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4. The Cultural Script of Hospitality to Strangers in the Hebrew Bible and Post-biblical Jewish Literature

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Chapter Summary

Through an examination of a wide array of texts, the script of hospitality is explored in the Greco-Roman world. But Mediterranean culture embraces Judaism as well. The practice of hospitality binds together the stories about Abraham in Genesis 18 and those about Lot and the Sodomites in Genesis 19. Abraham's hospitality to the three messengers of Yahweh who announce the impending birth of Isaac is the premier example of hospitality in the Hebrew Bible. The phrase is editorial, and may be redactional, but it's clear function as the first phrase of the narrative is to present the entire scene, including Genesis 19, as a divine visit. The identity of these three men, their relation to God, and the back-and-forth alternation between singular and plural pronouns to refer to the messengers highlights the "difficulty of human comprehension" of the divine visit to Abraham.

Keywords: Abraham; Genesis 19; Greco-Roman world; Hebrew Bible; hospitality; Isaac; Judaism; Mediterranean culture



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