And they said to him, “Where is Sarah your wife?” And he said, “Behold in the tent.”
Three Angels, in the heat of the day ask Avraham about his wife.
Consider that Avraham had been “sitting in the door of his tent” when he “lifted up his eyes” and saw three angels…. He orders food to be prepared and they wash their feet while reclining under the shade of the tree.
They innocuously ask, “Where is Sarah your wife?”
Now we might ask how did they know Sarah was his wife or what Sarah’s name was but the Torah tells us:
“And he said, “I will surely return to you at this time next year, and behold, your wife Sarah will have a son.” And Sarah heard from the entrance of the tent, and it was behind him.”
Why did the Angels need to know where Sarah was? And why did Avraham respond, “In the tent” rather than, “She is here”? The Angels could have sufficed knowing that Sarah was present.
Consider the mission of the three Angels: 1) To announce the birth of Isaac; 2) to rescue Lot and his family; and 3) to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah.
So why did they ask about a perfect stranger’s where-abouts?
A side point: did Avraham know he was making a halachic decision in giving his answer?
The historical ramifications to this halachic question are astounding-
For we see that Moabite women were not responsible for providing hospitality to strangers and as such were not excluded from “entering the Congregation of Israel.” In fact, King David is a descendant of Ruth the Moabitess. His adversary, Doeg tried to exclude him from being considered Jewish – “Do not ask is he fit to be King but rather is he fit to enter the Congregation of Israel” was his retort!
“no Ammonite or Moabite shall be admitted into the congregation of the Lord” (Deut. 23:4), this prohibition against intermarriage applies only to the males, and not to the females (Pesikta Rabbati 42).
The underlying reason for the sympathetic treatment of the daughters of Lot apparently stems from Ruth the Moabite’s tracing her lineage to them and the subsequent descent of King David and, eventually, of the Messiah, from Ruth’s marriage to Boaz. According to the midrashic account, when Lot was commanded to rescue his two daughters from the destruction the angels already foresaw that Ruth the Moabite and Na’amah the Ammonite would descend from them (Gen. Rabbah 50:10).
Hence – a not so simple question!