Abraham Pleads for Sodom, Genesis 18:16-23

Then the LORD said, ‘The outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is so great and their sin so grievous that I will go down and see if what they have done is as bad as the outcry that has reached me. If not, I will know.”         Genesis 18:20-21

This week’s theme shifts from fellowship and faith (Gen. 18:1-15) to judgment.

You may read Genesis 18:16-23 here: Bible Gateway.

After Abraham provides a meal, he accompanies his guests—the Lord and two angels—on a walk. As a master teacher or skilled parent, the Lord grabs Abraham’s curiosity with a question to His angels: “Shall I hide from Abraham what I am about to do?” (vs. 17).

Before anyone responds, the Lord reassures and admonishes Abraham through His talk. Once again He connects His promise with Abraham’s obedience.

If Abraham—chosen by God—directs his family after him to walk in righteousness and justice then God would carry out His promise. Abraham would become a great and powerful nation. And all nations would be blessed through him. For Jesus Christ—the Messiah who conquered sin and death’s sting—would descend from Abraham’s line.

God’s Plan

God’s plan for Sodom and Gomorrah are revealed in verses 20-21 (above).

The word translated outcry in verse 20 is used to describe cries of the oppressed and brutalized. In this case, the term may have two meanings: (1) It may mean the outcry against Sodom caused by its injustice and violence, or (2) the cry of its rebellion against God (19:13). The Lord speaks of personally observing sin (18:21). The Hebrew text here could be rendered, “I will go down personally and see if their sin is made complete.” – Layman’s Bible Commentary

Abraham Pleads for Sodom

Verses 22-33 record the first time that a man—Abraham—initiates a conversation with God. Abraham appeals to God’s justice as he watches the angels head toward Sodom. In the form of a negotiation-prayer, he petitions the Lord: “Will you sweep away the righteous with the wicked? What if there are fifty righteous people in the city?”

The Lord said, “If I find fifty righteous people . . . . I will spare the whole place for their sake.”

The earnest (heartfelt, continued) prayer of a righteous man makes tremendous power available [dynamic in its working]. - James 5:16 (AMPC)

The earnest (heartfelt, continued) prayer of a righteous man makes tremendous power available [dynamic in its working]. – James 5:16 (AMPC)

Abraham respectfully persists pleading for the city.

He dwindles the righteous people count down from fifty to ten as he negotiates four more times. Each time, the Lord patiently listens. They end their conversation with the Lord graciously agreeing to not destroy the city if only ten righteous people dwell there.


Why did God reveal His plans to Abraham? Isaiah 41:8 refers to Abraham as God’s friend. Although Abraham wasn’t perfect, his faith pleased God (see Rom. 4).

Why did God let Abraham question His justice and intercede for a wicked city? The NIV Life Application Study Bible notes: “Abraham knew that God must punish sin, but he also knew from experience that God is merciful to sinners. God knew there were not ten righteous people in the city, but he was merciful enough to allow Abraham to intercede. He was also merciful enough to help Lot get out of Sodom before it was destroyed.”

Although God is merciful, He is also just. He doesn’t enjoy destroying the wicked. As with Sodom, He patiently waits for people to repent (2 Peter 3:9). But as we’ll discover next week, His patience with rebellion won’t last forever.

Have a great week!