Sodom and Gomorrah

Genesis 18:17-19:38

God decides that Abraham is such a faithful servant, He will not hide His plan to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah from him. Abraham’s immediate reaction upon hearing the news is to beg God for mercy: would He spare the city if there are 50 righteous individuals therein? How about 45? 40? 30? 20? Even just 10? Each time, God accepts Abraham’s proposal, implying that even 10 righteous men are not to be found within the wicked place.


From there, the narrative shifts perspectives, and we bear witness to what unfolds in the city itself. Having spent his formative years and beyond in Abraham’s household, nephew Lot is moved by the sight of two angels entering the city and invites them to stay in his home. His neighbors, however, will have none of it, and insist Lot turn over the visitors. Lot refuses, offering even his virgin daughters to the angry mob in exchange for the lives and security of his guests. Ultimately, however, it is the two angels who must save Lot from the townspeople.


The angels explain that they have come to save Lot and any family members from the impending destruction of the city. Lot cannot convince his sons-in-law to follow, so he takes only his two unmarried daughters and his wife and leaves with the angels. They tell Lot and his family to refrain from turning around to witness the destruction, but Lot’s wife cannot resist and she turns into a pillar of salt. Overwhelmed by what he is experiencing, and getting on in age, Lot begs the angels to allow them to rest briefly in a small city on the edge of the district. This they allow, sparing that city from the destruction to come.


Lot and his surviving daughters later leave the city, seeking the relative safety of a nearby cave. Convinced they are the last humans on earth and therefore responsible to repopulate it, Lot’s daughters hatch a plan to intoxicate their father and get pregnant by him. Each daughter does so in turn, and the sons they bear go on to father the nations of Ammon and Moab.


The Israel Bible points out that the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah was complete; not only were the people wiped out, but the land on which they had lived was overturned. The Israel Bible cites Nachmanides, who says God set a precedent here, that the Land of Israel will not tolerate corruption. The Holy Place will spit the perpetrators out or wipe them out. This idea is revisited in Deuteronomy 29, where it says, “…the whole land thereof is brimstone, and salt, and a burning, that it is not sown, nor beareth, nor any grass groweth therein, like the overthrow of Sodom and Gomorrah, Admah and Zeboiim, which the LORD overthrew in His anger, and in His wrath…Because they forsook the covenant of the LORD…” (verses 22, 24)


Virtual Classroom Discussion

Why do you think Abraham began praying for the city if there were even 50 righteous individuals? Why do you think he gave up after ten?

Comments ( 12 )

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  • Damian Sco

    When Lot's daughters get Lot drunk to copulate with him. their motivation comes from a distinct lack of faith (that they are the only survivors on Earth and this is the only way re-population will/can take place). And yet when Noah's son copulates with Noah's wife producing Ham, that motivation was out of… well suffice it to say Noah's wife does not look as though she put up much of a fight, or at least none is recorded.

    Was one example better than the other to pass down through eternity?

    I think this is more of an important question than whether or not Abraham could sense when he was about to push things too far. Besides, it set a standard in hindsight for the prayer minion.

  • Kathy Kraham

    Mr. And Mrs. Lot plus 2 daughters plus their betrothed fiancés plus 4 parents kind of makes 10 people in Abraham’s mind?? That’s what I would have thought to ask Jehovah for.

  • Pauline Graham

    Knowing that G-D is going to destroy the cities, Abraham feared for his nephew and his family. In the natural world we care for our families and want to help. Abraham asks for mercy if the faithful people can be found that they will be spared from the total annihilation. As the numbers drop less and less, Abraham realises that he is losing the battle and asks for favour for his blood family there. Lot sees the angels and welcomes them into his home. After hearing the news, Lot wants to save his family, yet being in the depravity of this world, his sons-in-law won't believe and leave. His wife's heart is drawn back to the city as they leave, she has one last look behind her, and its too late, she disobeys the command and is destroyed. This is a typology of G-D's wrath for all mankind, yet He has mercy for the few who walk and fallow HIS truth and commands. The daughter's fear that they are the last surviving people cause them to make wrong choices and sin with their father. They were corrupted by Soddom and its ways and lack of morals, just as it is today, modern life and culture has warped many peoples thinking about G-D and who and what HE IS.

  • Herman Arentsen

    The cluster of cities counted 5, of which Sodom and Gomorrah were two. Avraham started at the ten righteous ,men in each city 10 (the Minyan) Each time he let one city go in his accounts. Till he came to only one city with a righteous minyan. Not being present, Avraham submitted to the punishment of the Eternal ONE. But Lot and his family would be saved. ( 2+2+2(sons in law?)

    • Robert Koomans

      Perhaps the "10" righteous people only LOOKED righteous in the eyes of men, but like so many politicians these days – were corrupted and gave out pious meaningless words. I thought LOT'S Wife did not actually DIE, but she became rather a "salty" WITNESS to the destruction, and just a salt flavour food, she could flavour the history of the destruction.

  • Angela B

    I have heard that ten is the number is the number of government of Yahweh, and since there was no government of Yahweh in Sodom and Gomorrah, it had to be destroyed.

  • SueJean Heinz

    We learn from this portion that hospitality gives us the opportunity to intercede on the behalf of others.
    As Avraham makes every effort to intercede for these cities and the people that live in them, including his own nephew, we can see that he grows more and more uncomfortable for pressing Elohim to accept each lower number. I believe he is finally overcome by his own embarrassment as he realizes that he might be asking too much.
    I would balance that with the thought that Avraham had to be fully aware of the wickedness of the men in these cities. It would be very difficult for him to excuse the way that travelers were being treated when he and Sarah were renowned for their own selfless hospitality.
    Baruch Hashem.

  • Herman

    I know 10 is a minyan. When there is a minyan the full service in the kehilla will go on. So 10 might have been the smallest number of righteous people that would have allowed the city to live on.

    • Ahuva Balofsky (Moderator)

      That is indeed the accepted tradition among the Sages! In fact, Rashi, in accordance with teachings in the Talmud and Midrash, explains that Sodom and Gomorrah consisted of 5 individual cities, and Abraham prayed that if a minimum of 10 could be found in EACH ONE, who could then perhaps influence the city for the good, the cities should be spared. When God implies in His silence that there aren’t 50, Abraham asks God to be the 10th man in the quorum for each city, and again He agrees, but implies there aren’t even 45 righteous individuals. After that, Abraham is willing to forego one city at a time if the others may be spared on account of a quorum of righteous men in each one.

      • Robert Koomans

        Interesting POV there. But maybe it is that God KNEW the hearts of the men in those cities were not what they appeared to be to other people? Maybe they "supported" homosexual "rights" and thus in effect like committed the same sin by inaction, and indeed supporting sin? – VERY MUCH like today's Democracies which support MURDER by voting for the culprits that support Abortion? / Gay Rights? / Transgenderism?

    • Doreen Poole

      Thank you, I never knew that about 10. I am learning so much from this site.

  • Sheila

    Because the Lord has so intimately and personally connected with Abraham, He decides to reveal to him His intention of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah — evil wicked cities. Abraham, concerned for his nephew Lot, shows compassion and pleads and intercedes with the Lord on behalf of Sodom and starts with fifty righteous. Abraham is feeling his way in faith and reveals how we can also partner with the Lord on behalf of others. When the righteous was narrowed to ten with no more negotiation Abraham knew that the mercy of the Lord had prevailed.

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