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The Jewish Study Bible Contextualizes the Hebrew Bible with accompanying scholarly text on Jewish traditions and history.

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Commentary on Genesis

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Text Commentary side-by-side

18.1–19.37 :

The conception of Isaac and the destruction of Sodom. Chs 18 and 19 display a chiastic structure (ABB'A'): 18.1–15 is the annunciation of Isaac's conception (A); 18.16–33 is the announcement of Sodom's destruction (B); 19.1–29 reports the destruction of Sodom (B'); and 19.30–38 reports Moab's and Ammon's conception (A'). In the process, Abraham emerges again as a heroic figure, one who deeply reveres God yet politely demands justice from Him. Lot is once again (as in ch 13 ) a foil for Abraham—self‐interested, passive, and, finally, victimized.

18.1–2 :

The relationship of the LORD to the men is unclear. Perhaps, as in some Canaanite literature, we are to imagine a deity accompanied by his two attendants (cf. 22.2 ).

3–8 :

Note the contrast between Abraham's self‐deprecating language (a little water, a morsel) and the enormous efforts to which he goes to serve his guests.

9–18 :

Source analysis identifies this as the J parallel to the annunciation of Isaac's birth in ch 17 (P). Note that in 17.17 it is Abraham, whereas in 18.12 it is Sarah, who laughs (and thus gives Isaac his name).

13 :

The LORD's citation to Abraham of Sarah's monologue in the preceding verse is not quite accurate (old as I am as opposed to with my husband so old). “Great is peace,” remarks a rabbi in the Talmud about this point, “for even the Holy One (blessed be He) made a change on account of it,” sparing the couple the discord that might have come had Abraham known Sarah's true thought (b. B. M. 87a).

16–33 :

In this section, God treats Abraham as a prophet (cf. 20.7 ), disclosing His plans to him (vv. 17–21; cf. Amos 3.7 ), and Abraham, like one of the prophets of Israel, eloquently demands justice from God (vv. 23–25; cf. Jer. 12.1–4 ) and pleads for mercy (Gen. 18.26–32; cf. Amos 7.1–6 ).

24 :

Notice that Abraham's demand is not that the guilty be punished and the innocent spared, but rather that the LORD forgive [the entire city] for the sake of the innocent…who are in it. The point is made more explicit in v. 26 . The underlying theology maintains that the righteous effect deliverance for the entire community. This idea, found elsewhere in the Tanakh (e.g., Jer. 5.1 ), is prominent in rabbinic literature, where it underlies the notion of the thirty‐six righteous individuals for whose sake the world endures. Other biblical texts such as Ezek. 14.12–23; ch 18 , however, insist upon individual responsibility and retribution.

27 :

Recognizing the sovereignty of God and his own subordinate status, Abraham speaks with great deference and scrupulously avoids chutzpah (also in vv. 30–32 ). The Talmud remarks about this verse, “The Holy One (blessed be He) said to Israel, I deeply love you, for even when I give you abundant greatness, you make yourselves small before Me. I gave greatness to Abraham, and he said I who am but dust and ashes” (b. ul. 89a).

19.1–3 :

The con‐ trast between Abraham and Lot (discussed above, on ch 13 ) continues. Whereas Abraham sees the LORD ( 18.1 ), Lot sees only His two angelic attendants ( 19.1 ). Whereas Abraham runs to greet his visitors ( 18.2 ), Lot only rises ( 19.1 ). Whereas Abraham offers a sumptuous feast ( 18.6–8 ), Lot offers unleavened bread ( 19.3 ).

4–5 :

The story in Judg. 19.10–30 is quite possibly patterned after this episode. The wrong that the men of Sodom attempt involves not only the sin of homosexual conduct (defined as an “abhorrence” in Lev. 18.22 ), but also a gross violation of the conventions of hospitality. According to one opinion in the Mishnah, a lack of generosity is characteristic of Sodom, as epitomized in the saying, “hat is mine is mine; what is yours is yours” (m. ’Avot 5.10 ; cf. Ezek. 16.46–50 ).

7–8 :

Lot's offer of his two daughters is surely connected to the tragicomic scene at the end of the chapter when they get him drunk and engage in incestuous relations with him ( 19.30–38 ).

10 :

Lot's passivity is patent and contrasts with Abraham's daring challenge to God's justice in the previous chapter ( 18.22–33). Gen. 19.29 will make it explicit that Lot's escape is owing not to his own deeply irresolute character, but to God's reliable commitment to Abraham.

14 :

Whereas Abraham, taking the impending destruction with the utmost seriousness, functions prophetically in hopes of averting the catastrophe, Lot is taken for a buffoon even by his own sons‐in‐law and cannot save them. Since Lot's two daughters mentioned in v. 8 are unmarried, these sons‐in‐law are either engaged to them (so the Vulgate and Rashi) or married to two other daughters, who die in the conflagration along with their husbands.

15–22 :

Lot's weakness and inconstancy would have done him in, had it not been for the Lord's mercy on him (v. 16 ). His weakness and self‐interest, however, result in the sparing of one town (vv. 18–22 ), whereas Abraham's audacious and principled intervention ( 18.22–33 ) proved unable to save anyone.

26 :

The report of the fate of Lot's wife serves as an explanation for salt formations still evident in the vicinity of the Dead Sea.

30–38 :

This passage has strong affinities with the story of Ham's sin in 9.20–27 . Here, however, it is possible to construct a defense of Lot's daughters on the grounds that they genuinely and plausibly believed that the human race would die out unless they bore children from the one surviv‐ ing male, their hapless father (vv. 31–32 ). The passage is partly a comic inversion of the opening of this two‐chapter section, which centers on the unlikely birth of a son to Sarah ( 18.1–15 ). Note the similarity of Sarah's remark “with my husband so old” ( 18.12 ) and the older daughter's words, our father is old (19.31). Gen. 19.30–38 provides an unflattering account of the origins of two of Israel's traditional enemies, the Moabites and the Ammonites (cf. Deut. 23.4–7 ). Nonetheless, a midrash sees in these acts the origins of two of the great mothers of Israel, the Moabite Ruth, ancestor of King David (Ruth 4.13–22 ), and the Ammonite Naamah, wife of King Solomon and mother of his successor King Rehoboam (1 Kings 14.21 ). “I found David” (Ps. 89.21 ), a rabbi observed. “Where did He find him?—in Sodom!” A seed of messianic redemption thus lies in the squalid events of Gen. 19.30–38 (Gen. Rab. 41.4 ).

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