This is part 8 of a series which will help you more if you begin at the beginning. Otherwise enjoy!
And Lot lifted up his eyes, and beheld all the plain of Jordan, that it was well-watered everywhere, before the Lord destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah, even as the garden of the Lord, like the land of Egypt, as thous comest unto Zoar (Genesis 13.10)
Surely Sodom and Gomorrah is an incident is a clear example of God causing a natural disaster? Well, let’s look at this in the light of everything we have learned so far, without doing anything other than seeking to take the Bible literally and as God’s Word.
The wonderful thing about the Word of God is that it often gives us clues on interpretation, at times it explicitly interprets itself. So, when we see God seemingly in a destructive mood and raining fire on Sodom and Gomorrah, we have to hold this up in the light of everything we have said previously about God is not the destroyer. He is not behind destruction.
But people will say look at Genesis 13.10, it clearly says God did this. Genesis 19.24 tells us that Sodom and Gomorrah was destroyed by “fire from the Lord” and that God destroyed the cities by raining fire from heaven.
So we need to look deeper at this. Let us start by looking at what was the reason for the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah:
Behold, this as the iniquity of thy sister Sodom, pride, fulness of bread, and abundance of idleness was in her and in her daughters… they were haughty and committed abomination before me, therefore I took them away as I saw good (Ezekiel 16.49-50)
Among other things, we find out that Sodom committed abomination before the Lord, and the main abomination – or at least the most famous of them in the case of Sodom – was homosexuality. Read what the New Testament has to say about Sodom:
In a similar way, Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding towns gave themselves up to sexual immorality and perversion. They serve as an example of those who suffer the punishment of eternal fire. (Jude 7, NIV)
The sin of homosexuality was so strong in Sodom, they were ready to actually rape two angels (Genesis 19.1-12), and we know from previous blog posts on this subject that abominations cause the entire land to react and get sick (Leviticus 20.13) and that when the land gets sick, it actually starts to vomit out the inhabitants of the land (Leviticus 22.22, Leviticus 18.24-25). It is not God judging the land or destroying the land – He is not the destroyer. What is happening is that the sin of the land is causing the land to react negatively. The earth was on the most basic level just not created to endure that kind of sin. When the land becomes sick, it becomes violent, and natural disasters occur.
The geography of Sodom is also an interesting factor in this account. Sodom as a city was surrounded by pits full of slime (Genesis 14.10). This fact I believe is recorded for a specific purpose – to let you know that these slime pits were there. Slime pits are essentially full of bitumen, and therefore full of the gases that come from petroleum products. This was the same bitumen that Noah’s ark was covered in, and later on Moses’ ark too. It is very similar to crude oil, and therefore all the petroleum gases would have been there. These pits were one spark away from exploding at any time, and I believe that it was God protecting the cities from those explosions (see Revelation 7.1-3). God is a good God, and He protects people, He is not the destroyer. All He does is bring life and life in abundance.
The whole area of the Dead Sea, where Sodom and Gomorrah were, is still an oil district today and still full of oil and gas, and it is all flammable. Remember the land will vomit out its inhabitants if their sin is too great – and this is what appears to have happened.
The fire from the beavens that fell on Sodom and Gomorrah was referred to as fire and brimstone, it was burning debris from bitumen. Bitumen is mainly oil but it also contains a high concentration of sulphur. Burning bitumen creates fire and brimstone. If a fault line developed that could force the bitumen into the air and ignite it, it would be an explosion that resulted in the “rain” of fire and brimstone.
So, we can see that God did not create fire and brimstone in heaven and then fire it deliberately at Sodom and Gomorrah. We can see that when the Hebrew says “God did it”, that this is actually in the Hebrew passive language. God allowed it to happen because the people rejected Him, but the truth is that the land vomited, made sick by the repetitive sin and abominations of Sodom and Gomorrah.
You have to realize that sin takes us to a place where we are no longer until the protection of God. God is upholding all things by the power of His Word (Hebrews 1.3) so God was holding the slime and the bitumen and the explosive gases together, and lovingly protecting the people. But as the people continued to reject God and reject life and turn their back on God and sin in more and more wicked ways, eventually the land had reached its capacity and started to vomit the inhabitants out. The land literally started to vomit out the petroleum gases in the pits, similar to a volcano going off, and the explosion reached so high, the fire and brimstone fell on Sodom and Gomorrah and wiped them out forever. Because God stopped holding this explosion back, and stopped holding everything together, in Hebrew it is legitimate and appropriate to say “God did this”, but in the English sense of that phrase, God definitely did not do this. God does not and has never destroyed a city. God loves people and wants them to live, thrive and survive!
God removed His protection as He was forced out of Sodom, and through the natural consequences of defiling the land, the people were destroyed by the land, actually by their own sin. The wages of sin is, and will always be, death. The death of Sodom and Gomorrah, the destruction of these two cities is not supernatural, but that it took so long was! God was protecting them. Hosea uses this kind of language to discuss God destroying cities:
How shall I give thee up, Ephraim? How shall I deliver thee, Israel? How shall I make thee as Admah and set thee as Zeboin… I will not return to destroy Ephraim for I am God and not man (Hosea 11.8-9, KJV)
God didn’t destroy Admah and Zeboin (these are towns between Sodom and Gommorah connected both geographically and with the same sins, Genesis 10.19, 14.2, 14.8, Deut 29.23). He delivered them. He let go off them, they pushed Him out of their lives and their communities and their cities and He just let them do it because of His great love for them. God was not actively destroying them – He is not the destroyer. God’s heart is to protect and love – and He tells Ephraim He is not going to destroy them because He is God – He is love, He is light, He is not satan, He is not the destroyer.
God has removed His hand of protection and let the city face the consequences of their sin and receive the wages of sin from sin. Sodom and Gomorrah faced the consequences of consistent rebellion. They pushed God away, and then were destroyed by the land they had defiled. In Deut. 29.23-25 Moses tells us that Sodom was destroyed because they turned their back on the covenant they had made with God, they turned their back on God. 2 Chr. 15.2 says if you turn your back on God, He will turn His back on you – not out of hatred or rage, but because He will give you what you want because He honours and protects your power to choose.
Now we have established that God is not the destroyer, but within this account of Sodom’s destruction we find out that angels are involved, which brings about the very important question of whether angels are destroyers, and did angels have any role in the destruction of Sodom?
Now in Revelation, verses we looked at in a previous post, we find out that there are angels in the future holding the four winds of the earth so the wind should not blow on the earth and cause destruction (Rev. 7.1-3), so we can see that angels do not cause destruction, they prevent it. If they are hurting the earth, it is not because of their great might and power being used for destruction, it is because they – like God – stop holding the wind back. I see the destruction of Sodom the same way, that somehow the angels were holding back the explosive gases in the surrounding areas, and protecting the city from destruction.
In Daniel 4, Daniel is informing the King Nebuchadnezzar that an angel is watching him and the angel tells the other angels guarding the king “let his heart be changed… and let a beast’s heart be given to him and let it pass over him seven times” (Daniel 4.16). This is language of permission not causation. The harvest of the king’s rebellion was coming, and the angels were told – let it come. Angels are not destroyers they are protectors and servants and allies. The angels might have let their protective holding back stop and the gaseous build up turned into an explosion that destroyed the cities.
The truth is that Sodom and Gomorrah reaped what they sowed. That is just how the universe works – it is not you sin, God hates you for sinning, God comes and smashes you in and destroys your city, breaks your washing machine, floods your planet and gives you the coronavirus, you suffer. That is not the cycle. The cycle is you sin – you push God out of your life, you sow death when you sin and you eventually reap that death, the wages of that sin. It has nothing to do with God – He is not the destroyer, He is the God of love, the redeemer, the rescuer, the helper.
Isa. 3.9 says that Sodom rewarded evil to themselves. The destruction of Sodom was caused by Sodom! Sodom was destroyed by sowing and reaping, cause and effect. Sin destroys the land, and the land then vomits the people out. Yes, the Hebrew says God destroyed Sodom, but that is how the Hebrew language works.
Look at when Israel murmured and complained in the wilderness. It says the anger of the Lord was kindled and the fire of the Lord burned them (this is in Numbers 11.1), now if you take that at face value in English, you would assume God is not like Jesus, He is not the healer, but rather a vicious destroyer of His own covenant people. But the Hebrew simply means He allowed the people to push Him out of their lives and the fire is actually the death of sin. But, if you read the same account in 1 Corinthians, written in Greek, we find out “some of them also murmured and were destroyed by the destroyer” (1 Cor. 10.10). God did not destroy His people – the destroyer, satan, did.
We can affirm from this that God can remove His hand of protection if we push it away hard enough, and satan loves those sorts of situations. When the Old Testament Scriptures talk about God destroying things, that is not Him actively using His god-like powers to wipe out cities and cause plagues. God does not do that, what God does is to stop protecting people who push Him away. When Sodom did not repent and change, God had no choice but to release His protection because He will not violate the choices of people, even those who choose death.
If people, a community, a city pushes God right out of the door, we cannot and must not blame God for the trouble that they then experience!
Next post will address the ten plagues of Egypt.