The 10 just men

Today’s first reading is the famous passage in Genesis in which Abraham and God negotiate regarding the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah (mainly Sodom). Abraham gets God to promise that he will not destroy Sodom if 50 just men can be found there. He then starts to talk God down, until finally God agrees to not destroy the city if only 10 can be found there. But it made me wonder, why stop at 10? Why didn’t Abraham try for an even better deal, say 5, or just 2 or 3?

While I am not pretending this is the answer, I wonder if there is a connection to the Jewish concept of the minyan. A minyan refers to a group of men whose numbers are sufficient to constitute a genuine worshipping body. What is the number needed to “attain quorum”? 10. Less than 10, it is a bunch of individuals. 10 or more, and you have a body that is capable of being more than the sum of its parts.

So perhaps Abraham and God are really talking about the possibility of a minyan in the town. It is as though God is saying, “As long as I can find a faithful group of men, sufficient to constitute a true worshipping community, I will not destroy the city.” What is being revealed is the “passive intercessory power” of the ekklesia, the “assembly” of believers. That assembly becomes a source of blessing and salvation for the whole community, despite the potential sin of that community, and whether that community appreciates this intercessory power or not. Sounds a lot like what the Church is meant to be about, if you ask me, for the sake of the world.