Answering Islam - A Christian-Muslim dialog

The Binitarian Nature of the Holy Bible’s supreme proof text for the unity of God Pt. 3

Sam Shamoun

We continue with our analysis of the Shema in light of the overall teachings of the inspired Scriptures.

Yahweh sends Yahweh to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah

The Hebrew Bible furnishes additional evidence that there are at least two Distinct Persons of Yahweh.

In the following passage Yahweh appears to Abraham who sees three men:

Yahweh appeared to Abraham near the great trees of Mamre while he was sitting at the entrance to his tent in the heat of the day. Abraham looked up and saw THREE MEN standing nearby. When he saw them, he hurried from the entrance of his tent to meet them and bowed low to the ground. He said, ‘If I have found favor in your eyes, my lord, do not pass your servant by. Let a little water be brought, and then you may all wash YOUR FEET and rest under this tree. Let me get you something to eat, so you can be refreshed and then go on your way—now that you have come to your servant.’ ‘Very well,’ they answered, ‘do as you say.’ So Abraham hurried into the tent to Sarah. ‘Quick,’ he said, ‘get three seahs of fine flour and knead it and bake some bread.’ Then he ran to the herd and selected a choice, tender calf and gave it to a servant, who hurried to prepare it. He then brought some curds and milk and the calf that had been prepared, and set these before them. While THEY ATE, he stood near them under a tree. ‘Where is your wife Sarah?’ they asked him. ‘There, in the tent,’ he said. Then Yahweh said, ‘I will surely return to you about this time next year, and Sarah your wife will have a son.’ Now Sarah was listening at the entrance to the tent, which was behind him. Abraham and Sarah were already old and well advanced in years, and Sarah was past the age of childbearing. So Sarah laughed to herself as she thought, ‘After I am worn out and my master is old, will I now have this pleasure?’ Then Yahweh said to Abraham, ‘Why did Sarah laugh and say, ‘Will I really have a child, now that I am old?” Is anything too hard for Yahweh? I will return to you at the appointed time next year and Sarah will have a son.’ Sarah was afraid, so she lied and said, ‘I did not laugh.’ But he said, ‘Yes, you did laugh.’ When the men got up to leave, they looked down toward Sodom, and Abraham walked along with them to see them on their way. Then Yahweh said, ‘Shall I hide from Abraham what I am about to do? Abraham will surely become a great and powerful nation, and all nations on earth will be blessed through him. For I have chosen him, so that he will direct his children and his household after him to keep the way of Yahweh by doing what is right and just, so that Yahweh will bring about for Abraham what he has promised him.’ Then Yahweh said, ‘The outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is so great and their sin so grievous that I will go down and see if what they have done is as bad as the outcry that has reached me. If not, I will know.’ The men turned away and went toward Sodom, but Abraham remained standing before Yahweh. Then Abraham approached him and said: ‘Will you sweep away the righteous with the wicked? What if there are fifty righteous people in the city? Will you really sweep it away and not spare the place for the sake of the fifty righteous people in it? Far be it from you to do such a thing—to kill the righteous with the wicked, treating the righteous and the wicked alike. Far be it from you! Will not the Judge of all the earth do right?’ Yahweh said, ‘If I find fifty righteous people in the city of Sodom, I will spare the whole place for their sake.’ Then Abraham spoke up again: ‘Now that I have been so bold as to speak to the Lord, though I am nothing but dust and ashes, what if the number of the righteous is five less than fifty? Will you destroy the whole city because of five people?’ ‘If I find forty-five there,’ he said, ‘I will not destroy it.’ Once again he spoke to him, ‘What if only forty are found there?’ He said, ‘For the sake of forty, I will not do it.’ Then he said, ‘May the Lord not be angry, but let me speak. What if only thirty can be found there?’ He answered, ‘I will not do it if I find thirty there.’ Abraham said, ‘Now that I have been so bold as to speak to the Lord, what if only twenty can be found there?’ He said, ‘For the sake of twenty, I will not destroy it.’ Then he said, ‘May the Lord not be angry, but let me speak just once more. What if only ten can be found there?’ He answered, ‘For the sake of ten, I will not destroy it.’ When Yahweh had finished speaking with Abraham, he left, and Abraham returned home.” Genesis 18:1-33

It is clear from the context that one of the three men is Yahweh himself who, along with the other two, ate food and had his feet washed!

That there is no question that Yahweh was one of the three human visitors can be easily proven from the fact that as the men headed towards Sodom Yahweh remained behind to continue his discussion with Abraham. Thus, if Yahweh was one of the men then this means that only two men would have initially showed up at Sodom since one of them remained behind conversing with Abraham.

Lo and behold this is precisely what we find in the very next chapter!

The TWO angels arrived at Sodom in the evening, and Lot was sitting in the gateway of the city. When he saw them, he got up to meet them and bowed down with his face to the ground. ‘My lords,’ he said, ‘please turn aside to your servant's house. You can wash your feet and spend the night and then go on your way early in the morning.’ ‘No,’ they answered, ‘we will spend the night in the square.’” Genesis 19:1-3

This substantiates the fact that one of the three men was Yahweh!

But there’s more to the story. Yahweh tells Abraham that he himself will go down to Sodom and after he finishes speaking with Abraham Yahweh leaves:

Then Yahweh said, ‘The outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is so great and their sin so grievous that I will go down and see if what they have done is as bad as the outcry that has reached me. If not, I will know.’ … When Yahweh had finished speaking with Abraham, he left, and Abraham returned home.” Genesis 18:20-21, 33

According to Yahweh’s own words he must have gone down to Sodom and met up with the other two men after he left Abraham.

Again, this is precisely what Genesis says happened:

The TWO MEN said to Lot, ‘Do you have anyone else here—sons-in-law, sons or daughters, or anyone else in the city who belongs to you? Get them out of here, because we are going to destroy this place. The outcry to Yahweh against its people is so great that he has sent us to destroy it.’ So Lot went out and spoke to his sons-in-law, who were pledged to marry his daughters. He said, ‘Hurry and get out of this place, because Yahweh is about to destroy the city!’ But his sons-in-law thought he was joking. With the coming of dawn, the angels urged Lot, saying, ‘Hurry! Take your wife and your two daughters who are here, or you will be swept away when the city is punished.’ When he hesitated, the men grasped his hand and the hands of his wife and of his two daughters and led them safely out of the city, for Yahweh was merciful to them. As soon as they had brought them out, one of them said, ‘Flee for your lives! Don't look back, and don't stop anywhere in the plain! Flee to the mountains or you will be swept away!’ But Lot said to them, ‘No, my lords, please! Your servant has found favor in your eyes, and you have shown great kindness to me in sparing my life. But I can't flee to the mountains; this disaster will overtake me, and I'll die. Look, here is a town near enough to run to, and it is small. Let me flee to it—it is very small, isn't it? Then my life will be spared.’ He said to him, ‘Very well, I will grant this request too; I will not overthrow the town you speak of. But flee there quickly, because I cannot do anything until you reach it.’ (That is why the town was called Zoar.) By the time Lot reached Zoar, the sun had risen over the land. Then Yahweh rained down burning sulfur on Sodom and Gomorrah—from Yahweh out of the heavens. Thus he overthrew those cities and the entire plain, including all those living in the cities—and also the vegetation in the land. But Lot's wife looked back, and she became a pillar of salt. Early the next morning Abraham got up and returned to the place where he had stood before Yahweh. He looked down toward Sodom and Gomorrah, toward all the land of the plain, and he saw dense smoke rising from the land, like smoke from a furnace. So when God destroyed the cities of the plain, he remembered Abraham, and he brought Lot out of the catastrophe that overthrew the cities where Lot had lived.” Genesis 19:12-29

Yahweh went down to Sodom and destroyed it along with its neighboring cities for their wickedness. What makes this passage important to our discussion is that the text clearly says that Yahweh rained down burning sulfur from Yahweh out of heaven:

“and Jehovah hath rained upon Sodom and upon Gomorrah brimstone and fire from Jehovah, from the heavens;” Young’s Literal Translation (YLT)

“at the same time the LORD rained down sulphurous fire upon Sodom and Gomorrah (from the LORD out of heaven).” New American Bible (NAB)

Here we see two distinct Persons identified as Yahweh, one Yahweh who is on earth raining sulfur from another Yahweh who is in heaven!

This distinction is even maintained in later inspired writings:

I am stirring up against them the Medes, who think nothing of silver and take no delight in gold. The fruit of the womb they shall not spare, nor shall they have eyes of pity for children. And Babylon, the jewel of kingdoms, the glory and pride of the Chaldeans, Shall be overthrown by God like Sodom and like Gomorrah.” Isaiah 13:17-19 NAB

“I am against you, man of insolence, says the Lord GOD of hosts; For your day has come, the time for ME to punish you ... Hence, wildcats and desert beasts shall dwell there, and ostriches shall occupy it; Never again shall it be peopled, or lived in, from age to age. As when God overturned Sodom and Gomorrah, with their neighbors, says the LORD, Not a man shall dwell there, no human being shall tarry there.” Jeremiah 50:31, 39-40 NAB

I brought upon you such upheaval as when God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah: you were like a brand plucked from the fire; Yet you returned not to me, says the LORD.” Amos 4:11

These passages are rather interesting since they have Yahweh referring to God destroying Sodom and Gomorrah as opposed to saying that he himself destroyed them, e.g., Yahweh doesn’t say that he overturned these wicked cities but rather that God did so!

Besides providing an inspired commentary on Genesis 19:24 these verses show that the community to whom these Scriptures were committed understood and saw very clearly that the Genesis text posits two distinct Yahwehs, or more specifically two distinct Persons as Yahweh.

Anti-Trinitarians often appeal to a grammatical linguistic feature, namely to a person referring to himself in the third person, in order to refute the view that Genesis 19:24 is referring to two distinct Persons as Yahweh. They also use this same argument in interpreting the passages from Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Amos. However, this linguistic feature actually confirms that Genesis 19:24 refers to two distinct Yahwehs since, unlike these other passages, this text is not an instance of Yahweh speaking but a historical narrative that mentions Yahweh carrying out a specific task. In other words, this is not an instance of God speaking but of the inspired author (Moses) narrating what God did, and as such this particular linguistic feature does not apply here.

However, there are examples which seem to parallel Genesis 19:24 such as the following:

“Then Solomon assembled the elders of Israel and all the heads of the tribes, the leaders of the fathers’ houses of the people of Israel, before King Solomon in Jerusalem, to bring up the ark of the covenant of the LORD out of the city of David, which is Zion.” 1 Kings 8:1

Like Genesis 19:24, this is a historical narrative which refers to Solomon twice without this implying that there are two Solomons!

And here is one from the NT Scriptures:

May the Lord show mercy to the household of Onesiphorus, because he often refreshed me and was not ashamed of my chains. On the contrary, when he was in Rome, he searched hard for me until he found me. May the Lord grant that he will find mercy from the Lord on that day! You know very well in how many ways he helped me in Ephesus.” 2 Timothy 1:18

It seems reasonably clear that Paul has only one Lord in view so that the Lord who grants mercy from the Lord is one and the same Divine Person.

However, these texts are not at all parallel to Genesis 19:24 since the context of Genesis 18-19 presents one Yahweh on earth who brought fire down from another Yahweh who was in heaven. In other words, the text explicitly and intentionally differentiates the two by their location.

Moreover, the verse from Paul may not actually have only one Person in view. After all, the blessed Apostle would often begin and end his inspired epistles by invoking both God the Father and the Lord Jesus to grant the recipients of his letters grace, peace, blessing etc.

“To Timothy, my true child in the faith: Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.” 1 Timothy 1:2

“To Timothy, my dear son: Grace, mercy and peace from God the Father AND Christ Jesus our Lord.” 2 Timothy 1:2

In light of this, could it be possible that Paul was actually praying that the Father grant Onesimus mercy from the Lord Jesus on the day Christ appears to judge the living and the dead (cf. 2 Tim. 4:1, 8, 18)?

With that said it should come as no surprise that Genesis 19:24 was one of the verses that troubled the rabbis since specific groups which they deemed to be heretical were using it to prove that the OT affirms a multi-Personal God:

R. Johanan sad: In all the passages which the Minim have taken [as grounds] for their heresy, their refutation is found near at hand. Thus: Let us make man in our image, — And God created [sing.] man in His own image; Come, let us go down and there confound their language, — And the Lord came down [sing.] to see the city and the tower; Because there were revealed [plur.] to him God, — Unto God who answereth [sing.] me in the day of my distress; For what great nation is there that hath God so nigh [plur.] unto it, as the Lord our God is [unto us] whensoever we call upon Him [sing.]; And what one nation in the earth is like thy people, [like] Israel, whom God went [plur.] to redeem for a people unto himself [sing.], Till thrones were placed and one that was ancient did sit.

Why were these necessary? To teach R. Johanan's dictum; viz.: The Holy One, blessed be He, does nothing without consulting His Heavenly Court, for it is written, The matter is by the decree of the watchers, and the sentence by the word of the Holy Ones. Now, that is satisfactory for all [the other verses], but how explain Till thrones were placed? — One [throne] was for Himself and one for David. Even as it has been taught: One was for Himself and one for David: this is R. Akiba's view. R. Jose protested to him: Akiba, how long will thou profane the Shechinah? Rather, one [throne] for justice, and the other for mercy. Did he accept [this answer] from him or not? Come and hear! For it has been taught: One is for justice and the other for charity; this is R. Akiba's view. Said R. Eleazar b. Azariah to him: Akiba, what hast thou to do with Aggada? Confine thyself to [the study of] Nega'im and Ohaloth. But one was a throne, the other a footstool: a throne for a seat and a footstool in support of His feet.

R. Nahman said: He who is as skilled in refuting the Minim as is R. Idith, let him do so; but not otherwise. Once a Min said to R. Idith: It is written, And unto Moses He said, Come up to the Lord. But surely it should have stated, Come up unto me! — It was Metatron [who said that], he replied, whose name is similar to that of his Master, for it is written, For my name is in him. But if so, [he retorted,] we should worship him! The same passage, however, — replied R. Idith says: Be not rebellious against him, i.e., exchange Me not for him. But if so, why is it stated: He will not pardon your transgression? He answered: By our troth we would not accept him even as a messenger, for it is written, And he said unto him, If Thy [personal] presence go not etc.

A Min once said to R. Ishmael b. Jose: It is written, Then the Lord caused to rain upon Sodom and Gomorrah brimstone and fire from the Lord: but from him should have been written! A certain fuller said, Leave him to me, I will answer him. [He then proceeded,' It is written, And Lamech said to his wives, Ada and Zillah, Hear my voice, ye wives of Lamech; but he should have said, my wives! But such is the Scriptural idiom — so here too, it is the Scriptural idiom. (Babylonian Talmud, b. Sanhedrin 38b; bold and italic emphasis ours)

It is clear from this rabbinic tradition that the following references were some of the many passages which the so-called heretics were using to prove that there was more than one Divine Person: Genesis 1:26-27; 11:7; 19:24, 35:7; Deuteronomy 4:7; 2 Samuel 7:23; Daniel 7:9-10.

That some of these “heretics” included Christians can be demonstrated by quotations from the early Church fathers and apologists who used Genesis 19:24 (along with a host of other OT texts) in order to prove that there is another Divine Person besides the Father and that this other was Jesus Christ who appeared quite often during the OT period. For the quotations please consult this article.

Thus, Genesis 19:24 affirms that the one Lord whom Israel was commanded to worship is more than one Person.(1)

For more on the meaning and application of Genesis 19:24 please consult the following articles:

Yahweh sends Yahweh to dwell in the midst of his people!

There’s more.

According to the prophet Zechariah a day will come when the nations will realize that Yahweh is one and that there is no other:

“The LORD shall become king over the whole earth; on that day the LORD shall be the only one, and his name the only one.” Zechariah 14:9

However, Zechariah says that this will take place when Yahweh sends Yahweh to dwell in Jerusalem along with his people!

“‘Come, O Zion! Escape, you who live in the Daughter of Babylon!’ For this is what Yahweh of hosts says: ‘After HE has honored ME and has sent ME against the nations that have plundered you — for whoever touches you touches the apple of HIS eyeI will surely raise MY hand against them so that their slaves will plunder them. Then you will know that Yahweh of hosts has sent ME. Shout and be glad, O Daughter of Zion. For I am coming, and I will live among you,’ declares Yahweh. Many nations will be joined with Yahweh in that day and will become MY people. I will live among you and you will know that Yahweh of hosts has sent ME to you.’ Yahweh will inherit Judah as his portion in the holy land and will again choose Jerusalem. Be still before Yahweh, all mankind, because he has roused himself from his holy dwelling.” Zechariah 2:7-13

This will occur on the day when Yahweh descends upon the Mount of Olives to destroy all the armies of the nations who gather against his people in Jerusalem:

“Lo, a day shall come for the LORD when the spoils shall be divided in your midst. And I will gather all the nations against Jerusalem for battle: the city shall be taken, houses plundered, women ravished; half of the city shall go into exile, but the rest of the people shall not be removed from the city. Then the LORD shall go forth and fight against those nations, fighting as on a day of battle. That day HIS FEET shall rest upon the Mount of Olives, which is opposite Jerusalem to the east. The Mount of Olives shall be cleft in two from east to west by a very deep valley, and half of the mountain shall move to the north and half of it to the south. And the valley of the LORD'S mountain shall be filled up when the valley of those two mountains reaches its edge; it shall be filled up as it was filled up by the earthquake in the days of King Uzziah of Judah. Then the LORD, my God, shall come, and all his holy ones with him. On that day there shall no longer be cold or frost.” Zechariah 14:1-6

Amazingly, the NT teaches that the Lord Jesus will return to the Mount of Olives with all of his saints!

“When he had said this, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him from their sight. While they were looking intently at the sky as he was going, suddenly two men dressed in white garments stood beside them. They said, ‘Men of Galilee, why are you standing there looking at the sky? This Jesus who has been taken up from you into heaven will return in the same way as you have seen him going into heaven.’ Then they returned to Jerusalem FROM THE MOUNT CALLED OLIVET, which is near Jerusalem, a sabbath day's journey away.” Acts 1:9-12

According to the angels Jesus will descend to the place that he ascended from, namely the Mount of Olives. And:

“Now may God himself, our Father, and our Lord Jesus direct our way to you, and may the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, just as we have for you, so as to strengthen your hearts, to be blameless in holiness before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his holy ones. (Amen.)” 1 Thessalonians 3:11-13

“All this is evidence that God's judgment is right, and as a result you will be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are suffering. God is just: He will pay back trouble to those who trouble you and give relief to you who are troubled, and to us as well. This will happen when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven in blazing fire with his powerful angels. He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the majesty of his power on the day he comes to be glorified in his holy people and to be marveled at among all those who have believed. This includes you, because you believed our testimony to you.” 2 Thessalonians 1:5-10

What this basically means is that Yahweh’s feet which Zechariah saw touching and splitting the Mount of Olives happen to be the feet which belong to the exalted Christ as he descends in his glorious resurrected physical body! In other words, the God whom Zechariah saw coming with his saints was the Lord Jesus Christ as he returns to the earth from heaven!

Hence, according to Zechariah the day shall come when the world will recognize that Yahweh who is one is actually more than one Person. Like the inspired prophets who came before him Zechariah knew and affirmed that there are at least two distinct Persons of Yahweh and that one of these Divine Persons would one day come to live with his people!

We come to the end of our discussion. Continue with the next part of our analysis.


(1) Interestingly, some of the Aramaic paraphrases of the OT say that it was actually the Word of the Lord who destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah!

And the Word of the Lord had caused showers of favour to descend upon Sedom and Amorah, to the intent that they might work repentance, but they did it not: so that they said, Wickedness is not manifest before the Lord. Behold, then, there are now sent down upon them sulphur and fire from before the Word of the Lord from Heaven. [JERUSALEM. 24. And the Word of the Lord Himself had made to descend upon the people of Sedom and Amorah showers of favour, that they might work repentance from their wicked works. But when they saw the showers of favour, they said, So, our wicked works are not manifest before Him. He turned (then), and caused to descend upon them bitumen and fire from before the Lord from the heavens.] And He overthrew those cities, and all the plain, and all the inhabitants of the cities, and the herbage of the earth. (Targum Pseudo-Jonathan, The Targums of Onkelos and Jonathan Ben Uzziel On the Pentateuch With The Fragments of the Jerusalem Targum From the Chaldee, by J. W. Etheridge, M.A., First Published 1862; bold and italic emphasis ours)

According to Targum Pseudo-Jonathan it was the Word who was in heaven that rained down fire and sulfur on Sodom and Gomorrah. Yet Targum Jerusalem says that the Word rained fire and bitumen from before the Lord upon the cities for refusing to repent after the Word had showered his favor upon them in order to lead them to repentance.

Thus, both of these sources provide further evidence that there were many Jews who could clearly see from their reading of the inspired Scriptures that there is another Divine Persons besides Yahweh, One whom they called the Word!

Amazingly, the inspired NT Scriptures teach that this Word who is the Creator, Savior, and Judge of all flesh actually became flesh and his name is Jesus Christ!

"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made... He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him...The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth... No one has ever seen God, but God the One and Only, who is at the Father's side, has made him known." John 1:1-3, 10, 14, 18

"Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life. For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God's one and only Son." John 3:14-18

"For just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, even so the Son gives life to whom he is pleased to give it. Moreover, the Father judges no one, but has entrusted all judgment to the Son, that all may honor the Son just as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father, who sent him. I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life. I tell you the truth, a time is coming and has now come when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God and those who hear will live. For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son to have life in himself. And he has given him authority to judge because he is the Son of Man. Do not be amazed at this, for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his [Son's] voice and come out—those who have done good will rise to live, and those who have done evil will rise to be condemned." John 5:21-29

Thus, the same Divine Word who saves and judges both now and at the end of the age was the same One who saved and judged even during OT times long before he became a human being!