Genesis 18

BABEL to AVRAM

Saturday June 23:

Genesis Chapter 18

Here’s a folksier etiological legend of divine visitation by angels or heavenly beings, disguised as humans, to deliver the promise of Isaac, and the threat to Sodom and Gomorrah. In context this week, notice that it is not Ishmael, father of the Arabs, or of all Islam, who is cursed, but a non-existent group, once said to have lived on what are now barren lands near the Jordan!

Avraham is 99, and Sarah not much younger, and though they are generous good hosts, they can’t resist a snicker at the prediction of a baby. Contrast that message carried by the same messengers to Sodom and Gomorrah of threat, anticipating inhospitality. The Jahwist voice, or perhaps the Elohist voice, is toying with how God communicates good and bad next consequences, without becoming the distant Priestly God who does not micromanage the universe.

Avraham haggles with God through these intermediaries, on behalf of his kin Lot, to say 10 righteous could save an evil city: ours? Is it ‘viable’ to continue with a minyan of 10 believers as a congregation? Yes. I think this ability and will to ‘talk back to God’ is what God wants, from Adam and Heva, from Avraham and Sarah, and from us. Humanity too submissive, with a God too predictable, is not free, and is less than fully human.

Contrast Avraham’s extravagant generosity, delivered by Sarah with laughter, with the inhospitality to start next week in Sodom and Gomorrah, which cannot be fixed even by the terror of Lot’s daughters.