Abraham Intercedes for Sodom
Then the men got up from their meal and looked out toward Sodom. As they left, Abraham went with them to send them on their way.
Genesis 18:16 (NLT)
This was another piece of primitive hospitality—to direct strangers in the way. Public roads did not then exist and guides were essentially necessary in countries where villages were seldom to be met with, and where solitary dwellings did not exist.
The Lord and the two angels left Abraham’s camp and started toward Sodom, but the Lord lingered while the angels went on. In the first half of the chapter, Abraham is running here and there; but in the last half, he is standing reverently before the Lord and interceding for Lot and the other people in Sodom. Blessed are the balanced!
Then GOD said, “Shall I keep back from Abraham what I’m about to do? Abraham is going to become a large and strong nation; all the nations of the world are going to find themselves blessed through him. Yes, I’ve settled on him as the one to train his children and future family to observe GOD’s way of life, live kindly and generously and fairly, so that GOD can complete in Abraham what he promised him.”
Genesis 18:17-19 (MSG)
How awesome it is that Almighty God has elevated us to a place of honor where He shares His plans with us!
Part of why the Lord chose Abraham was because He knew Abraham would command his children and household to follow the Lord. Certainly, one of the greatest proofs that this was true was the way Isaac submitted to his father when Abraham bound him to offer as a sacrifice.
It appears that the Lord spoke these things in front of Abraham. This must have blessed Abraham to hear this.
GOD continued, “The cries of the victims in Sodom and Gomorrah are deafening; the sin of those cities is immense. I’m going down to see for myself, see if what they’re doing is as bad as it sounds. Then I’ll know.”
Genesis 18:20-21 (MSG)
All people are sinners, but Sodom and Gomorrah were blatant with their sins (Isaiah 3:9). There is a difference between those who sin and are sorry for their sins and those who flaunt their sins in the face of God and man.
In Genesis 18:20, the Lord stated what the condition of Sodom and Gomorrah was, not what He had heard about it. Here, He said He would see if the deeds were according to the reports He had heard.
The other men turned and headed toward Sodom, but the LORD remained with Abraham.
Genesis 18:22 (NLT)
That is, the two angels who accompanied Jehovah were now sent towards Sodom; while the third, who is called the LORD or Jehovah, remained with Abraham for the purpose of teaching him the great usefulness and importance of faith and prayer.
Abraham Makes Intercession For It’s People
Abraham confronted him, “Are you serious? Are you planning on getting rid of the good people right along with the bad? What if there are fifty decent people left in the city; will you lump the good with the bad and get rid of the lot? Wouldn’t you spare the city for the sake of those fifty innocents? I can’t believe you’d do that, kill off the good and the bad alike as if there were no difference between them. Doesn’t the Judge of all the Earth judge with justice?”
Genesis 18:23-25 (MSG)
Here is the first solemn prayer upon record in the Bible; and it is a prayer for the sparing of Sodom. In his superb prayer of intercession for the few righteous men in Sodom, Abraham revealed the richer elements of his character—his generosity, sympathy, sensitivity, his concern for righteousness in God and man. Abraham prayed earnestly that Sodom might be spared, if but a few righteous persons should be found in it. He showed that he understood God’s willingness to forgive and grant full pardon, and to deal with His creatures, though wicked, in accordance with revealed standards of justice and righteousness. He knew that Jehovah could be depended upon to act in keeping with his holy nature.
Come and learn from Abraham what compassion we should feel for sinners, and how earnestly we should pray for them.
Abraham knew more about Sodom’s future than the citizens themselves, including Lot. It is the separated believer who shares God’s secrets.
Sarah and the servants helped Abraham when he prepared a meal for the three visitors; but when it came to the ministry of intercession, Abraham had to serve alone. Abraham drew near to the Lord (James 4:8), and the Hebrew word means “to come to court to argue a case.” Abraham was burdened for Lot and Lot’s family, as well as for the lost sinners in the five cities of the plain; and he had to share that burden with the Lord.
Abraham’s prayer was based not on the mercy of God but on the justice of God.
A just and holy God could not destroy righteous believers with wicked unbelievers; and Lot was a believer (2 Peter 2:6-9), even though his actions and words seemed to belie the fact.
The cities of Sodom and Gomorrah were exceedingly wicked (Gen. 13:13) because the men of these cities were given over to sexual practices that were contrary to nature (19:5; Jude 7; Rom. 1:27). The words “sodomy” and “sodomize” are synonyms for these homosexual practices. The men did not try to hide their sin (Isa. 3:9), nor would they repent (Jer. 23:14). The sudden destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah is used in Scripture as an example of God’s righteous judgment on sinners (Isa. 1:9; 3:9; Lam. 4:6; Zeph. 2:9; 2 Peter 2:6), and Jesus used it as a warning for people in the end times (Luke 17:28-32).
But why would Abraham want God to spare such wicked people?
Far better that they should be wiped off the face of the earth! Of course, Abraham’s first concern was for Lot and his family. In fact, Abraham had already rescued the people of Sodom solely because of Lot (Gen. 14:12-16), though none of the citizens seemed to appreciate what he had done for them. They all went right back into the old way of life and did not heed the warning of God.
But even apart from Lot’s situation (and he should not have been in Sodom in the first place), Abraham did not want to see all those people die and be lost forever. God is “not willing that any should perish” (2 Peter 3:9), and He “will have all men to be saved” (1 Tim. 2:4). “I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live” (Ezek. 33:11). The issue is not what kind of sins people commit, though some sins are certainly worse than others, but that “the wages of sin is death” (Rom. 6:23) and beyond that death is an eternal hell. Intercessors must have compassionate hearts and a deep concern for the salvation of the lost, no matter what their sins may be.
And the LORD replied, “If I find fifty righteous people in Sodom, I will spare the entire city for their sake.”
Genesis 18:26 (NLT)
This establishes a precedent that the Lord will not bring judgment upon the many who deserve it for the sake of the few righteous people.
Abraham came back, “Do I, a mere mortal made from a handful of dirt, dare open my mouth again to my Master? What if the fifty fall short by five—would you destroy the city because of those missing five?”
He said, “I won’t destroy it if there are forty-five.”
Abraham spoke up again, “What if you only find forty?”
“Neither will I destroy it if for forty.”
He said, “Master, don’t be irritated with me, but what if only thirty are found?”
“No, I won’t do it if I find thirty.”
He pushed on, “I know I’m trying your patience, Master, but how about for twenty?”
“I won’t destroy it for twenty.”
He wouldn’t quit, “Don’t get angry, Master—this is the last time. What if you only come up with ten?”
“For the sake of only ten, I won’t destroy the city.”
Genesis 18:27-32 (MSG)
We must not get the idea that Abraham argued with the Lord, because he did not. He was very humble before the Lord as he presented his case. Abraham was sure that there were at least ten believers in the city.
Never underestimate the importance of even a small number of believers. As few as ten people would have saved a whole city from destruction! If Lot had won only his own family to faith in the Lord, judgment would have been averted. Your personal witness today is important to God, no matter how insignificant you may feel.
When Abraham left off interceding, he had God’s promise that He would spare Sodom if as many as ten righteous persons could be found therein. But when the required number could not be found, nothing could avert the catastrophe. Intercessory prayer always brings out the best in men. Their unselfish concern for others shines like a beautiful jewel. In pleading with the Lord, Abraham clearly demonstrated genuine love and concern. And he experienced anew the friendship of God in His willingness to counsel with him and grant him a special revelation before the doom fell.
Scripture records here an amazing exchange between the Lord and Abraham. In all of the Bible there is nothing quite like it. In these verses Abraham is negotiating with God over the fate of Sodom and its inhabitants. But this is no game. Abraham isn’t bargaining with a peddler over the cost of his wares; the lives of many people hang in the balance. Abraham has followed God long enough and knows Him well enough to stand confident as he presses and probes the extent of God’s mercy. God’s mercy, he learns, runs deep; but there are limits, and Sodom has crossed the line.
When God finished talking with Abraham, he left. And Abraham went home.
Genesis 18:33 (MSG)
DECLARATION OF FAITH
I am bold to stand before God and speak to Him on behalf of those in need. I pray this declaration of faith in Jesus’ name, Amen.
Adam Clarke’s Commentary
Andrew Wommack’s Living Commentary
Bible Exposition Commentary – Be Obedient
Matthew Henry Concise Bible Commentary
The Complete Personalized Promise Bible
The Wycliffe Bible Commentary