(Calvin, Genesis 1. part 26)

  "And bowed himself towards the ground." This token of reverence was in
common use with oriental nations. The mystery which some of the ancient
writers have endeavoured to elicit from this act; namely, that Abraham
adored one out of the threes whom he saw, and, therefore, perceived by
faith, that there are three persons in one God, since it is frivolous,
and obnoxious to ridicule and calumny, I am more than content to omit.
For we have before said, that the angels were so received by the holy
man, as by one who intended to discharge a duty towards men. But the fact
that God honoured his benignity, and granted it to him as a reward, that
angels should be presented to him for guests, was what he was not aware
of; till they had made themselves known at the conclusion of the meal. It
was therefore a merely human and civil honour, which he paid them. As to
his having saluted one in particular, it was probably done because he
excelled the other two. For we know that angels often appeared with
Christ their Head; here therefore, among the three angels Moses points
out one, as the Chief of the embassy.

3. "Pass not away, I pray thee, from thy servant." In asking thus meekly,
and even suppliantly, there is no doubt that Abraham does it, moved by
the reason which I have stated. For if he had slaughtered calves for all
kinds of travellers, his house would soon have been emptied by his
profuse expenditure. He, therefore, did honour to their virtue and their
excellent endowments, lest he should pour contempt upon God. Thus,
neither was he so liberal as to invite wanderers, or other men of all
kinds, who herd together; nor did ambition induce him to deal thus
bountifully with these three persons, but rather his love and affection
for those gifts of God, and those virtues which appeared in them. As to
his offering them simply a morsel of bread, he makes light of an act of
kindness which be was about to do, not only for the sake of avoiding all
boasting, but in order that they might the more easily yield to his
counsel and his entreaties, when they were persuaded that they should not
prove too burdensome and troublesome to him. For modest persons do not
willingly put others to expense or trouble. The washing of feet, in that
age, and in that region of the world, was very common, perhaps, because
persons travelled with naked feet, under burning suns: and it was the
great remedy for the alleviation of weariness, to wash the feet parched
with heat.

5. "For therefore are ye come to your servant." He does not mean that
they had come designedly, or for the express purpose of seeking to be
entertained, as his guests; but he intimates that their coming had
occurred opportunely, as if he would say, 'You have not slipped into this
place by chance; but have been led hither by the design and the direction
of God.' He, therefore, refers it to the providence of God, that they had
come, so conveniently, to a place where they might refresh themselves a
little while, till the heat of the sun should abate. Moreover, as it is
certain that Abraham spoke thus in sincerity of mind; let us after his
examples conclude that, whenever our brethren, who need our help, meet
us, they are sent unto us by God.

6. "And Abraham hastened into the tent." Abraham's care in entertaining
his guests is here recorded; and Moses, at the same time, shows what a
well-ordered house he had. In short, he presents us, in a few words, with
a beautiful picture of domestic government. Abraham runs, partly, to
command what he would have done; and partly, to execute his own duty, as
the master of the house. Sarah keeps within the tent; not to indulge in
sloth, but rather to take her own part also, in the labour. The servants
are all prompt to obey. Here is the sweet concord of a well-conducted
family; which could not have thus suddenly arisen, unless each had, by
long practice, been accustomed to right discipline. A question, however;
arises out of the assertion of Moses, that the angels "did eat." Some
expound it, that they only appeared as persons eating; which fancy enters
their minds through the medium of another error; since they imagine them
to have been mere spectres, and not endued with real bodies. But, in my
judgment, the thing is far otherwise. In the first place, this was no
prophetical vision, in which the images of absent things are brought
before the eyes; but the angels really came into the house of Abraham.
Wherefore, I do not doubt that God,--who created the whole world out of
nothing, and who daily proves himself to be a wonderful Artificer in
forming creatures,--gave them bodies, for a time, in which they might
fulfill the office enjoined them. And as they truly walked, spoke, and
discharged other functions; so I conclude, they did truly eat; not
because they were hungry, but in order to conceal themselves, until the
proper time for making themselves known. Yet as God speedily annihilated
those bodies, which had been created for a temporary use; so there will
be no absurdity in saying, that the food itself was destroyed, together
with their bodies. But, as it is profitable briefly to touch upon such
questions; and, as religion in no way forbids us to do so; there is on
the other hand, nothing better than that we should content ourselves with
a sober solution of them.

9. "Where is Sarah?" Hitherto God permitted Abraham to discharge an
obvious duty. But, having given him the opportunity of exercising
charity, God now begins to manifest himself in his angels. The reason why
Moses introduces, at one time, three speakers, while, at another, he
ascribes speech to one only, is, that the three together represent the
person of one God. We must also remember what I have lately adduced, that
the principal place is given to one; because Christ, who is the living
image of the Father, often appeared to the fathers under the form of an
angel, while, at the same time, he yet had angels, of whom he was the
Head, for his attendants. And as to their making inquiry respecting
Sarah; we may hence infer, that a son is again here promised to Abraham,
because she had not been present at the former oracle.

10. "I will certainly return unto thee." Jerome translates its 'I will
return, life attending me:' as if God, speaking in the manner of men, had
said, 'I will return if I live.' But it would be absurd, that God, who
here so magnificently proclaims his power, should borrow from man a form
of speech which would suppose him to be mortal. What majesty, I pray,
would this remarkable oracle possess, which treats of the eternal
salvation of the world? That interpretation, therefore, can by no means
be approved, which entirely enervates the force and authority of the
promise. Literally it is, "according to the time of life." Which some
expound of Sarah; as if the angel had said, Sarah shall survive to that
period. But it is more properly explained of the child; for God promises
that He will come, at the just and proper time of bringing forth, that
Sarah might become the mother of a living child.

11. "Were old, and well stricken in age." Moses inserts this verse to
inform us that what the angel was saying, justly appeared improbable to
Sarah. For it is contrary to nature that children should be promised to
decrepit old men. A doubt, however, may be entertained on this point,
respecting Abraham: because men are sometimes endued with strength to
have children, even in extreme old age: and especially in that period,
such an occurrence was not uncommon. But Moses here speaks comparatively:
for since Abraham, during the vigour of his life, had remained with his
wife childless; it was scarcely possible for him, now that his body was
half dead, to have children; he had indeed begotten Ishmael in his old
age, which was contrary to expectation. But that now, twelve years
afterwards, it should be possible to become a father, through his aged
wife, was scarcely credible. Moses however chiefly insists upon the case
of Sarah; because the greatest impediment was with her. "It ceased," he
says, "to be with Sarah after the manner of women." With this expression,
he soberly speaks about the monthly stream of the women. At the same
moment with this, the possibility of conceiving ceases.

12. "Therefore Sarah laughed within herself." Abraham had laughed before,
as appears in the preceding chapter: but the laughter of both was, by no
means, similar. For Sarah is not transported with admiration and joy, on
receiving the promise of God; but foolishly sets her own age and that of
her husband in opposition to the word of God; that she may withhold
confidence from God, when he speaks. Yet she does not, avowedly, charge
God with falsehood or vanity; but because, having her mind fixed on the
contemplation of the thing proposed, she only weighs what might be
accomplished by natural means, without raising her thoughts to the
consideration of the power of God, and thus rashly casts discredit on God
who speaks to her. Thus, as often as we measure the promises and the
works of God, by our own reason, and by the laws of nature, we act
reproachfully towards him, though we may intend nothing of the sort. For
we do not pay him his due honour, except we regard every obstacle which
presents itself in heaven and on earth, as placed under subjection to his
word. But although the incredulity of Sarah is not to be excused; she,
nevertheless, does not directly reject the favour of God; but is only so
kept back by shame and modesty, that she does not altogether believe what
she hears. Even her very words declare the greatest modesty; 'After we
are grown old shall we give ourselves up to lust?' Wherefore, let us
observe, that nothing was less in Sarah's mind, than to make God a liar.
But herein consisted in this alone, that, having fixed her thoughts too
much on the accustomed order of nature, she did not give glory to God, by
expecting from him a miracle which she was unable to conceive in her
mind. We must here notice the admonition which the Apostle gathers from
this passage, because Sarah here calls Abraham her lord. (1 Peter 3: 6.)
For he exhorts women, after her example, to be obedient and well-behaved
towards their own husbands. Many women, indeed, without difficulty, give
their husbands this title, when yet they do not scruple to bring them
under rule, by their imperious pride: but the Apostle takes it for
granted that Sarah testifies, from her heart, what she feels, respecting
her husband: nor is it doubtful that she gave proof, by actual services,
of the modesty which she had professed in words.

13. "And the Lord said." Because the majesty of God had now been
manifested in the angels, Moses expressly mentions his Name. We have
before declared, in what sense the name of God is transferred to the
angel; it is not, therefore, now necessary to repeat it: except, as it is
always important to remark, that the word of the Lord is so precious to
himself, that he would be regarded by us as present, whenever he speaks
through his ministers. Again, whenever he manifested himself to the
fathers, Christ was the Mediator between him and them; who not only
personates God in proclaiming his word, but is also truly and essentially
God. And because the laughter of Sarah had not been detected by the eye
of man, therefore Moses expressly declares that she was reprehended by
God. And to this point belong the following circumstances, that the angel
had his back turned to the tent, and that Sarah laughed within herself,
and not before others. The censure also shows that the laughter of Sarah
was joined with incredulity. For there is no little weight in this
sentence, 'Can anything be wonderful with God?' But the angel chides
Sarah, because she limited the power of God within the bounds of her own
sense. An antithesis is therefore implied between the immense power of
God, and the contracted measure which Sarah imagined to herself, through
her carnal reason. Some translate the word "pala", hidden, as if the
angel meant that nothing was hidden from God: but the sense is different;
namely, that the power of God ought not to be estimated by human reason.
It is not surprising, that in arduous affairs we fail, or that we succumb
to difficulties: but God's way is far otherwise, for he looks down with
contempt, from above, upon those things which alarm us by their lofty
elevation. We now see what was the sin of Sarah; namely, that she did
wrong to God, by not acknowledging the greatness of his power. And truly,
we also attempt to rob God of his power, whenever we distrust his word.
At the first sight, Paul seems to give cold praise to the faith of
Abraham, in saying, that he did not consider his body, now dead, but gave
glory to God, because he was persuaded that he could fulfill what he had
promised. (Rom. 4: 19.) But if we thoroughly investigate the source of
distrust, we shall find that the reason why we doubt of God's promises
is, because we sinfully detract from his power. For as soon as any
extraordinary difficulty occurs, then, whatever God has promised, seems
to us fabulous; yea, the moment he speaks, the perverse thought
insinuates itself, How will he fulfill what he promises? Being bound
down, and preoccupied by such narrow thoughts, we exclude his power, the
knowledge of which is better to us than a thousand worlds. In short, he
who does not expect more from God than he is able to comprehend in the
scanty measure of his own reason, does him grievous wrong. Meanwhile, the
word of the Lord ought to be inseparably joined with his power; for
nothing is more preposterous, than to inquire what God can do, to the
setting aside of his declared will. In this way the Papists plunge
themselves into a profound labyrinth, when they dispute concerning the
absolute power of God. Therefore, unless we are willing to be involved in
absurd dotings, it is necessary that the word should precede us like a
lamp; so that his power and his will may be conjoined by an inseparable
bond. This rule the Apostle prescribes to us, when he says, 'Being
certainly persuaded, that what he has promised, he is able to perform,'
(Rom. 4: 21.) The angel again repeats the promise that he would come
'according to the time of life,' that is, in the revolving of the year,
when the full time of bringing forth should have arrived.

15. "Then Sarah denied." Another sin of Sarah's was, that she endeavoured
to cover and hide her laughter by a falsehood. Yet this excuse did not
proceed from obstinate wickedness, according to the manner in which
hypocrites are wont to snatch at subterfuges, so that they remain like
themselves, even to the end. Sarah's feelings were of a different kind;
for while she repents of her own folly, she is yet so terrified, as to
deny that she had done, what she now perceives to be displeasing to God.
Whence we infer, how great is the corruption of our nature, which causes
even the fear of God,-- the highest of all virtues,--to degenerate into a
fault. Moreover, we must observe whence that fear, of which Moses makes
mention, suddenly entered the mind of Sarah; namely, from the
consideration that God had detected her secret sin. We see, therefore,
how the majesty of God, when it is seriously felt by us, shakes us out of
our insensibility. We are more especially constrained to feel thus, when
God ascends his tribunal, and brings our sins to light.
  "Nay; but thou didst laugh." The angel does not contend in a
multiplicity of words, but directly refutes her false denial of the fact.
We may hence learn, that we gain no advantage by tergiversation, when the
Lord reproves us, because he will immediately dispatch our case with a
single word. Therefore, we must beware lest we imitate the petulance of
those who mock God with false pretences, and at length rush into gross
contempt of Him. However he may seem to leave us unnoticed for a time,
yet he will fulminate against us with that terrible voice, 'It is not as
you pretend.' In short, it is not enough that the judgment of God should
be reverenced, unless we also confess our sins ingenuously and without
shifts or evasions. For a double condemnation awaits those who, from a
desire to escape the judgment of God, retake themselves to the refuge of
dissimulation. We must, therefore bring a sincere confession, that, as
persons openly condemned, we may obtain pardon. But seeing that God was
contented with giving a friendly reprehension, and that he did not more
severely punish the double offense of Sarah; we hence perceive with what
tender indulgence he sometimes regards his own people. Zacharias was more
severely treated, who was struck dumb for nine months. (Luke 1: 9.) But
it is not for us to prescribe a perpetual law to God; who, as he
generally binds his own people to repentance by punishments, often sees
it good to humble them sufficiently, without inflicting any chastisement.
In Sarah, truly, he gives a singular instance of his compassion; because
he freely forgives her all, and still chooses that she should remain the
mother of the Church. In the meantime, we must observe, how much better
it is that we should be brought before him as guilty, and that like
convicted persons we should be silent, than that we should delight
ourselves in sin, as a great part of the world is accustomed to do.

16. "And the men rose up from thence." Moses again calls those men, whom
he had openly declared to be angels. But he gives them the name from the
form which they had assumed. We are not, however, to suppose that they
were surrounded with human bodies, in the same manner in which Christ
clothed himself in our nature, together with our flesh; but God invested
them with temporary bodies, in which they might be visible to Abraham,
and might speak familiarly with him. Abraham is said to have brought them
on the way; not for the sake of performing an office of humanity, as when
he had received them at first, but in order to render due honour to the
angels. For frivolous is the opinion of some who imagine that they were
believed to be prophets, who had been banished, on account of the word.
He well knew that they were angels as we shall soon see more clearly. But
he follows those in the way, whom he did not dare to detain.

17. "Shall I hide from Abraham?" Seeing that God here takes counsel, as
if concerning a doubtful matter, he does it for the sake of men; for he
had already determined what he would do. But he designed, in this manner,
to render Abraham more intent upon the consideration of the causes of
Sodom's destruction. He adduces two reasons why He wished to manifest his
design to Abraham, before he carried it into execution. The former is,
that he had already granted him a singularly honorable privilege; the
second, that it would be useful and fruitful in the instruction of
posterity. Therefore, in this expression, the scope and use of revelation
is briefly noted.

18. "Seeing that Abraham shall surely become a great and mighty nation."
In Hebrew it is, 'And being, he shall be,' &c. But the copulative ought
to be resolved into the causal adverb. For this is the reasons to which
we have already alluded, why God chose to inform his servant of the
terrible vengeance He was about to take upon the men of Sodom; namely,
that He had adorned him, above all others, with peculiar gifts. For, in
this way, God continues his acts of kindness towards the faithful, yea,
even increases them, and gradually heaps new favours upon those before
granted. And he daily deals with us in the same manner. For what is the
reason why he pours innumerable benefits upon us, in constant succession,
unless that, having once embraced us with paternal love, he cannot deny
himself? And, therefore, in a certain way, he honours himself and his
gifts in us. For what does he here commemorate, except his own gratuitous
gifts? Therefore, he traces the cause of his beneficence to himself, and
not to the merits of Abraham; for the blessing of Abraham flowed from no
other source than the Divine Fountain. And we learn from the passage,
what experience also teaches, that it is the peculiar privilege of the
Church, to know what the Divine judgments mean, and what is their
tendency. When God inflicts punishment upon the wicked, he openly proves
that he is indeed the Judge of the world; but because all things seem to
happen by chance, the Lord illuminates his own children by his word, lest
they should become blind, with the unbelievers. So formerly, when he
stretched forth his hand over all regions of the world, he yet confined
his sacred word within Judea; that is, when he smote all nations with
slaughter and with adversity, he yet taught his only elect people, by his
word through the prophets, that he was the Author of these punishments;
yea, he predicted beforehand that they would take place; as it is written
in Amos, (3: 7,) 'Shall there be anything which the Lord will hide from
his servants the prophets?' Let us therefore remember, that from the time
when God begins to be kind towards us, he is never weary, until, by
adding one favour to another, he completes our salvation. Then, after he
has once adopted us, and has shone into our minds by his word, he holds
the torch of the same word burning before our eyes, that we may, by
faith, consider those judgments and punishments of iniquity which the
impious carelessly neglect. Thus it becomes the faithful to be employed
in reflecting on the histories of all times, that they may always form
their judgment from the Scripture, of the various destructions which,
privately and publicly, have befallen the ungodly. But it is asked; was
it necessary that the destruction of Sodom should be explained to
Abraham, before it happened? I answer, since we are so dull in
considering the works of God, this revelation was by no means
superfluous. Although the Lord proclaims aloud that adversity is the rod
of his anger; scarcely any one hearkens to it, because, through the
depraved imaginations of our flesh, we ascribe the suffering to some
other cause. But the admonition, which precedes the event, does not
suffer us to be thus torpid, nor to imagine that fortune, or any thing
else which we may fancy, stands in the place of God's word. Thus it
necessarily happened, in former times, that the people, although
iron-hearted, were more affected by these predictions than they would
have been had they been admonished by the prophets, after they had
received punishment. Wherefore, from them, it will be proper for us to
assume a general rule, in order that the judgments of God, which we daily
perceive, may not be unprofitable to us.
  The Lord declares to his servant Abraham that Sodom was about to
perish, while it was yet entire, and in the full enjoyment of its
pleasures. Hence no doubt remains, that it did not perish by chance, but
was subjected to divine punishment. Hence also, when the cause of the
punishment is thus declared beforehand, it will necessarily far more
effectually pierce and stimulate the minds of men. We must afterwards
come to the same conclusion, concerning other things; for although God
does not declare to us, what he is about to do, yet he intends us to be
eyewitnesses of his works and prudently to weigh their causes, and not to
be dazzled by a confused beholding of them, like unbelievers, 'who
seeing, see not,' and who pervert their true design.

19. "For I know him, that he will command his children." The second
reason why God chooses to make Abraham a partaker of his counsel is,
because he foresees that this would not be done in vain, and without
profit. And the simple meaning of the passage is, that Abraham is
admitted to the counsel of God, because he would faithfully fulfill the
office of a good householder, in instructing his own family. Hence we
infer, that Abraham was informed of the destruction of Sodom, not for his
own sake alone, but for the benefit of his race. Which is carefully to be
observed; for this sentence is to the same effect, as if God, in the
person of Abraham, addressed all his posterity. And truly, God does not
make known his will to us, that the knowledge of it may perish with us;
but that we may be his witnesses to posterity and that they may deliver
the knowledge received through us, from hand to hand, (as we say,) to
their descendants. Wherefore, it is the duty of parents to apply
themselves diligently to the work of communicating what they have learned
from the Lord to their children. In this manner the truth of God is to be
propagated by us, so that no one may retain his knowledge for his own
private use; but that each may edify others, according to his own
calling, and to the measure of his faith. There is however no doubt, that
the gross ignorance which reigns in the world, is the just punishment of
men's idleness. For whereas the greater part close their eyes to the
offered light of heavenly doctrine; yet there are those who stifle it, by
not taking care to transmit it to their children. The Lord therefore
righteously takes away the precious treasure of his word, to punish the
world for its sloth. The expression "after him" is also to be noticed; by
which we are taught that we must not only take care of our families, to
govern them duly, while we live; but that we must give diligence, in
order that the truth of God, which is eternal, may live and flourish
after our death; and that thus, when we are dead, a holy course of living
may survive and remain. Moreover, we hence infer, that those narratives
which serve to inspire terror, are useful to be known. For our carnal
security requires sharp stimulants whereby we may be urged to the fear of
God. And lest any one should suppose that this kind of doctrine belongs
only to strangers, the Lord specially appoints it for the sons of
Abraham, that is, for the household of the Church. For those interpreters
are infatuated and perverse, who contend that faith is overturned if
consciences are alarmed. For whereas nothing is more contrary to faith
than contempt and torpor; that doctrine best accords with the preaching
of grace, which so subdues men to the fear of God, that they, being
afflicted and famishing, may hasten unto Christ.
  "And they shall keep the way of the Lord." Moses intimates, in these
words, that the judgment of God is proposed, not only in order that they
who, by negligence, please themselves in their vices, may be taught to
fear, and that being thus constrained, they may sigh for the grace of
Christ; but also to the end that the faithful themselves, who are already
endued with the fear of God, may advance more and more in the pursuit of
piety. For he wills that the destruction of Sodom should be recorded,
both that the wicked may be drawn to God, by the fear of the same
vengeance, and that they who have already begun to worship God, may be
better formed to true obedience. Thus the Law avails, not only for the
beginning of repentance, but also for our continual progress. When Moses
adds, "to do justice and judgment," he briefly shows the nature of the
way of the Lord, which he had before mentioned. This, however, is not a
complete definition; but from the duties of the Second Table, he briefly
shows, by the figure synecdoche, what God chiefly requires of us. And it
is not unusual in Scripture, to seek a description of a pious and holy
life, from the Second Table of the Law; not because charity is of more
account than the worship of God, but because they who live uprightly and
innocently with their neighbours, give evidence of their piety towards
God. In the names of justice and judgment he comprehends that equity, by
which to every one is given what is his own. If we would make a
distinction, justice is the name given to the rectitude and humanity
which we cultivate with our brethren, when we endeavour to do good to
all, and when we abstain from all wrong, fraud, and violence. But
judgment is to stretch forth the hand to the miserable and the oppressed,
to vindicate righteous causes, and to guard the weak from being unjustly
injured. These are the lawful exercises in which the Lord commands his
people to be employed.
  "That the Lord may bring upon Abraham that which he hath spoken of
him." Moses intimates that Abraham should become possessed of the grace
promised to him, if he instructed his children in the fear of the Lord,
and governed his household well. But under the person of one man, a rule
common to all the pious is delivered: for they who are negligent in this
part of their duty, cast off or suppress, as much as in them lies, the
grace of God. Therefore, that the perpetual possession of the gifts of
God may remain to us, and survive to posterity, we must beware lest they
be lost through our neglect. Yet it would be false for any one hence to
infer, that the faithful could either cause or deserve, by their own
diligence, that God should fulfill those things which he has promised.
For it is an accustomed method of speaking in Scripture, to denote by the
word "that" the consequence rather than the cause. For although the grace
of God alone begins and completes our salvation; yet, since by obeying
the call of God, we fulfill our course, we are said, also in this manner,
to obtain the salvation promised by God.

20. "The cry of Sodom." The Lord here begins more clearly to explain to
Abraham his counsel concerning the destruction of the five cities;
although he only names Sodom and Gomorrah, which were much more famous
than the rest. But before he makes mention of punishment, he brings
forward their iniquities, to teach Abraham that they justly deserved to
be destroyed: otherwise the history would not tend to instruction. But
when we perceive that the anger of God is provoked by the sin of man, we
are inspired with a dread of sinning. In saying that the "cry was great,"
he indicates the grievousness of their crimes, because, although the
wicked may promise themselves impunity, by concealing their evils, and
although these evils may be silently and quietly borne by men; yet their
sin will necessarily sound aloud in the ears of God. Therefore this
phrase signifies, that all our deeds, even those of which we think the
memory to be buried, are presented before the bar of God, and that they,
even of themselves, demand vengeance, although there should be none to

21. "I will go down now." Since this was a signal example of the wrath of
God, which He intends to be celebrated through all ages, and to which he
frequently refers in the Scripture; therefore Moses diligently records
those things which are especially to be considered in divine judgments;
just as, in this place, he commends the moderation of God, who does not
immediately fulminate against the ungodly and pour out his vengeance upon
them; but who, when affairs were utterly desperate, at length executes
the punishment which had been long held suspended over them. And the Lord
does not testify in vain, that he proceeds to inflict punishment in a
suitable and rightly attempered order; because, whenever he chastises us,
we are apt to think that he acts towards us more severely than is just.
Even when, with astonishing forbearance, he waits for us, until we have
come to the utmost limit of impiety, and our wickedness has become too
obstinate to be spared any longer; still we complain of the excessive
haste of his rigour. Therefore he presents as in a conspicuous picture,
his equity in bearing with us, in order that we may know, that he never
breaks forth to inflict punishment, except on those who are mature in
crime. Now, if, on the other hand, we look at Sodom; there a horrible
example of stupor meets our eyes. For the men of Sodom go on, as if they
had nothing to do with God; their sense of good and evil being
extinguished, they wallow like cattle in every kind of filth; and just as
if they should never have to render an account of their conduct, they
flatter themselves in their vices. Since this disease too much prevails
in all ages, and is at present far too common, it is important to mark
this circumstance, that at the very time when the men of Sodom, having
dismissed all fear of God, were indulging themselves, and were promising
themselves impunity, however they might sin, God was taking counsel to
destroy them, and was moved, by the tumultuous cry of their iniquities,
to descend to earth, while they were buried in profound sleep. Wherefore,
if God, at any time, defers his judgments; let us not, therefore, think
ourselves in a better condition; but before the cry of our wickedness
shall have wearied his ears may we, aroused by His threats, quickly
hasten to appease Him. Since, however, such forbearance of God cannot be
comprehended by us, Moses introduces Him as speaking according to the
manner of men.
  "Whether they have done altogether according to the cry of it." The
Hebrew noun "calah", which Moses here uses, means the perfection, or the
end of a thing, and also its destruction. Therefore, Jerome turns it, 'If
they shall have completed it in act.' I have, indeed, no doubt but Moses
intimates, that God came down, in order to inquire whether or not their
sins had risen to the highest point: just as he before said, that the
iniquities of the Amorites were not yet full. The sum of the whole then
is; the Lord was about to see whether they were altogether desperate, as
having precipitated themselves into the lowest depths of evil; or whether
they were still in the midst of a course, from which it was possible for
them to be recalled to a sound mind; forasmuch as he was unwilling
utterly to destroy those cities, if, by any method, their wickedness was
curable. Others translate the passage, 'If they have done this, their
final destruction is at hand: but if not, I will see how far they are to
be punished.' But the former sense is most accordant with the context.

22. "But Abraham stood yet before the Lord." Moses first declares that
the men proceeded onwards, conveying the impression, that having finished
their discourse, they took leave of Abraham, in order that he might
return home. He then adds, that Abraham stood before the Lord, as persons
are wont to do, who, though dismissed, do not immediately depart, because
something still remains to be said or done. Moses, when he makes mention
of the journey, with propriety attributes the name of men to the angels;
but he does not, however, say, that Abraham stood before men, but before
the face of God; because, although with his eyes, he beheld the
appearance of men, he yet, by faith, looked upon God. And his words
sufficiently show, that he did not speak as he would have done with a
mortal man. Whence we infer, that we act preposterously, if we allow the
external symbols, by which God represents himself, to retard or hinder us
from going directly to Him. By nature, truly, we are prone to this fault;
but so much the more must we strive, that, by the sense of faith, we may
be borne upwards to God himself, lest the external signs should keep us
down to this world. Moreover, Abraham approaches God, for the sake of
showing reverence. For he does not, in a contentious spirit, oppose God,
as if he had a right to intercede; he only suppliantly entreats: and
every word shows the great humility and modesty of the holy man. I
confess, indeed, that at times, holy men, carried away by carnal sense,
have no self-government, but that, indirectly at least, they murmur
against God. Here, however, Abraham addresses God with nothing but
reverence, nor does anything fall from him worthy of censure; yet we must
notice the affection of mind by which Abraham had been impelled to
interpose his prayers on behalf of the inhabitants of Sodom. Some
suppose, that he was more anxious concerning the safety of his nephew
alone than for Sodom and the rest of the cities; but that, being withheld
by modesty, he would not request one man expressly to be given to him,
while he entirely neglected a great people. But it is, by no means,

(continued in part 27...)

file: /pub/resources/text/ipb-e/epl-01: cvgn1-26.txt