Genesis 19 - Sodom and Gomorrah

SodomAndGomorrah
00:00 / 34:04

Genesis 18:16 - 19:29 - Sodom and Gomorrah

INTRODUCTION

There are a number of themes here in these bible verses namely;

  • The Righteous few outweigh the many evil.

  • Gods justice and his righteousness

  • Gods grace and how annihilation is the last option available to God.

  • Prayer and man’s relationship with God as well as an insight into how God thinks.

  • The Story of Sodom and Gomorrah is paralleled in Judges 19 if you read it has:

    1. The same number of words

    2. It is used in same context as rape

    3. The same verbs

    4. Used to highlight man’s sin

  • Another theme here is how people react in a time of calamity and potential catastrophe

Sodom – where is it?

What people don’t usually talk about is there are thought to be 5 cities in ‘the plain’ which are;

  • Adamah

  • Gomorrah

  • Sodom

  • Zeboim

  • Zoar

There are many conflicting thoughts and writings on where it is, but the bible roughly states it is South East of the Dead Sea. This is now what we what we refer to as Jordan in the places of ‘Bab Ed-Ra’ and ‘Numeira’, (which if you Numeira related to word “Amar” which means a ruined heap which is exactly what it is now)

 

What was Sodom’s sin?

If we look at the sins of the people here. (On a side note it is an interesting point that there is no mention of  IDOLOTRY by the inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah which was one of the main reasons Israel’s neighbours were punished i.e. the Philistines worshipped Baal and were punished. ) The word used is “outrage” – anguished cry of the oppressed and Sodom is mentioned many times – 49 times in 48 verses.

 

Their past sins

If you look at parts of the bible there are a number of verses detailing a list of sins or a charge sheet i.e.

In the Old testament;

  1. Genesis 13:13 - wicked / false dealing – Evil

  2. Deut 29:22 - example of desolation

  3. Isaiah 3:9 - openness or being blasé about Sin. There is also the moral corruption and the encouragement of evil.

  4. Jeremiah 23:14 - lack of repentance

  5. Ezekiel 16:49   - idleness and treatment of the poor as well as the disregard of human rights.

  6. Ezekiel 16:56 - Pride

  7. Leviticus 18 :22 – The gross violation of hospitality which should be offered to all foreigners.

 

In the New Testament there is reference with Sodom and Gomorrah with regards to;

  1. Mark 6:11 - Judgment

  2. Jude 1:7- example of how God deals with sin

 

Sins present

Within the context of the verses in.

Genesis 19:4 - “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:”

So, the people of the village wanted to “know” the angels – which means to have sexual relations with them. This is explained where Cain “knew” his wife and she became pregnant as in Genesis 4:17 and what we see here is rape It is worth mentioning here that all of the people in Sodom and Gomorrah i.e. “all people to the last man” were evil. Within some rabbinic literature, the reason the people of Sodom treated visitors neglectfully and criminally was done intentionally as a way of deterring visitors so they would not have to sharing their prosperity.

 

Character comparison – Abraham: Lot

With regards to the two key characters namely Abraham and Lot I would like to draw upon some their personality traits as well as their relationship with God. Abraham was “singled out “to have a special relationship with God ;

  • Involvement with him

  • The high level of Interaction he had with God.

  • His own loyalty to the Lord

  • His obligation to God and his people

  • God treats Abraham as a prophet i.e. he “revealed his council” in  

 

In this sense Abraham reminds me of Jeremiah in the bible for the following reasons;

  • He discloses his plans to him (i.e. to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah)

  • He questions Gods decision and justice and pleads his case before God

  • He asks for deliverance for entire community.

  • His bargaining is called in Jewish terms “Chutzpah” which is to question God

  • He repeatedly pleads for mercy Petitions six times for the people in chapter 18

 

Lot is more passive in his approach to God and in effect Lot has his prayer answered i.e.  a plea for the non-destruction of Zoar in verse 20 and there is also the reaction of fear when his prayer is answered which is to run away to the mountains.

There is an overriding theme of hospitality in this story and to look at the 2 characters. Abraham is the more eager to be hospitable to the angels i.e. He runs to meet them as in chapter 18 and He Gives them a feast of slaughtered Ox .This in Jewish terms relates to the Mitzvah (law) of “Hachnasat Orchim” which is the welcoming of guests and is very important as part of the Israeli culture and is followed closely today by Bedouins within Israel

Lot on the other hand gives the angels matzah which was a meal prepared in haste. He invites them into his house as it was not welcoming to let angels sleep in the square .Still offers the angels hospitality as he urges angels to “leave early” as he realised the threat they were under. An interesting point here is Lot treats the evil people of Sodom with more respect and hospitality as he offers to give his daughters up as a way of protecting his guests which was part of the culture at this point in time .The other part is this is an extraordinary gesture and it could be an overstatement – in the hope the offer wouldn’t be taken. There is a similar concept in Genesis 23 where Abraham overvalues the land for Sarah’s tomb in the hope the offer was taken up. Lots big sin was offering his daughters instead of his guests in chapter 19  hence he “COMMITTED THE SIN OF SEEKING TO AVERT SIN WITH SIN”. With reference to judgement Abraham repeatedly asked God to spare the inhabitants if they could find at first 50 and then down to 10 ‘good men’

(It is worth pointing out here that 10 is an important number in Judaism i.e. 10 men in Jewish society are called a “minyan” which is a quorum (minimum number)  for a kaddish (which is a synagogue prayer) .

Ten is also in Hebrew culture a number which signifies totality in a social entity terms i.e. a spiritually legal minimum.

Abraham could not save any of Sodom’s residents even though God gave Abraham the opportunity to discover (‘matsa’) righteous men and ultimately, he questions Gods judgement and Gods purpose and shows God is gracious in his attitude to Abraham. Abraham questions why as in he “came forward” where the word is similar to a courtroom case. In this I see this similar to our Lord Jesus who persistently puts our case forward to his Father interceding on our behalf.

In contrast to Abraham, Lot doesn’t take the impending doom that seriously. He can’t save his son in laws by not convincing them to leave (How would you react?). What is odd is that the angels had to ‘hasten’ him to get out, so the question is why did he delay? The Word in Hebrew is “vayotziuhu” where the angels had to grab hold of and seize him and his family. I do believe his intentions were righteous and he procrastinates “is the avoidance of doing a task that needs to be accomplished” or maybe he still did not want to see people perish by hanging about

What is interesting here is Lots attitude to his status. He is still classed as an outsider even though he was some sort of Judge, did he lose his status when he put up the angels? He told the sodomites to stop hence his judgement had begun of them. He is addressed as a “fellow” who would not be entitled to any legal rights within the city. This is ironic as in Genesis 14:14 it was only Lot living there that saved Sodom that time. Story was Abraham rescued Lot and the Sodomites which maybe explains why he elevated so quickly to his position as Judge. But in summary they rejected a sign of God’s grace.

 

Other Characters

There are other areas of interest surrounding other characters in this story.

 

Angels

There are a number of differing opinions on who they were as some refer to them as God or Jesus. If we look at the Hebrew words, they were messengers who were in human form i.e. the Hebrew word “Anashim”. Also, the Hebrew word “mashchitim” – so they were the angels who were to do the destroying. They were also referred to as the Malach Hashem. This is also Angel of death in 1 Chronicles 21 and Exodus 12 hence they were powerful, but I believe God sent them to rescue Lot in this scenario.  I also believe God sent them to test Lot to see where his allegiance would lie as they initially rejected his offer of hospitality in Genesis 19:2

  

Lots daughters

They were key to Israel’s destiny further on in Ch. 19 where go on and through their own sin have incestuous relationship with their father which is ironic as he offered to give them up to the people of Sodom. It is assumed they are unmarried i.e. engaged as they were betrothed and in Mesopotamian law this was as good as marriage and any violation could incur the death penalty. Other commentaries believe Lot could have 2 more daughters in the city. As a rule, in middle eastern cultures, as in some they still are, women are held in low esteem and Lot used his daughters virginal state to show the seriousness of his hospitality to his guests.

 

Lots son in laws

These were the people who did not take Lots warning seriously and I believe a parallel here to the world and God’s grace that one day it will end when they do not take his offer of salvation and ultimately reject him.

 

Judgement Part 1 – The Blinding

Judgement here is split into 3 distinct parts. It is worth remembering here there were no warnings given here in the hope of atonement (the complete opposite of Jonah and the city of Ninevah)

First part was the angels blinding Sodom’s residents who surrounded the house and the question could be ask Why blind the men ?The Hebrew word is specific and is only used in reference to the blinding light in where Aram’s men who had come to seize Elisha were struck with the same light;

2 Kings 6:18 - So when the Syrians came down to him, Elisha prayed to the Lord, and said, "Strike this people, I pray, with blindness." And He struck them with blindness according to the word of Elisha.

The point here may be metaphorical and can be seen as blind from a Godly viewpoint as being blinded to sin as in the Greek word “Tuphos”.

 

Judgement Part 2 – The Fire

Some historians do not believe the biblical version and see the judgement as an earthquake from the Syrian African rift in the earth. Scripture details the aftermath of the fire in -

Deut 29:23 - 'The whole land is brimstone, salt, and burning; it is not sown, nor does it bear, nor does any grass grow there, like the overthrow of Sodom and Gomorrah, Admah, and Zeboim, which the Lord overthrew in His anger and His wrath.

Fissures caused by a quake could release gas which could be hit by lightning which would ignite the gases. Hebrew word used is “h-f-kah” – which means to “transform completely or is inversed”. The land was literally turned to ashes and all life was stripped from it. It was a complete destruction of both body and soul as the word “nefesh” is used which is the Hebrew word for soul.

The question asked is why Fire is used to destroy, in the bible to show Gods anger as in;

Numbers 16: 35 - And a fire came out from the Lord and consumed the two hundred and fifty men who were offering incense.

The fire originated from the sky as per the Hebrew ‘Hashem min Hashmayatim’ translates as from where God exists. Interesting point is 2 references to God in the earth and heavens i.e. God is everywhere.

 

Judgement Part 3 – Lots wife

We are not even told the name of Lots wife and it is thought it may be Ado or Edith and  what is important here is Lot and his family were warned not to look behind and she was warned not to linger ;

  • but she went behind Lot.

  • so, she turned away & stepped back from the right way i.e. Gods prescribed way.

  • Her old life is represented in the New Testament where Jesus talks about his second coming as in;

       Luke 17:31-33 - 31. In that day, he who is on the housetop, and his goods are in the house, let him not come down to take them away. And likewise, the one     

       who is in the field, let him not turn back.

       32. Remember Lot's wife.

       33. Whoever seeks to save his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life will preserve it

 

Lot’s Wife - Salt

There is a lot written about a lot and there are many different views. Firstly, she was turned into a Stele of salt – “Netziv melach”. Now Salt is still evident still in Dead sea area even today and you can check where different artefacts are put into the dead sea to see their effect.

Why was she turned her to salt? And we will look at some insights as to why;

The first option is that in some Jewish literature i.e. in the Apocrypha - “Wisdom on Solomon” there is reference to “A PILLAR OF SALT STANDS AS A MEMORIAL TO AN UNBELEIVING SOUL”

The second option in the bible with reference to salt is in:

Judges 9:45 - So Abimelech fought against the city all that day; he took the city and killed the people who were in it; and he demolished the city and sowed it with salt.

In this context salt was strewn on a site marked with eternal desolation as a punishment for disloyalty and a breach of a treaty (i.e. an agreement)

The third option is where salt is an idiom for completely destroyed. The Hebrew for salt is word is ‘malach’ as in;

Isaiah 5:6 - I will lay it waste; It shall not be pruned or dug, but there shall come up briers and thorns. I will also command the clouds That they rain no rain on it."

It could be that the fire and sulphur was rained down and the salt was an after effect of the sulphur. Was she made to represent a physical representation of the concept of punishment like Vesuvius in Italy when the volcano erupted and covered the city in lava.

Fourthly in the book of Numbers a covenant was similar to a legal bond between God and man in the following 2 verses;

Numbers 18:19 - All the heave offerings of the holy things, which the children of Israel offer to the Lord, I have given to you and your sons and daughters with you as an ordinance forever; it is a covenant of salt forever before the Lord with you and your descendants with you."

Leviticus 2:13 – with every sacrifice/offering salt was offered before the Lord.

 

Summary point 1-Hospitality

In summary there is a theme of us as Christians welcoming people. The text I see as representing this is;

Hebrews 13: 12 (OJB) - Do not neglect hachnosas orchim (hospitality), for by this some without having da’as (knowledge) of it, have entertained malachim. (angels).

We should reflect and think about how do we in our own lives’ welcome strangers

  • Talk to the homeless?

  • Look after guests within your community?

 

Summary Point 2 - Righteousness

In the NT, Peter details how Lot was saved;

2 Peter 2:7 - and delivered righteous Lot, who was oppressed by the filthy conduct of the wicked

God was remembering i.e. to respect his covenant promises to Abraham i.e. bless all the nations through him.

Definition of Hebrew covenant and the different types of them

  1. 2 types;

    1. By Grace

    2. By works

  2. 2 sub types.

    1. Conditional

    2. Unconditional

(You can look at these separately in Covenant Theology)

 

Summary Point 3 Abraham – Type - Christ

Within the bible there are many references to the link between God the Father and mankind. Abraham pleads with God as an intercessor for the people of Sodom and Gomorrah the way like Jesus does with his Father with us;

Hebrews 7:25 - Therefore he is also able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them.

Our special relationship with God is through his son Jesus Christ who is our covenant described in John 3:16

 

Summary point 4 - Our allegiance to God and not to sin

There is a some typology we see with reference to Abraham /  Jesus in the fact that he would have nothing to do with evil / satan, as Abraham would take nothing from the king of Sodom back in Genesis 14:22-23

In contrast to this Lot pitched his tent toward Sodom;

  • Played with fire i.e. was close to the wickedness and dabbled close to Sodom so he had an attraction toward it

  • I believe Lot could not bear to part from Sodom, hence re- locating to Zoar. In our lives Sin is attractive i.e. Drugs the sensations we get form them in the short term are attractive and if you think about Sex/pornography, the visual attractiveness of looking or doing.

  • The best advice we are given is to run from it as Paul talks about in 1 Corinthians 15:33 which is to avoid bad company - "Be not deceived: evil communications corrupt good manners."

Summary point 5 - Gods deliverance from sin and Grace

In My view Sodom and Gomorrah is an example of God dealing with sin and Gods judgement upon mankind. I believe it is meant as parallel of the flooding and God dealing with man’s sin. I do not believe God wants to punish us, he created us and in John 3:16, his love comes first in this verse and not a warning, but he offers a way out of the human condition. God has dealt with sin in the form of his son Jesus Christ who is the final sacrifice for man’s sin.

 

Summary point 6 -Remnants & Gods mercy

This story shows ultimately Gods love for man and how he interacts with him even in his sinful state. Lot was saved through God’s divine grace and there are other examples in the bible where God repents of his judgment as with Moses and Korach where he wanted to destroy the Israelites disobedience.

Numbers 16:45 - Get away from among this congregation, that I may consume them in a moment.

In this context there is intervention as in this story where God saves town of Zoar where Lot escapes to. It’s interesting that the word for Zoar has the same Hebrew root word as “small”. Most importantly not all of the plain was destroyed.

With reference to destruction, we can choose to accept the offer of redemption through Jesus Christ in the form of his sacrifice and like the four cities we can ignore this and face the consequences. If you are unsure or even frightened, then speak to God about this.

Amen