Genesis 18
Lange Commentary on the Holy Scriptures

Abraham in the Oak-Grove of Mamre, and the three Heavenly Men. Hospitality of Abraham. The definite announcement of the birth of a Son. Sarah’s Doubt. The announcement of the judgment upon Sodom connected with the Promise of the Heir of blessing. The Angel of the Lord, or the Friend of Abraham and the two angels of deliverance for Sodom. Abraham’s intercession for Sodom. The destruction of Sodom. Lot’s rescue. Lot and his Daughters. Moab and Ammon

CHS. 18 AND 19

1And the Lord appeared unto him in the plains of Mamre; and he sat in the tent-door in the heat of the day; 2And he lifted up his eyes and looked, and, lo, three men stood by him: and when he saw them, he ran to meet them from the tent-door, and bowed himself toward the ground, 3And said, My Lord [אֲדֹנָי not אֲדֹנִו],1 if now I have found favor in thy sight, pass not away, I pray thee, from thy servant: 4Let a little water, I pray you, be fetched, and wash your feet, and rest yourselves under the tree 5[enjoy the noonday rest]: And I will fetch a morsel of bread, and comfort [stay, strengthen] ye your hearts; after that ye shall pass on: for therefore are ye [even] come to your servant. And they said, So do, as thou hast said. 6And Abraham hastened into the tent unto Sarah, and said, Make ready [hasten] quickly three measures of fine meal, knead it, and make cakes upon the hearth. 7And Abraham ran unto the herd, and fetched a calf tender and good, and gave it unto a young man [a servant]; and he hasted 8to dress it. And he2 took butter, and milk, and the calf which he had dressed [caused to be dressed], and set it before them; and he stood3 by them under the tree, and they did eat.

9And they said unto him, Where is Sarah thy wife? And he said, Behold, in the tent. 10And he said, I will certainly return unto thee according to the time of life4 [return when this time of the next year shall be reached]; and lo, Sarah thy wife shall [then] have a son. And Sarah heard [was hearing] it in [behind] the tent-door, which [door] was behind him [Jehovah]. 11Now Abraham and Sarah were old and well stricken in age; and it ceased to be with Sarah after the manner of women. 12Therefore Sarah laughed within herself, saying, After I am waxed old shall I have pleasure, my lord being old [gray] also? 13And the Lord said unto Abraham, Wherefore did Sarah laugh saying, Shall I of a surety bear a child, which am [and I am] old? 14Is any thing too hard5 [an exception] for the Lord? At the time appointed I will return unto thee, according to the time of life [this time in the next year], and Sarah shall have a son. 15Then Sarah denied, saying, I laughed not; for she was afraid. And he said, Nay; but thou didst laugh.

16And the men rose up from thence, and looked toward Sodom: and Abraham went with them to bring them on the way. 17And the Lord6 said, Shall I hide from Abraham that thing which I do [will do];7 18Seeing that Abraham shall surely become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him? 19For I know [have chosen] him, that he will [shall] command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the Lord, to do justice and judgment; that the Lord may bring upon Abraham that which he hath spoken of him. 20And the Lord said, Because the cry [of the sins, Gen 4:10] of Sodom and Gomorrah is great, and because their sin is very grievous, 21I will go down now, and see whether they have done [until a decision] altogether8 according to the cry of it, which is come unto me; and if not, I will know. 22And the men turned their faces from thence, and went toward Sodom: but Abraham stood yet before the Lord.

23And Abraham drew near [bowing, praying], and said, Wilt thou also destroy the righteous with the wicked? 24Peradventure there be fifty righteous within the city [concealed in the mass]: wilt thou also destroy, and not spare the place for the fifty righteous that are therein? 25That be far from thee9 to do after this manner, to slay the righteous with the wicked: and that the righteous should be as the wicked [that it is all one both to the righteous and the wicked], that be far from thee: Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right? 26And the Lord said, If I find in Sodom fifty righteous within the city, then I will spare all the place for their sakes. 27And Abraham answered and said, Behold now [once] I have taken upon me to speak [to say] unto the Lord, which am but dust and ashes. 28Peradventure there shall lack five of the fifty righteous: wilt thou destroy all the city for lack of five? And he said, if I find there forty and five, I will not destroy it. 29And he spake unto him yet again, and said, Peradventure there shall be forty found there [if one should search for them]. And he Said, I will not do [will leave off to do] it for forty’s sake. 30And he said unto him, Oh let not the Lord be angry, and I will speak; Peradventure there shall thirty be found there. And he said, I will not do it if I find thirty there. 31And he said, Behold now I have taken upon me to speak unto the Lord: Peradventure there shall be twenty found there. And he said, I will not destroy it for twenty’s sake. 32And he said, Oh let not the Lord be angry, and I will speak yet but this once: Peradventure there shall be ten found there. And he said, I will not destroy it for ten’s sake. 33And the Lord went his way, as soon as he had left communing with Abraham: and Abraham returned unto his place.

Gen 19:1And there came two10 angels to Sodom at even; and Lot sat [was sitting] in the gate of Sodom: and Lot seeing them, rose up to meet them; and he bowed himself with his face toward the ground; 2And he said, Behold now, my lords,11 turn in, I pray you, into your servant’s house, and tarry all night, and wash your feet, and ye shall rise up early, and go on your ways. And they said, Nay; but we will abide in the street all night. 3And he pressed upon them greatly; and they turned in unto him, and entered into his house; and he made them a feast [literally, a banquet], and did bake unleavened bread, and they did eat.

4But before they lay down, the men of the city, even the men of Sodom, compassed the house round, both old and young, all the people, from every quarter [all collected]: 5And they called unto Lot, and said unto him, Where are the men which came in to thee this night? bring them out unto us, that we may know them. 6And Lot went out at the door unto them, and shut the door after him, 7And said, I pray you, brethren, do not so wickedly. 8Behold now, I have two daughters which have not known man; let me, I pray you, bring them out unto you, and do ye to them as is good in your eyes: only unto these men do nothing; for therefore came they under the shadow [and protection] of my roof [the cross-beams or rafters of the house]. 9And they said, Stand back. And they said again, This one fellow came in to sojourn, and he will needs be a judge:12 now will we deal worse with thee, than with them. And they pressed sore upon the man, even Lot, and came near to break the door. 10But the men put forth their hand, and pulled Lot into the house to them, and shut to the door. 11And they smote the men that were at the door of the house with blindness [dazzling blindnesses], both small and great; so that they wearied themselves to find the door.

12And the men said unto Lot, Hast thou here [in the city] any besides? son-in-law and thy sons, and thy daughters, arid whatsoever thou hast in the city, bring them out of this place: 13For we will destroy13 this place, because the cry of them [the outcry of their sins] is waxen great before the face of the Lord; and the Lord hath sent us to destroy it. 14And Lot went out and spake unto his sons-in-law, which married his daughters,14 and said, Up, get you out of this place; for the Lord will destroy [as a destroyer] this city. But he seemed as one that mocked15 unto his sons-in-law [Luther: he was ridiculous in their eyes].

15And when the morning arose, then the angels hastened Lot, saying, Arise, take thy wife, and thy two daughters, which are here [are found and rescued]; lest thou be consumedin the iniquity [the visitation for the iniquity] of the city. 16And while he lingered,16 the men laid hold upon his hand, and upon the hand of his wife, and upon the hand of his two daughters; the Lord being merciful unto him: and they brought him forth, and set him without the city.

17And it came to pass, when they had brought them forth abroad [into the open country], that he said, Escape for thy life [thy soul]; look not behind thee, neither stay thou in all the plain [valley-region]; escape to the mountain, lest thou be consumed. 18And Lot said unto them [the two passing from him; between whom Jehovah had revealed himself], Oh, not so, my Lord!17 19Behold now, thy servant hath found grace in thy sight, and thou hast magnified thy mercy, which thou hast showed unto me, in saving my life; and I cannot 20escape to the mountain, lest some [the] evil take me, and I die: Behold now this city is near to flee unto, and it is a little one: Oh let me escape thither! (is it not a little one?) and my soul [through its exemption] shall live. 21And he said unto him, See, I have accepted18 thee concerning this thing also, that I will not overthrow this city, for the which thou hast spoken. 22Haste thee, escape thither; for I cannot do anything till thou be come thither; therefore the name of the city was called Zoar [smallness].

23The sun was risen upon the earth when Lot entered19 into Zoar. 24Then the Lord rained upon Sodom and upon Gomorrah brimstone and fire from the Lord out of heaven;25And he overthrew those cities, and all the plain, and all the inhabitants of the cities, and that which grew upon the ground.

26But his wife looked back from behind him, and she became a pillar of salt.

27And Abraham gat up early in the morning to the place where he stood before the Lord: 28And he looked toward (עַל־פְּנֵי) Sodom and Gomorrah, and toward all the land of the plain, and beheld, and, lo, the smoke of the country went up as the smoke of a furnace [lime-kilns or metal-furnaces. The earth itself burned as an oven].

29And it came to pass when God [Elohim] destroyed the cities of the plain, that God remembered Abraham, and sent Lot out of the midst of the overthrow, when he overthrew the cities in the which Lot dwelt.

30And Lot went up out of Zoar, and dwelt in the mountain, and his two daughters with him; for he feared to dwell in Zoar: and he dwelt in a cave, he and his two daughters. 31And the firstborn said unto the younger [smaller], Our father is old, and there is not a man [besides] in the earth to come in unto us, after the manner of all the earth: 32Come, let us make our father drink wine, and we will lie with him, that we may preserve seed of our father. 33And they made their father drink wine that night: and the firstborn went in and lay with her father; and he perceived not [was not in a conscious state] when she lay down, nor when she arose. 34And it came to pass on the morrow, that the firstborn said unto the younger, Behold, I lay yesternight [nights] with my father: let us make him drink wine this night also; and go thou in, and lie with him, that we may preserve seed of our father. 35And they made their father drink wine that night also: and the younger arose and lay with him; and he perceived not when she lay down, nor when she arose. 36Thus were both the daughters of Lot with child by their father. 37And the firstborn bare a son, and called his name Moab [from the father; or seed of the father; son of my father; brother and son]: the same is the father of the Moabites unto this day. 38And the younger, she also bare a son, and called his name Ben-ammi [son of my people, son and brother]: the same is the father of the children of Ammon [= Ben-ammon] unto this day.


1. It is evident that these two chapters form but one section: the first verse of the 19th chapter forms the direct continuation of the previous narrative. [The connection of this chapter with the preceding is twofold, and very close. This forms the more complete unfolding of the promise, Gen 17:21, and the friendly intercourse which Jehovah here holds with the patriarch is the direct fruit of the symbolical purification of himself and his house through the rite of circumcision, Gen 17:23–27. Thus purified, the way was open for this friendly appearance and fellowship.—A. G.] The modern criticism attributes this section to the Jehovistic enlargement, and finds it necessary, therefore, to regard 19:29, as an Elohistic interpolation, which, in the original writing must have immediately followed Gen 17 (KNOBEL, p. 166). But there are the same strong internal reasons why the name Elohim should appear in Gen 19:29, as there are that Gen 17:1, should speak of Jehovah, and afterwards of Elohim. In this section, however, Jehovah appears in all other passages. The complete theophany of God corresponds to the completed promise of Isaac, the bearer of the covenant; and in this completed form of revelation he is Jehovah. But the announcement of the judgment upon Sodom and Gomorrah is essentially connected with the promise of the heir of blessing. The judgment itself, also, is a judgment of Jehovah; for, 1. The overthrow of Sodom and Gomorrah, through a fiery judgment, is an end of the world upon a small scale, with which the necessity, for that constant revelation of salvation, for the rescue of the world, whose foundation was now being laid, is clearly apparent. 2. With the firm confirmation of the father of the faithful in the future of his believing race, his relations to the world must also be actually and clearly defined, i.e., Abraham must prove his faith in his love, mercy, and his intercessions for Sodom also. 3. In the founding of this believing race, the overthrow of Sodom and Gomorrah, as a judgment of Jehovah, stands as a solemn warning for Abraham and his children, and through them for the world in all ages. The Dead sea could not remain without significance for the dwellers in Canaan. 4. Even the issue of the history of Lot belongs to the history of the completed promise; not only the position of Lot, intermediate between Abraham and Sodom, nor even his exemption and safety, which he owes to Abraham’s intercession, and his once better conduct, nor, on the other hand, the danger, terrors, losses, want, and moral disgrace into which he was betrayed through his worldly mind and his unbelief; but the issue of the history of Lot, his full separation from the theocratic obligations and privileges, and the descent from him of the Moabites and Ammonites, who were related to the Jews, and yet alien to them, belong also to the full presentation of the antithesis between the house of Abraham and the people of Sodom. 5. The abominations of Sodom, moreover, not only find a bright contrast in the consecrated marriage of Abraham and Sarah, but even a contrast in the incest with which the household of Lot was stained (see Introduction).—Knobel finds contradictions here which have no existence; e.g., between Gen 18:12 and 17:17; between the recapitulation, Gen 19:29, and the whole narrative of the overthrow of Sodom. He remarks upon the narrative, that the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah is not, in his view, a natural event, but a divine judgment, like the flood. He explains the narrative of the impure origin of the Moabites and Ammonites by a reference to the odious Jewish motives. In answer to this Keil refers to Deut. 2:9, 19, according to which Israel should not possess the land of these two nations on the ground of their descent from Lot, and remarks, they were first excluded from a position among the Lord’s people, on account of their unbrotherly conduct towards Israel (Deut. 23:4 ff.). Knobel here fails to recollect, that so far as the race of the chosen Judah is concerned, it was derived from an impure connection of Judah with his daughter-in-law, Thamar, just as in the remark, that the Jews gloried in the beauty of their ancestress, he failed to remember that Leah is especially described as not beautiful. He holds, that this narrative has an historical support, in the terrible fate of the vale of Siddim; but as to the rest, it is a pure mythical statement. [Aside from the fact that this supposition of the mythological character of the narrative overlooks the opposition referred to in the following sentence, it overlooks, also, the historical basis for this narrative in Gen 13:13, the close connection with the subsequent history, and the whole moral bearing and use of this history in both the Old and New Testaments.—A. G.] Of the two sides or aspects of the history, the prominent side, viz., the opposition between the manifestation of God to Abraham, and the judgment upon Sodom, is thus not properly estimated.

2. This Section may be divided into the following parts: 1. The appearance of Jehovah in the oak-grove of Mamre, and the promise of the birth of Isaac (Gen 18:1–15); 2. the revelation of the approaching judgment upon Sodom and Gomorrah to Abraham, and Abraham’s intercessory prayer (Gen 18:16–33); 3. the entrance of the two angels into Sodom, and the complete manifestation of the corruption of the Sodomites, in opposition to the better conduct of Lot (Gen 19:1–11); 4. the comparative unfitness of Lot for salvation, his salvation with difficulty, and the entrance of the judgment (Gen 18:12–29); 5. the departure of Lot, and his descendants (Gen 18:30–38).


1. The completed manifestation and promise of God in the oak-grove of Mamre (Gen 18:1–15).—The Lord appeared unto him.20—Both the reality of the manifestation, on the one hand, and the seeing in vision on the other, appear in the clearest and most distinct form in the history. The elements which belong to the vision appear first at the very beginning: he lifted up his eyes and looked; then, further, in the departure of Jehovah from Abraham (Gen 18:33); and in his reappearance to Lot (Gen 19:17). The objective element is seen especially in the threefold character of the manifestation, in the transaction between Jehovah and Sarah, and in the history of the two angels in Sodom; especially in the assaults of the Sodomites upon them. But the peculiarities serving to introduce these wonderful objective facts, lie partly in the peculiar character of the history, as the narrative of a vision, partly in its symbolic statements, and partly in its peculiar ghostly form. The destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah is near; for them the evening of the world has come. It is a prelude of the last day, in which the angelic appearance is entirely natural, and is introduced through an inner and spiritual anticipation of the judgment itself, in those who seek to resist its influence, by indulgence in wicked, or, as in the case of the Sodomites, in abominable, courses. Delitzsch thinks that Abraham recognized the unity of the God of revelation, in the appearance of the three men. As to this, see the remarks upon the Angel of the Lord, Gen 12. He adds: “One should compare the imitations of this original history among the heathen. Jupiter, Mercury, and Neptune, visit an old man, by name Hyricus, in the Boeotian city Tanagra; he prepares them a feast, and, though childless hitherto, receives a son in answer to his prayer (Ovid’s ‘Fast.,’ v. 494, etc.).” And then, further, the heathen accompaniment to Gen 19: “Jupiter and Mercury are journeying as men; only Philemon and Baucis, an aged, childless wedded pair, receive them, and these, therefore, the gods rescue, bearing them away with themselves, while they turn the inhospitable region lying around the hospitable hut into a pool of water, and the hut itself into a temple (Ovid’s Metam., viii. 611 ff.).” But the essential distinction between our ideal facts and these myths, lies in this, that while the first lie in the centre of history as causal facts or forces, having the most sacred and real historical results, these latter lie simply on the border ground of mythology. [How completely and thoroughly these words dispose of the whole mythical supposition in this as in other cases.—A. G.]—In the heat of the day.—“The dinner hour, when they took their principal meal (Gen 43:16, 25; 1 Kings, 20:16) and their accustomed rest (2 Sam. 4:5). VOLNEY (Travels, I. p. 314) says the Arab, when he takes his meal, sits at the door of his tent, in order to observe and invite those who are passing; and BURKHARDT (Arabian Proverbs, p. 331 f.), it is a custom in the East to eat before the door and to invite to a share in the meal every passing stranger of respectable appearance.” Knobel.—And bowed himself to the ground.—Abraham instantly recognizes among the three, the one whom he addresses as the Lord in a religious sense, who afterwards appears as Jehovah, and was clearly distinguished from the two accompanying angels, Gen 19:1. [The original Hebrew word is used to denote both civil and religious homage. The word itself, therefore, cannot determine whether Abraham intended by his bowing to express religious homage, though it is probable that he did.—A. G.] “They are three,” Delitzsch says, “because of the threefold object of their mission, which had not only a promising, but also a punitive, and saving character.” Against this interpretation, however, there is the fact that Jehovah not only speaks the promise, but sends the judgment also upon Sodom, and that not one, but both angels conducted the rescue of Lot. “If there lies,” says Delitzsch, further, “in the fact that God appears in the three angels, a trinitarian reference, which the old painters were accustomed to express, by giving to each of the three the glory which is the characteristic sign of the divine nature, still the idea that the Trinity is represented in the three is in every point of view untenable.” The germ of the doctrine of the Trinity lies, indeed, not in the three forms, but truly in the opposition between the heavenly nature of Jehovah and his form of manifestation upon the earth in the midst of the two angels, i.e., in this well-defined, clearly-appearing duality.—If now I have found favor.—Knobel and Delitzsch differ in the explanation of the אִס־נָא, etc. (Knobel: “If I have still found favor,” i.e., may it still be the case.) We agree with the Supposition that Abraham uses the expression in his prayer, out of the consciousness that he had already found favor, i.e., that his expression presupposes a covenant-relation between himself and Jehovah. The cordial invitation is in this case far more than oriental hospitality, but still Abraham uses the human greeting, as the heavenly forms wear the appearance of human travellers.—And wash your feet.—This is the first concern of the pilgrim in the East, when he enters the house after treading the sandy, dusty ways, with nothing but sandals. They were to rest themselves under the tree, leaning upon the hand in the oriental manner.21A morsel of bread.—A modest description of the sumptuous meal which he had prepared for them. His humble and pressing invitation, his modest description of the meal, his zeal in its preparation, his standing by to serve those who were eating, are picturesque traits of the life of faith as it here reveals itself, in an exemplary hospitality. “According to the custom still in use among the Bedouin sheiks (comp. LANE, “Manners and Customs,” II. p. 116), Abraham prepared, as soon as possible, from the cakes made by his wife from three seahs [About three pecks. A seah was about the third part of an ephah; the ephah was equal to ten omers, and the omer about five pints. Murphy.—A. G.] of fine meal, and baked under the ashes (עֻגּוֹת, unleavened cakes, baked upon hot, round stones), and a tender calf,22 with butter and milk, or curdled milk (KNOBEL: Cream), a very rich and pleasant-tasting meal.” Keil.—And he stood by them.—[Wordsworth here calls attention to the points of resemblance between this history and that of Zaccheus, Luke, 19:4, 6, 8, 9, and then says with great beauty and force: “This seems to be one of the countless instances where, in the tissue of the Holy Scriptures, the golden threads of the Old Testament are interwoven with those of the New, and form, as it were, one whole. p. 84.—A. G.] “This is the custom still in the Eastern countries. The Arab sheik, if he has respected guests, does not sit in order to eat with them, but stands in order to wait upon them.” (SHAW, “Travels,” p. 208; BUCKINGHAM, “Mesopotamia,” p. 23; and SEETZEN, “Travels,” I. p. 400, etc.) Knoble.—And they did eat.—In Judges, 13:16. the Angel of Jehovah refuses to eat. Knobel regards it as a mark of distinction to Abraham, that these heavenly messengers should eat. Since the two angels were entertained by Lot in Sodom, it would appear that the peculiar reception of the meal should be ascribed in a special sense to them. This, however, does not remove the difficulty, in the fact, that those coming from heaven should eat earthly food. The supposition of Neumann, that it is all a dream up to Gen 18:16, is refuted by the whole tenor of the narrative, but especially by the history of the entertainment of the two angels by Lot. JOSEPHUS, “Antiq.,” i.11, 2, Philo, the Targums, and the Talmud, explain the eating as a mere appearance. TERTULLIAN, on the contrary (“Adv. Marc.,” iii. 9), holds to a temporary incarnation. Delitzsch and Keil [So also Jacobus, after Kurtz, referring to John 1:14; Phil. 2:7; Luke, 24:44.—A. G.] agree with him, and both refer to the eating of the risen Saviour with his disciples. But the idea of a temporary incarnation in a peculiar sense, is an extremely anthropomorphic, and not well-grounded, assumption; and the bodily nature of the glorified Christ, of whom Augustin says: “that he ate is a fruit of his power, not of his necessity,” quod manducavit, potestatis fuit non egestatis, is not to be identified with the form of the manifestation of the angels. But Delitzsch gives still another explanation. “The human form in which they appeared, was a representation of their invisible nature, and thus they ate, as we say of the fire, it consumes (or eats) all (JUSTIN, Dial. cum Tryph., Gen 34).” There may be here an intimation of the mysterious fact, that the spiritual world is mighty in its manifestations, and overcomes the material, according to the figurative expression of Augustin: The thirsting earth absorbs the water in one way, the burning rays of the sun in another; that from want, this by power. [“Aliter absorbet terra aquam siliens, aliter solis radius candens: illa indigentia, iste potentia.” Thus BAUMGARTEN: That the angels could eat lies in their pneumatic nature, for the spirit has power over matter; that they did eat here is the very highest act of this divine sojourn or rest in the home of Abraham, p. 206.—A. G.]—Which was behind him.—The Angel of the Lord was placed with his back towards the door of the tent. But it greatly strengthens the real objective character of the manifestation, that Sarah also hears, and indeed hears doubting, the promise of the Angel.—According to the time of life.23—“The time of returning to life,” is the return of the same time in the next year. Time returns to life again apparently in the similar appearances of nature. Thus one form of time in nature expires after another, and becomes living again in the next year.—Wherefore did Sarah laugh.—Although Sarah only laughed within herself, and behind Jehovah and the tent door, yet Jehovah observed it. Her later denial (although, indeed, she had not laughed aloud) and her fear, prove that her laugh proceeded from a bitter and doubting heart. Keil, however, is too severe when he says “that her laugh must be viewed as the laugh of unbelief,” and Delitzsch, when he describes it as the scoff of doubt. It is sufficient that there is a distinction between her laughing and that of Abraham. The Scripture says (Heb. 11:11) that she was a believer in the promise, and the fact of her conception is the evidence of her faith. [It thus becomes evident that one object in this manifestation, the drawing out and completing the faith of Sarah, has been accomplished. The question, Is anything too hard for the Lord? is the same which the angel Gabriel used when announcing to Mary the birth of Jesus. Mary bowed in faith, while Sarah laughs in doubt. But the words here used, with the reproof administered to her laugh, seem to have called out and strengthened her faith. See WORDSWORTH, p. 84; BAUMGARTEN, p. 207.—A. G.] [Delitzsch closes his exposition of this passage with the suggestive words: “This confidential fellowship of Jehovah with the patriarch corresponds to that of the risen Lord with his disciples. The patriarchal time is more evangelic than the time of the law. As the time before the law, it is the type of the time after the law,” p. 285.—A. G.]

2. The announcement of the judgment upon Sodom and Gomorrah, and Abraham’s intercessory prayer (Gen 18:16–32).—And the men rose up from thence.24—The travellers depart from Hebron in the direction of Sodom, i.e., over the mountain to the valley of the Jordan. Abraham accompanies them. There is a wonderful union of the state of visions and of the actual outward life. We do not forget that this condition was habitual in the life of our Lord, and that it is reflected in the history of Peter (Acts, 12:11, 12) as it is also in that of Paul. According to tradition, Abraham accompanied them as far as “the place Caphar-Barucha, from whence Paula looked through a deep ravine to the Dead Sea,” “the solitude and lands of Sodom.” Robinson thinks this is probably the present village Bni Na’im, about one and a half hours easterly from Hebron [“Bib. Researches,” vol. ii. p. 189.—A. G.] (VON RAUMER, “Palestine,” p. 183).—Shall I hide from Abraham.—The reason why God would announce to Abraham, beforehand, the judgment upon Sodom, is given in the following words. There is at first great regard to the excellence of Abraham, but connected with this, however, a reference to his destination as the father of the people of promise; he must understand the judgments of God in the world, because he must understand the redemption. [All the principles of the divine providence in its relations to the sins of men appear here; his forbearance and patience, his constant notice, the deciding test, and the strictness and righteousness of the judgment, and hence Abraham is told here, that these same principles might operate upon the minds of the people of God in all ages.—A. G.] For the judgment cannot be understood without the redemption, nor the redemption without the judgment. The “natural event” of Knobel thus becomes to Abraham and his children, a divinely-comprehended event, and cannot remain a dark mystery; it presupposes its spiritual and moral significance. But on this account especially, the event, as a judgment, is of peculiar importance, in order that, like every following judgment, it may prove a monitory example to the house of Abraham—the people of God.—For I have known him.—Luther, following the Vulgate, I know that he, etc. Thus the good behavior of Abraham is (in an Arminian way) made the cause of the divine knowledge. But the לְמַעַן is opposed to this. The knowledge of Jehovah is fore-determined, like προγινώσκειν, Rom. 8:29, and thus one with the ἐκλέγεσθαι, Ep. 1:4. KEIL: “In preventing love he sees (יָדַע), as in Amos, 3:2; Hosea, 13:5,” which, however, cannot be included in the mere acknowledgment of Abraham. [The word includes knowledge and love. See Ps. 1:6; 31:8; 1 Cor. 8:3; 13:12. BAUMGARTEN, p. 208.—A. G.] Kurtz explains this passage strangely. God has given the possession of the land to Abraham, therefore he would be sure of his consent in this arrangement as to a part of the land. KEIL: “The destruction of Sodom and the neighboring cities should serve as an enduring monument of the divine punitive righteousness, in which Israel should have constantly before its eyes the destruction of the godless. Finally, Jehovah unveils to Abraham, in the clearest manner, the cause of this destruction, that he might not only have a clear and perfect conviction of the justice of the divine procedure, but also the clear view that when the measure of iniquity was full, no intercession could avert the judgment. It is both for the instruction and warning of his descendants.” But still more certainly, also, at first, to give occasion to the prayer of Abraham, and thus show to his children what position they must take in regard to all the threatening judgments of God upon the world.—The cry of Sodom.—It is right to refer to Gen 4:10 for the explanation of these words, and hence the cry which is meant is the cry of sins for vengeance or punishment. Outbreaking offences against the moral nature, as murder and lusts, especially unnatural lusts, abuse and pain nature, and so to speak, force from it a cry of necessity, which sounds throughout the world and ascends to heaven.25 The infamy of Sodom and Gomorrah in the world, is not excluded from this tendency and result, but forms only the reflex, or one element of the cry. The כִּי gives the strongest emphasis to the utterance. [Baumgarten and Keil render it indeed. The cry of Sodom, indeed it is great—their sin, indeed it is very grievous. But the usual force of the כִּי, for, because, gives a good sense. It is for or because the cry is such, that the Lord comes down to test and punish.—A. G.]—I will go down now.—The anthropomorphic expression includes also a divine thought or purpose. Jehovah could not be uncertain whether the cry of Sodom and Gomorrah contained the truth, but it was still a question whether Sodom, by its conduct against the last deciding visitation of God, would show that its corruption placed it beyond any help or salvation. The translation of Luther, “whether it has done according to the cry,” does not meet the demands of the text. It must become evident through its last trial, whether it has reached the limit of the long-suffering patience of God. Thus it is not specially to convince himself, but to introduce the final decision. According to Delitzsch and Keil, the כָּלָה must be taken as a noun, as in Isa. 10:23, not as an adverb, as Exod. 11:1, “עָשָׂה כָלָה, to bring to an end, here to denote the most extreme corruption, in other passages used to express the utmost severity of punishment (Nah. 1:8 f.; Jer. 4:27; 5:10).” Keil.—I will know.—A sublime, fearful expression of the fact, that Jehovah will at last introduce for the godless a decisive test, which according to their situation is a temptation, the judgment which in their case hardens, and the judgment for the hardening. It will issue at the last, as they themselves have decided. Patience and anger both have definite, sharp limits.—And the men.—The two angels who accompanied Jehovah in the form of men. It is observable that here it is the men simply, and then in Gen 19:1 it is the two angels. This order presupposes a very clear consciousness as to the distinction between the one chief person and his two companions; a distinction which Delitzsch misses, according to his view of the Angel of the Lord. Here, also (Gen 18:22), the two angels disappear, as they go farther, while Jehovah remains at the place, in the Angel of the Lord; in (Gen 19:17) on the contrary, the two angels receive an increase through an undefined, but evident, new appearance of Jehovah. It is with reference to the later assault of the Sodomites, that the angels are here described as men. Their departure to Sodom is in fulfilment of the word of Jehovah: I will know. They depart to introduce the final decision. They depart, but Abraham remains standing before Jehovah, upon that height whence the vale of Sodom could be seen (Gen 19:17), and addresses himself to prayer. The Jewish conjecture, that Jehovah remains standing before Abraham, is a wretched way of bettering the connection, which presupposes the distinction between the one Jehovah and the two angels before Jehovah.—And Abraham drew near.—The יִגַּשׁ designates especially the nearness to Jehovah, and more especially the venturesome [Rather the bold. Heb. 4:16; 10:22.—A. G.], mediating nearness in the priestly and believing disposition which the prayer implies and contains (Jer. 30:21). That Abraham in his prayer thought especially of Lot, is evident, but that he interceded for Lot only, is an assumption which wrongs not only the divine thought of this prayer but the text itself. Abraham would not then have ceased with the number ten, and his prayer also would have taken the form of an ambiguous circumlocution. Keil is correct in his remark against Kurtz, Abraham appeals in his prayer, not to the grace of the covenant, but to the righteousness of Jehovah. But he is incorrect when he rejects the position of Calvin: “Common mercy towards the five nations” impels Abraham to his prayer, and on the contrary brings into prominence the love springing from faith; for the one of these does not exclude the other. Luther admirably explains his heartfelt desire: “He asks six times, and with so great ardor and affection, so urgently, that in the very great and breathless interest with which he pleads for the miserable cities, he seems as if speaking foolishly.” In the transactions of Abraham with God, the pressing earnestness on the part of Abraham, and the forbearance on the part of Jehovah, stand out in clear relief. Abraham goes on from step to step, Jehovah grants him step by step, without once going before his requests. He thus draws out from Abraham the measure and intensity of his priestly spirit, while Abraham, on his side, ever wins a clearer insight as to the judgment of God upon Sodom, and as to the condition of Sodom itself.—The first prayer or petition. Foolish, apparently presuming in form, sacred as to its matter! God, as he has known him as the righteous one, must remain the same in his righteousness, and cannot, in any exercise of his punitive providence, separate his almighty power from his righteousness. The prayer is a pious syllogism. Major proposition: Jehovah cannot sweep away the righteous with the wicked. (The emphasis lies upon the sweeping away. The prayer itself proves that the righteous suffer through the wicked, indeed, with him and for him.) The minor premise: there might be fifty righteous ones in Sodom, i.e., righteous, guiltless in reference to this destructive judgment. Innocent children are indeed not intended here, but guiltless adults, who might form some proportionate counterpoise to the rest. The conclusion: If it should be thus, the judge of the world could not destroy the cities, for righteousness is not the non plus ultra of strength, but power conditions and limits itself through right. Fifty righteous, five [twice five?] in each city (the singular is used here because Sodom represents all the five cities, or the pentapolis appears as one city, whose character and destiny is decided in the conduct of Sodom) of the pentapolis, would be sufficient salt to save the city. Five is the number of freedom, of moral development.—Second petition. The lowly, humble form of the second prayer, corresponds with the bold form of the first, for Abraham has now heard that Jehovah will spare it for the sake of fifty.—I have taken upon me (ventured) to speak unto the Lord.—This is not merely to pray unto the Lord. He has ventured the undertaking, to exert a definite influence upon Jehovah, i.e., on the supposition of a moral and free relation, boldly he has ventured to speak to him, although uncalled.—Which am but dust and ashes.—DELITZSCH: “In his origin dust, and ashes at the end.” Notwithstanding this creature nature, he has still ventured to place himself in his personality over against the personality of Jehovah. He has taken the step of faith across the Rubicon, from the blind, creaturely subjection to Jehovah, into the free kingdom of his love.—Per-adventure there shall lack five.—He does not say: Peradventure there are five and forty righteous, but clings to the divine concession. If it is as thou hast said, then the want of five cannot be decisive. The forty-five will compensate for the want of five.—Third petition. Since he knew now that Jehovah would not insist upon the five, he descends at once to the forty, and urges still that the righteous vengeance should be restrained for their sakes until perhaps they might be found. Still from this point on he ventures only to make the supposition, per-adventure there are so many righteous there, without expressly joining to it the inference: wilt thou not spare, etc.?—Fourth petition. But now, after the number forty is allowed, Abraham feels that he can take a bolder step, before which, however, he prays that Jehovah would not be angry. Jehovah had twice yielded the five; he now comes to thirty, and prays that he would at once yield the ten.—Fifth petition. The compliance of Jehovah with his requests emboldens him. Thus he excuses his boldness this time by the mere consistency of his words, as he comes down to twenty.—Sixth petition. He would venture only one more request, and that not without the deprecatory prayer: Oh, let not the Lord be angry.—He ceases with the ten, since less than two men to each city could not avail to turn away the destructive judgment. But great as the interceding Abraham appears in his bold, persistent progress in his petitions, he appears equally great in ceasing when he did, although the human motive to bring into the account Lot, his wife, his two daughters, and his sons-in-law, and thus to go on to the number five, was obvious and strong. And thus there is still a distinction between the mere begging, which knows no limit, and the prayer which is conscious that it is limited through the moral nature or spirit, and, indeed, by the Holy Spirit. When Delitzsch says “that apparent commercial kind of entreaty is the essence of true prayer—is the sacred ἀναίδεια of which our Lord speaks, Luke 11:8, the importunity (shamelessness) of faith, etc.,” we would underscore and emphasize the apparent, and appeal rather to the repeated asking than to the bargaining nature, and recollect that the importunity, Luke 11:8, has its full authorization only in the figure, but cannot be identified without explanation, with what is analogous to it, the full joyfulness of prayer.—And the Lord went his way: not to avoid (as Delitzsch conjectures) further entreaties on the part of Abraham, for Jehovah’s remaining where he was, and the joyfulness of Abraham’s prayer, stand in a harmonious relation. “The judgment, which now follows, upon the five cities, shows that not ten צַדִּיקִים, i.e., not sinless, holy persons, but upright, who, through the fear of God and the power of conscience, had kept themselves free from the prevailing sins and crimes of those cities, could be found in Sodom.” Keil. DELITZSCH: “His prayer, however, has not fallen to the ground.” He refers to the rescuing of Lot and his family.


1[Ch. 18 Gen 18:3.—The versions vary, some reading one form and some the other. The Septuagint has Κύριε, Vulg. Domine. So also the Syriac and Onkelos. The Masoretic text, therefore, is preferable to that used in our version.—A. G.]

2[Gen 18:8.—He, i.e. Abraham.—A. G.]

3[Gen 18:8.—was standing.—A. G.]

4[Gen 18:10.—Heb., according to the living time.—A. G.]

5[Gen 18:14.—Heb., difficult, wonderful, Sept. μὴ ἀδυνατήσει παρὰ τῷ Θεῷ ῥῆμα? See Luke 1:37.—A. G.]

6[Gen 18:17.—Jehovah.—A. G.]

7[Gen 18:18.—Lit., I am doing, am about to do.—A. G.]

8[Gen 18:21.—Heb. whether they have made completeness, or to a consummation.—A. G.]

9[Gen 18:25.—חָלִלָה, abominable.—A. G.]

10[Ch. 19 Gen 18:1.—two of the angels.—A. G.]

11[Gen 18:2.—אֲדֹנַי. Not the same form which Abraham uses.—A. G.]

12[Gen 18:9.—יִשְׁפֹּט שָפוֹט, will he always be judging.—A. G.]

13[Gen 18:13.—Lit., are destroying.—A. G.]

14[Gen 18:14.—Lit., The takers of his daughters.—A. G.]

15[Gen 18:14.—as a jester.—A. G.

16[Gen 18:16.—Heb. delayed himself.—A. G.]

17[Gen 18:18.—אֲדֹנָי. O Lord.—A. G.]

18[Gen 18:21.—have lifted up thy face.—A. G.]

19[Gen 18:23.—Heb., and Lot came unto.—A. G.]

20[The Lord appeared, but the appearance was in the form of three men or angels. There may be, as Wordsworth suggests, here a declaration of the divine unity, and an intimation of the plurality of persons; perhaps of the doctrine of the Trinity.—A. G.]

21 [“For therefore are ye come—to give me occasion to offer yon my hospitality.” KEIL, p. 166.—A. G.]

[“Their coming was of God. He recognized in it a divine call upon his hospitality.” JACOBUS, “Notes,” vol. i. p. 9.—A. G.]

22[Flesh-meat was not ordinary fare. See Pict. Bible, and BUSH, Notes, vol. i. p. 286.—A. G.]

23[Literally, living time. MURPHY: “Seemingly the time of birth when the child comes to manifest life,” p. 316.—A. G.]

24[Jacobus has a striking note here upon the connection of what follows with what precedes. “These are only the right and left hand movements. The records are in their proper antithesis, as setting forth the divine character and counsel. The right and left hand of the Judge are for the opposite parties. Life eternal is for the one, and everlasting punishment for the other.” Matt. 25:46. All history is full of this antithesis.—A. G.]

25[It is the moral demand which sin makes for punishment. BUSH: “Notes,” vol. i. p. 297.—A. G.]

And the LORD appeared unto him in the plains of Mamre: and he sat in the tent door in the heat of the day;
Lange, John Peter - Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical

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