Chapter 19

Artist depiction of the city of Sodom

  1. The Destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah

    • That evening the two angels came to Sodom.

    • Lot was sitting at the city gate and when he saw them he bowed in greeting and asked them to stay at his home for the night.

      • To the casual reader Lot’s presence at the gate of the city is just a meaningless detail, but a little cultural context lends a much deeper understanding:

      • David Guzik points out, “The gate area of an ancient city was sort of a town-hall, where the important men of the city judged disputes, conferred with one another, and supervised those who entered and left the city…Now Lot sat in the gate of Sodom, indicating he was a civic leader.”

      • NLT Illustrated Study Bible Commentary notes, “Community leaders (elders) usually congregated in the gates, where legal and business transactions were publicly finalized (Genesis 23:18, Job 29:7, 12-17).”

      • Guzik highlights Lot’s progression of compromise that is illustrated by these facts, “There was a steady progression of compromise in Lot’s life. He went from looking toward Sodom (Genesis 13:10), to pitching his tent toward Sodom (Genesis 13:12), to living in Sodom (Genesis 14:12) and losing everything…Lot himself was a righteous man who was grieved by the sin he saw around him (2 Peter 2:7-8), but because of his compromise few of his family and none of his friends were saved. Compromise destroyed his testimony.”

    • The angels responded saying that they preferred to spend the night in the square, but Lot insisted so they went back to Lot’s house where he prepared them dinner and they ate.

    • Before Lot and the angels even went to bed for the night, all of the men in Sodom surrounded Lot’s house and demanded that he send his visitors outside so that they could have sex with them.

      • “These citizens of Sodom clearly came to homosexually abuse and rape these two visitors.” (Guzik)

    • Lot went out to the men begging them not to commit this wicked act. He offers to bring out his two virgin daughters instead so that they can do as they please with them.

      • “…Lot’s willingness to sacrifice his daughters shows how corrupt and compromised he had become…Lot opposed homosexuality and rape and rebuked their wicked plans, but he was hypocritically willing to sacrifice his daughters to fend off the townsmen’s vice. Lot had originally pitched his tent next to Sodom; now Sodom controlled his life.” (NLT Illustrated Study Bible commentary)

    • The men of Sodom reply to Lot, “Get out of the way. You’re not even from this city, but now you’re acting like you have a right to judge us. We’ll do worse to you than to your guests.”

    • They rushed forward to break down the door and force their way in, but the angels grabbed Lot and closed the door. The angels blinded the men of Sodom so that they couldn’t continue their attack.

    • The angels then told Lot that if he had anyone else in the city that belonged to him, sons, daughters, or son-in-laws, to get them out of the city because they are about to do what the Lord had sent them to do- destroy the city.

    • Lot went and told the men who were engaged to marry his daughters to get out because the Lord was about to destroy the city, but they didn’t believe him.

    • As dawn broke the angels told Lot, “Take your family and go or you will be destroyed with the city!”

    • But Lot still hesitated, so the angels grabbed Lot, his wife, and his daughters by their hands and pulled them out of the city. Once outside the city, one of the angels instructed Lot and his family to run for their lives to the mountains without looking back or stopping or they would be destroyed also.

      • “Lot was in the worst of all possible places. He had too much of the world to be happy in the Lord, and too much of the Lord to be happy in the world.” (Guzik)

    • But Lot begged the angels, “You have been so kind, but I can’t make it all the way to the mountains safely. Can I run to the small city of Zoar instead since it is closer?”

    • The angel agreed and told Lot to hurry because he couldn’t begin until Lot arrived in Zoar.

    • When Lot finally reached Zoar, the Lord rained fire and burning sulfur down onto Sodom and Gomorrah destroying all the nearby cities, their inhabitants, and anything that grew there.

    • Lot’s wife disregarded the angel’s instructions and looked back to Sodom, so she turned into a pillar of salt.

      • “In referring to the end times, Jesus uttered some almost cryptic words in Luke 17:32: Remember Lot’s wife. In other words, no Christian should have a heart like Lot’s wife as we see the end of the age, a heart that loves the world, and will in some sense, regret the judgment God will bring on it.” (Guzik)

    • Early in the morning, Abraham looked out over Sodom from where he had stood with the Lord and saw the smoke rising as if from a furnace. But God had saved Lot for Abraham’s sake.

    • The story of the divine judgement of Sodom and Gomorrah comes under attack from two particular angles and I’d like to discuss them both.

  1. First we’ll discuss the “debate” regarding whether or not homosexuality is denounced as a sin in this story or if there is an alternate interpretation. In order to address the components of the argument that the story of Sodom does not indicate that homosexuality is a sin I will use this article, The Rescue of Lot, by Ken Collins.  I’ve linked the article in case anyone wants to read it in its entirety instead of relying on the points I address here.

A. Ken’s first claim is that the “homosexual rape theory” is inconsistent because the angels originally told Lot that they preferred to stay in the square overnight instead of at Lot’s house. The line of reasoning is that if the men had indeed intended to rape the visitors, then the angel’s very presence in the square would have tempted the “allegedly lusty and homosexual populace to rape them all the sooner.” Ken goes on to cite James 1:13-14, which says that no temptation to do evil comes from God.

            • Personally, I find Ken’s implication that the mere presence of visiting men in the public square would constitute a temptation to rape them rather shocking. You might as well say a woman who is raped by a man asked for it because she dared to cross a rapist’s path.

            • However, besides asserting that homosexuals have a nonexistent amount of self control (which I’m sure many homosexuals would be offended by) it is a blatant misinterpretation of the verses he gives as corroboration. James 1:13-14 states, “When tempted, no one should say, ‘God is tempting me.’ For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed.” Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary offers an excellent explanation of these verses, “But nothing sinful in the heart or conduct can be ascribed to God. He is not the author of the dross, though his fiery trial exposes it. Those who lay the blame of sin, either upon their constitution, or upon their condition in the world, or pretend they cannot keep from sinning, wrong God as if he were the author of sin.” In short, the homosexual inclinations of the men of Sodom are not attributable to God at all, much less their inability to exhibit self control, but rather a result of the fallen world in which we live.

B. Ken’s next assertion is that the Hebrew word translated “to know” in verse 5 is misinterpreted as meaning “have sexual intercourse with” when it could also be interpreted to mean “be acquainted with”. So, instead of being intent on raping Lot’s guests, the men of Sodom were actually insisting to be allowed to question them. The men of Sodom were not guilty of intended homosexual rape; they were guilty of being “inhospitable”.

            • The article Homosexuality or Inhospitality from Third Millennium Ministries offers this rebuttal, “ The Hebrew word translated “know” (yada) in the KJV version of Genesis19:5 means “intimate relations.” The NIV is more clear and says “…so that we can have sex with them,” and the NASB reads ‘…that we may have relations with them’. The same term is used again in this chapter in reference to Lot’s daughters not having ‘known’ (yada) a man (Gen. 19:8). It is used several times in Scripture to mean ‘intimate knowledge’ (sexual intercourse), such as in Genesis. 4:1, 17, 25 (KJV)…Lot, when men of Sodom and Gomorrah desired sexual relations with the angels, sought to appease the sexual wickedness of Sodom and Gomorrah by the offering of his own daughters!…Yet, Lot’s response to these men in Sodom and Gomorrah was not merely ‘stop being inhospitable,’ but ‘No, my friends. Don’t do this wicked thing.’”

            • Ken himself notes that the word “know” indeed denotes sexual intercourse when referring to Lot’s daughters in the subsequent verses as evidenced by this quote from his article, “ Lot’s offer of his virgin daughters as a substitute can then only be construed as permission for the mob to gang-rape them! (It is obvious that the daughters were “acquainted with” their father and their fiancés, so the word “know” in this verse must refer to marital intercourse. Thus we are informed that the daughters are virgins.)” Ken here attempts to let Lot off the hook for his reprehensible deed in offering his daughters to the men of Sodom to appease them by claiming that Lot was merely offering his daughters as hostages (who would suffer no harm) to the men of Sodom in return for the men allowing the visitors to remain in his home un-interrogated. It’s a nice thought, but doesn’t hold up contextually. Lot’s offer of his daughters is nothing less than revolting and shouldn’t be rationalized away. The fact that Ken applies a different definition to the very same word (yada) when it applies to Lot’s daughters instead of the men of Sodom highlights the necessity of this faulty interpretation to arbitrarily assign alternate meaning to the same word used in the same context in order to bend the text to his own meaning. None of us have license to do this. When we do, we can literally make the Bible say anything we want. A dangerous thing indeed.

        • In conclusion, while I would agree wholeheartedly that homosexuality is not the only sin exhibited in Sodom or the entire reason that Sodom was destroyed. Nor was the lesson that a homosexual lifestyle is sin the only or even primary lesson to be learned from the example of the judgement of Sodom and Gomorrah. We’ve already discussed that the story of Sodom and Gomorrah teaches more than one lesson. God was molding Abraham into a great leader and developing in him a loving intercessors heart. There is a great lesson to be learned from Lot and what happened to him when he chose to immerse himself in the culture of a wicked city- it led to him become corrupt and compromising himself. This account also teaches Israel that God is the righteous judge of the whole earth. However, to overlook the fact that homosexuality is the central sin that God chooses to highlight in Sodom and Gomorrah is to read these verses with a willful blindness.

2. The second argument is that the story of Sodom and Gomorrah is complete fiction.

        • This argument is largely based on lack of archaeological evidence for the existence of Sodom. While some biblical archaeologists over the years have suggested various potential locations for Sodom, many have believed that it is submerged in the waters of the Dead Sea. However, archaeologist Steven Collins of Trinity Southwest University in New Mexico, believes his discovery of the city of Tall el-Hammam fits the description of Sodom almost perfectly.

        • In his article Making the Case for Sodom, Ian Gerson points out that the location certainly fits the bill, “ Located anciently at the crossroads of the region’s major ancient north-south, east-west trade routes while skirting significant water sources and rich alluvial soils, it comes as no surprise that it was an ideal place for human settlement. More than that, it eventually became a monumental urban center more than 5,000 years ago, dominating the region until, suddenly, its florescence came to an end and the city remained relatively abandoned for about 700 years.” Another locational corroboration comes from Shawn Nelson in his article Evidence Sodom is Tall el-Hammam, “Genesis 13 says Abraham and Lot were staying in the area of Bethel and Ai when they decided to part ways. Bethel and Ai are about 12 miles north of Jerusalem. From this area, it says, “And Lot lifted his eyes and saw all the plain [kikkar, disc] of Jordan.” (Gen 13:10). Lot chose the land of the Jordan his eyes could see. From Bethel/Ai he “journeyed east” (v. 11) “even as far as Sodom” (v. 12). This precisely describes how to arrive at Tall el-Hammam today: start at Bethel/Ai and travel east to eastern end of the kikkar disc.”

View of Tall el-Hammam

        • The archaeological evidence for the demise of Tall el-Hammam also fits Sodom. Shawn Nelson writes, “There is convincing evidence that a significant air burst event destroyed the city. Trinitite was discovered on the back of a pottery shard. A zircon bubble which can only form under extreme temperature was also found. There’s typically nothing to burn at a gate area, yet its gate area is covered with half meter of thick black, dark ash. Scattered human bones throughout the site suggest people were literally blown apart from the event.”

Melted pottery sherd (left), found at Tall el-Hammam, and ‘trinitite’ pieces (right) from ground zero of the Trinity site near Alamogordo. (The term ‘trinitite’ was the name given to a substance left on the desert floor near Alamogordo, New Mexico, after the explosion of the Trinity nuclear bomb on July 16, 1945).Courtesy Mike Luddeni

        • Collins’ archaeological finds have also led to an interesting connection between Sodom and the ancient Minoans and Myceneans. Tell el-Hamman boasts a large pillared gate house at the entrance to the city. The gates are indeed documented in Genesis, but Collins notes that the architecture is not Canaanite as one would expect, but rather Aegean, indicating that Sodom could have been influenced by the Minoans and Myceaneans. Minoan pottery has also been unearthed at Tell el-Hammam further linking the cultures.

        • This cultural connection to the Minoans may also provide corroboration for the Biblical account of Sodom’s pederasty (sexual activity between men and boys). According to Collins, pederasty was a well documented practice among Cretan Minoans. Shawn Nelson provides historical context for this claim, “The historian Strabo said the Minoan culture had a custom where older men would abduct young boys and rape them as a type of right-of-passage (Strabo’s Geography, 1 0.4.21). In Dr. Collins’ own words:

“Each boy, at age 12, was taken as an eromenos (“beloved”) by a 22- year-old erastes (“lover”) to be raised for 8 years in a male-male sexual bond. It was usually initiated with a ceremonial kidnapping performed by a gang of ritual abductors sent by the older male. The practice was formalized and ubiquitous across Minoan culture. Boys couldn’t be considered properly-trained male citizens unless they submitted to this process.” (April 22, 2013 TEH Update Newsletter, emphasis added)”

        • – To be fair, I must mention that some Bible scholars object to Tall el-Hammam as Sodom due to the fact that it would throw off currently accepted biblical chronologies rendering the timelines prior to the book of Judges to be in error. In my opinion, this assertion doesn’t necessarily lessen the likelihood of Tall el- Hammam as a possible Sodom. After all, my readers already know that I believe there are issues with the timelines based off of early genealogies. The genealogies in our translations are in fact at odds (missing years) with the Samaritan Pentateuch and the Septuagint, which are both translated from older copies of the Hebrew than our translations. For an awesome explanation of that point you can check out Nathan Hoffman’s video which is located in my Genesis Chapter 11 notes.

2. The Origin of Moab and Ammon

    • – Lot was afraid to live in Zoar, so he left and he and his two daughters lived in a cave in the mountains.
    • -Lot’s oldest daughter spoke to her younger sister explaining that there weren’t any men to sleep with them in order to continue their family line. So they decided to get their father drunk and so that they could sleep with him.
    • – The girls got Lot drunk and the first night the oldest slept with him. They got him drunk the following night as well and the younger daughter slept with him. Lot was unaware both times.
      • – Stories like this in the Bible make us all cringe, but I like the Barnhouse quote that David Guzik includes in his commentary, “It is far better for children to learn the facts of life from the Word of God where sin is condemned than from dirty words on alley walls, or from lewd stories. No one can escape knowledge of sin… these things are never mentioned without being accompanied by the stern warnings that God hates sin and punishes it.”

– NLT Illustrated Study Bible commentary notes, “The character of Lot’s daughters was formed by Sodom’s culture more than by their father’s heritage, so they had no qualms about having children by their drunk father. They saw no other way to carry on their line.”

– Both daughters got pregnant. The oldest had a son named Moab, who is the father of the Moabites. The youngest had a son named Ben-ammi, and he is the father of the Ammonites.

– “Their descendants would become enemies and obstacles for Israel, just like the descendants of Ishmael. Lot’s life ended in ruin (past, present, and future), all because of his love for the world.” (Guzik)