Sodom, its abominable sin and its restoration


The destruction of Sodom as depicted in the Nuremberg Chronicles

The destruction of Sodom as depicted in the Nuremberg Cronicles

One of the strange stories in the bible is the story of Sodom and Gommora. It is a weird and scary story of God destroying some cities because all the inhabitants being quite evil. which they do prove in the story by attempting to gang-rape 2 angels. This is after a story where God (in human form) is being debated by Abraham who asks for mercy on the city, in which God says that if there are 50 innocent people, that He will forgive the whole city. (This alone could incite heavy discussions about forgiveness and salvation!) God then sends two angels to Sodom, to see if the sin is indeed that big, and the inhabitants want to gang-rape those two… But they get out unharmed with Lots family, who get out safe (except for the wife who turns into a pilar of salt, which is another story)

Some have concluded because of this that the abominable sin of Sodom was homosexuality, hence the English word ‘sodomy’ as derogatory term for all things homosexual. But the bible itself gives another explanation, which is mostly supported by extrabiblical Jewish sources:

Ezekiel 16:49-50:
See here – this was the iniquity of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters had majesty, abundance of food, and enjoyed carefree ease, but they did not help the poor and needy.  They were haughty and practiced abominable deeds before me. Therefore when I saw it I removed them.

If these are the sins of Sodom, Western countries are getting more like Sodom with the moment currently… Which is not a very happy thought… The abomination of Sodom is getting increasingly institutionalised in our late-capitalist systems… And it has been part of our political systems for ages!

Many commentators also speak about their violations of hospitality, something very important in the Ancient Near East. Not being hospitable could mean death to someone in a desert climate anyway… And gang rape is a very serious way to violate hospitality, but the sins of Sodom were a reason to destroy it long before the story… Jesus himself is most likely alluding to inhospitality when he compares the fate of those who reject the disciples when he sends them:

Matthew 10:14-15:
If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, shake the dust off your feet when you leave that home or town. I tell you the truth, it will be more bearable for Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgment than for that town.

My conclusion is thus that the sin of Sodom can not be seen as ‘homosexuality’ as we know it. And that means that the English word ‘sodomy’ is misguided… But my interest in the story in this post is not to enter in the discussion here about homosexuality in the bible, but about judgment and restoration.

We have seen already that Jesus calls the judgment of Sodom more bearable than that of the Jewish town which rejects the disciples of Jesus proclaiming the Kingdom of God. I have no idea what this means, actually, but it seems that the Sodomites (the real ones!) are in some way more lucky than the Jews of those mentioned cities…

What I find very strange, but encouraging, is this part from Ezekiel. It is from a strange chapter of a strange prophetic book, in which God compares Jerusalem and Samaria to 2 wives that are unfaithful, and later in the story their sister Sodom also comes into the picture. But after all the judgments on the unfaithful wives there are promises of restoration. Which is a very common theme in the prophets. Even if it seems God says everything is gonna be destroyed forever and ever, even then in the end there seems to de restoration and renewal!

And the interesting part is that the restoration is not just for Jerusalem and Samaria, but also for the most wicked of cities, Sodom:

Ezekiel 16:53-55:
I will restore their fortunes, the fortunes of Sodom and her daughters, and the fortunes of Samaria and her daughters (along with your fortunes among them), so that you may bear your disgrace and be ashamed of all you have done in consoling them. As for your sisters, Sodom and her daughters will be restored to their former status, Samaria and her daughters will be restored to their former status, and you and your daughters will be restored to your former status.

I have no idea what exactly this means, but I would say that there is hope. Even if we Westerners behave like Sodomites (in our treatment of the poor) there might be hope for us!

But seriously now. I don’t know what to do with all the pictures of judgment in the bible, and I think they speak about things we cannot picture at all with our human minds, but we look forward to a renewed Heaven and Earth in which no evil will even be able to exist anymore. And it seems to me from these verses that even Sodom, the symbol of evil, shares in this restoration.

The good news is probably bigger than we can understand!

What do you think?

Shalom

Bram

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8 responses to “Sodom, its abominable sin and its restoration

  1. I love your blog, so refreshing. Especially “I have no idea what exactly this means”. I get unnerved when people purport to know all the answers to God’s great mysteries.
    I’m not sure if it was meant to make me feel joyful, but it did.

    • Thanks for your encouragement! I’m glad it made you joyful. Sometimes I think that our theologies and especially eschatologies are like the thoughts of the disciples who thought Jesus would be a military king who’d kick out the Romans (like was expected of the messiah). I think God is bigger than all that, as is the good news. Bigger than anything we could think of and fixate in sterile abstract theories..

      He IS Life, and Love!

  2. If these are the sins of Sodom, Western countries are getting more like Sodom with the moment currently… The abomination of Sodom is getting increasingly institutionalised in our late-capitalist systems…

    Ouch! That is painful…but very true. It is said that we in the West have taken greed and pride to a whole other level by making it the foundation of our economic and political structure. I was reading Isaiah 5 the other day and was struck by the warning against those who add “house to house” and “field to field” (vs 8). The Lord is looking not for wealth or successful people but for those pursuing righteousness and justice (vs 8).

    “…I think they speak about things we cannot picture at all with our human minds, but we look forward to a renewed Heaven and Earth in which no evil will even be able to exist anymore.

    Amen and Amen!!

  3. Pingback: Resources for Ezekiel 16:49 - 50

  4. Try reading some of George MacDoanld’s thoughts in Unspoken Sermons. Especially “The Consuming Fire” and “Justice”. All of them are actually very good, though a little hard to get through. One of his main ideas is that God’s wrath is punishment and purification, and that even as Christians we enter into this, though with joy to be freed of our flesh. I really don’t like how most theology ignores and tries to explain very blunt plans of the redemption of God to go further than one expects. The Bible tells a story that is much different than the one you may hear in church. It doesn’t give clear answers to direct questions, so we can’t fully grasp what will happen, but it does tell us over and over again that God will, and did, and will again restore His creation, including Sodom and other Nations that never worshiped or acknowledged Him.

  5. Roger glasgow

    For ever is not the word used its olam in Hebrew and soon or aonian in Greek, both mean age abiding or lasting Noah was in Sheol unseen or death in the whale a olam 3 days, Jesus in Sheol a olam 4 days, the end of the Hebraic olam 70ab , will not be forgiven in this world or the next incorrect, in this age Hebraic or the next age of grace, many mistranslations in the Latin vulgate and English translations

  6. I think it means everyone will eventually be reconciled to Father.

  7. Could it be possible that when Jesus said
    ” when I am lifted up I will draw all men to myself”
    And the Bible says “as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive”
    And when Jesus in revelation says” behold I make all things new”
    Could it be that he means it?
    Could the good news be better than we ever thought?

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