Thank you once again for joining me as we continue our study of the book of Genesis. In our last episode, we covered the first nine verses of chapter 19, which saw the two angels enter the city of Sodom on their mission to destroy the city.
We left off with the men of Sodom coming to Lot’s home, demanding Lot bring out his two guests so that they could participate in homosexual gang rape against his guests. As we discussed, Lot then offered up his two daughters instead, and we mentioned two or three possible explanations as to what that may have been all about. And we ended our last episode with the men of Sodom ignoring Lot’s request to not commit this evil act, and even threatening to do worse to him if he didn’t get out of the way, and we then see the men of Sodom pushing in on Lot, pressing near to break down the door of his home in order to get to his guests. Which brings us now to verse 10.
10 But the men reached out their hands and brought Lot into the house with them and shut the door. 11 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.
Remember, the “men” here, are actually angels, which is confirmed by verse 11 where it says they struck the men of Sodom with blindness. Of course, ordinary men would not be able to do that.
Speaking of blindness, the normal Hebrew word for what you and I would consider blindness, meaning you are not able to see, is the word (ee-vehr). The Hebrew word used for blindness here though is san-ver-eem , it is a different word. And it means “to dazzle”, or “to deceive”, suggesting that they were temporarily blinded by a sudden, immobilizing, blazing light.
Notice also, who were the men at the door? Both small and great. Remember, in the last episode we discussed that it was both young and old who were seeking to do evil to Lot’s guests. Even further, again, making the case and illustrating just how determined they were to commit this terrible evil, it says that even after they were struck with blindness, they still were determined to break down the door and get to Lot’s guests! So much so that even in their blinded state, they continue groping for the door until they wore themselves out. It really conjures up the image of some wounded animal, that just absolutely will not quit or give up until there is no physical strength left at all.
V12-14 – 12 Then the men said to Lot, “Have you anyone else here? Sons-in-law, sons, daughters, or anyone you have in the city, bring them out of the place. 13 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.” 14 So 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.
so the angels ask Lot who else he has in the city, what other family members he has living in the city. They are giving Lot an opportunity to get them out of the city. Why? Because, as they tell him, they are about to destroy the city.
And again, why are they going to destroy the city? Well, we don’t have to wonder, they tell us! Because the outcry against them before God has become so great that God has dispatched them to destroy the city.
It is interesting that God sends two angels. One would have been enough. Remember, angels are incredibly powerful created beings. Elsewhere in scripture, one angel killed all the firstborn in Egypt. One angel killed 185,000 Syrian soldiers one night after dinner. And one angel would have been enough here. So why send two? Well, maybe one reason is so that two witnesses could be established. Later on, we will see that the penalty of capital punishment requires two credible witnesses. The fate of the city was still to be determined, at least from mans’ perspective. And now, the two angels have witnessed first-hand the wickedness of the people of the city. Guilt is now established beyond all doubt by two credible witnesses.
So, Lot goes to his sons-in-law, and warns them, and tells them they need to get out of the city because God is about to destroy this place. But notice their reaction. They thought he was joking. Which tells us something about Lot’s moral persuasion…that he didn’t have an impact on his family. They didn’t take him seriously. He had no moral persuasion. They apparently didn’t view him as a leader. But it also tells us something about them. They had no sensitivity to the moral evil that surrounded them in the city.
V15-16 – 15 As morning dawned, the angels urged Lot, saying, “Up! Take your wife and your two daughters who are here, lest you be swept away in the punishment of the city.” 16 But he lingered. So the men seized him and his wife and his two daughters by the hand, the Lord being merciful to him, and they brought him out and set him outside the city.
This is really telling, and amazing. Even after what he had already seen, still Lot delayed. So much so that the two angels had to literally grab him and his wife and his two daughters and physically bring them out of the city. The angels had to coax him to leave six times…six times! The picture that is painted here is that they basically had to drag them out. Why in the world are they desiring to stay in such a morally corrupt place?? They felt more secure inside the evil city, with the evil people, than they did outside of the city with God. Notice also that saving Lot and his family, getting them out of the city, was an act of mercy from God. Just as it was when God saved Noah and his family, when he rescued Sarah from Pharoah, and Lot when he was taken. And just as it is when God saves any of us.
But before we are too hard on Lot and his family, maybe we should look in the mirror. How comfy are with the world, with the sin in the world, with the moral evil and depravity in the world? How accustomed are we? How comfortable are we being surrounded by it? Do we even recognize it any longer? In other words, how much do we hate sin?
One of the things I occasionally pray for, is the ability to view sin as God views it. To see sin in the same light that God sees it. And we know how God views it, he abhors it. He hates it. He is repulsed by it. And I’m afraid that in our world today, we have become numb to an awful lot of it, to the point that it doesn’t bother us the way it should. Maybe we think we are “enlightened” or “hip” or “maybe we think we are morally sophisticated. I am reminded of Romans 1:22, which says “professing themselves to be wise, they became fools”.
Regardless of how we might justify our tolerance of evil, or turning a blind eye, or ignoring rampant sin, remember this….never underestimate mans’ ability to rationalize. But I believe one way you can access your walk with God is to take an account of how much sin bothers you and affects you. And if it doesn’t really bother you, perhaps it is time to re-evaluate your relationship with and walk with God. Maybe it’s time we evaluate how much we really believe what we claim to believe.
V17-22 – 17 And as they brought them out, one said, “Escape for your life. Do not look back or stop anywhere in the valley. Escape to the hills, lest you be swept away.” 18 And Lot said to them, “Oh, no, my lords. 19 Behold, your servant has found favor in your sight, and you have shown me great kindness in saving my life. But I cannot escape to the hills, lest the disaster overtake me and I die. 20 Behold, this city is near enough to flee to, and it is a little one. Let me escape there—is it not a little one?—and my life will be saved!” 21 He said to him, “Behold, I grant you this favor also, that I will not overthrow the city of which you have spoken. 22 Escape there quickly, for I can do nothing till you arrive there.” Therefore the name of the city was called Zoar.
So just bringing Lot’s wife and daughters outside the city was not enough. They tell them to flee to the mountains. Do not look back! Do not stop anywhere in the plain. Go to the hills, lest you be swept away in the destruction! The angels are clearly telling them to not linger.
But yet again, what is Lot’s response? Even though he admits and recognizes how gracious the angels have been toward him, he can’t just do what they tell him to do! He has to ask for something. Rather than flee to the mountains like he was instructed, he asks to go to a nearby small town. Amazing! It just doesn’t project a very appreciative attitude does it? Well, the angels are definitely more patient than I would have been.
But more importantly, Lot is pleading with the angels here to spare this smaller city that was included in the plan for destruction. He is basically arguing that since the city is small, it’s not worth bothering with or destroying. And since it is small, its quantity of sin is less, and, therefore, not worth bothering with. Lot’s argument here betrays a lack of faith in God’s judgment. It reveals a severely convoluted sense of righteousness, of sin, and justice. It is a selfish plea for God to spare the small city so that he would have a place to live, without regard to righteousness. And yet, knowing this, God’s grace and mercy once again amazes.
Again, it makes me wonder, even after God has done so much for us, has blessed us in so many ways, how often do we ask for more? What makes up the majority of our prayers? A list of things we would like God to do? A list of ways we want God to bless us even more? Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but does that make up the majority of our prayer life? If so, we sound very much like Lot here.
And that brings us now to the verses that we have been building towards.. V23- 29 read…23 The sun had risen on the earth when Lot came to Zoar. 24 Then the Lord rained on Sodom and Gomorrah sulfur and fire from the Lord out of heaven. 25 And he overthrew those cities, and all the valley, and all the inhabitants of the cities, and what grew on the ground. 26 But Lot’s wife, behind him, looked back, and she became a pillar of salt. 27 And Abraham went early in the morning to the place where he had stood before the Lord. 28 And he looked down toward Sodom and Gomorrah and toward all the land of the valley, and he looked and, behold, the smoke of the land went up like the smoke of a furnace. 29 So it was that, when God destroyed the cities of the valley, God remembered Abraham and sent Lot out of the midst of the overthrow when he overthrew the cities in which Lot had lived.
Notice first that God waits until Lot enters Zoar before the destruction begins. Amazing! Take your time Lot!
And then in V24, it says “Then the Lord rained on Sodom and Gomorrah sulfur and fire from the Lord out of heaven.” and so we see, finally, that the cities are destroyed. Notice that it says twice in this one verse, V24, that it was the Lord who rained down on Sodom and Gomorrah. It was the Lord who rained down sulfur and fire
Now, people have tried to figure out exactly how God did this. Or, is there a scientific, natural explanation to this event. Was it an earthquake, was it a fire, was it small meteorite strikes? What’s going on here? But regardless of what possible explanations are put forth or argued for, I think it is important to keep one thing in mind. It is irresponsible to dismiss scientific or natural explanations based solely on your theological views, but in the same vein, it is also irresponsible to dismiss theological explanations based only on scientific explanations. Because I think the answers can oftentimes be found with both. In other words, even here, with the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, there is an immediate cause, and an ultimate cause. The immediate cause was sulfur and fire. The ultimate cause was God. Sulfur and fire were the instruments, the mechanisms God chose to use.
Now, for those who seek some sort of scientific explanation, understanding that God is the ultimate cause, one of the possible explanations is an earthquake. You might be surprised to hear that fire and lightning can actually occur with earthquakes. And knowing that the area was full of bitumen, this bitumen could have been ignited by that lightning, as well as the gases that are produced with earthquakes.
Another possibility that one might think of naturally is volcanic eruption, However, geologists have basically ruled out the possibility of a volcanic eruption in that area.
Keep in mind too, that scripture says God rained down fire from heaven, so it seems as though that is the direction the fire, sulfur, and burning stone, which is the Latin word for sulfur, were coming from. In other words, from above. An earthquake explanation would seem to have the destruction coming more from below.
In September of 2021, the Smithsonian published a very interesting article. In that article, they describe an ancient city, around the year 1650 BC, that was completely destroyed by, get this, an exploding comet or meteor!!
They are describing the ancient city of Tall-el-Hammam. At the time of its destruction, archeologists say it was the largest of three major cities in the area.
The researchers concluded that warfare, a fire, a volcanic eruption or an earthquake were unlikely explanations, as those events couldn’t have produced heat intense enough to cause the melting that is recorded at the scene.
Because experts failed to find a crater at the site, they attributed the damage to an airburst created when a meteor or comet traveled through the atmosphere at high speed. It would have exploded about 2.5 miles above the city in a blast 1,000 times more powerful than the atomic bomb used at Hiroshima!
The article says that “Air temperatures rapidly rose above 3,600 degrees Fahrenheit,” “Clothing and wood immediately burst into flames. Swords, spears, mudbricks and pottery began to melt. Almost immediately, the entire city was on fire.”
Seconds after the blast, a shockwave ripped through the city at a speed of over 700 miles per hour. The cities’ buildings were reduced to foundations and rubble. “None of the 8,000 people or any animals within the city survived.Their bodies were torn apart and their bones blasted into small fragments.”
Now, this doesn’t prove that this ancient city is the actual Sodom or Gomorrah, but it does offer us a possible answer as to “how” God destroyed them. But remember, the “how” is not as important as the “why”!
Shifting gears just a bit, remember, V 26 But Lot’s wife, behind him, looked back, and she became a pillar of salt. Interesting. She looks back, probably longing to return from the city she was begrudgingly leaving, and because of that, she experiences the same fate as the city that she identifies with.
One thing I find very interesting is that none other than the great Roman-Jewish Historian, Josephus, claims to have seen this pillar of salt in his day. Not only that, but Clement of Rome, who lived about the same time as Josephus, who became a leader in the church after Peter and Paul were killed, and was the 4th Bishop of Rome, also claims to have seen it. And then, about 50 years later, early church father Irenaeus also claimed that it was still standing
But more importantly, is the theological significance and lesson we learn from Lot’s wife. The angels instructed them to not look back. In Luke chapter 9, we read “Yet another said, “I will follow you, Lord, but let me first say farewell to those at my home.” 62 Jesus said to him, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.. The lesson there, and in the preceding verses, was that there is a cost to following Jesus. If you are going to truly follow Jesus, you are all-in. You can’t hold onto Jesus with one hand, and hold onto the world with the other. It doesn’t work like that! And this is sort of the picture we see with Lot’s wife here. She is looking back, not fully committed.
In Luke chapter 17, Jesus says something interesting. He is comparing the destruction of Sodom with the coming of the kingdom of God. Part of what he says is “28 Likewise, just as it was in the days of Lot—they were eating and drinking, buying and selling, planting and building, 29 but on the day when Lot went out from Sodom, fire and sulfur rained from heaven and destroyed them all— 30 so will it be on the day when the Son of Man is revealed. 31 On that day, let the one who is on the housetop, with his goods in the house, not come down to take them away, and likewise let the one who is in the field not turn back. 32 Remember Lot’s wife.”These are the words of Jesus!
Some interpret this as Jesus implying that Lot’s wife didn’t just merely look back, but that she actually went back. She returned to the city! And in doing so, disobeyed what the angels commanded her not to do. In doing so, she suffered the same fate as the others in the city.
V27-29 – 27 And Abraham went early in the morning to the place where he had stood before the Lord. 28 And he looked down toward Sodom and Gomorrah and toward all the land of the valley, and he looked and, behold, the smoke of the land went up like the smoke of a furnace. 29 So it was that, when God destroyed the cities of the valley, God remembered Abraham and sent Lot out of the midst of the overthrow when he overthrew the cities in which Lot had lived.
So, these verses serve to remind us of the earlier conversation Abraham had with God. Remember, Abraham had gotten God all the way down to asking “if there are 10 righteous people in the city, would you still destroy the city?” And God, answered Abraham, For the sake of the 10, He would not destroy the city.
So Abraham gets up early in the morning, goes to his vantage point and looks out over Sodom and Gomorrah to learn the outcome. And upon seeing the destruction and the smoke rising from the cities, what he learns is that Sodom did not have even 10 righteous people living in it.
The story of Sodom and Gomorrah is truly a sad one. It is sad that cities are completely destroyed. It’s sad that people can become that depraved and wicked. Now you and I can’t change what happened. But what we can do is try and learn from it. And what we need to learn and understand I think are a couple of things.
First, that God hates sin. And his perfect justice demands and requires that He punishes sin. And the Bible teaches in Romans 6:23 that the wages of sin is death.
Second, God will not destroy the righteous along with the wicked. We will all be judged by God when we die. And you will either be found righteous or guilty. If you are guilty, the penalty is steep, it is eternal separation from God in Hell. If you are judged to be righteous, you get to be on the Home team, with God, in Heaven for all eternity.
And so like I mentioned in the last episode I believe, the only question is, how can you be judged as being righteous? Well, on your own, you cannot. Period. Christianity is not like all other religions, where at the end of your life your good deeds are weighed against your bad deeds, and as long as your good deeds outweigh your bad deeds, you get in. Sorry, it doesn’t work like that. That is a works-based religion mentality. But the Bible teaches that it is not by your works that you are saved. It is by your belief and trust in Christ. And then His righteousness is imputed to you. That is why Jesus came in the first place, to pay your price, because you couldn’t do it on your own. And if you believe in Christ, trust Him as Lord and Savior, then His righteousness is imputed to you, so that God sees you as righteous. Eph 2:8-9 “ 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast.
And the last lesson here I think is found in Lot’s hesitancy to leave Sodom, and in his wife’s looking back, or actually returning to the city, desiring to hold onto the world she was leaving. Look, as I said before, this whole God thing, this following Jesus is not a halfway thing. You’re either all-in, or you’re not in at all. Once you make the decision, don’t look back. Keep your heart focused on God. Keep your eyes on Jesus Christ. And don’t look back.
Sodom and Gomorrah is a stark reminder of the harsh reality of sin, of living apart from God and outside of His will for our lives, and just how wicked we have the capacity to become. It’s also a very sobering reminder of just how much God hates sin. It is honestly, in this modern age we live in, sometimes hard for us to relate to and fully understand this level of destruction. This is not easy stuff here! But the best chance you have is to stay close to God and get to know Him better. But that doesn’t just happen by accident. Maybe get off your phone for a few minutes each day, get out from in front of the TV for a while, and spend a little more time in prayer and in His word each day. It will make a big difference in how you view the world, and how you walk through the inevitable difficulties and challenges of life. And I believe it is the only way to find lasting peace in your life.