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Sodom and Gomorrah

 Sodom and Gomorrah

Sodom and Gomorrah[1] were wealthy communities located in the Dead Sea region.  Among their riches was an abundance of bitumen, water, and fertile soil. 

Bitumen to them is what oil is to the United States.  It’s a black or brown oily substance, flammable, gelatinous, tar-like, and contains a waterproofing agent.  Just as there are many derivatives from oil (petroleum jelly, tar, gasoline, paraffin wax, fuel oil, Kerosene, and jet fuel, to name a few), there are just as many derivatives from bitumen.   If you need a visual for bitumen, think “asphalt.”  They used it on rooftops as a water-repellant and burned it at the end of poles to light the night.  Noah’s descendants used it between mud bricks when they built the Tower of Babel.    

Bitumen is one of many natural resources that turned Sodom and Gomorrah into a rich community.  Their riches were so great that neighboring kingdoms often attacked them and took away portions of their wealth and food.  (Genesis 14:11)  But apparently Sodom and Gomorrah didn’t encounter enough strife from these kingdoms to make them seek God’s help or His favor.  God told Abraham: 

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

What was Sodom’s and Gomorrah’s sin against God? 

In my quest to answer this question, I encountered a lot of debate regarding many scholars’ inability to definitively prove what sin was committed.  I don’t believe the answer is hard to find.  I found eight (8) of them in the Old Testament, and several from the teachings of Jesus. 

Sins No. 1 and 2:  Lack of Hospitality and Stubbornness

If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, shake the dust off your feet when you leave that home or town.  I tell you the truth, it will be more bearable for Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgment than for that town.”  —Matthew 10:14

 Anytime Jesus uses the Old Testament as a point of reference, it always relates to the message He’s conveying to His audience.  Here, He is talking to the disciples and warning them not to waste time with those who refuse to listen and obey.  Then he goes on to compare these hardheaded people with Sodom and Gomorrah.  There would be no need to make such comparisons if the subjects didn’t have something in common. 

Some believe the lack of hospitality was so great among these people that they treated strangers rudely, to the point of disfiguring some and casting out others.  I ran across one such incident in my reading that mentioned that these two communities would give a bed to a stranger, but if he were too short, they would stretch out his body to make it fit; if he were too long, they’d cut off his legs.  Since this account is not the crucial point of this editorial, I did not spend time researching to prove or disprove this particular matter.  However, to think a people would be this inhospitable is beyond me. 

Sins No. 3, 4 and 5:  Sexual Immorality, Lying, and Adultery

 They called to Lot, ‘Where are the men who came to you tonight?  Bring them out to us so that we can have sex with them.’” —Genesis 19:5

 And among the prophets of Jerusalem I have seen something horrible:  They commit adultery and live a lie.  They strengthen the hands of evildoers, so that no one turns from his wickedness.  They are all like Sodom to me, the people of Jerusalem are like Gomorrah.”  —Jeremiah 23:14

 The New International Version (NIV) uses the words “sex with them” and the King James Version (KJV) uses the word “know them.”  No matter how we interpret these words, you get the idea these people didn’t want to sit and have supper with these men (angels).  Their intentions weren’t good.  If you read further: 

 Lot went outside to meet them and shut the door behind him and said, ‘No, my friends. Don’t do this wicked thing.  Look, I have two daughters who have never slept with a man.  Let me bring them out to you, and you can do what you like with them.  But don’t do anything to these men, for they have come under the protection of my roof.’”  —Genesis 19:6-8

 ‘Get out of our way,’ they replied.”  —Genesis 19:9

 For Lot to offer his daughters as an appeasement for the insatiable appetite of these men, leads me to conclude one of their sins included sexual misconduct. 

Also, look at the following: 

 In a similar way, Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding towns gave themselves up to sexual immorality and perversion.  They serve as an example of those who suffer the punishment of eternal fire.”  —Jude 1:7

 Apart from the obvious, there’s something very interesting here that I must point out.  Although Sodom and Gomorrah are mentioned many times in the bible, Jude makes it clear they weren’t the only cities destroyed.  As I read this scripture again, I can’t ignore what Jude says “. . . Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding towns. . . .”  

 Archaeologists have found many sites with charred remains all over the southern portions of the Dead Sea.  They have a difficult time deciphering which sites are truly Sodom and Gomorrah. 

In addition, Sodom, Gomorrah, and the surrounding towns had problems with adultery and lying. 

Sins No. 6, 7 and 8:  Arrogance, Unkindness, and Haughtiness. 

 Now this was the sin of your sister Sodom:  She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy.  They were haughty and did detestable things before me.  Therefore, I did away with them as you have seen.”  —Ezekiel 16:49-50

 How many times have we been unkind to those providing service, or our neighbors?  Listen to God as He speaks through Paul: 

 Love must be sincere.  Hate what is evil; cling to what is good.  Be devoted to one another in brotherly love.  Honor one another above yourselves.  Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord.  Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.  Share with God’s people who are in need.  Practice hospitality.”  —Romans 12:9-13

 On the contrary:  If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.  In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.  Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” —Romans 12:20-21

 Born out of Sodom’s and Gomorrah’s wealth was the spirit of arrogance, which bred haughtiness, which bred unkindness.  To point the finger at wealthy Americans who haven’t been as generous as they should isn’t going far enough.  People of all economic status share these shortcomings. 

It stems from the belief that everything we have and worked for is derived from our own hands.  But what is success, money, or power apart from God? 

Sodom and Gomorrah firmly believed their prosperity came by way of their own hands.  From their vantage point, there was no need to offer thanksgiving to God.  He must have been insulted!  According to Ezekiel 16:49-50, out of their abundance, they didn’t share any of it.  Haughty means:  arrogant; to be proud in a manner that shows disdain for others.  When you feel this level of pride, you don’t treat others kindly—they are beneath you. 

If you look at these sins collectively, you can understand why God was so angry with Sodom, Gomorrah, and the surrounding towns.  Ungratefulness is an abomination and leads to spiritual death. 

Let us not get so caught up that we don’t heed to the righteous living to which God calls us. 

Donna B. Comeaux
Freelance Writer, Author, Poet
November 1, 2013

[1] Israel – A History of Sodom and Gomorrah:
http://www.israel-a-history-of.com/sodom-and-gomorrah.html

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