Yahweh promises to give the land to Abram, but not yet: “for the iniquity of the Amorite is not yet complete (Heb. shalem )” (Genesis 15:16). When their iniquity settles in, when it lives peacefully in the land without opposition or disturbance, then the time is ripe for God to act. As long as iniquity is not at peace, there is still a chance for repentance. Even ten righteous men can turn a city around.
This is in Genesis 15. Three chapters later, Yahweh tells Abraham that “the outcry ( za’aq ) of Sodom and Gomorrah is indeed great, and their sin is exceedingly grave” (18:20). This is perhaps a metaphor for the evil that the Lord hears or the stench he smells from the city, but it could also be the literal outcry of victims (cf. Proverbs 21:13, the za’aq of the poor). A great outcry, but the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete.
Another chapter, and the men of Sodom want to welcome the angelic visitors by raping them in the town square. Hospitality, Sodom-style. Yet the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete.
It’s another four centuries before Yahweh throws fire from heaven against Sodom (Genesis 15:13). How many visitors did get raped? How many victims cried out? How many shrieks ascended to heaven? Yet the iniquity of the Amorite was not yet complete.
When Yahweh finally sends Joshua in to purge the land, should we say, “How cruel God is!” Or should we say, “It’s about time! Why did it take so long?”