Saturday, October 18, 2014

Sodom: The City Condemned

Then [Yahweh] said to Abraham, “There are terrible accusations against Sodom and Gomorrah, and their sin is very great. I must go down to find out whether or not the accusations I have heard are true” (Genesis 18:20-21).

Yes, Jerusalem is doomed! Judah is collapsing! Everything they say and do is against [Yahweh]; they openly insult God himself. Their prejudices will be held against them. They sin as openly as the people of Sodom did. They are doomed, and they have brought it on themselves (Isaiah 3:8-9).

With Sodom we have the condemnation of inhabitants of the city as a whole. As a whole, as a particular cohesive urban society, these inhabitants live in sordid solidarity with one another in slavish conformity to the destructive Olympian gods which dominate them.

But Abraham pesters Yahweh, the one odd god of freedom and love, about this presumed solidarity. “Really?” he questions. He asks Yahweh if Yahweh would destroy the whole city if 50 people could be found in it who did not share in this solidarity of sin. Yahweh replied he wouldn't. Abraham eventually whittles the number down to 10. If even 10 good people live in Sodom, Yahweh will spare the city for their sake even if all the rest live in sordid solidarity. He will spare the entire Olympian city for the sake of 10 righteous people (18:23-32).

But no, not even 10 such witnesses to Yahweh can be found in Sodom. Yahweh’s two angelic messengers enter the city limits. Abraham’s nephew Lot sees them and begs them to find safety under his roof. But the inhabitants of the city hear of these guests and all of them surround Lot’s house. They demand that Lot surrender these guests so that the men of the city may violate them sexually (Genesis 19:4-5).

The inhabitants of the city do not know that Lot’s guests are in fact angels, heavenly messengers of Yahweh, even though Lot somehow does. But Sodom, demonic spirit of this city and loyal minion of Vulcan god of technology, sees them for what they are. She recognizes them clearly as representatives of her mortal enemy. So she easily rouses the inhabitants of her city, all living in solidarity as her minions, into attacking these representatives of Yahweh who have trespassed her limits and threaten them all.

The Sodomites blindly attack Lot. His angelic guests strike them all blind (19:9-11). Once stricken with physical blindness, Sodom’s minions might have paused and recognized their spiritual blindness. They might have seen the hand of a different and superior presence in their midst, but they did not.

The angels tell Lot of Yahweh’s judgment against the city and its inhabitants. They warn him of Sodom’s imminent destruction. He rushes to his sons-in-law in the city and urges them to leave the city and escape its destruction. But they thought he was joking (19:14). To our Olympian personalities, even the most urgent word of God may seem like nothing more than a bad joke.

Lot differed from the rest of Sodom’s inhabitants by discerning that Yahweh’s messengers were somehow special and deserving of his protection. Sodom’s inhabitants themselves declared that Lot lived amongst them as a stranger (19:9). On the morning of Judgment Day, however, even Lot hesitated to separate himself from the city. Yahweh’s angels had to grab him, his wife, and his two daughters and pull them outside the city’s limits to break their solidarity with it (19:15-16).

Physically separated from Sodom, Lot’s wife still remained in spiritual solidarity with her. She looked back nostalgically to the city even as Yahweh’s angels destroyed it. For doing so she became a pillar of salt (19:26).

(Today we continue our reflections on Jacques Ellul's The Meaning of the City [Eerdmans, pp. 62-66]. Today's biblical quotes were taken from the Good News Translation.)

Copyright © 2014 by Steven Farsaci. All rights reserved.