July 12, 2009

Genesis 18

The Lord appeared to Abraham by the oaks of Mamre, as he sat at the entrance of his tent in the heat of the day. He looked up and saw three men standing near him.

When he saw them, he ran from the tent entrance to meet them, and bowed down to the grass. He said, "My lord, if I find favor with you, do not pass by your servant. Let a little water be brought, and wash your feet, and after that, you may pass on--since you have come to your servant."

And Abraham hastened into the tent of Sarah, and said, "Make ready quickly three measures of choice flour, knead it, and make cakes."

Abraham ran to the herd, and took a calf, tender and good, and gave it to the servant, who hastened to prepare it.

Then he took curds and milk and the calf that he had prepared, and set it before them; and he stood by them under the tree while they ate.

They said to him, "Where is your wife Sarah?"

And he said, "There, in the tent."

Then one said, "I will surely return to you in due season, and your wife Sarah shall have a son."

And Sarah was listening at the tent entrance behind him. Now Abraham and Sarah were old, advanced in age; it had ceased to be with Sarah after the manner of women. So Sarah laughed to herself, saying, "After I have grown old, and my husband is old, shall I have pleasure?"

The Lord said to Abraham, "Why did Sarah laugh and say, 'Shall I indeed bear a child, now that I am old?' Is anything too wonderful for the Lord? At the set time I shall return to you, in due season, and Sarah shall have a son."

But Sarah denied saying, "I did not laugh," for she was afraid.

He said, "Oh yes, you did laugh."

Then the men set out from there and they looked toward Sodom. And Abraham went with them to set them on their way.

And the Lord said, "Shall I hide from Abraham what I am about to do, seeing that Abraham shall become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the Earth shall be blessed in him? No, for I have chosen him, that he may charge his children and the his household after him to keep the way of the Lord by doing righteousness and justice, so that the Lord may bring about for Abraham what He has promised him.

Then the Lord said, "How great is the outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah and how very great their sin! I must go down and see whether they have done altogether according to the outcry that has come to me; and if not, I will know." So the men turned from there, and went toward Sodom, while Abraham remained standing before the Lord.

Then Abraham came near, and said, "Will you indeed sweep away the righteous with the wicked? Suppose there are are fifty righteous within the city; will you then sweep away the place and not forgive it for the sake of the fifty righteous who are in it? Far be that from you! Shall not the judge of all the world do right?"

And the Lord said, "If I find at Sodom fifty righteous in the city, I will forgive the whole place for their sake.

Abraham answered, "Let me take it upon myself to speak to the Lord, I who am but dust and ashes! Suppose five of the fifty righteous are lacking? Will you destroy the whole place for lack of five?

And He said, "I will not destroy it if I find forty-five there."

Again he spoke to him, "Suppose forty are found there?"

He answered, "For the sake of forty I will not do it."

Then he said, "Oh do not be let the Lord be angry if I speak. Suppose thirty are found there?"

He answered, "I will not do it, if I find thirty there."

He said, "Let me take it upon myself to speak to the Lord! Suppose twenty are found there?"

He answered, "For the sake of twenty I will not destroy it."

Then he said, "Oh, do not be angry if I speak just once more. Suppose ten are found there?"

He answered, "For the sake of ten, I will not destroy it." And the Lord went his way, when he had finished speaking to Abraham; and Abraham returned to his place.


At 1:32 p.m., Blogger Hystery said...

I am very curious about the differences between the traditional Jewish and Christian interpretations of this text that you mentioned over at Quaker Quaker, Forrest. Can you give me more details?

At 4:41 p.m., Blogger forrest said...

There's a really good summary of the Midrash on Sodom in [I think] _Messengers of God : biblical protraits and legends_ by Elie Wiesel.

Also Abraham Heschel in [I think] _The Prophets_ points out that what God has heard about Sodom, what the word translated as "outcry" means, is an anguished scream. It isn't about a little sensual fun between people who haven't established a long-term contractual relationship; the legends have it that the scream that gets God's attention comes from a young woman being tortured to death because someone has caught her feeding a beggar.

And what this midrash is based on, aside from superior knowledge of the language the texts were written in, is probably Ezekiel 16.49 (and any prior legends that might have informed it): "This was the guilt of your sister [city] Sodom; she and her daughters had pride, excess of food, and prosperous ease, but did not aid the poor and needy. They were haughty, and did abominable things before me; therefore I removed them when I saw it." Sodom is portrayed, not just as a Wicked City, but as one where the laws are designed to rob foreigners of everything they possess, then leave them to die on the streets, with no one permitted to help them in any way.


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