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Why Did God Destroy Sodom and Gomorrah? Bible Story and Lessons for Today

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

Updated Jul 31, 2023
Why Did God Destroy Sodom and Gomorrah? Bible Story and Lessons for Today

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. In the very same way, on the strength of their dreams these ungodly people pollute their own bodies, reject authority and heap abuse on celestial beings. (Jude 1:7-8)

The Bible Story of Sodom and Gomorrah

The Bible 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 would spare them if He could find fifty innocent, godly people. God reassures Abraham that he will spare the city for their sake if he finds fifty righteous people. 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 in 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 the gatekeeper, Lot greeted them. 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 did not succumb 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 Lot's home, the city's men 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. 

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 of Sodom and Gomorrah

After Lot is unable to convince his sons-in-law to leave the city, he flees 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 about the consequences of sin and the wrath of God.

For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell and committed them to chains of gloomy darkness to be kept until the judgment; if he did not spare the ancient world, but preserved Noah, a herald of righteousness, with seven others, when he brought a flood upon the world of the ungodly; if by turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah to ashes he condemned them to extinction, making them an example of what is going to happen to the ungodly; and if he rescued righteous Lot, greatly distressed by the sensual conduct of the wicked (for as that righteous man lived among them day after day, he was tormenting his righteous soul over their lawless deeds that he saw and heard); then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials, and to keep the unrighteous under punishment until the day of judgment, and especially those who indulge in the lust of defiling passion and despise authority. Bold and willful, they do not tremble as they blaspheme the glorious ones, whereas angels, though greater in might and power, do not pronounce a blasphemous judgment against them before the Lord. (2 Peter 2:4-11)

Bible Commentary on Sodom and Gomorrah

God reveals to Abraham the destruction of Sodom: Genesis 18:16-22 The two who are supposed to have been created angels went toward Sodom. The one called Jehovah throughout the chapter continued with Abraham and would not hide from him what he intended to do. Though God long forbears with sinners, from which they fancy that the Lord does not see or regard, he will look toward them when the day of his wrath comes. The Lord will give Abraham an opportunity to intercede with him, and shows him the reason for his conduct. Consider, as a very bright part of Abraham's character and example, that he not only prayed with his family but was very careful to teach and rule them well. Those who expect family blessings must make conscience of family duty. Abraham did not fill their heads with matters of doubtful dispute, but he taught them to be serious and devout in God's worship and honest dealings with all men. Of how few may such a character be given in our days! How little care is taken by masters of families to ground those under them in the principles of religion! Do we watch from sabbath to sabbath whether they go forward or backward?

Abraham's intercession for Sodom: Genesis 18:23-33 Here is the first solemn prayer upon record in the Bible, and it is a prayer for the sparing of Sodom. Abraham prayed earnestly that Sodom might be spared if but a few righteous persons should be found in it. Come and learn from Abraham what compassion we should feel for sinners and how earnestly we should pray for them. We see here that a righteous man's effectual, fervent prayer avails much. Abraham failed in his request for the whole place, but Lot was miraculously delivered. Be encouraged then to expect, by earnest prayer, the blessing of God upon your families, your friends, and your neighborhood. To this end, you must not only pray, but you must live like Abraham. He knew the Judge of all the earth would do right. He does not plead that the wicked may be spared for their own sake or because it would be severe to destroy them, but for the sake of the righteous who might be found among them. And righteousness only can be made a plea before God. How, then, did Christ make intercession for transgressors? Not by blaming the Divine law, nor by alleging aught in extenuation or excuse of human guilt, but by pleading HIS OWN obedience unto death.

The destruction of Sodom and the deliverance of Lot: Genesis 19:1-29 Lot was good, but there was not one more of the same character in the city. All the people of Sodom were very wicked and vile. Care was therefore taken to save Lot and his family. Lot lingered; he trifled. Thus many who are under convictions about their spiritual state, and the necessity of a change, defer that needful work. The salvation of the most righteous men is of God's mercy, not by their own merit. We are saved by grace. God's power also must be acknowledged in bringing souls out of a sinful state If God had not been merciful to us, our lingering had been our ruin. Lot must flee for his life. He must not hanker after Sodom. Such commands as these are given to those who, through grace, are delivered out of a sinful state and condition. Return not to sin and Satan. Rest not in self and the world. Reach toward Christ and heaven, for that is escaping to the mountain, short of which we must not stop. Concerning this destruction, observe that it is a revelation of the wrath of God against sin and sinners of all ages. Let us learn from hence the evil of sin and its hurtful nature; it leads to ruin. (Excerpts from Matthew Henry Commentary)

Photo credit: The Destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, John Martin, 1852.

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