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Destruction of Sodom by God

Sodom was one of five ancient Canaanite[1] "cities of the Plain,"[2] along with its sister city of iniquity, Gomorrah, and Admah, Zeboim and Lasha. The Bible records that Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed because, among other sins, they, "and the cities about them in like manner, [were] giving themselves over to fornication, and going after strange flesh," and thus "are set forth for an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire." (Jude 1:7 KJV) Biblical texts confirm that "the cities about them" would be or would include Admah, and Zeboim. (Dt. 29:23; Hos. 11:8) Their destruction was by means of brimstone (thought by some to be hot lava) and fire from heaven, but which was preceded by the confirmation of the wickedness of Sodom by angels of God (appearing as men), and deliverance of righteous Lot and those of his family who went with him. Lot's wife however, disobeyed the command of the angels not to look back, and was turned into a pillar of salt.[3] This region later became part of the Holy Land of Israel.

A fascinating part of this event is the "struck with blindness" by the angels of the Sodom residents to protect Lot's family.

Archaeology and Sodom

Remains of the ancient city of Bab edh-Dhra, thought by some to be Sodom
For more, see Tall el-Hammam and the City of Sodom

According to archaeologists, the city of Sodom has been plausibly identified with Tall el-Hammam by the archaeologist Steven Collins,[4] a site that sits north-east of the Dead Sea in the Jordan. Tall el-Hammam was destroyed by an airburst event during the Middle Bronze Age II, which, according to the great egyptologist Kenneth Kitchen,[5] the time of the patriarchs took place and thus the time when Sodom should have been destroyed in the archaeological record.

The main reasoning of Steven Collins regarding the identification of the city of Sodom is the text of Genesis 13:1-12, which describes Lot's itinerary and travel to the city of Sodom before departing from Abraham, and thus describes the exact geographical pathway one must take to get to Sodom, therefore giving a very detailed sequence of geographical features in order to identify the location of the city of Sodom.

Genesis 13:1-12: Then Abram went up from Egypt to the Negev—he, his wife, and all he had, and Lot with him... He went by stages from the Negev to Bethel, to the place between Bethel and Ai where his tent had formerly been, to the site where he had built the altar. And Abram called on the name of Yahweh there... At that time the Canaanites and the Perizzites were living in the land. Then Abram said to Lot, “Please, let’s not have quarreling between you and me, or between your herdsmen and my herdsmen, since we are relatives. Isn’t the whole land before you? Separate from me: if you go to the left, I will go to the right; if you go to the right, I will go to the left." Lot looked out and saw that the entire Jordan Valley as far as Zoar was well watered everywhere like the Lord’s garden and the land of Egypt. This was before the Lord destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah. So Lot chose the entire Jordan Valley for himself. Then Lot journeyed eastward, and they separated from each other. Abram lived in the land of Canaan, but Lot lived in the cities of the plain and set up his tent near Sodom.

Genesis 13:1-12 says that Lot went from Egypt to the Negev-he, and then went from there to a location situated between the two cities of Bethel and Ai. After this, Lot travels eastward from Bethel and Ai, eventually getting to Sodom. East of Bethel and Ai leads to the plain north of the Dead Sea in the Jordan, where Jericho is located on the left, and a cluster of other cities, including Tall el-Hammam, is located on the right. The Bible makes an evident distinction between Jericho and Sodom. Tall el-Hammam is the largest site in the entire plain (kikkar) of the Jordan, and because the Bible likely reveals Sodom to be the most considerable city of the entire plain of the Jordan,[6] Collins identifies Tall el-Hammam with Sodom. Tall el-Hammam underwent a destruction event from a fiery airburst even, plausibly confirming the destruction of Sodom as described in Genesis 19:24. If Tall el-Hammam is Sodom, then one of its sister-cities in the plain of the Jordan (probably Tall Kafrayn) would qualify as Gomorrah.

In contrast, archaeologist Bryant Wood takes the minority position that Tall el-Hammam is located at Bab edh-Dhra, rather than Tall el-Hammam, and Numeira is Gomorrah. Although it was thought that these two cities were destroyed by fire at the same time, it is now known that Numeira was destroyed over 250 years before Bab edh-Dhra,[7] making it unlikely that these two cities could qualify as Sodom and Gomorrah. Bryant Wood has taken issue with Steven Collins' identification of Sodom with Tall el-Hammam and was the first scholar to provide a serious challenge to the work of Collins in 2007,[8] however since then Collins has provided a long and point-by-point rebuttal to the claims of Wood.[9]

The story of Sodom

Sodom was on the Canaanite border (Genesis 10:19), and is recorded as being part of a fertile, prosperous region, (Genesis 13:10) which would be highly desirably in an agrarian based economy. However, the people of Sodom were "wicked and sinners" before God (Genesis 13:13). The King of Sodom was Bera (Genesis 14:2), and when Bera went to war with Chedorlaomer, Lot was captured. In response, Abraham, then called Abram, using his own trained servants, rescued Lot as well as Bera and his men. This was the first recorded example of a just war in the Bible. However, Abraham would not accept any reward for this. (Genesis 14)

Genesis chapters 18 and 19 contain the most detail about Sodom. At the beginning of Genesis 18, three men visit Abraham and Sarah, and Abraham bows before them, and hastens to treat them as honored guests, feeding under a tree and making them comfortable. They ask where Sarah is, and Abraham and Sarah are promised a child with the year. At this point it is revealed that one of the three men is the LORD, while later it is revealed that the other two men are angels. These two men then set their face toward Sodom, and as Abraham brings them on their way, the LORD reveals to him the purpose of their mission.

"And the LORD said, Because the cry of Sodom and Gomorrah is great, and because their sin is very grievous; I will go down now, and see whether they have done altogether according to the cry of it, which is come unto me; and if not, I will know." (Genesis 18: 19, 20)

It is thus seen that the very grievous wickedness of Sodom was already well established, well before the angels had not yet set foot in the city, but which would be confirmed by their reaction to the angelic men. This method is seen as being part of the formal process of judgment by God, in which the reaction to messengers of God confirms their worthiness of wrath. (Mt. 11:20) A different reaction was manifested by the people of Nineveh to the preaching of Jonah the prophet of God.

Abraham knows that his (decidedly weaker in faith) nephew Lot was in Sodom, and Abraham reverently inquires of God if he would spare the city if 50, then 45, then 30, then 20, or even 10 righteous people were found in it, with God affirming he would not destroy it after each request, for the sake of the righteous yet dwelling therein. The two angels of God proceed to Sodom and are met by Abraham's righteous nephew Lot, who constrains the angels to lodge with him, and they eat with his family.

Lot and his daughters fleeing Sodom.

However, similar to the parallel story in Judges 19,

"But before they lay down, the men of the city, even the men of Sodom, compassed the house round, both old and young, all the people from every quarter: And they called unto Lot, and said unto him, Where are the men which came in to thee this night? bring them out unto us, that we may know them. (Genesis 19:4, 5)

In response, Lot pleads with his countrymen,

"I pray you, brethren, do not so wickedly. Behold now, I have two daughters which have not known man; let me, I pray you, bring them out unto you, and do ye to them as is good in your eyes: only unto these men do nothing; for therefore came they under the shadow of my roof. (Genesis 19:7,8)

However, this offer is refused, and instead the crowd threatens to do worse to Lot then they would have done to his guests, and press sore upon him, almost breaking the door. In response, Lot's angelic guests pull him inside, shut the door, and strike the men with blindness, no doubt revealing to the Sodomites that Lot's guests were no ordinary men. Lot is then commanded by the angels to gather his family and leave, revealing that the Lord will destroy the region. However, Lot's sons in law do not believe him, and while Lot himself lingers, the angels take him and his wife and their two daughters by the hand, "the LORD being merciful unto him", and set them outside the city. The angels also command Lot and his family not to look back under any circumstances. However, as Sodom and Gomorrah were being destroyed by fire and brimstone from God, Lot's wife looks back at the city, and becomes a pillar of salt.

The example of Sodom

Sodom is often used in the Bible as an example of a people given to iniquity, and the climatic utter destruction of Sodom is invoked as an example of the wrath of God against ongoing impenitence and sin. However, it is also seen as a story of the salvation of God, by His deliverance of God-fearing Lot, while Jesus referred to Lot's wife in warning not to look back to that which God has called the redeemed to leave behind. (Lk. 17:31,32)[10]

Genesis 19:24-25 records,

"...the LORD rained on Sodom and Gomorrah brimstone and fire from the LORD out of heaven, and He overthrew those cities, and all the valley, and all the inhabitants of the cities, and what grew on the ground." Genesis 19:24-25

2Peter 2:6-7 (KJV) also references both Sodom and Lot,

"And turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrha into ashes condemned them with an overthrow, making them an ensample unto those that after should live ungodly; And delivered just Lot, vexed with the filthy conversation of the wicked".

Jude 1:7, affirms that both Sodom and Gomorrah and the cities about them were "giving themselves over to fornication, and going after strange flesh, are set forth for an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire."

Isaiah 3:9, associates Sodom with shameless sinning.

Jeremiah 23:14 associates Sodom and Gomorrah with adultery and lies.

In Ezekiel 16:48-50 (KJV), God compares Jerusalem to Sodom, saying "As I live, saith the Lord GOD, Sodom thy sister hath not done, she nor her daughters, as thou hast done, thou and thy daughters. (49) Behold, this was the iniquity of thy sister Sodom, pride, fulness of bread, and abundance of idleness was in her and in her daughters, neither did she strengthen the hand of the poor and needy. (50) And they were haughty, and committed abomination before me: therefore I took them away as I saw good.

Mark 6:11-12(cf. Mt. 11:20-24; Lk. 10:1-12), Jesus declares certain cities more damnable than Sodom and Gomorrah, due to their response to Jesus' disciples, in the light of greater grace.

Luke 17:28-29, uses Sodom as an example of indifference; careless living.

Additional biblical References to Sodom and Gomorrah

  • (Eze. 16:49)
  • (Gen. 13:13)
  • (Gen. 19:1-25; Jgs. 19)
  • (Lev. 20:13; Rom. 1:32)
  • (Deut. 23:17,18; Mat. 7:6; Phil. 3:2)
  • (Deut. 32:32,33)
  • (Isa. 3:9)
  • (Jer. 6:15)
  • (Psa. 5:5)
  • (Jn. 8:44)
  • (2 Pet. 2:7,8)
  • (2 Pet. 2:12)
  • (2 Pet. 2:22)
  • (Lk. 17:28-30)
  • (Rom. 1:23-28)
  • (Jude 7)
  • (Jude 23)
  • (Rev. 22:15)
  • (Jer. 6:15)
  • (I Timothy 4:2-4)

Sodom and homosexuality

See also: Genesis 19

Theological liberals often attempt to explain Sodom's primary sin as inhospitality rather than homosexuality.[11][12] Classical Jewish commentary consistently condemns homosexuality, yet comments on Sodom, though not abundant, most usually mention traditions which tell of the cruelty of Sodom to strangers, but not its manifestation in homosexual rape. Reasons for this include the references to lack of charity and injustice elsewhere in the Bible, such as Ezekiel, and also because the angels were in Sodom because God had already decided to destroy it (Gen. 19:13) and so the attempted homosexual rape was "just" further evidence of the total depravity of the city. However, Hellenistic Jewish philosopher Philo (20 BC - 50 AD) described the inhabitants of Sodom,

"As men, being unable to bear discreetly a satiety of these things, get restive like cattle, and become stiff-necked, and discard the laws of nature, pursuing a great and intemperate indulgence of gluttony, and drinking, and unlawful connections; for not only did they go mad after other women, and defile the marriage bed of others, but also those who were men lusted after one another, doing unseemly things, and not regarding or respecting their common nature, and though eager for children, they were convicted by having only an abortive offspring; but the conviction produced no advantage, since they were overcome by violent desire; and so by degrees, the men became accustomed to be treated like women, and in this way engendered among themselves the disease of females, and intolerable evil; for they not only, as to effeminacy and delicacy, became like women in their persons, but they also made their souls most ignoble, corrupting in this way the whole race of men, as far as depended on them" [133-34; ET Jonge 422-23] (The Sodom tradition in Romans Biblical Theology Bulletin, Spring, 2004 by Philip F. Esler).

In summarizing the Genesis 19 account, the Jewish historian Josephus also stated:

“About this time the Sodomites grew proud, on account of their riches and great wealth; they became unjust towards men, and impious towards God, in so much that they did not call to mind the advantages they received from him: they hated strangers, and abused themselves with Sodomitical practices” “Now when the Sodomites saw the young men to be of beautiful countenances, and this to an extraordinary degree, and that they took up their lodgings with Lot, they resolved themselves to enjoy these beautiful boys by force and violence” (Antiquities 1.11.1 — circa A.D. 96).

Other statements from the Pseudepigrapha are seen to testify likewise.

Traditionally, most Christian scholars and commentators have seen homoeroticism as evidencing the extreme moral degradation of Sodom, and ultimately being causative of its judgment, with the destruction of Sodom being an eternal statement on God's view of homosexual relations.

Concerning Jude 1:7, the noted but normally tempered commentator, Matthew Henry solemnly warns,

...they were guilty of abominable wickedness, not to be named or thought of but with the utmost abhorrence and detestation; their ruin is a particular warning to all people to take heed of, and fly fRom. fleshly lusts that war against the soul, 1Pe_2:11. “These lusts consumed the Sodomites with fire from heaven, and they are now suffering the vengeance of eternal fire; therefore take heed, imitate not their sins, lest the same plagues overtake you as did them. God is the same holy, just, pure Being now as then; and can the beastly pleasures of a moment make amends for your suffering the vengeance of eternal fire? Stand in awe, therefore, and sin not,” Psa_4:4.

Likewise John Gill comments,

...and going after strange flesh; or "other flesh"; meaning not other women besides their own wives, but men; and designs that detestable and unnatural sin, which, from these people, is called sodomy to this day; and which is an exceeding great sin, contrary to the light of nature and law of God, dishonourable to human nature, and scandalous to a nation and people, and commonly prevails where idolatry and infidelity do,...

Also, Robert Jamieson, A. R. Fausset and David Brown:

...going after strange flesh — departing from the course of nature, and going after that which is unnatural. In later times the most enlightened heathen nations indulged in the sin of Sodom without compunction or shame.

Archibald Thomas Robertson adds,

Strange flesh (sarkos heteras). Horrible licentiousness, not simply with women not their wives or in other nations, but even unnatural uses (Rom_1:27) for which the very word “sodomy” is used (Gen_19:4-11).

In contrast, pro homosexual apologists most typically contend that the sin of Sodom in Gn. 19 was non-sexual inhospitality,[13] and which polemic primarily focuses upon the Hebrew word for know in Gn. 19:5 (and synginomai the Greek Septuagint) and the attribution of non-sexual sins in Ezekiel 16:49 and Matthew 11:20-24. Traditionalists counter that sound Bible exegesis best evidences that Lot's countrymen (the Sodomites) sought sex.[14][15] This is based upon the use of "know in Gn. 19:8 and its 14 other occurrences in the O.T.(and synginomai in Gn. 39:10 and in the Apocrypha and other literature) for sex, as well as the parallel story of Judges 19, and the specific attribution of sexual sins to Sodom and its region in Jude 1:7, concluding in a perverse manner of such.[16]

Sodom in Isaiah and Jeremiah (False religion)

Rulers in Israel are addressed as heads of Sodom and Gomorrah in Isaiah and Jeremiah due their false worship, and the injustices and other aspects of immorality whichg resulted from it. (cf. Romans 1:16-32)

Hear the word of the LORD, ye rulers of Sodom; give ear unto the law of our God, ye people of Gomorrah. To what purpose is the multitude of your sacrifices unto me? saith the LORD: I am full of the burnt offerings of rams, and the fat of fed beasts; and I delight not in the blood of bullocks, or of lambs, or of he goats. (Isaiah 1:10,11)

False worship is also associated with Sodom and Gomorrah in Jeremiah,

And I have seen folly in the prophets of Samaria; they prophesied in Baal, and caused my people Israel to err. I have seen also in the prophets of Jerusalem an horrible thing: they commit adultery, and walk in lies: they strengthen also the hands of evildoers, that none doth return from his wickedness; they are all of them unto me as Sodom, and the inhabitants thereof as Gomorrah. (Jeremiah 23:13, 14)

The prophets of Jerusalem reprove Israel for its widespread adultery, lying, and strengthening the hand of evildoers. This reference to supporting evildoers and remaining impenitent is seen as a most important Old Testament reference to Sodom, outside of Genesis.

Sodom in Ezekiel (Idleness, or affluence without charity)

Ezekiel 16:49, 50 similarly explain that the sins of Sodom were pride, materialism, haughtiness, and neglect of the poor and needy, and which the story of Lot exemplified.

However, such a condition is usually concomitant with sexual sin, and is implicated in the fall of the Roman Empire.[17] Ezekiel goes to state that the Sodomites committed abomination, with the Hebrew word used here being tow'ebah. In the Old Testament this word is normally used in connection with idol worship, such as in Deuteronomy 7:26, as well as other moral sins, including those of a sexual nature. (Lv.18:22; 26-27,29,30; 20:13; Dt. 23:18; 24:4 1Ki. 14:24; Ezek. 16:2258; 22:11; 33:26)

Sodom in the Gospels

In the gospels, Jesus sends His disciples out on a mission to preach his word, and to heal the sick, and cast out demons, Matthew 10:5-15 and Luke 10:1-12 and further instructs them,

In what place soever ye enter into an house, there abide till ye depart from that place. And whosoever shall not receive you, nor hear you, when ye depart thence, shake off the dust under your feet for a testimony against them. Verily I say unto you, It shall be more tolerable for Sodom and Gomorrha in the day of judgment, than for that city. Mar 6:12 And they went out, and preached that men should repent. (Mk. 6:10-12)

This is understood by some as evidencing that the cause of Sodom's judgment was inhospitality.[18] Countering this it is pointed out that the reason Jesus condemned those cities was "because they repented not." (Mt. 11:20), which, as in the inhospitably of Sodom, was the root cause of their rejection of the disciples of the Lord.[19]

Sodom in Jude

The most explicit reference to Sodom in the New Testament is found in the short book of Jude, in which one aspect has seen some varied interpretations.

I will therefore put you in remembrance, though ye once knew this, how that the Lord, having saved the people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed them that believed not. And the angels which kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation, he hath reserved in everlasting chains under darkness unto the judgment of the great day. Even as Sodom and Gomorrah, and the cities about them in like manner, giving themselves over to fornication, and going after strange flesh, are set forth for an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire. - Jude 5 -7 (KJV)

This section is part of a discourse warning of apostasy, in which contemporary examples of those who are acting in rebellion to truth are likened to past examples, from Israelites who were faithless and disobedient to God, to angels who left their ordained position in rebellion against God, to Sodom and Gomorrah and like cities, who likewise acted in rebellion to God's order. While Sodom did not have the light the previous parties were given, as they were pagan Canaanites, pagan rebellion is detailed in Roman 1, in which many iniquities are named as the result of rejection of truth which God has given by way of creation.

The part of verse 7 which commentators have found intriguing is "going after strange flesh". Pro homosexual writers seek to disallow its meaning as referring to homosexual relations, pointing out that the word for "strange" usually means another or other, and contend that if it was sexual, then it referred attempted sex with angels. However, countering this is the traditionalist argument which points out that the wickedness of Sodom was regional, and that no distinction is indicated that only Sodom was going after strange flesh. Genesis 18 reveals that the angels appearance as men was in order to find out whether the cry of Sodomy was true, and it is certain that this cry was not that of seeking sex with angels. It is also understood that it would be unlikely that the Sodomites (or even Lot: Heb. 13:2) knew Lot's visitors men were angels. In addition, it is seen that the word for strange can easily mean that is which is unlawful or perverse, as in Rm. 7:3 or Gal. 1:6[20] Dave Miller states this pertains to the indulgence of passions that are “contrary to nature” (Barnes, 1949, p. 393)—“a departure from the laws of nature in the impurities practiced” (Salmond, 1950, 22:7).[21] Gagnon provides six indications why "giving themselves over to fornication" alludes, at least in part, to attempted male-male intercourse.[22] After examining evidence for both positions, Thomas E. Schmidt states, "The first Christians undoubtedly connected the sin of Sodom to the sin of same-sex relations and used the name of city as a symbol for extreme sexual wrongdoing, including but not limited to same-sex relations.[23]

Other References

  1. Genesis 10:19.
  2. Genesis 13:10.
  3. Genesis 19:26
  4. Collins, Steven, and Latayne C. Scott. Discovering the City of Sodom: The Fascinating, True Account of the Discovery of the Old Testament's Most Infamous City. Simon and Schuster, 2016.
  5. Kitchen, Kenneth Anderson. On the reliability of the Old Testament. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 2003. 313-372.
  6. see reference 1, pg. 159
  7. see reference 1, pg. 152
  8. B. G. Wood, “Locating Sodom: A Critique of the Northern Proposal,” Bible and Spade 23.3 (2007) 78-84.
  9. Collins, Steven. A Response to Bryant G. Wood’s Critique of Collins’ Northern Sodom Theory. 2007.
  10. Matthew Henry, Gen 19:26
  11. Lacey, Troy (August 3, 2019). What Was the Primary Sin in Sodom and Gomorrah? Answers in Genesis. Retrieved September 15, 2019.
  12. What was the sin of Sodom and Gomorrah? Got Questions. Retrieved September 15, 2019.
  13. Bailey, Homosexuality and the Western Christian Tradition', p. 8; McNeil, The Church and the Homosexual, p. 50; Boswell, Christianity, social tolerance, and homosexuality, pp 93-94
  14. Gregory Koukl, What was the Sin of Sodom and Gomorrah?
  15. Dave Miller, Sodom—Inhospitality or Homosexuality?
  16. Homosexuality, by James B. DeYoung, pp. 32-39, 118-122
  17. (historian D. Earl), referenced by Young, Homosexuality, p. 153
  18. Bailey, Homosexuality and Western Tradition, pp. 1-28; McNeil, Church and the Homosexual, pp. 42-50; Boswell, Christianity, Social Tolerance, and Homosexuality, pp. 92-97
  19. Homosexual relations and the Bible
  20. Homosexual relations and the Bible, Jude 1:7
  21. Dave Miller, Ph.D.
  23. Straight & narrow? by Thomas E. Schmidt

External links