Sodom and Gomorrah

The biblical story of Sodom and Gomorrah appears in chapter 19 of the book of Genesis. Sodom and Gomorrah were two towns in the Jordan river valley. The inhabitants of these towns had sinned, and God wished to destroy them. Abraham protested that the innocent should not be killed with the wicked, and God agreed to spare the towns if Abraham could find ten worthy men. He sent a group of angels to investigate.

When the angels arrived, they came upon Lot, a nephew of Abraham. Lot invited the angels into his home and prepared a meal for them. Later, the citizens of Sodom appeared at Lot’s house and demanded, “Where are the men that came in to thee this night? Bring them out unto us, that we may know them.” (Genesis 19:5) Instead, Lot offered his virgin daughters to the men of Sodom, but they were not satisfied. At this point, seeing that the situation was dire, the angels told Lot to get himself and his family out of Sodom. The angels instructed Lot and his family not to look back as they fled. Lot was able to escape to a nearby town, but as Sodom and Gomorrah were being destroyed, his wife glanced back and was turned into a pillar of salt.

It is unclear what sins were actually committed by the citizens of Sodom and Gomorrah. Traditionally, Jews believe that they committed the sin of inhospitality. The story occurs just after the Torah tells how much God appreciated Abraham’s hospitality. Abraham’s good behavior can be starkly contrasted with how the citizens of Sodom reacted to their visitors. Taken together, these two stories seem to emphasize the importance of being a good host.

Conservative Christians, on the other hand, see the sins of Sodom quite differently. When the citizens of Sodom demanded to “know” the angels, it is believed by some that this “knowing” was really a euphemism for sex. According to this view, the men of Sodom were homosexuals, and God punished them for their sexual orientation.

ADDITIONAL FACTS

  1. The contemporary term sodomy is derived from the biblical town of Sodom.
  2. The actual existence of Sodom and Gomorrah is disputed, but some believe they may lie under the Dead Sea. Historians think the towns may have been near a fault line and that God’s wrath was actually a terrible earthquake that flattened them.
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