The First reading at Mass today comes from the Book of Genesis. It is one of the great arguments/tussles//debates between God and the patriarchs that is such a feature of the earlier books of the Old Testament, and most notably the book of Job.of the Old Testament.
It is an account of an argument where where Abraham seems to be more moral, more merciful than God!
The Lord said, ‘How great an outcry there is against Sodom and Gomorrah! How grievous is their sin! I propose to go down and see whether or not they have done all that is alleged in the outcry against them that has come up to me. I am determined to know.’
The men left there and went to Sodom while Abraham remained standing before the Lord. Approaching him he said, ‘Are you really going to destroy the just man with the sinner? Perhaps there are fifty just men in the town. Will you really overwhelm them, will you not spare the place for the fifty just men in it? Do not think of doing such a thing: to kill the just man with the sinner, treating just and sinner alike! Do not think of it! Will the judge of the whole earth not administer justice?’ the Lord replied, ‘If at Sodom I find fifty just men in the town, I will spare the whole place because of them.’
Abraham replied, ‘I am bold indeed to speak like this to my Lord, I who am dust and ashes. But perhaps the fifty just men lack five: will you destroy the whole city for five?’ ‘No,’ he replied ‘I will not destroy it if I find forty-five just men there.’ Again Abraham said to him, ‘Perhaps there will only be forty there.’ ‘I will not do it’ he replied ‘for the sake of the forty.’
Abraham said, ‘I trust my Lord will not be angry, but give me leave to speak: perhaps there will only be thirty there.’ ‘I will not do it’ he replied ‘if I find thirty there.’ He said, ‘I am bold indeed to speak like this, but perhaps there will only be twenty there.’ ‘I will not destroy it’ he replied ‘for the sake of the twenty.’ He said, ‘I trust my Lord will not be angry if I speak once more: perhaps there will only be ten.’ ‘I will not destroy it’ he replied ‘for the sake of the ten.’
The argument is won by Abraham’s appeal for mercy for the innocent and just.
A week ago a debate was held in the House of Commons where it was argued that the government would./should be prepared to kill thousands upon thousands of innocent civilians in retaliation for a nuclear attack on Britain. And spend billions of pounds in order to be able to do so.
Threatening to use such weapons in order not to have to use them is a different matter to actually using them, of course – so long as they never do get used. But what a risk, what a calculation… And, potentially, how morally corrosive the policy.
- Why does God give in to Abraham?
The Hiroshima Stone. National Memorial Arboretum. (c) 2016, Allen Morris.