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?