“Fire fell from God in heaven.” This phrase is also used in Job and it doesn’t mean that God literally sent fire down to earth from heaven. It refers to God’s judgment. This means God removes his protective grace and allows natural or political forces to run their course. In Job it referred to God allowing Job to be tempted by satan. In the Flood of Noah, it meant heaven removed its grace barrier and allowed mankind to reap the consequences of their behaviour in the natural course of events – which resulted in the Flood. With Sodom, it means God no longer applied grace to Sodom and the surrounding districts but allowed its destruction to come.
We can see the incredible reluctance of people to flee Sodom. Lot’s intended sons-in-laws weren’t interested. Even Lot had to be repeatedly prompted by the angels. The reluctance to give up one’s life or to give up the relative ease of conditions in the Sodom township. The blindness of the men who sought to abuse the angels well depicts the blindness of the whole city, to resist believing in the coming judgment in the face of such debauchery. The reason for the judgment, “The great cry has come up to the Lord,” the outcry of the abuse of the weak. The judgment is to save, to renew, to act in mercy towards the oppressed.
The fire was from the local conditions. In an earlier chapter we saw the tar (oil) pits mentioned. These were prevalent in the region. There was also significant seismic activity, meaning earthquakes all through that area. The region around what is now called the Dead Sea was very volatile due the underground plate fault line through the Rift Valley, that probably resulted earlier from Noah’s Flood. Seismic quakes with all this oil very near the surface of the earth would easily have caused the fire falling from “heaven” that suddenly destroyed the area. Archaeologists have proven this event accured in the Dead Sea region at the time Genesis records it.
Noah’s wife being turned to a pillar of salt would refer to salt fallouts that also accured. The region is known today for its extensive salt build-ups, but I don’t have any information about these salt build-ups in Lot’s time, or whether the Dead Sea was in its current form then. But this would be an interesting matter to look into more.
As for Lot and his family, we see the disasters that come upon us when we remove ourselves from God’s wisdom and take matters into our own hands. Lot chose the best of the land for his sheep but ended up living in Sodom due to the crime of the region. He then ended up in a cave impregnating his two daughters, which gave birth the Moabites and Ammonites, both pagan populations in the region. Abraham and Sarah made a similar mistake with Hagar. This is not to prejudice the tribes who came from these mistakes (we all come from pagan backgrounds), but to show us all that we need faith and trust in God rather than a worldly view of things.
Later, Ezekiel characterised the sin of Sodom thus, “See here, this was the iniquity of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters had majesty, abundance of food, and enjoyed carefree ease, but they did not help the poor and needy. They were haughty and practiced abominable deeds before me. Therefore, when I saw it, I removed them.” (Ezekiel 16:49-50)
Today, Sodom’s sins are often highlighted as sexual perversion, including homosexuality. Others counter that it wasn’t homosexuality itself that was condemned, but the violent and abusive use of sex. However, sex outside of heterosexual for-life marriage (one man, one woman) is an abuse of the gift of sex to humanity because it is self-orientated and doesn’t serve the creational purpose of sex: giving and nurturing/ protecting life for others. Once we move from this definition even a little, our societies will eventually be filled with all forms of harmful self-serving practice.
But the concern of Ezekiel is far more than the sexual part. He starts with indulgence, ease, and neglect of the poor. We could say he covers both bases of the left/ right political spectrum today. So, neither left nor right moral commentators can monopolise the discussion, but we learn from each other. It is often the case that sexual promiscuity comes from too much ease in our societies. That has been the case in recent decades. Sexual promiscuity pretends to be “loving” (“all you need is love”) but the self-at-the-centre of it really is violent and careless of the weak and poor in society. To love our society means both that we care for the poor and we care for our family structures. The left and right wing are both selfish at their parameters.