Questions From Readers
◼ Genesis 19:24 speaks of ‘the Lord’ raining down sulfur and fire ‘from the Lord’ on Sodom. Does this indicate that God is a trinity?
Believers in the Trinity have tried to find support for their doctrine from the account of Abraham and Lot. But careful, frank examination shows that it no more teaches the Trinity than does the Bible as a whole.
Abraham received a visit from “three men” who clearly were from God. Greeting them, Abraham said: “Jehovah, if, now, I have found favor in your eyes, please do not pass by your servant.” (Genesis 18:1-3) Of course, Jehovah God himself had not appeared in the flesh to Abraham, for ‘no man may see Him and yet live.’ (Exodus 33:20; John 1:18) Hence, Abraham must have expressed himself this way because of recognizing that these “men,” and perhaps one of them in particular, represented Jehovah. This agrees with other occasions when angels of God appeared to humans and were spoken of as “Jehovah” for they were heavenly representatives of the Most High.—Compare Genesis 16:7-13; Judges 6:12-16.
After the “three men” delivered that important message involving the foretold “seed,” attention was turned to Sodom and Gomorrah. A comparison of Genesis 18:22 and Ge 19:1 proves that the “men” who had visited Abraham were angels. While one of these representing Jehovah remained with Abraham, the other two heavenly messengers went to Sodom. There, at the mouth of two witnesses, they assured Lot and his family that destruction was coming on the cities and that flight was necessary. Once Lot and his two daughters were safe, destruction came on the wicked cities. We read: “Then Jehovah made it rain sulphur and fire from Jehovah, from the heavens, upon Sodom and upon Gomorrah.”—Genesis 19:24.
In many older Bible translations, this verse speaks of “the Lord” raining down fire from “the Lord.” Some commentators who believed in the Trinity claimed that it meant that the Lord Jesus, the Son of God, brought destruction from the Lord God, the Father. But the Hebrew text shows that both references are to “Jehovah,” who was the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and who was different from Jesus.—Exodus 6:2, 3; Acts 3:13.
It is consistent with Hebrew idiom to speak of a person’s doing something in reference to himself. We read: “Solomon proceeded to congregate the older men . . . to King Solomon.” “To Moses [Jehovah] said: ‘Go up to Jehovah . . .’” “[Jehovah] went on to say: . . . I will save them by Jehovah.’” (1 Kings 8:1; Exodus 24:1; Hosea 1:6, 7; Zechariah 10:12) In this same way Genesis 19:24 tells us that Jehovah brought the unprecedented sulfur and fire from himself, “from Jehovah, from the heavens.” So rather than being a strained prop for the unscriptural Trinity doctrine, this verse underscores the point made at Psalm 83:18: “That people may know that you, whose name is Jehovah, you alone are the Most High over all the earth.”
It might be mentioned in passing that there is another aspect of this account that ardent believers in the Trinity have attempted to use in support of their doctrine. They have stressed that there were three who appeared to Abraham and who represented God, so they suggest that a trinity is indicated.
That there were three angels, though, is hardly a valid indication of a triune deity, for nothing in this account speaks of a plural Godhead. German scholar Franz Delitzsch observed that “the idea that the Trinity is represented in the three is in every point of view untenable.”
So, why did God send three heavenly creatures representing him? The angels came to tell Abraham that he and Sarah would produce a son. (Genesis 18:10) Evidently God considered it appropriate for this prophetic message to be presented by three witnesses, even as the Law later said that “at the mouth of two witnesses or at the mouth of three witnesses [a] matter should stand good” or be established. (Deuteronomy 19:15; 1 Timothy 5:19) Abraham would have reason to doubt that he and Sarah, considering their age and physical condition, could produce a son. (Hebrews 11:11, 12) But the witness of three angels would certainly be convincing.