Bereishit 18:19 says:

כי ידעתיו למען אשר יצוה את בניו וגו׳

At this point Avraham’s only son is Yishmael. Why does the pasuk say בניו and not בנו? Does he have more than one son now? Rashi even says יצוה is לשון הוה.

  • 1
    Surely because this is Hashem speaking and He knows that he will have more than one son??
    – Dov
    Nov 8, 2020 at 10:00
  • 1
    Also "בניו" can be a reference to future generations and not just sons in the literal sense
    – Dov
    Nov 8, 2020 at 10:02
  • 1
    I doubt very much he was referring to yishmael at all.
    – interested
    Nov 8, 2020 at 10:08

1 Answer 1


בניו whilst meaning "his sons" in the literal sense can also be understood as a lesson to all those under his care and tutelage.

Radak writes:

ואמר ואת ביתו אחר שאמר ואת בניו, ר"ל בני ביתו שאינם בניו להודיע כי חייב אדם להדריך בני ביתו אע"פ שאינם בניו בדרך ישרה ולהכריחם בזה אחר שהם בני ביתו ומשרתיו, כמו שאמר דוד המלך (ק"א) עיני בנאמני ארץ לשבת עמדי הולך בדרך תמים הוא ישרתני לא ישב בקרב ביתי עושה רמיה, ונאמר על הרשע מושל מקשיב על דבר שקר כל משרתיו רשעים (משלי כ״ט:י״ב).

את ביתו ואת בניו - both the members of his household who were not biologically related to his as well as his family, in order to teach us that a man is obligated to monitor the conduct of all members of his household and is responsible for their misconduct if he did not use his authority to put a stop to it. David spells out this responsibility of the head of the household in Psalms 101,6-7 when he said: עיני בנאמני ארץ לשבת עמדי הולך בדרך תמים הוא ישרתני. לא ישב בקרב ביתי עושה רמיה, “my eyes are on the trusty men of the land, to have them at my side. He who follows the way of the blameless shall be in my service.” He who deals deceitfully shall not live in my house;” Concerning the wicked, Solomon says in Proverbs 29,12: “a ruler who listens to lies, all his servants become wicked.” (Sefaria translation)

A similar approach is applied by Rabbeinu Bachya as well.

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