The Wrath of the Gods: Sodom and Gomorrah
It is one of the largest catastrophes mentioned in the Bible, and one that—though still in dispute between archaeologists—has possibly been verified as true. It is the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah by the hand of God. The account of the event is mentioned in detail in chapters 18 and 19 of Genesis.
In the account, God was furious with the two cities of Sodom and Gomorrah because of their sins and informed Abraham that he was going to destroy both. Abraham pleaded for mercy, asking God to spare the cities because his nephew Lot and his family lived there. While it is not clear what the sins being practiced by the two cities were, scholars believe that the issue leading to the event was homosexuality because of the use of the term ‘sodomy’, though other parts of the Bible mention the cities were guilty of arrogance, unconcern and gluttony. In summary, it becomes obvious that the above sins implicate not following and worshipping the God and his commands.
It is interesting to see that the Bible says God listened to protests against the two cities from people, without him having direct experience as to their validity.
The outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is so great and their sin so grievous that I will go down and see if what they have done is as bad as the outcry that has reached me. If not, I will know. Genesis 18:20-21
How is it possible for an all knowing God not to know if what he has been told is true or not, so that he had to go down to see? Interestingly, for this purpose he uses two of his angels, sending them to Earth to investigate the issue.
The two angels arrived at Sodom in the evening, and Lot was sitting in the gateway of the city. When he saw them, he got up to meet them and bowed down with his face to the ground. Genesis 19:1
Then the angels inform Lot to take his family out of the city of Sodom because they were going to destroy both cities as commanded by God. It is worth noting that it is not God who destroyed the cities, but his angels who were carrying out his command. The only people that would survive would be the obedient servants of God, whom the angles inform of the events to come. The angels had a strict schedule and urged Lot to hurry before the city is punished—and ‘punished’ is the exact word used in Genesis 19:15.
The two men said to Lot, ’Do you have anyone else here—sons-in-law, sons or daughters, or anyone else in the city who belongs to you? Get them out of here, because we are going to destroy this place. The outcry to the Lord against its people is so great that he has sent us to destroy it. Genesis 19:12-13
Before the destruction, Lot asks the angels not to destroy the city of Zoar, since that was the place that he wanted to live. The angels granted this request and gave him a warning: to run and not look back, and not stop anywhere on the plain before reaching the mountains.
Flee for your lives! Don’t look back, and don’t stop anywhere in the plain! Flee to the mountains or you will be swept away! Genesis 19:17
A rain of burning sulphur then fell from the sky on Sodom and Gomorrah, completely destroying the cities. While leaving, Lot’s wife succumbed to her curiosity and turned to look upon the burning cities. As a result, she turned into a pillar of salt. The question here is, first of all, why they got the specific command not to look back. Is it because the angels did not want them to see how the cities were destroyed? If this was the reason, then why?
Many archaeologists agree that the ruins of Sodom and Gomorrah have been discovered to the southeast of the Dead Sea. The modern names of the cities are Babeth-Dhra and Numeira. The evidence found shows that both cities were destroyed by an enormous fire leaving debris more than three feet thick. The scientific explanation for this destruction has been proposed by geologist Frederick Clapp who suggests that an earthquake caused deposits of bitumen to come out of the earth and ignite, thus destroying the cities.
If we go back to the Genesis story of the destruction of the cities, we have a non-all-knowing God whose angels execute his commands and allow favourable arrangements toward the obedient believers while executing those that have stopped believing and following him. It is a common pattern…