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Arguing With G-d – Avraham

Posted by Henric C. Jensen on March 2, 2009


Background:
Bereshit/Gen 18:17 And the LORD said: ‘Shall I hide from Abraham that which I am doing; seeing that Abraham shall surely become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him?

G-d is debating with Himself whether to tell Avraham that He intend to destroy Sodom – enumerating the reasons for including Avraham in His counsel. He decides to tell Avraham (perhaps also because Lot is living there, which we are informed about in Gen 19).

Bereshit/Gen 18:20 And the LORD said: ‘Verily, the cry of Sodom and Gomorrah is great, and, verily, their sin is exceeding 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.’

The Argument:
What ensues in the next batch of verses (23-32) is one of the best examples of how to argue with G-d, and actually win!

Bereshit/Gen 18:23-32 “And Abraham drew near, and said: ‘Wilt Thou indeed sweep away the righteous with the wicked? Peradventure there are fifty righteous within the city; wilt Thou indeed sweep away and not forgive 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, that so the righteous should be as the wicked; that be far from Thee; shall not the judge of all the earth do justly?’ And the LORD said: ‘If I find in Sodom fifty righteous within the city, then I will forgive all the place for their sake.’ And Abraham answered and said: ‘Behold now, I have taken upon me to speak unto the Lord, who 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: ‘I will not destroy it, if I find there forty and five.’ And he spoke unto Him yet again, and said: ‘Peradventure there shall be forty found there.’ And He said: ‘I will not do it for the forty’s sake.’ And he said: ‘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 the 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 the ten’s sake.’”

What I find absolutely wonderful in this passage is how Avraham not only argues with G-d about Sodom (well, he raises the question anyway), but how he makes it virtually impossible for G-d to deny him his request – he questions G-d’s sense of Justice! He points out to G-d that a truly Just G-d would consider sparing the people in Sodom on account of the righteous that might live in the city. By implcation he is telling G-d that if He destroys Sodom without taking into consideration even ten righteous people, He is a flawed G-d! There is no way Avraham can lose this. Now, Sodom was destroyed, but only because Lot’s family was short a few people.

How does this affect us? Well, first of all it teaches us that according to Torah, Justice without Compassion is no Justice, and that not even G-d may disregard this. Secondly it teaches us that questioning G-d is acceptable. It’s ok to reason with G-d and tell Him that whatever is going on is not ok by us. We might not be in a position to know first hand what G-d intends or to save ten people, but we certainly are in a position to tell G-d that we are questioning His actions, His sense of Justice and His  capacity for Compassion. Thirdly it teaches us that the Will of G-d is not cut in stone, that life is open-ended and it’s up to us to influence both G-d and events. G-d is actually interested in our points of view. We aren’t pre-destined by our genes or memes to be a certain way or live a certain life, what is in store for us around every new corner is ours to form. G-d will accept our decisions. He won’t do things “over our heads”.

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