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Genesis 18:17-33

Context
18:17 Then the Lord said, “Should I hide from Abraham what I am about to do? 1  18:18 After all, Abraham 2  will surely become 3  a great and powerful nation, and all the nations on the earth will pronounce blessings on one another 4  using his name. 18:19 I have chosen him 5  so that he may command his children and his household after him to keep 6  the way of the Lord by doing 7  what is right and just. Then the Lord will give 8  to Abraham what he promised 9  him.”

18:20 So the Lord said, “The outcry against 10  Sodom and Gomorrah is so great and their sin so blatant 11  18:21 that I must go down 12  and see if they are as wicked as the outcry suggests. 13  If not, 14  I want to know.”

18:22 The two men turned 15  and headed 16  toward Sodom, but Abraham was still standing before the Lord. 17  18:23 Abraham approached and said, “Will you sweep away the godly along with the wicked? 18:24 What if there are fifty godly people in the city? Will you really wipe it out and not spare 18  the place for the sake of the fifty godly people who are in it? 18:25 Far be it from you to do such a thing – to kill the godly with the wicked, treating the godly and the wicked alike! Far be it from you! Will not the judge 19  of the whole earth do what is right?” 20 

18:26 So the Lord replied, “If I find in the city of Sodom fifty godly people, I will spare the whole place for their sake.”

18:27 Then Abraham asked, “Since I have undertaken to speak to the Lord 21  (although I am but dust and ashes), 22  18:28 what if there are five less than the fifty godly people? Will you destroy 23  the whole city because five are lacking?” 24  He replied, “I will not destroy it if I find forty-five there.”

18:29 Abraham 25  spoke to him again, 26  “What if forty are found there?” He replied, “I will not do it for the sake of the forty.”

18:30 Then Abraham 27  said, “May the Lord not be angry 28  so that I may speak! 29  What if thirty are found there?” He replied, “I will not do it if I find thirty there.”

18:31 Abraham 30  said, “Since I have undertaken to speak to the Lord, what if only twenty are found there?” He replied, “I will not destroy it for the sake of the twenty.”

18:32 Finally Abraham 31  said, “May the Lord not be angry so that I may speak just once more. What if ten are found there?” He replied, “I will not destroy it for the sake of the ten.”

18:33 The Lord went on his way 32  when he had finished speaking 33  to Abraham. Then Abraham returned home. 34 

1 tn The active participle here refers to an action that is imminent.

2 tn Heb “And Abraham.” The disjunctive clause is probably causal, giving a reason why God should not hide his intentions from Abraham. One could translate, “Should I hide from Abraham what I am about to do, seeing that Abraham will surely become a great and powerful nation?”

3 tn The infinitive absolute lends emphasis to the finite verb that follows.

4 tn Theoretically the Niphal can be translated either as passive or reflexive/reciprocal. (The Niphal of “bless” is only used in formulations of the Abrahamic covenant. See Gen 12:2; 18:18; 28:14.) Traditionally the verb is taken as passive here, as if Abram were going to be a channel or source of blessing. But in later formulations of the Abrahamic covenant (see Gen 22:18; 26:4) the Hitpael replaces this Niphal form, suggesting a translation “will bless [i.e., “pronounce blessings upon”] themselves [or “one another”].” The Hitpael of “bless” is used with a reflexive/reciprocal sense in Deut 29:18; Ps 72:17; Isa 65:16; Jer 4:2. Gen 18:18 (like 12:2) predicts that Abraham will be held up as a paradigm of divine blessing and that people will use his name in their blessing formulae. For examples of blessing formulae utilizing an individual as an example of blessing see Gen 48:20 and Ruth 4:11.

5 tn Heb “For I have known him.” The verb יָדַע (yada’) here means “to recognize and treat in a special manner, to choose” (see Amos 3:2). It indicates that Abraham stood in a special covenantal relationship with the Lord.

6 tn Heb “and they will keep.” The perfect verbal form with vav consecutive carries on the subjective nuance of the preceding imperfect verbal form (translated “so that he may command”).

7 tn The infinitive construct here indicates manner, explaining how Abraham’s children and his household will keep the way of the Lord.

8 tn Heb “bring on.” The infinitive after לְמַעַן (lÿmaan) indicates result here.

9 tn Heb “spoke to.”

10 tn Heb “the outcry of Sodom,” which apparently refers to the outcry for divine justice from those (unidentified persons) who observe its sinful ways.

11 tn Heb “heavy.”

12 tn The cohortative indicates the Lord’s resolve.

sn I must go down. The descent to “see” Sodom is a bold anthropomorphism, stressing the careful judgment of God. The language is reminiscent of the Lord going down to see the Tower of Babel in Gen 11:1-9.

13 tn Heb “[if] according to the outcry that has come to me they have done completely.” Even the Lord, who is well aware of the human capacity to sin, finds it hard to believe that anyone could be as bad as the “outcry” against Sodom and Gomorrah suggests.

14 sn The short phrase if not provides a ray of hope and inspires Abraham’s intercession.

15 tn Heb “And the men turned from there.” The word “two” is not in the Hebrew text, but is supplied here for clarity. Gen 19:1 mentions only two individuals (described as “angels”), while Abraham had entertained three visitors (18:2). The implication is that the Lord was the third visitor, who remained behind with Abraham here. The words “from there” are not included in the translation for stylistic reasons.

16 tn Heb “went.”

17 tc An ancient Hebrew scribal tradition reads “but the Lord remained standing before Abraham.” This reading is problematic because the phrase “standing before” typically indicates intercession, but the Lord would certainly not be interceding before Abraham.

18 tn Heb “lift up,” perhaps in the sense of “bear with” (cf. NRSV “forgive”).

19 tn Or “ruler.”

20 sn Will not the judge of the whole earth do what is right? For discussion of this text see J. L. Crenshaw, “Popular Questioning of the Justice of God in Ancient Israel,” ZAW 82 (1970): 380-95, and C. S. Rodd, “Shall Not the Judge of All the Earth Do What Is Just?” ExpTim 83 (1972): 137-39.

21 tn The Hebrew term translated “Lord” here and in vv. 30, 31, 32 is אֲדֹנָי (’adonay).

22 tn The disjunctive clause is a concessive clause here, drawing out the humility as a contrast to the Lord.

23 tn The Hebrew verb שָׁחַת (shakhat, “to destroy”) was used earlier to describe the effect of the flood.

24 tn Heb “because of five.”

25 tn Heb “he”; the referent (Abraham) has been specified in the translation for clarity.

26 tn The construction is a verbal hendiadys – the preterite (“he added”) is combined with an adverb “yet” and an infinitive “to speak.”

27 tn Heb “he”; the referent (Abraham) has been specified in the translation for clarity.

28 tn Heb “let it not be hot to the Lord.” This is an idiom which means “may the Lord not be angry.”

29 tn After the jussive, the cohortative indicates purpose/result.

30 tn Heb “he”; the referent (Abraham) has been specified in the translation for clarity.

31 tn Heb “he”; the referent (Abraham) has been specified in the translation for clarity.

32 tn Heb “And the Lord went.”

33 tn The infinitive construct (“speaking”) serves as the direct object of the verb “finished.”

34 tn Heb “to his place.”



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