There were several different ways of bowing in Bible times. These ranged from lowing the head to bending the knees to kneeling down before another person.
The Hebrew word for “bowed” in this passage indicates that Abraham exercised the most extreme form of bowing before these strangers. He knelt down, then leaned forward and placed his head on the ground. This indicated his attitude of respect, reverence, and humility towards these men.
Abraham’s kindness toward these three strangers shows ancient Middle Eastern hospitality at its best. He placed all of the resources of his household at their disposal and insisted that they would be doing him a great doing favor if they stayed awhile.
For other examples of such hospitality toward travelers or strangers, see Genesis 19:2-3; Judges 6:14-19.
BOWING DOWN IN RESPECT
- Jacob bowed seven times before his brother. Esau, to appease his anger and hostility (Genesis 33:3).
- Joseph’s brothers bowed to him when they came to Egypt to buy grain because he was a high afficial of the Egyptian government (Genesis 42:6).
- Ruth bowed to Boaz to show her thanks when he treated her kindly and allowed her to glean left behind grain from his fields (Ruth 2:10).
- David bowed to Saul to show his respect for the kingly office, even though he knew the king was trying to kill him (1 Samuel 24:8).
- The sons of the prophets bowed to Elisha in acceptance of his role after he succeeded Elijah as the prophetic leader in Israel (the Northen Kingdom) (2 Kings 2:15).
GENESIS 18:2-3- When he [abraham] saw them [three strangers], he ran to meet them from the tent door, and bowed himself [bowed low,] toward the ground, and said, My Lord, if now I have found favour in thy sight, pass not away, I pray thee, from thy servant.