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18. The Three Visitors

And the Lord appeared unto him in the plains of Mamre: and he sat in the tent door in the heat of the day; 2And he lift up his eyes and looked, and, lo, three men stood by him: and when he saw them, he ran to meet them from the tent door, and bowed himself toward the ground, 3And said, My Lord, if now I have found favour in thy sight, pass not away, I pray thee, from thy servant: 4Let a little water, I pray you, be fetched, and wash your feet, and rest yourselves under the tree: 5And I will fetch a morsel of bread, and comfort ye your hearts; after that ye shall pass on: for therefore are ye come to your servant. And they said, So do, as thou hast said. 6And Abraham hastened into the tent unto Sarah, and said, Make ready quickly three measures of fine meal, knead it, and make cakes upon the hearth. 7And Abraham ran unto the herd, and fetcht a calf tender and good, and gave it unto a young man; and he hasted to dress it. 8And he took butter, and milk, and the calf which he had dressed, and set it before them; and he stood by them under the tree, and they did eat.

9And they said unto him, Where is Sarah thy wife? And he said, Behold, in the tent. 10And he said, I will certainly return unto thee according to the time of life; and, lo, Sarah thy wife shall have a son. And Sarah heard it in the tent door, which was behind him. 11Now Abraham and Sarah were old and well stricken in age; and it ceased to be with Sarah after the manner of women. 12Therefore Sarah laughed within herself, saying, After I am waxed old shall I have pleasure, my lord being old also? 13And the Lord said unto Abraham, Wherefore did Sarah laugh, saying, Shall I of a surety bear a child, which am old? 14Is any thing too hard for the Lord? At the time appointed I will return unto thee, according to the time of life, and Sarah shall have a son. 15Then Sarah denied, saying, I laughed not; for she was afraid. And he said, Nay; but thou didst laugh.

16And the men rose up from thence, and looked toward Sodom: and Abraham went with them to bring them on the way. 17And the Lord said, Shall I hide from Abraham that thing which I do; 18Seeing that Abraham shall surely become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him? 19For I know him, that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the Lord, to do justice and judgment; that the Lord may bring upon Abraham that which he hath spoken of him. 20And the Lord said, Because the cry of Sodom and Gomorrah is great, and because their sin is very grievous; 21I will go down now, and see whether they have done altogether according to the cry of it, which is come unto me; and if not, I will know. 22And the men turned their faces from thence, and went toward Sodom: but Abraham stood yet before the Lord. 23And Abraham drew near, and said, Wilt thou also destroy the righteous with the wicked? 24Peradventure there be fifty righteous within the city: wilt thou also destroy and not spare the place for the fifty righteous that are therein? 25That be far from thee to do after this manner, to slay the righteous with the wicked: and that the righteous should be as the wicked, that be far from thee: Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right? 26And the Lord said, If I find in Sodom fifty righteous within the city, then I will spare all the place for their sakes. 27And Abraham answered and said, Behold now, I have taken upon me to speak unto the Lord, which am but dust and ashes: 28Peradventure there shall lack five of the fifty righteous: wilt thou destroy all the city for lack of five? And he said, If I find there forty and five, I will not destroy it. 29And he spake unto him yet again, and said, Peradventure there shall be forty found there. And he said, I will not do it for forty’s sake. 30And he said unto him, Oh let not the Lord be angry, and I will speak: Peradventure there shall thirty be found there. And he said, I will not do it, if I find thirty there. 31And he said, Behold now, I have taken upon me to speak unto the Lord: Peradventure there shall be twenty found there. And he said, I will not destroy it for twenty’s sake. 32And he said, Oh let not the Lord be angry, and I will speak yet but this once: Peradventure ten shall be found there. And he said, I will not destroy it for ten’s sake. 33And the Lord went his way, as soon as he had left communing with Abraham: and Abraham returned unto his place.

21. I will go down now. Since this was a signal example of the wrath of God, which He intends to be celebrated through all ages, and to which he frequently refers in the Scripture; therefore Moses diligently records those things which are especially to be considered in divine judgments; just as, in this place, he commends the moderation of God, who does not immediately fulminate against the ungodly and pour out his vengeance upon them; but who, when affairs were utterly desperate, at length executes the punishment which had been long held suspended over them. And the Lord does not testify in vain, that he proceeds to inflict punishment in a suitable and rightly attempered order; because, whenever he chastises us, we are apt to think that he acts towards us more severely than is just. Even when, with astonishing forbearance, he waits for us, until we have come to the utmost limit of impiety, and our wickedness has become too obstinate to be spared any longer; still we complain of the excessive haste of his rigour. Therefore he presents as in a conspicuous picture, his equity in bearing with us, in order that we may know, that he never breaks forth to inflict punishment, except on those who are mature in crime. Now, if, on the other hand, we look at Sodom; there a horrible example of stupor meets our eyes. For the men of Sodom go on, as if they had nothing to do with God; their sense of good and evil being extinguished, they wallow like cattle in every kind of filth; and just as if they should never have to render an account of their conduct, they flatter themselves in their vices. Since this disease too much prevails in all ages, and is at present far too common, it is important to mark this circumstance, that at the very time when the men of Sodom, having dismissed all fear of God, were indulging themselves, and were promising themselves impunity, however they might sin, God was taking counsel to destroy them, and was moved, by the tumultuous cry of their iniquities, to descend to earth, while they were buried in profound sleep. Wherefore, if God, at any time, defers his judgments; let us not, therefore, think ourselves in a better condition; but before the cry of our wickedness shall have wearied his ears may we, aroused by His threats, quickly hasten to appease Him. Since, however, such forbearance of God cannot be comprehended by us, Moses introduces Him as speaking according to the manner of men.

Whether they have done altogether according to the cry of it.417417     Fecerint consummationem.” If they have brought it to a consummation. “Assavoir s’ils ont accompli.” If indeed they have accomplished, etc. — French Tr The Hebrew noun כלא (cala,) which Moses here uses, means the perfection, or the end of a thing, and also its destruction. Therefore, Jerome turns it, ‘If they shall have completed it in act.’ I have, indeed, no doubt but Moses intimates, that God came down, in order to inquire whether or not their sins had risen to the highest point: just as he before said, that the iniquities of the Amorites were not yet full. The sum of the whole then is; the Lord was about to see whether they were altogether desperate, as having precipitated themselves into the lowest depths of evil; or whether they were still in the midst of a course, from which it was possible for them to be recalled to a sound mind; forasmuch as he was unwilling utterly to destroy those cities, if, by any method, their wickedness was curable. Others translate the passage, ‘If they have done this, their final destruction is at hand: but if not, I will see how far they are to be punished.’ But the former sense is most accordant with the context.


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