|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
18:23-33 Here is the first solemn prayer upon record in the Bible; and it is a prayer for the sparing of Sodom. Abraham prayed earnestly that Sodom might be spared, if but a few righteous persons should be found in it. Come and learn from Abraham what compassion we should feel for sinners, and how earnestly we should pray for them. We see here that the effectual, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much. Abraham, indeed, failed in his request for the whole place, but Lot was miraculously delivered. Be encouraged then to expect, by earnest prayer, the blessing of God upon your families, your friends, your neighbourhood. To this end you must not only pray, but you must live like Abraham. He knew the Judge of all the earth would do right. He does not plead that the wicked may be spared for their own sake, or because it would be severe to destroy them, but for the sake of the righteous who might be found among them. And righteousness only can be made a plea before God. How then did Christ make intercession for transgressors? Not by blaming the Divine law, nor by alleging aught in extenuation or excuse of human guilt; but by pleading HIS OWN obedience unto death.
Verse 25. - That be far from thee - literally to profane things (be it) to thee - nefas sit tibi = = absit a te! an exclamation of abhorrence, too feebly rendered by μηδαμῶς (LXX.) - to do after this manner (literally, according to this word), to slay the righteous with the wicked: and that the righteous should be as the wicked (literally, and that it should be - as the righteous, so the wicked), that be far from thee: Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right? The patriarch appeals not to Jehovah's covenant grace (Kurtz), but to his absolute judicial equity (Keil). It does not, however, follow that the Divine righteousness would have been compromised by consigning pious and wicked to the same temporal destruction. This must have been a spectacle not infrequently observed in Abraham's day as well as ours. Yet the mind of Abraham appears to have been perplexed, as men's minds often are still, by the magnitude of the proposed illustration of a common principle in Providence. Though prepared to admit the principle when its application is confined to solitary cases, or cases of no great amplitude, yet instinctively the human mind feels that there must be a limit to the commingling of the righteous and the wicked in calamity, though it should be only of a temporal description. That limit Abraham conceived, or perhaps feared that others might conceive, would be passed if good and bad in Sodom should be overwhelmed in a common ruin; and in this spirit the closing utterance of his first supplication may be regarded as giving expression to the hope that Jehovah would do nothing that would even seem to tarnish his Divine righteousness. Abraham of course regarded this as impossible, consequently he believed that Sodom might be spared.
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
That be far from thee to do after this manner,.... He represents it as a thing unbecoming the divine Majesty, and contrary to the nature and perfections of God:
to slay the righteous with the wicked; which is true of eternal punishment, but not of temporal calamities, in which the righteous are often involved with the wicked, though not for the same reasons, and under the same considerations, and for the same ends:
and that the righteous should be as the wicked, that be far from thee; the one suffer as the other; that he judged was not agreeable to his divine Majesty; nor are they treated without any difference; what befalls the righteous is not for their sins, nor considered as a punishment for them, nor intended for their hurt, but for their good, as the issue of them proves; but it is the reverse with the wicked:
shall not the Judge of all the earth do right? meaning the Lord, to whom he drew nigh, and was praying to, and pleading with, even the Son of God in human form, who, as he made the world, was the Governor of it and Judge in it; and indeed, as Mediator, has all judgment committed to him, and is appointed to be Judge of quick and dead at the last day, and who does all things that are just and equitable in Providence now; for there is no unrighteousness in him, nor in any of ways and works, and who will judge righteous judgment hereafter. Though by "right" Abraham seems to mean, not strict rigorous justice, but a mixture of mercy with justice, even moderation and clemency; for such are used by earthly judges, with whom it is a maxim, "summum jus summa injuria" (i.e. extreme law, extreme injustice); and therefore Abraham argues, surely the supreme Judge of all the earth will show mercy, and in the midst of deserved wrath remember it, and not deal according to the rules of inexorable and inflexible justice; and to this sense the answer of the Lord inclines.
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