Answering Islam - A Christian-Muslim dialog

Who did Abraham See?

By Sam Shamoun

The Holy Scriptures emphatically teach that Yahweh God Almighty personally appeared to Abraham on several occasions:

Yahweh APPEARED to Abram and said, ‘I will give this land to your offspring.’ He built an altar there to Yahweh, who had APPEARED to him.” Genesis 12:1World English Bible (WEB)

“When Abram was ninety-nine years old, Yahweh APPEARED to Abram, and said to him, ‘I am God Almighty. Walk before me, and be blameless.’… When he finished talking with him, God WENT UP from Abraham.” Genesis 17:1, 22 WEB

“God spoke to Moses, and said to him, ‘I am Yahweh; and I APPEARED to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, as God Almighty; but by my name Yahweh I was not known to them.’” Exodus 6:2-3 WEB

“He said, ‘Brothers and fathers, listen. The God of glory APPEARED to our father Abraham, when he was in Mesopotamia, before he lived in Haran,’” Acts 7:2 WEB

We are even told that on one of those occasions Yahweh appeared to Abraham in human form accompanied by two angels, and actually ate the food that the patriarch had prepared for him and the two messengers:

YAHWEH APPEARED TO HIM by the oaks of Mamre, as he sat in the tent door in the heat of the day. He lifted up his eyes and looked, and saw that THREE MEN stood opposite him. When he saw them, he ran to meet them from the tent door, and bowed himself to the earth, and said, ‘My lord, if now I have found favor in your sight, please don’t go away from your servant. Now let a little water be fetched, wash your feet, and rest yourselves under the tree. I will get a morsel of bread so you can refresh your heart. After that you may go your way, now that you have come to your servant.’ They said, ‘Very well, do as you have said.’ Abraham hurried into the tent to Sarah, and said, ‘Quickly prepare three seahs of fine meal, knead it, and make cakes.’ Abraham ran to the herd, and fetched a tender and good calf, and gave it to the servant. He hurried to dress it. He took butter, milk, and the calf which he had dressed, and set it before them. He stood by them under the tree, and they ate. They asked him, ‘Where is Sarah, your wife?’ He said, ‘See, in the tent.’ HE SAID, ‘I will certainly return to you when the season comes round. Behold, Sarah your wife will have a son.’ Sarah heard in the tent door, which was behind him. Now Abraham and Sarah were old, well advanced in age. Sarah had passed the age of childbearing. Sarah laughed within herself, saying, ‘After I have grown old will I have pleasure, my lord being old also?’ YAHWEH SAID TO ABRAHAM, ‘Why did Sarah laugh, saying, ‘Will I really bear a child, yet I am old?’ Is anything too hard for Yahweh? At the set time I will return to you, when the season comes round, and Sarah will have a son.’ Then Sarah denied it, saying, ‘I didn’t laugh,’ for she was afraid. HE SAID, ‘No, but you did laugh.’ THE MEN rose up from there, and looked toward Sodom. Abraham went with them to see them on their way. YAHWEH SAID, ‘Will I hide from Abraham what I do, since Abraham will surely become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth will be blessed in him? For I have known him, to the end that he may command his children and his household after him, that they may keep the way of Yahweh, to do righteousness and justice; to the end that Yahweh may bring on Abraham that which he has spoken of him.’ YAHWEH SAID, ‘Because the cry of Sodom and Gomorrah is great, and because their sin is very grievous, I will go down now, and see whether their deeds are as bad as the reports which have come to me. If not, I will know.’ The men turned from there, and went toward Sodom, but Abraham STOOD YET BEFORE YAHWEH. Abraham came near, and said, ‘Will you consume the righteous with the wicked? What if there are fifty righteous within the city? Will you consume and not spare the place for the fifty righteous who are in it? Be it far from you to do things like that, to kill the righteous with the wicked, so that the righteous should be like the wicked. May that be far from you. Shouldn’t the Judge of all the earth do right?YAHWEH SAID, ‘If I find in Sodom fifty righteous within the city, then I will spare the whole place for their sake.’ Abraham answered, ‘See now, I have taken it on myself TO SPEAK TO THE LORD, although I am dust and ashes. What if there will lack five of the fifty righteous? Will you destroy all the city for lack of five?’ HE SAID, ‘I will not destroy it, if I find forty-five there.’ He spoke to him yet again, and said, ‘What if there are forty found there?’ HE SAID, ‘I will not do it for the forty’s sake.’ He said, ‘Oh don’t let the Lord be angry, and I will speak. What if there are thirty found there?’ HE SAID, ‘I will not do it, if I find thirty there.’ He said, ‘See now, I have taken it on myself TO SPEAK TO THE LORD. What if there are twenty found there?’ HE SAID, ‘I will not destroy it for the twenty’s sake.’ He said, ‘Oh don’t let the Lord be angry, and I will speak just once more. What if ten are found there? HE SAID, ‘I will not destroy it for the ten’s sake.’ YAHWEH WENT HIS WAY, AS SOON AS HE HAD FINISHED COMMUNING WITH ABRAHAM, and Abraham returned to his place.” Genesis 18:1-33 WEB

“Abraham got up early in the morning to the place where he had STOOD BEFORE Yahweh.” Genesis 19:27 WEB

Now the question becomes who exactly did Abraham see? Did he see God the Father, or did he see the Son?  Or perhaps it was the Holy Spirit whom he saw?

The answer can be found in the inspired pages of the NT.

According to the Christian Greek Scriptures, the Lord Jesus is the eternal Word and beloved Son of God whom the Father used to bring the entire creation into being. Christ is also described as the visible image of God and the exact representation of God’s infinite substance. And as the perfect expression of God’s nature, the Son is said to be the One who manifests God’s glory and reveals him to mankind:

My Father has entrusted everything to me. No one truly knows the Son except the Father, and no one truly knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.” Matthew 11:27 New Living Translation (NLT) – cf. Luke 10:22

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were created through Him, and without Him nothing was created that was created…  He was in the world, and the world was created through Him, yet the world did not know Him… The Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we SAW His glory, the glory as the only Son of the Father, full of grace and truth… No one has seen God at any time. The only Son, who is at the Father’s side, has made Him known.” John 1:1-3, 10, 14, 18 Modern English Version (MEV)

“Jesus cried out, ‘He who believes in Me believes not only in Me, but in Him who sent Me. He who sees Me sees Him who sent Me.’” John 12:44-45 MEV

“Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me. If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also. From now on you do know Him and have seen Him.’ Philip said to Him, ‘Lord, show us the Father, and that is sufficient for us.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Have I been with you such a long time, and yet you have not known Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father. So how can you say, “Show us the Father”? Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in Me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on My own authority. But the Father who lives in Me does the works. Believe Me that I am in the Father, and the Father is in Me. Or else believe Me on account of the works themselves.’” John 14:6-11 MEV

“Satan, who is the god of this world, has blinded the minds of those who don’t believe. They are unable to see the glorious light of the Good News. They don’t understand this message about the glory of Christ, who is the exact likeness of God. You see, we don’t go around preaching about ourselves. We preach that Jesus Christ is Lord, and we ourselves are your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, ‘Let there be light in the darkness,’ has made this light shine in our hearts so we could know the glory of God that is seen in the face of Jesus Christ.” 2 Corinthians 4:4-6 NLT

“It is God who has delivered us out of the dominion of darkness and has transferred us into the kingdom of His dearly loved Son, by whom we possess the ransom from captivity, which means the forgiveness of our sins. Yes, He is the exact likeness of the unseen God, His first-born Son who existed before any created thing, for it was through Him that everything was created in heaven and on earth, the seen and the unseen, thrones, dominions, principalities, authorities; all things have been created through Him and FOR Him. So He existed before all things, and through Him all things are held together.” Colossians 1:13-17 William’s New Testament

“Long ago God spoke to our ancestors in many and various ways by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by a Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, through whom he also created the worlds. He is the reflection of God’s glory and the exact imprint of God’s very being, and he sustains all things by his powerful word. When he had made purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high… And, ‘In the beginning, Lord [the Son], you founded the earth, and the heavens are the work of your hands; they will perish, but you remain; they will all wear out like clothing; like a cloak you will roll them up, and like clothing they will be changed. But you are the same, and your years will never end.’” New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

“We know that the Son of God has come, and has given us an understanding, that we know him who is true, and we are in him who is true, in his Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God, and eternal life.” 1 John 5:20 WEB

The Lord himself claims to have personally existed in the same divine glory alongside the Father, being the object of the Father’s perfect, infinite love, from before the creation of the world:

“And now, Father, glorify Me at your side with the glory I had alongside of You before the world was created… Father, I desire that they also, whom You have given Me, be with Me where I am, that they may see My glory which You have given Me. For You loved Me before the creation of the world.” John 17:5

All of this suggests that the God whom Abraham saw was none other than the Lord Jesus Christ in his pre-incarnate glory. This fact is even confirmed by the Lord in a heated discussion he had with certain Jewish “believers”:

“They answered him, ‘Our father is Abraham.’ Jesus said to them, ‘If you were Abraham’s children, you would do the works of Abraham. But now you seek to kill me, a man who has told you the truth, which I heard from God. Abraham didn’t do this.’” John 8:39-40 WEB

Christ asserts that Abraham didn’t try to do what his opponents were seeking to do, namely, murder him, thereby proving that they weren’t truly Abraham’s descendants. This astounding assertion implies that Abraham actually saw Christ, which is precisely what the Lord goes on to say: 

“‘Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day. He saw it, and was glad.’ The Jews therefore said to him, ‘You are not yet fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham?’ Jesus said to them, ‘Most certainly, I tell you, before Abraham came into existence, I AM.’ Therefore they took up stones to throw at him, but Jesus was hidden, and went out of the temple, having gone through the middle of them, and so passed by.” John 8:56-59 WEB

The Jews were perplexed by Jesus’ statement that Abraham was elated when he and Christ actually saw each other, since they knew that it was not humanly possible for the Lord to have personally met the patriarch seeing that Abraham had been dead for nearly two thousand years. Christ adds to their astonishment by explaining that he not only personally saw Abraham but that, unlike the latter who came into being at a specific point in time, he has always existed.

Christ was essentially telling his opponents that the reason why he was able to see their physical ancestor is because he is not a mere creature that was brought into being. Rather, he is eternal by nature and therefore has always existed. The following translations help capture Jesus’ intended meaning:

Jesus: ‘The absolute truth is that I was in existence before Abraham was ever born.’” Living Bible (LB)

“Jesus answered, ‘I tell you the truth, before Abraham was even born, I am![a].’”


a. 8:58 Or before Abraham was even born, I have always been alive; Greek reads before Abraham was, I am. See Exod 3:14. NLT, source

The foregoing basically confirms the fact that Jesus is actually Yahweh God Almighty, and therefore the very God of glory who appeared to Abraham in his pre-human existence!

Related Articles