The destruction of Sodom (Gen 19:1-19:29)

 “The two angels came to Sodom in the evening.  Lot was sitting in the gateway of Sodom. When Lot saw them, he rose to meet them, and bowed down with his face to the ground. He said, ‘Please, my lords, turn aside to your servant’s house and spend the night, and wash your feet.  Then you can rise up early and go on your way.’ They said, ‘No. We will spend the night in the street square.’  But he urged them strongly.  So they turned aside to him and entered his house.  He made them a feast, and baked unleavened bread, and they ate.”

How are these two angels related to the three men who visited Abraham? They almost seem the same.  Nevertheless these two are called angels, not men, and there only two as if Yahweh, the third did not come.  Lot met them at the entrance to Sodom.  He promptly asked them to stay the night by washing their feet. They wanted to spend the night in the town square of Sodom, but Lot convinced them to stay with him. So, he prepared a great feast with unleavened bread, which they ate. So these angels eat food.

“But before they lay down, the men of the city, the men of Sodom, both young and old, and all the people to the last man, surrounded the house.  They called to Lot, ‘Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us, so that we may know them.’”

However, before they went to lie down for the night, the whole town surrounded Lot’s house.  Here they are called men not angels.  In a surprising tone, the men of Sodom told Lot to bring the men out so that they might ‘know them.’ ‘Know’ is a euphemism for sex. The wickedness of this town becomes obvious as some kind of homosexual rape.

“Lot went out of the door to the men, shut the door after him, and said, ‘I beg you, my brothers, do not act so wickedly. Look I have two daughters who have not known man.  Let me bring them out to you, and do to them as you please.  Only do nothing to these men, for they have come under the shelter of my roof.’  But they said, ‘Stand back! This fellow came here as an alien, and he would play the judge! Now we will deal worse with you than with them.’ Then they pressed hard against the man Lot, and drew near the door to break it down.  But the men inside reached out their hands and brought Lot into the house with them, and shut the door. They struck with blindness the men who were at the door of the house, both small and great, so that they were unable to find the door.” 

Lot went out to talk to them and told them to not act so wickedly.  In fact, he offered his two virgin daughters, saying you can do anything you want with them.  He begged them not to hurt ‘the two men’ since they had the shelter of his roof.  Then the men of Sodom turned on Lot as an alien. However, the two men or angels pulled Lot inside the house and struck all the men outside the house blind.  It is interesting that Lot would give up his two daughters to protect the two men or angles, showing that men were more valuable than women.  There is a show of force by the two visiting men making the intruders blind.

“Then the men said to Lot, ‘Have you anyone else here? Sons-in-law, sons, daughters, or anyone you have in the city, bring them out of the place. We are about to destroy this place, because the outcry against its people has become great before Yahweh. Yahweh has sent us to destroy it.’  So Lot went out and said to his sons-in-law, who were to marry his daughters, ‘Up, get out of this place.  Yahweh is about to destroy the city.’ But he seemed to his sons-in-law to be jesting.”

Then the two men who were angels at the beginning of this story asked Lot who was with him, because Yahweh had sent them to destroy this place.  Lot went to his future son-in-laws to tell them to come with him because of the destruction of Sodom. They thought that he was joking.

“When morning dawned, the angels urged Lot, saying, ‘Get up, take your wife and your two daughters who are here, or else lest you be consumed in the punishment of the city.’  But he lingered.  So the men seized him and his wife and his two daughters by the hand, Yahweh being merciful to him, and they brought him out and left him outside the city. When they had brought them outside, they said, ‘Flee for your life.  Do not look back or stop anywhere in the valley plain.  Flee to the hills or else you will be consumed.’  Then Lot said to them, ‘Oh, no, my lords.  Your servant has found favor with you, and you have shown me great kindness in saving my life.  But I cannot flee to the hills, for fear that the disaster will overtake me, and I die. Look, that city is near enough to flee to, and it is a little one.  Let me escape there.  Is it not a little one?  My life will be saved!’  He said to him, ‘Very well, I grant you this favor too, that will not overthrow the city of which you have spoken. Hurry, escape there! For I can do nothing until you arrive there.’ Therefore the city was called Zoar. The sun had risen on the earth when Lot came to Zoar.”

The two angels took Lot and his wife and two daughters by the hand outside the city, since they were lingering.  They were to flee to the hills without looking back.  However, Lot resisted and wanted to go to a nearby little city of Zoar and so he went there.

“Then Yahweh rained on Sodom and Gomorrah sulfur and fire from Yahweh out of heaven.  He overthrew those cities, and all the inhabitants of the cities, and what grew on the ground.  But Lot’s wife, behind him, looked back, and she became a pillar of salt.”

Then Yahweh rained on both Sodom and Gomorrah sulfur and fire so that all who lived in those two towns and the plain were destroyed.  It is not clear why Gomorrah was included but it is assumed that they were wicked also.  Lot’s wife looked back and she became a pillar of salt, a striking biblical image.  Remember that this was in the plain by the Dead Sea which was also called the Salt Sea.

“Abraham went early in the morning to the place where he had stood before Yahweh.  He looked down toward Sodom and Gomorrah and toward all the land of the valley plain and saw the smoke of the land going up like the smoke of a furnace.  So it was that, when God destroyed the cities of the valley, God remembered Abraham, and sent Lot out of the midst of the overthrow, when he overthrew the cities in which Lot had settled.”

The next day Abraham looked down on the destruction with smoke in the air like a furnace.  So it was that the cities of the valley plain were destroyed, while Lot was saved.  This is the story of Sodom and Gomorrah, a fiery destructive God dislikes wickedness and destroys it.

The intercession of Abraham (Gen 18:16-18:33)

“Then the men set out from there, and they looked toward Sodom. Abraham went with them to set them on their way.  Yahweh said, ‘shall I hide from Abraham what I am about to do, seeing that Abraham shall become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him?  No, for I have chosen him, that he may charge his children and his household after him to keep the way of Yahweh by doing righteousness and justice.  So that Yahweh may bring to Abraham what he has promised him.’  Then Yahweh said, ‘How great is the outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah and how very grave their sin!  I must go down and see whether they have done altogether according to the outcry which has come to me.  And if not, I will know. So the men turned from there, and went toward Sodom, while Abraham remained standing before Yahweh.”

The three men, and they are called men, with Abraham set out for Sodom.  However, the men morph into Yahweh and how Abraham must be righteous and just to bring about all that is planned for him.  Somehow there is an outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah because of their very grave sin, without mentioning what the sin is. Yahweh and the three men were going there to see for themselves. It seems as if the men and Yahweh are not one and the same because Yahweh stays behind with Abraham.   

“Then Abraham drew near, and said, ‘Will you indeed sweep away the righteous with the wicked?  Suppose there are fifty righteous within the city.  Will you then sweep away the place and not forgive it for the fifty righteous who are in it?  Far be it from you to do such a thing, to slay the righteous with the wicked, so that the righteous fare as the wicked! Far be that from you! Shall not the Judge of the entire earth do what is just?’  And Yahweh said, ‘If I find at Sodom fifty righteous in the city, I will forgive the whole place for their sake.  Abraham answered, ‘Let me take it upon myself to speak to Yahweh, I who am but dust and ashes.  Suppose five of the fifty righteous are lacking? Will you destroy the whole city for lack of five?’ And he said, ‘I will not destroy it if I find forty-five there.’ Again he spoke to him, ‘Suppose forty are found there.’ He answered, ‘For the sake of forty I will not do it.’  Then he said, ‘Oh do not let Yahweh be angry if I  speak.  Suppose thirty are found there.’ He answered, ‘I will not do it, if I find thirty there.’  He said, ‘Let me take it upon myself to speak to Yahweh.  Suppose twenty are found there.’ He answered, ‘For the sake of twenty I will not destroy it.’  Then he said, ‘Oh so not Yahweh be angry if I speak just once more. Suppose ten are found there.’ He answered, ‘For the sake of ten I will not destroy it.’ And Yahweh went his way, when he had finished speaking to Abraham. Then Abraham returned to his place.”

Abraham asked if they would sweep away the righteous with the wicked.  If there were 50 righteous people, will he spare the city?  Yahweh said yes.  Abraham refers to himself as ‘dust and ashes,’ as he asks suppose there are only 45.  Once again the answer is yes.   Then Abraham lowers the number to 40, 30, 20, and 10. Each time Yahweh says yes.  Abraham is a good negotiator and Yahweh is easy to convince.