Genesis chapter 18

English Standard Version

New International Version

New American Standard Bible

22Then the men turned away from there and went toward Sodom, while Abraham was still standing before the Lord. 23Abraham approached and said, 'Will You indeed sweep away the righteous with the wicked? 24Suppose there are fifty righteous people within the city; will You indeed sweep it away and not spare the place for the sake of the fifty righteous who are in it? 25Far be it from You to do such a thing, to kill the righteous with the wicked, so that the righteous and the wicked are treated alike. Far be it from You! Shall not the Judge of all the earth deal justly?' 26So the Lord said, 'If I find in Sodom fifty righteous within the city, then I will spare the entire place on their account.' 27And Abraham replied, 'Now behold, I have ventured to speak to the Lord, although I am only dust and ashes. 28Suppose the fifty righteous are lacking five, will You destroy the entire city because of five?' And He said, 'I will not destroy it if I find forty-five there.' 29And he spoke to Him yet again and said, 'Suppose forty are found there?' And He said, 'I will not do it on account of the forty.' 30Then he said, 'Oh may the Lord not be angry, and I shall speak; suppose thirty are found there?' And He said, 'I will not do it if I find thirty there.' 31And he said, 'Now behold, I have ventured to speak to the Lord; suppose twenty are found there?' And He said, 'I will not destroy it on account of the twenty.' 32Then he said, 'Oh may the Lord not be angry, and I shall speak only this once: suppose ten are found there?' And He said, 'I will not destroy it on account of the ten.' 33As soon as He had finished speaking to Abraham the Lord departed, and Abraham returned to his place.
Christian Standard Bible

New Living Translation

King James Version

New King James Version

What does Genesis chapter 18 mean?

The events of Genesis 18 take place not long after God's visit with Abraham in chapter 17. This visit from the Lord is quite different, however. It's not clear, at first, if Abraham even recognizes the three men who appear outside of his tent as the Lord and two angels in human form. In either case, Abraham runs to show them deep respect and hospitality. He tells Sarah to bake them bread and has a young calf slaughtered for them to eat as they rest in the heat of the day.

Once the meal is over, the Lord fully reveals Himself, in a conversation He conducts with Sarah through Abraham while she remains hidden and listening in the tent. First, the Lord asks where Sarah is and then reveals to her what He had said to Abraham in the previous chapter: by this time a year from now she will have a son.

Sarah's response is much the same as Abraham's in the previous chapter: she laughs to herself. Not only was she around 90 years old, we're told that the "way of women" had ceased for her. The phrasing here might suggest the idea of menopause: Sarah is literally "beyond" a woman's normal ability to conceive. She describes herself as worn out and her husband as old. She cannot imagine having the "pleasure" of a new birth in their season of life.

The Lord knows both that Sarah laughed and what she thought about His revelation. He asks Abraham why she laughed. "Is anything too hard for the LORD?" Then He repeats the promise of a son at the appointed time. Sarah, likely realizing now that this is God, is afraid. She lies and says that she did not laugh. The Lord corrects her once more, but He does not punish her. In another instance of divine humor, He has already named her child Isaac, which means laughter.

The three men then set out on their journey, walking from Abraham's home near Hebron toward the city of Sodom. Abraham walks with them for a time, until they arrive at a high vantage point from which they can look across and see Sodom. From there, the Lord reveals to Abraham His plan regarding the grave sins of Sodom and Gomorrah. The implication is that God will bring judgment on those people if their sins were as wicked as He had heard. This, of course, is a figure of speech, since God already knows exactly how sinful these cities are. The reason for this human perspective is revealed in the conversation with Abraham, as Abraham tries to specify just "how wicked" these cities must be to earn God's wrath.

As the two angels walk on toward the city, Abraham begins a kind of negotiation with the Lord. His nephew Lot and his family live in Sodom. Abraham seems to be concerned for them. He boldly challenges the Lord: Will you sweep away the righteous with the wicked? Abraham insists that such an action would not be consistent with the Lord's character.

The Lord is patient with Abraham as he begins to ask for assurances. Will you destroy the city if you find 50 righteous people there? The Lord agrees that He will not. Abraham keeps asking though, lowering the number at which the Lord would willingly destroy righteous people to judge the wicked. 45? 40? 30? 20? Finally, Abraham asks, with a request that the Lord not be angry, if He would spare the city for the sake of 10 righteous people. Once more, the Lord agrees that He would do so if He finds that many.

With that, the Lord heads toward the city, and Abraham walks back home.
What is the Gospel?
Download the app: