Verses 16–22

The messengers from heaven had now despatched one part of their business, which was an errand of grace to Abraham and Sarah, and which they delivered first; but now they have before them work of another nature. Sodom is to be destroyed, and they must do it, Gen. 19:13. Note, As with the Lord there is mercy, so he is the God to whom vengeance belongs. Pursuant to their commission, we here find, 1. That they looked towards Sodom (Gen. 18:16); they set their faces against it in wrath, as God is said to look unto the host of the Egyptians, Exod. 14:24. Note, Though God has long seemed to connive at sinners, from which they have inferred that the Lord does not see, does not regard, yet, when the day of his wrath comes, he will look towards them. 2. That they went towards Sodom (Gen. 18:22), and accordingly we find two of them at Sodom, Gen. 19:1. Whether the third was the Lord, before whom Abraham yet stood, and to whom he drew near (Gen. 18:23), as most think, or whether the third left them before they came to Sodom, and the Lord before whom Abraham stood was the shechinah, or that appearance of the divine glory which Abraham had formerly seen and conversed with, is uncertain. However, we have here,

I. The honour Abraham did to his guests: He went with them to bring them on the way, as one that was loth to part with such good company, and was desirous to pay his utmost respects to them. This is a piece of civility proper to be shown to our friends; but it must be done as the apostle directs (3 John 1:6), after a godly sort.

II. The honour they did to him; for those that honour God he will honour. God communicated to Abraham his purpose to destroy Sodom, and not only so, but entered into a free conference with him about it. Having taken him, more closely than before, into covenant with himself (Gen. 17:1-23), he here admits him into more intimate communion with himself than ever, as the man of his counsel. Observe here,

1. God’s friendly thoughts concerning Abraham, Gen. 18:17-19, where we have his resolution to make known to Abraham his purpose concerning Sodom, with the reasons of it. If Abraham had not brought them on their way, perhaps he would not have been thus favoured; but he that loves to walk with wise men shall be wise, Prov. 13:20. See how God is pleased to argue with himself: Shall I hide from Abraham (or, as some read it, Amos I concealing from Abraham) that thing which I do? “Can I go about such a thing, and not tell Abraham?” Thus does God, in his counsels, express himself, after the manner of men, with deliberation. But why must Abraham be of the cabinet-council? The Jews suggest that because God had granted the land of Canaan to Abraham and his seed therefore he would not destroy those cities which were a part of that land, without his knowledge and consent. But God here gives two other reasons:—

(1.) Abraham must know, for he is a friend and a favourite, and one that God has a particular kindness for and great things in store for. He is to become a great nation; and not only so, but in the Messiah, who is to come from his loins, All nations of the earth shall be blessed. Note, The secret of the Lord is with those that fear him, Ps. 25:14; Prov. 3:32. Those who by faith live a life of communion with God cannot but know more of his mind than other people, though not with a prophetical, yet with a prudential practical knowledge. They have a better insight than others into what is present (Hos. 14:9; Ps. 107:43), and a better foresight of what is to come, at least so much as suffices for their guidance and for their comfort.

(2.) Abraham must know, for he will teach his household: I know Abraham very well, that he will command his children and his household after him, Gen. 18:19. Consider this, [1.] As a very bright part of Abraham’s character and example. He not only prayed with his family, but he taught them as a man of knowledge, nay, he commanded them as a man in authority, and was prophet and king, as well as priest, in his own house. Observe, First, God having made the covenant with him and his seed, and his household being circumcised pursuant to that, he was very careful to teach and rule them well. Those that expect family blessings must make conscience of family duty. If our children be the Lord’s, they must be nursed for him; if they wear his livery, they must be trained up in his work. Secondly, Abraham took care not only of his children, but of his household; his servants were catechized servants. Masters of families should instruct and inspect the manners of all under their roof. The poorest servants have precious souls that must be looked after. Thirdly, Abraham made it his care and business to promote practical religion in his family. He did not fill their heads with matters of nice speculation, or doubtful disputation; but he taught them to keep the way of the Lord, and to do judgment and justice, that is, to be serious and devout in the worship of God and to be honest in their dealings with all men. Fourthly, Abraham, herein, had an eye to posterity, and was in care not only that his household with him, but that his household after him, should keep the way of the Lord, that religion might flourish in his family when he was in his grave. Fifthly, His doing this was the fulfilling of the conditions of the promises which God had made him. Those only can expect the benefit of the promises that make conscience of their duty. [2.] As the reason why God would make known to him his purpose concerning Sodom, because he was communicative of his knowledge, and improved it for the benefit of those that were under his charge. Note, To him that hath shall be given, Matt. 13:12; 25:29. Those that make a good use of their knowledge shall know more.

2. God’s friendly talk with Abraham, in which he makes known to him purpose concerning Sodom, and allows him a liberty of application to him about the matter. (1.) He tells him of the evidence there was against Sodom: The cry of Sodom is great, Gen. 18:20. Note, Some sins, and the sins of some sinners, cry aloud to heaven for vengeance. The iniquity of Sodom was crying iniquity, that is, it was so very provoking that it even urged God to punish. (2.) The enquiry he would make upon this evidence: I will go down now and see, Gen. 18:21. 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, [1.] To show the incontestable equity of all his judicial proceedings. Men are apt to suggest that his way is not equal; but let them know that his judgments are the result of an eternal counsel, and are never rash or sudden resolves. He never punishes upon report, or common fame, or the information of others, but upon his own certain and infallible knowledge. [2.] To give example to magistrates, and those in authority, with the utmost care and diligence to enquire into the merits of a cause, before they give judgment upon it. [3.] Perhaps the decree is here spoken of as not yet peremptory, that room and encouragement might be given to Abraham to make intercession for them. Thus God looked if there were any to intercede, Isa. 59:16.