First, Janathon: I ran and walked 2 miles with a friend getting back into running. Then I ran one more mile alone. Still sore from yesterday’s self-induced torture.
Ever notice the two cities are intrinsically linked, all the time? It’s rarely Sodom all by its lonesome. Gomorrah never gets a stand-alone mention. It’s like the two cities are Siamese twins. Maybe it’s like Kelso-Longview in Washington, or Minneapolis-St. Paul. Anyway, I read up on it in Genesis 19 today.
First rewind to chapter 18. The first half of Genesis 18 is all about a trio of angels who visit Abraham to confirm yet again that Sarah will bear a son. Read about it in verses 1-15. The second half of the chapter is God consulting with Abraham.
“Should I hide my plan from Abraham?” the Lord asked. “For Abraham will certainly become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth will be blessed through him. I have singled him out so that he will direct his sons and their families to keep the way of the Lord by doing what is right and just. Then I will do for Abraham all that I have promised.”
So the Lord told Abraham, “I have heard a great outcry from Sodom and Gomorrah, because their sin is so flagrant. I am going down to see if their actions are as wicked as I have heard. If not, I want to know.” – Genesis 17-20
I doubt God was uninformed about Sodom’s sins. But I think perhaps he wanted to hear from someone on the ground, so to speak, as confirmation. The next passage tells of two of the angels departing towards Sodom, but the Lord – a preincarnate version of Christ – stayed behind. A mystery, that.
The other men turned and headed toward Sodom, but the Lord remained with Abraham. Abraham approached him and said, “Will you sweep away both the righteous and the wicked? Suppose you find fifty righteous people living there in the city—will you still sweep it away and not spare it for their sakes? Surely you wouldn’t do such a thing, destroying the righteous along with the wicked. Why, you would be treating the righteous and the wicked exactly the same! Surely you wouldn’t do that! Should not the Judge of all the earth do what is right?”
And the Lord replied, “If I find fifty righteous people in Sodom, I will spare the entire city for their sake.” – Genesis 18:22-26
Abraham manages to talk God into saving the city if 10 righteous people live there. I guess he decided he better not push it any further. The matter dropped.
In the next chapter, judgment falls on the evil twin cities. Lot and his family managed to escape, with serious cajoling from the angelic visitor. They urge Lot and his family to get out of Dodge. They finally realize the imminent total devastation and run to a small city nearby, called Zoar. Despite dire warnings, Lot’s wife takes one last look at her home and turns into a pillar of salt.
Skipping over the alcohol-induced incest involving Lot and his daughters, the chapter ends with Abraham.
Abraham got up early that morning and hurried out to the place where he had stood in the Lord’s presence. He looked out across the plain toward Sodom and Gomorrah and watched as columns of smoke rose from the cities like smoke from a furnace.
But God had listened to Abraham’s request and kept Lot safe, removing him from the disaster that engulfed the cities on the plain. – Genesis 19:27-29
Abraham’s dialogue with God had to do with saving Lot and his family. This wasn’t the first time he rescued his nephew (see Genesis 14). This bargaining with God fascinates me. I wonder why he didn’t ask God directly to save Lot; perhaps he was unsure if Lot was even “righteous”. It seems to be the earliest form of intercession, a type of prayer, as a conversation with the Almighty. It looks like it worked, even though 10 people didn’t make it out of the city. Maybe Abraham’s righteousness before God saved Lot and his kin. We may never know.