Monday, April 1, 2013

Genesis 18: Abraham Negotiates With God

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Isaac's Birth Promised[cont.] (v. 1-21)

The lord (plus 2 others) came to visit Abraham and he bowed to him and provided a nice meal for him. The lord, once again, promised that Sarah would have a son. She was listening through the door of the tent and laughed because she has already gone through menopause (or as the bible puts it, the way of women ad ceased to be with Sarah). The Lord asks why she laughed and if anything is impossible for him to do, and Sarah denies laughing because she's afraid.

The idea of God showing up with 2 others and sitting down for dinner is definitely a strange picture. It certainly doesn't fit very well with the picture of an almighty God that I have in my head. Also, what is the deal with the other 2 with him? That isn't explained at all. There are also a few times where "the Lord" refers to himself in third person, which seems strange, it makes me wonder if this was supposed to be three gods originally and all of the dialog eventually got subsumed into one character, which is why it's a bit awkward. I'm sure the Christians will say this is evidence of the trinity though.

Not surprisingly, Guzik again takes the position that this is Jesus, he doesn't actually address the other 2 people who are with him though. In fact, I guess he can't say it is the trinity like I thought he would, because the justification for it being Jesus before was that no one has ever seen God. Matthew Henry had this to say
These three men were three spiritual heavenly beings, now assuming human bodies, that they might be visible to Abraham, and conversable with him. Some think that they were all created angels, others that one of them was the Son of God, the angel of the covenant, whom Abraham distinguished from the rest (v. 3), and who is called Jehovah
I definitely like this perspective better. The text is definitely vague about who the three people are, he gives out a couple of possibilities and the moves on.

I also find it very interesting that Sarah is so afraid of God that she lies about having laughed at what he said.

Then the three men head out and Abraham comes along to send them on their way toward Sodom. The three men have a conversation as to whether they should hide what they are about to do from Abraham because he will be the leader of a great and mighty nation.

I definitely don't follow what is being said here. Why is God contemplating hiding what he's about to do from Abraham, and how does him being destined to lead a great nation play into it? I hope the commentaries have some insight here.

This is actually pretty interesting insight from Guzik. The purpose is actually opposite from what it seemed like to me. The natural thing would have been for God to not mention what he was going to do at Sodom and Gomorrah at all. In effect he would have been hiding it from Abraham just by default. Instead, he was asking if he should instead bring it up to him and see what he thought. So it's not that god was contemplating hiding it from Abraham, but instead he was contemplating not hiding it from him. Since he would be a great leader of nations, God is giving him a chance to weigh in on it. This actually makes a lot of sense I think.

It turns out (as I'm sure everyone already knows) that God is thinking of destroying Sodom and Gomorrah because they have been committing sins and the outcry against them is very great. He is planning on going down there to check it out and see if the outcry matches the reality of what is going on.

Okay, this is definitely not the omni-god that we all have heard about. He apparently has some kind of reports coming in to him somehow that these people are sinning, and he has to go down to the city and check it out to verify those reports. This God is obviously not omniscient.

From Matthew Henry:
Not as if there were any thing concerning which God is in doubt, or in the dark; but he is pleased thus to express himself after the manner of men
of course, God didn't need to go down there and look, this was for the benefit of Abraham. The only problem with that is what happens next thought right? If I remember this story correctly, in the next chapter or so, God is going to send down some angels to actually check stuff out. If God really knew all of this he wouldn't bother actually doing it. If this was for Abraham's benefit and he really didn't need to investigate in person, God would just say these things to Abraham and then not follow through. You might complain that in this situation God would be lying to Abraham, but according to this interpretation he's already lying to him, so what's the difference?

Abraham Intercedes for Sodom (v. 22-33)

Apparently though, Abraham heard the conversation between God and the 2 others there and asked God if he was willing to kill a few righteous people in order to kill the wicked people as well. He asks God if he will spare Sodom if he can find some righteous people within the city. The conversation starts with Abraham asking if he will spare the city for the sake of 50 righteous people, then in a really bizarre negotiation, bargains him down to 10 righteous people.

This section is really weird, the whole bargaining aspect here is strange and certainly doesn't seem Godly to me.
Pic found here
For the verses of note post:

--Fear--

Genesis 18:15 Sarah was afraid of God and lied to him

"But Sarah denied it, saying, 'I did not laugh,' for she was afraid..."

--Properties of God--

Genesis 18:20-21 God is not omniscient

"Then the LORD said, 'Because the outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is great and their sin is very grave, I will go down to see whether they have done altogether according to the outcry that has come to me. And if not, I will know.'"

4 comments:

  1. The group of men could be God and some angels, or it could be a group of deities, going back to the polytheism/henotheism discussion a while back.

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    1. Yeah. I think the main reason the God + 2 angels doesn't sit right with me is that the bible has identified God and angels talking to people in the past. So if it was God and 2 angels, you would think it would just say that. Since it said 3 men, it suggests to me something else. I think three God's makes the most sense. I don't possess the tools necessary to look into that idea, but it makes the most sense to me.

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  2. I do believe in angels (without wings) for my own reasons, and I've often wondered who was so "omniscient" that they were able to write the exact accounts of the "lord's" word's and misdeeds for thousands of years. If God condemns whole cities, and drowns the entire world except for one family, including all the innocent souls, for the sins of a few errant adults, rest assured, that will never be a God I would worship.

    That's why I created my very own peaceful loving "One" and have no doubt "it" knows why...and so does Jesus...if they truly do exist anywhere in the Universe.

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    1. I think that is a really important point to keep in mind. Many of these stories write down what God said, or even what God was thinking. If the word of God highly benefits the person writing down the story, it should definitely be considered suspect. Granted, it is possible that God is talking to me right now and telling me that everyone reading this comment should send me a thousand dollars, but isn't it much more likely that I just want some money?

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