Genesis 18:23-33 - "For the sake of ten, I will not destroy it."

Then Abraham approached Him and said: "Will you sweep away the righteous with the wicked? What if there are fifty righteous people in the city? Will you really sweep it away and not spare the place for the sake of the fifty righteous people in it? Far be it from you to do such a thing—to kill the righteous with the wicked, treating the righteous and the wicked alike. Far be it from you! Will not the Judge of all the earth do right?" The LORD said, "If I find fifty righteous people in the city of Sodom, I will spare the whole place for their sake." Then Abraham spoke up again: "Now that I have been so bold as to speak to the Lord, though I am nothing but dust and ashes, what if the number of the righteous is five less than fifty? Will you destroy the whole city for lack of five people?" "If I find forty-five there," he said, "I will not destroy it." Once again he spoke to him, "What if only forty are found there?" He said, "For the sake of forty, I will not do it." Then he said, "May the Lord not be angry, but let me speak. What if only thirty can be found there?" He answered, "I will not do it if I find thirty there." Abraham said, "Now that I have been so bold as to speak to the Lord, what if only twenty can be found there?" He said, "For the sake of twenty, I will not destroy it." Then he said, "May the Lord not be angry, but let me speak just once more. What if only ten can be found there?" He answered, "For the sake of ten, I will not destroy it." When the LORD had finished speaking with Abraham, He left, and Abraham returned home. (Genesis 18:26:32)

Does God negotiate on destruction?

Does this mean that God is open to negotiation regarding His decisions and activities? That He will decide to do something and one of His servants can talk Him out of it? He is, after all, the Supreme Being. And His decisions are always beyond the reasoning of the human mind.

Yet we do find in this symbolic conversation, that the Supreme Being does share a relationship with His servants, and He may, at His discretion, honor the wishes of one of His servants.

This is what this conversation illustrates: The Supreme Being cares about everyone but shows special favor to those who love Him. This is consistent with loving relationships.

Following God promising not to destroy Sodom if He finds fifty righteous people, Abraham continues questioning how many righteous people will be needed to avert the destruction, going from 45 to 40 to 30 to 20 to 10. Each time, God responds saying He will not destroy Sodom if He finds that many.

Is Abraham really negotiating with God on the destruction of Sodom?

Certainly not. God does not negotiate with people. God is the Supreme Being. He certainly exchanges conversations and relationships with each of His children, but He is always in charge and is never subject to error.

God also never has a faulty motive or intention. His actions are always righteous and perfect. And Abraham, a devoted loving servant of God, would never question God's righteousness as is translated and interpreted here.

We must remember that this is neither a first hand nor a second-hand depiction of this conversation. Abraham is not relaying this information about this conversation. So who is relaying it then?

Could this conversation be literally true?

We can also be certain that this paraphrased conversation between Abraham and God is symbolic because we know the Supreme Being would have already known how many righteous people there were in Sodom. He didn't need to "find" them - "If I find fifty righteous people..."

Rather, this is a symbolic discussion that originates from ancient teachers who are detailing the fact that the Supreme Being is always protecting those who worship Him and serve Him.

Yet we must also understand that every physical body is temporary, and is subject to pain and death. It is not as if those who worship Him will still not be subject to experiencing the death of their physical body, nor the pains that go along with it.

In other words, the bodies of even the 10, 20, 30, 40, 45 or 50 righteous people of Sodom - if they were there - would still be subject to pain, old age, disease and death even if God did not destroy the city.

Even Abraham's physical body eventually died. And practically every ancient city was destroyed at some point.

Does this mean that God killed Abraham and destroyed every city? And since we all will get sick and die at some point does this mean that God is making us sick and killing us off?

Don't be ridiculous.

Yes, many do question God's fairness, and even His existence given the fact that there is so much sickness and death in the physical world. They ask: If God exists, why is there so much suffering in the world? Why does every body become sick? Why does every body die at some point? Is this God's fault?

Why is there suffering in this world?

The fact is, the physical world is a temporary and virtual dimension that was ultimately created by God to encourage us to rehabilitate ourselves from self-centeredness.

The reality is, we are not these physical bodies. They are temporary vehicles, and each of us - the spirit-person inside - is driving our physical body much as a person drives a car.

And when this vehicle of the physical body dies, we simply leave the body just as a person steps out of a car. This has been confirmed not only throughout the scriptures but also by science - with hundreds of thousands of clinical death cases. It is also evidenced by the fact that the body is always changing and aging, while we remain the same person.

This means that all the pains and suffering of the physical world are happening to these temporary vehicles - not to the driver of the physical body. We might compare this to driving in a demolition derby.

In the demolition derby, all the cars get smashed up. Yet at the end of the derby, all of the drivers get out of their beat-up cars and go home to their families.

In the same way, the suffering and death of this world occurs for the physical body, not the person inside. Each body suffers, but the soul inside is separate from this suffering. It is only when we identify ourselves with these bodies that we suffer with them. When we leave the body, we hopefully take away the lessons we learn from them, but not the pain, disease or suffering.

What about learning and consequence?

The Supreme Being created the physical world to be a place of learning. He created a system of consequences that produces situations perfectly reflecting our prior activities and decisions. If we hurt the body of another person, our body will be hurt in the same way - or a reflective way in the future. This allows us to gradually realize empathy - which is the first step in being able to experience love.

Parenting works the same way. Today's child psychologists now recommend that the best way to discipline a child is through consequences. If a child does something wrong they don't get a punitive punishment. Their punishment reflects the responsibility of what they did wrong. If they throw food, they must clean it up, and so on.

While experiencing pain and suffering within these physical bodies may feel punitive, it is because we bring these upon ourselves. A body who is suffering in some way is reflecting a previous activity of that person that made someone else suffer in some way.

A person who is loving and caring for others, on the other hand, will naturally rise in their body types, and experience a future that reflects those actions. This person will also be led towards re-establishing their relationship with the Supreme Being and likely give up the physical world in the future as well.

But those of us who are chasing our self-centered dreams around, often at the expense of others' suffering, we must experience the consequences of those actions in the future. This is the design of the rehabilitative physical world.

Just as a drug rehabilitation center or a prison is meant to rehabilitate addicts or criminals, the Supreme Being set up this world to rehabilitate us. Our original identity is that of a loving, caring person - a loving servant of the Supreme Being. This is what will ultimately bring us happiness because this is who we are.

God wants us to become rehabilitated and return to Him in the spiritual realm after the death of our physical body. This is the ultimate purpose of the learning experiences gained through the temporary physical sufferings of this world.

Was Sodom and Gomorrah about homosexuality?

Sectarian religious teachings regarding Sodom and Gomorrah have become fanatically focused upon the aspect of homosexuality, to the point of using the word "sodomy" to depict homosexual or related activities.

This, however, is not what was going on here. This is evidenced by the teachings of many of God's representatives such as Jesus, Isaiah, Jeremiah and others, who have specifically referred to Sodom and Gomorrah without referring to homosexuality.

It is only a modern interpretation, that began by a Greek philosopher in the First Century CE.

Here is the key text that has been mistranslated and misinterpreted in this regard, from the English Standard Version:
The two angels came to Sodom in the evening, and Lot was sitting in the gate of Sodom. When Lot saw them, he rose to meet them and bowed himself with his face to the earth and said, "My lords, please turn aside to your servant's house and spend the night and wash your feet. Then you may rise up early and go on your way." They said, "No; we will spend the night in the town square." But he pressed them strongly; so they turned aside to him and entered his house. And he made them a feast and baked unleavened bread, and they ate. But before they lay down, the men of the city, the men of Sodom, both young and old, all the people to the last man, surrounded the house. And they called to Lot, "Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us, that we may know them." Lot went out to the men at the entrance, shut the door after him, and said, "I beg you, my brothers, do not act so wickedly. Behold, I have two daughters who have not known any man. Let me bring them out to you, and do to them as you please. Only do nothing to these men, for they have come under the shelter of my roof." But they said, "Stand back!" And they said, "This fellow came to sojourn, and he has become the judge! Now we will deal worse with you than with them." Then they pressed hard against the man Lot, and drew near to break the door down. But the men reached out their hands and brought Lot into the house with them and shut the door. And they struck with blindness the men who were at the entrance of the house, both small and great, so that they wore themselves out groping for the door. Then the men said to Lot, "Have you anyone else here? Sons-in-law, sons, daughters, or anyone you have in the city, bring them out of the place. For we are about to destroy this place, because the outcry against its people has become great before the LORD, and the LORD has sent us to destroy it." (Genesis 19:1-13 )
The key sentence that this misinterpretation lies upon is the statement when the people called Lot and said:
"Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us, that we may know them."
Other translations, like the King James Version and others, are similar. But there are a number of translations that say, "that we may have sex with them."

Yet the Hebrew word (yada') that supposedly refers to the men of Sodom wanting to "know" them or "have sex" with the two angels is being mistranslated and misinterpreted. The word relates to receiving instruction as well as perceiving or knowledge. This has been incorrectly interpreted as some sort of "Biblical knowing" - referring to carnal knowledge.

But there is no other indication that this interpretation is true.

Indeed, the logic of this is extremely weak, given the fact that the two angels were perceived as being extraordinary. Why would men want to have sex with angels? Angels are obviously from a higher realm. They do not appear as other people. And certainly, they do not appear in such a way to attract homosexuality.

Furthermore, the word "men" - being translated from the Hebrew iysh', can also refer to all the primary inhabitants or citizens of the city. This is a manner of speech in ancient times - referring to citizens as the 'men of the city.' We have others like this, such as "all men are created equal." This doesn't mean only men are equal.

Prior to the Greek Philo interpreting this as homosexuality in the First Century CE, the common interpretation of the story of Lot in Sodom was that the people of the city did not offer the angels respect and hospitality. Rather, they demanded that the angels appear before them so they could inquire from them directly. This was seen as an offense before the angels.

Think about it. If two angels appeared in your town, would you not offer them respect? Or would you demand to have a personal inquiry with them? The latter is a sign of disrespect.

And why would all the men of the city want to have sex with just two angels?

If it was sex that the men demanded, it would have been ridiculous that Lot would have offered all the men of the city to have sex with his two daughters. What kind of father would to that? Was he willing to have an entire town of men come and have sex with his two daughters? It is a sick mistranslation of this text.

Lot was not offering his daughters to have sex with an entire city of men. That would basically make Lot's daughters prostitutes and Lot himself a pimp. Besides this, such an offer would also contradict the notion that the men were homosexual.

The angels were extraordinary - so the people of the town were curious and demanded to know them. Then Lot offered to have his daughters speak to the people of the city rather than the angels, so the angels could continue their dialogue with Lot on a personal basis.

The translation and interpretation of the men of Sodom wanting to have sex with the two angels is the subject of a society of fanatics who have themselves become mired in a myriad of sexual conflicts. The Church itself has been drowning in a conspiracy of homosexuality. It has become widespread knowledge that many officials of the Church have been attacking and molesting young children over the centuries. Are this organization's teachers to be trusted for their interpretation of a scriptural event being about homosexuality?

But we can believe the instructional statements of some of the Prophets and Jesus with regards to Sodom and Gemorrah. Truly the people of these cities had become offensive to God and His representatives, as indicated by these teachers. That society had become focused on materialism and self-centeredness. They were not supporting the worship of the Supreme Being. These are the issues referred to as being offensive (often misinterpreted as "sin"). To be disrespectful to God's representatives is offensive. This is the result of seeing oneself as the most important person and forgetting God's position as Superior. Such a consciousness is offensive to God.

This also relates to our constant chase for materialism, fame, money, and the pleasures of the body as our keys to happiness. This is a wrongful assumption because none of this will provide true happiness to the spirit.

It doesn't mean that we can't have any physical pleasures. The physical body will send the mind pleasure stimuli even when we eat or laugh. So physical pleasures in themselves are not sinful. It is our consciousness of feeling that we invincible and there is no God and the pleasures of the body are the only/ultimate forms of happiness. Such a consciousness makes us offensive towards the Supreme Being - who is a loving, kind and generous Person.

The physical body and the things of the physical world are all temporary. They develop, then decompose. Thus we cannot take refuge in them. We cannot find happiness in them. Because our composition is spirit - not matter - the temporary things of this world cannot bring us happiness.

This point about our composition is critical. Whether a person identifies themselves as a man, a woman, a homosexual or a heterosexual - these are all labels of the physical world. They have nothing to do with who we really are.

With such a vision we can become truly tolerant and merciful towards others. We can understand that a person who was born into a male body and identifies themselves as a man is just as mistaken as a person who is born into a female body and identifies themselves as a man. Both are misidentifying themselves as a physical body - which is a case of mistaken identity.

What is the real meaning of Sodom?

So what is really going on here between Abraham, God and Sodom? The event of Sodom is symbolic, and the discussion here between Abraham and God is also symbolic. The ancient teachers were illustrating that ignoring God and leading a self-centered life leads only to our own destruction.

Yet God will always look after those who become dedicated to Him.

After all, doesn't practically every city get destroyed at some point or another? Even the powerful Roman empire was destroyed after many centuries. In other words, God doesn't go around picking and destroying cities. Their eventual destruction - just as the death of our physical body - is already ordained.

Those communities that become degraded become the cause of their own destruction - individually and as a community. Their activities will certainly have consequences, each individually and as a group. In other words, the actions of communities - whether it is a nation or a city - also have consequences.

We can easily see this. In World War II, we saw the countries of Germany, Italy and Japan get brutally attacked and overthrown by the Allies. Why did the Allies do this? Because these countries became aggressors. They attacked other countries and inflected death upon the peoples of those other countries. So the Allies' attacks were the consequences of those countries' actions.

There are innumerable examples of this throughout history.

Therefore, whatever happened to Sodom occurred ultimately due to the decisions that community made, and those individuals made. They served up their own consequences individually and as a community.

In other words, God does not have to intercede into the consequences of a particular person, family or community. These take place automatically through the consequence programming He designed. Because God is always in charge and He created the system, we can certainly say that God destroyed a city or even a country. But God does not have to personally interact with such destruction. These are simply consequences being played out in a just system.

However, should a person turn towards God personally - and begin to worship and serve Him with devotion - that is another story. The Supreme Being gets personally involved in the lives of those who are devoted to the Supreme Being. Those who worship God are watched after personally. They are guided back to Him personally, typically by God along with one of His representatives.

This is the lost meaning of this symbolic conversation. While ecclesiastical translators and scribes over the centuries have increasingly focused upon the concept of God destroying Sodom, the fact is, this conversation originally intended to focus on the fact that God will personally watch over those who are devoted to Him, even at the expense of halting the consequences of those around the devoted person in order to guide that person back home to Him.

The current picture of this event in scripture, however, could be compared to a stereogram - it is a spiritual lesson hidden within the symbolic story. In other words, God always controls His scriptures, regardless of how badly they have become translated or interpreted. He embeds His lessons within them even if they have become insulted.

So let's say there were ten people in the city of Sodom who were devoted to God. Say it is ten people out of a population of 100,000. The lesson of this conversation would mean that the consequences of 99,990 people would be altered by being in the midst of those ten devoted people, because God would be protecting and guiding those ten who were devoted to Him.

But this can also play out with the ten being guided out of the city before its destruction. Or they may otherwise survive its destruction. Or they (their temporary physical bodies) may even become destroyed in the destruction of the city.

But even if those ten devoted persons become destroyed in the city's destruction, they themselves - their spirit-persons - will continue to be protected, and guided by God back to His realm in the spiritual world, where there is no suffering, pain, disease, old age and death.

This is the ultimate lesson of this symbolic conversation between Abraham and God - hidden within its symbolism. It is about how the Supreme Being is focused upon those who worship Him. It is about how focused He is upon those who seek a loving relationship with Him.

It has been said that for every step we make towards the Supreme Being, He takes a thousand steps towards us. We can simply start by desiring - and asking - to get closer to Him. Such a request will be heard if it is sincere. That simple request will begin a journey for us that will lead us back to His Loving Arms. It will lead us back to our home in the spiritual realm. It will lead us to His protection, not only here while we wear these physical bodies, but after the death of this physical body. If we dedicate ourselves to Him, He will be watching out for us. He will personally protect us, and guide us home.

The ultimate hidden message of the Bible is really not so hidden if a person is sincere. It is a message of re-establishing our loving relationship with the Supreme Being. Very clear statements are made to this end, including the most important instruction of Jesus, Moses and every representative of God:
"'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind'" (Matthew 22:37-38, Luke 10:27 and Deuteronomy 6:5)
Consider another translation of this verse in Chapter 18 of the New Book of Genesis.