An Audacious Request: Abraham's Dialogue with God in Genesis 18

Edward Bridge*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


Genesis 18.17-33, Abraham's dialogue with Yahweh over the number of righteous people in Sodom, is a difficulty in exegesis and interpretation. At a literary level, there has been no agreement on the nature of Abraham's language. It is common to interpret Abraham as bargaining with God in similar fashion to haggling over the price of goods in a bazaar; but proposals have been made that Abraham uses legal-like language, socratic dialogue' and midrash. There is also no agreement on the purpose of Abraham's dialogue. An analysis of Gen. 18.17-33 using politeness theory proposes that Abraham, as portrayed in the narrative, wants to reduce the number of people as the basis for God's forgiveness of Sodom and Gomorrah. This is an audacious request and so considerable forms of polite language are used to assist the request. However, it is argued that this request is not Abraham's real intention. Rather, his intention is to have Lot spared from Yahweh's destruction of the cities. This request is off-record', the politest strategy that could be used.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)281-296
Number of pages16
JournalJournal for the Study of the Old Testament
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2016


  • Genesis 18.17-33
  • politeness
  • request
  • Abraham
  • Lot
  • Sodom


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