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Genesis 18:16-33 recounts the story, "Abraham Pleads for Sodom" (NIV). When conversing with God, Abraham asks God if He would destroy the city if there were 50 righteous people in it. God replies No, so Abraham gradually reduces the number, until he reaches 10.

Genesis 18:32

Then he said, “May the Lord not be angry, but let me speak just once more. What if only ten can be found there?”

He answered, “For the sake of ten, I will not destroy it.”

My question is, why did Abraham stop there? (And, if it is possible to answer, would God have destroyed Sodom if only one righteous person was found?)

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up vote 13 down vote accepted

Why did Abraham stop there?

From the narrative we can see that Abraham was clearly reluctant—out of pure fear, apparently—to question God's judgment.

When asking for 45 in Genesis 18:27, he starts with:

Now that I have been so bold as to speak to the Lord, though I am nothing but dust and ashes

When asking for 30 in Genesis 18:30:

May the Lord not be angry, but let me speak.

And again, asking for 20 in Genesis 18:31:

Now that I have been so bold as to speak to the Lord

And again asking for 10 in Genesis 18:32:

May the Lord not be angry, but let me speak just once more.

He knows he is speaking with the Almighty who is about to show his wrath and while he may not wish the city to be destroyed, he seems afraid to show sympathy for the city as a whole. So instead of mercy for the city—which he might just as easily have asked for—he says let justice be done, but that it wouldn't be just to destroy righteous men along with wicked ones (Genesis 18:23-25).

But Abraham's courage has been holding out. He's asked God to save the city for the sake of fifty, forty-five, forty, thirty, twenty, and ten people—standing up to God six times. Would he have been able to ask for more, perhaps even bring up the idea of redeeming the city, if he had asked a seventh[!] time? After the third plea, Abraham had been asking for ten less each time; the next in the series would be '0'.

Did, perhaps, his courage fail him? Or, according to the explanation I usually hear, did Abraham decide that surely there were ten righteous there, and that he didn't need to ask for more? We can only speculate. But it may not have been up to Abraham at all. It seems that as soon as God answers that he will not destroy the city for ten people, God leaves (Gen 18:32-33):

Then he said, “May the Lord not be angry, but let me speak just once more. What if only ten can be found there?” He answered, “For the sake of ten, I will not destroy it.” When the LORD had finished speaking with Abraham, he left, and Abraham returned home.

Would God have destroyed Sodom if only one righteous person was found?

God did find one righteous person in Sodom and showed mercy on him, but not the whole city—instead of destroying Lot with the others, he allowed Lot and his family an opportunity to escape the city's destruction.

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I would like to add to Muke Tever's answer the following, as a motivation for Abraham's (Abram) appeal to God on behalf of Sodom.

Sodom was important to Abraham

In Genesis 13, we are told Abraham and Lot could no longer dwell together because their prosperity was such that, "the land could not bear them" (v. 6). Abraham says to Lot, "Let there be no strife, I pray thee, between me and thee, ... for we be brethren." (v.8). Presented with an open choice regarding the land, Lot opts for the Jordan plain, where "he pitched his tent toward Sodom" (v. 12).

Sodom was important to Abraham because it was where Lot had chosen to set down roots and build his family.

How strong was Abraham's bond with Lot?

In Genesis 14, we're told Abraham received word that Lot had been captured (v. 13,14) and he immediately set about chasing down those responsible. According to the previous chapter (v. 18), Abraham was living in Hebron, and we are told here (v. 14,15) that he apprehended Chedorlaomer at Dan and Hobah, in the vicinity of Damascus - a journey of around 200km.

Clearly Lot and his family mattered greatly to Abraham.

Why fifty righteous people?

Abraham simply estimated the size of Lot's family at fifty people, who he believed to be righteous because Lot shared his knowledge and experience of God to that point in time.

Is fifty an unreasonable number? No. I think it would have been pretty-well on the mark, considering what we are told later on in the narrative concerning Abraham's descendant, Jacob.

In Genesis 46:7, we read, "... all the souls of the house of Jacob, which came into Egypt, were threescore and ten.". So, from the time Jacob married Leah in Haran, to the time he arrived in Goshen, his family had grown to seventy souls.

Abraham didn't know this, of course, but we do, and it attests to the reasonableness of Abraham's estimate of fifty as the size of his family living in Sodom.

Why did Abraham stop at ten?

Abraham stopped at ten because by the time of that last appeal he was totally convinced that the LORD had given full consideration for his concern for his family, and that any of them who could be saved, would be saved.

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protected by Dan May 18 '14 at 23:19

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