These five cities, also known as the "cities of the plain" from Genesis in the Authorized Version , were situated on the Jordan River plain in the southern region of the land of Canaan.
The plain was compared to the garden of Eden [Gen. Divine judgment was passed upon them and four of them were consumed by fire and brimstone. Neighboring Zoar Bela was the only city to be spared.
In Abrahamic religions , Sodom and Gomorrah have become synonymous with impenitent sin, and their fall with a proverbial manifestation of divine retribution. Sodom and Gomorrah have been used historically and in modern discourse as metaphors for homosexuality , and are the origin of the English words, sodomite , a pejorative term for male homosexuals, and sodomy , which is used in a legal context to describe sexual crimes against nature, namely anal or oral sex particularly homosexual and bestiality. The etymology of both names is uncertain, and scholars disagree about them.
The Book of Genesis is the primary source that mentions the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. The Battle of Siddim is described in Genesis — Lot is encamped within the borders of Sodom at a time when "the men of Sodom [are] wicked and sinners before the Lord exceedingly". Sodom and Gomorrah are ruled by Bera and Birsha , respectively, although their kingship is not sovereign because the Jordan plain has been under the rule of Chedorlaomer the Elamite for twelve years. In the thirteenth year of their subjugation, the five kings of the Jordan plain—Bera, Birsha, Shinab of Admah , Shemeber of Zeboiim , and the unnamed king of Bela later called Zoar —ally to rebel against Elam.
The following year, Chedorlaomer gathers forces from Shinar , Ellasar and Goyim to suppress the rebellion in the Vale of Siddim. The cities of the plain take heavy losses and are defeated. Sodom and Gomorrah are despoiled and captives are taken, among them Lot. The tide turns when Lot's uncle, Abraham , gathers an elite force that slaughters the hosts of Chedorlaomer in Hobah, north of Damascus , freeing the cities of the plain from the grip of Elam.
The story of the judgment of Sodom and Gomorrah is told in Genesis 18— Three men come to Abraham in the plains of Mamre. After the angels received the hospitality of Abraham and Sarah , the Lord reveals to Abraham that he would confirm what he had heard against Sodom and Gomorrah, "and because their sin is very grievous. Abraham inquires if the Lord will spare the city should fifty righteous people be found within it, to which the Lord agrees.
Abraham then pleads for mercy at successively lower numbers—first forty-five, then forty, then thirty, then twenty, and finally ten—with the Lord agreeing each time. Two angels are sent on before them to Sodom and are met by Abraham's nephew Lot , who convinces them to lodge with him, and he serves them a meal. Lot refused to give his guests to the inhabitants of Sodom and, instead, offered them his two virgin daughters "which have not known man" and to "do ye to them as [is] good in your eyes".
They refused this offer, complained about this alien, namely Lot, judging them, and then came near to break down the door. Lot's angelic guests rescued him and struck the men with blindness and they informed Lot of their mission to destroy the city, then they commanded Lot to gather his family and leave.
As they made their escape, one angel commanded Lot to "look not behind thee" singular "thee". As Sodom and Gomorrah were being destroyed with brimstone and fire from the Lord, Lot's wife looked back at the city, and she became a pillar of salt.
The Hebrew Bible refers to Sodom and Gomorrah. The New Testament also contains passages of parallels to the destruction and surrounding events that pertained to these cities and those who were involved. Later deuterocanonical texts attempt to glean additional insights about these cities of the Jordan Plain and their residents. Additionally, the inhospitality which triggered the destruction is reminiscent of the Book of Judges ' account of The Levite's Concubine. Moses referred to the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah in Deuteronomy —23 :.
Your children who follow you in later generations and foreigners who come from distant lands will see the calamities that have fallen on the land and the diseases with which the L ORD has afflicted it.
The whole land will be a burning waste of salt and sulfur—nothing planted, nothing sprouting, no vegetation growing on it. It will be like the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, Admah and Zeboyim , which the Lord overthrew in fierce anger. See also: Deuteronomy — Isaiah —10 , Isaiah and Isaiah —22 addresses people as from Sodom and Gomorrah, associates Sodom with shameless sinning and tells Babylon that it will end like those two cities.
Jeremiah , Jeremiah —18 , Jeremiah —40 and Lamentations associate Sodom and Gomorrah with adultery and lies, prophesies the fate of Edom, south of the Dead Sea, predicts the fate of Babylon and uses Sodom as a comparison.
In Ezekiel —50 , God compares Jerusalem to Sodom, saying "Sodom never did what you and your daughters have done. They were haughty and did detestable things before me. In Amos —11 , God tells the Israelites that although he treated them like Sodom and Gomorrah, they still did not repent. In Matthew —15 , cf. Luke —12 , Jesus declares certain cities more damnable than Sodom and Gomorrah, due to their response to Jesus' disciples, in the light of greater grace RSV :.
Truly, I say to you, it shall be more tolerable on the day of judgment for the land of Sodom and Gomor'rah than for that town. You shall be brought down to Hades. For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. But I tell you that it shall be more tolerable on the day of judgment for the land of Sodom than for you. In 2 Peter —10 , Saint Peter says that just as God destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah and saved Lot, he will deliver godly people from temptations and punish the wicked on Judgement Day.
Jude 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".
Revelation —8 makes an allegorical use of Sodom when it describes the places where the two witnesses will descend during the Apocalypse. Wisdom —8 refers to the Five Cities :. Wisdom rescued a righteous man when the ungodly were perishing; he escaped the fire that descended on the Five Cities. Evidence of their wickedness still remains: a continually smoking wasteland, plants bearing fruit that does not ripen, and a pillar of salt standing as a monument to an unbelieving soul.
For because they passed wisdom by, they not only were hindered from recognizing the good, but also left for mankind a reminder of their folly, so that their failures could never go unnoticed. Wisdom says that the Egyptians who enslaved the Israelites were "struck with blindness, like the men of Sodom who came to the door of that righteous man Lot. They found themselves in total darkness, as each one groped around to find his own door. Sirach says "[God] did not spare the neighbors of Lot, whom he loathed on account of their insolence.
In 3 Maccabees , the high priest Simon says that God "consumed with fire and sulphur the men of Sodom who acted arrogantly, who were notorious for their vices; and you made them an example to those who should come afterward". So will I do to those who have not listened to me, says the Lord Almighty. In 2 Esdras , Ezra says that Abraham prayed for the people of Sodom. There are other stories and historical names which bear a resemblance to the biblical stories of Sodom and Gomorrah.
Some possible natural explanations for the events described have been proposed, but no widely accepted or strongly verified sites for the cities have been found. The Jewish historian Josephus identifies the Dead Sea in geographic proximity to the ancient biblical city of Sodom.
He refers to the lake by its Greek name, Asphaltites. In , Walter E. Rast and R. Thomas Schaub discovered or visited a number of possible sites of the cities, including Bab edh-Dhra , which was originally excavated in by archaeologist Paul Lapp, and later finished by Rast and Schaub following his death. She reports: "In the final season of the present series of excavations of the Expedition to the Dead Sea Plain — , the walled site of Feifa was investigated and the EB cemetery that stretched to its east was excavated.
The most recent surveys suggested that the visible structures of the walled site belonged to the Iron Age or Roman period. Another candidate for Sodom is the Tall el-Hammam dig site which began in under the direction of Steven Collins. Professor Eugene H. Merrill believes that the identification of Tall el-Hammam with Sodom would require an unacceptable restructuring of the biblical chronology. Certain sceptics of the biblical account have theorized that, provided that the cities existed at all, they might have been destroyed by natural disaster.
This might have unleashed showers of steaming tar. There is a lack of contemporary accounts of seismic activity within the necessary time frame to corroborate this theory. In Giovanni Pettinato claimed that a cuneiform tablet that had been found in the newly discovered library at Ebla 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. Sodom and Gomorra. Rabbi Basil Herring, who served as head of the Rabbinical Council of America from to , writes that both the Rabbinic tradition and modern orthodox position consider the Torah to condemn homosexuality as an abomination.
Moreover, that it "conveys its abhorrence of homosexuality through a variety of narrative settings", God's judgment of Sodom and Gomorrah being a "paradigmatic" instance of such condemnation.
Rictor Norton views classical Jewish texts as stressing the cruelty and lack of hospitality of the inhabitants of Sodom to the "stranger". Rabbinic writings affirm that the Sodomites also committed economic crimes, blasphemy and bloodshed. Eliezer was reported to be a victim of such legally unjust conduct, after Sarah sent him to Sodom to report on Lot's welfare. The citizens also regularly tortured foreigners who sought lodging. They did this by providing the foreigners a standard-sized beds and if they saw that the foreigner was too short for the bed, they would forcibly stretch their limbs but if the foreigner was too tall, they would cut off their legs ;   As a result, many people refrained from visiting Sodom and Gomorrah.
Beggars who settled into the two cities for refuge were similarly mistreated. The citizens would give them marked coins presumably used to purchase food but were nonetheless forbidden, by proclamation, to provide these necessary services. Once the beggar died of starvation, citizens who initially gave the beggar the coins were permitted to retrieve them, provided that they could recognize it. The beggar's clothing was also provided as a reward for any citizen who could successfully overcome their opponent in a street fight.
Two girls, one poor and the other rich, went to a well; and the former gave the latter her jug of water, receiving in return a vessel containing bread.
When this became known, both were burned alive ib. When the scandal was revealed, the woman was stripped naked and covered with honey. This attracted bees as the woman was slowly stung to death. Her cries then went up into the heavens, the turning point that was revealed to have provoked God to enact judgement upon Sodom and Gomorrah in the first place in Genesis Jon D. Levenson views a rabbinic tradition described in the Mishnah as postulating that the sin of Sodom was a violation of conventional hospitality in addition to homosexual conduct, describing Sodom's lack of generosity with the saying, "What is mine is mine; what is yours is yours" m.
Avot 5. Jay Michaelson proposes a reading of the story of Sodom that emphasizes the violation of hospitality as well as the violence of the Sodomites. Reading the story of Sodom as being about homosexuality is like reading the story of an ax murderer as being about an ax.