I now have this pleasure?

Or perhaps they haven’t got into the tent yet, but Sarah sounds like she’s not getting much satisfaction from Abraham in that department. Sounds like God, aka TBS, is the most excitement to come her way in a long time.

Also sounds like we should be cueing up the cheesy 70’s porno soundtrack. What’s the betting these three burly geezers are all built like Wesley Snipes and hung like donkeys?

13 Then the LORD said to Abraham, Why did Sarah laugh and say, ‘Will I really have a child, now that I am old?’

14 Is anything too hard for the LORD? I will return to you at the appointed time next year and Sarah will have a son.

15 Sarah was afraid, so she lied and said, I did not laugh. But he said, Yes, you did laugh.

Nope, my mistake, we’re back to intimidation …

Abraham Pleads for Sodom

16 When the men got up to leave, they looked down towards Sodom, and Abraham walked along with them to see them on their way. 17 Then the LORD said, Shall I hide from Abraham what I am about to do?

18 Abraham will surely become a great and powerful nation, and all nations on earth will be blessed through him.

19 For I have chosen him, so that he will direct his children and his household after him to keep the way of the LORD by doing what is right and just, so that the LORD will bring about for Abraham what he has promised him.

20 Then the LORD said, The outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is so great and their sin so grievous

21 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.

22 The men turned away and went towards Sodom, but Abraham remained standing before the LORD.

23 Then Abraham approached him and said: Will you sweep away the righteous with the wicked?

24 What if there are fifty righteous people in the city? Will you really sweep it away and not spare the place for the sake of the fifty righteous people in it?

So God’s off to do a bit of smiting and Abraham decides to argue with him. Well, the guy has balls, I’ll give him that.

25 Far be it from you to do such a thing— to kill the righteous with the wicked, treating the righteous and the wicked alike. Far be it from you! Will not the Judge of all the earth do right?

26 The LORD said, If I find fifty righteous people in the city of Sodom, I will spare the whole place for their sake.

27 Then Abraham spoke up again: Now that I have been so bold as to speak to the Lord, though I am nothing but dust and ashes,

28 what if the number of the righteous is five less than fifty? Will you destroy the whole city because of five people?

If I find forty-five there, he said, I will not destroy it.

29 Once again he spoke to him, What if only forty are found there?

He said, For the sake of forty, I will not do it.

30 Then he said, May the Lord not be angry, but let me speak. What if only thirty can be found there?

He answered, I will not do it if I find thirty there.

31 Abraham said, Now that I have been so bold as to speak to the Lord, what if only twenty can be found there?

He said, For the sake of twenty, I will not destroy it.

32 Then he said, May the Lord not be angry, but let me speak just once more. What if only ten can be found there?

He answered, For the sake of ten, I will not destroy it.

And not only argue, but haggle with the big man. Some serious respect to our boy Abe there.

33 When the LORD had finished speaking with Abraham, he left, and Abraham returned home.

Chapter ending leaves a bit to be desired though. Not exactly a cliffhanger that last sentence is it? I mean, have the writers never watched the old Saturday morning “Rocketman” or “Flash Gordon” episodes. What’s needed is Abe going out in a ball of flames, only to tune in next week to see that he’d used his tent as a parachute at the last minute.

Or something …

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