Most understand: God sent two angels to Sodom. Abraham’s nephew, Lot, invited them to stay the night in his house. The men of the city surrounded the house, demanding to have sex with the visitors. So, God destroyed the cities after Lot fled to safety.
Many take this as proof that homosexuals are so evil that they must be wiped out. This reinforces a seemingly instinctive predisposition against homosexuals. However, there’s a lot more to this story, including a dire warning to the church today.
Others view this story with horror. What kind of good loving God would wipe out an entire district? “My god would never do that!” Well I’ve got news for you: your god’s not the God of the Bible. So many dismiss the old testament because of such horrors, completely overlooking Jesus’ warnings that the cities he preached would be worse off on judgement day than Sodom and Gomorrah. They ignore God striking down various people during Acts, and then there’s Revelation…
I recommend before considering my commentary, you read the full story in Genesis 19. You should also read the preceding chapter. For more detail, I recommend reading Jasher 18 and 19. This ancient Jewish chronicle provides a lot more detail of what was actually going on in these cities.
In the Bible, the first mention of Sodom’s evil is
Genesis 13:13 But the men of Sodom were wicked and extremely unholy in the Lord’s eyes.
Genesis 14 tells of how they broke a vassal treaty and were consequently attacked by their master’s armies. Lot was taken captive, but Abraham rescued him with his personal militia. When the king of Sodom offered all the rescued goods as a reward, Abraham refused to accept anything. He wanted no appearance of benefiting from Sodom’s evil.
1400 years later, God compared Israel’s unholiness to Sodom
Jeremiah 23:14 So, I’ve seen a horrible thing in the prophets of Jerusalem: They sleep with other men’s wives and walk in lies. They support those who do evil and no one sees the error of his ways. They’re all like Sodom and Gomorrah to me.
And Ezekiel echoes Jasher’s summary of Sodom’s sin
Ezekiel 16:49 Look, this was the fault of your sister Sodom: pride, plenty to eat, and she had a lot of free time, along with her daughters; and she failed to support the poor and needy.
Jasher 19:44 And the Lord was provoked at this and at everything the cities of Sodom did, for they had plenty of food and lived in peace, but still would not support the poor and the needy, and in those days their evil doings and sins became unbearable to the Lord.
Peter and Jude also provide supporting detail
2 Peter 2:9 The Lord knows how to save the godly out of difficult times, and to keep the ungodly to be punished on the day of judgement. 10But most importantly those who indulge in mortal defilement and despise government. They presume to be wise and they’re stubborn and speak against authorities without restraint.
Jude 1:7 Similarly, Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding cities, indulged in fornication and sought after those who were corrupt. They are presented as an example of suffering the vengeance of eternal fire. 8Likewise, these filthy dreamers defile themselves, despise government and speak evil of authorities … 10But they speak evil of things they have no experience in, but only what they know naturally, as brute animals – they corrupt themselves with such things.
The Bible and the book of Jasher, unlike many “Christians”, don’t dwell on Sodom’s homosexuality, but rather their contempt for the poor, strangers, government and sexual purity. It’s not because they practiced homosexuality that they were so evil; but because they were so evil, they also practiced homosexuality.
When we read Genesis 18 and 19, we read contrasting treatment of strangers. Abraham sees three guys passing by his place and immediately rushes over to them, demanding they stop and rest in his garden, while he prepares a feast for them. I imagine Abraham delighted in entertaining strangers; he loved mixing with other cultures and hearing about their customs and politics. In a naïve way, Abraham unintentionally demonstrates the goodness of God and his love for all people. When Jesus reveals his plan to destroy the district of Sodom, although Abraham hates their ways, he barters on their behalf that God would spare them even if there were only 10 righteous people left in that area.
That evening, the two angels arrived in Sodom intending to camp outside. But Lot insisted they come under his roof. He too prepared a feast for them, following in his uncle’s ways. But every man of that city surrounded Lot’s house, demanding sex with the strangers. It’s not that they just got horny seeing a couple of handsome studs they wanted to make love with, but we see their pure hatred for strangers – that the whole city came out to gang-rape them. Their obsession could not be appeased with the offering of Lot’s gorgeous virgin daughters, nor suppressed by being struck blind by the angels. They were inconsolably consumed by their hatred for strangers.
While the people of Sodom made love to everyone,
They certainly did not love everyone.
The book of Jasher describes how they conspired to starve strangers to death, and even executed anyone who took pity on them. They had regional orgies four times a year. Men would watch their wives and their virgin daughters having sex with other men and not care one bit. Their judges were corrupt, not just interpreting laws as they pleased, but making up laws on the spot to support their townsfolk’s harassment of strangers.
Whether you think Jasher is reliable or not. The scriptures I’ve presented sufficiently support my case.
A dire warning
So those who take this story as precedent to keep away from LGBT people are in fact guilty of the actual sin of Sodom: the hatred of strangers and failure to support the poor and needy. Hatred does not necessarily mean bullying others but starts by withholding our compassion and charity.
This also applies to those who despise compassion towards other people such as Muslims. My familiarity with history and current events leads to deep concerns against Islam, but to therefore shun Muslims, including to broadly advertise such concerns without reinforcing compassion towards them, is the same as the sin of Sodom. I’m disgusted with what I see in some parts of the church, where people are so up in arms against the “Islamic invasion”, that they even ostracize my friends who volunteer in refugee care. This is just like the people of Sodom executing those who acted out of pity toward the strangers they were starving to death.
Those same people often post on Facebook against their government and politicians, thus showing contempt for God, who appointed them in authority over us. I am disappointed with Germany’s uncontrolled immigration and poor accountability of immigrants, but to speak against the government acts in defiance to scripture.
1 Timothy 2:1 I encourage you firstly, to pray and intercede and give thanks on behalf of all people 2For Kings and all authorities – that we might lead a quiet and peaceful life in all godliness and honesty.
1 Peter 2:17 Honor all people. Love fellow Christians. Respect God. Honor the King.
Romans 13:1 Let everyone submit to the authorities over them. For there is no authority without God. They are appointed by God.
Exodus 22:28 Don’t speak out against the gods or say bad things against the ruler of your people.
Paul and Peter were writing to people with very ungodly authorities who persecuted them. So, you are therefore without excuse. Also, your boss, your teacher and your coach are authorities that God has appointed over you – whether good or bad, to shape your character for a time. Pray for them and honor them likewise. Do not talk badly of them and discourage others from doing so. Only speak honorably of them. This also applies to governors of other lands such as Trump, Erdogan, Putin, etc. Each of these, for better or worse are God-appointed authorities for whom we must pray and whom we must honor.
Genesis 19:6 And Lot went outside and shut the door behind him, 7and said, “Please, my brothers, don’t do such a wicked thing. 8Look, I have two virgin daughters. Please let me bring them out to you, and you can do whatever you like with them, just don’t do anything to these men, since they came under the protection of my house.”
Many take great offense at this. How could a godly man offer up his daughters to such mistreatment for a stranger? I understand that in that part of the world, even under Islamic law, a stranger, even an enemy, is to be protected before one’s own family. We must remain open to other cultures behaving differently to our own, and not judge them according to our own values. Jesus said
Luke 14:26 If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters – even his own life, he can’t be my disciple.
Lot demonstrates precisely this – that the welfare of strangers is more important than one’s own family – for the kingdom of Heaven. Now this does not mean we should be reckless, and certainly we should seek to preserve ourselves so that we can continue ministering to others, but we must also be prepared at any time to make the ultimate sacrifice for godliness – just as God sacrificed his only son for us. We must remember that this life, which is temporary is given in exchange for our eternal one.
As in the days of Lot, so will it be when Jesus returns
If the world will be like Sodom and Gomorrah when Jesus returns, we might expect a world that lives in abundance and at peace. We should expect corrupt judges who support oppression of strangers, even lynchings. We should expect regular, officially organized orgies, and gang rape of men will be as commonplace as women being raped. As bad as the world might seem, it’s nothing like this. But maybe this picture will only be complete at the end of the tribulation. If the church is raptured out of this world, it will not take long for morality to deteriorate to this extent.
2 Peter 2:4 But if God didn’t spare the angels that sinned, but cast them into Hell, and imprisoned them in chains of darkness to be kept for judgement; 5and he didn’t spare the old world, but saved Noah’s family of eight, a preacher of godliness, and brought the flood on the world of the ungodly; 7and delivered Lot, who was burdened with the filthy conversation of the wicked: 8(Since that righteous mad lived among them, seeing and hearing their lawless ways troubled his righteous soul daily)
9The Lord knows how to save the godly from trouble,
and to keep the ungodly for the day of judgement to be punished.
I pray that this challenges you to think about this story in a different light.