Students often ask, “what is this chapter about?” My answer is always the same, “any chapter of the Bible is never about a thing. It is always about many things.” Some would go as far as to claim that each chapter of the Bible is about everything.
I do not know if ‘everything’ is true. But among the many things this chapter tells us about is collateral damage. That is, is it justified to punish the innocent together with the guilty?
In the previous post, Abraham started his defence: “Will you exterminate the righteous together with the wicked?” Now, as a good lawyer, he builds up on this emotional plea and adds a logical argument.
Isn’t that the way we all operate? Once we are emotionally convinced, we need logic to justify our conviction? This is what every good lawyer does. First, they convince you, and then they give you the reason so you can justify your conviction to yourself and to others. This is the method Abraham is teaching us as the defence in the trial in front of God.
It would be desecration (not a literal translation)
If you did such a thing
מֵעֲשֹׂת כַּדָּבָר הַזֶּה
me’asot kadavar haze
to kill the righteous together with the wicked
לְהָמִית צַדִּיק עִם–רָשָׁע
lehamit tsadik eim rasha
That will make the righteous the same as the wicked
וְהָיָה כַצַּדִּיק, כָּרָשָׁע
vehaya chatsadik karasha
It would be desecration (not a literal translation
25. It would be desecration if you did such a thing, to kill the righteous together with the wicked. That will make the righteous the same as the wicked. It would be desecration if you that judges the entire earth would not do justice.
In addition to our regular blog postings, I also give online lessons to help you gain fresh insights. This is a video example of such lesson discussing the story of Joseph, and how he turned from an arrogant, spoiled child to a humble adult who realises that all he has comes from God. His belief strengthen despite adverse circumstances in his life. Only then, was he ready to be saved and to become the second most powerful man in Egypt, second only to Pharaoh himself.
In the previous verse that we covered in our previous post, Abraham started his defence statement. He askes God: “Will you exterminate a righteous man together with an evil man?” In Genesis 18:24 he continues with his defence. He is doing all he can to save the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah from destruction.
Note: following readers’ requests, I decided to add transliteration to the verses. I will make sure to continue with it from now. Thank you for any suggestions you may have to make this blog better.
The first part of the Sodom and Gomorrah in Genesis 18, the Bible tells the story in an atypical, most straight-forward way. It is non-ambiguous and visual. It is written as if directing a play, or a guidebook. The question is why? Why does it use such simple language? After all, ambiguity is the Bible’s way to ensure that it remains relevant throughout the generations, where each generation can adjust the text to be relevant for era.
Therefore, whenever the text is simple and clear, the Bible is telling us something beyond era and circumstances. It is telling us something eternal. In this story it teaches us how to run a just trial. But this is not all.
The story of Sodom and Gomorrah, starting in Genesis 18, is a story in two episodes. The first episode is the story of a trial, in which Abraham, the defence, is doing all in his power to stop the unavoidable destruction of the two cities. In the second episode we learn about the tragic story of Lot, his wife, and the rest of his family.
Unlike the previous story we covered of Cain and Abel, this story has fewer ambiguities and paradoxes. Yet, so much of it is as relevant to our lives today as it was during the days of Abraham.
The story starts with the three messengers coming to visit Abraham. We start our discussion from verse 20, in which God is now speaking to Abraham.
This is a story the Bible tells about a man who starts his life toiling in the fields as a farmer and ends up building a city. He calls this city after his son, and then he starts a dynasty that helps shaping human civilisation.
What an inspiring story it can be, what an inspiration it is for anyone that is facing a major life change, to anyone who mourns what they are leaving behind, and cannot see the opportunities ahead.
Only that this story has a catch. To start his transition into the position of power, the man must first get punished for a murder. But not just of anyone. He first has to kill his own little brother.