Run To The Hills! Sodom and Gomorrah, Part 3

Part 2 of this series dealt with Lot inviting two strangers, who turned out to be angels, into his home, and the inhospitable response of the men of Sodom. The two angels who visited Lot told him he must leave Sodom immediately, along with sons-in-law, sons, daughters, or anyone you have in the city. God is about to destroy not only this city but every city in the Plain of the Jordan. He told his sons-in-law, but they did not believe him. Only his wife and two daughters would go with him (Genesis 19:1-14). We pick up the story from there.

When morning dawned, the angels urged Lot, saying, “Get up, take your wife and your two daughters who are here, or else you will be consumed in the punishment of the city.”

But he lingered; so the men seized him and his wife and his two daughters by the hand, the LORD being merciful to him, and they brought him out and left him outside the city. When they had brought them outside, they said, “Flee for your life; do not look back or stop anywhere in the Plain; flee to the hills, or else you will be consumed.”

(Gen 19:15-17 NRS)

Lot seemed to recognize the urgency of the situation before. So why did he linger?

And Lot said to them, “Oh, no, my lords; your servant has found favor with you, and you have shown me great kindness in saving my life; but I cannot flee to the hills, for fear the disaster will overtake me and I die. Look, that city is near enough to flee to, and it is a little one. Let me escape there–is it not a little one?–and my life will be saved!”

 (Gen 19:18-20 NRS)

If he runs to the hills, Lot is afraid the disaster will overtake me and I die. How far outside the city do they have to go to be safe? It doesn’t say. But for some reason, he thinks he will be safe in a city (just a little one) nearby (and it’s just a little one). What does he really fear, the disaster that could overtake him, or surviving after the disaster? And why is it so important that the city is a little one? Maybe he thinks the rampant wickedness he saw in Sodom only happens in big cities.

It sounds like Lot has become all “city-fied.” He knew what it was to live as a nomad when he was with uncle Abraham. But he has left the nomadic and herding lifestyle for the glamour, stability, and security of a city. He has gotten so used to city life, he does not think he can survive alone in the hills. I can relate to that. My greatest fear is the loss of civilization. I would not do well living off the land. If God told me to leave my home right now and flee to the hills, because God had sent angels to destroy my city (which really is just a little one), I think I would ask if I could go to a nearby city instead.

He said to him, “Very well, I grant you this favor too, and will not overthrow the city of which you have spoken. Hurry, escape there, for I can do nothing until you arrive there.” Therefore the city was called Zoar.

(Gen 19:21-22 NRS)

Zoar means “little.” Remember, Lot said it’s a little city. Every city back then had a story about how it got its name. It was called Bela before (Gen 14:2), but Lot gets credit for giving it the name Zoar.

I grant you this favor too, and will not overthrow the city of which you have spoken. Originally, the plan was to destroy the whole plain and everything in it (v. 17). Lot appears to have saved the city of Bela. If he wants to rename it Zoar, let him.

I can do nothing until you arrive there. Does this mean Sodom would have been spared if Lot had just squatted there? I don’t think so. The city was going to be destroyed no matter what Lot did. The angel is impressing on him he needs to hurry if he wants to escape with his wife and daughters.

The sun had risen on the earth when Lot came to Zoar.

Then the LORD rained on Sodom and Gomorrah sulfur and fire from the LORD out of heaven; and he overthrew those cities, and all the Plain, and all the inhabitants of the cities, and what grew on the ground. But Lot’s wife, behind him, looked back, and she became a pillar of salt.

(Gen 19:23-26 NRS)

The cities in all the Plain were Sodom, Gomorrah, Admah, Zeboiim, and Bela, a.k.a. Zoar (Gen 14:2; Deu 29:23). All but Bela/Zoar were destroyed.

But Lot’s wife…looked back and became a pillar of salt. Today, there is a pillar salt formation on the coast of the Dead Sea called (you guessed it) “Lot’s Wife.”

Salt formation called "Lot's Wife"
Daddy, what is that?

That pillar jutting up at the top is twenty meters high, so very unlikely this is her.

I got to swim in the Dead Sea on my Israel trip back in 1993. If you love floating on your back, this is the place. The salt content is so high you can’t sink, even if you try. That can create some fascinating salt formations. It’s not hard to imagine how people could have seen semi-human looking formations at some point.

Salt pillar by the Dead Sea
Remember Lot’s wife. Those who try to make their life secure will lose it, but those who lose their life will keep it. (Luk 17:32-33 NRS)

People remember Lot’s wife, even today. Sounds like Lot’s wife would not count among the “ten righteous” either. The angels warned them not to look back (v. 17). What is that about? Did God punish her for her disobedience? That’s a harsh punishment for a small offense. I mean, people stop to look at a car crash or a train wreck. Why not fire raining down from heaven?

Maybe it was the natural consequence of looking on that fire and brimstone raining from heaven. If you stick your finger in an electric socket, God doesn’t punish you with a great shock. That is the natural consequence of it. But how can looking at fire turn you into salt? People have seen fire and brimstone rain down when an active volcano spews it into the air. They don’t turn into a pillar of salt. However, the bodies recovered from Pompei sort of look like they are covered in salt. Could it be that when she stopped to look back, she got covered in volcanic ash? I don’t know how feasible that is. It’s just a thought.

I can see an origin story in this, but I’m having a hard time coming up with any moral lesson from a woman turning into a pillar of salt. When it comes to theological and moral lessons, I’ll take Jesus’ help any day. Does he have anything to say about this?

Jesus’ Commentary

In one episode from Luke, he tells the Pharisees what the coming of the Kingdom of God will not be (Luk 17:20-24). And he says the Son of Man will have to suffer and die first (17:25). Then he talks about what it will be like.

Just as it was in the days of Noah, so too it will be in the days of the Son of Man. They were eating and drinking, and marrying and being given in marriage, until the day Noah entered the ark, and the flood came and destroyed all of them.

Likewise, just as it was in the days of Lot: they were eating and drinking, buying and selling, planting and building, but on the day that Lot left Sodom, it rained fire and sulfur from heaven and destroyed all of them — it will be like that on the day that the Son of Man is revealed.

(Luk 17:26-30 NRS)

He compares the coming of the Kingdom of God to the days of Noah, when God sent a flood because all of humanity had become too wicked. And the day Lot left Sodom was the same kind of situation. They were eating and drinking, buying and selling, marrying and being given in marriage, as if they did not have a care in the world. Then in a moment, they were destroyed by flood and fire respectively. This, he said, is what it would be like when the Son of Man is revealed. That actually makes me nervous about praying, Thy kingdom come. But there is a reason I’m referring to this.

 On that day, anyone on the housetop who has belongings in the house must not come down to take them away; and likewise anyone in the field must not turn back. Remember Lot’s wife. Those who try to make their life secure will lose it, but those who lose their life will keep it.

(Luk 17:31-33 NRS)

Here we are. He refers not only to Sodom but Lot’s wife. He uses them as a cautionary tale to say, when the Son of Man is revealed, there will first be disaster and total destruction, like Sodom. Do not go back into your house for your belongings. If you are in the field, do not turn back to the city. Do not look back, like Lot’s wife did. Just run away. Get the [&#&^%] away from there as fast as you can! NOW!

Run to the hills, Lot! Run to the hills, people of Jerusalem!

When disaster comes, your only thought should be to run away. Rescue any family members you can, but don’t worry about the possessions you left behind. Don’t worry about the life you built. That life is over. Remember Lot’s wife. She has become an object lesson in what not to do in that situation. Those who try to make their life secure will lose it, but those who lose their life will keep it.

Remember Lot’s Wife

What does this say about Lot’s wife? Verse 33 indicates she was so attached to the life she built in Sodom. Jesus loved to use verbal irony, and this is one of his most famous examples. She looked back because she could not let go of her life and lost it as a result. Normally, I would say this is speculation. The text of Genesis does not say why she looked back. But this is coming from Jesus. When a man predicts his own death and resurrection, and pulls it off, I tend to believe what he says.

Most traditions agree the lesson of Lot’s wife is about not becoming too attached to your life in a particular setting. That place and the life you love—the city, the nation, your neighbors, your home, your job—could be gone in an instant. When disaster comes, run from it and leave everything behind. Don’t cling to your old way of life. Yes, you will have to start over. That is difficult for anyone. But save your life first. Then worry about rebuilding.

70 A.D.

I tell you, on that night there will be two in one bed; one will be taken and the other left. There will be two women grinding meal together; one will be taken and the other left.”

[Other ancient authorities add verse 36, “Two will be in the field; one will be taken and the other left.”]  

Then they asked him, “Where, Lord?”

He said to them, “Where the corpse is, there the vultures will gather.”

(Luk 17:34-37 NRS)

Okay, I looked for help from Jesus to explain Lot’s wife. He did well up to this point. But I have to admit, he lost me on that last bit. Where the corpse is, there the vultures will gather? What is that supposed to mean? I’m not even going to guess, so I’ll only comment on what he said before that.

Some people read this passage as a description of the Rapture. I don’t. He is saying it will be dangerous for anyone who stays in the city. I think sayings like this need to be read in light of the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D., less than a generation after Jesus’ crucifixion. In the days leading up to that, they should have been preparing to flee the city. Luke points to this elsewhere more explicitly, again quoting Jesus:

“When you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that its desolation has come near. Then those in Judea must flee to the mountains, and those inside the city must leave it, and those out in the country must not enter it; for these are days of vengeance, as a fulfillment of all that is written.

“Woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing infants in those days! For there will be great distress on the earth and wrath against this people; they will fall by the edge of the sword and be taken away as captives among all nations; and Jerusalem will be trampled on by the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.”

(Luk 21:20-24 NRS)

And again,

As he came near and saw [Jerusalem], he wept over it, saying, “If you, even you, had only recognized on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes.

“Indeed, the days will come upon you, when your enemies will set up ramparts around you and surround you, and hem you in on every side. They will crush you to the ground, you and your children within you, and they will not leave within you one stone upon another; because you did not recognize the time of your visitation from God.”

(Luk 19:41-44 NRS)

It might be hard to understand why Jesus would describe the destruction of the Holy City in such graphic language, but this is what it was like when an enemy broke through the city walls. Jesus keeps warning the people of Jerusalem destruction is coming, because they did not recognize the things that make for peace. They did not recognize the time of their visitation from God. Neither did the people of Sodom.

Throughout its history, Jerusalem killed the prophets and stoned those who were sent to the city to warn it (Luk 13:34). They thought no one could touch them because the temple of the LORD was in their city. They knew God had destroyed cities, like Sodom and Gomorrah, for violence and oppression. The irony is they never believed it could happen to them. So it looks like we have the reason why Lot’s wife looked back, and how Jesus used it to warn the people of Jerusalem what to do when the Romans come to destroy the city.

Sodom and Lot’s wife became cautionary tales for the Jews, lasting to Jesus’ day and beyond.

Origin Myths/Origin Stories/Creation Myths

Everywhere around the world people tell stories about how the universe began and how humans came into being. Scholars, namely anthropologists and ethnologists, call these tales “creation myths”, “origin myths,” or “origin stories.”

Some origin stories are based on real people and events, while others are based on more imaginative accounts. Origin stories can contain powerful, emotional symbols that convey profound truths, but not necessarily in a literal sense.

Khan Academy. “Activity: Intro to Origin Stories

I like to think of them as “imaginative stories to teach a theological and/or moral lesson.” Lot’s wife is not a story about the creation of the universe or of humanity, like Genesis 1-3 or the Babylonian Enuma Elish. But all cultures also have stories of the origins of things like cities, nations, ethnic groups, and natural creatures and wonders.

Why do spiders spin webs?

Greek mythology included a story about the origin of the spider. A woman named Arachne was so skilled at weaving, she challenged the goddess to a contest. Her hubris became so great, Athena could not tolerate it anymore, so she turned her into a spider. To the ancient Greeks, it explained the origins of the spider and why the spider is so skilled at weaving its web. To this day, biologists call spiders Arachnids.

Creation myths like these usually contain a theological and/or moral lesson as well. Like many Greek myths, Arachne is a cautionary tale against hubris. No matter how great you think you are, your power and skill are nothing compared to the gods and goddesses. They are immortal, and we are mortal. To compare your greatness to theirs is not only stupid, it’s deadly. That was the theological and moral point of most Greek myths.

Where did that salt pillar come from?

Hebrews were no different in this regard than Greeks or Babylonians. Their children would have asked questions about that big pillar on Mount Sodom, for example. Stories like these did double duty. They answered questions like, where did that salt pillar come from? They also contained important life lessons for their culture.

“Mount Sodom, a salt rock plug, is located in the South-East corner of the Dead Sea. Its slopes are covered with formations of salt that appear to look like pillars. The pillars are often referred to and pointed out as “Lot’s wife” in reference to the biblical tale.”

The Dead Sea in the Bible: Biblical History of the Lowest Point on Earth

So the question to ask is not whether it really happened. The question is, what is the theological and/or moral point of it? That is true not only for the Bible but many stories from the ancient world. Here are the theological and moral points of the story that I think the original audience would have picked up from the story of Sodom and Lot’s wife.

  1. An origin story for those almost human looking salt pillars.
  2. An origin story of how the once fertile plain of the Jordan became desolate and lifeless.
  3. God will judge a people favorably for hospitality and justice, and unfavorably for injustice and inhospitality.
  4. When the iniquity of a people is complete, God’s wrath is severe (Gen 15:16). But before then, God will take any opportunity to save them.
  5. When it’s time to leave a bad situation, just leave and don’t look back.
  6. Your life can be turned upside down at any moment. Don’t get too attached to the life you have now.
  7. For early Christians, Lot’s wife became a metaphor for one who leaves the faith because of persecution or the cares of this world (cf. Mar 4:16-19; Mat 13:20-22; 19:23-24; Luk 8:13-14; Eph 4:22-24; Heb 10:38-39; Rev 2:10).

More for Writers: A little more irony

When Abraham and Lot split from each other (Genesis 13), Abraham gave Lot his choice.

“If you take the left hand, then I will go to the right; or if you take the right hand, then I will go to the left.”

(Gen 13:9 NRS)

Abraham does not care which land he gets. He only wants peace with his nephew. Lot is more practically minded.

Lot looked about him, and saw that the plain of the Jordan was well watered everywhere like the garden of the LORD, like the land of Egypt, in the direction of Zoar; this was before the LORD had destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah. So Lot chose for himself all the plain of the Jordan, and Lot journeyed eastward; thus they separated from each other.

(Gen 13:10-11 NRS)

The garden of the LORD, no doubt, refers to the Garden of Eden (Gen 2:8-15). They had just seen how well watered the land of Egypt was along the Nile (Gen 12:14-20). Considering his servants just quarreled with Abraham’s servants over whose waters were whose, a land that is well watered everywhere would naturally be enticing. This seems to imply that Abraham trusted God for his needs, while Lot focused on what looked more naturally favorable.

I may be in the minority, but I don’t fault Lot for that. Any shepherd or farmer would prefer a land that is well watered to one where you can find water, but you have to search diligently for it. I don’t believe trusting God means you don’t choose the land that is better for your flocks and herds.

However, since we have seen this story play out, the irony of that choice is now obvious. His decision turned into a disaster for him and his family. He chose the plain of the Jordan because it was fertile. But that was before the LORD rained fire and brimstone on the whole area (Gen 13:10). After that, the entire land and every living thing, all the people and everything that grew on the ground, was reduced to smoke and ash. Again, this sounds like an origin story. How did a land that was once fertile and well watered become so desolate? God overthrew the cities, because the cry of its victims became too great.

That understanding of God’s justice and righteousness remained important to Abraham’s descendants throughout the Bible. It led God to rescue them from bondage in Egypt. It also led to judgment against them. When the outcry of the poor, the slave, the stranger, the alien, the widow and orphan in their own nations became too great, God passed judgment on Israel and Judah. This became another irony as the oppressed became the oppressors, and God eventually punished them just as God punished Sodom, Gomorrah, and Egypt, the difference being by enemy armies rather than natural disaster.

What’s Next for Lot and His Daughters?

It looks like things have gotten as bad as they can for Lot. His household is not as righteous as his Uncle Abraham had hoped. Six possibly righteous are down to three—Lot and his two daughters.

Next week, I will continue this series on Sodom and Gomorrah. This next scene is one of those moments that has made me say many times, Game of Thrones has got nothing on the Bible. It involves incest. You can decide if that makes you want to read it or not.

Further Study

Origin Stories

Why Was Lot’s Wife Turned Into A Pillar of Salt?

Enuma Elish: full text

Origin/creation stories

The Rapture Is Not biblical

The Rapture Theory Debunked

Debunking the Rapture: Barbara Rossing

Translation Notes

וַתַּבֵּ֥ט אִשְׁתּ֖וֹ מֵאַחֲרָ֑יו  (Gen 19:26 WTT)

But Lot’s wife looked back…

Hol5329  נבט  verb hiphil waw consec imperfect 3rd person feminine singular apocopated … 2. w. prep.: a) w. °aµ­r¹yw look behind onesf. Gn 1917, m¢°aµ­r¹yw 1926;

Natab means to look at. But when paired with the preposition ‘acharayv, it means “to look back” or “look behind oneself.” Some commentators try to make it mean more than that, but I’m not convinced.

Pillar, on the other hand, might have a deeper meaning.

Hol5658  נְצִיב  noun common masculine singular construct homonym 1

I נְצִיב: pl. בִים(י)נְצִ: — 1. pillar (of salt) Gn 1926; — 2. (military) post, garrison 1K 419. (pg 244)

Netzib means pillar, as in pillar of salt (or marble or whatever). It can also refer to a military post or garrison (1 Sa 10:5; 2 Sa 8:6). It can refer to a person, as in a deputy or officer (1 Kg 4:19; 2 Ch 8:10). The website Got Questions says,

The image of Lot’s wife standing watch over the Dead Sea area—where to this day no life can exist—is a poignant reminder to us not to look back or turn back from the profession of faith we have made, but to follow Christ without hesitation and abide in His love. Cf. Eph 4:22-24.

– “Why was Lot’s wife turned into a pillar of salt?

This story of Lot’s wife turned a natural salt formation into a “sentinel” reminding us not to turn back from Christ, but to “abide in His love,” as the above quote said. I have my doubts about whether it “really happened” but not about the object lesson.

Ancient Hospitality–Sodom and Gomorrah, part 2

***Advisory: This post touches on topics of homosexuality and rape. You’ve been warned.***

The last time Abraham saw Lot, he had to rescue him from enemy kings. Lot settled in what are called the cities of the Plain (Sodom, Gomorrah, Adman, Zeboiim, and Bela). The kings of those cities when to war against the kings of Shinar, Ellasar, Elam, and Goiim. One battle went badly for the kings of the Plain, and Lot was captured along with others. To get a sense of how wealthy Abraham was, he led his own trained men, 318 of them, in a surprise raid that defeated the four kings, rescued Lot and the other prisoners, and brought back all the treasure the four kings had taken (Genesis 14:1-16).

This is the only scene where we see Abraham as a military commander, but he obviously had some experience in this area. He had hundreds of trained men, so these are not just shepherds and cowboys who pick up a sword or spear only when called to war. They were soldiers. And he successfully led a nighttime raid. Any military expert will tell you that is not easy, especially when you don’t have night vision goggles. I really wish we could have seen more of this side of Abraham.

After that, Abraham probably hoped his nephew would join up with him again. Lot chose to stay in Sodom, and that decision would come back to bite him.

Now, God has come down to investigate Sodom and Gomorrah and determine whether God should destroy them wholesale or spare them. Abraham got God to agree that if there are “ten righteous” in the city, God will not destroy them.

Next stop, Sodom

The two angels came to Sodom in the evening, and Lot was sitting in the gateway of Sodom.

(Genesis 19:1a)

The LORD is no longer with the two angels. We were told the LORD went his way (18:33). It appears the LORD was not there to visit Sodom but to share his plans with Abraham. Why was Lot sitting in the gateway of Sodom? The text does not tell us, but could it be because he wanted to protect any strangers who came to stay in the city?

When Lot saw them, he rose to meet them, and bowed down with his face to the ground. He said, “Please, my lords, turn aside to your servant’s house and spend the night, and wash your feet; then you can rise early and go on your way.”

They said, “No; we will spend the night in the square.”

But he urged them strongly; so they turned aside to him and entered his house; and he made them a feast, and baked unleavened bread, and they ate.

(Gen 19:1b-3 NRS)

Notice how similar Lot’s invitation to these strangers is to Abraham’s (Gen 18:2-5).

  • Both begged them to turn aside to their house and not pass them by.
  • Both addressed the strangers as “my lord(s).”
  • Both referred to themselves as “your servant.”
  • Both offered to wash their feet.
  • Both offered them sleep or rest.
  • Both prepared a feast for them.

This must have been a standard way of offering hospitality in their culture.

When the angels said, No, we will spend the night in the square, Lot insisted (compare Judges 19:15-20). And like Abraham, he made them a feast. That is still typical of the hospitality the Bedouin.

Bedouin Chief
Don Belt, wrote in National Geographic, he was “short, slim, dark—and had face as fierce as a shrike, with a pointed beak and sharp little beard thrust forward like a dagger.”

He baked unleavened bread (or rather, his wife did) because it was late. There wasn’t time to let the bread rise.

But before they lay down, the men of the city, the men of Sodom, both young and old, all the people to the last man, surrounded the house; and they called to Lot, “Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us, so that we may know them.”

(Gen 19:4-5 NRS)

The purpose of this scene is to show what it looks like when an entire city of people has become so evil God has no choice but to destroy them all. If there are any righteous in the city, even as few as ten, God will spare the city for their sakes. Now, all the people to the last man surrounded the house. In most any place, you would say there are some good people and some bad. Not in Sodom. There is no one righteous, no, not one (Psalm 14:2).

Men of Sodom demand Lot hand over the strangers to them
Inhospitality in Sodom

Bring them out to us, so that we may know them. In case you have never heard the phrase, “to know someone in the Biblical sense,” they were not asking for an introduction.

I haven’t seen you around here before. What is your name? How long are you staying? Overnight? So you’re traveling. Where are you headed? Beer-sheba? Great! If you see my Uncle Ziklag, say hello.

No! They did not want to know who they were. They wanted to know them “in the Biblical sense.” This has led many people to mistakenly think this story is about homosexuality. It’s not. It’s about inhospitality. That will become clear as we work our way through the story.

Lot went out of the door to the men, shut the door after him, and said, “I beg you, my brothers, do not act so wickedly. Look, I have two daughters who have not known a man; let me bring them out to you, and do to them as you please; only do nothing to these men, for they have come under the shelter of my roof.”

(Gen 19:6-8 NRS)

Okay, this is another moment where I have to reiterate, I am not defending his actions or motivations. I am trying to clarify a cultural practice that is significantly different from ours. When the men’s intentions toward his guests are clear, Lot offers his two daughters to them in their place. That is hard for us to understand. Why would he do that? Because, as he said, they have come under the shelter of my roof.

Ancient Hospitality

Remember how Abraham and Lot gave almost the exact same invitation to the angels. Think about the culture that taught its people, when you see a traveler passing by your home, immediately offer hospitality to them. Take them in. If they refuse, insist. Give them the best food you have, wash their feet, and give them whatever they need to refresh themselves.

Their sense of right and wrong in many ways was based on how they practiced hospitality. One corollary of that was when you take a stranger into your home, your duty to protect them was even greater than protecting your family (cf. Judges 19:23-24).

If a conflict occurs the host is expected to defend the guest as if he were a member of his family. One Bedouin told National Geographic, “Even if my enemy appears at this tent, I am bound to feast him and protect him with my life.”

Bedouin Appearance, Customs, and Character

Another sacrifice he is making. His daughters are virgins and betrothed. One of the most sacred duties of a father was to keep his daughters virgins until their wedding night. Men in that society wanted to marry virgins. The contract for marriage would have been rendered null and void. If they survive, the daughters will not only lose the men they are promised to. Their chances of finding any husband would be slim to none.

You may not agree that he should have offered his daughters this way. I don’t blame you. In fact, I hope you don’t agree with it. I’m just saying this is what their culture taught. And their hospitality really is beautiful under normal circumstances. In the next verse, I want you to think of how someone from that culture would view the response from the men of Sodom.

And just in case anyone is thinking this, Lot did not offer his daughters to them because it is morally better to rape women than men. Rape is rape, and it is always wrong.

But they replied, “Stand back!” And they said, “This fellow came here as an alien, and he would play the judge! Now we will deal worse with you than with them.” Then they pressed hard against the man Lot, and came near the door to break it down.

(Gen 19:9 NRS)

This would be the epitome of evil to those from a culture like Abraham and Lot’s. And it would have been shocking to the story’s original audience, even more than today.

Now we will deal worse with you than with them. Lot, so far, has shown exemplary hospitality to the angels. The men of Sodom, on the other hand, wanted to exploit them to gratify their own base desires. The law of Moses repeatedly told the Israelites to be kind to the alien who lives among them. Now, they despise Lot for being an alien. He tries to meet his duty to protect his guests, and their response is to deal worse with you than them. To see just how bad their intentions were, see Judges 19:25.

This fellow came here as an alien, and he would play the judge! But in this case, it is not Lot who will judge them.

But the men inside reached out their hands and brought Lot into the house with them, and shut the door. And they struck with blindness the men who were at the door of the house, both small and great, so that they were unable to find the door.

(Gen 19:10-11 NRS)

The angels came to see if the cry against Sodom and Gomorrah was as great as they heard. There is no more benefit of the doubt. They had heard with their ears. Now they see with their eyes. They rescue Lot and his daughters by striking the men with blindness. The author of Hebrews said not to neglect hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares (Heb 13:2). The men of Sodom showed inhospitality to angels unawares, and that cannot end well for them.

But what about homosexuality?

This is what most people think of when they hear Sodom and Gomorrah. The term Sodomy comes from this story. Kind of makes it ironic that the Village People, a group with such obvious appeal to gay men, would record a song about it. I’d really love to know the “Behind the Music” story on that.

I have avoided linking this story with homosexuality, and that was deliberate. As a reminder, let’s look at that passage again.

But before they lay down, the men of the city, the men of Sodom, both young and old, all the people to the last man, surrounded the house; and they called to Lot, “Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us, so that we may know them.”

(Gen 19:4-5 NRS)

You’re probably thinking, “You already said they wanted to know them in the Biblical sense. How is that not homosexuality?” The same way when a man rapes a woman, it’s not about heterosexuality. It’s about rape. Rape is wrong no matter what the gender.

This scene follows the hospitality of Abraham and Lot to the angels. What would be the complete opposite of that? Harm, torture, humiliate, then kill. They did not just want to have sex with them. It wasn’t just, “Ooh, those men are so hot!” They wanted to torture and humiliate them. Why? Because they could.

Travelers are vulnerable. They don’t know anyone there. They don’t know the area, the customs, and may not know the language. Taking advantage of someone’s vulnerability to gratify your own urges, and taking pleasure in their suffering, are the worst impulses humans have. This story depicts an entire people who have given free rein to those impulses.

In the world at that time, the greatest humiliation you could inflict on a man was to use him as a woman. There are ancient depictions of conquering armies (I don’t remember who, but I’ve seen them) bending the enemy soldiers over and taking them from behind. The message is clear. We not only defeated them. We utterly humiliated them. We made them our “bitches.” That was what the men of Sodom wanted to do.

WWJD?

My final proof comes from Jesus himself. When he sent the Twelve out to the towns of Galilee and Judea, he told them what to do if they receive them, and what to do if they don’t. Then he described what would happen on the day of judgment to those that don’t extend hospitality to them.

If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, shake off the dust from your feet as you leave that house or town. Truly I tell you, it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgment than for that town.

(Mat 10:14-15 NRS)

Whenever Jesus talked about the sin of Sodom and Gomorrah, he referred to inhospitality, not homosexuality. Refusing hospitality to Jesus’ disciples, he said, was an even greater sin than refusing hospitality to angels. They knew what happened in the latter case.

I know that sounds harsh. But what I want you to see here is in their world, the worst sin is inhospitality, not homosexuality. And not just for the Hebrews. The ancient Greek myth of Baucis and Philemon hits the same themes of ordinary people welcoming Zeus and Hermes into their home, unaware that they are entertaining gods. They are rewarded for their hospitality, while their town is punished for its inhospitality.

As modern readers, this should be a reminder that these stories did not come from a modern world. That means in some ways their values will be different, and in some ways they will be the same. Their ethic of hospitality was much more generous than ours. Their ethic of kindness to the alien and stranger was much more serious than ours. You cannot understand the Biblical story of Sodom and Gomorrah without understanding that.

Did Abraham miscalculate?

Then the men said to Lot, “Have you anyone else here? Sons-in-law, sons, daughters, or anyone you have in the city–bring them out of the place. For we are about to destroy this place, because the outcry against its people has become great before the LORD, and the LORD has sent us to destroy it.”

So Lot went out and said to his sons-in-law, who were to marry his daughters, “Up, get out of this place; for the LORD is about to destroy the city.”

But he seemed to his sons-in-law to be jesting.

(Gen 19:12-14 NRS)

In the last post, I raised the question of whether each member of Lot’s household could have counted towards the “ten righteous.” The last time Abraham saw Lot, he had flocks and herds, and servants and herdsmen to manage them. He might not have had his daughters yet. If they were betrothed to men, but never married, they probably would have been in their young teens. Abraham might have been thinking, “Lot, his wife, his servants and herdsmen, and maybe a son or two. That’s at least ten.”

But Lot is no longer a herder. He’s a city-dweller. He did not need the servants and herdsmen anymore, so he let them go. Now, they are down to Lot, his wife, two daughters, and two sons-in law (not married but promised to his daughters). And even among them, there are serious doubts they could count if they were not part of Lot’s household. The (soon to be) sons-in-law think Lot is jesting. If being righteous includes recognizing when and how God is moving, they just failed.

Here is more irony. What Abraham thought must have been at least ten was at most six, now down to four. Clearly, it is time for Lot to leave, and anyone he has in the city: his wife and two daughters are all who have any chance of escaping the wrath of God. In part 3, we’ll see how they fare. Spoiler: Not well.

Translation Notes

האֶחָ֤ד בָּֽא־לָגוּר֙  (Gen 19:9 WTT)

This one came to sojourn…

Hol1494  גּור verb qal infinitive construct homonym 1  

stay as foreigner and sojourner (« g¢r) Gn 2123•34;

Gur is in the infinitive form, which is usually to + verb. To sojourn or to stay as a foreigner, is how that would work in English. However, we don’t always have to be so literal. An infinitive can also be used as a noun. So other translations say, “This man,” they said, “came here as a resident alien” (Gen 19:9 NAB). “This one came in as an alien,”  (Gen 19:9 NAS). “This fellow came here as a foreigner,” (Gen 19:9 NIV). All of these are legitimate translations.

For I Have Chosen Him – Sodom and Gomorrah part 1

In a previous post, I talked about the time the LORD visited Abraham and Sarah with two other unidentified men (Genesis 18:1-15). Later, the two are identified as angels (19:1). During that visit, the LORD reiterated the promise to Abraham that he and Sarah would have a son by this time next year. Sarah laughed because she was ninety years old. The LORD reprimanded her for laughing, which doesn’t seem fair because any one of us would have laughed too. But this let her know God was serious. God made a promise, and God will keep it.

Now I want to pick up from that point. The men are about to leave, and as Abraham walks with them, he learns the purpose of this visit to earth.

Then the men set out from there, and they looked toward Sodom; and Abraham went with them to set them on their way. The LORD said, “Shall I hide from Abraham what I am about to do, seeing that Abraham shall become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him?

(Genesis 18:16-18 NRS)

Who is the LORD talking to? I would assume the two angels accompanying Him. It’s interesting that God raises this question with them while Abraham is listening. God reiterates the promise that he will become a mighty nation, and all nations of the earth shall be blessed in him. This is directly connected to the promise of a son through Sarah (18:10). It is strange, I know, that God waited until he was ninety-nine, and she was ninety, to do this. I’ve discussed the reasons why I think God fulfilled the promise this way.

God asks (rhetorically) if God should hide God’s plans from Abraham, then answers.

“No, for I have chosen him, that he may charge his children and his household after him to keep the way of the LORD by doing righteousness and justice; so that the LORD may bring about for Abraham what he has promised him.”

 (Gen 18:19 NRS)

Abraham is God’s covenant partner, the one God chose to build God’s own nation out of, and therefore, God chooses to share God’s plans with him. This is the most important Bible verse you have never heard of. God promised here and other times to make Abraham a great nation, and through that nation, all nations of the earth would be blessed. But God never specified what that blessing would be until now. Here in this verse, we learn why God approached Abraham and made covenant with him. Why it was so important that he have a son with Sarah. Why he called Abraham to become the founder of a great and mighty nation.

Do you see the answer? That he (Abraham) may charge his children and his household after to keep the way of the LORD by doing righteousness and justice.

God wanted Abraham to teach righteousness and justice to his children and his household. Righteousness and justice are two of the most important words in the Old Testament, and they are often paired together. They were the standard by which all nations were judged, both by the people and God. Does the nation act with justice, in its laws and how it enforces them? Do its people know and do what is right (called righteousness)? That is how you know it is a nation that keeps the way of the LORD.

But much of the world does not know or follow the way of the LORD. Injustice, corruption, exploitation, and oppression are the norm for them (as we will see in Sodom). How can God teach them? By building up and blessing Abraham, a man who has just treated him with righteousness and justice. A man who was kind to strangers and aliens, probably because he was a stranger and alien himself. A man who showed the LORD and his two companions exemplary hospitality. God wants this man, who knows the way of the LORD, to teach it to his children and his household, so they can be an example to the world around them. The nations of the earth will see, through Abraham and his seed, what it means to do righteousness and justice.

When God made covenant with Abraham, the goal all along was to establish righteousness and justice in the earth. Abraham and his seed were the vessel God chose to teach and do it. You may argue with me that Abraham wasn’t always righteous and just, and neither were his descendants. But you cannot deny that was God’s goal in calling Abraham and his descendants to be God’s people. How do I know? It says so right in that verse: That he may charge his children and his household after to keep the way of the LORD by doing righteousness and justice.

God did not only say that to Abraham. God said it several times in the Torah and the Prophets. That was the purpose of God in delivering the seed of Abraham from bondage in Egypt. That was the purpose of all those 613 commandments in the law of Moses. That was the purpose in establishing Israel as a nation. When Israel did not live up to that purpose, God punished them, first by splitting the nation into a northern kingdom (called Israel or Ephraim) and a southern kingdom (called Judah). When they still did not follow the way of justice and righteousness, God handed over both of the kingdoms to foreign powers. God looked for justice from them but saw bloodshed. God sought righteousness but heard a cry of distress (Isaiah 5:7).

I said before I am interested in learning these characters’ motivations, including God’s. Now you know the primary motivation driving God in calling Abraham and visiting him and having him do all these crazy things: to establish righteousness and justice through him, his children, and his household, so they can bring that blessing to all nations.

Changing the Mood: You’re up, King James

Normally, I don’t use the King James Version as my base text. But I really like how this next scene reads in the KJV.

And the LORD said, “Because the cry of Sodom and Gomorrah is great, and because their sin is very grievous; I will go down now, and see whether they have done altogether according to the cry of it, which is come unto me; and if not, I will know.”

(Gen 18:20-21 KJV)

Okay, right now, you’re probably thinking, “What do you mean, ‘I will go down now and see…and if not, I will know’? You’re God. Don’t you know everything?”

The traditional understanding of God is that God is omnipotent, omnipresent, and omniscient. I believe that, but the fact is when you read the Bible, there are some stories where God appears not to be omniscient. I don’t recall who said this, but I agree with someone who said, in effect, we should read them as imaginary stories to make a theological point. As such, we should not expect it to follow perfect doctrine. Instead, we should ask, what is the theological point?

Map showing Sodom and Gomorrah location
Sodom and Gomorrah were on the southeast coast of the Dead Sea

Remember God said righteousness and justice were the reason God chose to make covenant with Abraham. Then God said, the cry of Sodom and Gomorrah is great, because their sin is very grievous. Therefore, the sin should be read as injustice and unrighteousness. God chose to share this information with Abraham. How will Abraham respond?

And the men turned their faces from thence, and went toward Sodom: but Abraham stood yet before the LORD. And Abraham drew near, and said, “Wilt thou also destroy the righteous with the wicked? Peradventure there be fifty righteous within the city: wilt thou also destroy and not spare the place for the fifty righteous that are therein? That be far from thee to do after this manner, to slay the righteous with the wicked: and that the righteous should be as the wicked, that be far from thee: Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?”

(Gen 18:22-25 KJV)

God did not say God would completely destroy Sodom and Gomorrah, but somehow Abraham inferred it. Abraham uses God’s concern for justice and righteousness in interceding for the city. God never told Abraham God is the Judge of all the earth, but again, somehow Abraham has inferred that as well. As such, [far be it] from thee…to slay the righteous with the wicked. Because shall not the Judge of all the earth do [what is] right(eous)?

And the LORD said, “If I find in Sodom fifty righteous within the city, then I will spare all the place for their sakes.”

(Gen 18:26)

Imagine you are in a situation where you have to tell your boss something, but you know if you offend him/her, you may be fired. Now imagine you have to tell this to a king who, if he doesn’t like what you are saying, could say, “Off with your head.” That is how Abraham speaks to God, and it is effective.

Notice how Abraham is so tactful with God. Calling him the Judge of all the earth. Saying that be far from thee to do what is unrighteous. Some would call this flattery. I look at it as appealing to the better angels of God’s nature (which I know is a theologically incorrect statement, but you get what I mean). And he adds that he himself is but dust and ashes. Flattery (or appealing to better angels) mixed with self-loathing usually made a king more favorable to you.

And Abraham answered and said, “Behold now, I have taken upon me to speak unto the Lord, which am but dust and ashes: Peradventure there shall lack five of the fifty righteous: wilt thou destroy all the city for lack of five?”

And he said, “If I find there forty and five, I will not destroy it.”

(Gen 18:27-28)

So even though the city has thousands of people, Abraham is still not sure the LORD will find that many. He begins the process of bringing that number down, still being tactful.

And he spake unto him yet again, and said, “Peradventure there shall be forty found there.”

And he said, “I will not do it for forty’s sake.”

And he said unto him, “Oh let not the Lord be angry, and I will speak: peradventure there shall thirty be found there.”

And he said, “I will not do it, if I find thirty there.”

(Gen 18:29-30)

Abraham seems to sense he is close to pushing his argument too far, so he says, Oh let not the LORD be angry, and I will speak. It’s like he’s asking permission because he’s afraid God will get angry if he keeps this up, but he keeps it up anyway. I love how Abraham is both deferential and persistent. This is why I like reading this scene in the King James. The formal, old-fashioned language seems to fit that mood.

And he said, “Behold now, I have taken upon me to speak unto the Lord: Peradventure there shall be twenty found there.”

And he said, “I will not destroy it for twenty’s sake.”

And he said, “Oh let not the Lord be angry, and I will speak yet but this once: Peradventure ten shall be found there.”

And he said, “I will not destroy it for ten’s sake.”

And the LORD went his way, as soon as he had left communing with Abraham: and Abraham returned unto his place.

(Gen 18:31-33)

So Abraham has successfully negotiated generous terms for Sodom and Gomorrah with the LORD, the Judge of all the earth. The LORD only has to find ten righteous in the city, and despite the outcry of injustice and unrighteousness, the LORD will spare the whole city for the sake of ten righteous. Cities were smaller then than today. But still, Sodom probably had thousands of inhabitants, maybe up to ten or twenty thousand. Surely, there are at least ten righteous in even the most wicked city, right? Especially knowing Lot is there. Besides my nephew, the LORD only has to find nine more righteous. How hard could that be?

That is probably what Abraham thought. However, this is written to people who already know how this story ends. They know Abraham had to negotiate that number down even further than that. Despite Abraham’s intervention, Sodom and Gomorrah are doomed.

Why Did He Stop at Ten?

It’s clear Abraham had experience in negotiating with earthly monarchs. His flattery mixed with self-loathing is perfect for that. And the smartest thing he did was before he started negotiating specific terms, he appealed not only to God’s greatness and majesty as the Judge of all the earth. He also appealed to what God himself said was his concern regarding Sodom and Gomorrah: righteousness and justice. Is it righteous or just to slay the righteous with the wicked? Of course not. Surely, you as the Judge of all the earth will do what is just, won’t you? I see a lot of similarities with how Abigail negotiated with David to stop him from killing every male of her household.

In addition, before Abraham knew of God’s plans regarding Sodom and Gomorrah, God spoke of Abraham as a partner with whom he would not take such action without first telling him. That may have been because Abraham’s nephew Lot was in Sodom, and God did not want to take action that would affect him without warning.

Abraham and Lot separate
“Let there be no strife between you and me, and between your herders and my herders; for we are kindred. 9 Is not the whole land before you? Separate yourself from me. If you take the left hand, then I will go to the right; or if you take the right hand, then I will go to the left.” (Genesis 13:8-9 NRS)

God just acknowledged a special relationship with Abraham, so Abraham knew he could push his argument a little farther than was comfortable.

It looks like he stopped at ten because he was afraid of making the LORD angry. However, there is no indication in the text that the LORD was getting angry. Each time he asks, God says, “I will not destroy it for thirty’s sake…for twenty’s sake…for ten’s sake.” It doesn’t say God spoke angrily or looked angry. It just says God said it. Abraham’s fear might have come from his dealings with earthly monarchs, whose anger was deadly and could flare in a second. If so, this is a great use of irony from the author. The courtly experience that made Abraham a successful negotiator with God Almighty also made him stop short of where he needed to end his negotiation.

It’s like looking for righteousness and justice in Sodom and Gomorrah.

What Is the Theological Point?

I said earlier, this should be read as an imaginative story with a theological point. So what is the point? Here is what I see.

  • God wants people to treat each other with righteousness and justice. When they do not, God gets angry. Because the cry of injustice is great against Sodom and Gomorrah, God has come to investigate before passing judgment. When God punishes a people or a city, it is not on a whim. It is because their injustice and unrighteousness have become so great to make it irredeemable.
  • God’s mercy is great, but so is God’s justice. God seems to want Abraham to give a reason why Sodom and Gomorrah should be spared. Abraham gives a good reason. It is not righteous and just to destroy the righteous with the wicked. As long as there are a certain number of righteous people in the city, you should not destroy it. And God agrees to those terms. They just needed ten righteous people, or maybe righteous men (see Translation Notes), and the city would be spared. In the minds of the audience, if there are not ten righteous in the whole city, they probably deserve to be destroyed.
  • Part of the role of a prophet is to intercede for those marked for destruction. God calls Abraham a prophet (20:7). When we read the prophets, we see them at times petitioning God to change God’s plans for destruction. Moses did the same. And sometimes, God listened and spared the people.
  • A few righteous people might be enough to save even a wicked city. This is a long standing tradition in Judaism. God does not want to destroy the righteous with the wicked. Therefore, even a relatively small number of righteous people can stop the LORD from destroying an unjust people. Because of them, God’s patience is long. But earlier, God told Abraham when the iniquity of a people is complete, they are marked for destruction (Gen 15:16). If that is the case in Sodom and Gomorrah (and the audience knows it is), they are doomed.

For Writers: Irony

As I pointed out, the author makes excellent use of irony in this scene. How do you keep the reader or audience engaged when they already know the ending? Irony is one method that works well in that situation. In literature, there is verbal irony, situational irony, and dramatic irony.

Verbal irony is when the intended meaning of a word or phrase is the opposite of the stated meaning. For example, in Robin Hood, what do they call the biggest Merry Man? Little John. And I think Pilate was being ironic when he posted the sign on the cross that read, “Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews.” There is actually a double irony here. While he thinks he is being ironic, the audience sees it as the truth.

Situational irony is when the characters and audience know the irony of the situation. One good example is “The Gift of the Magi” by O. Henry, arguably the king of irony. In this story, a young wife and husband have no money to buy Christmas gifts for each other. The wife sells her hair, so she can buy a gold chain for her husband’s watch. The husband sells the watch, so he can buy combs for his wife’s hair. When the gifts are revealed, both they and we see the irony. Or in “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner,” Coleridge says,

“Water, water, everywhere,

Nor any drop to drink.”

Samuel Taylor Coleridge, The Rime of the Ancient Mariner

The characters are in danger of dying of thirst in the middle of the ocean. Again, the characters and the reader both see the irony.

Dramatic irony is when the audience knows the irony, but the characters do not. For example, Juliet says this to her nurse after seeing Romeo, “Go ask his name: if he be married. My grave is like to be my wedding bed” (Act 1, Scene 5). The audience knows she will indeed die on her wedding bed, but Juliet, of course, does not.

I would call this scene with Abraham and God dramatic irony. Abraham does not know the irony (yet), but the audience does, because they know Sodom and Gomorrah will be destroyed. This bit of irony makes you wonder, What if Abraham had kept negotiating? Could the city have been saved?

There is also irony in that God wanted people to do righteousness and justice. In the next scene, however, the audience knows God will encounter the epitome of injustice and unrighteousness in Sodom. Abraham showed proper hospitality to God, but in Sodom they practice gross inhospitality. So the irony continues into the next scene.

When they already know the ending

One thing writing coaches have taught me is you don’t want to give away the ending. That takes away the tension for the reader. Will Sodom and Gomorrah survive God’s judgment? No. What else do you have?

But for some kinds of writing, you can’t avoid the fact that the reader knows the ending. The audience already knows the ending in this case, but the author manages to keep them engaged. I think that is because of the levels of irony he has built in. When we see Abraham come so close to saving Sodom and Gomorrah, it makes their ending even more tragic. Not necessarily a shame, but tragic. So here are a few links to help you learn more about it.

Definition of Irony

Definitions and Examples of Irony in Literature

Three Types of Irony.

What is the effect of situational irony?

What impact does the irony have upon the reader?

Translation Notes

…to keep the way of the LORD by doing righteousness and justice;

(Gen 18:19 NRS)

Two of the most important words in the Hebrew Bible are tzedakah (righteousness) and mishpat (justice). They are often paired together.

Righteousness generally means doing what is right, or conducting yourself rightly with other people and with God. I think that is likely what it means here. Abraham did what is right by welcoming the strangers and showing hospitality. However, there is another meaning Holladay’s Lexicon gives for this verse particularly: Justice (of a human judge) Gn 18.19.

Mishpat is normally the word for justice, but sometimes tzedakah can mean justice as well. In fact, when paired together, they are synonymous. But that note “of a human judge” might explain why God is discussing God’s plans with Abraham. God wants to see how Abraham responds, because if he and his household are to keep the way of the LORD, they must know how to do righteousness and justice. God allows Abraham to play the role of an advocate for a moment to see how he will apply righteousness and justice to this situation.

Mishpat can mean justice in a general sense. It also often has the connotation of legal proceedings and lawsuits being brought to court, as in the Justice system. This would further indicate Abraham’s role as an advocate in this case. He did well as a righteous advocate. Unfortunately, he just did not know how bad things had gotten in Sodom.

Did Abraham Mean Ten Righteous Men or Ten Righteous People?

And Abraham drew near, and said, Wilt thou also destroy the righteous with the wicked?

(Gen 18:23 KJV)

Abraham uses tsaddiq to refer to “the righteous.” The word is masculine in form. That in itself does not mean he was referring to men only. A masculine form sometimes includes male and female. Those in a man’s household—wife, children, servants, and slaves—were extensions of him (18:19), so their righteousness was tied to his. All of Abraham’s household was bound by the covenant he made with God (17:10-16). What does that mean in relation to this? Did each person of a household  (men and women, free and slave) count indivitually, or did it have to be ten righteous free men? Since this was a patriarchal society, I tend to think it was free men only.

On the other hand, if each member of Lot’s household could potentially count towards the “ten righteous,” Abraham might have thought Lot’s household was enough. Lot’s household and possessions became so great that he and Lot had to separate (Gen 13:5-9). Lot chose the fertile land of the plains of Jordan and ended up in the city of Sodom (Gen 13:10-12). Lot had herdsmen for his flocks. If they could count toward the ten, all the more likely the city would be spared. Could his wife and children count? He had two daughters. Sons would have been better, but perhaps they could still count toward the ten.

Maybe Abraham stopped at ten because he was thinking each member of Lot’s household would count. He did not know, however, even if they counted, Sodom was doomed. And this would be one more layer of irony.

According to the Cry

I will go down now, and see whether they have done altogether according to the cry of it, which is come unto me

(Gen 18:21 KJV)

7278  צְעָקָה

. cry of wailing, call for help Gn 1821; loud & bitter cry.

Holladay, p. 309.

The cry, in Hebrew tze`akah. I amplify this as “a cry of distress,” because that is usually the meaning of tze`akah.

Notice there is only one letter difference between this and tzedakah (righteousness). Isaiah (5:7) used this in his pun where God looked for righteousness (tzedakah) but heard a cry (tze`akah). A lack of righteousness allowed oppression, affliction, and injustice to flourish, which led to a great cry from the people. Notice the similarity in language when God calls Moses.

And the LORD said, I have surely seen the affliction of my people which are in Egypt, and have heard their cry by reason of their taskmasters; for I know their sorrows; and I am come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians

(Exo 3:7-8a KJV)

I have seen the affliction of my people…and have heard their cry by reason of their taskmasters…I am come down to deliver them…. The word for cry here is tze`akah as well.

In Egypt, God saw the afflicition the Israelites suffered. God heard their cry. God came down to deliver them. It is the same pattern when God spoke to Abraham, to Moses, and to Isaiah. Remember this when we explore the story of Sodom and Gomorrah next week.