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Who was saved in Sodom and Gomorrah?

My wife just blew my mind. I thought I knew the basics of the story of Sodom and Gomorrah. I’ve always cottoned to it because you have to like a religion in which people get to argue with their god. But I thought it was obvious that Abraham was arguing to save the innocent.

Nope. My wife, who is a scholar about these things (although she denies it), says that on the contrary, the traditional Jewish commentators take it for granted that G-d will save the innocent. And, indeed, He brings Lot out, even though Lot is only semi-innocent. In fact, Abraham is arguing that the presence of the innocent ought to save the guilty.

Why would having ten righteous people in a city be reason enough to save the guilty, given that either way, the innocent were going to be saved? That’s where the Jewish discussion of this passage begins. And maybe it’s where everyone’s discussion begins. But not me. I had it quite backwards.

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7 Responses to “Who was saved in Sodom and Gomorrah?”

  1. Hmm… My bible (officially it was something like “legacy of the people of Israel”) teacher at school, in Israel, definitely taught this story as if Abraham was arguing for saving the innocents
    (well, to be accurate, as if God wanted to wipe the whole city indiscriminately, guilty and innocents, and so Abraham claimed that if there are a few innocents who will get hurt than the city should be spared).

  2. um … it’s been admittedly a while since I read it, but iirc, Abraham LOST the argument, didn’t he? So his reasoning was clearly not up to snuff, so to speak,
    if you’ll pardon the pun.

    Now, that said,

    Considering that evolution strives to solve a very complex collective survival problem by increasing the mean fitness and diversity in parallel, where the degree of difficulty is far beyond the mental ability of man, we may ask the following question: To what extent may every individual contribute to the solution of the collective survival problem? Suppose the answer to be that all contribute equally. In such a case, all humans should have equal dignity.
    How do we arrive at such a conclusion?

    [ The equal dignity of all human beings? ]

    The paper goes on to show how the theorem of Gaussian adaptation shows the mean fitness of the population is optimal and therefore all parents “contribute equal to the centre of gravity of the characters”. Does it follow that perhaps Abraham was thousands of years ahead of his time in his social economics abilities, or is it possible the G-d of Abraham was aiming to permanently subvert the ecological validity of all the residents, innocent or not?

  3. mrG, in Genesis 18:33, it’s pretty clear that G-d agrees not to destroy S&G if there are ten righteous people there. Abraham therefore won the argument.

    Unfortunately, S&G seem to have failed to meet the minimum requirement.

    G-d nevertheless doesn’t destroy the righteous with the wicked, for G-d rescues Lot, the one semi-righteous person there. Thus, Abraham seem to have been arguing with G-d to save the _wicked_.

  4. Interesting point.
    It seems clear from the story that God does save the innocent or at least the semi-innocent from Sodom. So I can understand why Jewish Scholars would (from their wider biblical knowledge) would assume that God will save the innocent.

    However I wonder from Abraham’s perspective whether he would have known this?

    It seems to me that Abraham is technically interceding on behalf of Sodom (“save the city”, rather than “save the innocent” or”save the guilt”), but he has clearly got Lot and his family in mind.

    Which is hinted at later in Gen 19:29 – “God remembered Abraham and sent Lot out of the midst of the overthrow when he overthrew the cities in which Lot had lived.”
    This suggests that it was because of Abraham that God saved Lot.

    The content of Abraham’s argument certainly seems to be that it isn’t fair to destroy the innocent.
    Gen 18:23 – Then Abraham drew near and said, “Will you indeed sweep away the righteous with the wicked?”

    It seems to me like Lot is a ‘man of the city’ he didn’t want to have to run away to the hills (although he does once he is scared enough), Abraham may have known this, and was hoping that God would save the whole city, rather than just Lot. Imagine being told your city would be destroyed, even if you were told you could escape with your family to the wilderness, you still wouldn’t be happy to lose your, house, friends, property etc. Sure you keep your life but effectively you lose the life you were living. Remember their was no insurance policies, bank accounts that you could access anywhere in those days. Lot lost almost everything in the destruction.

    Interesting topic anyways.


  5. […] This is an interesting question… should, or does, the presence of the innocent save the guilty? […]

  6. Whoa! I had never thought of it like that either. I am definitely going to remember this and look into it.

  7. Was Lot son n laws saved or was there only 4 people saved.

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