And the Lord said, if I find in Sodom fifty righteous within the city, then I will spare all the place for their sakes. Genesis 18:26
Why were three men sent to tell Abraham the good news that Sarah was going to have a child? God has been speaking directly to Abraham, for all of this time, yet to convince Sarah that even though she is post-menopausal, she will bear a child, he sends “messengers”.
The reason for this isn’t clear until chapter 19, when the men are threatened with rape in the city.
After the men had left Sarah to mull over the frightening prospect of bearing a child at her advanced age, Abraham engages with God to haggle about how many “righteous” men it would take to save the city.
The chapter starts off with “the Lord” appeared to him where he sat outside his tent “in the fields of Mamre”. He sees three men, bows to them and calls them “Lord” .
There are threads of numbers that run through the Bible, three men is one of these threads. Adam and Eve had three mentioned sons: Cain, Abel, and Seth. (Genesis 4, Genesis 5) Noah has three sons who are mentioned: Ham, Shem, and Japheth. (Genesis 5:32). In turn, the sons of Noah, also have three main branches of descendants: Ham has Cush, Mizraim, and Canaan who are the ancestors of the non-Jewish people. Terah, Abraham’s father has three children who are the ancestors of the later people: Abraham, Nahor, and their brother Haran, the father of Lot. (Genesis 11:29) Then three men appear to Abraham in this chapter. In Daniel, the three men are Shadrach, Meschach and Abednego. (Daniel 3:23).
The use of numerical patterns is significant because it demonstrates mythology. The real world is chaotic, there are no patterns except the ones we make up for ourselves. It is only in fiction that patterns of numbers are used to tell stories. Using this pattern through the narrative merely displays that three was a way for the ancient storytellers to make connections: one character was the ancestor of the unholy people, the second character, the ancestor of the chosen one, and the third, to provide wives, or relatives for the chosen one, but ultimately discarded as a new branch of “unholy” people.
In this case, God appearing to Abraham as three men, and then moving on to Sodom to tempt the people into sodomy, seems strange until these connections are made. It was a way for the writer to weave a story. Abraham travelled to Egypt with Sarah, so that he could obtain a handmaiden to be the mother of Ishmael. Abraham fathers two children, who are the progenitors of the two main groups of people in the Near East during the middle of the first millennium BCE, the Arabs, or Syrians, and the Hebrews. In this chapter the three men are necessary. One would cause only a few men to sin, two, perhaps a few more, but three men would cause a significant number of men to seek to use the men for their pleasure, thus giving the excuse for the destruction of the city.
Finally on the number three, it is also the three attributes of God: omnipotence, omnipresence, and omniscience, as explained in this website.
When Sarah laughs, denying that it is possible for her to bear a child, God asks if anything is too hard for him, chastising her, after she denies laughing (verse 14).
As the three men walk away, God questions whether he should tell Abraham of his intent to destroy the city of Sodom.
Genesis 18:17 And the Lord said, shall I hide from Abraham that thing which I do.
He decides that Abraham has a right to know, seeing he is meant to be “great and mighty” and “all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him”.
As the men turn towards Sodom and Gomorrah, Abraham asks God to rethink his plan, if he is able to find fifty good men. God agrees to save the city for fifty men. Abraham thinks about it, realises fifty is too many to ask for; they eventually settle on ten righteous men.
To be able to verify whether the two cities actually existed, we have only theology, and the belief that these events took place at a time we now call “The Bronze Age” in Mesopotamia.
In Mesopotamia, the Bronze Age begins at about 2900 BCE in the late Uruk period, spanning the Early Dynastic period of Sumer, the Akkadian Empire, the Old Babylonian and Old Assyrian periods and the period of Kassite hegemony. In Ancient Egypt, the Bronze Age begins in the Protodynastic period, c. 3150 BCE.
There is no empirical evidence for their existence, only supposition and theology on religious websites that support the idea that the devastation was caused by a meteor, 4,000 years ago.
There is no evidence whatsoever that shows that Abraham and Sarah were real people who lived to be centenarians before they had a child. The feasibility of such a medical marvel is extremely unlikely. This goes for their ancestors too. The longevity is necessary for the whole mythical history to have value. Possibly they were real people, possibly there was a couple who had a child late in life, possibly this did happen at a time that a meteor shower struck a now-unidentifiable city, possibly, on a small scale there may be some fact behind the myth, but it remains a myth.