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Bible Light on Sodom and the Flood

Posted Jan 15, 2024 in Explaining the Violent Stories of the Bible
Translated by Danutasn Brown
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By Daniel Bernhardt and Danutasn Brown

Most people read in Genesis about Sodom and the Flood and assume they understand them. But do we understand them as well as we think? Later prophets, such as Moses, Jeremiah, and Isaiah give further details on Sodom and the Flood, but how often are their thougths actually taken into consideration in our understanding of these events? We tend to stick to the initial impression we get of what happened when we read what's said in in Genesis:

 So the Lord said, “I will wipe from the face of the earth the human race I have created—and with them the animals, the birds and the creatures that move along the ground—for I regret that I have made them.” (Genesis 6:7)

Then the LORD rained on Sodom and Gomorrah sulfur and fire from the LORD out of heaven. And he overthrew those cities, and all the valley, and all the inhabitants of the cities, and what grew on the ground. (Genesis 19:24-25)

God did it, and He was loving and merciful to do it because they were like a sick and suffering dog that needs to be put down.

But this raises a number of questions. Couldn’t God just let them die a painless death in their sleep? Why use an excruciating means of death? We don’t put down our pets by drowning or burning them.

What about people dying in floods and fires in human history since these events? Is that also God doing it? Is He the one doing natural disasters? And where these things happen, is that because the people are so hopeless God has to put them down like sick animals?

There are many questions that we can think of. But there is another issue here, and that is one of Bible study method. Before we think we truly understand these events, we should look at ALL the Bible verses that mention these events – not just the 2 mentioned above. The Bible adds a lot more light to what happened there, but most of these verses are ignored because they are in different sections of the Bible. God must get so frustrated as humans ponder the why of these things without looking for answers in His Word!

So let us look at some of these verses and see if they can help us. In Deuteronomy 28, Moses lists out all the blessings for obedience to God’s law and curses for disobedience to God’s law. The curses seem to cover the whole scope of human calamity:

The LORD will send on you curses, confusion, and frustration in all that you undertake to do, until you are destroyed and perish quickly on account of the evil of your deeds, because you have forsaken me. (Deuteronomy 28:20)

Here we have the language of God “sending” curses, just like God “sent” the fire and the flood. So everything that follows should have its origin in God, right? Let’s see the list:

  • loss in war
  • pestilence
  • madness
  • blindness
  • confusion
  • getting robbed
  • losing your wife to another man
  • not being able to live in your own house or enjoy the fruit of your garden
  • having your animals killed in front of you
  • your children deciding to marry other nations you don’t like
  • other nations will oppress you
  • etc.

There is even this strange curse:

“The LORD will bring you and your king whom you set over you to a nation that neither you nor your fathers have known. And there you shall serve other gods of wood and stone.” (Deut 28:36)

Does God “bring” us to other nations to serve idols? What kind of punishment is this? Why does God punish us by bringing us to do more sin by worshipping “gods of wood and stone”? Is this punishing sin by more sin? How can God do that?

How involved is God in these sins? Does He force men to worship idols as a punishment? Does He tell robbers to rob people to punish them? Does he convince adulterers to take the spouse of a person not obeying His commandments? Does He put the idea in a man’s mind to kill the animals of another man to punish them? Does He convince children to go marry bad people to punish law-breaking parents?

Could it be that these curses are the consequences of disobedience, like lung cancer is the consequence of smoking (rather than God telling angels to inject cancer into the lungs)? That God will “send” the curse of diabetes and high blood pressure to those that refuse to obey the laws of health that He designed our bodies to live by? That if parents don’t follow the law, then neither will their children, and the consequence is that the children will do foolish things – that is the curse of disobedience?

All this is important, because God compares all of these curses to Sodom and Gomorrah:

Deuteronomy 29
18Beware lest there be among you a man or woman or clan or tribe whose heart is turning away today from the LORD our God to go and serve the gods of those nations. Beware lest there be among you a root bearing poisonous and bitter fruit, one who, when he hears the words of this sworn covenant, blesses himself in his heart, saying, ‘I shall be safe, though I walk in the stubbornness of my heart.’ This will lead to the sweeping away of moist and dry alike. The LORD will not be willing to forgive him, but rather the anger of the LORD and his jealousy will smoke against that man, and the curses written in this book will settle upon him, and the LORD will blot out his name from under heaven. And the LORD will single him out from all the tribes of Israel for calamity, in accordance with all the curses of the covenant written in this Book of the Law. 

22And the next generation, your children who rise up after you, and the foreigner who comes from a far land, will say, when they see the afflictions of that land and the sicknesses with which the LORD has made it sickthe whole land burned out with brimstone and salt, nothing sown and nothing growing, where no plant can sprout, an overthrow like that of Sodom and Gomorrah, Admah, and Zeboiim, which the LORD overthrew in his anger and wrath— all the nations will say, ‘Why has the LORD done thus to this land? What caused the heat of this great anger?’ 

25Then people will say, ‘It is because they abandoned the covenant of the LORD, the God of their fathers, which he made with them when he brought them out of the land of Egypt, and went and served other gods and worshiped them, gods whom they had not known and whom he had not allotted to them. Therefore the anger of the LORD was kindled against this land, bringing upon it all the curses written in this book, and the LORD uprooted them from their land in anger and fury and great wrath, and cast them into another land, as they are this day.’

If the other curses were the natural consequences of sin, which are exceedingly terrible and varied, so could be what happened to Sodom and Gomorrah – for that is the comparison God makes and wants the nations to understand. He didn’t say Sodom and Gomorrah was a special judgment and all these are natural consequences; instead Moses lumps them in the same category. Also God wants to make it clear that these other curses which may seem more ordinary – like children making poor decision sin who they marry – are the result of disobedience to the law just as surely as the overthrow of Sodom and Gomorrah was the result of disobedience. In all things God has power, not just in the dramatic and spectacular.

And what is the lesson God would have all people understand, the conclusion of this section of the book of Deuteronomy?

Deuteronomy 31
16The LORD said to Moses, “You are about to die and join your ancestors. After you are gone, these people will begin to worship foreign gods, the gods of the land where they are going. They will abandon me and break my covenant that I have made with them. Then my anger will blaze forth against them. I will abandon them, hiding my face from them, and they will be devoured. Terrible trouble will come down on them, and on that day they will say, ‘These disasters have come down on us because God is no longer among us!’ At that time I will hide my face from them on account of all the evil they commit by worshiping other gods.

19“So write down the words of this song, and teach it to the people of Israel. Help them learn it, so it may serve as a witness for me against them.”

It is not that God struck out at them for their evil that calamity fell on them; it is because God “hid” His face and had to abandon them that disaster came! His words, His promises, His laws, His advice is what blesses us, and when we reject it, problems inevitably follow. Thus it seems that God abandoned us, when it is we that abandoned Him by not valuing Him and His laws and His spirit to keep His laws.

Let us look at another verse that mentions Sodom and Gomorrah. I hope the reader can begin now to see how helpful it is to seek out ALL the Bible shares on a subject, for often a subject is multilayered and has many angles, and man’s initial understanding is usually incomplete or outright wrong.

Jeremiah 23:14-19, 33
But in the prophets of Jerusalem
I have seen a horrible thing:
they commit adultery and walk in lies;
they strengthen the hands of evildoers,
so that no one turns from his evil;
all of them have become like Sodom to me,
and its inhabitants like Gomorrah.”
Therefore thus says the LORD of hosts concerning the prophets:
“Behold, I will feed them with bitter food
and give them poisoned water to drink,
for from the prophets of Jerusalem
ungodliness has gone out into all the land.”

Thus says the LORD of hosts: “Do not listen to the words of the prophets who prophesy to you, filling you with vain hopes. They speak visions of their own minds, not from the mouth of the LORD. They say continually to those who despise the word of the LORD, ‘It shall be well with you’; and to everyone who stubbornly follows his own heart, they say, ‘No disaster shall come upon you.’”

For who among them has stood in the council of the LORD
to see and to hear his word,
or who has paid attention to his word and listened?
Behold, the storm of the LORD!
Wrath has gone forth,
a whirling tempest;
it will burst upon the head of the wicked.

“When one of this people, or a prophet or a priest asks you, ‘What is the burden of the LORD?’ you shall say to them, ‘You are the burden, and I will cast you off (forsake you), declares the LORD.’” (Jeremiah 13)

Here we see what happened to Jerusalem is compared to what happened to Sodom and Gomorrah. They were wicked in the same manner that Sodom and Gomorrah were, and this led to their being forsaken/cast off by God. And what happens when the wicked are forsaken? Any of the various curses mentioned, based on the circumstances of that place – environmental, cultural, political factors. For Sodom, it was destruction by lightning and fire for it sat on tar pits (Genesis 14:10-16), and for Jerusalem it was destruction by their more powerful neighboring empires. In both cases the way God did it was the same: hiding His face and forsaking them.

“I overthrew some of you [Israelites], as when God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah… (Amos 4:11)

So God says clearly that He did to Israel what He did to Sodom and Gomorrah.

In  verse below God says He “stirs up” the Medes against Babylon. How do we understand that? By planting ideas of war in their minds? Or by removing a willingness to have peace? We know how it was…by forsaking men and giving them over to their wickedness and its consequences, which include war and natural disasters. (For how this happens to the land, see Leviticus 18)

Isaiah 13:17-19
Behold, I am stirring up the Medes against them,
who have no regard for silver
and do not delight in gold.
Their bows will slaughter the young men;
they will have no mercy on the fruit of the womb;
their eyes will not pity children.
And Babylon, the glory of kingdoms,
the splendor and pomp of the Chaldeans,
will be like Sodom and Gomorrah
when God overthrew them
.

So, what did God do with Babylon? How did He do it? Why is comparable to what He did in Sodomah and Gomorrah?

Hosea 11:8 
How shall I give thee up, Ephraim?
How shall I deliver thee, Israel?
How shall I make thee as Admah?
How shall I set thee as Zeboim (another city destroyed at the same time as Sodom and Gomorrah)?
Mine heart is turned within me,
My repentings are kindled together.

This shows that God gives people up to the calamity that is the fruit of their wickedness. Also, to whom did God was going to give them up? Who was claiming them as a possession? If God no longer is their leader and ruler because He is required to forsake them as He has been pushed away, who becomes their leader? Satan.

It is extremely painful for God to give up His children to Satan. Satan is a murderer; he murders, that is what he does. We see what he is like in his hour of darkness where he has full control, where Christ is given up to him and Satan tortures and crucifies Christ. That is what Satan will do to humans that he is given control of, and that is pain to Christ’s spirit like unto crucifixion.

Revelation 11:8 And their dead bodies shall lie in the street of the great city, which spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt, where also our Lord was crucified.

Finally, two verses regarding the flood showing that it follows this same principle:

For a brief moment I deserted you,
but with great compassion I will gather you.
In overflowing anger for a moment
I hid my face from you,
but with everlasting love I will have compassion on you,”
says the LORD, your Redeemer.

“This is like the days of Noah to me:
as I swore that the waters of Noah
should no more go over the earth,
so I have sworn that I will not be angry with you,
and will not rebuke you.
Isaiah 54:7-9

He forsook humanity during the flood, but He promises not to do that again because those circumstances won’t happen again… until the very end of time. Then the complete revelation of God’s love to the whole planet rejected will once again be fully rejected, the consequence of which is total global calamity.

Let us not blame God for the terrible natural disasters that take place and instead look at where it is we are in disobedience to His law that causes calamity to fall upon us, of which we are the cause, not God. Let us not say to God like those in the time of Noah did:

Job 22:15-17

1Hast thou marked the old way
Which wicked men have trodden?

Which were cut down out of time,
Whose foundation was overflown with a flood:

Which said unto God, Depart from us:
And what can the Almighty do for them?

For more info on this, see the booklets The Cry of Sodom and Gomorrah and Christ's Antediluvian Cross, and the author of this study, Daniel Bernhardt, and his book Principles of the Character of God

See also Kevin Mullins' articles: (Genesis 6:5-7) Did God Really Drown Millions of People in the Flood? and (Genesis 19:13, 24, 25) Did God Send Angels to Kill the Inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah?