Abraham’s intercession for the people of Sodom (Genesis 18:23-33) must rank as one of the more enigmatic passages in Scripture. The people of Sodom were the epitome of cruelty and wickedness while Abraham was kind and righteous. Why would he pray for the preservation of such wickedness?

Our sages compounded the enigma when they taught that God chose Abraham precisely because of this prayer. The rabbis expounded on Psalm 45:8. “You love righteousness and hate wickedness; therefore has God, your God, anointed you with oil of joy from among your peers.” The Sages of Israel read these words as if God were addressing Abraham; “You have loved to justify my creations and you have hated to render them guilty it is for this reason that from all the generations since Noah that I chose to speak to you.” According to this reading, it was Abraham’s prayer on behalf of the Sodomites that set him apart from his peers.

The Torah itself leads us in the direction of this rabbinic teaching. The Torah introduces Abraham’s intercession for the people of Sodom with a reminder of the fact that Abraham was chosen by God (Genesis 18:17-19). The Torah is telling us that God’s blessing to Abraham is somehow related to the episode of Abraham praying on behalf of the wicked. How are these two concepts related to each other? And why did Abraham pray for the preservation of these cruel and unrighteous people?

It is clear and obvious that Abraham was not looking forward to the perpetuation of Sodom’s evil way of life. If Abraham was praying for the survival of the people of Sodom then he must have been thinking of their repentance. When Abraham appeals to God to spare Sodom for the sake of ten righteous people Abraham is arguing that these ten righteous people will eventually turn Sodom around. Abraham’s prayer is a belief in the power of good to prevail over evil. And Abraham’s prayer reflects a deep faith in the essential goodness of man that was created in God’s image.

This is not to say that Abraham was naïve. This is not to say that Abraham did not appreciate the depth of the Sodomite evil. The Torah teaches us that Abraham could not even tolerate possessing a shoelace from Sodom (Genesis 14:22,23). Abraham’s righteous soul recoiled from the wickedness of the Sodomites but this did not prevent Abraham from seeing them as God’s creations.

When Abraham saw the wickedness of the people of Sodom he saw people who were not being true to themselves. Since these people were God’s creations Abraham believed that God’s goodness must be an inherent part of them. And if they are exposed to ten righteous people then there is hope for their return to God.

Abraham’s belief in the inherent goodness of God’s creations and his belief that righteousness will ultimately prevail over evil is what made him the father of God’s chosen nation. God’s plan for His nation is that they carry the torch of righteousness through the corridors of history and in this way, bring the hearts of men back to God. When God was looking for a man to father this nation He was looking for someone who believed in His plan. And it was Abraham’s prayer on behalf of the people of Sodom that showed God that this was His man.

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Yisroel C. Blumenthal

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14 Responses to Intercession

  1. My Pharisee friend! it is interesting that Abraham’s intercession was motivated by his hope of the victory of the righteous remnants among the wicked generation. Also it seems to me that one of the motivations of intercession was Abraham wanted to vindicate God’s justice. (v.23-25)
    Can i extract the spiritual lesson of atonement from this record? -“God forgives and saves community or nation or city when there is righteous man”? In other words, God can save people because of somebody righteous?
    God saved Lot because of Abrahan (Gen.19:29)
    God saved Noah’s family because he saw Noah’s righteousness.(Gen.7:1)
    And God saved Israel and many nations because of one righteous Jewish man Yeshua.
    (Romans 5:12-19)

    • CP says:

      Why is it the Rabbis recognize the importance of Abraham’s intercessory prayer for Sodom, yet ignore a completed Tzaddik who offered his life for the lost sheep of Israel?

      Could it be in one instance the Rabbis stand at a distance and are able to see the entire forest, while in the other instance they stand among the trees?

      • CP Christianity is NOT about Jesus’ intercessory sacrifice – its about the claim that there is no other intercession. If Jesus was really righteous – let him join the crowd

        1000 Verses – a project of Judaism Resources wrote: >

  2. CP says:

    You bring up a excellent point!

    (Allow me to preface: I need to look at the snypotics closer, however I think this address’ your point)

    The synoptic gospels do not claim Yeshua as the only way, unless one considers the repentance Yeshua preached as the only way, then I would agree there is only one way.

    This idea of ‘only through Jesus’ comes mainly from the gospel of John which was written late and shows signs of editing. This means John was written about the same time the schism between Judaism and Christianity began and therefore could of been written or edited in response to the schism. We see the same kind of thing when Judaism modified their prayers in response to Christianity (12th Benediction, birkat hamminim). It would make sense Christianity might do the same thing with their writings since they were not yet canonized.

    Therefore your objection is possibly, probably, the result of modifications to Yeshua’s teachings by Hellenized Christians or even anti-Semites following Pauline Christianity’s response to Judizers.

    Yet with all that being said, one still has to consider there was only one way out of the Flood; being a passenger aboard Noah’s ark.


    I’m sure you know Dr.Brown has posted a new video response to yours. I thought it was much better than his previous responses although I was a bit disappointed with part of it, (I’ll wait to discuss it until you put up a topic post). I think both of you are becoming more precise and staying on individual questions better. Looking forward to your response!

    • CP
      Noah’s ark was built by human (flawed) obedience to God’s practical instructions
      I am preparing my response to Dr. Brown – I am taking my time – I feel he gave his game away in this last video of his. I am interested in hearing your comments.

      • CP says:


        “Noah’s ark was built by human (flawed) obedience to God’s practical instructions”

        > and it worked!
        (So even without the God/man thing we have a precedent; a human in obedience to God being used to save humanity and countless animals).

        “I am preparing my response to Dr. Brown – I am taking my time – I feel he gave his game away in this last video of his. I am interested in hearing your comments.”

        > I’ll have to watch it again with this (giving his game away) in mind. I think his plethora of knowledge sometimes distracts him. He will start out talking about one thing then two or three other related things come to his mind and he has to bring himself back to the topic. I thought you did an excellent job on your last response.

        Sometimes I see you both talking past each other interpreting the same thing from different perspectives. How does one disprove anothers interpretation when it is based on different perspective? Perhaps viewing from others perspective is the best way to disprove their interpretation, or accept it based on their perspective and move on.
        Or perhaps proving they have a poor perspective and therefore a flawed interpretation? I don’t know, this is above my pay grade, but I certainly enjoy hearing both sides and look forward to your interaction with Dr Brown.
        I try to have the attitude of the Angel Joshua met; I want to be on God’s side. Therefore I pray you both bring the Truth!

      • edward says:

        “(So even without the God/man thing we have a precedent; a human in obedience to God being used to save humanity and countless animals).”

        a human in obedience to God being used to save humanity and countless animals).”

        but weren’t the people on the boat ones who saved themselves? they listened and obeyed . so god saved them. aren’t we in really the ones who save ourselves when we listen ?

  3. Yehuda says:


    With regard to Dr. Brown’s latest post, you wrote:

    “I think his plethora of knowledge sometimes distracts him. He will start out talking about one thing then two or three other related things come to his mind and he has to bring himself back to the topic.”

    No disrespect intended but you’re being naive. These video posts are not extemporaneous. Do you not believe that he practices them or at least outlines them and reviews the result before posting them? Those rambling asides (I mentioned this previously) that he routinely includes are a tactic, despite his repeated assurances that his MO is NOT about debating tactics (something about which me thinks he doth protest too much). This man has decades-long career as a debater. Moreover these exchanges would seem to be affording both parties almost (admittedly not exactly but almost) exactly what he keeps offering in the form of a recorded live debate with with short interactions followed adequate breaks in between and cross-examination opportunities. Given that, why does he still so sorely crave an actual live debate? Think about it.

    As for giving his game away, I’m also interested in hearing Rabbi B’s response, although if you listen to enough of Dr. Brown, a repeated theme emerges as to what he sees and the single most compelling actual Tanach-based scriptural evidence for his beliefs. Looking forward to Rabbi B.


  4. CP says:


    Perhaps I am being naive, but it “appears” to me he gets so excited his brain runs in all directions at once with his mouth unable to keep up and this sometimes frustrates him. In other words he wants to talk about many facets at once but can’t. I don’t think he has to put much time into the responses; he already has a recording studio, has written five volumes on the topic of discussion and has years of experience debating the topic. Sure I think he prepares, but due his debating experience he is able to pretty much wing it with just an outline. (in my opinion).

    I’m curious; what do you see as his “single most compelling actual Tanakh based scriptural evidence for his beliefs”?

  5. Dina says:

    Haven’t had time lately to comment but just want to follow. Thanks for an insightful article as always.

  6. Yehuda says:


    Yep. Naive. Sorry. Watch Dr. Brown’s delivery. He very deliberately and frequently shifts between a rushed and rambling style (almost invariably when he is making the least sense and/or digressing) to a slow deliberate critical tone – almost like one speaking to a child – when he thinks he is making a critical point or delivering a conclusive final blow.

    It doesn’t really matter though. I find it interesting because as a person who has some occasion to speak publicly, I have actually learned a few stylistic tricks from him.


  7. Tsvi Jacobson says:

    Rabbi B. That was truly a Machaya and delicious
    I really needed this today as I read a column from a friend? who seems to
    concentrate on the negatives and the sin of our generation. I never really
    understood Avraham’s prayer now thanks to this post I do
    Good Shabbas from Doovid

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