Then the Lord said, “How great is the outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah and how very grave their sin! 21 I must go down and see whether they have done altogether according to the outcry that has come to me; and if not, I will know.”
22 So the men turned from there, and went toward Sodom, while Abraham remained standing before the Lord.[a] 23 Then Abraham came near and said, “Will you indeed sweep away the righteous with the wicked? 24 Suppose there are fifty righteous within the city; will you then sweep away the place and not forgive it for the fifty righteous who are in it? 25 Far be it from you to do such a thing, to slay the righteous with the wicked, so that the righteous fare as the wicked! Far be that from you! Shall not the Judge of all the earth do what is just?” 26 And the Lord said, “If I find at Sodom fifty righteous in the city, I will forgive the whole place for their sake.” 27 Abraham answered, “Let me take it upon myself to speak to the Lord, I who am but dust and ashes. 28 Suppose five of the fifty righteous are lacking? Will you destroy the whole city for lack of five?” And he said, “I will not destroy it if I find forty-five there.” 29 Again he spoke to him, “Suppose forty are found there.” He answered, “For the sake of forty I will not do it.” 30 Then he said, “Oh do not let the Lord be angry if I speak. Suppose thirty are found there.” He answered, “I will not do it, if I find thirty there.” 31 He said, “Let me take it upon myself to speak to the Lord. Suppose twenty are found there.” He answered, “For the sake of twenty I will not destroy it.” 32 Then he said, “Oh do not let the Lord be angry if I speak just once more. Suppose ten are found there.” He answered, “For the sake of ten I will not destroy it.”
Incline us, O God, to think humbly of ourselves, to be saved only in the examination of our own conduct, to consider our fellow creatures with kindness, and to judge of all they say and do with the charity which we would desire from them ourselves.
--Jane Austin, Eighteenth Century
God has just told Abraham for the third time that he will have a son, even though he's too old and Sarah is too old. Sarah laughs with joy at the thought, even as she doubts it could happen, and when God tells her she has laughed she denies it, but God says: "You did laugh."
And then God tells Abraham about Sodom and Gomorrah; their sin is not what we think it is, though. It is inhospitality. But that's Genesis 19; this is Genesis 18, and Abraham bargains with God.
God's grace is infinite, but so also is God's justice, and one does not negate the other.--Erich Auerbach
It is, in the end, a story of forgiveness, and a story of justice. The scriptural story is full of tales of forgiveness; but where that forgiveness does not relieve oppression.....well, oppression can never be forgiven.
"Do not be so confident of forgiveness that you add sin to sin." Sirach 5:5
Then again, for the sake of 10, God promised not to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah; so where were the 10? The question is a Biblical one, too: "Is it I, Lord?"