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When God saw that there was no righteous man among the inhabitants of the sinful cities, and there would be none among their descendants, for the sake of whose merits the rest might be treated with lenient consideration, He resolved to annihilate them one and all.[158] But before judgment was executed, the Lord made known unto Abraham what He would do to Sodom, Gomorrah, and the other cities of the plain, for they formed a part of Canaan, the land promised unto Abraham, and therefore did God say, "I will not destroy them without the consent of Abraham."[159]

Like a compassionate father, Abraham importuned the grace of God in behalf of the sinners. He spoke to God, and said: "Thou didst take an oath that no more should all flesh be cut off by the waters of a flood. Is it meet that Thou shouldst evade Thy oath and destroy cities by fire? Shall the Judge of all the earth not do right Himself? Verily, if Thou desirest to maintain the world, Thou must give up the strict line of justice. If Thou insistest upon the right alone, there can be no world." Whereupon God said to Abraham: "Thou takest delight in defending My creatures, and thou wouldst not call them guilty. Therefore I spoke with none but thee during the ten generations since Noah."[160] Abraham ventured to use still stronger words in order to secure the safety of the godless. "That be far from Thee," he said, "to slay the righteous with the wicked, that the dwellers on the earth say not, 'It is His trade to destroy the generations of men in a cruel manner; for He destroyed the generation of Enosh, then the generation of the flood, and then He sent the confusion of tongues. He sticks ever to His trade.' "

God made reply
"I will let all the generations I have destroyed pass before thee, that thou mayest see they have not suffered the extreme punishment they deserved. But if thou thinkest that I did not act justly, then instruct thou Me in what I must do, and I will endeavor to act in accordance with thy words." And Abraham had to admit that God had not diminished in aught the justice due to every creature in this world or the other world.[161] Nevertheless he continued to speak, and he said: "Wilt Thou consume the cities, if there be ten righteous men in each?" And God said, "No, if I find fifty righteous therein, I will not destroy the cities."[162]
"I have taken upon me to speak unto the Lord, I who would have been turned long since into dust of the ground by Amraphel and into ashes by Nimrod, had it not been for Thy grace.[163] Peradventure there shall lack five of the fifty righteous for Zoar, the smallest of the five cities. Wilt Thou destroy all the city for lack of five?"

God: "I will not destroy it, if I find there forty and five."

"Peradventure there be ten pious in each of the four cities, then forgive Zoar in Thy grace, for its sins are not so great in number as the sins of the others."

God granted his petition, yet Abraham continued to plead, and he asked whether God would not be satisfied if there were but thirty righteous, ten in each of the three larger cities, and would pardon the two smaller ones, even though there were no righteous therein, whose merits would intercede for them. This, too, the Lord granted, and furthermore He promised not to destroy the cities if but twenty righteous were found therein; yes, God conceded that He would preserve the five cities for the sake of ten righteous therein.[164] More than this Abraham did not ask, for he knew that eight righteous ones, Noah and his wife, and his three sons and their wives, had not sufficed to avert the doom of the generation of the flood, and furthermore he hoped that Lot, his wife, and their four daughters, together with the husbands of their daughters, would make up the number ten. What he did not know was that even the righteous in these sin-laden cities, though better than the rest, were far from good.[165]

Abraham did not cease to pray for the deliverance of the sinners even after the Shekinah had removed from him. But his supplications and his intercessions were in vain.[166] For fifty-two years God had warned the godless; He had made mountains to quake and tremble. But they hearkened not unto the voice of admonition. They persisted in their sins, and their well-merited punishment overtook them.[167] God forgives all sins, only not an immoral life. And as all these sinners led a life of debauchery, they were burnt with fire.[168]

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