In Genesis 19—the story of Sodom and Gomorrah—we have one of the more challenging (and divisive) passages of scripture. Recently, a college student asked me to explain this passage. I thought I would share that explanation with you. Because of it’s length, this will be a 2-part post.
Genesis 18 provides the backdrop of the story in Genesis 19. God was planning to destroy the city because it had become so evil in his sight. God sent His angels (who appeared in the form of men) there to check it out firsthand (Gen. 18:20-21). After some intense prayer, God promised Abraham that he would spare the city if you could find ten righteous people living in it (Gen. 18:23-32).
What was the sin of Sodom and Gomorrah that had God wanting to destroy it?
There are some who will say that the sin was cultural in-hospitality. In this culture, being hospitable to strangers was a high value. Travel was usually by foot. There weren’t fast food restaurants or Holiday Inns. Showing care for visitors, therefore, was very important (You see the same kind of care being offered by Abraham in Genesis 18:1-8) – far more important than it is in modern culture. That being said, I don’t think that the failure to offer a visitor a bed and a meal would qualify as a sin so grievous to God that he would consider destroying the people along with the city.
I believe that the sin was sexual immorality. When you look at the behavior of the men of Sodom and Gomorrah, it seems obvious that they had become totally immersed in a culture of sexual immorality (Gen. 19: 1-9).
God is very clear in his warning that ALL sexual sin is unacceptable to him.
God’s will is for you to be holy, so stay away from all sexual sin. Then each of you will control his own body and live in holiness and honor— not in lustful passion like the pagans who do not know God and his ways. Never harm or cheat a Christian brother in this matter by violating his wife, for the Lord avenges all such sins, as we have solemnly warned you before. God has called us to live holy lives, not impure lives. Therefore, anyone who refuses to live by these rules is not disobeying human teaching but is rejecting God, who gives his Holy Spirit to you. (I Thessalonians 4:3-8)
Sodom and Gomorrah were no different. God’s judgement of this culture was done to let the rest of us know that God would judge sin – i.e., hold us accountable for choosing to live according our standard rather than his.
And don’t forget Sodom and Gomorrah and their neighboring towns, which were filled with immorality and every kind of sexual perversion. Those cities were destroyed by fire and serve as a warning of the eternal fire of God’s judgment. (Jude 1:7)
How do you explain Lot’s behavior? I can offer no justification for Lot’s willingness to offer his daughters to the men in place of the visitors. Any attempt at an explanation that I have come up with seemed so unacceptable that I will not even share them out of concern that you might mistakenly think I was seeking to explain away his behavior.
In tomorrow’s post, I will provide some practical lessons we can take away from this sordid tale.