Text: Genesis 18:16-19:29
There is no question that Abraham had a unique relationship with God. While it’s difficult for us to imagine, the Lord and two angels unexpectedly visited Abraham on one occasion (Gen. 18:1-15).
They stayed long enough to enjoy a hastily prepared feast in honor of the extraordinary visit (v. 16). Later like any good host, Abraham walked a short distance with his departing guests.
“Then the men rose from there and looked toward Sodom, and Abraham went with them to send them on the way. And the Lord said, ‘Shall I hide from Abraham what I am doing, since Abraham shall surely become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him? 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.’And the Lord said, ‘Because the outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is great, and because their sin is very grave, 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.’ Then the men turned away from there and went toward Sodom, but Abraham still stood before the Lord.”
Abraham had a moment alone with the Lord as His angelic companions walked ahead. The Lord revealed startling details about the angel’s mission in the Valley of Siddim represented by the principal city of Sodom.
God confided in Abraham because he was the progenitor of the still future nation that would be the light to the world characterized by righteousness and justice (Isa. 49:6).
Although Abraham knew the reputation of the cities, he boldly, yet respectfully questioned the Lord. Are you surprised at Abraham’s concern for the people of Sodom and Gomorrah?
Remember, when Abraham rescued Lot’s household, he also liberated the captives of Sodom and Gomorrah at the same time (Gen. 14:14-16). The fact that he returned the captives and the spoils—after tithing one tenth to Melchizedek—demonstrates Abraham’s compassion for people.
“And Abraham came near [to the Lord] and said, ’Would You also destroy the righteous with the wicked? 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? 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?’” (18:23-25).
We just got a glimpse of Abraham as the father of chutzpah. (1) When Abraham probed, Would you destroy the righteous with the wicked? followed by, Shall not the judge of all the earth do right?, his boldness was not intended as an insult to the Lord. Rather, Abraham’s queries were an attempt to reconcile God’s judgment with the capricious nature of the gods venerated by prevailing culture.
He understood that the Lord requires moral accountability. Abraham’s concern was for the fate of the righteous. As the dialogue progressed, his questions become short, calculated projections testing the limits of God’s mercy.
Would God spare the city if He found 50 righteous? Would God spare the cities for 45? How about 40? 30? Or, 20? In each scenario, the Lord answers in the affirmative. Yes, He would spare the cities (vv. 26-33).
In a final attempt at intercession, Abraham concluded, “Suppose ten shall be found there?” (v. 32). Had Abraham come to the conclusion that only Lot’s family could be counted among the righteous?
The number ten may well refer to those of Lot’s extended family. There is a hint later in the passage.
“Then the men [angels] said to Lot, ‘Have you anyone else here? Son-in-law, your sons, your daughters, and whomever you have in the city—take them out of this place! For we will destroy this place, because the outcry against them has grown great before the face of the Lord, and the Lord has sent us to destroy it’” (19:12-14).
The term, your sons, obviously implies that Lot had more than one son. There were at least two, and possibly more. If ten from Lot’s family or other righteous individuals could have been found, Sodom would have been spared.
Scholars suggest that a minyan of ten adult men, which constitutes the smallest social structure in Judaism, would have been the natural place for Abraham to end his intercession. Abraham did not press the Lord further. Then, the angels traveled on to Sodom; and, the Lord left Abraham.
Through the encounter, Abraham learned that God never judges arbitrarily. Sadly, there weren’t even ten righteous people in Sodom. The Lord used the exchange to inform Abraham that the judgment was justified, but the righteous can also expect mercy.
When Abraham went back to the spot where his conversation with the Lord had taken place, he looked out over the valley, “and behold, the smoke of the land . . . went up like the smoke of a furnace” (v. 28).
Grasping the timeline prior to the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah helps clarify subsequent events.
- At dawn the morning following the angels’ arrival in Sodom, Lot, his wife and two daughters were physically dragged out of the city (v. 15).
- As the angels rescued Lot, they assured that the overthrow of the Sodom and Gomorrah would not begin until he reached the small city of Zoar (v. 22).
- After travelling through the night, Lot arrived in Zoar at sunrise the following day, which was the second day after Abraham’s intercession. (vv. 23-24).
Judgment occurred swiftly. Our impression of Lot’s wife wistfully gazing over her shoulder at Sodom is reinforced in art. A careful look at the biblical record, however, provides overlooked facts.
“So it came to pass, when they [the angels] had brought them outside, that he said, ‘Escape for your life! Do not look behind you nor stay anywhere in the plain. Escape to the mountains, lest you be destroyed.’ . . . But his wife looked back behind him, and she became a pillar of salt. (Gen. 19:17, 26).
The text reveals that instead of heeding the angel’s warning Lot’s wife lagged far behind him (v. 26). It is commonly taught that she was judged because of lust for the old way of life. For whatever reason, the text implies more than a lustful look back at Sodom. She was a considerable distance from Lot and their two daughters (v. 26).
That imagery raises all kinds of questions. Why didn’t Lot wait for her? Did she doubt the credibility of the angel’s warning? Did she say, I don’t want to go and turned toward home?
Other clues about Lot’s wife—who is identified as Idit or Edith by Jewish scholars—can be gleaned from the writings of the apostle Peter.
“And He [the Lord] condemned the cities of S’dom and ‘Amora, reducing them to ashes and ruin, as a warning to those in the future who would live ungodly lives; but He rescued Lot, a righteous man who was distressed by the debauchery of those unprincipled people; for the wicked deeds which that righteous man saw and heard, as he lived among them, tormented his righteous heart day after day.
So the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials and how to hold the wicked until the Day of Judgment while continuing to punish them, especially those who follow their old natures in lust for filth and who despise authority” (2 Peter 2:6-10a, CJB).
Three times Lot is described as a “righteous man.” Not so, for Lot’s wife or the rest of his family. She was given the opportunity to escape. She had a choice. She actually dissed God’s mercy by not believing the angel’s message and procrastinated along on the way. While looking back at the city, the text matter-of-factly describes Lot’s wife being overcome by debris and encrusted in the minerals forcibly ejected in the catastrophic judgement.
The late Henry Morris, author of the Genesis Record, believed the destruction was the result of a volcanic eruption coupled with high magnitude earthquakes. (2)
Recently, archaeologist Phillip Silvia of Trinity Southwest University proposed that a meteoric airburst—like one that took place in 1908 over Russia—may better explain what happened. (3) Equivalent to the energy of a 15-megaton nuclear explosion, 770 square miles of forest in Tunguska, Siberia were instantaneously flattened. A meteoric airburst occurs when a meteor doesn’t disintegrate in the upper atmosphere and explodes in the dense lower atmosphere.
Silvia’s proposal is compelling based on years of research. He suggests that the Siddim Valley was once home to some 40,000 – 65,000 people and became uninhabitable for 600 years following the destruction.
We tend to focus on the severity of the Lord’s judgment of Sodom and Gomorrah. In truth, when God’s mercy emerges as the bigger picture, Abraham’s compassion for people looms large.
Abraham’s example is so compelling because he had the chutzpah to bargain with the Lord on behalf of the people of Sodom. The very nature of his willingness to broach the topic was based on his intercessory faith. In the end, the angels rescued four because of Abraham’s bold intercession.
When Abraham interceded for Sodom on behalf of the righteous, he was acting in agreement with God’s plan and purposes. That’s the key to intercession. You can be assured that the Lord not only hears your prayers, but will answer when you pray according to His will.
Intercessory prayer aligns our will with God’s. It is not God who changes, but rather our thought processes mesh with His sovereign will and purposes.
The current pandemic may well be a wake-up call for the planet. As we deal with the COVID-19 threat, Christians have an obligation to intercede on behalf of the world, our country, our churches, our friends and families.
Boldly ask God to stop the global pandemic. Boldly pray for revival. Boldly intercede for all in your sphere of influence. Like Abraham, you can be assured that such intercessory prayer is fully within the scope of God’s will.
1) Chutzpah is a Yiddish term defined by Merriam-Webster as, “supreme self-confidence: nerve or gall.”
2) Henry Morris, The Genesis Record, (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1976) 357.
3) Berkowitz, Adam Eliyahu, “Did Scientists Just Confirm Biblical Account of Sodom and Gomorrah?” Breaking Israel News, November 23, 2018. https://www.breakingisraelnews.com/117449/scientists-confirm-sodom-gomorrah/
1) Abraham’s Chutzpah. (Image used for illustrative purposes) (Photo credits: Foreground by James Tissot/[PD-US, PD-Art]Wikimedia/[Public domain]/Background, Pixabay/Digital composition, MKM Portfolios)
2) Lot’s Wife Pillar. (Image used for illustrative purposes) (Photo credit: Pixabay/Enhancement, MKM Portfolios)
3) The Destruction Of Sodom And Gomorrah (c. 1852). (Image used for illustrative purposes) (Photo credit: By John Martin/[Public domain]/Wikimedia/enhancement, MKM Portfolios)
Copyright © 2016 Charles E. McCracken, devotional comments only. Repost/Reprint with permission from the author. Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Charles E. McCracken is an international Bible teacher, long-time friend of Israel and advocate for the Jewish people. Rev. McCracken authentically communicates biblical truth making his presentations relevant for those seeking to understand the significance of Israel and the church in Bible prophecy. He staunchly supports the nation of Israel and the Jewish people’s right to exist and live in peace.