I think many people assume that Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed because of their sexual immortality, and this may at least be part of the reason. However, I recently read Ezekiel and in Ezekiel 16:49-50

49 Now this was the sin of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy. 50 They were haughty and did detestable things before me. Therefore I did away with them as you have seen.

It seems that Ezekiel is turning the traditional interpretation on its head, although there is certainly room for argument in the phrase "did detestable things before me".

Is there any kind of doctrinal consensus or majority view on why exactly Sodom and Gomorrah was destroyed?

  • It's not biggie as this isn't a controversial question or anything, but I see two separate questions between the title and the end of your post: (1) If Ezekiel says such and such, and Genesis such and such, what exactly is the reason. (2) Are there any opposing views on the subject. But I'm just being nit-picky I guess. – felideon Sep 2 '11 at 2:11
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    Sounds like a description of a wholly evil and reprehensible society to me. Perhaps rampant and widespread homosexuality could be a mark (the mark?) of a completely reprobate society (ouch, I can already feel the stones). – user32 Sep 2 '11 at 7:42
  • @felideon: If Ezekiel says such and such, and Genesis says such and such, who's to say they aren't both true? It's not that hard to imagine that a wholly corrupt and degenerate society would be full of more than one serious sin... – Mason Wheeler Sep 2 '11 at 14:56
  • Right, I'm just talking about the usage of the word 'doctrine' for this. I don't think there is any doctrine regarding Sodom & Gomorrah. (It was late last night :)) – felideon Sep 2 '11 at 17:17

That's a very good question, and the answer is, we really don't know. We have a single reference in Genesis to widespread practice of sexual immorality, but remember that this is based on one single event that took place after God had already decided to destroy it. What we do know is that not even ten righteous people could be found in the entire region.

It's clear that Ezekiel had some source to draw on that's not available today. And as Judah is being compared here not only with Sodom but also with Samaria (capital of the kingdom of the northern Ten Tribes before they were carried away captive into Assyria) in this chapter, it's being phrased as a reminder and a comparison to things that the reader should already be familiar with. Apparently in Ezekiel's day, more detailed records about the Cities of the Plain and their culture were in circulation than we have available today.

As for the title of your question, why were the cities destroyed? Because there were no righteous people left in them. (Even ten righteous would have been enough to save them, but ten were not found.) Just like the Flood a few generations earlier, but on a smaller scale. When there is no righteousness left among a people, the Lord will destroy them, if for no other reason than that it would not be justifiable to allow them to bring any more new children into the world, into a scenario in which they would have zero chance of finding salvation.

  • I think you nailed it! – user32 Sep 2 '11 at 7:45
  • It might be worth mentioning Romans 1:24-27, where sexual immorality is a consequence (almost a symptom?) of rejecting God, along with 1 John 4:20, where love of neighbor is integrated with love of God, and James 3:9, which mentions the contradiction between praising God and cursing those made in God's image. – Paul A. Clayton Apr 30 '13 at 22:10

I believe the reason people remember Sodom & Gomorrah for the sexual immorality may be due to:

  1. The account in Genesis 19 where the men of the town wanted to have relations with the two angels that were spending the night at Lot's house.

  2. The word sodomy creates a huge link to Sodom & Gomorrah.

So yes, the traditional interpretation as you say is focused on the sexual immorality, but Ezekiel reminds us of what the Lord tells Abraham in Genesis 18:20-21

20 So the Lord told Abraham, "I have heard a great outcry from Sodom and Gomorrah, because their sin is so flagrant. 21 I am going down to see if their actions are as wicked as I have heard. If not, I want to know." (NKJV)

A few verses later God concedes to Abraham and says, "For the sake of ten I will not destroy it," which leads us to believe that not only were the people so wicked in Sodom, but not even 10 were found to be righteous.

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    For your two points, aren't those just about Sodom? Surely poor Gomorra didn't get smote just for the misfortune of being nearby... – T.E.D. Sep 2 '11 at 3:08
  • Sodomy.. Never made that connection before. – Phonics The Hedgehog Sep 2 '11 at 3:34
  • Yes, the evidence seems to indicate that, like the time leading up to Noah, Sodom and Gomorrah had become completely and utterly reprobate. – user32 Sep 2 '11 at 7:44
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    On your second point, couldn't you make the argument that the modern English word was derived from a mistaken interpretation of the passage and not the other way around? – aceinthehole Jun 14 '13 at 20:46

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