Creation destroys as it goes, throws down one tree for the rise of another. But ideal mankind would abolish death, multiply itself million upon million, rear up city upon city, save every parasite alive, until the accumulation of mere existence is swollen to a horror.

–D. H. Lawrence

Genesis, Chapter 18

Three Travelers

Abraham’s madness seemed to grow quiet as the seasons passed along. Sarah grew comfortable with him again, and his love and faith overcame his bout of madness. There were signs of desperation in his desire for confirmation of being on a divine path, but nothing like his bloody ritual.

Sarah sent Abraham on an errand to the oaks at the edge of the fields. There, he found three travelers resting in the shade. They had the bearing of angels, but the countenance of humans. One was a woman, another was a man, and the third Abraham could not tell. He suspected that they all walked with God, or were His agents, and might be a sign that his sacrifice had been heard.

Abraham greeted them and bowed low before them, saying: “My Lords, please accept my hospitality. Come, rest yourselves in my camp. I will wash your feet, feed you, and give you fresh water.”

The three strangers looked at each other in a silent communication for a moment. Together they turned to Abraham: “That sounds delightful.”

Sarah baked some fresh sweet bread, and while Abraham got the finest ram and delivered it to the butcher. Their kitchen collected fresh milk and some cheese. While the house made preparations, Abraham washed their feet, and Sarah brought them dried fruits.

The male traveler asked: “May we meet your son?” Abraham felt his heart leap. Why would these strangers ask of his son, unless they knew God Most High? Surely this was a sign that his sacrifice had been heard and a covenant had been made.

As Abraham sat with a distant gaze, Sarah replied: “What do you mean? We have no son.”

The female traveler looked puzzled: “Then who is that boy?” She pointed to young Ishmael, who was looking from his mother’s tent.

Abraham said: “Well, that is my son, but not Sarah’s. I am waiting for God to deliver my heir through her.” He gave them a wink.

The third traveler said: “Like one who waits for rain while dying of thirst.”

Sarah was worried at the dark portent: “Perhaps you did not come here to discuss our private family matters. You are welcome to stay here as our guests.”

The travelers looked at each other and stood up, apologizing that they needed to reach Sodom before night.

Abraham muttered: “Oh such a dreadful place, filled with cowards and liars.”

A Test of Faith

The male traveler asked his companions: “Should we tell him why we are going to Sodom?”

The female traveler said: “He may question his faith. Its fate will weigh on his shoulders.”

The third traveler said: “A faith that cannot be questioned is insanity.”

The male traveler took Abraham aside and said: “As you know, we are headed to Sodom. We’ve heard there are many wicked people there, and the earth cries out for justice. So, God will destroy the city to eradicate the wickedness of the people.”

Abraham looked concerned: “My Lords, I know these cities make men’s hearts wicked, but surely, there must be enough good within to offer hope of redemption?”

The female traveler said: “The Eternal One does not spare a city for the people within. The wicked already sleep in their death shrouds.”

Abraham replied: “If there were a hundred good people in a city; I’m sure God would spare the entire place.”

The male traveler nodded: “I’m sure you are right. But are there a hundred good people in Sodom?”

Abraham considered: “If there were any good people. I’m sure God would spare them all.”

The female traveler said: “Your answer hangs empty. Are there any good people worth sparing Sodom?”

Abraham lowered his face from them: “Did not God reveal the rainbow to Noah to spare the Earth from such interventions… Why would God punish these people?”

The mysterious traveler put a hand on his shoulder: “Maybe God already has. Tell me: what makes you think death and destruction are a punishment?”

Abraham thought of his nephew, Lot, who had sold his lands and become a rich man in the City of Sodom, and lived there as mayor still. He thought of the king, full of violence and lies. Was Lot a good man or a slave to a king of greed?

Abraham remembered men he’d killed in their sleep, hadn’t they been slain by their faulty paths and sins? He remembered kind people who died of disease in his house; if they had perfect goodness, would God Most High have sat still as they choked on blood and bile? Abraham fell to his knees and wept as his answers clashed with his questions, and a war raged in his mind.

The travelers turned and left Abraham in the twilight sand as the sky above turned red and purple in the east.

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