Bible Study Notes Rev. Betsy Perkins
The Sin of Sodom
With Abraham now a full, participating member of the Covenant with God, he is encouraged to exercise all the privileges and responsibilities of that role. God shares with Abraham the cry that has gone up from Sodom and Gomorrah, and invites him to participate in the process of providing a right and just response.
The Cry from Sodom (18:16-21):
o God speaks to Godself in 18:17-19. What are God’s reasons for sharing His plans with Abraham? What does this imply for Abraham’s new relationship with God? …with the world?
o What is “the way of the LORD” that Abraham and all his descendants are to keep (vs.19)?
o Things in Sodom and Gomorrah are NOT right/righteous (tsedaqah), rather there is an outcry (tse’aqah) against them. What is God’s first response to the outcry?
“God has heard the cry from the city, and the object of the expedition into which Abraham has been drawn is to check out whether the cry has exaggerated its picture of what is happening down there. Excuse me, but does God not know for sure what is happening just through being God? Does God really need to come and look? But Genesis recurrently describes God asking questions and checking things out. You may interpret such statements metaphorically if you wish, but you would have to ask yourself why you are doing that and to be careful of what you are missing out on. The description of God coming down to look makes the point that God does not stay up there in the heavens apart from what is happening in the world, insulated by omniscience and unaffected by events. It can seem that politicians in Washington or Westminster are in danger of making decisions without having any experience in the real lives of the peoples for whom they are making decisions. God does not risk that danger. God comes to look. God sees people’s suffering and sees the people who bring it about.” John Goldingay
o Name some other times in the Bible when people cried out to God when things were not right and just. What outcries may God be hearing today regarding things that are not right and just?
“How do you reconcile the idea of God’s justice with the unfairness of much that we see in the world?” ~ John Goldingay
o What responsibility do we have to cry out to God in prayer regarding situations of injustice? Does it make a difference?
o What implications does this have for us as we pray today, individually and together?
Praying for Sodom (18:22-33):
o How does Abraham respond to God’s news about Sodom and to God’s plan of action?
o What is Abraham’s concern about God’s plan of action?
“We might think that God does not have to make tricky decisions, that for God everything is black and white, but this story makes explicit a point underlying the whole biblical story, God has to make tricky decisions about whether people’s conduct has become so bad that action can no longer be postponed. Such decisions involve a judgment call. Abraham’s questioning brings that out. God sometimes does bring judgment on a city even though there are fifty faithful people there. But God recognizes that questions can be raised about whether this is right. Like us, sometimes God has to choose between courses of action, neither of which is very good.” John Goldingay
o The verb translated as spare or forgive in verses 24 and 26 is literally “carry” or “bear”. What does the image of carrying/bearing the sin/wrongdoing and the consequences of sin teach us about forgiveness?
o What is Abraham’s attitude toward God in the conversation?
o How can we put into practice what we learn about prayer in this story?
In light of this passage and our discussion, what one truth about God and about yourself stand out as something to “take to heart” this week?
Are there steps you will take, by God’s grace, to more fully apply it to your life?
Resources: Robert Alter, Genesis, 1996
John Goldingay, Genesis for Everyone, 2010
Max Lucado, Life Lessons with Max Lucado: Book of Genesis, 1997