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Sodom ( , Arabic: سدوم Sadūm, Greek Σόδομα) and Gomorrah , Arabic: عمورة ʿAmūrah, Greek Γόμορρα) were two cities in the Bible which were destroyed by God.

For the sins of their inhabitants Sodom, Gomorrah, Admah, and Zeboim were destroyed by "brimstone and fire from the Lord out of heaven" ( ). In Christianity and Islam, their names have become synonymous with impenitent sin, and their fall with a proverbial manifestation of God's wrath ( , Qur'anAl-Hijr:72-73).

Sodom and Gomorrah have been used as metaphors for vice and sexual deviation. The story has therefore given rise to words in several languages, including the English word "sodomy," a term used today predominantly in law (derived from traditional Christian usage) to describe non-vaginal intercourse, as well as bestiality.

The biblical text

Sodom was one of a group of five towns, the Pentapolis ( ): Sodom, Gomorrah, Admah, Zeboim, and Bela—also called Zoar ( ). The Pentapolis region is also collectively referred to as "the Cities of the Plain" ( ) since they were all sited on the plain of the River Jordanmarker, in an area that constituted the southern limit of the lands of the Canaanites ( ). Lot, a nephew of Abram (Abraham) chose to live in Sodom, because of the proximity of good grazing for his flocks ( ).

In , God sends two angels, appearing as men, to Abraham in the plains of Mamre. After receiving the hospitality of Abraham and Sarah, his wife, God reveals to Abraham that he will investigate Sodom and Gomorrah, because their cry is great, "and because their sin is very grievous." (vs. 20-21) In response, Abraham reverently inquires of God if he would spare the city if 50 righteous people were found in it, then 45, then 30, then 20, or even ten, with God affirming he would not destroy it after each request, for the sake of the righteous yet dwelling therein. The two angels of God proceed to Sodom and are met by Abraham's righteous nephew Lot, who constrains the angels to lodge with him, and they eat with his family.

 describes what followed, which confirms the verdict as to the sin of Sodom and its end (RSV):
But before they lay down, the men of the city, the men ofSodom, both young and old, all the people to the last man, surroundedthe house; and they called to Lot, "Where are the men who came to youtonight? Bring them out to us, that we may know them (NIV: can have sex with them , NJB: can have intercourse with them)."

In response, Lot refuses to give his guests to the inhabitants of Sodom, and instead offers them his two virgin daughters to "do to them whatever you like" (New American Standard Bible- Genesis 19:8). However, they refuse this offer, and threaten to do worse to Lot than they would have done to his guests, and press sore upon him. Lot's angelic guests rescue him, and strike the men with blindness. They then command Lot to gather his family and leave, revealing that they were sent to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah. As they make their escape the angels command Lot and his family not to look back under any circumstance. However as Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed with fire and brimstone by God, Lot's wife looks back longingly at the city, and becomes a pillar of salt.

Additional Bible references

The cities of Sodom and Gomorrah are mentioned in other places, in association with sins of omission and commission, and of the heart as well as the flesh, and is often used as an example of judgment of the wicked.

Old Testament

In and Moses warns the Jews who just fled Egypt not to end up with the afflictions and sicknesses of Sodom and Gomorrah.

 mentions the Five Cities, including Sodom, or Pentapolis: "Wisdom rescued a righteous man when the ungodly were perishing; he escaped the fire that descended on the Five Cities."

In , , the prophet addresses people as from Sodom and Gomorrah, associates Sodom with shameless sinning and tells Babylon, which has been found and excavated, that it will end like Sodom and Gomorrah.

In , , and the prophet associates Sodom and Gomorrah with adultery and lies, prophesies the fate of Edom, south of the Dead Sea, prophesies the fate of Babylon and uses Sodom as a comparison.

In God compares Jerusalemmarker to Sodom, saying "Sodom never did what you and your daughters have done." He explains that the sin of Sodom was that "She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy. They were haughty and did detestable things before me." God then sent an angel to rain hell fire and brimstone down on Sodom and Gomorrah.

In God tells the Israelites to have warned them and treated them like Sodom and Gomorrah, still they did not repent.

In the prophet tells Moab and Ammon, south-east and north-east of the Dead Sea, that they will end up like Sodom and Gomorrah.

New Testament

In , cf. , Jesus declares certain cities more damnable than Sodom and Gomorrah, due to their response to Jesus' disciples, in the light of greater grace (RSV):

In Jesus prophesies the fate of some cities where he did some of his works (RSV):

In Jesus describes the situation at His return and uses Sodom as an example of indifference; careless living (RSV):

In Paul quotes (RSV): "And as Isaiah predicted, 'If the Lord of hosts had not left us children, we would have fared like Sodom and been made like Gomor'rah.'"

In Peter uses the time of Sodom and Lot in his description of the time of the second coming of Jesus.

 records that both Sodom and Gomorrah were "giving themselves over to fornication, and going after strange flesh, are set forth for an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire."

 makes an allegorical use of Sodom when it describes the places where two prophets will descend during the Apocalypse.


Whether the primary offense of the inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah was that of homoeroticism or non-sexual interrogation and inhospitality has been much disputed in recent times, with the arguments primarily centering upon linguistic aspects.

Jewish views

Classical Jewish texts are seen by many as not stressing the homosexual aspect of the attitude of the inhabitants of Sodom as much as their cruelty and lack of hospitality to the "stranger." The Jewish Encyclopaedia has information on the importance of hospitality to the Jewish people. The people of Sodom were seen as guilty of many other significant sins. Rabbinic writings affirm that the Sodomites also committed economic crimes, blasphemy and bloodshed. One of the worst was to give money or even gold ingots to beggars, after inscribing their names on them, and then subsequently refusing to sell them food. The unfortunate stranger would end up starving and after his death, the people who gave him the money would reclaim it.

A rabbinic tradition, described in the Mishnah, postulates that the sin of Sodom was related to property: Sodomites believed that "what is mine is mine, and what is yours is yours" (Abot), which is interpreted as a lack of compassion. Another rabbinic tradition is that these two wealthy cities treated visitors in a sadistic fashion. One major crime done to strangers was almost identical to that of Procrustes in Greek mythology. This would be the story of the "bed" that guests to Sodom were forced to sleep in: if they were too short they were stretched to fit it, and if they were too tall, they were cut up.

In another incident, Eliezer, Abraham's servant, went to visit Lot in Sodom and got in a dispute with a Sodomite over a beggar, and was hit in the forehead with a stone, making him bleed. The Sodomite demanded Eliezer pay him for the service of bloodletting, and a Sodomite judge sided with the Sodomite. Eliezer then struck the judge in the forehead with a stone and asked the judge to pay the Sodomite.

The Talmud and the book of Jasher also recount two incidents of a young girl (one involved Lot's daughter Paltith) who gave some bread to a poor man who had entered the city. When the townspeople discovered their acts of kindness, they burned Paltith and smeared the other girl's body with honey and hung her from the city wall until she was eaten by bees. (Sanhedrin 109a) It is this gruesome event, and her scream in particular, the Talmud concludes, that are alluded to in the verse that heralds the city’s destruction: "So said, 'Because the outcry of Sodom and Gomorrah has become great, and because their sin has been very grave, I will descend and see...'" ( ).

A modern conservative position is one that holds, “The paradigmatic instance of such aberrant behavior is found in the demand of the men of Sodom to 'know' the men visiting Lot, the nephew of Abraham, thus lending their name to the practice of 'sodomy' (homosexuality)

The view of Josephus

Flavius Josephus, a Romano-Jewish historian, wrote something along the lines of:

Josephus also recounts that when angels came to Sodom to find good men they were instead greeted by rapists :

A notable difference is seen in Whiston's classic translation, in which part of v. 194 is rendered, "they hated strangers, and abused themselves with Sodomitical practices," while in v. 199 it reads , "they resolved themselves to enjoy these beautiful boys by force and violence; and when Lot exhorted them to sobriety, and not to offer any thing immodest to the strangers..."

Josephus proceeds to describe says how beautiful Sodom was, and how rich the towns were in the area, in contrast with the results of its destruction.

Philo of Alexandria

Philo of Alexandria (c. 20 BC to AD 50), a Jewish philosopher, theologian, and a contemporary of Jesus and Paul, comments,

“The land of the Sodomites, a part of Canaan afterwards called Palestinian Syria, was brimful of innumerable iniquities, particularly such as arise from gluttony and lewdness, and multiplied and enlarged every other possible pleasure with so formidable a menace that it had at last been condemned by the Judge of All…Incapable of bearing such satiety, plunging like cattle, they threw off from their necks the law of nature and applied themselves to…forbidden forms of intercourse. Not only in their mad lust for women did they violate the marriages of their neighbors, but also men mounted males without respect for the sex nature which the active partner shares with the passive; and so when they tried to beget children they were discovered to be incapable of any but a sterile seed. Yet the discovery availed them not, so much stronger was the force of the lust which mastered them. Then, as little by little they accustomed those who were by nature men to submit to play the part of women, they saddled them with the formidable curse of a female disease. For not only did they emasculate their bodies by luxury and voluptuousness but they worked a further degeneration in their souls and, as far as in them lay, were corrupting the whole of mankind.”

Christian view

There are two prevailing views of the sin of Sodom in Christian thought. The typical conservative position is one that holds that the demand of Lot's countrymen was referring to a militant solicitation for homosexual sex, while the opposing non-sexual view sees the destruction of Sodom as being due to inhospitality, as illustrated by the gifts of God to Abraham for his gracious action, contrasted with consequences of the behavior of the city's inhabitants.

The contention between the two positions primarily focuses upon the meaning of the word know, in verse 5:

Those who favor the non-sexual interpretation argue against a denotation of sexual behavior in this context, noting that while the Hebrew word for know appears over 900 times in the Hebrew Scriptures, only approximately 1% (13-14 times) of those references is it clearly used as a euphemism for realizing sexual intimacy. Instead, those who hold to this interpretation usually see the demand to know as demanding the right to interrogate the strangers.

Countering this is the observation that one of the examples of "know" meaning to know sexually occurs only three verses later in the same narrative:

A major text in regard to these conflicting opinions is that of Jude 1:17 (KJV):

This reference to "going after strange flesh" is understood as possibly referring to sex with strangers, sex outside of wedlock, or possibly something akin to bestiality.

Many who support the non-sexual position contend that as the word for “strange” basically means “another,” “other,” “altered” or even “next,” then the meaning is unclear, and if the condemnation of Sodom was sexual, then it is likely that it was because women sought to commit fornication with “other than human” angels, perhaps referring to Genesis 6 and or the apocryphal book of Enoch. Countering this, it is pointed out that Genesis 6 refers to angels seeking women, not men seeking angels, and that both Sodom, and Gomorrah were engaging the sin Jude describes before the angelic visitation, and that in any case, it is doubtful that the Sodomites knew they were angels. In addition, it is argued the word used in the KJV for "strange," can mean unlawful or corrupted (Rm. 7:3; Gal. 1:6), and that the book of Enoch condemns "sodomitic" sex, (10:3; 34:1) thus indicating that homosexual relations was the prevalent physical sin of Sodom.

Both the non-sexual and the homosexuality view invoke certain classical writings as well as other portions of the Bible.

Here the non-sexual view focuses on the inhospitality aspect, while the other notes the description detestable or abomination, the Hebrew word for which often denotes moral sins, including those of a sexual nature.

In the Gospel of Matthew (and corresponding verse) when Jesus warns of a worse judgment for some cities than Sodom, inhospitality is perceived by some as the sin, while others see it as foundationally being impenitence:

The non-sexual view focuses on the cultural importance of hospitality, which this biblical story shares with other ancient civilizations, such as Greece and Rome, where hospitality was of singular importance and strangers were under the protection of the gods.

The conservative position does not deny this important cultural aspect, but tends to see the refusal to repent as being the main issue behind Jesus condemnation, with this being causative of the particular inhospitality shown by the cities Jesus referred to. In addition, they see the information regarding Sodom as best indicating that forced perverse sex was the specific means of inhospitality, and the primary physical sin of Sodom.

Islamic view

In Islamic tradition, the nephew of Ibrahim (Abraham) is known as Lut ( ) and was a prophet. According to the Qur'an, Lot was sent as a prophet to warn his people (that is, the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah) to turn from their evil acts. The story appears in the sura Hud, the 11th chapter of the Qur'an; the major focus of Hud is stories of prophets sent to warn their countries to worship only God, and God punishing the nations afterward.

The Qur'an does not go into great detail about Lot's people, assuming that readers are familiar with the background story. Lot offers them his daughters, but they respond with disinterest and say that Lot "knows what we want." The full account as translated by Abdullah Yusuf Ali:

The 7th sura, Al-A'raf, confirms that like the biblical account, the Islamic Sodom and Gomorrah is referring to homosexuality and specifically homosexual rape. The major difference between the Islamic view of Lot and the biblical version of Lot is that the Bible includes the story of Lot's incestuous relationship with his daughters, which are implicitly denied in Islam. Since Lot is referred to as a prophet of God, and Islamic prophets are considered to never break God's law, Lot would not have had such an incestuous relationship.


The historical existence of Sodom and Gomorrah is still in dispute by archaeologists. The Bible indicates they were located near the Dead Seamarker ( , , ).

Strabo states that locals living near Moasada (as opposed to Masadamarker) say that "there were once thirteen inhabited cities in that region of which Sodom was the metropolis". Strabo identifies a limestone and salt hill at the south western tip of the Dead Sea, and Kharbet Usdum ruins nearby as the site of biblical Sodom..

Dr. Steven Collins, amongst other archaeologists, now believe Sodom was located at the northern end of the Dead Sea, possibly at Tell El-Hammam, where a three-foot destruction layer may connect to the biblical story.

Archibald Sayce translated an Akkadian poem describing cities that were destroyed in a rain of fire, written from the view of a person who escaped the destruction; the names of the cities are not given.. However, Sayce later mentions that the story more closely resembles the doom of Sennacherib's host.

Skeptics point out that the name Sodom is a derivative of the Hebrew word for "scorched" and Gomorrah is from the Hebrew ‘amar, meaning "a ruined heap", surmising that since these names could only have been given after their destruction, the entire story would have to be fictitious. However, the traditional explanation for the use of retronyms in ancient historical literature is that it is retroactive nomenclature. The name Sodom could likewise be a word from an early Semitic language ultimately related to the Arabic sadama, meaning "fasten", "fortify", "strengthen", and Gomorrah could be based on the root gh m r, which means "be deep", "copious (water)".

In 1976 Giovanni Pettinato claimed that a cuneiform tablet that had been found in the newly discovered library at Eblamarker contained the names of all five of the Cities of the Plain (Sodom, Gomorrah, Admah, Zeboim, and Bela), listed in the same order as in Genesis. The names si-da-mu [TM.76.G.524] and ì-ma-ar [TM.75.G.1570 and TM.75.G.2233] were identified as representing Sodom and Gomorrah, which gained some acceptance at the time. However, Alfonso Archi states that, judging from the surrounding city names in the cuneiform list, si-da-mu lies in northern Syria and not near the Dead Sea, and ì-ma-ar is a variant of ì-mar, known to represent Emarmarker, an ancient city located near Ebla. William Shea points out in 1983 that on the 'Eblaite Geographical Atlas' [TM.75.G.2231], ad-mu-ut and sa-dam are good readings by Pettinato and correspond to Admah and Sodom, and they are contained in a list of cities that traces a route along the shores of, or quite possibly within the Dead Sea, whose position may have since shifted along its fault. Today, the scientific consensus is reported as being that "Ebla has no bearing on ... Sodom and Gomorra"Chavalas, Mark W., and K. Lawson Younger, Jr. (eds.) Mesopotamia and the Bible: Comparative Explorations. 2003. P.41

If the cities actually existed, they might have been destroyed as the result of a natural cataclysm. Geologists have confirmed that no volcanic activity occurred within the last 4000 years. However, it is possible that the towns were destroyed by an earthquake in the region, especially if the towns lay along a major fault, the Jordan Rift Valley, the northernmost extension of the Great Rift Valley of the Red Seamarker and East Africa. However, there is a lack of contemporary accounts of seismic activity within the necessary timeframe to corroborate this theory.

Possible candidates for Sodom or Gomorrah are the sites discovered or visited by Walter E. Rast and R. Thomas Schaub in 1973, including Bab edh-Dhramarker, which was originally excavated in 1965 by archaeologist Paul Lapp, only to have his work continued by Rast and Schaub following his death by accidental drowning in the waters off of Cyprus in 1970. Other possibilities also include Numeiramarker, es-Safi, Feifeh and Khanazir, which were also visited by Schaub and Rast. All sites were located near the Dead Seamarker, with evidence of burning and traces of sulfur[716960]on many of the stones and a sudden stop of inhabitation towards the end of the Early Bronze Age. Archaeological remains excavated from Bab edh-Dhra are currently displayed in Karak Archaeological Museum (Karak Castle) and Amman Citadel Museum.

Recent findings identifies the source of the biblical legend of Sodom and Gomorrah, to the destruction of the Babylonicalmarker city of Mashkan-shapirmarker.

Modern Sodom

The site of the present Dead Sea Works, a large operation for the extraction of Dead Sea minerals, is called "Sdom" (סדום) according to its traditional Arab name, Khirbet as-sudūm (see above Historicity). Nearby is unique Mount Sodommarker (הר סדום), in Arabic, consisting mainly of salt. In the Plain of Sdom (מישור סדום) to the south there are a few springs and two small agricultural villages.

See also


  1. [1]
  2. The Inhospitable Sodomites
  3. Jewish Encyclopedia
  4. Hashem
  5. Jewish Ethics and Halakhah For Our Time (2002); Cf. Genesis Rabbah 50:5, on Gen. 9:22 ff. More generally see M.Kasher, Torah Shlemah, vol. 3 to Gen 19:5.)[139]
  6. [2]
  7. Flavius Josephus, The Judean Antiquities Book 1, Whiston Chapter 11, Whiston Section 1
  8. Flavius Josephus, The Judean Antiquities Book 1, Whiston Chapter 11, Whiston Section 3
  9. Born Eunuchs Library
  10. The Old Testament Attitude to Homosexuality Expository Times 102 (1991): 259-363
  11. John Boswell, Christianity, Social Tolerance, and Homosexuality (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1980), p. 94
  12. The Inhospitable Sodomites
  13. Gn. 4:1,17,25; 24:16; 38:26 (premarital); Num. 31:17,18,35; Jdg. 11:39; 19:25; 21:11,12; 1Sam. 1:19; 1Ki. 1:4; cf. Mt. 1:25; Lk. 1:34
  14. D S. Bailey, Homosexuality and the Western Tradition, p. 8; John J. McNeil, the Church and the Homosexual, p. 50; Daniel Helminiak,
  15. Bailey, Homosexuality and the Western Christian Tradition, pp. 11-16; Boswell, Christianity, Social Tolerance, and Homosexuality, p. 97
  17. response to prof. l. William Countryman’s review in Anglican theological review; On Careless Exegesis and Jude 7, Robert A. J. Gagnon
  18. Bailey, Homosexuality and Western Tradition, pp. 1-28; McNeil, Church and the Homosexual, pp. 42-50; Boswell, Christianity, Social Tolerance, and Homosexuality, pp. 92-97
  19. review essay of homosexuality, science, and the “plain sense” of scripture, part 2, Robert A. J. Gagnon
  20. Lv.18:22; 26-27,29,30; 20:13; Dt. 23:18; 24:4 1Ki. 14:24; Ezek. 22:11; 33:26
  21. cf. Straight & Narrow?: Compassion and Clarity in the Homosexuality Debate, Thomas E. Schmidt
  22. Online Quran Project 11.74
  23. Quran 7:80-84
  24. Qu'ran, 6:86

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