Sodom and Gomorrah
The phrase brings up a broad range of conceptions and emotions.
For some it brings up the image of God, angry and disgusted, hurling fire down on the two cities filled with people so sexually depraved that they have lost their minds. This image often evokes fear of destruction in people who know enough about God to know they personally do not measure up. In people who consider that they have conquered the sin of Sodom, the image fosters an opportunity to consider that they themselves are immune to God’s judgement.
A whole different group of people disregard the judgement side of the story, but find the concept of whole towns free of sexual restraint to be rather fascinating.
As the events at Sodom and Gomorrah are a basis for understanding, it seems like a good idea to actually understand what is was all about. Or at least try.
Sodom is often mentioned in the Bible, sometimes with Gomorrah, sometimes alone. There were actually five towns mentioned as being scheduled for destruction, in fact one reference in the Bible does not use the name of Sodom, but uses the other towns.
The church during the middle ages started using the name of the first town as a short way to describe forbidden sexual activites. The word Sodomy was coined somewhere around 700 years ago, somewhere around 2500 years after the events – at least according to the etomology references. I did not and will not review their research as it is unimportant. What is important is that the word, as used commonly for the last couple hundred years, has come to mean various sexual activities, with precise meaning dependent on the understanding of the person using the word. This flexible usage is even contained in many laws some of which fail to define the term with precision. These facts are only pertinent to this post to establish that such a widely used term should derive from the real story from the Bible, not the presupposed story as infered by others.
I see that a clear look at the whole Bible allows us a better understanding of the nature of God and how we can relate to him. This story of Sodom and Gomorrah is important, a fact we can see as it is referenced in so many places. If God destroyed the culture in a single cataclysmic event, we should know why. If we don’t have a true understanding of the reason why, then represent to others that God will do the same to them, we are making a serious mistake.
What was really happening at Sodom and Gomorrah?
This next section is long. I will examine the story of S&G (Sodom and Gomorrah) and look at every reference in the scripture. This excersize is intended to derive understanding from the Scriptures.
This is important in our Soon School as we want to understand why God recorded the story and then used it many times as a point of reference. If we get the basis wrong, then we can be easily misled when other passages reference Sodom and Gomorrah as a shorthand way to bring an entire concept into our understanding.
- Post Babel Land Distribution
- Sodom and Gomorrah mentioned as being related to the borders of Canaan, the geo/political entity founded by and/or named after Canaan the son of Ham and grandson of Noah. There is a lot to ponder here, especially when you consider that these men lived a long time. The most significant of which is the events at Babel, both cause and effect.
- Early account – War, Booty, King of Salem
Gen 13, 14, 15
- Lot is traveling with Abraham, too many cattle for both of them to live together.
- Canaanites and Perizzites identified as being in the land. Again a reference to tie this account of Sodom to Babel through the family lines.
- Abe gives Lot the choice of where to go – Lot chooses the Jordan valley as it was like the Garden of Eden.
- Lot settles near Sodom.
- Sodom is mentioned as being very evil – always sinning before the LORD. Keep in mind that this is hundreds of years before the Law of Moses was given by God. Also note that the phrase used is sinning BEFORE (or against) the LORD. A similar phrase is used is numerous other places. Sometimes it infers sinning in some special way and sometimes it infers just a general disobedience to the Mosaic Law. But the Mosaic law did not exist at the time of Genesis 13. In fact, we see several violations of the Mosaic Law in Abraham. For example, his wife Sarah was his sister. (See Genesis 20). The point to hold on to here is that it appears that the LORD expected people to know what was sin. This may be because of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, or it may be because the LORD expected all to know who he is (as he still does).
- The local Kings rebel against the distant Kings (modern Iran and Iraq, etc). Interesting that Iran controlled all the way at least to the Mediterranean. There are differing opinions as to what kingdom/civilization this may be in current understanding of ancient history.
- Fortunately for Abe (sarcasm), this mighty empire defeats most of the armies in the entire region.
- After that, for some reason, the Kings of Sodom and Gomorrah, with 3 other towns that are always tied to the story of Sodom and Gomorrah including the brimstone event, decide to go fight the eastern empire. Why would they decide to fight against a force that has defeated many of the other Kings in the region? We don’t know, but we can reasonably infer that these times were very spiritually involved. Remember that sometime not too far before this episode, the world was changed dramatically by the destruction of common language. Why God did that is very important. I believe it was because society, under Nimrod, was pursuing the pre-flood course of spirituality: “building a tower to heaven” could mean invading the heavens. Worshipping demons has proven to be very powerful and perhaps in this early era it was very integrated into human experience as it will be in the end times. Perhaps the reason the Sodom Alliance thought they could win is because they had confidence in their connection with the heavens or spiritual realm. When Nimrod built a tower to heaven, it is difficult to imagine people causing concern in God that they might build a tower so high that they run out of oxygen. A physical tower is self limiting as to height. I think we find other clues when we research other topics like Jannes and Jambres, who are related to the Balaam story. They are referenced in the Bible, which is an invitation for us to know something about them. But we have to turn to extra-Biblical resources to know anything. I will explore that in greater depth in another post, but for our purpose here it is worth noting that some accounts state that Jannes and Jambres “invaded the heavens”. And not from a Friend of God status. They were later than our current story, but it is worth noting as it is likely that their techniques had originated long before. SO it could be that Babel had established a spiritual system that used dark power to war against God. We certainly know of a dark leader that wars against God, powerful enough to convince a third of those that know God (without needing faith) that they can rebel against God.
My point with all this is to properly set the context for the thinking of the Kings of Sodom and company. This was a spiritually active time, certainly their approach to decision making would have that as a prime component, not the mundane analysis that our modern times worships.
Back to the story:
- But Sodom and Gomorrah and company are defeated.
- The Eastern Empire takes everything, including Lot and leaves to go back east. Big mistake taking Lot, but how could they know?
- Abe takes his 318 men (why is the specific number recorded?). 318 against a clearly powerful force.
- Abe wins and recovers all the booty including Lot.
- The King of Sodom meets the returning victorious Abe. With a tiny army Abe just defeated the powerful army that crushed the Sodom Alliance and most other Kings in that region. Taking the spiritual nature of their world into account, we understand that the King of Sodom would see that the God of Abe is indeed powerful.
- The King of Salem (Melchisedech) blesses Abe. He is a “priest for God Most High” (the supreme God). Keep this in mind as this shows that Knowledge of God was extant in the region, not waiting on Moses. There is much speculation and legend regarding the identity of Melchisedech, and it is widely divergent. Ideas range from those more understandable to the modern world-view to the ideas that are extremely bizarre in the modern mindset. The significant point for our understanding of Sodom and Gomorrah is that Melchisedech is
-powerful in the spirit realm,
-is the opposite of Sodom spiritually
-receives worship from Abe while the King of Sodom is present
- Salem is beyond doubt known to Sodom and the dichotomy of their worship would have been perfectly clear. Salem worships the God Most High while Sodom seems to have been worshiping either Satan or one of his princes.
- So the King of Sodom is standing there while the man of great spiritual power worships the King of Salem. Is this God’s love giving the King of Sodom a full view of his deadly error, an opportunity to repent (change his thinking)?
- The King of Sodom tells Abe to keep all his treasure, just wants his people back (generous or a trap?).
- Abe says he doesn’t want Sodom’s stuff. Is this offer an attempt by the King of Sodom to buy blessing while not changing his spiritual allegiance? I obviously cannot know, but there is some reason for this fact being recorded in the only inspired historical account.
- After defeating the large army from the east, God tells Abe to not be afraid as God will be his shield. Afraid of what? One possible explanation is to accept that this is a time of great spiritual activity, and the Sodom region was a center of powerful demonic spiritual activity. Abe has only his belief that God Most High is greater to comfort him. God’s promise here would reassure him that his faith is well placed.
- God says he will give Abe a great reward.
- Abe says what can you give, I want a son.
- God says I will give a son – here is presented all the promises about numerous descendants.
- God says that the nation promise will take time as God is waiting for the Amorites to “complete” their sin. The concept of sin in progress towards completion is foreign to strict law, where a deed has either happened or it has not.
- There are other very mysterious things in the exchange between God and Abe.
- Visitation-Destruction-PostDestruction account
Gen 18 – 19
- Gen 18 starts with “Later”. How much later?
- Three “men” appear at Abe’s place. Abe prepares a meal for them.
- The main man (the LORD some translators say) speaks of Sarah conceiving – Sarah Laughs etc
- The men continue on their way to Sodom
- The Lord asks (himself or the other men or Abe?) if Abe should be informed. The Lord may be referring to Abe’s family or He may be referring to Sodom and Gomorrah.
- The Lord says he has heard “many complaints” or “outcry”. He will go down and see if it is as bad as it is reported.
- “The men” leave the LORD and Abe. “The Men” go to Sodom.
- Abe knows that the LORD intends to destroy the place and starts exploring the mind of the LORD. The LORD confirms he will not destroy it if there are 10 righteous. Here is the separation between the righteous and the wicked – important
- The Angels arrive in Sodom, appears to be “the men” that left while the LORD and Abe were talking.
- The men (young and old, from every part of Sodom) demand to have sex with them. Given that we believe Sodom to be a sizable city and the description of the men in focus, it appears to be into the thousands of men gathered. How did they all know of the arrival so quickly? Why would the arrival of 2 men be of such great attention? Surely in a city of Sodom’s size and reputation, the arrival of men is a common event.
- Perhaps context may be important: There are references to the Nephilim both before and after the flood. These beings appear to be the result of sexual relations between women and angels. The angels involved were detained, which can only mean that God superseded the Last Day judgment to deal with a potentially devastating situation.
- Here is an event in Sodom in a period close to those references to angel/human abomination. And this event is a whole city of men wanting to have sex with angels.
- Did they know they were angels? Consider:
– the interactions with the wars and the King of Salem: a strong possibility of a spiritual dynamic
– a large number of men show up for rape-sex with two men in a large busy city? Not likely, unless there is a tremendous added draw – like angels
– after the angels blind them, they continue trying to find the door (implied).
- If these people were deeply involved with dark spiritual forces, they would know that the 2 men that arrived were from the heavens. The spiritual forces ruling Sodom would, beyond doubt, send the men of the city to debase and destroy the angels.
- Lot offers his virgin daughters. If the city was to be destroyed for its sex sin alone, it is a bit difficult to conceptualize the existence of virgin girls, pledged to be married.
- The abominable horde refuses the offer! Incongruous, unless there is a deeper more powerful goal than animal depravity.
- Lot tries to talk them down, resulting in the Angels somehow reaching out and grabbing him with a blinding flash that leaves the abominable horde blind and groping for the door.
- Again, the scene only makes sense with powerful spiritual forces. Were there no windows? The horde couldn’t break the door? By morning, they had calmed down?
- What happened to the horde by morning? Perhaps the ruling bad angels (demons) had realized that the LORD was up to something and were warring in the heavens, or retreating. Either situation would leave the horde leaderless.
- Lot, his wife and daughters are forcibly escorted out of town by the angels. The soon to be son-in-laws declined the offer (old enough to be deciding on their own).
- The angels are taking Lot to the mountains but Lot asks that another town – Zoar – be spared and he be allowed to stay there. The angels consent. Interesting in that Zoar was slated to be destroyed with the other four towns. There is clearly something to learn from this when taken in the context of Abraham and the LORD discussing the number of righteous people required to forestall destruction. But the lesson here is not related to our quest for understanding of what was happening in the details of that discussion. So we will not pursue that understanding here.
- Lot’s wife expresses allegiance to the domain of Sodom and joins the destiny of her liege.
- Lot is afraid while living in Zoar. Like with Abe, I must ask, afraid of what? Perhaps lingering spiritual forces as it was part of the original cities slated for destruction. Another Bible account gives some support to this idea. Remember the time when Elijah had just defeated and destroyed the 450 prophets of Baal? Right after that he becomes terrified of the sorceress queen Jezebel. We know that Jezebel was very powerful in the demon worship realm. Most likely this power is what caused fear in Elijah.
Back to Lot.
- So Lot flees to the mountains – where the angels had told him to go.
- His daughters decide to have sex with him. They conceive and 2 nations are originated bearing protection from God, but separation.
- Note that the lineage of our Lord and Savior Jesus is through this event (David’s great-grandmother was a Moabite, and Rehoboam’s mother was an Ammonite).
- Remember that the chapter divisions are not inspired. This story of Lot is tied directly to the preceding events. If the LORD destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah based on the sex sin alone, then he should have destroyed Lot and his daughters.
- But if Lot is a righteous man because he believes the Mercy and Love of the God Most High, then his continued existence makes sense. And by contrast, the abomination of Sodom et al becomes clear. Lot was righteous because he worshiped God Most High. Lot was not communing with the realm of Satan. Sodom et al were communing with the realm of Satan. Sodom’s sin was complete.
In this section we will look at the other references to Sodom and Gomorrah in the Bible.
First question for each reference: Are Sodom and Gomorrah used for an example of the cause or the results? Said another way: When the LORD refers to Sodom and Gomorrah, is he using Sodom and Gomorrah as an example of the behavior is he addressing, or is he using Sodom and Gomorrah as an example of what actions will be taken against them?
Second question: is the passage about turning to other gods, demon worship?
Then we will have a synopsis of the topic in the reference. Most of these will be short, but some will be very long as the passage is complicated or easily misapplied.
- Deut 29
– S&G: results – could be cause also depending on how you read it.
Renewal of the covenant oath. If the Israelites turn to other gods, the land will be barren like S&G. The LORD was angry with S&G and he will be angry with Israel if they turn to other gods.
- Deut 32
– S&G: cause –
Moses’ song – if the Israelites turn to other gods they will be defeated by other people “whose vine comes from Sodom, whose fields are like Gomorrah …[with poison grapes]”. This is a description of how the enemies of Israel will destroy them if Israel turns to other gods. The enemies are evil and their evil is directly related to S&G.
- Isaiah 1
– S&G: results –
Israel has turned to other gods; the land is ruined. It is only God’s mercy that the land is not as bad as Sodom. Then God calls Israel S&G and says he does not like their observance of the ceremonial laws because they do not take care of the oppressed, orphans and widows (no love?). And they have blood on their hands.
- Isaiah 3
– S&G: cause –
Sodom mentioned alone – the people are like Sodom, proud of their sin – preceding verses identify the sin as turning from the LORD
- Isaiah 13
– S&G: results –
Babylon and the world to be destroyed. Babylon will become like S&G. Cause for destruction: cruelty to others (v.11)
- Jeremiah 23
– S&G: cause –
other gods – although the word adultery is used, the context clearly indicates that it is adultery of the spirit – being intimate with demon gods.
- Jeremiah 49
– S&G: result –
Judgement promised for Edom resulting in desolation comparable to the desolation of S&G (except the widows and orphans); cause not mentioned
- Jeremiah 50
– S&G: result –
S&G neighboring towns included – Babylon to be destroyed – cause: cruelty to other nations (v.29)
- Lamentations 4
– S&G: result –
Jeremiah observes that the punishment being experienced by his people is greater than that of Sodom. Having experienced extended life in desolation, I agree. Instant annihilation is better than extended intense suffering – under the sun, of course. Although not in the direct passage, we know that the destruction of Jerusalem was a result of their turning to other gods.
- Ezekiel 16
– S&G: not related –
Although Ezekiel uses the name Sodom for the “sister” of Jerusalem, it appears that he is not referring to the historic Sodom from the Genesis account. Ezekiel refers to the northern group as Samaria which is not a term from the period of the sulphur destruction. He also says that Samaria and Sodom will be restored to what they had before (v53). This would not make sense if we attempt to combine that with the rest of what we know about the sulphuric Sodom.
Ezekiel uses the name “Sodom”, but it seems that it is not literal but allegorical. First please read the entire passage starting from the beginning of this particular oracle. Note that the passage is focused on Jerusalem, with an extensive allegorical history of the LORD’s relationship with Jerusalem. Quite explicit language.
In one possible view, tt may be that when Ezekiel uses the names Sodom and Samaria, he means the geographic areas to the south and north of Jerusalem during the times of Ezekiel.
Since Ezekiel’s oracle concerns Jerusalem from the time of Ezekiel, it makes sense that the sisters are also contemporaries. This view is easier to align with the promise of verse 53 (restoration to Sodom and Samaria).Another possible view is that the Jerusalem in focus is the Salem of the Genesis 13 account (contemporary to the annihilated Sodom) and the whole prophecy is not about Israel itself. Rather, the focus is the overall plan from the beginning of time. In this view, we must keep the allegory intact – the reference to the sins of Sodom are as allegorical as the listed sins Jerusalem. In other words, in the same way that Jerusalem’s sin is lusting after the genitals of Egypt, Sodom’s sin was being proud and not caring for those in need.
Either way, it appears that this passage is not to be included in our Cause/Results.
- Hosea 11
– S&G: cause and result –
God does not want to make Israel like S&G – cause: Israel turns to other gods, is unfaithful. Note that Hosea refers to S&G by using the names of the other towns, not S&G
- Amos 4
– S&G: result –
God says he has already done to some in Israel as he did to S&G – cause: turn to other gods
- Zephaniah 2
– S&G: result –
God says he will destroy Moab and Ammon with results like that of S&G. Cause was taunting Israel, although the later verses seem to indicate it was a taunt over the gods worshipped. Remember that in other prophets, Ammon and Moab are spoken to in ways very similar to how God speaks to Israel – I will do these terrible things – but I will relent because I love you.
- Matthew 10
– S&G: cause –
future – Jesus says that it will be better for S&G on the day of judgement than for those who do not believe in the message of the 12 “The Kingdom of Heaven is at hand”. I see this as the same as the turning to other gods. In the new environment, with the Kingdom of God at hand, rejecting the God’s gift through Jesus is the same as rejecting God.
Why will it be better for Sodom? Because God himself was not moving in the middle of Sodom like he now moves on each person’s spirit, giving a personal invitation to know and be known by the Living God.
How will it be better? I have no clue. But Jesus said it.
- Matthew 11
– S&G: cause –
future – Jesus takes the above instruction in Matt 10 and applies it to Capernaum, saying that if Sodom had seen the proofs of Jesus role/mission/identity that Capernaum had seen, Sodom would not have been destroyed. See the Matthew 10 notes.
- Luke 10
– S&G: cause –
future – the statements of Matt 10 restated while sending out the 72
- Luke 17
– S&G: cause –
Jesus is warning of the coming destruction. Jesus compares end times to life in the pre-flood world and in pre-sulphur Sodom. His description is of a normal life and he does not describe the great moral failures. Why? Perhaps because the real issue is the rebellion against God that we know will mark the end times. The marker he identifies for when the Son of Man returns is implied, as with much of what Jesus said once the church leaders of his ministry time had rejected him.
- Romans 9
– S&G: cause –
Paul is clearly explaining the cause of judgment from God as a lack of belief. The reference to S&G illustrates that the prophet Isaiah predicted the remnant who will believe.
- 2 Peter 2
– S&G: cause –
Peter is cautioning the church be on guard against false prophets. A prophet is a person speaking the truths of God. Here are the identifiers of a false prophet as written by Peter (a man forgiven for denying Jesus):
– secretly teach heresy
– deny Jesus (knowing what we know about what salvation is, this would be denying that Jesus is the Son of God that died for all sin and rose again)
The false prophet has these Personality Characteristics:
– slander the Glorious Ones (remember that slander and blasphemy are generally interchangeable – and that the only unforgiven sin is described by Jesus as blasphemy of the Holy Spirit – same issue raised here? Probably not, but very similar and should result in our focus being on the belief system that guides these people.
– irrational animals. “Irrational” means “non-reasoning” or could be expressed as the concept of a lack or failure of thought processes. Given that repentance is to “change thinking” this phrase could mean that they approach the decisions of life relying on a belief system that elevates impulse to principle. “If it feels good, do it.”
– enjoy sinning openly – recall the Israelites when lured by Midianite women into worshiping Baal. But also recall that most people openly sin on a regular basis – the Mosaic law lives up to its stated purpose (see Romans).
– enjoy deceiving people
– “eyes of adultery” – given the common dual meaning of this, it could mean they are sexually lustful, or it could mean they are spiritually lustful … or both
– ensnare unstable people
– teach greed
This list is clearly a list joined by AND. Also, the first list is the identification, the second list is description. It is not productive to use the description as identification. In other words, if you know someone that has many of the traits in the description list, but not the all the required identification list, you cannot conclude that they are false prophets. You may very well know folks that are bold and arrogant, make untrue statements about angels, gossip proudly in the church foyer to a group of other unstable gossips and enjoy watching the steamy TV series shows. But if these folks proclaim that Jesus is Lord, I submit that they are NOT false prophets. Their many sins were forgiven at the cross. Praise be to the Merciful God and Savior Jesus.
Peter mentions that judgment is coming for the false prophets and gives illustrations of God’s actions against similar entities in the past. S&G are given as an example. Peter specifically says S&G are an example of what happens to any who are against God. Peter uses the term commonly translated as “ungodly”, which some interpret to mean “those who sin”. But if we understand the Gospel and Jesus words, all sin is forgiven except slander of the Holy Spirit. Probably Peter is writing from a mindset where that principle is integral into his concepts. This is especially pertinent given he denied Jesus and was forgiven. The ungodly must be those who are against God.
– S&G: cause –
This passage is very similar to the passage from 2 Peter 2. This passage either identifies the cause as “gross immorality and departed after strange flesh” or uses that phrase to describe them. If “departed after strange flesh” includes engaging in sex/intimacy/interaction with angels, then this fits with all the OT descriptions of the cause – worshiping other gods.
- Revelation 11
– S&G cause ? –
Being part of Revelation, this passage is more mysterious, but the reference is that the bodies of the 2 witnesses are left in the city where Jesus was killed (Jerusalem? why not just say it?) but that the city is named “Sodom and Egypt”. Holding to the opinion that Sodom was destroyed because of its worship of demon Gods at great intensity, this makes sense in the place where the 2 witnesses are killed in a truly epic battle of spiritual force.
Other References Summary: In 21 references to Sodom and Gomorrah all that are a reference to Cause can be classified as Turning to Other gods. Also, for every reference except 2, the context of the passage is about Turning to Other gods. And those 2 that are different are both about Babylon being cruel. Very interesting given that we know that Nebuchadnezzar turned to God. What does that mean? Perhaps another day we will pursue that.
Summary of What was Happening at Sodom and Gomorrah:
There is a reason God’s account of the events of Sodom and Gomorrah does not end with the sulphur but with the incest of the righteous man. Perhaps so we would be less inclined to be judgmental of the wrong things. Certainly sin is destructive – all sin is wrong, including the sins you ignore that are clearly defined. John says all wrongdoing is sin. But, as John also says, there IS sin that leads to death (he can only mean permanent spiritual death) and that sin is the crux and the crucible. Our journey through the Bible’s story and references to Sodom and Gomorrah indicate that the sin of Sodom and Gomorrah that caused such a clamor that God could not ignore it was something to do with turning to other gods in some powerful way.
The Gospel makes it clear that it is turning away from Jesus that is the sin that will ultimately result in eternal death. Instead, we are to turn to him and receive eternal life and forgiveness for all our sin. The story of Sodom and Gomorrah reinforces this message, as you might expect if it is really the message from God.