April 11, 2014

Commentary on the Book of Genesis

By: Tom Lowe

PART II: AN ACCOUNT OF ABRAHAM—Gen. 11:10-25:18.

Topic D:THE DESTRUCTION OF SODOM AND GOMORRAH. Gen. 18:1-19:38.                        

Lesson II.D.2: Abraham Pleads for Sodom. Gen. 18:16-33.   

                                                        

Genesis 18: 16-33 (KJV)

 

16 And the men rose up from thence, and looked toward Sodom: and Abraham went with them to bring them on the way.

17 And the LORD said, Shall I hide from Abraham that thing which I do;

18 Seeing that Abraham shall surely become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him?

19 For I know him, that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the LORD, to do justice and judgment; that the LORD may bring upon Abraham that which he hath spoken of him.

20 And the LORD said, Because the cry of Sodom and Gomorrah is great, and because their sin is very grievous;

21 I will go down now, and see whether they have done altogether according to the cry of it, which is come unto me; and if not, I will know.

22 And the men turned their faces from thence, and went toward Sodom: but Abraham stood yet before the LORD.

23 And Abraham drew near, and said, Wilt thou also destroy the righteous with the wicked?

24 Peradventure there be fifty righteous within the city: wilt thou also destroy and not spare the place for the fifty righteous that are therein?

25 That be far from thee to do after this manner, to slay the righteous with the wicked: and that the righteous should be as the wicked, that be far from thee: Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?

26 And the LORD said, If I find in Sodom fifty righteous within the city, then I will spare all the place for their sakes.

27 And Abraham answered and said, Behold now, I have taken upon me to speak unto the Lord, which am but dust and ashes:

28 Peradventure there shall lack five of the fifty righteous: wilt thou destroy all the city for lack of five? And he said, If I find there forty and five, I will not destroy it.

29 And he spake unto him yet again, and said, Peradventure there shall be forty found there. And he said, I will not do it for forty's sake.

30 And he said unto him, Oh let not the Lord be angry, and I will speak: Peradventure there shall thirty be found there. And he said, I will not do it, if I find thirty there.

31 And he said, Behold now, I have taken upon me to speak unto the Lord: Peradventure there shall be twenty found there. And he said, I will not destroy it for twenty's sake.

32 And he said, Oh let not the Lord be angry, and I will speak yet but this once: Peradventure ten shall be found there. And he said, I will not destroy it for ten's sake.

33 And the LORD went his way, as soon as he had left communing with Abraham: and Abraham returned unto his place.

 

 

Introduction

 

The predominate theme of this narrative is justice. It grows out of the preceding verses (vv. 9-15). Certainly God is able to do whatever He wants to do, but will it be just? The answer is obvious, as shown by His replies to Abraham’s appeals.

 

This section gives the basis for Abraham being called the friend of God (2 Chr. 20:7; Isa. 41:8{18]; James 2:23). Because he was the friend of God and all the nations of the earth will be blessed in him, he was allowed the high privilege of learning something about God’s principles for punishment (Gen. 4:10; Hos. 4:2{19]; Jonah 1:2)

 

 

 

Commentary

 

16 And the men rose up from thence, and looked toward Sodom: and Abraham went with them to bring them on the way.

17 And the LORD said, Shall I hide from Abraham that thing which I do;

 

Up to this point the Lord has not revealed to Abraham what He was going to do with Sodom and Gomorrah: He is going to destroy them.Shall I hide from Abraham that thing which I do?”

 

 “Abraham went with them to bring them on the way,” indicates that Abraham adhered to the custom of that day, that is, for a host to accompany his guests a little way.

 

Notice now the reason God is not going to hide it from Abraham.

 

18 Seeing that Abraham shall surely become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him?

 

God reminded Abraham that he was the chosen means of blessing the nations, and he let him know that he was going to destroy the wicked cities of the plain. Why would God divulge such things to Abraham? The reasons can be summed up in the single word “covenant;” the covenant established (chs. 15, 17) between God and Abraham had expressed promises and obligations which could be fostered and furthered if God now revealed His plans. A covenant, moreover, is much more than a contract; it betokens a close and warm relationship, expressed here in the phrase “I have chosen him” (v. 19, NIV), literally “I have known him.”

 

 

19 For I know him, that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the LORD, to do justice and judgment; that the LORD may bring upon Abraham that which he hath spoken of him.

 

One very outstanding feature of Abraham’s character was that he not only prayed with his family, but he taught them about God from his personal experiences. He commanded his family as a man of knowledge, as a man of authority, as a prophet and king, as well as a priest in his own house.

 

Abraham not only took care of his children, but of his whole household; his servants were educated in the things of God. He made it his business to promote practical religion in his family. He did not fill their heads with matters of speculation or with uncertain lines of reasoning; but he taught them to keep the ways of the Lord, to be just, and live rightly, that is, to be serious and devout in the worship of God, and to be honest in their dealings with all men. Abraham was not only concerned for his current household, but for all those households that would come afterwards, that they would worship and serve God, when he was in the grave.

 

This is a great tribute that God paid to Abraham as an outstanding family man—something worth coveting. Abraham will command his children and his household. Oh, how few husbands and fathers can say that today, when so many men are absent from the home and women are left to raise their children alone? And how few husbands and fathers are actually masters in their homes and teach their families the principles of religion.

 

 

20 And the LORD said, Because the cry of Sodom and Gomorrah is great, and because their sin is very grievous;

 

This is the first appearance of the word Gomorrah. The actual story has to do with Sodom only. Sodom and Gomorrah were the two leading cities at the south end of the Dead Sea. The others—Admah, Zebolim, and Zoar—were to be destroyed along with Sodom and Gomorrah in the conflagration that was to purge the cesspools of sin. (Ultimately God spared Zoar as a new home for Lot.) The cities were about eighteen miles from Abraham’s home at Hebron. It was possible for him to see the southern end of the Sea from the immediate vicinity of Hebron.

 

 

21 I will go down now, and see whether they have done altogether according to the cry of it, which is come unto me; and if not, I will know.

This is the Lord’s monolog about His judgment on the cities of the plain, with the major city being Sodom. Interestingly, God had a double motivation for revealing His plan: (1) All nations would be blessed through Abraham; therefore God told him that one city (Sodom) would be removed before it had a chance to be blessed through him. (2) Abraham was to teach his offspring righteousness and justice (what is right and just, v. 19) so that they might enjoy God’s blessings.

Since the outcry of people against the grievous sins of Sodom and Gomorrah was so great, the Lord went to see if it was that bad. (Of course in His conscious He knew the sins of Sodom and Gomorrah, but He wanted to demonstrate His justice to them.) God never does anything hurriedly or hastily. If the sin of those people was “complete,” they would be judged.

“I will go down” (Gen. 11:7){20] indicates that God’s justice moved Him to demonstrate that He had full possession of the facts. Actually, the two angels went to Sodom, and the Angel of the Lord stayed with Abraham.

 

 

22 And the men turned their faces from thence, and went toward Sodom: but Abraham stood yet before the LORD.

 

The Lord and the two angels left Abraham’s camp and started toward Sodom, but the Lord lingered while the angels went on (vv. 16, 22; 19:1{6]). In the first half of the chapter, Abraham is running here and there; but in the last half he is standing reverently before the Lord and interceding for Lot and the other people in Sodom.

 

An intercessor must know the Lord personally and be obedient to his will. He must be close enough to the Lord to learn His “secrets” and know what to pray about (Amos 3:7{7]; Ps. 25:14{8]). The Lord’s words “I know him” (v. 19) mean “I have chosen him,” and he is my intimate friend” (John 15:15){9]. Abraham knew more about Sodom’s future than the citizens themselves, including Lot. It is the separated believer who shares God’s secrets.

 

Sarah and the servants helped Abraham when he prepared a meal for the three visitors, but when it came to the ministry of intercession, Abraham had to serve alone.

 

 

23 And Abraham drew near, and said, Wilt thou also destroy the righteous with the wicked?

 

Would God sweep away the righteous with the unrighteous? Abraham was convinced there were righteous people in Sodom—he did not pray merely for Lot—so he appealed to God on the basis of God’s justice. When Abraham spoke to God, he “drew near” to Him. Abraham drew near to the Lord (James 4:8), and the Hebrew word means “to come to court to argue a case.” Abraham was burdened for Lot and Lot’s family, as well as for the lost people in the five cities of the plain; and he drew near the Lord in order to share that burden with Him. When we pray, we should remember that we are drawing near to God, so that we are filled with reverence for Him (Lev. 10:3){5].

 

Abraham’s great character is revealed by his intersession. He prayed—that in all the cities—the wicked as well as the righteous—be spared for the sake of the . . . righteous. Earlier he had personally rescued these people in battle (Gen, 14:16){1]. Now he pleaded for them with the same boldness, perseverance, and generosity with which he had fought for them. Abraham’s “bargaining” with God jars some readers. But Abraham’s prayers, though audacious, were made with genuine humility and profound reverence. It was for justice that he pleaded: deliverance for Sodom if there were as few as 50 . . . 45 . . . 40 . . . 3o . . . 20, or even 10 righteous people there (see vv. 24-32). He was not trying to talk God into something against His will (Lot’s prayer for Zoar, however, was quite a contrast.) (See Gen. 19:18-23){2].

 

Thus the theme of justice predominates: those who will enjoy God’s blessing (a) will teach justice (v. 19); (b) may intercede for just judgment to preserve the righteous; and (c) know that God may preserve the wicked for the sake of the righteous. Certainly Israel learned from this that God is a righteous judge, that righteousness exalts a nation (Prov. 14:34){3], and that righteous people help preserve society (Matt. 5:13){4]. Many guilty cities and nations have been spared on account of God’s people. These truths should have been as great a concern to Israel as they were to Abraham who turned them into compassionate intercession. 

 

I think that Abraham had wondered many times about Lot and his relationship with God, but at least he believes that Lot was a saved man. He is asking God, “What about the righteous?” I believe that Abraham would have told you that he thought there were many people in Sodom who were saved. He could not understand why God would destroy the righteous with the wicked. What a picture we have here!

 

 

24 Peradventure there be fifty righteous within the city: wilt thou also destroy and not spare the place for the fifty righteous that are therein?

 

In Genesis the wickedness of Sodom is expressed so emphatically that its name has become the designation for wicked men and wicked places, particularly where homosexuality is involved.

 

This is the first solemn prayer we have on record in the Bible, and it is a prayer for the sparing of Sodom! Abraham, no doubt, greatly abhorred the wickedness of Sodom, and he would not live among them as Lot did, even for the grandest mansion in the city; and yet he prayed earnestly for them. We must pray, not only for ourselves, but for others also; for we are members of the same body, at least, of the same body of mankind. We are all brethren, all created in His image, and all need a Savior.

 

25 That be far from thee to do after this manner, to slay the righteous with the wicked: and that the righteous should be as the wicked, that be far from thee: Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?

 

In the question, “Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?” we have a moving affirmation of Israel’s faith in the essential righteousness of the God who demanded righteousness from men—all men, not Israel only. Abraham assumed that it was an incontestable and certain truth that the judge of all the earth would do right; that was the grounds for his plea. He doesn’t plead that the wicked may be spared for their own sake, or that it would be too severe a punishment to destroy them, but for the sake of the righteous who might be found among them.

 

“Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?” is still a question that many people ask. And there is an answer to it. The rest of the Bible testifies to the fact that the Judge of all the earth always does right. Whatever the Lord does is right, and if you don’t think He is right, the trouble is not with God, but the trouble is with you and your thinking. You are thinking wrong; you do not have all the facts; you do not know all the details. If you did, you would know that the Judge of all the earth does right. There are many mysteries in life for which the truth of verse 25 is the only satisfying answer.

 

Abraham’s prayer was based not on the mercy of God but on the justice of God. “Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?” (See Deut. 32:4){10] A just and holy God could not destroy righteous believers with wicked unbelievers; and Lot was a believer (2 Pe. 2:6-9){11], even though his actions and words seemed to contradict the fact.

 

Abraham’s prayer is a wonderful example of effectual intercession. It was based on the righteous character of the Judge of all the earth and evidenced that boldness, and deep humility which only an intimate knowledge of God can give.

 

 

26 And the LORD said, If I find in Sodom fifty righteous within the city, then I will spare all the place for their sakes.

 

This passage reflects a realization that the Lord cares for the individual who is not, so to speak, swallowed up in the community, for the community is a community of persons. It indicates that at the time it was written thought was being given to two ideas that were to become prominent in the New Testament: (1) that as Christians we are to be in the world but not of the world, and (2) that there is vicarious righteousness—the city might be saved because of the righteousness of a few.

 

 

27 And Abraham answered and said, Behold now, I have taken upon me to speak unto the Lord, which am but dust and ashes:

 

Abraham’s negotiation, far from being tactlessly or selfishly manipulative, humbly and compassionately expressed his concern for people (Gen. 13:8-9){21] and particularly interceded for the place where his nephew Lot and his family lived. He did not intend to anger the Lord by his repeated requests (vv. 28, 30, 32).

 

 

28 Peradventure there shall lack five of the fifty righteous: wilt thou destroy all the city for lack of five? And he said, If I find there forty and five, I will not destroy it.

29 And he spake unto him yet again, and said, Peradventure there shall be forty found there. And he said, I will not do it for forty's sake.

30 And he said unto him, Oh let not the Lord be angry, and I will speak: Peradventure there shall thirty be found there. And he said, I will not do it, if I find thirty there.

31 And he said, Behold now, I have taken upon me to speak unto the Lord: Peradventure there shall be twenty found there. And he said, I will not destroy it for twenty's sake.

32 And he said, Oh let not the Lord be angry, and I will speak yet but this once: Peradventure ten shall be found there. And he said, I will not destroy it for ten's sake.

 

In other words, Abraham says, “If there are forty-five righteous left, would You destroy the city for forty-five?” And God tells him, “If I find forty and five, I will not destroy it.” This makes the man a little bit bolder, and he says to the Lord, “Suppose there are forty?” The very interesting thing is that God says, “I will not destroy it for forty.” And Abraham keeps on bringing the number down. He says, “How about thirty?” God says, “If there are thirty there, I still won’t do it.” Abraham says, “suppose there are twenty there?” God says, “I’ll not destroy it.” Abraham is overwhelmed now, and he takes another plunge: “Suppose there are ten righteous there. Would You destroy it if there are ten?” And God says, “If there are ten righteous in the city, I will not destroy it.”

 

Abraham prayed earnestly that Sodom might be spared, if only a few good people could be found living there. It appears throughout this back and forth between God and Abraham that the effectual, fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.

 

The cities of Sodom and Gomorrah were exceedingly wicked (Gen. 13:13){12] because the men of these cities were given over to sexual practices that were contrary to nature (Gen. 19:5; Jude 7; Rom. 1:27{13]). The words “sodomy” and “Sodomize” are synonyms for these homosexual practices. The men did not try to hide their sin (Isa. 3:9){22], nor would they repent (Jer. 23:14){14]. The sudden destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah is used in Scripture as an example of God’s righteous judgment of sinners (Isa. 1:9; 3:9{22]; Lam. 4:6; Zeph. 2:9; 2 Pe. 2:6{11]), and Jesus used it as a warning for people in the end times (Luke 17:28-32){15].

 

But why would Abraham want God to spare such wicked people? Wouldn’t it be far better if they were wiped off the face of the earth! Of course, Abraham’s first concern was for Lot and his family. In fact, Abraham had already rescued the people of Sodom solely because of Lot (Gen. 14:12-16), though none of the citizens seemed to appreciate what he had done for them. They all went right back into the old way of life and did not heed the warning of God.

 

But even apart from Lot’s situation (and he should not have been in Sodom in the first place), Abraham did not want to see all those people die and be lost forever. God is “not willing that any should perish” (2 Pe. 3:9), and He “will have all men to be saved” (1 Tim. 2:4). “I take no pleasure in the death of wicked people. I only want them to turn from their wicked ways so they can live” (Ezek. 33:11). The issue is not what kind of sins people commit, though some sins are worse than others, but that “the wages of sin is death” (Rom. 6:23) and beyond that, death is an eternal hell. Intercessors must have compassionate hearts and a deep concern for the salvation of the lost, no matter what their sins may be (see Rom. 9:1-3{16]; 10:1{17]).

 

 

33 And the LORD went his way, as soon as he had left communing with Abraham: and Abraham returned unto his place.

 

We must not get the idea that Abraham argued with the Lord, because he did not. He was very humble before the Lord as he presented his case (Gen. 18:27; 30-32). Abraham was sure that there were at least ten believers in the city.

 

Never underestimate the importance of a small number of believers. As few as ten people would have saved a whole city from destruction! If Lot had won only his own family to faith in the Lord, judgment would have been averted. Your personal witness today is important to God, no matter how insignificant you may feel.

 

Now the question arises: Why didn’t Abraham come on down lower than ten? I’ll tell you why: At this point he is afraid Lot is lost, and this disturbs him a great deal; so he is not going to come down any further. But he could have come down to one. He could have said, “Lord, if there is one in that city who is righteous, would You destroy the city?” Do you know what God would have said? He would have said, “If there is one who is righteous in that city, I am going to get him out of that city, because I would not destroy a righteous man with the city.” How do I know that is the way it would have been? Because that is the way it worked out. There was one righteous man there—Abraham didn’t believe it, but God knew him—and that one was Lot. God said to Lot, “Get out of the city, I cannot destroy it until you are out. He might have been destroyed along with the unrighteous Sodomites, but on this occasion a difference was made and the grace of God was manifested in a distinct manner for the sake of Abraham.

 

Did you know that the great tribulation period cannot come as long as the church is in the world? It just cannot come, my friend, because Christ bore our judgment, and the great tribulation is part of the judgment that is coming. This is the reason that the church cannot go through it. This is a glorious picture of that truth. We are going to see that Sodom and Gomorrah are a picture of the world—and what a picture! What a condition the world is in today—it is very much like Sodom and Gomorrah. That does not mean that the Lord is going to come tomorrow. I do not know—and no one else knows—when He will come. But He could come tomorrow, and it certainly would be in keeping with the carrying out of the picture which is before us here in Genesis.

 

Only when Abraham stop pleading did the Lord close the matter and depart. As for the fate of Sodom and Gomorrah, nothing more could be done; the judgment was inevitable.

 

 

scripture reference and special notes

{1] (Gen, 14:16) And he brought back all the goods, and also brought again his brother Lot, and his goods, and the women also, and the people.

 

{2] (Gen. 19:18-23) And Lot said unto them, Oh, not so, my Lord: 19 Behold now, thy servant hath found grace in thy sight, and thou hast magnified thy mercy, which thou hast shewed unto me in saving my life; and I cannot escape to the mountain, lest some evil take me, and I die: 20 Behold now, this city is near to flee unto, and it is a little one: Oh, let me escape thither, (is it not a little one?) and my soul shall live. 21 And he said unto him, See, I have accepted thee concerning this thing also, that I will not overthrow this city, for the which thou hast spoken. 22Haste thee, escape thither; for I cannot do any thing till thou become thither. Therefore the name of the city was called Zoar. 23 The sun was risen upon the earth when Lot entered into Zoar.

 

{3] (Prov. 14:34) Righteousness exalteth a nation: but sin is a reproach to any people.

 

{4] (Matt. 5:13) Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted? it is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men.

 

{5] (Lev. 10:3) Then Moses said to Aaron, "This is what the LORD meant when he said, 'I will show myself holy among those who are near me. I will be glorified before all the people.'" And Aaron was silent.

 

{6] (Gen. 19:1) That evening the two angels came to the entrance of the city of Sodom, and Lot was sitting there as they arrived. When he saw them, he stood up to meet them. Then he welcomed them and bowed low to the ground.

 

{7] (Amos 3:7) But always, first of all, I warn You through my servants the prophets. I, the Sovereign LORD, have now done this."

 

{8] (Ps. 25:14) Friendship with the LORD is reserved for those who fear him. With them he shares the secrets of his covenant.

 

{9] (John 15:15) I no longer call You servants, because a master doesn't confide in his servants. Now You are my friends, since I have told You everything the Father told me.

 

{10] (Deut. 32:4) He is the Rock; his work is perfect. Everything he does is just and fair. He is a faithful God who does no wrong; how just and upright he is!"

 

{11] (2 Pe. 2:6-9) Later, he turned the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah into heaps of ashes and swept them off the face of the earth. He made them an example of what will happen to ungodly people. 7 But at the same time, God rescued Lot out of Sodom because he was a good man who was sick of all the immorality and wickedness around him. 8 Yes, he was a righteous man who was distressed by the wickedness he saw and heard day after day. 9 So You see, the Lord knows how to rescue godly people from their trials, even while punishing the wicked right up until the Day of Judgment.

 

{12] (Gen. 13:13) The people of this area were unusually wicked and sinned greatly against the LORD.

 

{13] (Rom. 1:27) And the men, instead of having normal sexual relationships with women, burned with lust for each other. Men did shameful things with other men and, as a result, suffered within themselves the penalty they so richly deserved.

 

{14] (Jer. 23:14) But now I see that the prophets of Jerusalem are even worse! They commit adultery, and they love dishonesty. They encourage those who are doing evil instead of turning them away from their sins. These prophets are as wicked as the people of Sodom and Gomorrah once were.

 

{15] (Luke 17:28-32) "And the world will be as it was in the days of Lot. People went about their daily business -- eating and drinking, buying and selling, farming and building -- 29until the morning Lot left Sodom. Then fire and burning sulfur rained down from heaven and destroyed them all. 30Yes, it will be 'business as usual' right up to the hour when the Son of Man returns. 31On that day a person outside the house must not go into the house to pack. A person in the field must not return to town. 32Remember what happened to Lot's wife!

 

{16] (Rom. 9:1-3) In the presence of Christ, I speak with utter truthfulness—I do not lie—and my conscience and the Holy Spirit confirm that what I am saying is true. 2 My heart is filled with bitter sorrow and unending grief 3 for my people, my Jewish brothers and sisters. I would be willing to be forever cursed—cut off from Christ!—if that would save them.

 

{17] (Rom. 10:1) Dear brothers and sisters, the longing of my heart and my prayer to God is that the Jewish people might be saved.

 

{18] (Isa. 41:8) But you, O Israel, my servant, Jacob, whom I have chosen, you descendants of Abraham my friend,

 

{19] (Hos. 4:2) There is only cursing, lying and murder, stealing and adultery; they break all bounds, and bloodshed follows bloodshed.

 

{20] (Gen. 11:7) Come, let us go down and confuse their language so they will not understand each other."

 

{21] (Gen. 13:8-9) So Abram said to Lot, "Let's not have any quarreling between you and me, or between your herdsmen and mine, for we are brothers. 9 Is not the whole land before you? Let's part company. If you go to the left, I'll go to the right; if you go to the right, I'll go to the left."

 

{22] (Isa. 3:9) The look on their faces testifies against them; they parade their sin like Sodom; they do not hide it. Woe to them! They have brought disaster upon themselves.

 

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