Sodom and Gomorrah are two of the most infamous towns in the Bible. What exactly made them so notorious? They are mentioned in the Old Testament, but Jesus mentions them to make a special point in Matthew 10:5-15, Mark 6:7-13, and Luke 9:1-6. Let’s investigate the Bible to see what He said and why.
What Do We Know About Sodom and Gomorrah and it's Sin?
We learn the account of Sodom and Gomorrah’s sins in Genesis 18:16-19:29 with a preamble in Genesis 13:13. The Lord appeared to Abraham with two others (perhaps angels) while Abraham dwelt at the oaks of Mamre. In conversation with the two who accompanied Him, the Lord said He would go down to see if they had done according to the great outcry against them because “their sin is very grave” (Genesis 18:20-21). The angels leave Abraham and approach the city of Sodom and Gomorrah disguised as men. At the city gates they meet the gatekeeper to the city, whose name was Lot. Lot invites them to stay at his house, to which the angels agreed. Before they could even rest, men from every part of the city, both young and old, surrounded Lot's house. They demanded that Lot bring out the visiting men so they could engage in sexual acts with them (Genesis 19:4–5).
Responding to the situation, the angels blinded the men outside and urged Lot and his family to flee the city. The wrath of God was imminent. Lot and his family hastily left, and then "the Lord rained down burning sulfur on Sodom and Gomorrah—from the Lord out of the heavens. Thus he overthrew those cities and the entire plain, including all those living in the cities" (Genesis 19:24).
While the passage mentions homosexuality, the story of Sodom and Gomorrah Genesis 19:1-29 tells us that their sins, of various kinds, had increased until they had become an abomination to the Lord (Leviticus 18:22; Romans 1:27).
What Does Jesus Say about Sodom and Gomorrah?
In Matthew 10:15, Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, it will be more bearable on the day of judgment for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah than for that town.” Why did He say that?
Within the context of Matthew 10:5-15, Jesus is sending out “the Twelve,” meaning His twelve chosen Apostles. They were to proclaim that the kingdom of heaven was at hand to “the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Matthew 10:6-7). He told them to heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, and cast out demons—all without pay. They were not to veer off course from proclaiming their Master, Jesus.
They were to look for hospitable environments, ones Jesus described as being “worthy.” And there they would greet them and bless it with peace. We can infer from the text the welcome would be for their message from Jesus (that the kingdom is at hand). They found that the message would be heard if peace was in the household.
The verse immediately preceding the reference to Sodom and Gomorrah (v. 14) states, “And if anyone will not receive you or listen to your words, shake off the dust from your feet when you leave that house or town.” This means there was an utter rejection of their message, no welcome of the proclamation of the kingdom. As we say in contemporary vernacular, it’s as if the person of an unworthy habitation said, “Talk to the hand.”
As a rebuke, the apostles were to “shake the dust from their feet” as they left the house or town, borrowing a practice used by the Jews when they returned from a foreign land (usually a Gentile land). The apostles cut all ties with a house that spurned the kingdom message.
Jesus then spoke of the consequence of the unworthy house’s action (rejecting the kingdom message). He mentions the “Day of Judgment,” which the Apostles (and the Jews) would recognize as what happens after the Messiah comes. Followers of Judaism generally hold that God decides what their afterlife will hold based on their actions. Jesus made it clear that to reject him and his message was to reject the Messiah—those who rejected him missed the kingdom in their midst.
Just as first-century societies equated Corinth with corruption and debauchery, Sodom and Gomorrah symbolized unrepentant sinners and wickedness. God’s power is not a trifling matter; sin would not go unpunished. Their sin was that they rejected Jesus, and He manifested His power in His statement that theirs was a sin greater than that of Sodom and Gomorrah (see also Jude 1:7).
Why Did Isaiah Compare Israel to Sodom and Gomorrah?
When the Lord exacted His holy judgment on Sodom and Gomorrah, he utterly destroyed both towns. He rained sulfur and fire down upon them; nothing and no one remained except a burned crisp, and “the smoke of the land went up like the smoke of a furnace” (Genesis 19:28). Nothing remained but a desolate landscape.
Isaiah mentions Sodom and Gomorrah at the beginning of his writings. Isaiah 1:9-10 reads, “If the LORD of hosts had not left us a few survivors, we should have been like Sodom, and become like Gomorrah. Hear the word of the LORD, you rulers of Sodom! Give ear to the teaching of our God,
you people of Gomorrah!”
Isaiah was a prophet sent by God to Judah, the southern kingdom. At that time, Judah was lost in idolatry and rebellion against God. The Lord had leveled His charge against Israel for their sins (Isaiah 1:3-4). Assyria had already deported the northern kingdom of Israel to captivity, and it stood at Judah’s “door,” ready to subjugate them. To whom would Judah turn as she suffers the consequences of her sin against the Lord God? Isaiah 1:7 says Judah is desolate and burned with fire (which we can infer Sodom and Gomorrah looked like after the Lord destroyed them).
Jerusalem was God’s chosen city to house His temple. It was to be a city of pure, humble, and holy people who served the Lord in love and obedience. Jerusalem was corrupt, and the people had forgotten their God. They were rebellious and partook in sins that rivaled those of Sodom and Gomorrah. It was God’s mercy that saved the remnant for the glory of His name.
Jeremiah, a later prophet, speaks to Judah’s evil acts in Jeremiah 23:14. He called them out for their adultery, lies, and unrepentant evil. He adds, “all of them have become like Sodom to Me, and its inhabitants like Gomorrah.”
Why Did Some Towns Reject Jesus’ Message?
A well-known passage from Scripture relates the report of Jesus being rejected by His hometown of Nazareth. Matthew 13:54-58, Mark 6:1-6, and Luke 4:16-30 all share the account of how Jesus taught in the synagogue. He read from the scroll of Isaiah and declared the Scripture fulfilled in Him. They questioned His integrity and sought to drive Him out of town and throw Him off a cliff when He called them on their doubts. But He passed through their midst untouched.
They would not believe a meek carpenter’s son could be their long-awaited Messiah.
The Pharisees, Scribes, and Sadducees were the ruling religious elite. Jesus’ Gospel of the kingdom set them on their heels because He called them “blind guides” and did not ascribe to their rituals of “straining out a gnat and swallowing a camel!” (Matthew 23:24). He ate with sinners (Mark 2:13-17) and welcomed a reviled tax collector as a follower (Luke 18:9-14).
Word about Him spread. Curiosity caused people to come to see Him and listen for a while. But when they heard Him speak of the different way to live, they decided He was too radical (Matthew 7:28-29; John 6:66). The Gospel of the kingdom remains radical to this day.
He went to the Gentiles—which the Jewish religious leaders saw as an abomination. Yet their rejection of Him opened the way for the Gentiles to enter the kingdom (Romans 15:8-13). The Jews were an exclusive set, deeming themselves God’s chosen people with no room for others.
Jesus did not set the Jews free from Roman oppression. The Jews wanted a warrior King, and a lowly carpenter from Nazareth did not fit their bill.
How Do We Avoid the Sin of Sodom and Gomorrah?
When a person surrenders to Jesus as Lord and Savior, it is through the concurrent act of God in their repentance from sin and faith in Jesus. As new creations in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17), we have everything we need to live a life of godliness (2 Peter 1:3). In fact, the passage of 1 Peter 1:4-8 gives us an interesting and exciting rundown of the godly qualities we possess as Christ-followers. As we partake of our new divine nature, we have “escaped from the corruption in the world because of sinful desire” (1 Peter 1:4). Great news follows, as Peter outlines what comes next as we follow Christ. From faith comes virtue, then knowledge—supplemented by self-control, steadfastness, godliness, brotherly affection, and love. These qualities make us effective and fruitful in the knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ.
And in another contrast, 1 Peter 2:6 uses the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah and their extinction as an example of what happens to the ungodly.
We could add verse after verse about how to live as a Christian. Living a Spirit-filled life is one passage (Galatians 5:16), and Galatians 5:17-26 spells out ungodly actions instead of displaying the fruit of the Spirit.
God provides all we need to resist the devil and his wiles. 1 Corinthians 10:13 and James 4:7-8 tell us to resist the devil and draw near to God. Proximity is key. Stay in the Word, close to strong believers, and pray.
Lord, help me live a life that exalts and brings glory to You. Keep me from corruption and the schemes of the devil, who seeks only to kill and destroy. I pray You will bring an understanding of Your Word to me, and I pray for godly mentors and friends with whom I can stay accountable. I praise You in Jesus’ name. Amen.
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Lisa Loraine Baker is the multiple award-winning author of Someplace to be Somebody. She writes fiction and nonfiction. In addition to writing for the Salem Web Network, Lisa serves as a Word Weavers’ mentor and is part of a critique group. She also is a member of BRRC. Lisa and her husband, Stephen, a pastor, live in a small Ohio village with their crazy cat, Lewis.