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One of the most talked about Biblical events among believers is the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. Part of the reason for this discussion is because of the circumstances surrounding the destruction of several major cities. The debate is based around whether or not the cities were wiped out because of homosexuality.
Although the story we’re familiar with is taken from Genesis 18-20, we need to step back a bit to the War of The Kings that happens in Genesis 14. It is there we’re first introduced to the cities of the plain.
“And it came to pass in the days of Amraphel king of Shinar, Arioch king of Ellasar, Chedorlaomer king of Elam, and Tidal king of nations; That these made war with Bera king of Sodom, and with Birsha king of Gomorrah, Shinab king of Admah, and Shemeber king of Zeboiim, and the king of Bela, which is Zoar. All these were joined together in the vale of Siddim, which is the salt sea.” – Genesis 14:1-3
The above verses introduced a lot of people and a lot of new nations, so let’s break them down:
The Four Kings of The Plain
- Amraphel: King of Shinar
- Arioch: King of Ellasar
- Chedorlaomer: King of Elam
- Tidal: King of Nations
The Five Kings of The Plain
- Bera: King of Sodom
- Birsha: King of Gomorrah
- Shinab: King of Admah
- Shemeber: King of Zeboiim
- Unnamed: King of Bela (Zoar)
The War of The Kings
According to the Bible, all of the kings involved in the war were under Chedorlaomer, the king of Elam. We don’t know much about these kings, but what we do know is the Elam was one of the five sons of Shem (Genesis 10:22).
“Twelve years they served Chedorlaomer, and in the thirteenth year they rebelled. And in the fourteenth year came Chedorlaomer, and the kings that were with him, and smote the Rephaims in Ashteroth Karnaim, and the Zuzims in Ham, and the Emims in Shaveh Kiriathaim” – Genesis 14:4-5
Now that we have a little bit more information about who started what, let’s break it down again.
- The five kings served Chedorlaomer for 12 years.
- The five kings rebelled in year 13.
- Chedorlaomer retaliated in year 14.
Chedorlaomer’s reaction to the rebellion didn’t come until a year later, but his attack wasn’t directed at the kings that rebelled. He started by attacking their allies:
- Rephaims: located in Ashteroth Karnaim
- Zuzims: located in Ham
- Emims: located Shaveh Kiriathaim
The Destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah
The mainstream teaching is that Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed due to homosexuality, but is that true or is that just a false teaching that has been accepted because it has been said over and over again? While the exact reasons aren’t given in the actual story, we are told that their sin was “very grievous”.
“And the LORD said, Because the cry of Sodom and Gomorrah is great, and because their sin is very grievous; I will go down now, and see whether they have done altogether according to the cry of it, which is come unto me; and if not, I will know.” – Genesis 18:20-21
Again, nothing specific is given in these verse, but we do find a full list in Ezekiel 16:49-50
“Behold, this was the iniquity of thy sister Sodom, pride, fulness of bread, and abundance of idleness was in her and in her daughters, neither did she strengthen the hand of the poor and needy. And they were haughty, and committed abomination before me: therefore I took them away as I saw good.” – Ezekiel 16:49-50
All The Sins of Sodom
- Fullness of Bread (gluttony)
- Idleness (sloth)
- Oppressed The Poor
- Committed Abomination
While nothing on the list specifically references homosexuality, it is at least somewhat implied in the story itself, but there was more to it than just homosexuality. There are actually two different things happening simultaneously in the story itself:
- The men of the city are actively wanting to rape angels.
- The men of the city want to perform a homosexual act with the angels.
That first item is a point of contention for many people because of the implications. The men of Sodom specifically wanted to rape the angels. This raises several questions:
- If angels were not capable of sex, why not just show the people they were angels?
- If angels are capable of sex, the story needs to be looked at more in depth.
There is evidence in the New Testament that not only did the people of Sodom want to rape the angels, but they may have been aware that they were angels, which is why they gathered in such a large number in front of Lot’s house.
“And the angels which kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation, he hath reserved in everlasting chains under darkness unto the judgment of the great day. Even as Sodom and Gomorrha, and the cities about them in like manner, giving themselves over to fornication, and going after strange flesh, are set forth for an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire.” – Jude 1:6-7
Jude addresses angels leaving their own habitation, but his choice of words leading into his mention of Sodom and Gomorrah draws some attention. “Even as” is a comparison. He’s comparing what the angels did to what the people in Sodom and Gomorrah did. According to Jude, they went after “strange flesh”. Paul clarifies that there is indeed such thing as celestial flesh and it is different than terrestrial flesh.
“All flesh is not the same flesh: but there is one kind of flesh of men, another flesh of beasts, another of fishes, and another of birds. There are also celestial bodies, and bodies terrestrial: but the glory of the celestial is one, and the glory of the terrestrial is another.” – 1 Corinthians 15:39-40
Jude compares the events because the reverse happened in Genesis 6 when the sons of God (angels) started taking the daughters of men (human women) and having giant offspring (nephilim). The reason this is important is because prior to the attempted rape of the angels, God had agreed to spare all five cities if there were only ten righteous people:
“And he said, Oh let not the Lord be angry, and I will speak yet but this once: Peradventure ten shall be found there. And he said, I will not destroy it for ten’s sake.” – Genesis 18:32
The people in the city didn’t suddenly becoming homosexual rapists when the angels showed up. Those people were already who they were, and God was still willing to spare the city. So it is safe to conclude that homosexuality was not the reason for the cities being destroyed. It was most likely the attempted rape of the angels that triggered the destruction of the cities. This may also be what God was referring to in Ezekiel when he mentions that they “committed abomination”. There are only two Biblically solid conclusions we can draw from the story:
- God was willing to spare the people BEFORE the attempted rape of the angels.
- God was not willing to spare the people AFTER the attempted rape of the angels.
Zoar Spared For Lot’s Sake
After the men of Sodom made up their mind to go after the angels, the decision was made to wipe out all five cities. Fearing that he and his family might not make it out in time, Lot asked the Lord to spare Zoar.
“And Lot said unto them, Oh, not so, my Lord: Behold now, thy servant hath found grace in thy sight, and thou hast magnified thy mercy, which thou hast shewed unto me in saving my life; and I cannot escape to the mountain, lest some evil take me, and I die: Behold now, this city is near to flee unto, and it is a little one: Oh, let me escape thither, (is it not a little one?) and my soul shall live. And he said unto him, See, I have accepted thee concerning this thing also, that I will not overthrow this city, for the which thou hast spoken. Haste thee, escape thither; for I cannot do any thing till thou be come thither. Therefore the name of the city was called Zoar.” – Genesis 19:18-22
Before reaching Zoar, Lot’s wife is turned to salt (Genesis 19:26), and only he and his two daughters survive the ordeal. It is also in Zoar that Lot becomes the father of the Moabite and Ammonites (Genesis 19:30-38).
The events at Sodom and Gomorrah are important for establishing God’s willingness to be a fair judge of sin, God’s willingness to forgive sins for the sake of a few, God’s ability to spare and preserve the innocent, and to establish the lineage of Lot.
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