The Sodom Series, #2
The Bible reports that the Lord heard a great outcry against the people of Sodom and Gomorrah. What was this outcry about?
The notorious people of Sodom
Genesis 13:13 states, “Now the people of Sodom were wicked, great sinners against the Lord.”
Let’s look closer at the meaning of these three words.
People is enôsh in Hebrew, meaning “mortals,” and is not the word typically used for a male person (’adam) (Strong’s H582). “The basic meaning of enôsh is ‘man’ in the sense of ‘mankind’” (Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament, 582).
The word wicked is ra’a, meaning “bad,” describing experiences which entail physical or emotional pain (TWOT, 2191c). The people’s wickedness caused great anguish.
Sinners is chatta’, meaning “a criminal, one accounted guilty” (Strong’s, H2400).
ALL the people of Sodom—not just the men—were criminally sinful.
In the days of Abraham, a report about these cruel citizens of Sodom had reached heaven. The news was alarming enough that God needed to investigate the situation personally. He confided His plan to Abraham.
20 Then the Lord said [to Abraham], “How great is the outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah and how very grave their sin!
21 I must go down 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 NRSV
Outcry means an uproar, a shriek, a crying out in despair, a vehement public protest, “a cry for help in the face of distress” (TWOT, 570).
Many had been crying out to God in despair and protest about how they were treated in these cities. This implies that the citizens of Sodom and Gomorrah were doing some extremely rotten things to others, and God heard the complaints.
The outcry was not that of an individual, but of many people over time. Apparently, governing authorities in Sodom refused the wronged an audience; perhaps they were party to the oppression. “‘Though I cry, “Violence!” I get no response; though I call for help, there is no justice’” (Job 19:7 NIV).
Considering that Israel—God’s own people—cried out to Him in the misery of Egyptian bondage for over 400 years (Ex. 2:23–25), the outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah was serious and significant. Their sin was “very grave”: hard, grievous, heavy (TWOT, 943).
They had committed great crimes, so God sends angelic representatives to investigate and make a determination about them.
Two of the angelic visitors depart toward Sodom to experience firsthand if the reports are true, but the one called “the Lord” remains with Abraham, who poses a question.
23 Then Abraham came near and said, “Will you indeed sweep away the righteous with the wicked?
24 Suppose there are fifty righteous within the city; will you then sweep away the place and not forgive it for the fifty righteous who are in it?”
–Genesis 18:23–24 NRSV
To destroy or sweep away is sapâ, meaning, “to scrape, shave, remove, or ruin” (Strong’s, H5595), and is “usually used in a hostile sense, particularly in contexts of judgment” (TWOT, 1531).
Without waiting, Abraham provides his own answer:
25 “Far be it from you to do such a thing, to slay the righteous with the wicked, so that the righteous fare as the wicked! Far be that from you! Shall not the Judge of all the earth do what is just?”
26 And the Lord said, “If I find at Sodom fifty righteous in the city, I will forgive the whole place for their sake.”
–Genesis 18:25–26 NRSV
The Lord confirms that He will not destroy the city if He finds fifty righteous people there, reassuring Abraham that He is both merciful and just (Gen. 18:23).
Abraham continues to bargain, and the Lord finally promises him, “For the sake of ten I will not destroy it” (v. 31).
Reason for the outcry
What were the wicked people of Sodom doing that caused so much pain, resulting in such a grievous outcry against them?
The first post in this series discussed the importance of righteousness and hospitality toward strangers. The lavish welcome Abraham bestowed on his visitors is help up as a paragon of righteous hospitality to strangers.
The outcry against all the people of Sodom pertains to how they were treating strangers—outsiders. Hebrews 13:2 says, “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it” (NRSV).
The citizens of Sodom failed the test. We’ll learn why next time, when the angels arrive at the city.
- Be Righteous, Do Justice, Show Hospitality (Sodom Series #1)
- When Angels Arrived in Sodom (Sodom Series, #3)
- Sodom’s Welcome Committee (Sodom Series, #4)
In future posts, we’ll find out what happened and what became of this inhospitable society. To read the full story, get my book, The Sin of Sodom: What the Bible Really Says About Why God Destroyed the Cities of the Plain, for Kindle and in trade paperback.