The LORD appeared again to Abraham while he was camped near the oak grove belonging to Mamre. One day about noon, as Abraham was sitting at the entrance to his tent,
he suddenly noticed three men standing nearby. He got up and ran to meet them, welcoming them by bowing low to the ground.
"My lord," he said, "if it pleases you, stop here for a while.
Rest in the shade of this tree while my servants get some water to wash your feet.
Let me prepare some food to refresh you. Please stay awhile before continuing on your journey." "All right," they said. "Do as you have said."
So Abraham ran back to the tent and said to Sarah, "Quick! Get three measures a of your best flour, and bake some bread."
Then Abraham ran out to the herd and chose a fat calf and told a servant to hurry and butcher it.
When the food was ready, he took some cheese curds and milk and the roasted meat, and he served it to the men. As they ate, Abraham waited on them there beneath the trees.
"Where is Sarah, your wife?" they asked him. "In the tent," Abraham replied.
Then one of them said, "About this time next year I will return, and your wife Sarah will have a son." Now Sarah was listening to this conversation from the tent nearby.
And since Abraham and Sarah were both very old, and Sarah was long past the age of having children,
she laughed silently to herself. "How could a worn-out woman like me have a baby?" she thought. "And when my master -- my husband -- is also so old?"
Then the LORD said to Abraham, "Why did Sarah laugh? Why did she say, 'Can an old woman like me have a baby?'
Is anything too hard for the LORD? About a year from now, just as I told you, I will return, and Sarah will have a son."
Sarah was afraid, so she denied that she had laughed. But he said, "That is not true. You did laugh."
Then the men got up from their meal and started on toward Sodom. Abraham went with them part of the way.
"Should I hide my plan from Abraham?" the LORD asked.
"For Abraham will become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth will be blessed through him.
I have singled him out so that he will direct his sons and their families to keep the way of the LORD and do what is right and just. Then I will do for him all that I have promised."
So the LORD told Abraham, "I have heard that the people of Sodom and Gomorrah are extremely evil, and that everything they do is wicked.
I am going down to see whether or not these reports are true. Then I will know."
The two other men went on toward Sodom, but the LORD remained with Abraham for a while.
Abraham approached him and said, "Will you destroy both innocent and guilty alike?
Suppose you find fifty innocent people there within the city -- will you still destroy it, and not spare it for their sakes?
Surely you wouldn't do such a thing, destroying the innocent with the guilty. Why, you would be treating the innocent and the guilty exactly the same! Surely you wouldn't do that! Should not the Judge of all the earth do what is right?"
And the LORD replied, "If I find fifty innocent people in Sodom, I will spare the entire city for their sake."
Then Abraham spoke again. "Since I have begun, let me go on and speak further to my Lord, even though I am but dust and ashes.
Suppose there are only forty-five? Will you destroy the city for lack of five?" And the LORD said, "I will not destroy it if I find forty-five."
Then Abraham pressed his request further. "Suppose there are only forty?" And the LORD replied, "I will not destroy it if there are forty."
"Please don't be angry, my Lord," Abraham pleaded. "Let me speak -- suppose only thirty are found?" And the LORD replied, "I will not destroy it if there are thirty."
Then Abraham said, "Since I have dared to speak to the Lord, let me continue -- suppose there are only twenty?" And the LORD said, "Then I will not destroy it for the sake of the twenty."
Finally, Abraham said, "Lord, please do not get angry; I will speak but once more! Suppose only ten are found there?" And the LORD said, "Then, for the sake of the ten, I will not destroy it."
The LORD went on his way when he had finished his conversation with Abraham, and Abraham returned to his tent.
Scripture quotations marked NLT are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright 1996. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Wheaton, Illinois 60189. All rights reserved. (New Living Translation - The Bible Online)