God called Abraham out of Mesopotamia. His nephew Lot accompanied him. God led Abraham into the rich grazing lands of Canaan, where there was ample food and water for their vast herds (Gen. 13:5). In time the land could not support these vast herds (vv. 6-8), and it became necessary for Abraham and Lot to separate. Lot chose the plain of Jordan, while Abraham settled in the plain of Mamre (vv. 14-18), near Hebron. Abraham continued to live in tents, while Lot chose to dwell in the city of Sodom. “But the men of Sodom were wicked and sinners before the LORD exceedingly” (v. 13). This atmosphere could only have had a bad effect on Lot and his family.
In Mamre, the sudden appearance of three guests caught Abraham’s attention. “And the LORD appeared unto him in the plains of Mamre: and he sat in the tent door in the heat of the day; And he lift up his eyes and looked, and, lo, three men stood by him: and when he saw them, he ran to meet them from the tent door, and bowed himself toward the ground” (Gen. 18:1-2). One of them was the Lord, and the other two were angels. They had come to scrutinize Sodom. After a meal, ” . . . the men rose up from thence, and looked toward Sodom: and Abraham went with them to bring them on the way. And the LORD said, Shall I hide from Abraham that thing which I do” (vv. 16-17). He then revealed the purpose of His visit. “And the LORD said, Because the cry of Sodom and Gomorrah is great, and because their sin is very grievous; I will go down now, and see whether they have done altogether according to the cry of it, which is come unto me; and if not, I will know” (vv. 20-21).
The Lord remained to talk with Abraham while the angels continued on the way to Sodom (v. 22). Archeological evidence indicates there were four other cities in close proximity to Sodom. It is believed these cities are now located under the Dead Sea, as the land sunk and the whole area filled with salt water. The cities that were destroyed were Sodom, Gomorrah, Admah, and Zeboim (Deut. 29:23). When Abraham learned of the reason for God’s appearance, he was concerned for Lot and his family. He asked God if He would spare the city for 50 righteous men. He did not know how far God would extend His mercy, but in his inquiry he learned that if just ten righteous people could be found, Sodom would be spared (Gen. 18:23-32).
The account continues in Genesis 19. “And there came two angels to Sodom at even; and Lot sat in the gate of Sodom: and Lot seeing them rose up to meet them; and he bowed himself with his face toward the ground” (Gen. 19:1). The Bible does not reveal why Lot sat in the gate of the city. Some Bible commentators believe he may have been some kind of magistrate. Nor does the Bible reveal whether Lot recognized the men as angels. In the Bible angels often appear as men. Lot surely knew the depravity of the Sodomites, and urged the angels to come into his home to spend the night. “And he said, Behold now, my lords, turn in, I pray you, into your servant’s house, and tarry all night, and wash your feet, and ye shall rise up early, and go on your ways. And they said, Nay; but we will abide in the street all night. And he pressed upon them greatly; and they turned in unto him, and entered into his house; and he made them a feast, and did bake unleavened bread, and they did eat” (vv. 2-3).
Soon after, the outrageous conduct of the Sodomites began to manifested itself. “But before they lay down, the men of the city, even the men of Sodom, compassed the house round, both old and young, all the people from every quarter: And they called unto Lot, and said unto him, Where are the men which came in to thee this night? bring them out unto us, that we may know them” (Gen. 19:4-5). Some would have us believe that these Sodomites were only trying to be sociable. But this was not a social occasion. They had in mind something else entirely. The word “know” is the same word used in Genesis 4:1, where we read that Adam “knew” Eve, and she conceived. It is also used in Genesis 19:8, where Lot states that his daughters had not “known man,” that is, they were virgins. In the context, Genesis 19:5 clearly reveals that “know” refers to sexual relations. The fact is: These Sodomites were homosexual rapists! Lot’s offer to placate these Sodomites by substituting his daughters (v. 8) presupposes their rejection. It appears by this means, Lot was hoping they would consider his plea to desist. But their interest was in men, not women, and they resented Lot’s intrusion. “And they said, Stand back, And they said again, This one fellow came in to sojourn, and he will needs be a judge: now will we deal worse with thee, than with them. And they pressed sore upon the man, even Lot, and came near to break the door” (v. 9).
It now became necessary for the angels to act. “But the men put forth their hand, and pulled Lot into the house to them, and shut to the door. And they smote the men that were at the door of the house with blindness, both small and great: so that they wearied themselves to find the door” (vv. 10-11). God now determined to destroy the cities of the plain. There were not even ten righteous men there. The angels said: ” . . . Hast thou here any besides? son in law, and thy sons, and thy daughters, and whatsoever thou hast in the city, bring them out of this place: For we will destroy this place, because the cry of them is waxen great before the face of the LORD; and the LORD hath sent us to destroy it” (vv. 12-13).
God by ” . . . turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrha into ashes condemned them with an overthrow, making them an ensample unto those that after should live ungodly; And delivered just Lot, vexed with the filthy conversation of the wicked: (For that righteous man dwelling among them, in seeing and hearing, vexed his righteous soul from day to day with their unlawful deeds)” (2 Pet.2:6-8). Jude tells us that God’s purpose was intended as a lesson for all: “Even as Sodom and Gomorrha, and the cities about them in like manner, giving themselves over to fornication, and going after strange flesh, are set forth for an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire” (Jude 7). These Sodomites had completely given themselves over to sexual abandon of one kind or another, including bestiality. They lived only for sensual pleasures, no matter who or what was involved, regardless of the cost.
The pre-Flood world was destroyed for the same thing, so this kind of conduct was not new. Before the Flood, we read: “And GOD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually . . . . The earth also was corrupt before God, and the earth was filled with violence” (Gen. 6:5, 11).
The Apostle Paul wrote:
For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness . . . . Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened . . . . For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature: And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompence of their error which was meet. (Rom. 1:18, 21, 26-27)
Jesus said society would be similar to Sodom and Gomorrah shortly before His return.
They did eat, they drank, they married wives, they were given in marriage, until the day that Noe entered into the ark, and the flood came, and destroyed them all. Likewise also as it was in the days of Lot; they did eat, they drank, they bought, they sold, they planted, they builded; But the same day that Lot went out of Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven, and destroyed them all. Even thus shall it be in the day when the Son of man is revealed. (Luke 17:27-30)
The Sodomites received their just reward. The Bible tells us they were so self-centered they could not, or would not, repent. Comparing Jerusalem with Sodom, Ezekiel wrote: “Behold, this was the iniquity of thy sister Sodom, pride, fulness of bread, and abundance of idleness was in her and in her daughters, neither did she strengthen the hand of the poor and needy. And they were haughty, and committed abomination before me: therefore I took them away as I saw good” (Ezek. 16:49-50).
Lot’s sons-in-law were also given the opportunity to be spared, but they chose to remain. When God decided to act, it became a race against time. “And Lot went out, and spake unto his sons in law, which married his daughters, and said, Up, get you out of this place; for the LORD will destroy this city. But he seemed as one that mocked unto his sons in law. And when the morning arose, then the angels hastened Lot, saying, Arise, take thy wife, and thy two daughters, which are here; lest thou be consumed in the iniquity of the city” (Gen. 19: 14-15).
Even with this dire warning, the angels had to force Lot to leave the city. “And while he lingered, the men laid hold upon his hand, and upon the hand of his wife, and upon the hand of his two daughters; the LORD being merciful unto him: and they brought him forth, and set him without the city” (Gen. 19:16). The Interlinear Bible, by Jay Green, translates “brought him forth, and set him without the city,” in the above verse, as “led him out and let him go,” suggesting that more than persuasion was used. One may wonder why Lot chose Sodom as his residence and why he was so reluctant to leave. More than likely, he enjoyed the prosperity, the opulence, and the economic opportunities. When the angels urged him to leave, he seemed hesitant. Perhaps he did he not wish to lose his possessions. In spite of these weaknesses, God regarded him as a righteous man (2 Pet. 2:6). Lot had allowed himself to become enmeshed in a set of unfavorable circumstances, so God had to intervene in his behalf (Gen. 19: 8-9).
Then, the angels gave some specific instructions. They said: ” . . . Escape for thy life; look not behind thee, neither stay thou in all the plain; escape to the mountain, lest thou be consumed” (Gen. 19:17). Lot and his family were allowed to escape to the nearby city of Zoar. “Then the LORD rained upon Sodom and upon Gomorrah brimstone and fire from the LORD out of heaven. And he overthrew those cities, and all the plain, and all the inhabitants of the cities, and that which grew upon the ground” (vv. 24-25). But what happened? Lot did not look back, “But his wife looked back from behind him, and she became a pillar of salt” (v. 26). The words “looked back” carry a connotation more than simply looking or observing. It means, “to have regard for,” to have respect,” to hope in.” In brief, Lot’s wife, in heart, had not really given up Sodom, and she paid with her life. She may have been a reason for Lot’s reluctance to leave. Gesenius gives the meaning of “pillar of salt,” as “fossil of salt.” Lot’s wife became a petrified fossil of salt, preserved for a period of time for all to see. She was a part of the example of ungodliness that Peter spoke of (2 Pet. 2:6).
We learn by what happened to Sodom and Gomorrah that long before the time of Moses and the law, homosexuality, bestiality, and sexual abandon were regarded as sin. Later Scriptures list some of these offenses against nature. See, for example, Leviticus 18:22-23; 20:13, 15-16, Deuteronomy 27:21, and Judges 19:22, 30, Romans 1:26-27. God does not change. This same law applies today.
What is now taking place in modern society? The answer: An acceptance of the very thing for which Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed! (Luke 17:29-30) Today, it is not politically correct to censure homosexuality. How long will God wait before He acts again?