Genesis 18:23
And Abraham drew near, and said, Will you also destroy the righteous with the wicked?
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(23) Abraham drew near.—As Jewish commentators remark, this word is especially used of prayer, and Abraham’s intercession is unspeakably noble. Nor must we suppose that he thought only of Lot. Doubtless he remembered the day when he had restored the persons and spoil to the king of Sodom. He had then seen their human affection; the joy of parent meeting with child, and friend with friend; and he hoped that there were good people among them, and that so marvellous a deliverance would work in many of them a true repentance. Neither must we suppose that Abraham adroitly began with a large number, with the intention of lessening it. It was the readiness with which each prayer was heard which made him in his earnestness continue his entreaties. It thus illustrates the principle that the faith of the believer grows strong as he feels that his prayers are accepted, and he ventures finally to offer petitions, nothing wavering, which at an earlier stage would have seemed to him to ask more than he might venture to hope from the Divine goodness.

Destroy.—Heb., sweep away; and so in Genesis 18:24. The difference is not without force; for the verb “to sweep away” gives the idea of a more indiscriminate ruin than the usual word destroy, which Abraham substitutes for it in Genesis 18:28; Genesis 18:31-32.

Genesis 18:23. Abraham drew near — This expression intimates a holy concern, and a holy confidence; he drew near with an assurance of faith.18:23-33 Here is the first solemn prayer upon record in the Bible; and it is a prayer for the sparing of Sodom. Abraham prayed earnestly that Sodom might be spared, if but a few righteous persons should be found in it. Come and learn from Abraham what compassion we should feel for sinners, and how earnestly we should pray for them. We see here that the effectual, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much. Abraham, indeed, failed in his request for the whole place, but Lot was miraculously delivered. Be encouraged then to expect, by earnest prayer, the blessing of God upon your families, your friends, your neighbourhood. To this end you must not only pray, but you must live like Abraham. He knew the Judge of all the earth would do right. He does not plead that the wicked may be spared for their own sake, or because it would be severe to destroy them, but for the sake of the righteous who might be found among them. And righteousness only can be made a plea before God. How then did Christ make intercession for transgressors? Not by blaming the Divine law, nor by alleging aught in extenuation or excuse of human guilt; but by pleading HIS OWN obedience unto death.Abraham intercedes for Sodom. His spiritual character is unfolded and exalted more and more. He employs the language of a free-born son with his heavenly Father. He puts forward the plea of justice to the righteous in behalf of the city. He ventures to repeat his intervention six times, every time diminishing the number of the righteous whom he supposes to be in it. The patience of the Lord is no less remarkable than the perseverance of Abraham. In every case he grants his petition. "Dust and ashes." This may refer to the custom of burning the dead, as then coexistent with that of burying them. Abraham intimates by a homely figure the comparative insignificance of the petitioner. He is dust at first, and ashes at last.

This completes the full and free conversation of God with Abraham. He accepts his hospitable entertainment, renews his promise of a son by Sarah, communicates to him his counsel, and grants all his requests. It is evident that Abraham has now fully entered upon all the privileges of the sons of God. He has become the friend of God James 2:23.

- The Destruction of Sodom and Amorah

9. גשׁ־<הלאה gesh-hāl'âh, "approach to a distant point," stand back.

11. סנורים sanevērı̂ym, "blindness," affecting the mental more than the ocular vision.

37. מואב mô'āb, Moab; מאב mē'āb, "from a father." בן־עמי ben-‛amı̂y, Ben-'ammi, "son of my people." עמון ‛amôn, 'Ammon, "of the people."

This chapter is the continuation and conclusion of the former. It records a part of God's strange work - strange, because it consists in punishment, and because it is foreign to the covenant of grace. Yet it is closely connected with Abraham's history, inasmuch as it is a signal chastisement of wickedness in his neighborhood, a memorial of the righteous judgment of God to all his posterity, and at the same time a remarkable answer to the spirit, if not to the letter, of his intercessory prayer. His kinsman Lot, the only righteous man in Sodom, with his wife and two daughters, is delivered from destruction in accordance with his earnest appeal on behalf of the righteous.

Ge 18:23-33. Abraham's Intercession.

23. Abraham drew near, and said, &c.—The scene described is full of interest and instruction—showing in an unmistakable manner the efficacy of prayer and intercession. (See also Pr 15:8; Jas 5:16). Abraham reasoned justly as to the rectitude of the divine procedure (Ro 3:5, 6), and many guilty cities and nations have been spared on account of God's people (Mt 5:13; 24:22).

i.e. He approached unto God to inquire of him, and to pray unto him; for so the phrase of drawing near to God is used, 1 Samuel 14:36 Psalm 73:28 Isaiah 29:13 Hebrews 10:22. And Abraham drew near,.... To the Lord; he approached nearer to him, to have more close and intimate conversation with him on the subject of the destruction of Sodom, which he perceived, by what had been said, was like to be; he drew nigh to God in prayer; so the Targum of Jonathan,"and Abraham prayed and said;''he drew nigh with faith and freedom, and an holy boldness and confidence, and yet with great reverence of the divine Majesty, and in all humility, under a deep sense of his own meanness and unworthiness:

and said, wilt thou also destroy the righteous with the wicked? having in his mind righteous Lot, who dwelt in Sodom, whom he knew to be a just man, though he had departed from him, and was dwelling in such a wicked place; and he might charitably hope there were more in so large a city and in the parts adjacent, at least that were not so flagitious and abominably wicked as the greater part were, and who, in comparison of them, were sober and moral people.

And Abraham drew near, and said, Wilt thou also destroy the righteous with the wicked?
23. Abraham drew near] Abraham’s intercession comes as a reply to Jehovah’s statement in Genesis 18:20-21, from which the doom of the cities might be inferred. It forms one of the most striking and pathetic passages in the book. It expresses the generous instincts of the patriarch’s nature. Nothing can exceed the dignified simplicity and deference in the utterance of his submissive expostulation. What adds to the effect, is that the servant of Jehovah, the nomad sheikh, pleads on behalf of the people of the Plain, dwellers in cities, sunk in iniquity. His concern for Lot, doubtless, forms the motive of the intercession, though Lot’s name and relationship are not put forward in extenuation of the plea. The great principle on which it rests is that the action of God cannot be arbitrary; and that Jehovah will not act as the heathen gods, but only in accordance with the perfect standard of justice. The virtues of mercy and forgiveness, which operate in the human heart, are assumed to be proportionately more potent in the counsels of Jehovah. If this abstract reasoning holds good, the safety of Lot and his family may be left securely in the hands of perfect justice.

consume] A word for utter destruction, as in Genesis 19:15; Genesis 19:17.

the righteous with the wicked] Cf. especially the similar passage in Jeremiah 5:1, “run ye too and fro through the streets of Jerusalem … if ye can find a man, if there be any that doeth justly, that seeketh truth; and I will pardon her.”Verse 23. - And Abraham drew near. I.e. to Jehovah; not simply locally, but also spiritually. The religious use of יִגַּשּׁ as a performing religious services to God, or a pious turning of the mind to God, is found in Exodus 30:20; Isaiah 29:13; Jeremiah 30:21; and in a similar sense ἐγγίζω is employed in the New Testament (cf. Hebrews 4:16; Hebrews 10:22; James 4:8). The Jonathan Targum explains, "and Abraham prayed." And said. Commencing the sublimest act of human intercession of which Scripture preserves a record, being moved thereto, if not by an immediate regard for Lot (Lange), at least by a sense of compassion towards the inhabitants of Sodom, "communis erga quinque populos misericordia" (Calvin), which was heightened and intensified by his own previous experience of forgiving grace (Keil). Wilt thou also destroy the righteous with the wicked? The question presupposes that God had, according to the resolution of Ver. 17, explained to the patriarch his intention to destroy the cities of the plain. The object the patriarch contemplated in his intercession was not simply the preservation of any godly remnant that might be found within the doomed towns, but the rescue of their entire populations from the impending judgment, - only he does not at first discover his complete design, perhaps regarding such an absolute reversal of the Divine purpose as exceeding the legitimate bounds of creature supplication; but with what might be characterized as holy adroitness he veils his ulterior aim, and commences his petition at a Point somewhat removed from that to which he hopes to come. Assuming it as settled that the fair Pentapolis is to be destroyed, he practically asks, with a strange mixture of humility and boldness, if Jehovah has considered that this will involve a sad commingling in one gigantic overthrow of both the righteous and the wicked. After this conversation with Sarah, the heavenly guests rose up and turned their faces towards the plain of Sodom (פּני על, as in Genesis 19:28; Numbers 21:20; Numbers 23:28). Abraham accompanied them some distance on the road; according to tradition, he went as far as the site of the later Caphar barucha, from which you can see the Dead Sea through a ravine, - solitudinem ac terras Sodomae. And Jehovah said, "Shall I hide from Abraham what I propose to do? Abraham is destined to be a great nation and a blessing to all nations (Genesis 12:2-3); for I have known, i.e., acknowledged him (chosen him in anticipative love, ידע as in Amos 3:2; Hosea 13:4), that he may command his whole posterity to keep the way of Jehovah, to practise justice and righteousness, that all the promises may be fulfilled in them." God then disclosed to Abraham what he was about to do to Sodom and Gomorrah, not, as Kurtz supposes, because Abraham had been constituted the hereditary possessor of the land, and Jehovah, being mindful of His covenant, would not do anything to it without his knowledge and assent (a thought quite foreign to the context), but because Jehovah had chosen him to be the father of the people of God, in order that, by instructing his descendants in the fear of God, he might lead them in the paths of righteousness, so that they might become partakers of the promised salvation, and not be overtaken by judgment. The destruction of Sodom and the surrounding cities was to be a permanent memorial of the punitive righteousness of God, and to keep the fate of the ungodly constantly before the mind of Israel. To this end Jehovah explained to Abraham the cause of their destruction in the clearest manner possible, that he might not only be convinced of the justice of the divine government, but might learn that when the measure of iniquity was full, no intercession could avert the judgment-a lesson and a warning to his descendants also.
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