|Possible location of Sodom (modern Tell el-Hammam). Plains of Jordan circled in red. Geographically similar to California Central Valley although much smaller. Sodom location identified by sunburst symbol.|
|Location zoomed in. Location is at the eastern tip of a finger of fertile land. The road (potentially ancient trade route) leads to the northern rim of the plains of Madaba.|
One of the intriguing things about the Bible is that you can read it several times over the course of your life and see vastly different messages in it. Outside of a few, immutable foundations of faith, there is no one "right" way to interpret the Bible.
The following discussion of the account of the destruction of Sodom will bother some people but I ask you to bear with me.
Three men (angels) passed by Abram's camp in mid-morning. Abram insists that they stay with him for mid-day meal. He kills a calf and shows them extreme hospitality. It is very likely that Abram offered hospitality because he knew what fate would befall the men if they went into Sodom. The angels promise that his wife, Sarah, will have a child.
God then tells Abram that he intends to destroy Sodom because of the "grave" sins they commit. Abram's nephew, Lot, lives in Sodom. Abram is able to argue with God and get Him to agree to not destroy Sodom if 10 men (likely to be households) of virtue can be found.
2 he said, “Please, my lords, come aside into your servant’s house for the night, and bathe your feet; you can get up early to continue your journey.” But they replied, “No, we will pass the night in the town square.” (Joe comments: If the two angels/men were traders they would go to the town square to gather price information. What commodities are abundant locally. What was needed)
3 He urged them so strongly, however, that they turned aside to his place and entered his house. He prepared a banquet for them, baking unleavened bread, and they dined. (Obviously, Lot knew what the townsmen did to foreigners and traders)
4 Before they went to bed, the townsmen of Sodom, both young and old—all the people to the last man—surrounded the house. (Key point implied in this sentence is that women and children are not "people", only men have rights. Also, so much for finding ten households of virtue.)
5 They called to Lot and said to him, “Where are the men who came to your house tonight? Bring them out to us that we may have sexual relations with them.” (Translates to..."we are going to rape them". Rape is a crime of power and dominance. As the "catcher", the two strangers would be turned into "women" and would therefor not be human and have no rights)
6 Lot went out to meet them at the entrance. When he had shut the door behind him, (By shutting the door, he was telling the crowd that what was inside the house was off limits)
7 he said, “I beg you, my brothers, do not do this wicked thing!
10 But his guests put out their hands, pulled Lot inside with them, and closed the door; (Divine intervention. They did that through a closed door)
11 they struck the men at the entrance of the house, small and great, with such a blinding light that they were utterly unable to find the doorway. (Note to self: Some angels pack flash-bang grenades)
12 Then the guests said to Lot: “Who else belongs to you here? Sons-in-law, your sons, your daughters, all who belong to you in the city—take them away from this place!
13 We are about to destroy this place, for the outcry reaching the LORD against those here is so great that the LORD has sent us to destroy it. (General Christian belief is that all sin is an abomination to God. For example, all sex outside of marriage is a sin. Roman Catholic theology holds that there are Mortal sins (potentially causing death to the soul) and
14 So Lot went out and spoke to his sons-in-law, who had contracted marriage with his daughters. “Come on, leave this place,” he told them; “the LORD is about to destroy the city.” But his sons-in-law thought he was joking.
15 As dawn was breaking, the angels urged Lot on, saying, “Come on! Take your wife with you and your two daughters who are here, or you will be swept away in the punishment of the city.”
16 When he hesitated, the men, because of the LORD’s compassion for him, seized his hand and the hands of his wife and his two daughters and led them to safety outside the city. (I guess the sons-in-law stayed in Sodom)
17 As soon as they had brought them outside, they said: “Flee for your life! Do not look back or stop anywhere on the Plain. Flee to the hills at once, or you will be swept away.” (To the north or east)
18 “Oh, no, my lords!” Lot replied to them.
19 “You have already shown favor to your servant, doing me the great kindness of saving my life. But I cannot flee to the hills, or the disaster will overtake and kill me. (That is, he will be recognized as being from the Plains of Jordan and the hill people will extract retribution for the lack of hospitality that was shown to travelers from the hills when they went to the plains)
20 Look, this town ahead is near enough to escape to. It is only a small place. Let me flee there—is it not a small place?—to save my life.”
22 Hurry, escape there! I cannot do anything until you arrive there.” That is why the town is called Zoar.
23 The sun had risen over the earth when Lot arrived in Zoar,
24 and the LORD rained down sulfur upon Sodom and Gomorrah, fire from the LORD out of heaven. (About when the women would be stoking the fires for breakfast and most of the men would be inside their dwellings)
25 He overthrew those cities and the whole Plain, together with the inhabitants of the cities and the produce of the soil. (I am not going to speculate regarding physical manifestations that resemble the description only to note that sediment filled bowls like the San Bernadino valley have an amplifying effect on ground tremors)
26 But Lot’s wife looked back, and she was turned into a pillar of salt.
27 The next morning Abraham hurried to the place where he had stood before the LORD.
28 As he looked down toward Sodom and Gomorrah and the whole region of the Plain, he saw smoke over the land rising like the smoke from a kiln.
29 When God destroyed the cities of the Plain, he remembered Abraham and sent Lot away from the upheaval that occurred when God overthrew the cities where Lot had been living.
Most "sins" are behaviors that diminish, degrade or destroy human lives.
"Trade" was an emerging technology in the late-Stone age and early-Bronze age. Salt, metals, gems, knappable rock, hides, spear shafts, cordage, glue, tools, spices, medicines, animals-on-the-hoof and so on were being traded from valley-to-valley and from highlands-to-lowlands.
A commodity that we take for granted, salt, is the difference between being able to successfully colonizing a hot, salt-free zone and having all of the colonists perish.
One potential hypothesis is that the entire plains area had adopted the Mad-Max, Prison-rape culture and that had killed trade. Yes, they were sinning against ancient, desert-culture of hospitality (and the juxtaposition of the Abram-Sarah story suggests the overarching message of this sequence is about hospitality more than a particular manifestation of inhospitable behavior) The raping of travelers was just one part of that. But the crime against humanity was that they were destroying the break-through technology of trade and degrading the lives of everybody who would benefit from it.
Parallels to today
One side of the political spectrum seems to be mimicking the sins of Sodom in the sense that they are dehumanizing all who disagree with them. They are taking away our voice. They are trying to take away our means to self-defense. They strip us (mostly men) of our authority to parent. They promote no-knock raids and red-flag laws that violate the sanctity of our homes. They dehumanize us in every way they can find.
Further, the policies of that side of the political spectrum create the same Mad-Max, Prison-rape culture seen in Sodom. Our cities are no longer fit for trade and commerce. Outsiders are routinely attacked out of principle. And I don't even need to bring up "Pride" to state my case.
I read the first installment of this franchise. This story does not end well.