Meditating on the Judgements of God:
3.7 Sodom and Gomorrah
Gen 19:24,25 Then the LORD rained down burning sulfur on Sodom and Gomorrah–from the LORD out of the heavens. Thus he overthrew those cities and the entire plain, including all those living in the cities–and also the vegetation in the land.
The destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah raises a number of questions. First, why did the Lord destroy it? Second, how did He destroy it? Third, why did He save Lot? Fourth, why did Lot’s wife die?
First must come the reason for the destruction of these two cities. Let’s consider the record. “Then the LORD said, “The outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is so great and their sin so grievous that I will go down and see if what they have done is as bad as the outcry that has reached me.” (Gen 18:20,21) “we are going to destroy this place. The outcry to the LORD against its people is so great that he has sent us to destroy it.” (Gen 19:23) These two verses have an intriguing commonality – the word ‘outcry’ which suggests that someone or something was crying out for something to be done in respect of those two cities. Now whether that s the cry of justice or the cry of righteous people who passed by and knew those cities, or whether it was from Satan acting as the Accuser (e.g. Rev 12:10) is not stated but the picture is conveyed that the state of these two cities has been brought to the Lord’s attention. Now of course He sees all things and knows all things but what this is saying is that not only is He aware of what is happening, but others are as well and they have been bringing it to God. These cities are a blot on God’s world.
But what was it that condemned these cities? In the New testament, Jude simply states, “Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding towns gave themselves up to sexual immorality and perversion.” (Jude v.7) That is the usual order. Sexual immorality is sinful mankind casting aside God’s order for men and women – one man with one woman for life. So godless in our modern society in the West produces that which the Bible calls immorality and it is treated as normal life. But unrestrained sin doesn’t stop at immorality, it moves on to what the Bible calls perversion. Although modern men would like to water down the Bible texts, the texts are quite clear.
The apostle Paul spoke of this when he said, speaking of God’s indirect judgments where God lifts off His hand of restraint, “Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another,” (Rom 1:24) which was the first stage referred to above, but then, “Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed indecent acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion,” (Rom 1:26,27) which the further degradation spoken of by Jude. In Paul’s language women took on ‘unnatural’ relations with other women and men did the same with men which was called ‘perversion’ which is defined as ‘deviating from what is considered normal’.
The account in Gen 19 reveals a city where this ‘perversion’ has gone so far that men from all over the city are shown to have gone to such lengths that they demand sex with any visiting men. That this is tantamount to rape is undeniable, and this shows the depths to which this city has sunk.
Now we have said in previous studies that a) God does not want death but would much rather see repentance and b) if death is the outcome it is the only possible outcome in all the circumstances. We find ourselves being drawn to the conclusion that sometimes people get so set in their sin and hard heartedness that repentance is almost impossible and therefore for the sake of everyone else, their removal is the only option left. That appeared the case of Pharaoh in the Exodus and would be the logical conclusion here.
Now how the Lord destroyed these two cities is a mystery. The description is succinct but open to question: “Then the LORD rained down burning sulphur on Sodom and Gomorrah–from the LORD out of the heavens.” (Gen 19:24) Commentators suggest that ‘the natural ingredients of the destruction – petroleum, bitumen, salt and sulphur – were abundant in this region.’ Again it has been suggested that a natural gas build up and release with ignition could create an explosion of tremendous force which first explodes upwards but then rains down, maybe even with the force of a hydrogen bomb, and the outgoing shock wave carrying the burning materials with it could have burnt up the delaying wife of Lot. What we have described is a natural disaster in any other context but as the Lord has expressly warned of it and the two angels spoke of it, the only conclusion left is that it was brought about by God to wipe out these two past-repentance cities that, if left to themselves, might have spread their influence over a wider and wider area. The action becomes, not only penal, but also an act of prevention to save the rest of the people of that part of the world. It should also act as a warning to future generations.
The only question we have left unanswered of our four starting questions is, why did the Lord save Lot. Everything about Lot – his past behaviour with Abraham, his future pleading not to go far away and his subsequent drunken behaviour, all say here is a man who lives on the edge of righteousness; he is only just there. But ‘only just’ is enough. The apostle Peter declares him a righteous man (2 Pet 2:7-9) which would appear to have been the Rabbinic teaching of the day, but still his behaviour leaves him appearing an ‘only just’ righteous man. Perhaps in fairness, we might suggest that his only knowledge of the Lord and the Lord’s requirements, would have come through Abram and his knowledge and experience was strictly limited. Lot has come from a pagan background and has not become a fully believer. It is perhaps for this reason alone, together with his relationship with Abram, that saves him.