The Wickedness of the Sodomites

The angels left Abraham’s tent, and two of them turned in the direction of Sodom to carry out G‑d’s decision to destroy that city.

The Sodomites were notorious for their wickedness. They had no consideration for the poor, nor for the passing stranger to whom they offered no hospitality; nor would they even sell him any food or water. Once they had found out that Plitith, Lot’s daughter, had secretly given food to a stranger who was near starvation, and they burned her in public. Another time, when they discovered that a young girl had fed a starving beggar, they smeared honey all over her and placed her upon the city wall, so that she died from the stings of the bees attracted by the honey.

These and many other similar hideous acts of cruelty by the Sodomites and their neighbors of Gomorrah, had aroused G‑d’s anger, and He decided to destroy them completely.

Abraham Pleads For Sodom

When G‑d informed Abraham of his intention to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah, Abraham pleaded with G‑d to save the cities for the sake of the righteous who might be living there. Only when G‑d had promised him that if there were even ten righteous inhabitants in Sodom, He would save the entire city for their sake, did Abraham plead no more.

Lot’s Hospitality

Lot, Abraham’s nephew, could never forget completely his uncle’s teachings and ways of living. Although he had been associating with the Sodomites for many years, he had not accepted their attitude towards strangers, and he did not share in their cruel treatment of the unfortunate passer-by.

Lot had been sitting at the gates of Sodom when he saw two strangers. He greeted them and invited them to his tent, although he knew full well that he risked his life by doing so. The strangers at first refused, but after Lot persuaded them, they finally agreed to follow him into his house.

The people of Sodom, having learned of the presence of strangers, surrounded Lot’s house. They demanded that Lot give up the two visitors to be dealt with in the usual manner. In vain did Lot try to quiet them and persuade them to leave the strangers alone. The more he spoke to them, the more excited they became. Finally, they threatened to kill Lot and proceeded to storm the house. But the angels pulled Lot back into the house and struck the attacking mob with blindness, so that they could not force their way into Lot’s house.

Lot and His Family Are Saved

Thereupon, the angels told Lot to take his entire family and leave the city immediately, for G‑d had sent them to destroy Sodom. But Lot’s sons-in-law were Sodomites and refused to leave their homes. Morning dawned, and the angels took Lot, his wife, and two unwed daughters, and led them out of the town, forbidding them to turn back and look at the city. As soon as Lot had reached Zoar, G‑d rained brimstone and fire upon Sodom and Gomorrah. The place that had once looked like a divine garden was turned into a sea of salt. Lot’s wife was too curious to obey the command of the angels. She turned around to look back at the city where they had lived so long. The punishment followed instantaneously; she was changed into a pillar of salt. Lot ultimately left Zoar, and he and his descendants inhabited the provinces of Moab and Ammon.

The Dead Sea

Abraham, remembering G‑d’s gracious promise, hastened early in the morning to the spot where he had prayed to G‑d on the previous day. The blooming valley was hidden by smoke; giant furnaces rose from earth to heaven where the proud cities of the Jordan stood; and the wild flames were rapidly consuming the land. When the devastation was complete, a vast lake of salt and asphalt, or bitumen, “The Dead Sea,” lay to the east of the desert of Judah.

The Dead Sea remained, and is now one of the marvels of the earth. The destruction of Sodom brought fear into many hearts. Wayfarers and caravans began to shun that part of the land, and soon the roads leading to the once fertile regions of Sodom became all but deserted.