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The Lord appears to Abraham at the hottest part of the day while Abraham's chilling on his porch.
But Abraham sees three men. The three men switch in and out with God throughout this story. Try to keep track. And while you're at it, think about this: what are the implications of this regarding the modes of divine epiphany?
Abraham shows some hospitality, bowing to them as a sign of respect, begging them to honor him with their presence, and serving up a feast.
While they're eating, the three guests ask where his wife Sarah is. Abraham points to her tent.
Then one of the guests declares that she will have a son. Hmmm, we've heard this before.
Sarah eavesdrops on the conversation and chuckles to herself because—we mean, she's already gone through menopause. Abraham laughed about this too, but he wasn't quite as discreet as Sarah (compare 17:17-18).
The Lord won't let it go. He interrogates Abraham for Sarah's laughter.
Guess what? Sarah lies about laughing, but come on, who's fooling who? The Lord busts Sarah on her lie.
The three men set out toward Sodom, and Abraham walks with them as he says goodbye.
The Lord tells Abraham that the outcry of Sodom and Gomorrah is very loud, which means that their wickedness is serious stuff.
The Lord's going to go check it out, and if things are as bad as they sound, there's going to be trouble.
Abraham turns philosophical on us and starts questioning the nature of justice. He asks a fair question: will God destroy the righteous with the wicked?
Even if there's fifty good people, isn't it unfair to destroy everyone? God should distinguish between the innocent and the guilty. He is, after all, the "Judge of all the earth" (18:26). Doesn't that mean he should act with justice?
The Lord thinks Abraham has a good point. The deity didn't cut a bunch of deals with this guy for nothing.
Abraham pushes harder and asks whether this holds true for forty-five innocent people.
(Don't worry, he prefaces his remark by humbly admitting he is but dust and ashes. That's a smart thing to do when talking to authority figures, we guess.)
God agrees. God will not destroy the cities if there are forty-five righteous people there.
This continues until Abraham whittles the Lord down from fifty to ten righteous people.