Why Did God Destroy Sodom and Gomorrah? Their Story of Sin in the Bible

The sinful ways of Sodom and Gomorrah were so outrageous that God destroyed the two cities with fire sparing only the family of Lot.
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The Bible Story of Sodom and Gomorrah

The story of Sodom and Gomorrah is a cautionary tale of the destructive consequences of sin. Sodom and Gomorrah were cities mentioned in Genesis, notorious for their flagrant sin. Genesis 18:20-21 states, “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.”

When Abraham learned of God’s plan to destroy the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, he asked God if He will spare them if He can find fifty innocent, godly people. God reassures Abraham that if He finds fifty righteous people, he will spare the city for their sake. Abraham then asks about a lesser and lesser number until down to ten people as God answers, “For the sake of ten, I will not destroy it” (Genesis 18:32).

God’s Angels Arrive in Sodom and Gomorrah

According to Smith’s Bible Dictionary, Sodom was one of the most ancient cities of Syria. It is commonly mentioned in connection with Gomorrah, but also with Admah and Zeboim, and on one occasion -- (Genesis 14:1) ... --with Bela or Zoar. Sodom was evidently the chief town in the settlement. 

After leaving Abraham, God’s angels arrived at the gates of Sodom and Gomorrah where they were greeted by the gatekeeper Lot. He pleaded with the angels to join him in his house so he could wash their feet and serve them a meal. The angels agreed and went to the house of Lot. Lot was a foreigner to the realm of Sodom and not succumbed to the lustful, degenerate sins rampant in the city. 

Sodom, Sodomy, and Sodomites

One of the most prevalent sins in Sodom was the homosexuality of the men, engaging in sexual relations with the other men and boys. Sodom is where we get the term “sodomy and sodomites” named after this widespread sin of the town. After the angels entered the home of Lot, the men of the city surrounded Lot’s house. According to Genesis 19:5, “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.’”

Lot pleaded with the crowd to reconsider, even offering his two virgin daughters in place of the two visiting men, whose angelic identity was apparently unknown to the lustful sodomites. “Get out of our way,” they replied. “This fellow came here as a foreigner, and now he wants to play the judge! We’ll treat you worse than them” (Genesis 19:9). As the crowd moved to break down the door, the men inside pulled Lot back inside and shut the door. 

As Genesis 19:11-13 states, “Then they struck the men who were at the door of the house, young and old, with blindness so that they could not find the door. 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.”

The Burning and Sodom and Gomorrah

After Lot is unable to convince his sons-in-law to leave the city, he fled Sodom with his wife and two daughters encouraged by the two angels that the Lord will look after them. The angels first tell Lot to flee to the mountains, but Lot requests that his family go to a nearby city, named Zoar, to ensure their survival. 

The Bible describes the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah in Genesis 19:23-29, stating:

"By the time Lot reached Zoar, the sun had risen over the land. 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, destroying all those living in the cities—and also the vegetation in the land. But Lot’s wife looked back, and she became a pillar of salt. Early the next morning Abraham got up and returned to the place where he had stood before the LORD. He looked down toward Sodom and Gomorrah, toward all the land of the plain, and he saw dense smoke rising from the land, like smoke from a furnace. So when God destroyed the cities of the plain, he remembered Abraham, and he brought Lot out of the catastrophe that overthrew the cities where Lot had lived."

According to Bible commentaries like the NIV Zondervan Study Bible, Lot’s wife was turned into a pillar of salt as she looked back, “for disobeying the instruction not to look back. Her action suggests that she identified with the people of Sodom. Her failure to flee God’s punishment becomes a vivid warning to others (Luke 17:32).”

Now the story of Sodom and Gomorrah serves as a lesson of the consequences of sin and the wrath of God.

Photo credit: ©Getty Images/nikkytok

Originally published July 18, 2019.