“And the Lord said, Because the cry of Sodom and Gomorrah is great, and because their sin is very grievous; I will go down now, and see whether they have done altogether according to the cry of it, which is come unto me; and if not, I will know. And the men turned their faces from thence, and went toward Sodom: but Abraham stood yet before the Lord. And Abraham drew near, and said, Wilt thou also destroy the righteous with the wicked?
Peradventure there be fifty righteous within the city: wilt thou also destroy and not spare the place for the fifty righteous that are therein? That be far from thee to do after this manner, to slay the righteous with the wicked: and that the righteous should be as the wicked, that be far from thee: Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right? And the Lord said, If I find in Sodom fifty righteous within the city, then I will spare all the place for their sakes.
And Abraham answered and said, Behold now, I have taken upon me to speak unto the Lord, which am but dust and ashes: Peradventure there shall lack five of the fifty righteous: wilt thou destroy all the city for lack of five? And he said, If I find there forty and five, I will not destroy it. And he spake unto him yet again, and said, Peradventure there shall be forty found there.
And he said, I will not do it for forty’s sake. And he said unto him, Oh let not the Lord be angry, and I will speak: Peradventure there shall thirty be found there. And he said, I will not do it, if I find thirty there. And he said, Behold now, I have taken upon me to speak unto the Lord: Peradventure there shall be twenty found there. And he said, I will not destroy it for twenty’s sake. And he said, Oh let not the Lord be angry, and I will speak yet but this once: Peradventure ten shall be found there. And he said, I will not destroy it for ten’s sake. And the Lord went his way, as soon as he had left communing with Abraham: and Abraham returned unto his place.”
And From Arcana Coelestia 2140-2141:
“In the third place, the chapter treats concerning the Lord’s grief and anxiety over the human race, because men were so greatly imbued with the love of self, and from this with the cupidity of exercising command over others from what is evil and false, for whom in that state He interceded, and obtained that those should be saved with whom there should be goods and truths; and who these are, is recounted in order.
The Lord’s perception concerning the human race, that it was in evil and falsity, “Sodom” being the love of self and the derivative cupidity of exercising command from what is evil, and “Gomorrah” being the same from what is false (verses 16, 20). That this could not be concealed from the Lord in that state, because by Him and from Him is all salvation (verses 17-19); that is to say, they were to be visited when their wickedness reached its height (verses 20-21). That when He was in this perception (verse 22), He interceded for them; first for those with whom there should be truths, and these truths full of goods, who are signified by the “fifty” (verses 23-26); also for those with whom there should be less of good, but this good nevertheless conjoined with truths, who are signified by the “forty-five” (verses 27-28); next for those who have been in temptations, who are signified by the “forty” (verse 29); as likewise for those who have been in some combats against evils, who are signified by the “thirty” (verse 30); afterwards for those with whom there should be states of the affection of good from any other source, who are signified by the “twenty” (verse 31); lastly for those with whom there should be states of the affection of truth, who are signified by the “ten” (verse 32); and the constant answer was that they should be saved (verses 26, 28-32). These things being accomplished, the Lord returned into His former state of perception (verse 33). These are the arcana contained in the internal sense of this chapter, which are not manifest from the letter.”
Recently, I have been listening to the King James translation of the Word while driving to and from work or errands. In the past, reading to myself, I’ve read a chapter or so at time. Listening, however, I hear 5 or 7 chapters in a longer drive, and I can hear the sweeping, larger story arcs in a very different way.
A couple weeks ago, I was listening to Genesis chapter 18, where three angels come to Abraham and speak with him. Later in the chapter, they reveal that the Lord is going to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah, and Abraham asks the Lord if he will destroy the righteous with the wicked. He keeps asking Him the same question with a smaller and smaller number of righteous. The answer is the same from Jehovah, ‘I will not destroy’.
It struck me as a very human reaction, to keep asking ‘but…but…what about this?’ Then worrying about the fairness or justice.
The patience with which Jehovah answers Abraham’s repeated questions also struck me as being merciful, such a testament to the many chances that the Lord gives us, so that He may save us.
In the internal sense, this situation is even more powerful than my thoughts on the face of the story, since this part speaks about the Lord’s own perception when He was in this world.
In the numbers from the Arcana, we are told the significance of the various numbers: from those in truths full of good (50), all the way even to those who just have a state of affection for truth (10); that the Lord interceded for each in turn; and a reminder that the Lord’s CONSTANT desire to save us is always there.
This thought has been so helpful to remember, particularly when I feel in despair that I won’t ever change spiritually, or that there seems so little progress, or no progress at all ‘because men were so greatly imbued with the love of self, and from this with the cupidity of exercising command over others from what is evil and false’ (Arcana Coelestia 2140). Yet in that state, even, the Lord interceded for the human race. He was tempted to despair that there was a possibility to save us, and yet He fought. And He prevailed.
May I remember this as we approach the Easter season. Remember the Lord, fighting Alone for us, when even the angels despaired and tempted Him to give up.
“And he said, I pray, let not my Lord be incensed, and I will speak only this time: perhaps ten shall be found there; and He said, I will not destroy it on account of the ten.” (Genesis 18:32)