Sodom and Gomorrah

Much has been made about what happened to Sodom and Gomorrah but just in case you don’t know the story, here it is.

Sodom and Gomorrah are often called “The Cities of the Plain”, the plain being the Jordan river valley. These two cities are almost always referred to together so apparently they were so close together they were basically one town1.

To put this in perspective, let’s remember this was the same Sodom and Gomorrah that, less than twenty years earlier, Abraham had saved their ass with a little over 300 men. So this wasn’t a giant metropolis. It was basically two patriarchs who had bonded together for safety’s sake and created a decent sized town with some permanent buildings.

It goes without saying,2 Abraham and the people of Sodom and Gomorrah knew each other very well3. For some reason this is never brought up in the particular telling.

Abraham had set up camp up on a hill some distance from Sodom and Gomorrah, but still at a point where he could keep an eye on them down in the valley. Let’s also remember it wasn’t just Abraham up there. If he’d had over 300 men with him twenty years before, it’s a good bet he had a formidable group up on the hill with him.

One day three angels showed up at Abraham’s camp.

It’s important to note that angels in those days were not what we think of as angels today. The original Aramaic definition for angel is ‘messenger’. Angel was a common term used for anyone who did “God’s work”. It could be a priest or a common man, as long as they were doing the Lord’s work. So don’t think of these guys as apparitions with white robes and wings, etc. They were just guys doing the Lord’s work. Different people have different ideas of what the ‘Lord’s work’ is, but apparently the Lord’s work for these guys was blowing up Sodom and Gomorrah.

Anyway, Abraham was so happy to see these guys he immediately threw a giant feast. It doesn’t specifically say so, but chances are pretty good Abraham already knew these guys. It’s hard to see why he would make such a fuss and throw a big party for three complete strangers.

During the party, these angels announced that in a year’s time Sarah would bear Abraham a son. Neither Abraham nor Sarah believed it because Sarah was well advanced in years and had “ceased to be in the way of women” as it were. In other words she was an old lady, at least 90, who’d gone through menopause. No way was she going to have a baby.

After the prediction, the story gets a little sketchy. All of a sudden it sounds like Abraham is talking directly to God and not the three guys. It’s hard to tell if these guys are just guys or God himself. From the narrative it sounds like they’re both.

Well, whoever they are, they tell Abraham they’re going to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah because the people are so wicked. But Abraham argues with them long enough to get them to spare his nephew, Lot, who still lives down there.

This won’t be the last time we’ll see a man bargaining with God and coming out on top.

The next thing you know there are only two angels going to Sodom and Gomorrah. No mention of what happened to the third guy. Maybe he went ahead to plant some explosives.

Well, when these two angels get to the gates of the city they run into Lot and Lot is as excited to see them as his uncle was. Lot takes them home and throws them a feast.

It makes me wonder if Abraham, the angels and Lot were all in cahoots to blow up the city. Why is anybody’s guess. The Bible says they were wicked so maybe their wickedness was they were messing with Abraham somehow. Who knows? 4

Whatever it was, the people of the town were not digging these new strangers and demanded Lot turn them over. I’ve always wondered why they would care about two strangers who were friends with Lot. Lot was no newcomer. He’d lived there since before his uncle had saved their whole town. You’d think they would’ve liked him and welcomed his friends. But that was not the case.

The men of the city knew something was up with these strangers and whatever it was, they didn’t like it.

But Lot wouldn’t turn them over. He even offered up his two virgin daughters instead. He said the mob could have his daughters and do with them whatever they pleased, just don’t hurt these friends of mine. What? It’s apparent these guys were really important to Lot. Hard to believe he’d just met them and now was already willing to give up his virgin daughters for them.

But the mob didn’t want the girls, they wanted the newcomers. Why? Sounds like they knew these guys were up to no good and Lot was in on it. We’ll never know because just as the mob was about to break down the door, the angels struck them all blind. Sounds like they had some sort of ancient pepper spray.

The bottom line is, the mob went away and didn’t bother them anymore. Like they just forgot about it. Convenient, to say the least.

The next day, the angels convinced Lot to take his wife and two daughters and head for the hills. The Bible says God rained down fire and brimstone. Seeing as brimstone is literally sulfur, it’s likely these guys were versed in some sort of primitive explosives and basically blew up the town. Let’s remember, this wasn’t Los Angeles, it was basically a village made of sticks and clay. It wouldn’t take much.

And as the story goes, just as the town was blown to smithereens, Lot’s wife turned back toward the town and she became a pillar of salt. What that pillar of salt actually represents5 is open to debate but that’s not what we’re doing here. I’ll leave it to you to do some more research on your own if you feel like it.

1 Like Las Vegas and Henderson, NV

2 Although nobody ever says it.

3 And possibly had a run-in or two

4 Literalists will invariably link the town name, Sodom with anal sex and say they were all a bunch of perverts who needed to go. The Bible makes no reference to that.

5 Or did she just go back and get burned up in the firestorm

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