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Dr. Tommy Mitchell, AiG–U.S., explains why in Genesis 19:13, two angels claim they would destroy Sodom, but verse 24 records that the Lord destroyed it.
After the Lord Himself and two angels appear (in the form of men) to Abraham in Genesis 18, the two angels traveled to Sodom to warn Lot and his family. They told Lot, “
For we will destroy this place … the Lord has sent us to destroy it” (Genesis 19:13). Later, verse 24 states, “
Then the Lord rained brimstone and fire on Sodom and Gomorrah, from the Lord out of the heavens.”
Notice that after hearing the warning from the angels that they would destroy the city, Lot told his family members, “
The Lord will destroy this city.” Clearly, Lot understood the angels to be acting as agents of God under His authority. Thus, whatever role the angels would have in the coming destruction, the Lord’s judgment and power were ultimately responsible.
In this case, God delegated the announcement of destruction to the angels.The principle of delegation means that when one in authority commands an action, he can rightly be given credit for it, even if he has an agent perform the action. In this case, God delegated the announcement of destruction to the angels. The principle holds true because God is the one with the power to enable the action and authority to order it.
Scripture contains other examples like this. For instance, Matthew 19:8 records Jesus attributing the rules about divorce to Moses, and in John 7:19 Jesus says, “
Did not Moses give you the law?” However, Scripture is clear that God gave Moses the law, both the commandments written on tablets of stone and the additional laws, which elaborated on the law and regulated society and ceremony.
In our modern language we speak the same way. When a platoon of soldiers destroys an enemy facility, we can rightly say the platoon did it, or general so-and-so did it, or the President did it, or the United States did it.
Similarly, the Bible contains instances where a leader other than God is credited with work that was actually performed by someone in his command. For example, Moses stated, “
So I made an ark of acacia wood” (Deuteronomy 10:3), but Exodus 37:1 states, “
Then Bezalel made the ark of acacia wood.” Bezalel was the actual craftsman who built the Ark of the Covenant, but it was under the command of Moses, so it is perfectly legitimate for either man to be given credit.
In the case of Sodom and Gomorrah, God sent the angels as His emissaries to Lot. They acted on His behalf. In fact, God even said to Abraham, “
Because the outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is great, and because their sin is very grave, I will go down now and see” (Genesis 18:20–21). At that point, the angels went to Sodom, but the Lord stayed behind and talked with Abraham. So sending the angels to act on His behalf was viewed by God as being the same as going there Himself. This is yet another example of the aforementioned principle in action. Since the angels acted on God’s behalf, we can safely say they had some part in carrying out the judgment.
We know that God doesn’t need help to do anything. After all, He spoke the entire universe into existence in all its details. In Creation, we know that all persons of the Trinity were involved. But there are also many places where God chooses to use angels, men, or even animals to accomplish His purpose. Throughout Scripture, angels delivered messages, carried out judgments, and ministered to the heirs of salvation. Thus, it should be no surprise to learn that angels were instrumental in carrying out this destruction.
The angels did it—or at least some of it. And the Lord did it. Both are true, so there is no contradiction.
Answers in Genesis is an apologetics ministry, dedicated to helping Christians defend their faith and proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ effectively. We focus on providing answers to questions about the Bible—particularly the book of Genesis—regarding key issues such as creation, evolution, science, and the age of the earth.