The first mention of Sodom is in Genesis 10:19 in a passage about the Sons of Ham, son of Noah.
The Canaanite border went from Sidon going toward Gerar as far as Gaza, and going toward Sodom, Gomorrah, Adamah, and Zeboiim as far as Lasha.
The location is generally taken as being near the Dead Sea. The exact location is unknown.
The next mention is in Genesis 13: 10-13, Lot, Abraham’s nephew, choosing to settle in the fertile lands of the plain and Abram, later renamed by God as Abraham, in the more rugged hill country. Abram had allowed Lot first dibs.
Lot looked and saw that the entire plain of the Jordan 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 plain of the Jordan 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 on the plain and set up his tent near Sodom. Now the men of Sodom were evil, sinning immensely against the Lord.
The exact nature of their evil is not given but the seriousness of it is stressed.
In Genesis 14 there is a battle in which Sodom and Gomorrah are pillaged and Lot is taken prisoner. Verse 12 tells us – They also took Lot and his possessions, for he was living in Sodom,… This raises the question:- Why was Lot living in Sodom?
Abram and a body of trained men then rescue Lot and recover all the pillaged goods. Abraham gives one tenth of the booty to Melchisedek King of Salem and priest of God Most High. The king of Sodom then wants to split the rest of the booty with Abram , he wants the people but Abram can have the goods, but Abram refuses to be enriched by the king of Sodom. He gives up his share but speaks up on behalf of the men with him that they would have their share. Thus Abram has a very low opinion of the king of Sodom. This is in marked contrast with his very great respect for Melchisedek.
Abram receives the name Abraham from the Lord in Genesis 17: 5, Your name will no longer be Abram; your name will be Abraham, for I will make you the father of many nations.
Then we come to the biggy. In Chapter 18 Abraham receives three visitors, the Lord in human form and two angels. Abraham and Sarah are promised that they will have a son in a years time. In verse 20 the Lord says to Abraham, “The outcry against Sodom and Gomorroah is immense, and their sin is extremely serious. I will go down to see if what they have done justifies the cry that has come up to me.”
Abraham then has a discussion with the Lord and pleads for Sodom. First of all he asks if fifty righteous men were found in the town, would he spare it? The Lord says he would. Abraham then continues to wrangle with the Lord until he gets the number down to ten. If ten righteous men could be found in Sodom then the city would not be destroyed.
This tells us something very important about intercessory prayer and that is that God can change his mind. This means that our prayers are not in vain. In the words of a prayer from the Divine Mercy, “For the sake of his sorrowful passion, have mercy on us and on the whole world. Holy God, Holy Mighty One, Holy Immortal One, have mercy on us and on the whole world.”
Genesis Chapter 19 – The Destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah
The two angels entered Sodom in the evening as Lot was sitting in Sodom’s gateway. When Lot saw them, he got up to meet them. He bowed with his face to the ground and said, “My lords, turn aside to your servants house, wash your feet, and spend the night. Then you can get up early and go on your way.” “No,” they said. “We would rather spend the night in the square.” But he urged them so strongly that they followed him and went into his house. He prepared a feast and baked unleavened bread for them, and they ate.
Before they went to bed, the men of the city of Sodom, both young and old, the whole population, surrounded the house. They called out to Lot and said, “Where are the men who came to you tonight? Send them out to us so we can have sex with them!” Lot went out to them at the entrance and shut the door behind him. He said, “Don’t do this evil, my brothers. Look, I’ve got two daughters who haven’t been intimate with a man. I’ll bring them out to you, and you can do whatever you want to them. However, don’t do anything to these men, because they have come under the protection of my roof.” “Get out of the way!” they said, adding, “This one came here as an alien, but he’s acting like a judge! Now we’ll do more harm to you than to them.” They put pressure on Lot and came up to break down the door. But the angels reached out, brought Lot into the house with them, and shut the door. They struck the men who were at the entrance of the house, both young and old with blindness so that they were unable to find the entrance.
Then the angels said to Lot, “Do you have anyone else here: a son-in-law, your sons and daughters, or anyone else in the city who belongs to you? Get them out of this place, for we are about to destroy this place because the outcry against its people is so great before the Lord, that the Lord has sent us to destroy it.” So Lot went out and spoke to his sons-in-law, who were going to marry his daughters. “Get up,” he said, “Get out of this place, for the Lord is about to destroy the city!” But his sons-in-law thought he was joking.
At daybreak the angels urged Lot on: “Get up! Take your wife and your two daughters who are here, or you will be swept away in the punishment of the city” But he hesitated. Because of the Lord’s compassion for him, the men grabbed his hand, and the hands of his two daughters. They brought him out and left him outside the city. As soon as the angels got them outside, one of them said, “Run for your lives! Don’t look back and don’t stop anywhere on the plain! Run to the mountains, or you will be swept away!” But Lot said to them, “No, my lords – please. your servant has indeed found favour with you, and you have shown me great kindness by saving my life. But I can’t run to the mountains; the disaster will overtake me and I will die. Look, this town is close enough for me to flee to. It is a small place. Please let me run to it – it’s only a small place, isn’t it? – so that I can survive. And he said to him, “All right, I’ll grant your request about this matter too and will not demolish the town you mentioned. Hurry up! Run to it, for I cannot do anything until you get there.” Therefore the name of the city is Zoar.
The Sun had risen over the land when Lot reached Zoar. Then out of the sky the Lord rained on Sodom and Gomorrah burning sulphur from the Lord. He demolished these cities, the entire plain, all the inhabitants of the cities, and whatever grew on the ground. But Lot’s wife looked back and became a pillar of salt.
Early in the morning Abraham went to the place where he had stood before the Lord. he looked down toward Sodom and Gomorrah, and all the land of the plain, and he saw that smoke was going up from the land like the smoke of a furnace. So it was, when God destroyed the cities of the plain, he remembered Abraham and brought Lot out of the middle of the upheaval when he demolished the cities where Lot had lived.
What then do we make of Lot? Is he a righteous man? What is he doing in Sodom? Is he trying to do good in a bad place?
What is for certain is that he is a man compromised by his association with Sodom? He has a status within that town as a wise man, an official, within the gate where business was done. When he meets the two men (angels) he knows that they are not safe in Sodom. Note the two men are reluctant to lodge under the roof of this compromised man. His offer of his daughters to the crowd show just how compromised he is in that he is prepared to cater to the crowds evil and appease it. He even asks for a compromise on the angels’ instruction to flee to the mountains. It is too far he says. He doesn’t realise that those angels who have delivered him out of Sodom, without encountering any of it’s inhabitants, are also able to see him safely to the mountains. Lot is a compromised man, a wordly man, a materialistic man. Why then is he saved? He is saved because of Abraham. He gets a free ride. We should remember this when we pray for our friends and relatives.
What then of Sodom? The scripture says that’s it’s inhabitants were evil and their sin was extremely serious. They even wanted to perform homosexual gang rape with violence on complete strangers. They were more frustrated by being struck blind than fearful, for they couldn’t then find the door to have their way with the strangers. There were not ten righteous men in Sodom, indeed Lot’s sons-in-law didn’t even constitute two righteous men. We know this because all the men of Sodom had turned out to harm the strangers.
Ezekiel 16: 49-50 tells us this in likening Sodom to the fallen Jerusalem of his day – “Now this was the iniquity of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters had pride, plenty of food and comfortable security but didn’t support the poor and the needy. They were haughty and did detestable acts before me, so I removed them when I saw this.
Why then did God destroy Sodom?
- Because of their great wickedness and immense sinning.
- Because their hearts were hard and they refused to help the poor.
- Because ten righteous men could not be found.
- They did detestable acts and this included sexual ones.
- All that they did was symptomatic of their wickedness.
How then do we apply this today? Lets bring it from the time of Abraham, around 2000BC to the writings of Paul in the mid first century AD.
Romans 1:21-32 For though they knew God, they did not glorify him as God or show gratitude. Instead, their thinking became worthless, and their senseless hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man, birds, four-footed animals, and reptiles. therefore God delivered them over in the desires of their hearts to sexual impurity, so that their bodies were degraded among themselves. They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served what has been created instead of the Creator, who is praised forever. Amen. For this reason God delivered them over to disgraceful passions. Their women exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones. The men in the same way also left natural relations with women and were inflamed in their lust for one another. Men committing shameless acts with men and received in their own persons the appropriate penalty of their error. And because they did not think it worthwhile to acknowledge God, God delivered them over to a corrupt mind so that they do what is not right. They are filled with unrighteousness, evil, greed, and wickedness. They are full of envy, murder, quarrels, deceit, and malice. They are slanderers, God-haters, arrogant, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, senseless, untrustworthy, unloving, and unmerciful. Although they know God’s just sentence – that those who practice such things deserve to die – they not only do them, but even applaud others who practice them.
This passage both looks back to the time of Sodom, is relevant to Paul’s day and speaks to us now. That the bad things people do are only symptomatic of a much bigger problem, that of sin and wickedness. Or do we just write it off as Paul speaking with the prejudices of his day and if we do that, what do we do with all of his other writings.
1 Cor 6: 9-11 – Do not be deceived: No sexually immoral people, idolaters, adulterers or males who have sex with males, no thieves, greedy people, drunkards, verbally abusive people, or swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And the solution is given in verse 11 (otherwise heaven would be empty)- And some of you used to be like this. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.
1 Tim 1:9-11 – We know that the law is not meant for a righteous person but for the lawless and rebellious, for the ungodly and sinful, for the wholly and irreverent, for those who kill their fathers and mothers, for murderers, for the sexually immoral and homosexuals, for slave traders, liars, perjurers and for whatever else is contrary to the sound teaching that conforms to the Gospel concerning the blessed God, which was entrusted to me.
The Catechism cites Paul and acknowledges the symptomatic nature of sexual sin.
CCC2357 – Homosexuality refers to relations between men or between women who experience an exclusive or predominant sexual attraction towards persons of the same sex. It has taken a great variety of forms through the centuries and in different cultures. Its psychological genesis remains largely unexplained. Basing itself on Sacred Scripture, which presents homosexual acts as acts of grave depravity (Gen 19:1-29, Rom 1:24-27, 1 Cor 6:10, 1 Tim 1:10), tradition has always declared that “homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered.” (Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, CDF, Persona Humana 8.) They are contrary to the natural law. They close the sexual act to the gift of life. They do not proceed from a genuine affective and sexual complementarity. Under no circumstances can they be approved.
So then finally, Did God destroy the city of Sodom because of their homosexuality? Yes, but this was only symptomatic of their sinfulness. There was more to it than that, their wickedness was extreme in every way. They were certainly disordered and depraved.
Why did God leave it so long? Couldn’t he have acted sooner?
God gives everyone a chance to repent and accept the forgiveness he offers. A forgiveness we receive now through Jesus Christ and the work of the cross. What we were unable to do, God does for us. The case of Sodom reminds us that this time to repent, to be saved, is finite and will come to an end.
Cautionary note – St Paul lists many things in the passages given above and it would be wrong to single out homosexuality as if it were the only sin. Also in seeking to apply the lesson of Sodom and its destruction to modern times, there are difficulties in citing such an extreme, though true, example. Indeed if I was talking to homosexuals, many of whom are the nicest and gentlest people you could possibly meet, they would probably point out that they had no interest in performing homosexual gang rape with violence on anyone, celestial being or no.
We can see, however, many other examples of grave depravity in our fallen world, particularly the use of rape as a weapon of war. Again on looking through St Paul’s lists above we can see how the same evils continuously resurface.
How then to convict people of sin that they might repent and be saved?
Here is an example from the evangelist Ray Comfort.
ref) Scripture verses from the Christian Standard Bible (Rainbow Study Bible) publisher Holman 2017
Next blog – The Abominable Prawn