The main concern here is to find out the underlying motive for preparing a huge meal. Scholars who hold the opinion that the visit of God indicates a test motive understand Abraham’s preparing of a generous meal as the presentation of welcoming food (~x,l lehem/ daily bread) for ordinary human beings (cf. Dillmann 1897:92-93; Gunkel 1997:195; Skinner 1980:300; Hamilton 1995:8; Wenham 1994:46).
But this work finds that many evidences that the food prepared for the visitors rather connotes offering hx’n>mi (minha/ cultic food) for divine beings. The indication of an unusually large amount of flour may imply the liberality of the hospitable host towards the highest one or the being offerings to the deity (cf. Jamison et al 1997:155; Simpson 1978:618; Jdg 6:18-19). Because Abraham’s presenting of a huge amount of food (three seah, around 39 liters) does not seem to be fit for just ordinary visitors.
Hamilton (1995:11) asserts that the motive for Abraham providing a calf is to show both Abraham’s prosperity as well as his social status. But we also need to pay our attention to the guests’ social status according to the cultural perspective of the ancient Near East (cf. Bush 1981:286-287). According to the ancient Near Eastern customs, a choice calf is to treat highly honored guests rather than just ordinary fellow beings (cf. Jamieson et al 1990:28; Hartley 1995:178). Therefore, doing further research is needed for finding a proper connotation for the food in relation to Abraham’s motive of preparing such costly food.
The Birth of Isaac: Gift or Reward?
The fifth issue is the main theme of the dialogue in Genesis 18:9-15. The main concern is to decide whether Sarah receives the word of annunciation as the reward for Abraham’s showing extraordinary hospitality or because of God’s faithfulness to fulfill what he promised. Scholars who praise Abraham’s hospitality as a charitable act tend to think that Abraham receives the word of reconfirmation as a reward for his acts (cf. Gunkel 1997:196; Wenham 1994:45). But Pagan kings blame Abraham’s immorality harshly for telling lies (Gn 12:11-20; 20:1-18). When it comes to the moral maturity of Sarah, she seems to fall short of the standard of being blameless (Gn 16:1-6; 21:8-21; cf. Jeansonne 1990:18-21). However, apparently Sarah was described as a receiver of the benefit of the promise of the Lord.
Can showing of extraordinary hospitality towards the visitors just once cover all his and Sarah’s moral shortcomings? This writer doesn’t think it is the proper interpretation. Therefore, this writer asserts that the view of getting a reward for hospitality is not relevant to what the narrative tells the readers. There is a great difference whether the promise of the child is a gift from the Lord or whether it is a reward for doing righteousness (cf. Westermann 1985:276). Thus, the issue iscontroversial. The research gap to be addressed here is to clarify the author’s theological view on this issue exegetically.
The Great Delay of the Fulfillment: Is It because of Sarah’s Moral Unrighteousness or of her lacking of Faith?
The sixth issue to be considered is the reason for the great delay in the birth of the promised son. The main issue here is to find the most probable reason for the great delay in the fulfillment of the promised son. What could be the reasons for this great delay in the fulfillment of the promised son? Was it because of the moral immaturity of Sarah? She was jealousy, harsh treating, hot-tempered, and un-merciful in dealing with the family problems in her relationship to Hagar (Gn 16:1-6; 21:8-21; cf. Jeansonne 1990:18-21). Nevertheless, the Lord grants Sarah to give birth to the promised son.
Was it because of a pagan idol worship background hailing from Sarah’s hometown (cf. Simpson 1978:568-569; Sarna 1989:87; Wenham 1987:273)? Was Abraham’s consanguineous marriage the reason for her barrenness and this great delay (cf. Gn 20:12; Lv 20:20-21; Sarna 1989:143; Wenham 1994:74)? For, certain forms of endogamy was condemned and forbidden as something abhorrent in the Pentateuch (Lv 18:9, 11 20:17; Dt 27:22; Ezk 22:11; cf. Sarna 1989:143; Von Rad 1972:227; Mathews 1996:257).
Sarah’s unbelief could be a major reason for the great delay. Since the Lord rebuked Sarah for not believing in the promise of the Lord (Gn 18:13-15). To understand the reason for the great delay of the fulfillment is controversial. Sarah is the first barren matriarch in the Bible. Barrenness of women is a well-known themes in the Old Testament (Jdg 13:2-3; I Sm 1:2-8; Ps 127; 128; Is 54:1;cf. Lk 1:5-25; cf. Wenham 1987:273). The theological view on the barrenness of Sarah seems to be related to the view on other barren matriarchs after her. Therefore, inter-textual research on barren women needs to obtain a common view about the reason for such great delay (Gn 25:19-26; 30:1-24; Sm 1:1-20). Further investigation to find the most probable reason is another research gap to be addressed in this thesis.