A few days ago my husband was reading the Bible to our family. The passage was Genesis 18-19 … the story of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah.
The story of Sodom and Gomorrah
We first see Sodom is in Genesis 13.
Abram, a wealthy man, and his nephew, Lot, have been traveling from place to place for some time. They final find a place to settle but a problem arises. They decide to part ways because their herdsmen are arguing with one another.
And the land could not sustain them while dwelling together, for their possessions were so great that they were not able to remain together.
Lot chooses to live in the cities of the valley of the Jordan. The valley is lush and comparable to the garden of Eden or the Nile Delta. Lot sets up his tents near Sodom.
Later war breaks out between an alliance of four kings and an alliance of five kings. The alliance of five is rebelling against Chedorlaomer, king of Elam, whom they have served for 12 years. Shinar, Ellasar, Elam, and Goiim go up against Sodom, Gomorrah, Admah, Zeboiim, and Bela (Zoar). The battle takes place in the valley of Siddim which incidentally is full of tar pits.
The kings of Sodom and Gomorrah flee and fall into the tar pits. Their armies flee to the mountains. Chedorlaomer’s alliance loots Sodom and Gomorrah, taking their people, possessions, and food supply. Lot, the nephew of Abram, is among the prisoners of war.
A fugative informs Abram of Lot’s capture. So Abram and his allies gathers their forces, pursue, and conquer Chedorlaomer and his alliance. They bring the people and all the goods back.
The king of Sodom (who I assume somehow got freed from the tar) meets them in the valley of Shaveh. The king of Sodom offers Abram everything but the people. Abram fears the king of Sodom will try to take credit for making Abram wealthy so he takes nothing.
The next time we see Sodom is in Genesis chapter 18 – right before it’s destruction. Three men come to visit Abram (who is now called Abraham.) One of the three is Yahweh.
Yahweh talks to Abraham while the other two (angels) walk down towards Sodom.
And the LORD said, “The outcry of Sodom and Gomorrah is indeed great, and their sin is exceedingly grave. I will go down now, and see if they have done entirely according to its outcry, which has come to Me; and if not, I will know.”
The two angels approach the city gate of Sodom. Lot is sitting at the gate, he sees them, gets up, meets them, bows to them, and invites them to spend the night at his house. The angels turn him down saying they will just spend the night in the city square. Lot insists, so they go to his house. He makes them a feast and they eat. Before they get a chance to go to bed, things get interesting.
The people of the city surround the house — young and old people. They start calling to Lot. They ask him where his visitors are and demand that he bring them outside so they can get to know them. Lot goes outside and shuts the door. He begs the people not to act wickedly. Then he does something I don’t understand. He offers to bring out his two virgin daughters and let the people do whatever they want to them as long as they don’t do anything to his visitors.
The people of Sodom get upset and tell Lot to get out of the way. They verbally threaten him, and come close so they can break down the door. Lot’s visitors reach out, grab Lot, pull him inside and close the door. At the same time, they strike the people near the door with blindness so that they will wear themselves out looking for the door.
The visitors tell Lot to get whoever he has in the city out of it.
“… for we are about to destroy this place, because their outcry has become so great before the LORD that the LORD has sent us to destroy it.”
Lot goes out and speaks with his daughters’ fiances. He tells them to get out of the city because God is about to destroy it. The men think he is joking and don’t come.
At dawn, the angels tell Lot to get up and get his wife and daughters out of the city. Lot hesitates, so the angels grab all of them by their hands and take them out of the city. They tell them to run to the mountains and to stay out of the valley or else they will perish. Lot convinces them to let him escape to the little town of Zoar and thus it is spared from the disaster.
The sun had risen on the earth when Lot came to Zoar. Then Yahweh rained on Sodom and on Gomorrah sulfur and fire from Yahweh out of the sky. He overthrew those cities, all the plain, all the inhabitants of the cities, and that which grew on the ground.
Abraham got up early in the morning to the place where he had stood before Yahweh. He looked toward Sodom and Gomorrah, and toward all the land of the plain, and looked, and saw that the smoke of the land went up as the smoke of a furnace.
Reasons for Destruction Part 1
So why were these cities destroyed?
The answer is found in the book of Ezekiel.
Behold, this was the guilt of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters had arrogance, abundant food and careless ease, but she did not help the poor and needy.
Notice their guilt is split up into two different categories – what they had and what they did.
What they had:
- Arrogance – an offensive display of superiority
- Overindulgence of food – gluttony, satiation
- Undisturbed ease – complacent confidence in their state of plenty and lack of discomfort
What they did:
- Failed to help the afflicted – those afflicted with mental disabilites or other mental health issues, or those in physical or emotional pain
- Failed to help the needy – those in poverty, those in need of food, shelter, and clothing
Reasons for Destruction Part 2
After explaining their guilt, Ezekiel sums it up again by saying,
Thus they were haughty and committed abominations before Me. Therefore I removed them when I saw it.
What they had:
What they did:
The reasons for Sodom’s destruction given in Ezekiel 16:49 and Ezekiel 16:50 are one and the same.
They were arrogant, complacent, gluttons who in spite of their wealth and security refused to help those who were afflicted and in need. God saw their self-indulgence. He saw their maltreatment of the afflicted and needy. Their behavior was disgusting and hateful. This was the reason God destroyed them. This was the sin of Sodom.