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Study Resources :: Text Commentaries :: Don Stewart :: Does God Know Everything?

Don Stewart :: Did God Consult with Abraham about the Future of Sodom and Gomorrah?

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Did God Consult with Abraham about the Future of Sodom and Gomorrah? (Genesis 18:22-33)

Does God Know Everything? – Question 9

Sodom and Gomorrah were two evil cities. The Lord had determined to destroy them for their corrupt ways. While on His way to Sodom, the Lord, in human form, visited Abraham. Abraham approached the Lord during that visit and bargained with Him for the lives of the people of Sodom. The Bible records Abraham the following.

Abraham came closer and asked, “Are you really going to sweep away the innocent with the guilty? What if there are 50 innocent people in the city? Are you really going to sweep them away? Won’t you spare that place for the sake of the 50 innocent people who are in it? It would be unthinkable for you to do such a thing, to treat the innocent and the guilty alike and to kill the innocent with the guilty. That would be unthinkable! Won’t the judge of the whole earth do what is fair?” (Genesis 18:23-25 God’s Word)

Beginning with the number fifty, Abraham began to bargain with the Lord. Eventually, he got the Lord to agree that He would not destroy these cities if only ten righteous people were found. Scripture says,

“Please don’t be angry if I speak only one more time,” Abraham said. “What if 10 are found there?” He answered, “I will not destroy it for the sake of the 10.” (Genesis 18:32 God’s Word)

How are we to understand this? Did God actually change His plans because of the influence of Abraham? Does this mean that we too can bargain with God and by doing so He will change His plans?

Option 1: Abraham Caused the Lord to Change His Mind

A literal reading of the account has Abraham actually changing the mind of the Lord. It has been contended that God’s plan was altered when Abraham convinced Him to reconsider what He was about to do. Instead of destroying the city outright, Abraham bargained with God to the point that if only ten righteous people were found God would not destroy these evil cities. While ten righteous people were not found this is not the issue. The fact is that God had decided to destroy the city but then agreed to spare it if some righteous were found. The number of the righteous started at fifty and was finally settled on at ten. Since the Lord agreed to everything Abraham had said it seems obvious that the plans of the Lord were not unalterable. This, it is argued, is another illustration of God being flexible with how He is working out His plan for time and eternity.

Option 2: God Did Not Alter His Plan

The usual way of understanding this passage does not see the Lord as altering what He was planning to do. The fact that He agreed to spare the city if only ten righteous were to be found shows both His knowledge of all things as well as the specific nature of His plan. The Lord was determined to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah for their evil practices. He knew that there were not even ten righteous in the city. This is why He agreed with Abraham that He would spare the city if only ten were found. In the end, only four people left Sodom; Lot, his wife and their two daughters. Among other things, this shows that the destruction of these cites was justified; there were no righteous people dwelling there!

Consequently, this is not a case of God willingly consulting with humans to determine how He is going to work out His plan. Rather it is a case of the Lord knowing everything which will happen in the future. Thus, He agreed with Abraham that if a certain number of righteous were found He would not destroy the city. Yet, the Lord knew all along that this would never occur.

Summary – Question 9
Did God Consult with Abraham about the Future of Sodom and Gomorrah? (Genesis 18:22-33)

The Bible says that the Lord had decided to destroy the evil cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. Before that occurred Scripture records Abraham bargaining with God as to what it would take to spare the city from God’s judgment. We then have the account of Abraham and the Lord going back and forth as to how many righteous people it would take to spare these evil cities. Starting with fifty righteous, Abraham bargained with the Lord until the number reached ten. If ten righteous could be found in Sodom and Gomorrah then the Lord would not destroy these evil cities. Unfortunately, they could not find ten righteous.

Many understand this episode as an example of the future being unsettled. To begin with, the Lord allowed the possibility of not destroying these cities. This is in contrast to His original Word on the subject. In fact, He agreed to a number of possible scenarios. He would not destroy the city if fifty righteous were found, if forty were found, if thirty were found, if twenty were found, and if ten were found. This seems to show that the Lord was willing to consider a number of options. He could either destroy the cities or withhold judgment based upon a certain number of godly people who remained. Consequently, many people conclude that this episode teaches us that all of God’s plans have not been predetermined but rather the future is something which has not yet been determined.

Others, however, do not see it this way. They reckon that the Lord agreed with Abraham to spare the city if ten righteous were found because He knew that this was not going to happen. Since only four people actually left Sodom before the destruction it shows that the determination of the Lord to destroy these evil cities was never in doubt.

Furthermore, it was well-justified. Basically, there were no righteous people in either of these cities. Hence, the judgment of the Lord needed to take place. The planned destruction was never in doubt. Consequently, we should not view this episode as an example of God not knowing what the outcome would be.

Did the Lord Have to Come down from Heaven to Discover What Was Happening at Sodom and Gomorrah? ← Prior Section
Did God Have to Test Abraham to Know If He Actually Trusted Him? Next Section →
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