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What we don’t know about Sodom and Gomorrah

The destruction of the cities of Sodom, Gomorrah, and neighboring towns is a well-known tale filled with obscurities that people often fail to notice. When they do, they stop thinking about the story and fail to learn from it. Here are some of the many obscurities.

  • Was the destruction of the cities a natural event or did God interfere with nature to punish evildoers?
  • How many cities were destroyed? Why are Sodom and Gomorrah only mentioned?
  • Were the men who came to warn Lot and his family to flee the area sent by God, or were they wise humans who saw signs of impending doom such as the beginning of an earthquake and for no longer known reasons chose to warn Lot and his family of what they discovered?
  • Why did the Masorites, who divided the Torah into sections by placing spaces before sections with a new subject, not do so before the tale of the destruction of Sodom and its environment, and connected it instead to the prior tale about the revelation of Isaac’s birth?[1]
  • Genesis19 states that two men left Abraham and came to Lot in Sodom. There were three men that came to Abraham. What happened to the third man?
  • God reveals to Abraham that he intends to destroy Sodom and its surroundings because their behavior is terrible. He says He is telling this to Abraham because all the nations of the world will bless Abraham and will do righteousness and justice. Is God saying that in the future people will learn from Abraham’s reaction to what He tells him? If so, what is the lesson?
  • Why does the Torah not tell us what behavior in the destroyed cities disturbed God?
  • This is not the first time that God is bothered by bad human behavior. There was Adam and Eve eating the forbidden fruit, Cain’s murder of Abel, the flood to kill evil doers, and the building of a structure reaching heaven. We like to think that God is all-knowing. Shouldn’t He have known about these misbehaviors before He looked at his creation and proclaimed it was good? Alternatively, is the ability to do either good or bad what God considers good?
  • When “all the people from every quarter” of Sodom surrounded Lot’s house and demanded that he give them the two men who were visiting him, Lot apparently understood that the men wanted to have sex with them because he suggested that they take instead his two virgin daughters. How could a father do such a thing? Doesn’t this tell us that Lot was immoral?
  • Does the biblical statement that “all the people from every quarter” surrounded Lot’s house with an immoral request a hyperbolic depiction in scripture stated in this way to emphasize that the crowd was very large? And we should not take it literally.
  • When the crowd refused the two virgins and insisted upon having the men who visited Lot, was this to perform a homosexual act? Is scripture hinting here that one of Sodom’s crimes was homosexuality?
  • I want to point out here as I have done often that Maimonidescontended in his Guide of the Perplexed 2:48 that whenever scripture states that God said something or did something, God was not directly involved. What happened occurred because of the laws of nature that God created or formed. The acts are attributed to God only because God created the laws of nature.
  • God built into the laws of nature many things, including the rule of consequences. Every action has consequences. People need to be conscious of this since consequences frequently affect innocent people, as in Sodom, because obviously it is hard to conceive that every citizen who was killed was evil.
  • Is it possible that the two virgin daughters of Lotwere so offended by their father’s offer to Sodom’s base fellows that they lay with them and abuse them that after escaping Sodom they caused their dad to get drunk, and on two nights had immoral sex with him? This was the consequence of his foolish offer to the Sodom citizens. The daughters’ acts had its own consequences. The two male children of their sex were the ancestors of the people of Moab and Ammon who caused the Israelites much pain in the future.
  • Abraham attempts to bargain with God to save Sodom. He begins by asking for a pardon if there are fifty righteous people in the area. What is “righteous”? When finding fifty righteous people fails, he pleads the reduction by tens until the final attempt with ten righteous people, which also fails. Why would righteous people in the area, ten or more, save people from murder? Is it reasonable to suppose that in a large area of several cities there are not ten righteous people?
  • Is it possible that Lotwas evil and escaped only because of his relation to Abraham?
  • Why did Abraham’s bargaining stop at ten?
  • Why save Lot’s two daughters? As previously noted, after fleeing Sodom, they seduced their father to have sex with them, an immoral act. Did the daughters survive because of their father? Is it possible that there were other survivors when the Torah states that many people died in the destruction? The Torah, as said previously, very often uses hyperbole for the sake of emphasis, such as saying Moses spoke to all the people when this was impossible, and saying that during the tenth plague in Egypt all first-born of humans and animals died, “all” in scripture frequently means many.

[1]      The Masorites worked during the second half of the first millennium CE.

About the Author
Dr. Israel Drazin served for 31 years in the US military and attained the rank of brigadier general. He is an attorney and a rabbi, with master’s degrees in both psychology and Hebrew literature and a PhD in Judaic studies. As a lawyer, he developed the legal strategy that saved the military chaplaincy when its constitutionality was attacked in court, and he received the Legion of Merit for his service. Dr. Drazin is the author of more than 50 books on the Bible, philosophy, and other subjects.

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