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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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The LORD’s Sixth Promise to Abraham
1The Lord appeared to Abraham by the oak trees belonging to Mamre as he was sitting at the entrance of his tent during the hottest part of the day. 2Abraham looked up, and suddenly he saw three men standing near him. When he saw them, he ran to meet them, and he bowed with his face touching the ground.
3“Please, sir,” Abraham said, “stop by to visit me for a while. 4Why don’t we let someone bring a little water? After you wash your feet, you can stretch out and rest under the tree. 5Let me bring some bread so that you can regain your strength. After that you can leave, since this is why you stopped by to visit me.”
They answered, “That’s fine. Do as you say.”
6So Abraham hurried into the tent to find Sarah. “Quick,” he said, “get three measures of flour, knead it, and make bread.”
7Then Abraham ran to the herd and took one of his best calves. He gave it to his servant, who prepared it quickly. 8Abraham took cheese and milk, as well as the meat, and set these in front of them. Then he stood by them under the tree as they ate.
9They asked him, “Where is your wife Sarah?”
He answered, “Over there, in the tent.”
10The Lord said, “I promise I’ll come back to you next year at this time, and your wife Sarah will have a son.”
Sarah happened to be listening at the entrance of the tent, which was behind him. 11Abraham and Sarah were old. Sarah was past the age of childbearing. 12And so Sarah laughed to herself, thinking, “Now that I’ve become old, will I enjoy myself again? What’s more, my husband is old!”
13The Lord asked Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh and say, ‘Can I really have a child now that I’m old?’ 14Is anything too hard for the Lord? I will come back to you next year at this time, and Sarah will have a son.”
15Because she was afraid, Sarah denied that she had laughed.
But the Lord said, “Yes, you did laugh.”
The LORD Tells Abraham about His Plan
16Then the men got up to leave. As Abraham was walking with them to see them off, they looked toward Sodom. 17The Lord said, “I shouldn’t hide what I am going to do from Abraham. 18After all, Abraham is going to become a great and mighty nation and through him all the nations of the earth will be blessed. 19I have chosen him so that he will direct his children and his family after him to keep the way of the Lord by doing what is right and just. In this way I, the Lord, will do what I have promised Abraham.”
20The Lord also said, “Sodom and Gomorrah have many complaints against them, and their sin is very serious. 21I must go down and see whether these complaints are true. If not, I will know it.”
22From there the men turned and went on toward Sodom, but Abraham remained standing in front of the Lord. 23Abraham came closer and asked, “Are you really going to sweep away the innocent with the guilty? 24What if there are 50 innocent people in the city? Are you really going to sweep them away? Won’t you spare that place for the sake of the 50 innocent people who are in it? 25It would be unthinkable for you to do such a thing, to treat the innocent and the guilty alike and to kill the innocent with the guilty. That would be unthinkable! Won’t the judge of the whole earth do what is fair?”
26The Lord said, “If I find 50 innocent people inside the city of Sodom, I will spare the whole place for their sake.”
27Abraham asked, “Consider now, if I may be so bold as to ask you, although I’m ⌞only⌟ dust and ashes, 28what if there are 45 innocent people? Will you destroy the whole city because of 5 fewer people?”
The Lord answered, “I will not destroy it if I find 45 there.”
29Abraham asked him again, “What if 40 are found there?”
He answered, “For the sake of the 40 I will not do it.”
30“Please don’t be angry if I speak again,” Abraham said. “What if 30 are found there?”
He answered, “If I find 30 there, I will not do it.”
31“Look now, if I may be so bold as to ask you,” Abraham said. “What if 20 are found there?”
He answered, “I will not destroy it for the sake of the 20.”
32“Please don’t be angry if I speak only one more time,” Abraham said. “What if 10 are found there?”
He answered, “I will not destroy it for the sake of the 10.” 33When the Lord finished speaking to Abraham, he left. Abraham returned home.