16 Then the men rose from there and looked toward Sodom, and Abraham went with them to send them on the way.
17 And the Lord said, “Shall I hide from Abraham what I am doing,
18 since Abraham shall surely become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him?
19 For I have known him, in order that he may command his children and his household after him, that they keep the way of the Lord, to do righteousness and justice, that the Lord may bring to Abraham what He has spoken to him.”
20 And the Lord said, “Because the outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is great, and because their sin is very grave,
21 I will go down now and see whether they have done altogether according to the outcry against it that has come to Me; and if not, I will know.”
22 Then the men turned away from there and went toward Sodom, but Abraham still stood before the Lord.
23 And Abraham came near and said, “Would You also destroy the righteous with the wicked?
24 Suppose there were fifty righteous within the city; would You also destroy the place and not spare it for the fifty righteous that were in it?
25 Far be it from You to do such a thing as this, to slay the righteous with the wicked, so that the righteous should be as the wicked; far be it from You! Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?”
26 So the Lord said, “If I find in Sodom fifty righteous within the city, then I will spare all the place for their sakes.”
27 Then Abraham answered and said, “Indeed now, I who am but dust and ashes have taken it upon myself to speak to the Lord:
28 Suppose there were five less than the fifty righteous; would You destroy all of the city for lack of five?” So He said, “If I find there forty-five, I will not destroy it.”
29 And he spoke to Him yet again and said, “Suppose there should be forty found there?” So He said, “I will not do it for the sake of forty.”
30 Then he said, “Let not the Lord be angry, and I will speak: Suppose thirty should be found there?” So He said, “I will not do it if I find thirty there.”
31 And he said, “Indeed now, I have taken it upon myself to speak to the Lord: Suppose twenty should be found there?” So He said, “I will not destroy it for the sake of twenty.”
32 Then he said, “Let not the Lord be angry, and I will speak but once more: Suppose ten should be found there?” And He said, “I will not destroy it for the sake of ten.”
33 So the Lord went His way as soon as He had finished speaking with Abraham; and Abraham returned to his place.
After the message had been given concerning Sarah, it became apparent that the three men had another mission to perform as well. They faced south toward Sodom, and two of the men, the two angels, set out in that direction. the Lord, however, remained behind to engage Abraham in another, most remarkable, conversation.
Although the iniquity of the Amorites was not yet full, the sin of Sodom and Gomorrah, and probably also the other three cities of the plain, had become very grievous. The long-suffering of the Lord had been about exhausted in their case, and the time of their judgment was drawing nigh.
Their sin was particularly inexcusable in that they, more than any of the other cities in the land of Canaan, had seen the power of the Lord. They had been wonderfully delivered from a horrible fate at the hands of the kings of the East through Abraham’s divinely empowered rescue, and had heard the testimony of Melchizedek. — Morris, page 341.
The Lord wanted Abraham to know His intentions toward Sodom and Gomorrah. After all, Lot and his family were there. Furthermore, as the “friend of God” (James 2:23), Abraham needed to know the reason for the terrible destruction the cities were about to undergo. … The desolate region of Sodom would, in the centuries to come, be a perpetual warning to Israel that, although God is gracious and merciful and long-suffering, He is also a God of wrath (Jude 1:7), and he will not spare when the time of His judgment comes.
God gives a striking testimony to Abraham’s character: “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.” The verb “know” conveys the thought that God knew him as an intimate friend. He could trust him with the information He was to give, and could know that he would use it faithfully as a vehicle of instruction to his descendants. — Morris, page 342.
justice (v. 19) = righteousness
Several important principles become evident from a study of this amazing dialogue. First, God does not want to bring judgment on any city or on any person. … Abraham’s prayer was highly reverent—never presumptuous at all—yet persistent and definite. — Morris, page 344.
Although Sodom is the specific city referred to in the dialogue, and no doubt was the chief city of the five, it should not be forgotten that all five cities of the plain were intended to be the subjects of the imminent destruction. Later, in response to Lot’s request, the small city of Zoar was spared, but otherwise “God destroyed the cities of the plain” (Genesis 19:29; note also Deuteronomy 29:23).
Abraham thought he knew of at least ten righteous people in Sodom. There dwelt Lot and his wife, their two sons (Genesis 19:12), two married daughters and their husbands (Genesis 19:14), and two unmarried daughters (Genesis 19:8), a total of ten. …
There’s no way of knowing whether God would have spared the city for, say, only four people—the number that actually were taken by the angels out of the city before the fire fell. … At any rate, Abraham assuredly did know that the “judge of all the earth would do right,” and let it at this point in His hands. — Morris, pages 344-345.
Abraham rhetorically avers that the Lord will not sweep away the righteous (that is, those who are reckoned, not actually, righteous) of Sodom along with the wicked, and that as Judge of all the earth He is expected to do justly. In his theological naivete, Abraham is in fact merging two distinct expectations: (1) that God acts justly by treating the (reckoned) righteous differently from the wicked, and (2) that He act mercifully by not executing Sodom’s just punishment in consideration of the few righteous within her. In adhering to perfect justice God is not obligated to spare the righteous from the consequences of life in a corrupt and fallen world—and, indeed, both in Scripture and following world history are innumerable examples of individuals suffering because of the sins and crimes of those among whom they live; rather, He is obligated to mete out justice at the point when judgment is to be passed—to wit, at the resurrection of the dead, when some (the reckoned righteous) will be acquitted and experience “everlasting life” and others (the wicked) will be condemned and experience “everlasting contempt” (see Daniel 12:2; Revelation 20:4-15). However, because Abraham at this point is still little more than an “infant” in faith, God condescends to demonstrate His justice (in combination with mercy) prior to the point of proper final judgment so as to visibly instruct Abraham in these essential divine attributes. — Wechsler, pages 199-200.
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