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Regarding the number of righteous necessary to save Sedom (Bereishis 18:23-33), Rashi and all the other commentaries I have seen (Kli Yakar, Seforno, Or Hachaim, others) explain the descending order of requests (after 45) as a request to save a lesser number of cities. So 50 represents 5 cities (as does 45 - 9 in each) and from then the requests go down to 4 cities, 3 cities and so on.

Is there any other classical commentary (broadly defined, but that you would be comfortable quoting along with Rashi, the Ramban, Ibn Ezra, etc.) that interprets this repeated, descending request as something else?

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Abarbanel says that Avraham was only praying for Sodom (until Hashem told him that He would excuse the entire place, if there were 50), and he chose 50 since it is a religiously significant number, there being 50 types of intellect (?), 50 years is Yovel, after age 50 the Levi stops serving. After he started at 50 and then tried 45, he continues down to ten since he had already started.

Akeida says that Avraham chose a number which was too many people for them to easily move to a new place, and few enough that they could not live alone, such that the continued existence of Sodom was necessary for the survival of the Tzaddikim.


Additionally, the Ibn Ezra says that it was all about one city - Sodom, using a descending fractional system (1/10th, 1/9th, then switching to 1/4th, 1/3rd, 1/2th - to ultimately stop at 10).

The Targum Yonasan takes a middle path - it is about 10 or 9 in each city, but the request is that the remaining also be spared - just as a matter of extending mercy.

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