Sodom and Gomorrah

Genesis 19:1-14

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The mention of “Sodom and Gomorrah” conjures up images of unbridled lust and debauchery.  They were the original sin cities.  And their judgement is constantly held up in the Bible as a cautionary tale for all.  But both their sins and their judgement aren’t as straightforward as some might present it.

Almost the first description of Sodom says this:

the men of Sodom were wicked and sinners before the LORD exceedingly. (Genesis 13:13)

What exactly were their sins?  They are enumerated in multiple ways by different biblical authors.  Peter calls the people “lawless”.  (2 Peter 2:6)  Jude speaks of them:

giving themselves over to fornication, and going after strange flesh (Jude 1:7)

The climax of their lusts is recorded in Genesis 19 where angels, sent to assess the guilt of Sodom, are besieged by would-be rapists.  They had tried every kind of flesh under the sun yet their appetite for “strange flesh” is insatiable. These angels represented Sodom’s last hope for a reprieve.  Yet instead of pleading with them, they sought to “know” them (Genesis 19:5).

Perhaps these are the kinds of sins we expect of “Sodomites”.  Yet listen to Ezekiel’s description of Sodom’s “iniquity”:

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.  (Ezekiel 16:49-50)

Notice how sexual sins (probably the “abominations” referred to) are seen in the context of broader social relationships.

Ezekiel – like the rest of the Bible – is interested in greed every bit as much as lust.  Self-exaltation, self-satisfaction, self-preoccupation – these are the iniquities emphasized in Ezekiel’s assessment.

The Bible is not obsessed with sex.  But it does recognize the inter-relatedness of sex to all of life.  “One flesh” has its context in the committed relationship of man and woman in covenant union.  Bringing it out of this context is both a sign and a source of other relational disordering.  When covenant relationships are disordered, community relationships also fall apart.  The bedroom might be private but it’s not isolated.  And it’s all a part of the “cry” that comes up unto the LORD (Genesis 18:20).

But if it’s unbalanced to view Sodom and Gomorrah’s sins as simply sexual, it’s also unbalanced to see their fate as simply a warning to sexual sinners.

The fate of Sodom and Gomorrah is held up as a warning many times in the Bible (more on this tomorrow).  Yet the caution is never addressed to sexual sinners per se.  Almost exclusively ‘a fate worse than Sodom’ is said to await the people of God. It’s when the people of God turn out to be faithless that they are likened to Sodomites.

Jesus told His disciples that those rejecting the gospel message were like Sodom and Gomorrah (Matt 10:14-15).  And Moses says the same thing in Deuteronomy 29.  He tells the Israelites that their unfaithfulness will lead to a judgement “like the overthrow of Sodom and Gomorrah” (v23).  When the promised land is laid waste like Sodom, people will ask, “Wherefore hath the LORD done thus unto this land?” (v24)

Then men shall say, Because they have forsaken the covenant of the LORD God.  (Deuteronomy 29:25)

The ultimate issue is covenant faithfulness.  And the ultimate covenant is the one the LORD makes with us.

To be unfaithful to human covenants will mean permutations of sexual Sodomy.  Yet there is a deeper unfaithfulness – a root unfaithfulness that is the source of all sin and the cause of all judgement.  To be unfaithful to God’s covenant love is a spiritual Sodomy.  And in the Bible, that is even worse.

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