Who is the Lord in Genesis 18?

three-visitorsWho is the “Lord” referred to in Genesis 18?  We know that no man has ever looked upon the face of God and that Jesus Christ was not yet born of woman.  Since Jesus Christ always was, did He appear at this time as the Lord?

While in many English bibles this is confusing, the Hebrew is not as confusing.  The word for “Lord” in Genesis 18:1 is the name of God, Yahweh.  So this person who appears to Abraham is not just some strange man that has walked into the camp.  The reader of Genesis is supposed to know that this is God visiting Abraham.  That is somewhat obscured by the fact that our translators use the word “Lord” here.  When we see the word “Lord,” with a capital “L” and lower capital “ord” that is the divine name, Yahweh.  When the word “Lord” has a capital “L” with lowercase “ord,” that is the translation of the Hebrew word “Adonai” referring to God.  When it is all lowercase, that is the Hebrew word “Adonai” referring to someone other than God, such as a human prince, captain, or king, and it is a term of respect.  So the “Lord” in Genesis 18, is Yahweh-God.

The questioner goes on to ask how it is that Abraham could see God since the Bible declares that no one has seen God at any time.  John says as much in John 1:18 and 1 John 4:12.  It should be obvious that John is not talking about Jesus, because John had seen Jesus.  He says as much in John 19:35 when he says, “And he who has seen has testified, and his testimony is true; and he knows that he is telling the truth, so that you may believe.”  So, John must have in mind God the Father, not God the Son.  He may also be saying that no one has known God directly.  That John is referring to the Father is clear from John 1:18 when he says, “No one has seen God at any time. The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him.”  It is the Son of God, Jesus, who declares the Father.  That is who we have not seen.

So who is the person that Abraham sees in Genesis 18?  We know it is God.  We know it is Yahweh-God.  In fact, Jesus Himself answers this question.  In a discussion with the Jews of Jesus’ day, their discussion turns to Jesus’ relationship to Abraham.  Jesus said that Abraham rejoiced to see His day.  The Jews asked how that was possible seeing that Jesus wasn’t even fifty years old.  They said, “Have you seen Abraham?”  Jesus replied “Most assuredly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM” (John 8:58).  The text says that the Jews took up stones to stone Him.  Why would they do that?  Because Jesus had just claimed to be God.  The Hebrew word “Yahweh,” is roughly translated, “I AM.”  So when Jesus said, “Before Abraham was, I AM,” He was claiming to be the God that met Abraham.

Technically, Jesus is the Son of God by Mary, but the person who became Jesus wasn’t always Jesus.  He was, for lack of a better term, the Second Person of the Godhead.  The Father is the First Person of the Godhead, the Second Person became Jesus when he was born of Mary, and the Third Person is the Holy Spirit.  Perhaps the best way to refer to Him before He became Jesus would be to call Him the eternal Word of God, or, in Greek, the LOGOS.