Twice I have stood on the site of what evidence increasingly points to as ancient Sodom. Both were sobering experiences. Looking out over the plain of the Jordan Valley and thinking about the destruction that rained down from the skies on the cities whose presence became reprehensible to God was an unforgettable experience.
During visits to Jordan observing the biblical Feast of Tabernacles, part of our group decided to take the trek to Tall el-Hammam. Work was just about to begin by archaeologists to peel back the layers of this large mound near the northern edge of the Dead Sea overlooking the flat plains that lead to Jericho and the hills of Israel beyond. That was 16 years ago.
Much more is known about the site now. A recent archaeology conference included reports from project director Dr. Steven Collins and scientific analysis director Dr. Phillip Silvia. A major peer-reviewed paper has been published, and more may conclude that ancient Sodom has been found.
Any archaeological discovery that confirms the truth of the Bible is important. Skeptics have dismissed much of the biblical record, especially the stories and characters of Genesis.
In Genesis we find the story of Sodom and Gomorrah, two cities symbolizing societal decadence through history. For their grave sins God rained fire from the sky on them and nearby cities, destroying all of Sodom’s inhabitants except for Lot and his two daughters. Now, in the 21st century, archaeology reveals evidence of a catastrophic cosmic event in the land of the Bible that laid waste to a large ancient city fitting ancient Sodom’s description.
What the Bible tells us about the sins of these cities is a sobering indictment of the direction of modern culture, as today’s culture is much like that of Sodom. At issue in the culture wars that have spread through America and other nations is the intent of many to alter the essential fabric of the family and society as we have always known it. It’s critical that you understand what God’s Word teaches us about Sodom, its sins and the connection to our modern culture.
The story of Sodom begins in Genesis 13 where we see Abraham (then called Abram) and his nephew Lot living in the land of Canaan between Bethel and Ai. Both men had larger flocks and herds than that section of land could support. There were more animals than pastureland. Conflict arose between their workers, and it was evident they would need to separate for the sake of peace. Abraham gave Lot the first choice of where to settle: “Let there be no strife between you and me, and between your herdsmen and my herdsmen, for we are kinsmen. Is not the whole land before you? Separate yourself from me” (Genesis 13:8-9).
The spot where this occurred was on the hills above the Jordan River Valley. Both men could look out and see the valley was “well-watered everywhere . . . like the garden of the Lord, like the land of Egypt” (verse 10). The hill country where they were had its advantages, but the valley of the Jordan was prime real estate in that mostly arid land.
Lot, given first choice, headed toward the Jordan. So they separated, and Lot journeyed eastward and ended up settling at Sodom. (Tall el-Hammam, where Collins’ team is excavating, was in Abraham’s time a large city covering about 90 acres on the eastern edge of the valley.) By entering Sodom and moving into a permanent home, Lot was abandoning life out among his flocks, opting for a more settled existence in a city where a very different—and thoroughly evil—lifestyle dominated.
Note the contrast in this scene. Abraham, staying in the hills of Canaan and maintaining a rural life, was blessed by God. “Arise, walk through the length and the breadth of the land, for I will give it to you,” God told him (verse 17, English Standard Version). Abraham showed his respect and worship toward God by erecting an altar of sacrifice (verse 18).
Lot, on the other hand, chose to move closer to and then proceed into an environment full of sin (verse 13). It eventually changed his pattern of life, with him and his family now cut off from fellowship with his uncle with whom he shared faith in the one true God. The decision, as we will see, had a deeply negative impact on the family.
What was the culture of Sodom?
The attraction of Sodom from a distance was obvious—it lay in a rich and fertile area, where his herds could thrive. But as he continued in the vicinity, he was eventually drawn into the city itself.
Sodom’s culture no doubt attracted many to move to be close to the activities and attractions which fed the affluent lifestyle of the city and its neighbors. Sodom was a boom town. Business was good. The wealth helped create a high standard of living, allowing people to build and buy goods and sell them to others along the supply routes of the day. Food was plentiful. Life here offered Lot and his family a welcome diversion from the harder shepherding life they were used to.
We find him sitting in the gate of the city when the two angels arrive years later warning him to leave in advance of God’s imminent judgment. The gate of the city was the public square, the center of city business and government, and Lot enjoyed some prominence there. He clearly lived a different life in Sodom than the one he had in Canaan with Abraham. Yet Sodom’s affluence came with a dark underside of terrible immorality.
We have several commentaries on Sodom outside of Genesis. Some 2,000 years later Jesus made this comment: “Likewise, just as it was in the days of Lot—they were eating and drinking, buying and selling, planting and building” (Luke 17:28). Eating and drinking and buying and selling is not wrong. The context of Christ’s statement is a description of the end of the age. He also references the time of Noah with the same words and the addition of people marrying and getting on with life.
In these two examples we see people failing to heed a warning message to change their lives in the face of coming judgment. The times of Noah and Sodom represent a time of darkness in which people were blind as to where conditions were headed. With Noah, only he and his immediate family—eight people—heeded and were spared. Only four from one family got out of Sodom alive, but even then one looked back and perished with the rest.
When the time came for God’s judgment, people’s lives were not tempered and measured by a seriousness that could have allowed them to heed a message of repentance. Regarding coming events, Jesus told us to “remember Lot’s wife” (verse 32). This shows us how important the lesson is. She had escaped but then made the mistake of looking back. It cost her her life.
The prophet Ezekiel said Sodom’s people had “pride, excess food, and prosperous ease, but did not aid the poor and needy. They were haughty and did an abomination before me. So I removed them, when I saw it” (Ezekiel 16:49-50, ESV). Their “abomination” refers to gross immorality, as we read about in Genesis. We’ll get to that in a moment.
Sucked in by a sinful culture
What these accounts tell us is that good, well-intentioned people can get mesmerized by a culture and sucked into it even if they do not practice the worst parts of the sinful lifestyle themselves. Today more than half of Americans are accepting of same-sex marriage, made legal in all 50 states via a Supreme Court ruling in which five men and women overruled the holy Word of God.
Surveys now indicate many younger adults consider the LGBTQ+ culture as acceptable. A recent study conducted by the Cultural Research Center at Arizona Christian University found that over 30 percent of Millennials, and a shocking 39 percent of “young Millennials” (aged 18-24), now themselves identify as LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or queer or questioning). People in this age group were also found to overwhelmingly (75%) say that they “lack meaning and purpose in life.”
This study about the rising influence of Millennials has revealed that roughly a third of the nearly 70 million adults that make up America’s most populous generation now identify as LGBTQ. This represents a fivefold increase among this highly influential demographic in less than a decade. The influence of media, academia, education, government and politics contributes to this dramatic statistic. It means more and more people are accepting of and then participating in this lifestyle.
You might ask yourself, Am I part of the problem? How much are you sucked into this alluring and deceptive culture? How much has it influenced you? Most of us enjoy comfortable lives. We have plenty of food. We live in good homes with high-speed Internet and all the technology to stay connected to this digital world. I am right there with you. I must watch myself. I’m as susceptible as you or anyone else to being pulled into this modern maelstrom that is becoming more and more like Sodom by the day.
This modern age, like Sodom, is designed to lure us into a well-watered valley of ease, convenience and pleasure. It tempts us to turn from God and all the right influences that can keep us on the narrow path of righteousness. This story of Lot and Sodom has much to teach us, and much to warn us about. Let’s continue with the story.
Not even 10 righteous could be found
It was a hot day when three men appeared before Abraham in his camp. Recognizing these were no ordinary guests—and as it turned out they were the Lord and two angels appearing in human form—Abraham ordered a large feast prepared. As they left, intending to investigate firsthand the conditions of Sodom, Abraham went a short distance with them.
The Lord revealed to Abraham his plan to see what was happening up close: “Because the outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is great, and because their sin is very grave, I will go down now and see whether they have done altogether according to the outcry that has come to Me; and if not, I will know” (Genesis 18:20-21).
The two angels went on toward Sodom, but Abraham stood before the Lord. He began one of history’s great negotiations. Surely God would not destroy the cities if there were good people present, destroying the righteous with the wicked, Abraham argued. The talk progressed from 50 good men down to 10—and God would withhold destruction for the sake of 10 righteous. God then went His way and Abraham returned to his camp.
A principle was revealed here. God will spare populations from disaster if there are sufficient numbers who follow His ways. But in Sodom not even 10 righteous could be found in a city of tens of thousands. Though Lot himself with some immediately family were spared, this was only through God leading them out from where His judgment was directed. And herein is another principle: God spares the righteous in His judgments on the world. (Of course, we also know that God allows the righteous to suffer and die in some circumstances, but only within His care and oversight—see Isaiah 57:1-2.)
Sodom’s depravity and destruction
Upon entering Sodom the two angels encountered Lot sitting in the gate of the city. Lot showed he had not lost his sense of hospitality and urged the angels to come to his home for lodging. That Lot wouldn’t take “no” for an answer indicates he knew two strangers in the city would not be safe from danger.
Shockingly, a crowd of young and old men from the city surrounded the house, yelling to Lot to bring out the two “that we may know them carnally” (Genesis 19:5). Far from being hospitable to guests, these men wanted, horrifically, to gang-rape the visitors!
The quick action of the two angels in grabbing Lot and dragging him back into his home interrupted the confrontation. Striking the crowd blind prevented further intrusion. The women in the home must have been terrified. Lot was given a brief opportunity to warn his two sons-in-law of the city’s coming destruction, but they thought it all a joke and wouldn’t join him in fleeing. They would soon regret their decision.
The next morning came, and the two angels urged Lot to take his wife and daughters and flee into the nearby mountains. The judgment of God was soon to arrive. The angels literally dragged them from the city, and they fled to the nearby town of Zoar.
As Lot took temporary shelter in Zoar, “the Lord rained brimstone and fire on Sodom and Gomorrah . . . So He overthrew those cities, all the plain, all the inhabitants of the cities, and what grew on the ground” (verses 23-25). The smoke and fire rose so high that Abraham could see the conflagration from around his camp near present-day Hebron, south of Jerusalem.
A “Sodom moment” today
Sodom and Gomorrah enter the Bible and history as bywords for God’s judgment on sin. But is there a deeper imprint we might take that has relevance to today’s world?
Western society is having a “Sodom moment.” The cultural perversity against the natural order that is sodomy and homosexuality has recently expanded to include the gender identity war encapsulated in the LGBTQ label.
This acronym more broadly defines the coalition of activists, politicians, university and media elite, and even some in the scientific community advocating for not only the acceptance of same-sex marriage but more perniciously the transgender movement which works to encourage, facilitate and legalize “gender reassignments” for any person of any age.
Where has this madness brought us? In the United States, a 13-year-old in the state of Washington can begin “gender affirming” therapy without the consent of her parents. In Oregon an underage girl can decide to undergo a double mastectomy without the knowledge or consent of her parents.
This push is helped along by the disintegration of the nuclear family and the incredible force of social media and its conformist pressures. Trans activists use social media to push the lie that a convenient application of testosterone will cure a girl’s self-image problems. We have moved from the devastation of bulimia and anorexia to the actual attempt to defy nature and transform to another gender as a cure for depression, anxiety or even excess body fat.
Author Abigail Shrier, writing in the June/July 2021 issue of Imprimus, rightly asserts that truth is subverted and lies are told to advance this new gender ideology: “Lies are told about the risks of the transitional treatment administered to young children. Lies are told about the researchers and journalists who attempt to report on the crisis of social contagion among teenage girls undergoing transition treatments” (p. 5).
Shrier reveals a vital point she learned from her experience with young women “detransitioning”—going back to their natural gender at birth. “While they were transitioning, they were angry and politically radical,” she said. “They often cut off relations with their families, having been coached to do so online by gender activists” (p. 7).
Chaos, she says, is the result. Troubled girls become prey for those who seek to recruit revolutionaries. Just as the destructive objective of critical race theory is to divide Americans racially, that of gender ideology is to disrupt the formation of stable families, the building blocks of American life” (ibid.).
She concludes by noting the fact that the ranks of Antifa in riots and protests on the streets of Portland, Seattle and Minneapolis contained a number of angry, gender-confused people who were taking out their rage on police precincts, public buildings and established order.
On the brink of disaster
Is it really that far from the scenes we’ve witnessed of roving bands of lawless attackers on American streets to the scene of angry, confused, blinded men in Sodom trying to break into the home of Lot to assault his two visitors—especially with the shocking jump in sexual and gender confusion and the push to eliminate police? The sin of Sodom that reached the presence of God, bringing a fiery judgment to cauterize the land, was a culture consumed with moral and spiritual uncleanness—and of “pride” in that, a foretaste of today’s pride movement.
Elements of the Greco-Roman culture of the first century resembled that of Sodom. The apostle Paul wrote about this to the Church members in Rome, explaining where the rejection of God that produced such thinking leads: “For this reason God gave them up to vile passions. For even their women exchanged the natural use for what was against nature. Likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman burned in their lust for one another, men with men committing what is shameful, and receiving in themselves the penalty of their error which was their due” (Romans 1:26-27).
America and the other Western nations are experiencing a return to Sodom today. The LGBTQ-led gender ideology is the modern equivalent of Sodom and Gomorrah. Its lies, its perverse actions, its war against the “natural order” of God’s creation and against God Himself rise to heaven and invite the same judgment that came upon Sodom. It is not a question of if it will come, but when it will come.
The apostle Peter wrote about Sodom in the context of God’s judgment at the end of the age. Showing God’s judgment as inevitable and unsparing, he writes that God “turn[ed] the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah into ashes, condemned them to destruction, making them an example to those who afterward would live ungodly” (2 Peter 2:6).
Peter’s words will see a future fulfillment in the coming period of Great Tribulation culminating in the Day of the Lord, when God will bring judgment on the nations. Yet even amid the pouring out of the “bowls of the wrath of God” in Revelation 16, many will still refuse to turn from their rejection of God and His ways: “Then the fourth angel poured out his bowl on the sun, and power was given him to scorch men with fire. And men were scorched with great heat, and they blasphemed the name of God who has power over these plagues; and they did not repent and give Him glory” (verses 1, 8-9). May we turn to God long before that!
Our current culture wars are returning us to the age of Sodom. Are the finds archaeologists are uncovering at a site that could be this ancient city be a witness to us today that God did pour out His judgment on Sodom? Could it be that evidence of God’s past action in the world is coming to light as a warning to listen carefully and take God and the Bible seriously?
Whether or not this site ultimately proves to be ancient Sodom, the evidence for Sodom’s destruction has been in the Bible all along—and it is there for you to heed. May God give you wisdom to act!