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I am new to this site. I'd like to ask some questions on the interpretation and cultural significance of the events in Genesis 18 in the Bible.

First, why does Abraham have Sarah use 3 seahs of flour to make bread? That is about 22 liters and a ton of bread. Why so much?

Second, why does he prepare their food and then stand awkwardly on the side of them while they ate (Gen 18:8)? Was this a cultural thing in that hosts don't sit or eat with their guests?

Third, is there a certain cultural significance of the food that was served? Did the curds, milk, and calf mean something?

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Welcome to Mi Yodeya!

In answer to your first question, the Ramban on that verse asks your question - that is a lot of bread! He suggests that Avraham knew they were angels (which is consistantly the opinion of the Ramban) and the massive bread serving was a type of "gift" to Heaven.

In answer to your second question, he stood by them to be ready to get them anything they might need. He was performing the act of hosting them as best as possible.

In answer to your third question, Rashi to verse 7 and 8 explains that he was giving them the finest delicacies. He was giving them the cream of the milk, and giving them each a tongue of a calf.

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To answer your first question, in the Torah journal הבאר here R. Tzorofsky quotes the explanation of the Rav from Ostrovtsi:

Why did Avrohom tell Sarah to make three seah of flour, a very large amount? Even more difficult to explain is the opinion of the Midrash that there was a total of nine seah! But the Ramban discusses this and suggests that the adult males of his household ate with the three guests to honor them.

According to this nine seah is precisely the amount needed to feed all the people present at that meal, because there were 324 men there - Avrohom, Yishmael, Eliezer, the three angels, and the 318 trained men of Avrohom that are mentioned in Bereishis 14:14. And the amount that is needed for each person is the volume of 4 eggs, so a total of 1296 eggs was needed for everyone present.

Now, one seah equals six קבין, and a קב is four לוגין, and a לוג is six eggs. Thus a seah is 144 eggs, and nine seah is 1296 eggs - precisely!

  • Why is the volume needed for each man four eggs? Isn't the minimum required at a meal one beitzah? – Lee Oct 27 '15 at 5:54
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Abraham did so out of gratitude....if God comes to you, you can only offer Him everything you got! It's what He deserves!

Next, that's being a servant. Humility to God (or His presence through his angels).

Lastly, Abraham served them the best he got (and he feared God for He is to be feared) you don't give God the leftovers....you should give Him the BEST you got - though that's not really enough for He is GOD!

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    Tey, welcome to Mi Yodeya! This answer will be more valuable if you can edit in sources or source-based reasoning to back up your assertions about how these values apply to these actions. – Isaac Moses Sep 29 '14 at 12:49
  • Tey -- I hope you don't mind that I edited your answer....if I did anything you don't like you can fix it here. (I pretty much just broke up the paragraphs like you wanted them to be broken up) – Shokhet Sep 29 '14 at 14:38

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