America and Sodom

Genesis 19:1-8

Alan Lewis
Elon, North Carolina
May 2015

We have been studying the life of Abraham and today we come to Genesis 19. This chapter shows three things.  First, it shows man’s sin.  It is an incredible display of human depravity.

In fact, it just not just shows the sin of Sodom, it shows the depravity of Lot’s own family (the older daughter leading the younger daughter into sin).  Second, it shows an awesome display of divine judgment.  Third, it shows us the ministry of angels.

One of the ministry of angels is to deliver believers.  Here they delivered Lot from Sodom.  They are also involved in the judgment of Sodom.

This is a very sobering chapter.  This is a chapter that is is almost never preached from the pulpit and there is a reason for it.

It is a chapter that needs a viewer warning for adult themes. I have to warn everyone up front that this chapter deals with some adult topics.  It is graphic.

There is drunkenness in this chapter.  There is homosexuality and incest in this chapter.  There are sexual predators in this chapter.

There is sexual abuse in this chapter from a surprising source (as Lot’s own daughters abuse him after they get him drunk). There is violence in this chapter.

There is also an attempted gang rape in this chapter.  Some of the same things that we see in our world today, we see in this chapter of Genesis.  Some of the things I have to say today may shock some people.

This chapter is very misunderstood.  Almost everyone gets this chapter wrong.  It is misunderstood by some conservative Bible believing Christians.

It is also misunderstood by radicals in the homosexual community who have tried to reinterpret this chapter of the Bible.  There are two main myths that people have about Sodom.

Common Myths about Sodom

1. This story is only about homosexuality.

Many use this chapter as a tirade against homosexuals.  Many Baptist preachers use this text to rail against homosexuals.  There are two problems with that approach.

The first problem is that Genesis 19 doesn’t deal with consensual gay and lesbian relationships we see today.  It is much more serious than that.

It mentions homosexuality but it is connected to violence and rape, gang rape.  This chapter takes ordinary homosexuality to a whole new level.

The second problem with that is that homosexuality was not Sodom’s only sin.  It had many others.

Ezekiel 16:49 says, “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” (NIV).

Ezekiel focused on social sins, rather than sexual sins.  We know from other sources that Sodom had sexual sins as well.  There is solid historical evidence of this.

This is clearly taught in the NT (II Peter 2:6-10; Jude 7), the Pseudepigrapha (Jubilees 16:5-6; 20:5-6; I Enoch 10:4; 34:1-2; III Maccabees 2:5), Philo (On the Migration of Abraham 26:133-136),  Josephus (Antiquities of the Jews, Book I, Chapter 11) and in rabbinic sources (Genesis Rabbah 50:7). However, this was not Sodom’s only sin.

2. This story has nothing to do with homosexuality.

According to some modern scholars, the sin of the Sodomites was not same-sex attraction but a lack of hospitality.  They argue that this has absolutely nothing to do with perversion or sexual deviance.

It has to do simply with bullying strangers and not accepting people who are different from you.

Many websites will tell you that the main sin of the Sodomites was a lack of hospitality.  They believe that homosexuality had nothing to do with the city’s destruction.

Let’s be honest.  They did show a lack of hospitality to these two men but they did much more than that.  To say that their sin was a lack of hospitality is a huge understatement.

What they did was much more serious than a lack of hospitality.  What they did was criminal.  God didn’t wipe out four cities because of bad manners.  That would be ridiculous.  It would be overkill.

In this chapter, men want to have sex with other men. They are offered women but they do not want women. They wanted men.

You cannot take that out of the story.  While rape is wrong, even consensual relations between two men or two women was forbidden in the OT.

Leviticus 18:22 says, “Do not have sexual relations with a man as one does with a woman; that is detestable” (NIV).

That is a rather strange verse to many. Homosexuality is socially acceptable today and it was accepted in the ancient world.  Leviticus prohibits it.

The leading authority on Leviticus is Jacob Milgrom.  He wrote a three volume commentary on the book in the Anchor Bible series.  It is over three thousand pages long.  Milgrom points out that this statement in Leviticus is unique.

Nowhere else in the entire Ancient Near East was there a prohibition on homosexuality like Leviticus 18:22.

The world calls it normal.  God calls it an abomination and detestable.  God’s thoughts are not our thoughts (cf. Isaiah 55:8-9).

If it seems strange to us, keep in mind that He was the one who created sex in the first place.  It was His idea.  He has the right to regulate it.

Why this Chapter is Unpopular?

1. Because of what it says about God

Many do not like this chapter because of how it pictures God.  He is holy.  He judges sin.  He pours out His wrath on sinners.  He already wiped out the entire race with a year-long mountain covering flood.

Now instead of destroying people with a flood of water, He destroys whole cities with a flood of fire, as fire and brimstone falls from heaven.

The punishment seemed to fit the crime.  Since they sinned against nature, God used nature to destroy them.  He used a burning fire to punish burning lusts.

Other cities have had a similar fate to Sodom.  Perhaps the most famous city to suffer like this was the ancient Roman city of Pompeii.

The whole city was destroyed when Mount Vesuvius erupted in a volcano in 79 AD.  Millions of tons of hot volcanic ash came down the mountain seventy miles an hour, destroying everything in its path. More than two thousand people died.

All of its inhabitants were destroyed by showers of hot ashes, stones and cinders rained down on the city and completely wiped it off the map.

There is one difference.  Sodom was no Pompeii.  Sodom was not just destroyed by a natural catastrophe.  It was not just a natural disaster, like Hurricane Katrina.

Genesis 19:24 says, “Then the Lord rained down burning sulfur on Sodom and Gomorrah—from the Lord out of the heavens.” God did this.

It was a judgment of God on human sin, not just a natural disaster.  As the Bible says, “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Hebrews 10:31).  It is terrifying.  The citizens of Sodom found out how scary it was.

The destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah is a fact of history.  The first century Jewish historian Josephus said that you could see the remains of these cities in his day.

Large chunks of white powdery balls of sulfur have been discovered southeast of the Dead Sea.  Sodom is also important symbolically.  It is important for what it represents.

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” (II Peter 2:6). “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 7).

The city of Sodom is set forth as an example of what will happen to the ungodly and an example of the vengeance of eternal fire.  It is a warning to all.

What happened to the wicked sinners in Sodom will happen to the wicked when they are judged.  The fire that destroyed Sodom for its sin is a type of the fire of Hell.  Revelation 20:10 describes hell as “a lake of fire and brimstone” (KJV).

2. Because of what it says about sin

Some do not like it because of what it says about sin.  Man does not like to be told that certain behavior is wrong.  That is why many become atheists.

They do not like the idea that God says certain things are wrong.  This chapter is an incredible display of human depravity.  Sodom was the original sin city.

What were the sins of Sodom?  What were some of the characteristics of this sin?  One, sin in Sodom was widespread (cf. Jeremiah 23:14). It was rampant. “Before they had gone to bed, all the men from every part of the city of Sodom—both young and old—surrounded the house” (19:4).

This behavior was not limited to a few loons or deviants.  This mob which surrounded their house was made up of ALL of the men of the city (not just some of them).

It was made up of young people and old people.  In our day, we often see young people go do some incredibly stupid stuff but this had old people as well doing the same things.

Second, sin in Sodom was severe.  This city was notoriously wicked. Some of the most obscene and vulgar practices took place in Sodom.

It was not only a place where sexual immorality was prevalent.  It was a place where violent crime occurred.  Genesis 13:13 says, “Now the men of Sodom were wicked, GREAT SINNERS against the Lord.” They were not just wicked.

They were extremely wicked.  Now Lot lived in Sodom.  He was aware of the wicked people around him.  He saw what was going on in the city.

The Bible also tells us what Lot thought of it all. II Peter 2:7 says that Lot was “sick of the shameful immorality of the wicked people around him” (NLT).

It bothered him.  It didn’t bother him enough to leave that place but he was concerned about it and upset by what he saw take place in that city.  How bad was it in Sodom?  We get a hint in Genesis 19.

These Sodomites not only committed sexual immorality, they tried to sexually assault people.  In fact, they actually tried to gang rape two angels.

We see not only sexual immorality but sexual violence, attempted against angels, as well as men. They did not know they were heavenly beings at the time.  Lot didn’t know this when he first met them but this does show the severity of their sin.

Third, sin in Sodom was flagrant.  It was done out in the open without any apology or remorse.  They did not just sin, they flaunted their sin.  They were proud of it.

Is America a Modern Day Sodom?

There are three ways that America is like Sodom.  There are many parallels between America.

1. Like Sodom, America is very wealthy.

Sodom was a wealthy city (cf. Ezekiel 16:49).  That is why Lot moved there in the first place.  It was well-watered, like the Garden of Eden (Genesis 13:10).

It was a place easy to grow food.  It was good for business.  Lot lived in a comfortable house in Sodom (19:2-3).  Abraham lived in a tent.

When the angels arrives in Sodom, Lot was sitting at the gate of the city (19:1).  That is where the elders of the city sat.  Lot was also a big shot in Sodom.

He had an important position in the city.  He held a government job.  He was a city official.  We might think of him as “the Mayor of Sodom.”

Sodom was good for Lot financially.  He moved up in the world.  He was making a good living.

Sodom was wealthy.  America is one of the wealthiest countries in the world today, although it is not a sin to be wealthy.

America is also one of the most generous countries on earth. Americans do a lot of charitable giving.

2. Like Sodom, America is characterized by sexual immorality and violence.

In Sodom, immorality was characterized by every type of person (from young to old). In Sodom, they had to deal with violent crime, as gangs of thugs caused all kinds of problems.

We deal with both problems today.  The same is true today.  We have to deal with violent crime in many of our cities.

America is also known for its sexual immorality.  It is both heterosexual and homosexual.  It comes in many forms.  We have had gay marriage in America since 2015.

3. Like Sodom, sin in America is open and public.

The Sodomites felt no remorse for their sin.  They were unapologetic.

Isaiah 3:9 says, “For Jerusalem has stumbled, and Judah has fallen, because their speech and their deeds are against the Lord, defying his glorious presence. For the look on their faces bears witness against them; they proclaim their sin like Sodom; they do not hide it. Woe to them!” (ESV).

People are proud about their sin today.  They are shameless.  They have parades to flaunt it.  They call good evil and evil good.

They even go beyond that and imply that all who do not agree with them are intolerant bigots.  They try to shame people who disagree with them.

There are many similarities to Sodom and some cities in America. There is also one way that America is worse than Sodom.

Sodom had only one righteous man in it.  There are tons of believers and churches in every city.  We have a much stronger Christian influence than Sodom had.  We have more light and so we are more responsible than they were.

“Then Jesus began to denounce the towns in which most of his miracles had been performed, because they did not repent. ‘Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. But I tell you, it will be more bearable for Tyre and Sidon on the day of judgment than for you.'” (Matthew 11:20-22).

Jesus said that those cities that saw his stupendous miracles and did not repent would be in worse shape on the day of judgment than the people of Sodom and Gomorrah.

How is that possible?  They had more light than the Sodomites had.  If you have more light and reject it, your punishment is greater.

Apparently, it is possible for a city to be worse than Sodom in the eyes of God and yet more moral than the city of Sodom.

Let’s look at this chapter.  It begins in the first verse with two angels arriving in Sodom.  Why are they there?

We know from the last chapter that God sent them there to conduct an investigation.

God said that the cry from the city has gone up to heaven from all of it wickedness and He sent to angels to check it out.

If it was true, God would judge Sodom.  Abraham pleaded with God not to judge the city if there were ten righteous people in the city.  God agreed.

So the angels were to Sodom.  They arrived at Abraham’s house around noon, ate a meal and after the meal got up and headed toward Sodom (18:16).

It was about a 25 or 30 mile trip but they arrived there by the evening (19:1).  They went on a fact-finding mission.

Two were sent because in the OT you had to have two witnesses to put anyone to death and these two came from heaven.  They were angels.

They didn’t look like angels.  They looked like young men but they were angels.  They went to Sodom under cover and they did not have to be in Sodom long.

All they had to do was to spend one night in Sodom and they found out that the city was extremely wicked.  They did not have to worry about their safety because they were angels.

When they got to Sodom, something amazing happened.  They were not robbed or mugged.  They weren’t killed.  The first one they encountered there was Lot, a righteous man.

He was not only a believer, he was very hospitable, like his Uncle Abraham.  He offered them into his home.  He was genuinely concerned about their safety and he wanted to protect these visitors to the city.

The irony is that instead of Lot protecting these two men from harm, the two men ended up protecting Lot from danger. When Lot offered that they stay at his house that night, they refused (cf. 19:2).  That is strange.

When the three men stopped at Abraham’s house and he invited them in, they accepted his invitation.  When these two men meet lot and Lot invites them over, they decline his invitation.

Why? They came to conduct an investigation.  They wanted to see what Sodom was like at night.  Lot insisted that they come to his house and they finally agreed.  The city was so wicked, it really didn’t matter where they went.  They would have found out anyway.

After dinner, a mob of people surrounded Lot’s house and said to him, “Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us, that we may know them” (19:5).  They didn’t want to get to know them as in meet them.  They wanted to know them in the biblical sense.

This is know in the sense of  “Adam knew Eve his wife; and she conceived, and gave birth to Cain” (4:1).  How does Lot respond to this request?

He goes outside, shuts the door.  It was wise to do those two things but he then did two things which were unwise.  First, he reasoned with them.

“Please be nice.  Stop being bad.”  He said, “No, my friends. Don’t do this wicked thing” (19:7).  That was his first mistake.

You can’t reason with people who are trying to gang rape you.  You cannot reason with terrorists who are beheading people. You cannot reason with ISIS savages.

Lot even calls them “his friends.”  He calls the lowest scum bags, the most morally depraved in the city (child molesters and the serial killers) his friends.

Second, he bargained with them. He said, “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” (19:8).

He offered up his own daughters to be gang raped.  What father would do this?  He did not even offer himself up.  He offered his children up instead. Lot is called a righteous man in the NT but he does not seem to righteous here.

He obviously considered his duty to his guests greater than his duty to his own children.  He was willing to treat complete strangers in his home better than his own kids. Perhaps women were not as valued as men.

What we can say for sure is that Lot gets high marks for hospitality but terrible marks for parenting.  He should not have even brought his children into Sodom or stayed there after he had children.

It was a terrible influence on them and a terrible atmosphere to raise children.  One preacher said that instead of saying, “I have two daughters.  They are both virgins,” he should have said, “I have a shot gun with two barrels.”  Next week, we will look at the rest of the story about Sodom.

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