Why did God visit Sodom and Gomorrah? Doesn’t He Know?

Sodom and Gomorrah #1

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.  

Table which shows the English translation of Genesis 18:20 and 21 next to the original Hebrew Bible text: (God speaks to Abraham )20. "And God said, because the outcry of Sodom and Gamorrah is plenty and because their sin is very heavy."
21. "I will go down and I will see, if they were doing as her cries that are reaching me; I will destroy them. And if not, I will know."


The First question this verse raises is, whose cry is reaching God? In Hebrew the word הַכְּצַעֲקָתָהּ (as her cry, or as she cries) is of feminine, singular form. Therefore, it cannot refer to Sodom and Gomorrah – they are plural.

Does it refer to Sodom only, which throughout this chapter and the next the text often refers to it without Gomorrah. Or is it someone oppressed in these cities of sin that is calling God?  While some consider this grammatical use to be just a matter of writing style, others believe that there is a deeper, hidden meaning, and that the verse hints at someone specific that is calling. I do not know which is right. But I wanted to raise it here, and let you make up your mind.

There is more important question.

Why does God need to go down and see what’s happening in these cities, doesn’t He know?

Of course he does.

He does not do it because He needs to know. But throughout this entire chapter, we will see, over and again, that God and Abraham are acting in a play. They are teaching us how to run a just, fair trial. Verse 20 is our first lesson. God does not rely on His knowledge. He, as the judge, must get the evidence firsthand. He must go and see for Himself.

If God needs to go and check, shouldn’t every human judge do the same? How many judges, who could not be bothered to go and check evidence, condemned innocent people? We know of many such cases. But if God needs to go and check the facts, can any of these human judges be excused and forgiven when they condemn someone without it?

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1 year ago

[…] the previous verse God demonstrated how a judge should go and check the evidence. Here we continue to receive […]

1 year ago

[…] point is even more subtle. It is the way the Hebrew words for destruction are used. We have seen, in verse 21 that when God talks about destroying Sodom and Gomorrah he uses the word כָּלָה. The meaning […]