The Lesson of Sodom and Gomorrah

The Lesson of Sodom and Gomorrah March 28, 2017

The drama around the fall of Sodom and Gomorrah has led most readers of Scripture to focus on the end of those two infamous cities, ignoring the greater context in which that narrative was found. For, it is clear, Lot and his family moved into Sodom, giving to it a kind of blessing which helped preserve the city and giving it a chance for reform.  Grace from the saints of God often benefits sinners, warding off from them the immediate consequences of their actions. In the story of Sodom and Gomorrah, we find that the cities did not understand what they had been given, and like so many filled with the luxuries of life, they saw the grace as a representation of providence favoring them and their way of life.  Instead of taking the time given to them for reform, like Nineveh did, they only confirmed themselves in their pride, so that when the source of God’s grace in their midst abandoned them, the cities were utterly wiped out, showing what sin can do to anyone who closes themselves off from the grace of God. The destruction of the cities was but the end of the story. We need to look to what precipitated it.

Mosaic of the Parting of Lot and Abraham. St. Maria Maggiore via WikimediaCommons
Mosaic of the Parting of Lot and Abraham. St. Maria Maggiore via WikimediaCommons

The story comes from when Lot and Abraham, finding their families and servants coming into conflict with each other, desired to keep the peace between their respective families, thought it best to separate from each other and live on their own. Lot was given his choice as to where he wanted to live, and he chose to be in the vicinity of Sodom. By his desire to live in the luxury of Sodom, Lot showed he was not perfect himself. He followed Abraham, and worshiped with Abraham, the one God over all, and he desired to be just, but he also enjoyed worldly favors, so that he also had to suffer some of the judgment which went to Sodom. This is why, when Sodom and Gomorrah rebelled against the king of Elam (cf. Gen. 14:1-4), Lot suffered with the rest of Sodom and Gomorrah. Indeed, the war of rebellion initially was a disaster as the wealth of the cities was taken away, and with all that wealth, we find Lot was also abducted:

Then the king of Sodom, the king of Gomorrah, the king of Admah, the king of Zeboiim, and the king of Bela (that is, Zoar) went out, and they joined battle in the Valley of Siddim  with Chedorlaomer king of Elam, Tidal king of Goiim, Amraphel king of Shinar, and Arioch king of Ellasar, four kings against five. Now the Valley of Siddim was full of bitumen pits; and as the kings of Sodom and Gomorrah fled, some fell into them, and the rest fled to the mountain.  So the enemy took all the goods of Sodom and Gomorrah, and all their provisions, and went their way; they also took Lot, the son of Abram’s brother, who dwelt in Sodom, and his goods, and departed (Gen. 14: 8-12 RSV).

It might surprise many that Abraham himself went to war, helping Sodom and Gomorrah. The same cities which were already shown to be far from God had Abraham as their champion. How can it be? Because of his love and concern for Lot, Abraham also aided Sodom and Gomorrah, so that through his just hand, Sodom and Gomorrah was once again able to establish themselves in the luxury which they desired:

When Abram heard that his kinsman had been taken captive, he led forth his trained men, born in his house, three hundred and eighteen of them, and went in pursuit as far as Dan.  And he divided his forces against them by night, he and his servants, and routed them and pursued them to Hobah, north of Damascus.  Then he brought back all the goods, and also brought back his kinsman Lot with his goods, and the women and the people (Gen. 14: 14-16 RSV).

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