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More than sixteen years ago, when archaeologists finally peeled back the layers of the large Tall el-Hamman mound near the northern edge of the Dead Sea, reports from project director Dr. Steven Collins and scientific analysis director Dr. Phillip Silvia, led to the conclusion that the site of ancient Sodom had most likely been found.
We find the story of Sodom and Gomorrah in the book of Genesis. God rained fire from the sky on the cities in the area because of their decadent sins, destroying all Sodom’s inhabitants except for Lot and his two daughters. Archaeological evidence uncovered in this area reveals indications of a catastrophic cosmic event that laid waste to a large ancient city fitting ancient Sodom’s description.
What the Bible tells us about the sins of this city is a sobering indictment about the direction of modern culture. The story of Sodom begins in Genesis 13 where we see Abraham (then called Abram) and his nephew Lot living in Canaan between Bethel and Ai. When it became evident they would need to separate in order to find adequate pasture land for their flocks, Abraham gave Lot the first choice of where to settle. He decided to journey eastward, settling finally at Sodom.
Lot was now cut off from fellowship with his uncle with whom he shared his faith in the one true God, and his decision would eventually have a very negative impact on his family. Life in Sodom offered Lot and his family a welcome break from the harder shepherding life. It was a wealthy boom town with a high standard of living, but with a dark underside of terrible immorality (Genesis 13:13).
Approximately 2,000 years later Jesus made this comment about Sodom: “... just as it was in the days of Lot—they were eating and drinking, buying and selling, planting and building” (Luke 17:28). Christ’s statement is in the context of a description of the end of this age, and also references the time of Noah. Eating, drinking, buying and selling is not wrong, but these examples highlight the fact people failed to heed God’s warning message to change their lives in the face of impending judgment.
When the Lord and two angels, appearing in human form, visited Abraham at his camp He told Abraham He planned to assess what was happening in Sodom,: “...because their sin is very grave, I will go down now and see whether they have done altogether according to the outcry that has come to Me…” (Genesis 18:20-21).
Abraham then began one of history’s great negotiations, entreating God not to destroy the righteous with the wicked. It was finally agreed God would withhold the destruction of Sodom for the sake of 10 righteous inhabitants. But in Sodom not even 10 righteous could be found in a city of tens of thousands, and only Lot and his immediate family were spared.
When the angels arrived in Sodom to warn Lot to flee, Lot urged them to come into his home, because he knew they would not be safe. Shockingly, a crowd of young and old men surrounded the house, yelling to Lot to bring out the two “that we may know them carnally” (Genesis 19:5). Far from being hospitable to guests, these men wanted, horrifically, to gang-rape the visitors!
The two angels interrupted the confrontation, dragging Lot back into his home and striking the crowd blind. Lot was then given a brief opportunity to warn his two sons-in-law of the city’s coming destruction, but they thought it was all a joke and refused to flee with him.
The next morning the two angels urged Lot to take his wife and daughters and flee into the nearby mountains, because the judgment of God was about to occur. As Lot took temporary shelter in Zoar, “the Lord rained brimstone and fire on Sodom and Gomorrah… So He overthrew those cities, all the plain, all the inhabitants of the cities, and what grew on the ground” (Genesis 19: 23-25). The smoke and fire rose so high that Abraham could see the conflagration from his camp near present-day Hebron, south of Jerusalem.
Elements of the Greco-Roman culture of the first century also resembled that of Sodom. The Apostle Paul wrote about this, explaining where the rejection of God that produces such thinking leads: “For this reason God gave them up to vile passions. For even their women exchanged the natural use for what was against nature. Likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman burned in their lust for one another, men with men committing what is shameful, and receiving in themselves the penalty of their error which was their due” (Romans 1:26-27).
Western society has been experiencing a “Sodom moment” for a number of years with the push for the acceptance of homosexuality and sex before marriage expanding to encapsulated the LGBTQ movement. The Apostle Peter wrote about Sodom in the context of God’s judgment at the end of the age, saying that God “turn[ed] the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah into ashes, condemned them to destruction, making them an example to those who afterward would live ungodly” (2 Peter 2:6).
What these accounts tell us is that good, well-intentioned people can get mesmerized and sucked into a culture even if they do not practice the worst aspects of the sinful lifestyles themselves. The story of Lot and Sodom is a warning that has much to teach us.
Beyond Today Magazine (Jan-Feb 2022)