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Genesis 18-19 New American Bible (Revised Edition) (NABRE)

Chapter 18

Abraham’s Visitors. [a]The Lord appeared to Abraham by the oak of Mamre, as he sat in the entrance of his tent, while the day was growing hot. Looking up, he saw three men standing near him. When he saw them, he ran from the entrance of the tent to greet them; and bowing to the ground, he said: “Sir,[b] if it please you, do not go on past your servant. Let some water be brought, that you may bathe your feet, and then rest under the tree. Now that you have come to your servant, let me bring you a little food, that you may refresh yourselves; and afterward you may go on your way.” “Very well,” they replied, “do as you have said.”

Abraham hurried into the tent to Sarah and said, “Quick, three measures[c] of bran flour! Knead it and make bread.” He ran to the herd, picked out a tender, choice calf, and gave it to a servant, who quickly prepared it. Then he got some curds[d] and milk, as well as the calf that had been prepared, and set these before them, waiting on them under the tree while they ate.

“Where is your wife Sarah?” they asked him. “There in the tent,” he replied. 10 One of them[e] said, “I will return to you about this time next year, and Sarah will then have a son.” Sarah was listening at the entrance of the tent, just behind him. 11 Now Abraham and Sarah were old, advanced in years, and Sarah had stopped having her menstrual periods. 12 So Sarah laughed[f] to herself and said, “Now that I am worn out and my husband is old, am I still to have sexual pleasure?” 13 But the Lord said to Abraham: “Why did Sarah laugh and say, ‘Will I really bear a child, old as I am?’ 14 Is anything too marvelous for the Lord to do? At the appointed time, about this time next year, I will return to you, and Sarah will have a son.” 15 Sarah lied, saying, “I did not laugh,” because she was afraid. But he said, “Yes, you did.”

Abraham Intercedes for Sodom. 16 With Abraham walking with them to see them on their way, the men set out from there and looked down toward Sodom. 17 The Lord considered: Shall I hide from Abraham what I am about to do, 18 now that he is to become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth are to find blessing in him? 19 Indeed, I have singled him out that he may direct his children and his household in the future to keep the way of the Lord by doing what is right and just, so that the Lord may put into effect for Abraham the promises he made about him. 20 So the Lord said: The outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is so great, and their sin so grave,[g] 21 that I must go down to see whether or not their actions are as bad as the cry against them that comes to me. I mean to find out.

22 As the men turned and walked on toward Sodom, Abraham remained standing before the Lord. 23 Then Abraham drew near and said: “Will you really sweep away the righteous with the wicked? 24 Suppose there were fifty righteous people in the city; would you really sweep away and not spare the place for the sake of the fifty righteous people within it? 25 Far be it from you to do such a thing, to kill the righteous with the wicked, so that the righteous and the wicked are treated alike! Far be it from you! Should not the judge of all the world do what is just?” 26 The Lord replied: If I find fifty righteous people in the city of Sodom, I will spare the whole place for their sake. 27 Abraham spoke up again: “See how I am presuming to speak to my Lord, though I am only dust and ashes! 28 What if there are five less than fifty righteous people? Will you destroy the whole city because of those five?” I will not destroy it, he answered, if I find forty-five there. 29 But Abraham persisted, saying, “What if only forty are found there?” He replied: I will refrain from doing it for the sake of the forty. 30 Then he said, “Do not let my Lord be angry if I go on. What if only thirty are found there?” He replied: I will refrain from doing it if I can find thirty there. 31 Abraham went on, “Since I have thus presumed to speak to my Lord, what if there are no more than twenty?” I will not destroy it, he answered, for the sake of the twenty. 32 But he persisted: “Please, do not let my Lord be angry if I speak up this last time. What if ten are found there?” For the sake of the ten, he replied, I will not destroy it.

33 The Lord departed as soon as he had finished speaking with Abraham, and Abraham returned home.

Chapter 19

Destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah.[h] The two angels reached Sodom in the evening, as Lot was sitting at the gate of Sodom. When Lot saw them, he got up to greet them; and bowing down with his face to the ground, he said, “Please, my lords,[i] come aside into your servant’s house for the night, and bathe your feet; you can get up early to continue your journey.” But they replied, “No, we will pass the night in the town square.” He urged them so strongly, however, that they turned aside to his place and entered his house. He prepared a banquet for them, baking unleavened bread, and they dined.

Before they went to bed, the townsmen of Sodom, both young and old—all the people to the last man—surrounded the house. They called to Lot and said to him, “Where are the men who came to your house tonight? Bring them out to us that we may have sexual relations with them.” Lot went out to meet them at the entrance. When he had shut the door behind him, he said, “I beg you, my brothers, do not do this wicked thing! I have two daughters who have never had sexual relations with men. Let me bring them out to you,[j] and you may do to them as you please. But do not do anything to these men, for they have come under the shelter of my roof.” They replied, “Stand back! This man,” they said, “came here as a resident alien, and now he dares to give orders! We will treat you worse than them!” With that, they pressed hard against Lot, moving in closer to break down the door. 10 But his guests put out their hands, pulled Lot inside with them, and closed the door; 11 they struck the men at the entrance of the house, small and great, with such a blinding light[k] that they were utterly unable to find the doorway.

12 Then the guests said to Lot: “Who else belongs to you here? Sons-in-law, your sons, your daughters, all who belong to you in the city—take them away from this place! 13 We are about to destroy this place, for the outcry reaching the Lord against those here is so great that the Lord has sent us to destroy it.” 14 So Lot went out and spoke to his sons-in-law, who had contracted marriage with his daughters.[l] “Come on, leave this place,” he told them; “the Lord is about to destroy the city.” But his sons-in-law thought he was joking.

15 As dawn was breaking, the angels urged Lot on, saying, “Come on! Take your wife with you and your two daughters who are here, or you will be swept away in the punishment of the city.” 16 When he hesitated, the men, because of the Lord’s compassion for him, seized his hand and the hands of his wife and his two daughters and led them to safety outside the city. 17 As soon as they had brought them outside, they said: “Flee for your life! Do not look back or stop anywhere on the Plain. Flee to the hills at once, or you will be swept away.” 18 “Oh, no, my lords!” Lot replied to them. 19 “You have already shown favor to your servant, doing me the great kindness of saving my life. But I cannot flee to the hills, or the disaster will overtake and kill me. 20 Look, this town ahead is near enough to escape to. It is only a small place.[m] Let me flee there—is it not a small place?—to save my life.” 21 “Well, then,” he replied, “I grant you this favor too. I will not overthrow the town you have mentioned. 22 Hurry, escape there! I cannot do anything until you arrive there.” That is why the town is called Zoar.

23 The sun had risen over the earth when Lot arrived in Zoar, 24 and the Lord rained down sulfur upon Sodom and Gomorrah, fire from the Lord out of heaven. 25 He overthrew[n] those cities and the whole Plain, together with the inhabitants of the cities and the produce of the soil. 26 But Lot’s wife looked back, and she was turned into a pillar of salt.

27 The next morning Abraham hurried to the place where he had stood before the Lord. 28 As he looked down toward Sodom and Gomorrah and the whole region of the Plain,[o] he saw smoke over the land rising like the smoke from a kiln.

29 When God destroyed the cities of the Plain, he remembered Abraham and sent Lot away from the upheaval that occurred when God overthrew the cities where Lot had been living.

Moabites and Ammonites.[p] 30 Since Lot was afraid to stay in Zoar, he and his two daughters went up from Zoar and settled in the hill country, where he lived with his two daughters in a cave. 31 The firstborn said to the younger: “Our father is getting old, and there is not a man in the land to have intercourse with us as is the custom everywhere. 32 Come, let us ply our father with wine and then lie with him, that we may ensure posterity by our father.” 33 So that night they plied their father with wine, and the firstborn went in and lay with her father; but he was not aware of her lying down or getting up. 34 The next day the firstborn said to the younger: “Last night I lay with my father. Let us ply him with wine again tonight, and then you go in and lie with him, that we may ensure posterity by our father.” 35 So that night, too, they plied their father with wine, and then the younger one went in and lay with him; but he was not aware of her lying down or getting up.

36 Thus the two daughters of Lot became pregnant by their father. 37 The firstborn gave birth to a son whom she named Moab, saying, “From my father.”[q] He is the ancestor of the Moabites of today. 38 The younger one, too, gave birth to a son, and she named him Ammon, saying, “The son of my kin.”[r] He is the ancestor of the Ammonites of today.

Footnotes:

  1. 18:1 Chapters 18 and 19 combined form a continuous narrative, concluding the story of Abraham and his nephew Lot that began in 13:2–18. The mysterious men visit Abraham in Mamre to promise him and Sarah a child the following year (18:1–15) and then visit Lot in Sodom to investigate and then to punish the corrupt city (19:1–29). Between the two visits, Abraham questions God about the justice of punishing Sodom (18:16–33). At the end of the destruction of Sodom, there is a short narrative about Lot as the ancestor of Moab and the Ammonites (19:30–38).
  2. 18:3 Abraham addresses the leader of the group, whom he does not yet recognize as the Lord; in the next two verses he speaks to all three men. The other two are later (Gn 19:1) identified as angels. The shifting numbers and identification of the visitors are a narrative way of expressing the mysterious presence of God.
  3. 18:6 Three measures: Hebrew seah; three seahs equal one ephah, about half a bushel.
  4. 18:8 Curds: a type of soft cheese or yogurt.
  5. 18:10 One of them: i.e., the Lord.
  6. 18:12 Sarah laughed: a play on the verb “laugh,” which prefigures the name of Isaac; see note on 17:17.
  7. 18:20 The immorality of the cities was already hinted at in 13:13, when Lot made his choice to live there. The “outcry” comes from the victims of the injustice and violence rampant in the city, which will shortly be illustrated in the treatment of the visitors. The outcry of the Hebrews under the harsh treatment of Pharaoh (Ex 3:7) came up to God who reacts in anger at mistreatment of the poor (cf. Ex 22:21–23; Is 5:7). Sodom and Gomorrah became types of sinful cities in biblical literature. Is 1:9–10; 3:9 sees their sin as lack of social justice, Ez 16:46–51, as disregard for the poor, and Jer 23:14, as general immorality. In the Genesis story, the sin is violation of the sacred duty of hospitality by the threatened rape of Lot’s guests.
  8. 19:1–29 The story takes place in one day (counting a day from the previous evening): evening (v. 1), dawn (v. 15), and sunrise (v. 23). The passage resembles Jgs 19:15–25, which suggests dependence of one story on the other.
  9. 19:2 My lords: Lot does not yet know that the men are God’s messengers; cf. 18:3.
  10. 19:8 Let me bring them out to you: the authority of a patriarch within his house was virtually absolute. Lot’s extreme response of offering his daughters to a violent mob seems to be motivated by the obligation of hospitality.
  11. 19:11 Blinding light: an extraordinary flash that temporarily dazed the wicked men and revealed to Lot the true nature of his guests.
  12. 19:14 It is uncertain whether Lot’s sons-in-law were fully married to his daughters or only “engaged” to them (Israelite “engagement” was the first part of the marriage ceremony), or even whether the daughters involved were the same as, or different from, the two daughters who were still in their father’s house.
  13. 19:20 A small place: the Hebrew word misar, lit., “a little thing,” has the same root consonants as the name of the town Zoar in v. 22.
  14. 19:25 Overthrew: this term, lit., “turned upside down,” is used consistently to describe the destruction of the cities of the Plain. The imagery of earthquake and subsequent fire fits the geology of this region.
  15. 19:28–29 In a deft narrative detail, Abraham looks down from the height east of Hebron, from which he could easily see the region at the southern end of the Dead Sea, where the cities of the Plain were probably located.
  16. 19:30–38 This Israelite tale about the origin of Israel’s neighbors east of the Jordan and the Dead Sea was told partly to ridicule these ethnically related but rival nations and partly to give popular etymologies for their names. The stylized nature of the story is seen in the names of the daughters (“the firstborn” and “the younger”), the ease with which they fool their father, and the identical descriptions of the encounters.
  17. 19:37 From my father: in Hebrew, me’abi, similar in sound to the name “Moab.”
  18. 19:38 The son of my kin: in Hebrew, ben-ammi, similar in sound to the name “Ammonites.”
New American Bible (Revised Edition) (NABRE)

Scripture texts, prefaces, introductions, footnotes and cross references used in this work are taken from the New American Bible, revised edition © 2010, 1991, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Inc., Washington, DC All Rights Reserved. No part of this work may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the copyright owner.

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