{6}         Sodom and Gomorrah (Gen 18—19)


Part I. Abraham under the Covenant (17:1—21:34)

I2.    Divine judgment and mercy (18:1—19:38)

·         God appeared again to Abraham at Hebron-Mamre, repeating the promise of a son. God also announced the destruction of the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. Abraham begged God to spare the cities for the sake of the righteous.

·         The end result was not one of the 2 scenarios described in the negotiation (no destruction or total destruction). Instead, the guilty were consumed and the innocent was spared. Even Lot’s request for the exemption of Zoar from destruction (Gen 19:21) was answered, showing that God did preserve the guilty on the account of the innocent Lot.

·         The visit by divine messengers to Sodom was followed by the salvation of the Lot’s family. After the destruction, the story concludes with the births of Lot’s sons by incest.


18:2     Abraham looked up and saw: This phrase often signals an important imminent event.

three men standing nearby: They included God (v.22) and 2 angels. Their sudden appearance suggested to Abraham that these people were extraordinary.

18:3     my lord: Abraham respectfully (“please” occrring twice in Hebrew) addressed one of the 3 men (singular) who must have stood out from among the others.

18:4     you may all wash: Abraham now addressed all 3, using plural verbs.

·         Hospitality is regarded as an important virtue both in OT and NT (Ro 15:7; 1Ti 3:2; 2Jn 2:9; 3:9; Heb 13:2). A good host provides food and protection for the guests.

18:6-8  Abraham hurried: Abraham busily set his house in action, asking Sarah and a servant to prepare a lavish meal of bread, meat, curds, and milk. While the visitors ate, Abraham waited on them. All these showed his extraordinary generosity.

18:10   I will surely return: It is in emphatic Hebrew. The certainty was doubtless because a time (this time next year) was fixed.

18:11   already old and well advanced in years: The impossibility of Sarah’s pregnancy is stressed in 3 descriptions: (1) already old—89 years old, (2) well advanced in years—“coming with days” in Hebrew, passing the prime of life, (3) past the age of childbearing—past menopause.

18:12   Sarah laughed to herself: Sarah felt it was a joke.

18:14   too hard: The Hebrew means “wonderful” in the sense of extraordinary. God’s works are exceptional by human standards, evoking amazement.

18:19   the way of the LORD: It is a lifestyle that conforms to God’s prescription: to be “right and just”. “Right” means upright behaviour of not committing sin. “Just” means social equity—treating those without power and wealth with fairness. Yet, Sodom committed just the opposite.

18:20   outcry: (Heb. seaqa) the woeful cry of victims who suffer sins and injustice; contrasting the “right” (Heb. sedaqa) of Abraham. If the outcry reached heaven, surely the magnitude of their sinfulness must be known to the whole region including Abraham.

18:23   Will you sweep away the righteous: Abraham’s argument was founded on the pillars of divine justice and divine mercy. “Righteous” means conformity to God’s moral law.

18:32   For the sake of ten: Some wonder why Abraham stopped his plea at 10. Some suggest that 10 is the smallest natural limit or social entity (Ru 4:2). Perhaps Abraham was assured that God was merciful and would discriminate between the wicked and the righteous. The tragedy of the story is that Sodom did not have even 10 righteous people.

19:1     The two angels arrived at Sodom: The two came from Abraham’s tent. They were strangers and aliens in Sodom. There is a special place for the alien in Biblical law. The alien, widow, and orphan constituted the disadvantaged in society; Israelite law provided special protections for these people by promoting generous treatment (Lev 19:10; Nu 9:14; Dt 1:16).

Lot was sitting in the gateway: The city gate was the traditional location for civil decisions; Lot was perhaps influential in the community. However, he was later spurned as an alien (v.9).

19:2     No: The angels’ refusal was worded strongly, literally “no, indeed.” Normally, the house would be safer than the square. Perhaps the angels knew that Lot would jeopardize his own family if they followed him to his house.

19:3     baking bread without yeast: Lot was unprepared and could only provide an inferior meal.

19:4     all the men from every part: involving men from every sector of the city and each age group.

we can have sex with them: They made no pretense about their intention of assualting the visitors sexually—showing Sodomites’ blatant shamelessness.

19:9     as an alien: Although Lot was living in the city, he was still regarded as an outsider. They rejected Lot’s judgment that their behaviour was wicked.

19:10–11         the men inside: The angels had heard and seen enough. They struck the people outside with blindness, perhaps only temporarily, giving Lot sufficient time to escape.

19:15–17         Flee for your lives: The angels twice exhorted Lot to flee but he was uncooperative. First, he hesitated but the angels forced them out of the city. Second, he stopped and bargained to divert to Zoar, one of the cities scheduled for annihilation.

19:24   rained down burning sulfur: The phrases “rained down” and “from the heavens” repeat the language of the Flood account (Gen 7:2; 8:2). The twin calamities of Noah and Lot illustrate Jesus’ teaching on the suddenness of the Second Coming of Christ.

19:26   she became a pillar of salt: Lot’s family was warned not to look back (v.17). Lot’s wife looked back and became salt (perhaps a coating of salt), probably showing her affections for her life at Sodom. Her tragic end became a dreaded lesson (Lk 17:32) for attachment to the world and for disobedience.

19:33   to drink wine: Lot got drunk and committed incest; Noah got drunk and disgraced himself. Drunkenness is a sin and could lead to many dangers.

19:37   Moab: meaning “from [my] father”.

19:38   Ben-Ammi: meaning “son of my [paternal] kinsman”. The descendants of Lot were later granted special concessions by the invading Israelites and Moses was forbidden to attack them (Dt 2:9,19).


·         Abraham was hospitable and well-prepared when entertaining the angels. Heb 13:2 suggests that we, like Abraham, migh actually entertain angels. This should be in our mind the next time we have the opportunity to meet a stranger’s needs.

·         Even in grave danger, Lot hesitated about leaving. He probably did not want to abandon wealth and comfort he enjoyed in Sodom. Do wealth and comfort bury our heart toward God today?