The Pulpit Commentary

Genesis 18:25 (Genesis 18:25)

That be far from thee —literally to profane things ( be it ) to thee—nefas sit tibi == absit a te! an exclamation of abhorrence, too feebly rendered by μηδαμῶς ( LXX .)— to do after this manner (literally, according to this word ) , to slay the righteous with the wicked: and that the righteous should be as the wicked (literally, and that it should be—as the righteous, so the wicked ) , that be far from thee: Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right? The patriarch appeals not to Jehovah's covenant grace (Kurtz), but to his absolute judicial equity (Keil). It does not, however, follow that the Divine righteousness would have been compromised by consigning pious and wicked to the same temporal destruction. This must have been a spectacle not infrequently observed in Abraham's day as well as ours. Yet the mind of Abraham appears to have been perplexed, as men's minds often are still, by the magnitude of the proposed illustration of a common principle in Providence. Though prepared to admit the principle when its application is confined to solitary cases, or cases of no great amplitude, yet instinctively the human mind feels that there must be a limit to the commingling of the righteous and the wicked in calamity, though it should be only of a temporal description. That limit Abraham conceived, or perhaps feared that others might conceive, would be passed if good and bad in Sodom should be overwhelmed in a common ruin; and in this spirit the closing utterance of his first supplication may be regarded as giving expression to the hope that Jehovah would do nothing that would even seem to tarnish his Divine righteousness. Abraham of course regarded this as impossible, consequently he believed that Sodom might be spared.

- The Pulpit Commentary

Genesis 18:23-33 (Genesis 18:23-33)

Abraham's intercession.

I. THE OBJECT OF HIS INTERCESSION . Not simply the rescue of Lot from the doomed cities, but the salvation of the cities themselves, with their miserable inhabitants. A request evincing—

1. Tender sympathy . Though doubtless the righteous character of the impending retribution had been explained to him, its appalling severity was such as to thrill his feeling heart with anguish, which would certainly not be lessened, but intensified, if he allowed his thoughts to dwell upon the future into which that overwhelming calamity would forthwith launch its unhappy victims.

2. Unselfish charity . Not blindly shutting his eyes to the miseries of the Sodomites, as many would have done, on the plea that they were richly merited, or that they were no concern of his, or that it was little he could do to avert them, he actively bestirs himself, if possible, to prevent them. Nor does he say that, having delivered them once from the devouring sword of war, without their having profited by either the judgment or the mercy that had then been measured out to them, he will now leave them to be engulfed by the approaching storm of Almighty wrath; but, on the contrary, he rather seeks a second time to effect their rescue.

3. Amazing catholicity . Not content with asking Lot's deliverance, or the rescue of the righteous, he aims at nothing short of the complete preservation of the cities. He solicits not a few of their inhabitants only, but their entire population. One wonders whether to admire most the greatness of the love or the grandeur of the faith herein displayed.

II. THE SPIRIT OF HIS INTERCESSION .

1. Holy boldness . Abraham "drew near." The expression intimates confidential familiarity, earnestness of entreaty, unrestrained freedom of discourse, almost venturesome audacity in prayer; all of which characteristics should be found in a believer's prayers, especially when interceding in behalf of others ( Hebrews 10:22 ).

2. Reverent humility . Three times he deprecates Jehovah's anger, and acknowledges personal unworthiness; and that this self-abasement was not affected, but real, is apparent from the circumstance that the more his supplication prospers, the deeper does he sink in self-prostration. Gracious souls are ever humble under a sense of God's mercies: Jacob ( Genesis 32:10 ), David ( 2 Samuel 7:18 ; cf. Luke 7:6 ).

3. Fervent importunity . With a sanctified dexterity he, as it were, endeavors to shut up the heart of God to grant the deliverance he solicits. Nor does he rest contented with the first response to his entreaty, but with greater vehemence returns to the charge, increasing his demands as God enlarges his concessions (cf. Matthew 15:22 ).

III. THE LOGIC OF HIS INTERCESSION .

1. The argument . The principle on which the patriarch stands is not the grace of the covenant, but the righteousness of the Judge. His meaning is that in moral goodness there is a certain dynamic force which operates towards the preservation of the wicked, and which the Divine righteousness itself is bound to take into its calculations. Where this force reaches a certain limit in intensity, a regard to judicial equity seems to require that it shall be allowed to exercise its legitimate sway—a principle which God admitted to the patriarch when he said that the Amorites were spared because their iniquity was not full ( Genesis 15:16 ), and which he here endorses by consenting to spare Sodom if even ten righteous men can be found within its gates.

2. The application . The patriarch conducts his case with singular directness, going straight to the logical issues of the principle with which he starts; with marvelous ingenuity pitching the hypothetical number of pious Sodomites so high as to insure a favorable response, and gradually diminishing as grace enlarges, and with unwearied assiduity refusing to discontinue his holy argument so long as a chance remains of saving Sodom.

IV. THE SUCCESS OF HIS INTERCESSION .

1. He got all he asked . He did not crave the unconditional sparing of the city, but only its preservation on certain suggested conditions. Those conditions too were of his own framing; and yet against them not so much as one single caveat-was entered by God.

2. He ceased asking before God stopped giving, It may be rash to speculate as to what would have happened had Abraham continued to reduce the number on which he periled the salvation of Sodom; but for God's glory it is only just to observe that it was not he who discontinued answering the patriarch's petitions, so much as the patriarch himself, who felt that he had reached the limit of that liberty which God accords to believing suppliants at his throne.

Lessons:—

1. The liberty which saints have to approach God in prayer.

2. The Divinely-taught art of wrestling with God in prayer.

3. The great encouragement which saints have to pray without ceasing.

4. The profound interest which saints should ever take in the welfare of their fellow-men.

- The Pulpit Commentary

Genesis 18:16-33 (Genesis 18:16-33)

Abraham's intercession for Sodom.

The whole wonderful scene springs out of the theophany. Abraham's faith has given him a special position with the Lord. "Shall I hide from Abraham that thug which I do?" &c.; The true priesthood and mediatorship is friendship with God. The grace of God first gives the likeness and then exalts it. The Lord knew Abraham because Abraham knew the Lord . The superior angel, the Lord, remains behind his companions that Abraham might have the opportunity of intercession; so the Lord lingers in his providence that he may reveal his righteousness and mercy. As to the pleading of the patriarch and the answers of the Lord to it, we may take it—

I. As it bears on the CHARACTER OF GOD .

1. He is open to entreaty.

2. He is unwilling to destroy.

3. He spares for the sake of righteousness.

4. He "does right" as "Judge of the earth," even though to the eyes of the best men there is awful mystery in his doings.

II. As it reveals the CHARACTERISTICS OF PATRIARCHAL PIETY .

1. It was bold with the boldness of simplicity and faith.

2. It was full of true humanity while deeply reverential towards God. Abraham was no fanatic.

3. It waited for and humbly accepted Divine judgments and appointments not without reason, not without the exercise of thought and feeling, but all the more so as it prayed and talked with God.

4. The one living principle of the patriarchal religion was that entire confidence in God's righteousness and love, in separating the wicked and the good, in both his judgments and his mercy, which is the essence of Christianity as well. " The right " which the Judge of all the earth will do is not the right of mere blind law, or rough human administration of law, but the right of him who discerneth between the evil and the good, "too wise to err, too good to be unkind."— R .

- The Pulpit Commentary