The sun was already high enough in the Jordan plain when on the highlands of Canaan three men appeared among the oaks of Mamre. Abraham, seated in front of his tent, quickly got up and went to them. He suggested they rest for a moment before continuing their journey; they accepted. Sarah baked cake and veal; then, after having eaten, they got up to go away. One of them, the Lord, said to Abraham:
– The cry against Sodom and Gomorrah has increased, and their sin is enormous. Therefore, I am going to descend, and I will see if they have acted entirely according to the rumor that has come to me; and if it is not, I will find out.
Abraham thought of his nephew Lot who lived in the Jordan plain and, worried, asked Him:
– Will you also destroy the righteous with the wicked? Perhaps there are fifty righteous in the city: will you also destroy them, and will you not forgive the city for the sake of the fifty righteous who are in it? To kill the righteous with the wicked, so that it is with the righteous as well as the wicked, far from you this way of acting! far from you! He who judges all the earth, will he not exercise righteousness?
Thus, began a discussion between the Lord and Abraham, which ended in an agreement: If the Lord found even ten righteous people in the city, for them He would not destroy it.
And the Lord departed.
It was almost evening in the Jordan Valley; the sun, before going down, greeted the beauty and the pride of Sodom, beautiful as a garden of the Lord, splendid as the land of Egypt. A group of farmers returning from fields greeted the few men who had just finished building a citadel on the main place of the town before disappearing each to his house. Not far away, at the small food crops market, clients who were late were buying what they needed for the meal.
The two men walked hesitantly towards the entrance to the town; it had the reputation of being inhospitable, and its haughty inhabitants indulged in all kinds of depravity. Some young adults who were sitting in a circle on the floor doing nothing, eating candies, and drinking wine, watched them with mischievous eyes. Before the two strangers entered the city, a man came out of his house and invited them to spend the night in its home: his name was Lot.
After the feast he gave them, and as they were getting ready to go to bed, there was a knock on his door. Lot, coming out and closing the door behind him, found himself face to face with the entire population of the city, adults, and children:
– Where are the men who entered your house this night? Bring them out to us, so that we know them.
Lot, having lived with his uncle Abraham, knowing the God he serves and knowing the values that pleases Him, protected the strangers, even going so far as to offer his virgin daughters to attackers so that his visitors could be safe. The locals did not accept his proposal. As they pressed Lot to harm him, one of the two strangers opened the door and pulled their host inside. They revealed to Lot their identity, but also the purpose of their visit. Outside, the people of Sodom were preparing to break the door of the house; so, the strangers, who were in fact the angels of the Lord, smote them with blindness. They spent the rest of the night in darkness, looking for the entrance to Lot’s house.
In the early morning, the angels urged Lot and his family to leave the city because they were going to destroy it. He went to ask his sons-in-law to come with them, but they thought he was joking. And as soon as Lot and his family were safe in the nearest city, Zoar, the angels caused a rain of fire and sulfur to fall on Sodom, Gomorrah, and the surrounding cities. However, disobeying the order of the exterminators, Lot’s wife looked back and became a pillar of salt. Only Lot and his two daughters managed to save themselves from this punishment from God.
This account is an episode in the life of Abraham and that of his nephew Lot. It shows us how God punishes men, and why he punishes them.
First, it is the story that shows us, with these words, the first reason why God chastises Sodom: “Where are the men who entered your home last night? Bring them out to us, so that we know them. » Here we face sexual immorality and the epistle of Jude in verse 7 corroborates it in these terms : » … that Sodom and Gomorrah and the neighboring towns, who like them indulged in fornication and vices against nature, are given as an example, suffering the penalty of an eternal fire. «
Then, by investigating, we find in the book of the prophet Ezekiel the other reason why God destroyed Sodom. In chapter 16, verses 49-50 of this book we can read: “This was the crime of Sodom, your sister. She had pride, she lived in abundance and in carefree security, she, and her daughters, and she did not support the hand of the poor and the needy. They became haughty, and they did abominations before me. I made them disappear when I seen it. » We can summarize these charges in one word: luxury.
Knowing the sin of Sodom and Gomorrah helps us not to reproduce it because the episode we have just related shows the punishment that awaits those who act like them. The story also shows us that doing good and practicing hospitality can save our lives. Here, we have a good example of what the Apostle Paul said in Hebrews chapter 13, verse 2: » Do not forget hospitality; for, while exercising it, some have lodged angels without knowing it. » Finally, the text shows us the consequences of disobedience to God’s commandments: Lot’s wife, for having ignored an order, has paid with his life the price.
The allegorical dimension
It is Christ, in the Gospel of Luke in chapter 17 verse 32: » Remember Lot’s wife « , who introduced the idea of an allegory in the scenario of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. In my opinion, there is not only one allegorical level in this text, but several; I found 3
The first allegorical level foreshadows the condition of the Christian, represented here by Lot and his family. It is a pious family who, even living among the wicked, keep the commandments of God , that is why they give hospitality to these strangers without even suspecting who they are, nor even being afraid of the consequences of their act. In the Gospel of John chapter 15, verse 13, Jesus declares: “There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. » Lot, putting himself between foreigners and people of Sodom, prefigured this commandment. Then, when he proposes his daughters to spare the angels, many people find this behavior strange, some even find him irresponsible. But this gesture foreshadowed the command that Christ would give later in the Gospel of Matthew in chapter 10, verse 37 : « He who loves his father or his mother more than me is not worthy of me, and he who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. »
In this short story, the Gospel is preached at least 3 times: first, Lot preaches by example, because he will be called » Righteous » by the Apostle Peter in his second epistle in chapter 2, verses 7 and 8: « … and if he delivered the righteous Lot, deeply saddened by the conduct of these men without restraint in their dissolution (for this righteous, who dwelt among them, daily tormented his soul just because of what ‘he saw and heard of their criminal works); » Then Lot preaches the good to the inhabitants of Sodom when demanding foreigners to have immoral relations with them. He said this: “My brethren, please do not do evil! » (Genesis 19:7) But in response he received tribulations. Finally, Lot preaches the end of their world to his sons-in-law, and asks them to flee the punishment with him, but they say to themselves that he is joking, as many later will believe that Christians are joking.
The account of the fall of Sodom and Gomorrah prefigures divine Grace , Lot confirms it in the book of Genesis in chapter 19, verse 19: “Behold, I have found grace in your eyes, and you have shown the greatness of your mercy towards me, preserving my life; but I cannot escape to the mountain before disaster strikes me, and I will perish. » Remember that God said if He finds 10 righteous within the city, He will not destroy it. But there were only 4, so the Lord destroyed the city while sparing the 4 lives: why? The book of Genesis chapter 19, verse 29 says: » When God destroyed the cities of the plain, he remembered Abraham; and he caused Lot to escape from the midst of the disaster, whereby he overturned the cities where Lot dwelled. » It is out of respect for Abraham that God did not destroy Lot and his family. Only his wife perished, for she illustrates well the words of Jesus in the Gospel of Luke in chapter 9, verse 62: “ Whoever puts his hand to the plow and looks back is not fit for the kingdom of God. » It is for the sake of Abraham God did not permit that Lot and his family perish: He gave them Grace! And when we discover who Abraham prefigures, we better understand this Grace …
I am going to make a parenthesis to say that there is a recurring discussion about the Grace of God, and how when you have acquired it you can no longer lose it; it is a misunderstanding due to the misinterpretation of the concept of Divine Grace developed by the Apostle Paul in his letter to the Romans, and his epistle to the Ephesians. In this story, Lot’s wife obtains the Grace of God, but she perishes. Jesus points to this detail in the Gospel of Luke in chapter 17, verse 32: “Remember Lot’s wife! » As if to warn us. The Apostle Paul, more clearly, says in his first letter to the Corinthians in chapter 10, verse 11, after having mentioned in the first 10 verses of the same letter that some Jews lost Grace after disobeying the commandments of God: “ These things happened to them as examples, and they were written for our instruction, to us who have come to the end of the ages. »
Finally, the journey of Lot and his family to Zoar foreshadows the journey of the Christian as soon as Grace is granted to him, Zoar being a kind of » Promised Land « ; the allegory shows that not all will be able to make it to there, only those who remain attached to the order, or to the commandment. Christ will say later in the Gospel of John in chapter 15, verses 3 to 6: “You are already clean, because of the word which I have spoken to you. Abide in me, and I will abide in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. He who abides in me and in whom I abide bears much fruit, for without me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in me, he is cast out like a branch, and he withers; then they collect the branches, throw them into the fire, and they burn. » And we know that abide in Christ means keeping His commandments.
At the second allegorical level the story of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah foreshadows the end of time. And to show it , we will first highlight the similarities with all the other biblical accounts which are an allegory of the end of times, then find out who Abraham prefigures to better understand what is happening in this episode of Lot’s life. But first, more convincing are these words of the Lord when He speaks of the end of times in the Gospel of Luke in chapter 17, verse 28 and 29: “What happened in the days of Lot will happen likewise. Men ate, drank, bought, sold, planted, built; but on the day that Lot came out of Sodom, a rain of fire and sulfur fell from heaven, and destroyed them all. » Is not here a concrete connection between the event occurring in the plain of Jourdain and that of the end of times?
In the Bible, the four allegorical accounts of the end of times (excluding the Apocalypse because , even if in the Revelation to John the details remain mysterious, it is clear that it is the detailed account of the events of the end of times) are:
The story of the flood
The story of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah
The deliverance of the Jewish people from Egypt
The take of Jericho
To start, the common elements to all these stories are:
The depravity of many and the wickedness that prevails in the destroyed places.
Then, each time it is a small number of people who are saved, even in the case of the Jewish slaves in Egypt ( at the beginning they were nearly six hundred thousand souls, only two people of this generation entered the promised land ).
Third, it is always the hand of God that is behind the destruction, even in the take of Jericho where it feels like the Israelites are fighting; remember that Joshua, before attacking the city, saw an angel of the Lord with a sword. He asked him if he was a friend or an enemy, this one told him he was the head of army of the Lord (Joshua 5:13-14)
We also notice in all the accounts that those who escape punishment are in a small space while the shadow of death lurks outside: Noah in his ark while the waters decimated the rest of the world, the Jews in their habitation while the exterminator took the lives of the Egyptian firstborn, Rahab and his family in her house while the people of Jericho were being killed, Lot and his family locked in their homes while the inhabitants of Sodom sought to kill them . . . And perhaps because God would decide later not to destroy again the earth by water, which is why there is fewer common details between the allegory of the flood and other allegories…
In fact, we can find in the 3 other allegories the notion of the two witnesses – sometimes spies – before the destruction but not in the story of the flood. The two angels in the account of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah had their first mission to spy to confirm that the accusations brought up to the Lord were true (Genesis 18:21). Moses and Aaron are these two witnesses for the allegory of the Jewish exodus. Joshua sent two men to spy on Jericho before his army attacked the city (Joshua 2:1). The account of Revelation also mentions these two witnesses (already announced in the book of Zechariah) in chapter 11, verse 3: « I will give to my two witnesses the power to prophesy, clothed in sackcloth, for one thousand two hundred and sixty days. » Verses 5 and 6 of the same chapter provide specifications on the powers of these two witnesses : « If anyone wants to harm them, fire comes out of their mouth and devours their enemies; and if anyone wants to hurt them, he must be killed in this way. They have the power to close the sky so that it does not rain in the days of their prophecy; and they have the power to turn the waters into blood, and to strike the earth with every kind of plague, whenever they will. » This fits well with what did the two angels to the cities of the plain of Jordan, similarly with what did Moses and Aaron before Pharaoh.
The Bible repeatedly associates Sodom and Egypt. For example, when Abraham and Lot separate, the book of Genesis chapter 13, verse 10 says: « Lot lifted his eyes, and beheld all the plain of Jordan, that it was well watered. Before the Lord destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah, it was as far as Zoar as a garden of the Lord, like the land of Egypt. » The book of the Apocalypse Chapter 11, verse 8 also says : » And their dead bodies [of the two witnesses] will be on the street of the great city, which is called, spiritually, Sodom and Egypt, where also their Lord was crucified. » This leads us to consider more carefully the elements of the allegories of the destruction of Sodom and that of the Jewish people walking out from Egypt, particularly since the revelation to John about the end times literally recounts all the plagues that occurred in Egypt.
Indeed, the angels by striking the inhabitants of Sodom with blindness plunges them into darkness, just as Moses and Aaron plunged Egypt into darkness for 3 days. Jesus said in the Gospel of Matthew in chapter 24, verse 29 that the sun will be darkened, and the moon will no longer give its light.
The text of Revelation in chapter 8, verse 12, meanwhile, says: “The fourth angel sounded his trumpet. And a third of the sun was struck, and a third of the moon, and a third of the stars, that a third might be darkened, and the day might lose a third of its brightness, and so also the night. » It must be remembered that it is the people of Sodom who are in darkness, because inside the house Lot, his family and his guests are illuminated. The Bible also said that while Egypt was in darkness, the children of Israel had lighting (Exodus 10:23); therefore, the two allegories fit well with the reality of Revelation. Moreover, darkness, whether in the scenario of Sodom, or that of Egypt, or that of Jesus and that of John in the Apocalypse, always precedes the end.
The account of the destruction of Sodom, on an allegorical level, is complete compared to the other accounts which foreshadow the end because, in addition to the elements which it has in common with the others, it has others which are unique to him. This observation takes us to a third allegorical level, a level which requires discovering who the Patriarch Abraham prefigures to understand the meaning of the allegory.
Who does Abraham prefigure?
To find out, we will read the book of Genesis from chapter 12 to chapter 25, a piece of parchment that tells us about the life of the patriarch. We discover, after reading, some resemblances between the nature and the functions of Abraham and Jesus; let us explore some of these similarities:
– Abraham is a source of blessing (Genesis 12:2-3 and Genesis 22:18). Jesus is the source of blessing and life (John 11:25).
– Abraham leaves his homeland and his father’s house for another country at God’s request (Genesis 12:1). Jesus left heaven, his father’s house, for earth at the behest of God (John 3:16).
– As soon as Abraham begins to call on the name of God, a famine threatens his life and pushes him to dwell in Egypt for a while (Genesis 12:10). As soon as Jesus is born, his life is threatened. He will be hidden in Egypt with his parents for a time (Matthew 2:13-14).
– Abraham calls Lot “his brother”, even though he is his nephew (Genesis 13:8). Jesus calls his disciples « brothers » (Hebrews 2:11) .
– Abraham receives a promise from God (Genesis 13:15). Jesus has the promise of God (Psalm 110:1).
– Abraham helps and saves his brother Lot (Genesis 14:14). Jesus helps and saves his brothers the Christians (John 4:42).
– Abraham had complete confidence in God (Genesis 15:6). Jesus had complete confidence in God (John 11:42).
– Abraham was honest. Jesus had integrity.
– God established a covenant with Abraham according to which he would be the father of a multitude of nations (Genesis 17:2-14). God said to Jesus: You are my Son, today I have begotten you. Ask me, and I will give you the nations for an inheritance, the edges of the earth for your possession (Psalm 2:7).
– Abraham had the custom to wash feet (Genesis 18:4). Jesus washes the feet of his Apostles (John 13:5).
– Abraham is chosen by God to keep the ways of the Lord. Jesus is chosen by God to exhorts men to keep the ways of the Lord.
– Abraham intercedes for men (Genesis 18:23-32). Jesus intercedes for men (1 Timothy 2: 5 and Hebrews 7:25)
– Abraham was a prophet, able to pray that his fellows live (Genesis 20:7 and Genesis 20:17). Jesus was a prophet who could give life (John 11:25).
– Abraham gives God what he has most precious: his son (Genesis 22:9-12). Jesus gives God what He has most precious: his life (John 10:17-18).
– Abraham is called Lord and Prince of God (Genesis 23:6). Jesus is Lord and Prince of life (Acts 3:15).
If Abraham foreshadows Jesus Christ, the allegory of the destruction of Sodom delivers other elements of the end of times. We can therefore see the discussion of the Eternal and Abraham before the destruction of the Jordan plain (Genesis 18:23-32) as a foreshadowing of Christ’s intercession for Christians. We understand that God will destroy the earth because » He will not find enough just to make Him change His mind. Nevertheless, before destroying it, and for the sake of Christ, He will remove from the midst of the earth the few found righteous. Remember Lot and his family were slow to go, so the angels took them by the hands and led them out of the city; this gesture foreshadows the rapture of the church illustrated in the first epistle to the Thessalonians, chapter 4 verse 17. Remember also what Jesus said in the gospel of Luke in chapter 17, verse 34: “I tell you , in that night, of two people who will be in the same bed, one will be taken and the other left; » Lot’s in-laws are left, to foreshadow the words of the Lord.
By pushing the allegory a little further, I asked myself some questions: why the Bible does not speak most of the other members of Lots group, but focuses only on his family? does it want to point us towards something specific? Why this family of 3 women and a man? Why it is the mother who disobeys and not one of the girls?
In the Epistle to the Galatians, in chapter 4 verse 24, the Apostle Paul reveals that the woman symbolizes a covenant. So then, Hagar was a covenant, the old covenant, and Sarah was the new covenant. Lot’s wife would therefore prefigure a covenant that will perish, and her daughters, a new covenant that would go to the mountain, here symbolizing the Kingdom of God also mentioned in the book of the prophet Daniel in chapter 2, verses 35 and 44- 45. Another explanation would be that Lot prefigures the Apostles of Christ because, he is a disciple of Abraham (prefiguring Christ), and although living among this corrupt people – Sodom – he kept the customs of his uncle. His wife would therefore prefigure the church which over the years will become corrupted. His daughters, therefore, foreshadow the churches of the reform that, walking in the ways of their father, will make it with him up to the mountain. And since the Bible emphasizes this detail « preserve seed of our father » (Genesis 19 : 32 and 34) when Lot’s daughters decided to sleep with him, we have a foreshadow of what the LORD will announces later in the book of the prophet Jeremiah in chapter 31, verses 31-34: « Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, when I will make with the house of Israel and the house of Judah a new covenant, not like the a covenant which I made with their fathers, in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, a covenant which they have broken, although I was their master, saith the Lord. But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it in their hearts ; And I will be their God, and they will be my people. This one will no longer teach his neighbor, nor that one his brother, saying, Know the Lord! For all will know me, from the smallest to the greatest, saith the Lord; For I will forgive their iniquity, And I will no longer remember their sin. »