The NIV of Genesis 18:22 reads:

The men turned away and went toward Sodom, but Abraham remained standing before the Lord.

However, the NIV also adds a footnote:

Masoretic Text; an ancient Hebrew scribal tradition but the Lord remained standing before Abraham

Where does this "ancient Hebrew scribal tradition" come from? And is it Abraham who stood before the Lord or the Lord who stood before Abraham?

3 Answers 3


The text "but Abraham remained standing before the Lord" is known as a tiqqune sopherim. That is a generally minor scribal emendation created by the Masoretes for theological reasons. Page H. Kelley, Daniel S. Mynatt, Timothy G. Crawford say (The Masorah of Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia, page 38) that the text of Genesis 18:22 originally stated that Yahweh stood before Abraham. Since the idiom of "standing before" someone may imply service before that person or homage, thus denoting a state of inferiority, this statement was deemed irreverent when applied to God. The word order was changed to have Abraham standing before God. The tiqqune sopherim preserves the original text and thought of the verse.

The Septuagint, as we now know it, contains the same words, "but Abraham remained standing before the Lord". Whether this was a parallel emendation - for the same reason in both cases - or the source for the Masoretic emendation is hard to say.


The Greek Septuagint, Syriac Peshitta, Samaritan Pentateuch, and even the Masoretic Text itself have Abraham "standing before" the Lord. According to Tim Hegg of the Torah Research Institute, a Masoretic notation--first evident in 916 CE--claimed that there was an older Hebrew text that had God "standing before" Abraham. There is no textual evidence whatsoever that such an older manuscript ever existed, as it is not mentioned or cited in any older manuscripts of the passage, in any language. The Hebrew verb omed is sometimes used to indicate a person humbly presenting him or herself before either God or an authority figure. Joseph's brothers, for example, presented themselves before Joseph to make an appeal for mercy when they had been accused of a crime (c.f. Genesis 43:15). The Masoretes concluded that God "condescended" (i.e. lowered himself) to elevate Abraham in Genesis chapter 18:22. More information on this Masoretic notation and its proposed theological function is available at the following link: https://www.torahresource.com/pdf-articles/gen18-22%E2%80%93tiqqune-soferim.pdf



The passuk (18.22) makes no sense to say that, "HaShem stood before Avraham" as the verb omed is used. (One must ask one's self, 'Why would HaShem have a need to stand before Avraham?' The answer is only except to see and know for sure) For example, when the Torah tells us that the Daughters of Zelophehad stood before Moshe (Moses) to decide a court case (inheritance) it uses the word וַתַּעֲמֹדְנָה.

The Hebrew verb omed is used to convey the idea that a person is providing court testimony (hence the translation, "standing") before either God or an authority figure such as Moshe.

The passuk (verse) in question should not be read in isolation but rather read together with the rest of the sidra (passage): For example 18.21 says "I will go down ..., etc.."

With HaShem "there is no place G-D is not" (G-D is everywhere) so with G-D there is no "going down or standing or sitting"; these are merely anthropomorphisms used to convey a particular idea. In the words of our Sages, "the Torah speaks in the language of men."

In our passage, the Torah is telling us G-D humbles Himself ("I will go down and see ... and if not I will know.") by getting involved in the affairs of mankind. The idea being conveyed by the Torah is that of a court case: We begin our sidra in passuk 18.1 Veyyera - "And the L-RD appeared to him...."

Maimonides explains that 18.22 must be read in the context that Avraham has begun a prophetic vision (18.1), for we read in 18.25 "shall not the Judge of all the Earth do justly?" and in 18.33 we read, "And the L-RD went His way, as soon as he had left off talking with Avraham... and Avraham returned to his place."

Since G-D is everywhere; 'Where could HaShem go?' and where did Avinu Avraham return to? Obviously, Avraham returned to his tent. Yet after the destruction of S'dom and Gehmorrah, we read in 19.27 "And Avraham got up early in the morning to the place where he had stood before the L-RD." So, according to Rabbi Yishmael's Rules of Interpretation (Gezeera Shava) 19.27 comes to clarify 18.22.

According to the blog: <https://truthonlybible.com/2018/02/03/the-tiqqune-sopherim-emendations-or-glosses/> The Tiqqune Sopherim does not list B'rashith (Genesis) 19.27 as an emendation so the correction of 18.22 make perfect sense when reading the entire passage of where HaShem appeared to Avraham! (At the Terebinth of Mamre....)
Although rabbinic lists vary, the main lists have eighteen verses with alleged emendations, as shown below, with McCarthy’s evaluation of the authenticity of each tradition (in Carmel McCarthy, The Tiqqune Sopherim and Other Theological Emendations in the Masoretic Text of the Old Testament, Orbis Biblicus et Orientalis 36 [Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1981], 61-129).

Genesis 18:22—”Yahweh was still standing before Abraham” (וְיהוה עוֹדֶנּוּ עֹמֵד לִפְנֵי אַבְרָהָם) was changed to “Abraham was still standing before Yahweh” (‎וְאַבְרָהָם עוֹדֶנּוּ עֹמֵד לִפְנֵי יהוה), because to “stand before” someone usually means to minister to an authority who is sitting. McCarthy: unauthentic emendation

Reading the Tiqqune Soferim for 18.22 makes more sense when one sees that the Superior HaShem consults with the inferior Avraham!

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