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Genesis 18

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Abraham’s Visitors. 1#Chapters 18 and 19 combined form a continuous narrative, concluding the story of Abraham and his nephew Lot that began in 13:2–18. The mysterious men visit Abraham in Mamre to promise him and Sarah a child the following year (18:1–15) and then visit Lot in Sodom to investigate and then to punish the corrupt city (19:1–29). Between the two visits, Abraham questions God about the justice of punishing Sodom (18:16–33). At the end of the destruction of Sodom, there is a short narrative about Lot as the ancestor of Moab and the Ammonites (19:30–38). The Lord appeared to Abraham by the oak of Mamre, as he sat in the entrance of his tent, while the day was growing hot. 2Looking up, he saw three men standing near him. When he saw them, he ran from the entrance of the tent to greet them; and bowing to the ground,#Heb 13:1–2. 3he said: “Sir,#Abraham addresses the leader of the group, whom he does not yet recognize as the Lord; in the next two verses he speaks to all three men. The other two are later (Gn 19:1) identified as angels. The shifting numbers and identification of the visitors are a narrative way of expressing the mysterious presence of God. if it please you, do not go on past your servant. 4Let some water be brought, that you may bathe your feet, and then rest under the tree. 5Now that you have come to your servant, let me bring you a little food, that you may refresh yourselves; and afterward you may go on your way.” “Very well,” they replied, “do as you have said.”
6Abraham hurried into the tent to Sarah and said, “Quick, three measures#Three measures: Hebrew seah; three seahs equal one ephah, about half a bushel. of bran flour! Knead it and make bread.” 7He ran to the herd, picked out a tender, choice calf, and gave it to a servant, who quickly prepared it. 8Then he got some curds#Curds: a type of soft cheese or yogurt. and milk, as well as the calf that had been prepared, and set these before them, waiting on them under the tree while they ate.
9“Where is your wife Sarah?” they asked him. “There in the tent,” he replied. 10One of them#One of them: i.e., the Lord. said, “I will return to you about this time next year, and Sarah will then have a son.” Sarah was listening at the entrance of the tent, just behind him.#Gn 17:19; 21:1; 2 Kgs 4:16; Rom 9:9. 11Now Abraham and Sarah were old, advanced in years, and Sarah had stopped having her menstrual periods.#Gn 17:17; Rom 4:19; Heb 11:11–12. 12So Sarah laughed#Sarah laughed: a play on the verb “laugh,” which prefigures the name of Isaac; see note on 17:17. to herself and said, “Now that I am worn out and my husband is old, am I still to have sexual pleasure?” 13But the Lord said to Abraham: “Why did Sarah laugh and say, ‘Will I really bear a child, old as I am?’ 14Is anything too marvelous for the Lord to do? At the appointed time, about this time next year, I will return to you, and Sarah will have a son.”#Mt 19:26; Mk 10:27; Lk 1:37; 18:27; Rom 4:21. 15Sarah lied, saying, “I did not laugh,” because she was afraid. But he said, “Yes, you did.”
Abraham Intercedes for Sodom. 16With Abraham walking with them to see them on their way, the men set out from there and looked down toward Sodom. 17The Lord considered: Shall I hide from Abraham what I am about to do, 18now that he is to become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth are to find blessing in him?#Lk 1:55. 19Indeed, I have singled him out that he may direct his children and his household in the future to keep the way of the Lord by doing what is right and just, so that the Lord may put into effect for Abraham the promises he made about him. 20#Gn 19:13; Is 3:9; Lk 17:28; Jude 7. So the Lord said: The outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is so great, and their sin so grave,#The immorality of the cities was already hinted at in 13:13, when Lot made his choice to live there. The “outcry” comes from the victims of the injustice and violence rampant in the city, which will shortly be illustrated in the treatment of the visitors. The outcry of the Hebrews under the harsh treatment of Pharaoh (Ex 3:7) came up to God who reacts in anger at mistreatment of the poor (cf. Ex 22:21–23; Is 5:7). Sodom and Gomorrah became types of sinful cities in biblical literature. Is 1:9–10; 3:9 sees their sin as lack of social justice, Ez 16:46–51, as disregard for the poor, and Jer 23:14, as general immorality. In the Genesis story, the sin is violation of the sacred duty of hospitality by the threatened rape of Lot’s guests. 21that I must go down to see whether or not their actions are as bad as the cry against them that comes to me. I mean to find out.
22As the men turned and walked on toward Sodom, Abraham remained standing before the Lord. 23Then Abraham drew near and said: “Will you really sweep away the righteous with the wicked? 24Suppose there were fifty righteous people in the city; would you really sweep away and not spare the place for the sake of the fifty righteous people within it? 25Far be it from you to do such a thing, to kill the righteous with the wicked, so that the righteous and the wicked are treated alike! Far be it from you! Should not the judge of all the world do what is just?”#Dt 32:4; Jb 8:3, 20; Wis 12:15. 26The Lord replied: If I find fifty righteous people in the city of Sodom, I will spare the whole place for their sake. 27Abraham spoke up again: “See how I am presuming to speak to my Lord, though I am only dust and ashes!#Sir 10:9; 17:27. 28What if there are five less than fifty righteous people? Will you destroy the whole city because of those five?” I will not destroy it, he answered, if I find forty-five there. 29But Abraham persisted, saying, “What if only forty are found there?” He replied: I will refrain from doing it for the sake of the forty. 30Then he said, “Do not let my Lord be angry if I go on. What if only thirty are found there?” He replied: I will refrain from doing it if I can find thirty there. 31Abraham went on, “Since I have thus presumed to speak to my Lord, what if there are no more than twenty?” I will not destroy it, he answered, for the sake of the twenty. 32But he persisted: “Please, do not let my Lord be angry if I speak up this last time. What if ten are found there?” For the sake of the ten, he replied, I will not destroy it.#Jer 5:1; Ez 22:30.
33The Lord departed as soon as he had finished speaking with Abraham, and Abraham returned home.
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A Son Is Promised to Sarah
1The Lord appeared again to Abraham near the oak grove belonging to Mamre. One day Abraham was sitting at the entrance to his tent during the hottest part of the day. 2He looked up and noticed three men standing nearby. When he saw them, he ran to meet them and welcomed them, bowing low to the ground.
3“My lord,” he said, “if it pleases you, stop here for a while. 4Rest in the shade of this tree while water is brought to wash your feet. 5And since you’ve honored your servant with this visit, let me prepare some food to refresh you before you continue on your journey.”
“All right,” they said. “Do as you have said.”
6So Abraham ran back to the tent and said to Sarah, “Hurry! Get three large measures#18:6 Hebrew 3 seahs, about half a bushel or 22 liters. of your best flour, knead it into dough, and bake some bread.” 7Then Abraham ran out to the herd and chose a tender calf and gave it to his servant, who quickly prepared it. 8When the food was ready, Abraham took some yogurt and milk and the roasted meat, and he served it to the men. As they ate, Abraham waited on them in the shade of the trees.
9“Where is Sarah, your wife?” the visitors asked.
“She’s inside the tent,” Abraham replied.
10Then one of them said, “I will return to you about this time next year, and your wife, Sarah, will have a son!”
Sarah was listening to this conversation from the tent. 11Abraham and Sarah were both very old by this time, and Sarah was long past the age of having children. 12So she laughed silently to herself and said, “How could a worn-out woman like me enjoy such pleasure, especially when my master—my husband—is also so old?”
13Then the Lord said to Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh? Why did she say, ‘Can an old woman like me have a baby?’ 14Is anything too hard for the Lord? I will return about this time next year, and Sarah will have a son.”
15Sarah was afraid, so she denied it, saying, “I didn’t laugh.”
But the Lord said, “No, you did laugh.”
Abraham Intercedes for Sodom
16Then 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.
17“Should I hide my plan from Abraham?” the Lord asked. 18“For Abraham will certainly become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth will be blessed through him. 19I have singled him out so that he will direct his sons and their families to keep the way of the Lord by doing what is right and just. Then I will do for Abraham all that I have promised.”
20So the Lord told Abraham, “I have heard a great outcry from Sodom and Gomorrah, because their sin is so flagrant. 21I am going down to see if their actions are as wicked as I have heard. If not, I want to know.”
22The other men turned and headed toward Sodom, but the Lord remained with Abraham. 23Abraham approached him and said, “Will you sweep away both the righteous and the wicked? 24Suppose you find fifty righteous people living there in the city—will you still sweep it away and not spare it for their sakes? 25Surely you wouldn’t do such a thing, destroying the righteous along with the wicked. Why, you would be treating the righteous and the wicked exactly the same! Surely you wouldn’t do that! Should not the Judge of all the earth do what is right?”
26And the Lord replied, “If I find fifty righteous people in Sodom, I will spare the entire city for their sake.”
27Then Abraham spoke again. “Since I have begun, let me speak further to my Lord, even though I am but dust and ashes. 28Suppose there are only forty-five righteous people rather than fifty? Will you destroy the whole city for lack of five?”
And the Lord said, “I will not destroy it if I find forty-five righteous people there.”
29Then Abraham pressed his request further. “Suppose there are only forty?”
And the Lord replied, “I will not destroy it for the sake of the forty.”
30“Please don’t be angry, my Lord,” Abraham pleaded. “Let me speak—suppose only thirty righteous people are found?”
And the Lord replied, “I will not destroy it if I find thirty.”
31Then Abraham said, “Since I have dared to speak to the Lord, let me continue—suppose there are only twenty?”
And the Lord replied, “Then I will not destroy it for the sake of the twenty.”
32Finally, Abraham said, “Lord, please don’t be angry with me if I speak one more time. Suppose only ten are found there?”
And the Lord replied, “Then I will not destroy it for the sake of the ten.”
33When the Lord had finished his conversation with Abraham, he went on his way, and Abraham returned to his tent.