19 September 2015

Genesis 18:16-33

“Then Abraham came near and said, ‘Will you indeed sweep away the righteous with the wicked?’” (v. 23)

Psalm: Psalm 93


The men, having been refreshed at the tent at Mamre, journey towards the city of Sodom. This city, about which we heard earlier (Genesis 13:13) when Lot chose to travel that way, was already a corrupt and Godless place.

Abraham walks with the men to set them on their way, and again we have the voice of the Lord, first of all speaking to himself (verses 17-18), should he or should he not tell Abraham what was about to happen there? The decision is that if Abraham is to be truly the father of the people then he must be told. So he hears not only about the judgement on Sodom (something which has already been fixed), but also that the Lord is going first to test the city which already has incriminated itself.

Abraham, wrestling with the horrendous thought that the whole city will be destroyed, is moved by compassion. He has a conversation with the Lord, asking how many righteous people need to be living in Sodom before the city can be saved. The conversation begins with quite a large figure and the assurance is given, but Abraham continues to be anxious, perhaps he remembers that many folk there are his own kinsfolk through Lot his nephew's family. If there are 30 righteous will you save the city? He receives the assurance he needs, but still he is uneasy and in verse 32 says "Oh let not the Lord be angry and I will speak again but this once. Suppose ten are found there" and receives the Lord's reply "for the sake of ten I will not destroy it". The die is cast, Abraham goes back to his home and the Lord goes on the way.

To Ponder

  • How do you react to God's somewhat ruthless decision to destroy a city because of the corruption of its people?
  • To what extent should Abraham as a man of faith even think of questioning God? Do you question God? If so how, and what is God's response?
  • What situations in today's world can be equated with the situation in Sodom when it comes to human decisions about warfare and destruction?

Bible notes author

The Revd Pat Billsborrow

Pat Billsborrow is a supernumerary minister in the Northwich and Winsford Circuit, and is at present part of a district ministry team working within that circuit with pastoral care of four churches. She is ecumenical officer in the Cheshire part of the Chester and Stoke on Trent Methodist District.