What was the reason given for God’s destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah? Are there parallels today for the reasons why these cities were destroyed?
Burning Sulphur Beneath Sodom and Gomorrah
The word sodomy seems to have originated from the city-state of Sodom because of the sexually immoral practices that were prevalent there. God destroyed these cities for their incredible wickedness. Sodomy is a word that is sometimes used to describe particular sexual crimes and can include those with the opposite sex or those of the same sex, may include multiple partners (orgies) and may even involve animals. The word sodomy is from the Middle English word “sodomie” which originally referred to homosexual proclivities among men. There have been ancient ruins discovered that appears to be where Sodom once stood. There is evidence of a gigantic earthquake which may have disturbed the granite bituminous oil basin beneath the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. The quake could have easily caused huge plumes of sulphur bitumen to shot up into the air and the friction of some of the granite plates could have been the reason for these natural gases, which are highly flammable, to ignite.1 Never were there cities in that day which were so evil. It was not safe to walk the street even in the day time, not to mention what happened during the night. All night parties and all sorts of evil depravity occurred in both of the cities of Sodom and most like Gomorrah. The moral perversion reached new heights (or new lows) by those who indulged in sexual immorality and pursued unnatural desire. Sodom and Gomorrah serve as an example today of what eventually happens to anyone or any nation where evil is left unchecked (Gen 19:1-11). There was sex in the streets, violence in the squares, and no one dared go in or out of that city without the risk of sexual assault or violent offenses.
Why God Destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah
Sodom and Gomorrah were both remembered as wicked cities which brought down the divine wrath of God upon them. The sexual perversion and inhospitality were remarkable, even compared to today. The example of Sodom was even mentioned in a prophecy to Israel by both the prophets Amos and Isaiah. Others who include the wickedness of Sodom were Paul, Jude, Peter, and the authors of the gospels of Matthew and Mark.
Romans 9:29 “If the Lord of hosts had not left us offspring, we would have been like Sodom and become like Gomorrah.”
Paul actually quoted the prophet Isaiah here and this “offspring” that Paul mentions was about Israel and had it not been for God’s keeping a remnant of Israel, they would have all been totally destroyed (Rom 9:27). What this seems to be saying is that there was not even a remnant left of the inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah because of their destruction by God.
Amos 4:11“I overthrew some of you, as when God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah, and you were as a brand plucked out of the burning; yet you did not return to me,” declares the Lord.”
Amos compares Israel’s near total destruction with that of Sodom and Gomorrah which were destroyed. The line that “you (Israel) were a brand plucked out of the burning…” has the word “brand” in it but the Hebrew actually says it was “a burning stick” so you could actually read this verse as “I overthrew some of you, as when God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah, and you were a burning stick plucked out of the burning; yet you did not return to me,” declares the Lord.” God plucked Israel out of the fire, while still burning, but not so with the citizens of Sodom and Gomorrah.
Sodom and Gomorrah’s Judgment by Fire
Jude 1:6-7 “And the angels who did not stay within their own position of authority, but left their proper dwelling, he has kept in eternal chains under gloomy darkness until the judgment of the great day— just as Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding cities, which likewise indulged in sexual immorality and pursued unnatural desire, serve as an example by undergoing a punishment of eternal fire.”
Jude compares the ultimate fate of the fallen angels (demons) to those in Sodom and Gomorrah and the punishment of their “sexual immorality and…unnatural desire served as an example by undergoing punishment of eternal fire.” How clear it is that those who do such things will suffer the same fate as those in Sodom and Gomorrah.”
Second Peter 2:5-7 “if he did not spare the ancient world, but preserved Noah, a herald of righteousness, with seven others, when he brought a flood upon the world of the ungodly; if by turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah to ashes he condemned them to extinction, making them an example of what is going to happen to the ungodly.”
The Apostle Peter here says that God turned them into ashes and “condemned them to extinction, making them an example of what is going to happen to the ungodly” and will also do this for those who refuse to repent of their sexual immorality and unnatural desires. These sinful desires are men with men and women with women burning in their passions for one another (Rom 1:27).
Why God Judged Sodom and Gomorrah
Lot was visited by two angels who came to warn him to flee the wicked city of Sodom because God was going to utterly destroy it. Here is the account of this visit in Genesis 19:4-11.
“But before they lay down, the men of the city, the men of Sodom, both young and old, all the people to the last man, surrounded the house. And they called to Lot, “Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us, that we may know them.” Lot went out to the men at the entrance, shut the door after him, and said, “I beg you, my brothers, do not act so wickedly. Behold, I have two daughters who have not known any man. Let me bring them out to you, and do to them as you please. Only do nothing to these men, for they have come under the shelter of my roof.” But they said, “Stand back!” And they said, “This fellow came to sojourn, and he has become the judge! Now we will deal worse with you than with them.” Then they pressed hard against the man Lot, and drew near to break the door down. But the men reached out their hands and brought Lot into the house with them and shut the door. And they struck with blindness the men who were at the entrance of the house, both small and great, so that they wore themselves out groping for the door.”
Several men of Sodom tried to take these two visitors by violence trying to break the door down to have sex with these men. As a result, they were struck with blindness. Then these angels ask Lot “Have you anyone else here? Sons-in-law, sons, daughters, or anyone you have in the city, bring them out of the place. For we are about to destroy this place, because the outcry against its people has become great before the Lord, and the Lord has sent us to destroy it” (Gen 19:12-13). Then, “Lot went out and said to his sons-in-law, who were to marry his daughters, “Up! Get out of this place, for the Lord is about to destroy the city. But he seemed to his sons-in-law to be jesting” (Gen 19:14). Sadly, Lot’s sons-in-law didn’t take the warning seriously of God’s impending destruction of this sin-filled city and sadly, they stayed behind and were destroyed. Lot managed to convince his daughters and his wife but even then the angels nearly had to drag them out of the city. When they left, they were warned to not look back but Lots’ wife did and she ended up as a pillar of salt. She looked back probably in desire, not wanting to leave the behind city with all its wealth and pleasure.
God Destroys Sodom and Gomorrah
“Then the Lord rained on Sodom and Gomorrah sulfur 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.“ (Gen 19:24-25). God will once again destroy the sexually immoral and that day comes when either that person dies or if Christ returns. As Jude wrote, those who refuse to repent and “likewise indulged in sexual immorality and pursued unnatural desire [will be] undergoing a punishment of eternal fire” (Jude 1:7). I pray that will not be you.
Another Reading on Patheos to Check Out: What Did Jesus Really Look Like: A Look at the Bible Facts
Article by Jack Wellman
Jack Wellman is Pastor of the Mulvane Brethren church in Mulvane Kansas. Jack is also the Senior Writer at What Christians Want To Know whose mission is to equip, encourage, and energize Christians and to address questions about the believer’s daily walk with God and the Bible. You can follow Jack on Google Plus or check out his book Blind Chance or Intelligent Design available on Amazon
1. Glen L. Archer. A Survey of Old Testament Introduction. (Oxford, England: Moody Publishers, 2007), 151.