Sodom and Gomorrah…the names are virtually synonymous with evil, sin, and judgment. How did these cities gain this dubious notoriety? Let us look into the Old Testament record and learn about these most sinful of peoples.
Historical background and story
The cities of Sodom and Gomorrah were first mentioned in Genesis 10:19. Abram, and his nephew Lot, had been traveling together, but their group had gotten too big, “…so that the land could not support both of them dwelling together…” (Genesis 13:6 ESV). They decided to separate into two different groups. Lot chose to settle near the town of Sodom.
We read this in Genesis 13:13, “Now the men of Sodom were wicked, great sinners against the Lord” (ESV). The cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, and several of the surrounding cities, were so sinful that God decided to destroy them (Genesis 18:20-21). Abraham  interceded for the people of the two cities, motivated additionally because his nephew, Lot, lived there. The Bible tells us that, even with all his failings, Lot was a righteous man (2 Peter 2:7-8). Abraham pleaded with the Lord, knowing His mercy and goodness (Genesis 18:25). The Lord finally said that the cities would be spared if ten righteous people could be found there (Genesis 18:33). However, there were not even ten righteous in that evil city.
The Bible indicates that the city’s wickedness had been going on for some time. Genesis 18:20 and 19:13 tell us that the outcry caused by these people’s sinfulness had “become great”, indicating that an amount of time had transpired while the judgment built up against them. God’s hesitancy to bring judgment against them can be seen as an act of mercy on His part. By giving them more time, God expected Lot to be an influence on their society . Lot should have been preaching the truth of God to them. However, by the looks of things, he failed to do this.
Angels and evil in the city
The Lord’s angels made their way into the town of Sodom. Lot convinced the angels to spend the night at his house instead of their original plan, which was to spend the night in the town square (Genesis 19:3). The incredible wickedness of the men of Sodom was to be revealed during this night. The Bible says that every last man, young and old, surrounded Lot’s house in order to have homosexual relations with the two angels. The wicked townsmen were probably unaware that the men were angels, but probably believed them to be Lot’s house guests. The perversion of the inhabitants of Sodom is where the term ‘sodomy’ comes from and applies to homosexuality between males. This truly was a wicked and vile city deserving of God’s judgment.
In order to distract the evil Sodomites from their perverted quest concerning the angels, Lot offered his daughters to the men as substitutes. The Sodomites refused and attempted to force their way into Lot’s home. The angels blinded the men of the city and told Lot that he should gather his family in order to flee the city because it would soon be destroyed.
Therefore, God saved Lot, Lot’s wife, and his two daughters. The angels led them safely out of the city with the instruction that they were not to look back. Nevertheless, the Bible tells us that Lot’s wife did look back…and was turned into a pillar of salt (Genesis 19:26). Disobeying God usually reaps dire consequences. Once Lot’s family was out of Sodom, the Lord rained sulfur and fire from heaven on Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 19:24), destroying all the inhabitants and everything that grew on the ground.
Sodom’s other sins
Sexual sins were not the only sins of Sodom and Gomorrah. The Bible tells us that they were guilty of sinful pride . In addition, they were selfish; they had an overabundance of food and wealth, but would not take care of the poor and needy (Ezekiel 16:49).
Isaiah 3:9 tells us that not only were Sodom and Gomorrah guilty of all these sins against God, but they were arrogant about it, not thinking that sin against God was something shameful.
Lessons from Sodom and Gomorrah
(1) God will judge those who reject Him. Several time in the Bible the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah were given as examples of God’s judgment on those who reject Him and rebel against His Lordship (Luke 10:12, 17:29; 2 Peter 2:6; Jude 1:7). God allowed the sins of Sodom and Gomorrah to continue until it was clear that they were a sinful people, who relished in sin, and who continually chose to persist in it. God’s mercy is long-suffering, but there will be a day of judgment for all.
(2) Jesus told His disciples that the Day of Judgment would be worse for the people who rejected His message than it was for Sodom and Gomorrah (Matthew 10:15, 11:23-24). As bad as the sins of the people of Sodom and Gomorrah were, the Bible says that we are more accountable because we know the full story of God’s plan and provision for our salvation. We know that Jesus came and died on a cross for our sins. We know how we can be forgiven and receive eternal life.
(3) It appeared that Lot had allowed himself to be influenced by the inhabitants of Sodom more than he influenced them. We Christians must take care, as we attempt to influence our world for Christ, that we do not allow the temptations of the world to corrupt us (1 Corinthians 15:33).
(4) Lot had been slow to speak up for God, if he spoke up for Him at all, so when he finally spoke up, no one took him seriously (Genesis 19:9, 14). When we publicly compromise our beliefs, it becomes much more difficult to be taken seriously when we do stand our ground later. If our walk does not match our talk, we are labeled hypocrites…and rightly so.
(5) Lot knew early on that Sodom was a sinful city. Still, the Bible tells us that, even though he was aware of their sin, he remained among them (2 Peter 2:8). In fact, the Bible indicates that Lot was drawn ever closer to the city as time went by. First, he “pitched his tent toward Sodom” (Genesis 13:12), then he “dwelt in Sodom” (Genesis 14:12), and finally he lived in the city and “sat in the gate of Sodom” (Genesis 19:1). If we dabble with sin, we are often pulled into it a little at a time, without noticing until we are fully involved. The safest way to avoid sin is to stay far from its tempting influence.
The biblical record of Sodom and Gomorrah is one of the darkest stories in the Bible. It is a glaring example of sin’s power and pull. The story gives us a glimpse of how far sinful humanity will go when they reject God and indulge in evil rebellion against Him.
However, in this story we also see the mercy and grace of God in that He made a way of escape for those who trusted in the offer of salvation from the coming judgment. That offer is still good today. Jesus Christ died on a cross so that, by trusting in Him for our salvation, we will be saved from a fiery judgment and delivered into eternal life. Our eternal destination depends on whether we choose to trust Jesus or reject Him. The former leads to eternal life, the latter leads to judgment such as Sodom and Gomorrah experienced.
“But I tell you that it will be more tolerable on the day of judgment for the land of Sodom than for you.” (Matthew 11:24 ESV).
Here are some more Bible studies for you to consider:
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version
“Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.”
YouTube video “Live like that” by Sidewalk Prophets