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Why Would God Entirely Destroy Sodom & Gomorrah? What About The Children?

October 17, 2018

Today, we continue our series addressing the violence in the Old Testament. We want to shed some light on the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah when the Lord rained brimstone and fire on them. Many people are shocked at the idea that God would destroy a city with its entire people, including its children. Why would a loving God do this? Where is His mercy and compassion they ask? Truly, a shallow reading of the story seems to portray God as unreasonable, specially when children are involved. But, let us dig deeper and see what was really going on then. In Genesis 18, the Bible says the following: “Because the outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is great, and because their sin is very grave, I will go down now and see whether they have done altogether according to the out­cry against it that has come to Me; and if not, I will know.”  Here, the Bible speaks in an anthropomorphic language. Meaning the text gives God certain human traits simply to pass on a message. But, of course, God doesn’t need to come down to verify if the sin is grave or not. God is everywhere and knows all things. But ultimately, this verse emphasizes the graveness of these people’s sin. Not only is their sin grave in the sight of God, who has high standards of morality, but it is also very grave in the sight of the creation itself, who cried out against them. Simply put, the sin of Sodom and Gomorrah was at a despicable level. A level the remainder of the inhabitants of the earth had not experienced. This became apparent in Genesis 19:1-3 when Lot strongly insisted that the two angels would not spend the night in the open square but in his house so he can protect them from the people of the city. He knew very well what the men of the city would do to them. The Bible says: “the men of the city, the men of Sodom, both old and young, all the people from every quarter, surrounded the house. And they called to Lot and said to him, ‘Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us that we may know them carnally.’” All the people from every corner of the city charged Lot’s house to openly sleep with the two men. Think about the meaning of this carefully. All men, young and old, regularly had rela­tions with each other that when they saw fresh “meat”, they all rushed to the house. Then, the story continues: Lot goes out to meet them and says: “‘Please, my brethren, do not do so wickedly! See now, I have two daughters who have not known a man; please, let me bring them out to you, and you may do to them as you wish; only do nothing to these men, since this is the reason they have come under the shadow of my roof.’ And they said, ‘Stand back!’ Then they said, ‘This one came in to stay here, and he keeps acting as a judge; now we will deal worse with you than with them.’ So they pressed hard against the man Lot, and came near to break down the door.” I really don’t understand Lot’s judgment here by planning to swap his two virgin daughters for the two men to protect them, but what is even more shocking is the response of the people. They were offered two women instead of two men and it angered them! Their sin had attained such a sad level that women were not pleasing to them anymore. The level of corruption of the men and women in Sodom and Gomorrah was serious. Of course, it wasn’t only men who were corrupt. It would be un­realistic to assume that only men were at this stage of sin while women and children remained pure. The fact that all the people were heavily corrupt is confirmed by God’s discussion with Abraham in Genesis 18:20-33, where God mentioned that He would not destroy the cities if He had found only ten righteous people.

But why doesn’t God just let them be? Well, let us first understand the broader context here. It would be irrational for us to imagine that their corruption was only related to a misuse of sexuality. Generally speaking, bodily passions lead to more bodily desires which lead to anger when the desires are not fulfilled; which, in turn, could lead to violence and even murder. These sins are implied in the text when they told Lot “we will deal worse with you than with them” in Genesis 19:9. We cannot forget that humanity during the Old Testament times was extremely prone to sin—especially violence. Again, this story is counted as part of the greater Old Testament account which clearly portrays a violent and sinfully prone humanity. In this case, it is God’s responsibility, as a righteous and loving Judge, to put an end to evil when needed. Although He remains patient and compassionate for long times allowing humanity to return to Him, when sin attains a certain level, He rightly takes action to put an end to the evil. Failing to do this would cause greater harm to others. This would be like a judge today that would declare a professional bank robber or serial killer innocent although he has all the evidence that he committed the crimes. It would be unjust and it would be unloving to others as it puts their lives in danger. Remember that the text states that the creation is the one that cried out to God. Other souls are also involved in this story. Not only those in the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. It is a mistake to focus solely on the people who were destroyed without consideration for the others around them. In addition, if these people were left to mingle with the surrounding nations, the corruption will definitely propagate, and ultimately affecting the eternal life of those surrounding nations. So, out of God’s love for the whole creation, He sometimes needs to intervene and put an end to the evil caused by the unrepentant. But, He does so after much patience and longsuffering.

What about the innocent children? Why do they have to die? As we saw, it is unreasonable to think that many people were innocent. This is seen from the fact that there was not found ten righteous people in the city. Note that the text doesn’t specify gender or age. In other words, when God looked at the entire congregation, He didn’t find a total of ten righteous people regardless of gender or age. Again, it is unreasonable to assume that when both parents were at this level of corruption, that supernaturally their children will be righteous. When there is no one to influence positively, the complete entourage becomes corrupt and therefore, it goes without saying, that the children will also be corrupt. We have to understand that sin was so profound within these people that it had already deeply affected their children. It is already a known fact that children inherit bad habits from their parents, and the younger they encoun­ter those habits, the higher the chances of inheriting them. When sin becomes this grave and profound, you know it is deep-rooted within the children. They would have grown-up to become like their parents. This is hinted to in Genesis 19:4, where the Bible says that both old and young men surrounded the house to have relations with the two angels. It is also ap­parent when the two daughters of Lot dealt irresponsibly with him and committed incest in Genesis 19. I will argue that death, in this case, is a Mercy and not a punishment. St. Gregory the Theologian says the following about death: “Yet here too he [Adam] makes a gain, namely death and the cutting off of sin, in order that evil may not be immortal. Thus, his [God’s] punishment is changed into a mercy, for it is in mercy, I am persuaded, that God inflicts punishment.” St. Gregory, here, sees death as mercy; not punishment. This logic truly applies to this situation. If these kids were allowed to live on earth in their sin, then there ultimate destination will eventually be like their parents’. However, by cutting their lives short on earth, while they are still too young to be fully responsible for their actions, God allows those innocent children, if any, to steal the kingdom of heaven. So their life doesn’t end, but is fulfilled in heaven. The Kingdom of God for Christians is a reality with which we engage with through our liturgical life. It is God’s ultimate objective for us. And it should also be ours. Once this reality truly becomes the center of our lives, one can have the mind of Christ and perceive God’s Mercy in dealing with His children.

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