What the Bible says about
Sodom and Gomorrah
(From Forerunner Commentary)
These passages all have a similar context: They were written just prior to the fall and scattering of either Israel to the north or Judah to the south. Each shows a wealthy people unblinkingly focused on their pleasure. Giving no thought to God, they are casually uninterested in the moral welfare of their nation that is crashing into utter depravity. Shame for sin has disappeared. The Interpreter's Commentary of the Bible states that the Bible shows that, in the period before these nations fell, their societies show significant breakdowns in two vital areas: in political and business leadership and in family life, with specific blame falling on women.
In these passages, the following characteristics are either directly named or strongly implied: rebellion, obstinacy, betrayal, distrust, shamelessness, and greed, comprising an audacious self-centeredness against God and fellow man. These are not the characteristics of a nation that would bring honor to God. At one time in the history of this nation, the overwhelming majority of people expressed a strong sense of shame when they sinned. Sin was an ugly thing, and due to this sense of shame, they did whatever they could to hide their moral flaws from others.
Some of that still exists. The period of the late 1950s and early 1960s, however, was probably the beginning of the end of that attitude. Sin has gradually carried less of a stigma, and the sense of shame has been slowly replaced by a growing boldness of attitude, a flaunting of sin. Much of that sense of shame has disappeared from the American psyche. Some remains in a small percentage of the population, yet increasingly, bold immorality has become the way of life so that sin is now blatantly committed. Civility is becoming a thing of the past. Rudeness and open, brazen misconduct is becoming the normal way of doing things.
This is the kind of conduct the "whore's forehead" pictures. It represents the blatant, audacious sin of the streetwalker who is out in public, openly displaying what she is, promoting herself, and tempting others to engage in sin with her. The whore's forehead represents obdurate practice of sin done overtly with no attempt to camouflage. This attitude is reminiscent of the story of righteous Lot dealing with the homosexuals in Sodom just before God dropped the fire and brimstone on the people of that vile city (Genesis 19).
This relaxed and careless public acceptability of sin did not happen overnight. It gradually became tolerated over decades. Its growth was significantly aided by a so-called Christian church that abandoned its responsibility to "cry aloud and spare not" and show God's people their sins (Isaiah 58:1). We must be very careful to guard ourselves from succumbing to the temptation of being drawn into the same casual approach. It is our responsibility to overcome sin.
This vignette deals with the prevalence of ungodly marriage practices leading to disastrous results. The gist of this section is that, after a few generations of multiplying, men as a whole began to leave God out of their lives. They chose wives—probably several of them, like Lamech—based solely on their physical beauty, not on their depth of character. Their children, though they became mighty, famous leaders, grew into wicked adults whose every impulse, thought, and plan was corrupt. Violence became a way of life. Once conditions reached this point, God decided to destroy them before they became so totally depraved that they could never repent, even in the resurrection.
The Bible pictures a society of unrestrained sin of every kind. The New Testament frequently mentions it in the same context as Sodom and Gomorrah and Israel's sins caused by Balaam and Korah. The underlying factor in all these situations is rebellion against and rejection of God. Cain, Lamech, and mankind in general never took God into account when they committed their iniquities. As Psalm 10:4 says, "The wicked in his proud countenance does not seek God; God is in none of his thoughts."
Has our present society reached this nadir of behavior?
Richard T. Ritenbaugh
'As It Was In the Days of Noah'
The supreme Judge promises Abram that He will judge the nation that holds Abram's descendants as slaves.
God waited four centuries for the Amorites to become so corrupt that, as an act of mercy toward them, He had to remove them. He executed His judgment using the instrument of the Israelites—the former slaves, the descendants of Abram—coming into the land to dispossess the Amorites of the land they inhabited. There is a lesson in this for us. We just have to wait when God is working something like this out. We just have to wait until the righteous Judge of all mankind says the time is right for Him to execute justice.
God even considers the heathen and gives them an opportunity to repent. How long did God bear with Sodom and Gomorrah's sinful behavior before He re blasted them into oblivion? No one knows, but the Bible remarks about God's patience and longsuffering in dealing with them.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Justice and Grace
We live in a land today where sin is discussed and displayed daily. Some of our own major cities could easily compare to Sodom or Gomorrah because of their blatant depravity. Even some of our smaller cities and towns have homosexual mayors and commissioners who flaunt their perversions in public. "Gay rights" is a major social concern to those who practice such degeneracy.
Though sexual corruption is the sin most associated with Sodom, the people of that city displayed other evil traits. Ezekiel 16:49-50 lists some of their other sins:
Look, this is the iniquity of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters had pride, fullness of food, and abundance of idleness; neither did she strengthen the hand of the poor and needy. And they were haughty and committed abomination before Me; therefore I took them away as I saw fit.
The Sodomites also resorted to violence quickly when they were crossed. In a December 3, 1995, article in The Charlotte Observer, Linnet Myers reported:
Within the Western industrialized world, the United States not only is the undisputed leader in murder, but in rape as well.
According to the International Criminal Police Organization's 1990 statistics, England reported 6.7 rapes per 100,000 population; France, 8.1; the Netherlands, 8.9; Switzerland, 6.2; Germany, 8.2; Poland, 5.9.
The United States reported 41.2.
Former Secretary of Education William J. Bennett, author of the popular Book of Virtues, spoke of other shameful categories in which the U.S. leads the world:
But, during the same thirty-year period [1960-1990], there was a 560 percent increase in violent crime; more than a 400 percent increase in illegitimate births; a quadrupling of divorces; a tripling of the percentage of children living in single-parent homes; more than a 200 percent increase in the teenage suicide rate; and a drop of 75 points in the average SAT scores of high school students. . . .
Consider, too, where the United States ranks in comparison with the rest of the industrialized world. We are at, or near, the top in rates of abortions, divorces, and unwed births. We lead the industrialized world in murder, rape, and violent crime. (Imprimis, November 1995, p. 3)
Our society is certainly similar to the one into which Lot led his family. In his selfishness and greed, he purposely chose to expose his children and servants to the depravity of Sodom where Satan lay in wait like a hungry lion (I Peter 5:8). We, already living in Satan's world, are commanded, "Come out of her, my people, lest you share in her sins, and lest you receive of her plagues" (Revelation 18:4). God wants us to make strides to overcome the ungodly practices that we have absorbed from "this present evil world" (Galatians 1:4, KJV).
Ted E. Bowling
Remember Lot's Wife
Do we live in a spiritual Sodom and Gomorrah? Is the end coming? Is Christ returning? Is the Kingdom of God fairly close? Are we lingering in the worldliness that surrounds us? It will take faith to walk away. Lot believed to such depth that he urged his sons-in-law, and yet he lingered. Lot knew the angels were there, standing by and waiting for him and his family. Even they tried to hasten him out, and yet Lot lingered.
He was slow when he should have been quick. He was backward when he should have been forward. He was trifling when he should have been hasty. He was cold when he should have been hot. He was loitering when he should have been hurrying. We might say today, "Was this man out of it, or what?" In a major sense, he was, yet he was a converted man.
The world around us is smoldering embers that will soon burst into the flames of the greatest tribulation that has ever hit the entirety of the earth. Unfortunately, many linger while the world is getting ready to burn. Lot is an example of a true Christian, who appears to know far more than he lives up to; he can see and understand far more than he practices.
Such people are thrilled to hear good, sound preaching. They believe in the doctrines of God, and yet they are constantly doing things that disappoint others around them. They believe in the Kingdom of God, and even seem to yearn for it. They hate Satan, believe in the Lake of Fire, yet it seems as if they do things to tempt Satan into testing them, putting the screws to them. They believe that time is short, but they act as though they wish it were long. They know that holiness is a beautiful thing—they like to read about it in books and love to see it in others—but they have the notion that it is impossible for them to be that holy and spiritual.
Lot represents those who dread personal sacrifice and shrink from self-denial. They have a horror of being considered narrow-minded, and so they tend to go to the opposite extreme, becoming so tolerant that they try to please everybody. They forget that they should first please God. These people are trying to keep up with the world. They are ingenious at discovering reasons for not separating from it, giving themselves all kinds of justifications for attending questionable amusements; wild, violent, sexual movies; or holding on to questionable relationships. They persuade themselves that it does good to mix a little with the world.
They cannot find it in themselves to do battle with their besetting sin, whether it be laziness, a bad temper, pride, excessive self-concern, vanity, or impatience. They allow it to remain in their mind, justifying it by thinking, "Well, that's just the way I am. My daddy before me was the same way, and that's the way mama was, and I guess that's the way I'll always be." They are lingering while the world is beginning to burn. These people are not really happy, for they know too much and are conscience-stricken. They are not really committed and they know it.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Faith (Part Three)
Compare two far-apart scriptures, ones which really are not that distant, considering they both deal with the concept of God's judgment. In the first one, Abraham “looked toward Sodom and Gomorrah, and toward all the land of the plain; and he saw, and behold, the smoke of the land which went up like the smoke of a furnace” (Genesis 19:28).
In the second passage, smoke attends the fall of another great city, Babylon:
After this I heard what seemed to be the loud voice of a great multitude in heaven, crying out, “Hallelujah! Salvation and glory and power belong to our God, for His judgments are true and just; for He has judged the great prostitute who corrupted the earth with her immorality, and has avenged on her the blood of His servants.”
Once more they cried out, “Hallelujah! The smoke from her goes up forever and ever.” (Revelation 19:1-3, ESV)
Judgment forms the backdrop of both passages, and, in both cases, smoke is present. One of the underlying concepts behind smoke is God's judgment. In fact, one Hebrew noun for “smoke” is closely associated with the noun “anger,” as illustrated in Psalm 74:1: “Why does Your anger smoke against the sheep of Your pasture?”
God also links judgment with smoke in Nahum 2:13: “'Behold, I am against you,' says the LORD of hosts, 'I will burn your chariots in smoke.'” It is only appropriate, then, that fully 22% of the scriptural references to smoke appear in the book of Revelation, since that book narrates the visions the apostle John saw regarding the Lord's Day—the Day of the Lord (Revelation 1:10)—a day of judgment.
Smoke and judgment fit hand and glove for at least two reasons:
First, smoke is evanescent; it is short-lived, ascending, dispersing, quickly becoming rarefied. In Psalm 102:3, the psalmist writes: “For my days pass away like smoke . . ..” God, speaking through the prophet Isaiah in Isaiah 51:6, assures us that “the heavens will vanish away like smoke.” As smoke is short-lived, so is God's wrath. In Isaiah 10:25 (ESV), God tells us that “in a very little while My fury will come to an end.” Like smoke, God's judgment is intense but short-lived.
Second, not only is smoke an apt image for the brevity of God's judgment, but it is also a good image of the fate of those judged and found wanting. In Psalm 37:20, David assures us that the wicked shall perish “like the splendor of the meadows, [they] shall vanish, into smoke they shall vanish away.” In Hosea 13:3, the prophet, speaking of those who offer human sacrifices, concludes: “Therefore they shall be like the morning cloud and like the early dew that passes away, like chaff blown off from a threshing floor and like smoke from a chimney.” Poof! And they are gone.
Charles Whitaker (1944-2021)
Clouds (Part Two): God's Cloud as His Chariot
In all of God's dealings with Israel and Judah, and especially regarding the Second Exodus, we see His perfect application of justice and mercy. He is just, because He does not allow their sin to go unpunished. We could not trust God if He did not hold to His promises of blessing and cursing (Numbers 23:19; Leviticus 26; Deuteronomy 28). If He allowed Israel and Judah to sin with impunity, His laws would have no authority, and His words would be of no consequence. However, for the sake of what is best for Jacob, God has to show him that He is serious about what He says. So His justice will be upheld as Israel and Judah are brought to the painful realization that they have forsaken Him and have been living the wrong way.
Yet, we can also see God's mercy in His dealings with His people. Today's Western culture—a product of the nations of Israel—is not so very different from Sodom and Gomorrah. The same sins are committed in the same brazen manner. Our regard for humanity is so low that in America alone during the last three decades, an estimated 40-50 million pre-born children have been killed for the sake of convenience. Further, God has been systematically removed from schools, from government, and from public life. Post-Christian Europe has transgressed even further. Even Jerusalem—the "Holy City"—has an annual "Gay Pride" parade, and is essentially secular.
Despite these atrocious sins, God will not utterly destroy Israel as He did to Sodom and Gomorrah. A number of latter-day prophecies of various peoples—the Edomites, for example—foretell that God will make a complete end of them (Jeremiah 46:28). However, He has chosen not to do this with Israel and Judah, though not because they are righteous in any way.
He will show them mercy because of the promises He made, not because they deserve it. Ezekiel 36 shows this clearly. God repeats several times that He is bringing Israel back for His name's sake, and not for Israel's sake:
"Therefore say to the house of Israel, 'Thus says the Lord GOD: "I do not do this [restoring Israel and blessing the land; verses 6-15] for your sake, O house of Israel, but for My holy name's sake, which you have profaned among the nations wherever you went. And I will sanctify My great name, which has been profaned among the nations, which you have profaned in their midst; and the nations shall know that I am the LORD," says the Lord GOD, "when I am hallowed in you before their eyes. For I will take you from among the nations, gather you out of all countries, and bring you into your own land. . . . Then you will remember your evil ways and your deeds that were not good; and you will loathe yourselves in your own sight, for your iniquities and your abominations. Not for your sake do I do this," says the Lord GOD, "let it be known to you. Be ashamed and confounded for your own ways, O house of Israel!" (Ezekiel 36:22-24, 31-32)
God would be unfaithful to His own promises if He annihilated Jacob's descendants—even though, by all accounts, it is exactly what they deserve.
David C. Grabbe
The Second Exodus (Part Two)
Ezekiel 16:44-49 shows us another way that can be used to identify the Great Harlot of Revelation: by observing parallel conduct. The word "parallel" opens another avenue for consideration of duality, but this time not directly in a prophecy. At this point in God's narration concerning Judah and Jerusalem, He is showing the parallel behavior of Judah with Samaria to the north and with Sodom to the south.
Verse 47 is especially clear regarding parallel conduct. The Revised English Bible translates it as, "Did you not behave as they did and commit the same abominations?" Regarding their relationship, verse 49 declares they are "sisters under the skin," as we would say today, because their behavior is so similar.
This opens the door to consider the parallel conduct that leads Him to call Jerusalem by the derogatory names of "Sodom and Egypt" (Revelation 11:8). At the time of the end, God observes parallel behaviors and attitudes in Jerusalem, Sodom, and Egypt. Thus Jerusalem, representing all of Israel, reveals her spiritual source, which is most certainly not the God of the Bible, despite what the Israelites might say in calling themselves "Christian." If God can name Israel "Sodom," why can He not also call her "Babylon"?
John W. Ritenbaugh
The Beast and Babylon (Part Ten): Babylon the Great Is a Nation
This passage is a brief insight into the three sisters in the land of Canaan, which were three cities. Samaria is the oldest, Sodom the middle, and the youngest is Jerusalem. Jerusalem, though not the oldest, is the vilest. This gives us insight that we need to heed because of the times in which we live—because our day tends to foster the same effects as occurred in these cities, and perhaps especially as occurred in Sodom.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Faith (Part Four)
This "looking back" is not merely reflecting to evaluate the progress made since one decided to leave the world. Instead, it is like Lot's wife, who looked back with a degree of longing to return to what she had left. Her life was literally on the line, and rather than being fully engaged in surviving, she placed a higher priority on life's lesser matters than on the greater one of preserving her life through God's gift of protection.
She looked back, revealing her heart still to be in Sodom, a type of the world. Her action indicates regret for having left. Success in God's way requires following an awesome vision of future glory with devoted conviction. Abraham is a primary example: He looked for a city built by God, apparently leaving his homeland without ever looking back (Hebrews 11:8-10, 13-16).
Once we commit to Christianity, God's calling becomes our vocation, which requires our concentrated attention going forward. A vocation is a person's regular occupation. What happens when a Christian looks back with a measure of longing is similar to someone talking on a cell phone while driving his car. He frequently drifts all over the road, swerving this way and that because, at best, his attention is split between conflicting priorities. He is setting himself up for trouble, and all too frequently, an accident occurs. A Christian cannot make a beeline for the Kingdom with his attention diverted elsewhere. We are not to be anything but altogether followers of the Son of God. The stakes are that high, for the fulfillment of His promise is so great.
Dramatic, sudden death, as happened to Lot's wife, will not likely happen to us if we gaze yearningly behind us. For this reason, a person who has begun to fall away will most likely take the second step backwards with hardly a pause. Hebrews 10:39 says, "But we are not of those who draw back to perdition, but of those who believe to the saving of the soul." Almost invariably, longing for the old life is followed by gradually and increasingly believing that God's requirements are too exacting and difficult.
In Jesus' parable in Luke 19:11-27, did not the man given one mina complain something similar to this when asked what he had gained with it? "Master, here is your mina, which I have kept put away in a handkerchief. For I feared you, because you are an austere man. You collect what you did not deposit, and reap what you did not sow" (verses 20-21).
We must be prepared to put God first in all things. There will be times when this will be exceedingly difficult, especially if the surrender of a thing involves the sacrifice of someone or something deeply loved or desired. It can happen, but such occasions are quite rare.
It has been said that he who is unwilling to sacrifice everything for the cause of God is really willing to sacrifice nothing. Drawing back happens despite God's promise that every trial is measured to the exact specifications needed by the individual Christian. In I Corinthians 10:13, God promises to provide relief from every problem: "No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it." The word-picture in Hebrews 10:39 portrays a person shrinking back from following through on the demands of faith. He is looking for an easy way out of some distasteful thing he does not wish to face. This eventually happens to us all.
A major appeal of the world's way is that it seems to be broader and easier. As Jesus says in Matthew 7:13, the easier, broader way it probably is - for a while. That deceptively effortless way draws the person ever-further from salvation, and he grows steadily weaker as he loses contact with God. The one who apostatizes thus permits himself to be drawn back.
The third step is taken when a person actually turns away. John 6:65-66 records such an occasion in Jesus' ministry: "And He said, 'Therefore I have said to you that no one can come to Me unless it has been granted to him by My Father.' From that time many of His disciples went back and walked with Him no more." In this poignant scene, Jesus watched people who may have been friends leave His entourage because they could not comprehend His teaching. He undoubtedly had spoken of things of an order far higher than they were accustomed to hearing, but rather than patiently facing it, as the apostles did, they simply gave up, proving themselves unfit for the Kingdom of God. Their loyalty could not stand the strain of what may have been merely a temporary misunderstanding. They had been followers, but apparently, they were seeking for something else.
By this stage, it is still not too late for a person to grab hold of himself and move forward, but the world's appeal has become almost overpowering. Spiritual decline has reached the tipping point, and he is in serious peril.
The fourth and final step backward is illustrated by Isaiah in the Old Testament: "But the word of the LORD was to them, 'Precept upon precept, precept upon precept, line upon line, line upon line, here a little, there a little.' That they might go and fall backward, and be broken and snared and caught" (Isaiah 28:13).
In examining the context carefully, we see that the people being described have reached the critical point where God's Word is falling on deaf ears. It is to them just jumbled noise. In New Testament terms, they had backslid beyond the reach of repentance and forgiveness. Here, the apostate reaches the point of no return; he has earned the Lake of Fire.
John W. Ritenbaugh
God's Power: Our Shield Against Apostasy
Jesus Christ gave many "indicator markings" to help us to determine when His second coming is near. He shows us that an indicator of His imminent return is that the society around us will be similar to that of Sodom when Lot lived there nearly four thousand years ago. People will be going about their everyday lives seemingly unconcerned about the egregious evils in society, unaware that their lifestyles are abominable in the eyes of God. Thinking their ways of life are "normal," they will not expect the calamitous events that will befall them.
It is axiomatic that a dominant characteristic of Sodom's culture was rampant homosexuality. English has borrowed the words sodomy and sodomite to describe homosexuality and those who practice it. When angels came to Lot in the form of human men to inform him that God would overthrow the city, the men of Sodom came to Lot's door, demanding that the visitors come out and have a homosexual relationship with them (Genesis 19:1-5). The angels struck these Sodomites with blindness to drive them away (verse 11).
Most people would look upon such behavior as unthinkable. However, the men of Sodom apparently regarded it as "normal"; they did not view it as evil at all! Today, a similar attitude is slowly and insidiously beginning to work its way into our society. Increasingly, homosexuality is considered to be an ordinary lifestyle. Instead of being viewed as a horrible perversion, homosexuality is more and more being regarded as an "orientation" just as left-handedness is an orientation, for example. As usual, the Western world, composed primarily of the nations that have descended from Israel, is leading the way in this radical change in attitude.
An article appearing in the January 6-12, 1996, edition of The Economist entitled "It's Normal to be Queer" describes the radical changes in attitude toward homosexuals that have occurred worldwide over the last thirty years. As often happens, the changes have occurred gradually, one step at a time. First, many societies decriminalized homosexuality, and people slowly stopped considering it an illness or perversion. This led many to abandon the traditional view that homosexuality is shameful, opening the door to the idea that gays and lesbians are simply a cultural minority—like a racial or ethnic minority. Finally, some cultures are beginning to regard homosexuality as a normal but different lifestyle—simply an "orientation."
In fact, some countries have begun to look upon homosexuality as a harmless, neutral trait that a small percentage of people are born with—like having blue eyes or red hair. As such, it is seen as a characteristic that the individual did not choose and cannot change. These attitudes have led many to accept the homosexual lifestyle as a distinct but, at the same time, normal, ordinary and harmless condition. The article in The Economist describes how people just seem to accept this:
So emerges that rare but proliferating species: the young woman of 20 who realises she is a lesbian but, after a period of adjustment, shrugs her shoulders, informs her family, and plans to get on with an otherwise mundane life. (p. 69)
There are, of course, exceptions to this attitude. Many countries of the Middle East where Islam is the dominant religion still treat homosexuals very harshly. Throughout most of Africa, homosexuality is rarely discussed. Even in the Western world, many homosexuals still have not "come out of the closet." Nevertheless, the changing attitude is unmistakable and is growing in most areas of the world.
Last year the first gay page appeared in a mainstream newspaper in Turkey; an openly homosexual Pakistani poet published what may be the first book of gay verse in Urdu; and Latin America's first gay resort opened in Brazil. In 1995 activists demanded marriage rights in Austria, Brazil, the Czech Republic and New Zealand. Estonia's all-lesbian group started in 1990, Hong Kong's in 1994 (followed by another last year), and Brazil has at least seven. Mexico's homosexual groups number more than a dozen; South Africa's, more than 50. . . . In short, homosexuals are emerging from the closet. And, more interesting still, they are doing it in more or less the whole world at once. (ibid. Emphasis ours.)
Many would undoubtedly applaud this push to bring homosexuals out of the closet and allow them to practice their lifestyle openly with the same rights as "straight" people. Many would argue that this is an "enlightened" and "progressive" movement that all decent human beings should advocate. But what does God say about this? How does He see and regard homosexuality? Does God advocate gay rights?
God sees things quite differently than most people in this world. He clearly states that homosexuality is wrong (Leviticus 18:22); it is an abomination of which people must repent! In no uncertain terms, He decrees that homosexuals will NOT inherit the Kingdom of God (I Corinthians 6:9).
Many thousands of years ago, God knew that this type of movement would occur in the end time among His people, the modern-day descendants of Israel. Through the prophet Isaiah, God thunders a warning to His people today, calling them by a name that unmistakably brands them with the sin of homosexuality: "Hear the word of the LORD, you rulers of Sodom; give ear to the law of our God, you people of Gomorrah" (Isaiah 1:10). God prophesies as to where this open acceptance of the homosexual lifestyle would lead:
For Jerusalem stumbled, and Judah is fallen, because their tongue and their doings are against the LORD, to provoke the eyes of His glory. The look on their countenance witnesses against them, and they declare their sin as Sodom; they do not hide it. Woe to their soul! For they have brought evil upon themselves. (Isaiah 3:8-9)
God reveals that when His people accept the attitude that homosexuality is "normal," they have begun to tread the path that will ultimately lead to their destruction.
As we see the same conditions that existed "in the days of Lot" developing today, we can take comfort that the glorious second coming of Jesus Christ is drawing near. When He comes, He will make the Spirit of God available to all (Joel 2:28-32), and homosexuals will be taught that they can repent and change. Jesus is described "like a refiner's fire and like fuller's soap. He will sit as a refiner and a purifier of silver" (Malachi 3:2-3). He will cleanse the earth from all unrighteousness and perversion, and show all people how to live the way that leads to peace, happiness, and joy. Then—and only then—will the homosexual lifestyle be eradicated from the earth forever.
Earl L. Henn (1934-1997)
As In the Days of Lot
Just before Lot's wife reached her place of safety—though she had made some effort to escape the impending disaster—Lot's wife disobeyed the angel's command and looked back. "She became a pillar of salt" (Genesis 19:26).
Why did she look back? The context does not specifically give a reason, but she probably had an inordinate love for the world and the material things she had in Sodom. Obviously, Lot was a wealthy man who had enough livestock and servants to cause a problem while he lived with Abraham (Genesis 13:5-7). He and his wife may have had a palatial house with many fine furnishings, servants to do her bidding, fine clothes, sumptuous food, and frequent entertainment.
Also, Lot had achieved prominence among the citizens of Sodom beyond his wealth. Genesis 19:1 shows him sitting in the gate of the city, a place usually reserved for the elders and judges. Lot's wife may have been reconsidering her decision to forsake the privileges of her high social status and her prominent friends.
Maybe she just loved the ways of this world more than God. John writes:
Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world. And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever. (I John 2:15-17)
There may be more to it, however, than we have thought. Most people assume that Lot had only two daughters, but this is not the case. He says to the Sodomites, "See now, I have two daughters who have not known a man" (Genesis 19:8). He had two unmarried daughters. Later, in verse 14, he "spoke to his sons-in-law, who had married his daughters," meaning he had other married daughters who were not virgins. Finally, the angels tell him, "Arise, take your wife and your two daughters who are here" (verse 15), implying he had daughters elsewhere.
Since Lot and his wife had more than two daughters, they left more than just material possessions in the city. When God rained down fire and brimstone upon Sodom, their married daughters and sons-in-law—and possibly grandchildren—perished with the rest of the city's populace. What a poignant and tragic test of their faith!
Thus, when Lot's wife fled for little Zoar, her wealth, her house, and her social circle were not the only things on her mind. Those concerns were insignificant beside the certain death of her flesh and blood. Perhaps she did not believe that God would follow through on His threat. As a loving mother, her emotions for her doomed family in the city clouded her ability to make proper decisions.
Jesus makes a pertinent comment in this regard in Matthew 10:37-39:
He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for My sake will find it.
Though it goes against our human nature, God requires us to have more allegiance to Him than to the members of our own families. For His disciples, leaving family members behind to do God's will may be the most common hardship that they have to face as they come out of this world (Revelation 18:4). Perhaps this is why He reminds us to "remember Lot's wife." The day may soon come when we will have to heed God's warnings without hesitation to flee again.
"In that day, he who is on the housetop, and his goods are in the house, let him not come down to take them away. And likewise the one who is in the field, let him not turn back" (Luke 17:31). When God commands His elect to flee to a place of safety, many of us will be required to entrust family members to God's mercy. Without doubt, this will be one of the greatest tests of our spiritual lives. We will know that before us lie life and hope and behind us death and destruction, just as Lot and his family experienced in fleeing Sodom.
Ted E. Bowling
Remember Lot's Wife
2 Peter 2:6-9
Three times in this section, Lot is called "righteous," and once he is called "godly." Yet, when we look at his story, found in Genesis 11 - 19, everything that is written about the man is negative. It is not good. He is not put in a good light at all, yet Peter calls him "righteous" and "godly."
It is even more shocking to consider Peter's obvious inference that he was righteous while all the evil, wicked things were happening in Sodom. From this, we can conclude that he did not become righteous through repentance and faith in Jesus Christ after the shock of events that occurred with the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, but that God deemed him righteous before that time and through the event. Lot, that righteous man, was troubled with what was occurring within the city.
Lot, then, was not what we would consider a bad or evil man. He was, in fact, what we would consider to be a converted man. He had received the grace of God, so righteousness was imputed to him, even as it is to us.
Peter writes that Lot was tormented by the things that he saw in Sodom and Gomorrah. What does this mean? It means that he clearly understood sin. It does not seem that the Sodomites were concerned at all, but Lot was. He understood that his neighbors were far off the mark.
However, though he was not wicked himself, he did nothing to remove himself from his evil situation. There is the problem. He lingered. He was willing to coexist with sin.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Faith (Part Three)
In these seven verses, Jude expands on his general description of false teachers in verse 4. He compares them in turn to the unbelieving Israelites, to the angels that sinned, and finally to the perverts in Sodom and vicinity. He is giving examples of the three major hallmarks of apostasy:
Unbelief, the Israelites' major failing.
Rebellion, which the angels who sinned did.
Immorality, what occurred in Sodom and Gomorrah.
Unbelief, rebellion, and immorality all result in divine judgment and punishment. The Israelites died in the wilderness, the angels that sinned were placed under restraint, and Sodom and Gomorrah were blasted off the face of the earth. We cannot find better examples of divine judgment and punishment than these.
Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Babylon is called great (Revelation 14:8; 16:19) in the same way that Jerusalem, representing all of Israel, was called great (Revelation 11:8). When "great" is used in this manner in this kind of a context, it not complimentary. The word in the Greek is megas, and it literally means "big." It can mean big or great in size, magnitude, intensity, or rank, in either a good or a bad sense. It depends on the context. This is interesting, because when God symbolically dwelt in the Holy of Holies, Jerusalem was known by its citizens as the "Holy City."
Tradition tells us (especially through Josephus) that God departed His residence there shortly before AD 70. The "Holy City" title for Jerusalem does not come back into the story-flow of the book of Revelation until Revelation 21:2-3.
In Revelation 21, the title "Holy City" is once again going to be applied to Jerusalem, but until that time, when God dwells there, it is known as the "great" city. It is great just like Babylon in its anti-God, sinful influence and economic, political, and military power. But most certainly it is not great in holiness. Israel's conduct puts its place next to Sodom, Gomorrah, Egypt, and Babylon in great defiance against God, against His message and His messengers, and thus it lost its identification as "the Holy City" and became "great."
John W. Ritenbaugh
Where Is the Beast? (Part Five)
Is it really wild, unjust, and perhaps outright wrong that God could refer to Israel as a great prostitute, Mystery, Babylon the Great, the mother of harlots? Notice, however, Revelation 11:8: "And their dead bodies will lie in the street of the great city which spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt, where also our Lord was crucified." In the same book, He calls Jerusalem "Sodom and Egypt"! Both were despicable places. God is providing evidence to solve the identity of the prostitute by comparing Jerusalem—representing all Israel—to Sodom, noted in history for its sexual sins, and Egypt, known to biblical students for its harsh slavery of the Israelites and as a type of the anti-God world we must come out of.
These are two stunning and dramatic comparisons of Israel's immoral characteristics! Why should God not also compare her to Babylon? God reserves His harshest judgments for those who should know better but waste their gifts on prideful self-indulgence. Jesus says, "For everyone to whom much is given, from him much will be required; and to whom much has been committed, of him they will ask the more" (Luke 12:48; see Amos 3:1-2).
In Ezekiel 16:46-51,56, God not only compares Jerusalem to both Samaria and Sodom, but He judges it to be more immorally vile than even those two well-publicized examples of ancient sin run wild! God portrays them as sisters under the skin! We all know the perversity of Sodom's sins. God goes so far as to say that Samaria had not committed half the sins that Jerusalem had. These verses put Israel's conduct into a perspective that we find difficult to accept, but it is true nonetheless—it is God's own judgment and testimony! That God calls Israel "Babylon" gives evidence of the magnitude of Israel's unfaithfulness to her Husband and Benefactor, God.
John W. Ritenbaugh
The Beast and Babylon (Part Five): The Great Harlot
The phrase "mother of harlots" in Revelation 17:5 might be misleading and therefore misinterpreted because of the Bible's peculiar practice of frequently using terms such as daughters, sons, harlots, thieves, adulterers, and idolaters collectively, fully intending both genders. In other words, sin is not limited to one gender.
In collective usage, the term "daughters" includes males; the word "sons" includes females; and words like "harlots," "adulterers," "idolaters," and "thieves" include both males and females. This practice is what the Dictionary of Biblical Imagery calls a "double metaphor": one word, which may have a specific gender because the context demands it take that gender, but which actually includes both genders. Thus in Revelation 17:5, "harlots" is to be understood as including men involved in what the Bible specifies as harlotry.
Therefore, "mother of harlots," in Revelation 17:5 specifically refers to unfaithfulness within a covenant relationship with God, not a specific, human, sexual sin. The Protestant churches that revolted from the Catholic Church were certainly not unfaithful to God as His churches. They never made the Old Covenant with God, entering into a figurative marriage; they, as an entire nation, had never vowed to keep His laws. Nor were the Protestant and Catholic churches unfaithful to God as a church because neither ever had a New Covenant relationship with God as churches. However, the citizens of the nations of Israel were certainly unfaithful to God within a covenant relationship. Revelation 17 and 18 are describing a city/nation, not a church.
John W. Ritenbaugh
The Beast and Babylon (Part Five): The Great Harlot
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