“In the very same day Abraham was circumcised, and Ishmael his son.” Gen. 17:26
“Now the LORD appeared to him by the oaks of Mamre, while he was sitting at the tent door in the heat of the day.” Gen. 18:1
I often wonder if we have done ourselves a disservice by dividing up the scriptures into chapters and verses, as it can affect how we comprehend what we read. The Jews read “parshas” of scripture, or “Torah portions”. For example, Genesis 1:1 – 6:8 is the parsha for creation, or ‘B’reishit‘, followed by Noah’s story, parsha Noach, which goes from Genesis 6:9 – 11:32, and so on. This affords the Jewish reader (or hearer) the ability to pick up on themes that may otherwise be missed, by, for example, your average American reader. Such is likely the case between the end of Genesis 17 and the beginning of Genesis 18.
When reading the verses above it becomes more apparent that Abraham is probably not feeling great, physically, when the Almighty decides to visit. Especially if the reader is familiar with the story of Dinah in Genesis 34, where the Israelites convince the Hivites to be circumcised under pretense of peace, only to fall upon them the third day, as the scripture says “when they were in pain” (Gen. 34:25). The Jewish tradition seems to be that God visited Abraham on the third day after his circumcision.
Why is this significant? Because it becomes a lesson about visiting the sick and infirm – something all believers should strive to do. The Jews would refer to it as the ‘mitzvah of visiting the sick’. Without tying the content of these verses together, which are merely separated by a chapter division, we completely miss this lesson.