It was either this or Hosea, beloved reader, and both passages seem to be dealing with sinfulness that has a purpose. I do not know which passage had the lessor of two evils – this or Hosea 1:2-10 . The question of which is the greater or the lessor, I will leave to you beloved reader.
“Then the LORD said, “How great is the outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah and how very grave their sin! I must go down and see whether they have done altogether according to the outcry that has come to me; and if not, I will know.” (Genesis 18: 20 – 21)
Interesting things about this passage. First, it comes soon after the Lord God appearing in conjunction with the three men who are offered hospitality by Abraham, and when Abraham and Sarah are told to expect the birth of a son very soon. Second, there is a wonderful discussion as to whether Abraham should be told about what the Lord God expects to find in Sodom & Gomorrah. The Divine decides to let Abraham know because, “I have chosen him, that he may charge his children and his household after him to keep the way of the Lord by doing righteousness and justice; so that the Lord may bring about for Abraham what he has promised him.” (Verse 19b) This explains why Abraham is right there with the Divine and takes part of the discussion as to that twin city’s fate. And third, the three men are the eyes and ears of the Divine.
“So the men turned from there, and went toward Sodom, while Abraham remained standing before the LORD. Then Abraham came near and said, “Will you indeed sweep away the righteous with the wicked?
Suppose there are fifty righteous within the city; will you then sweep away the place and not forgive it for the fifty righteous who are in it? Far be it from you to do such a thing, to slay the righteous with the wicked, so that the righteous fare as the wicked! Far be that from you! Shall not the Judge of all the earth do what is just?” (Verses 22 – 25)
You have to wonder though, how Abraham had the bravery to barter with the Divine. We know that Abraham had family in Sodom/Gomorrah, and that they alone (at least most of them) are spared. And only at Abraham’s request. And if Sodom/Gomorrah was a large city or set of cities, why did Abraham start at such a comparatively low number?
“And the LORD said, “If I find at Sodom fifty righteous in the city, I will forgive the whole place for their sake.” Abraham answered, “Let me take it upon myself to speak to the Lord, I who am but dust and ashes.
Suppose five of the fifty righteous are lacking? Will you destroy the whole city for lack of five?” And he said, “I will not destroy it if I find forty-five there.” (Verses 26 – 28)
I did a little research, and the most probable size of the two cities were 2,400 people. That is quite small, actually. Think, beloved reader, of the small towns you know or maybe even the small town you live in or were born. If “disaster” was imminent, would there be enough righteous people in it for it to be saved?
“Again he spoke to him, “Suppose forty are found there.” He answered, “For the sake of forty I will not do it.” Then he said, “Oh do not let the Lord be angry if I speak. Suppose thirty are found there.” He answered, “I will not do it, if I find thirty there.” He said, “Let me take it upon myself to speak to the Lord. Suppose twenty are found there.” He answered, “For the sake of twenty I will not destroy it.” (Verses 29 – 31)
Abraham must have known something about the cities. At this point I am wondering why Abraham’s extended family were living there. I had wondered about that off and on when encountering the story. And if you read ahead (as I did) you will read that Lot and his family are really not a part of the city; that is, the evil and sinfulness had not really touched them.
“Then he said, “Oh do not let the Lord be angry if I speak just once more. Suppose ten are found there.” He answered, “For the sake of ten I will not destroy it.” (Verse 32)
The question I had posed at the beginning of my comments was which Old Testament passage deals with the greater sinfulness. And to be honest, I am not sure. Hosea was told to pick a wife that had a reputation and history of being unfaithful. It was so that the Divine could give object lessons to house of Israel. Here, in this passage from Genesis, we can see that sinfulness was rampant many generations before the Israelites established their kingdom. Sinfulness lays in wait for anyone who ventures out in the world. A sobering thought. Be careful, beloved reader, and shalom!