Genesis 19:24-25 (NLT)
24 Then the LORD rained down fire and burning sulfur from the heavens on Sodom and Gomorrah. 25 He utterly destroyed them, along with the other cities and villages of the plain, eliminating all life—people, plants, and animals alike.
TIME OF DAY:
The previous verse – Genesis 19:23 states that “The sun was rising as Lot reached the village (called Zoar, or Bela).” Clearly it is dawn as the fire falls from heaven on the cities of the plain.
The dominant light source is from the fire balls on the plain.
Google Earth position & orientation – 31° 01’ 13.02” N 35 ° 33’ 12.89” E. Looking almost due West towards the southern end of the Dead Sea. Our vantage point is in a valley, amongst the Jordanian mountains (or Moab, as that country was called in Biblical times), east of the Dead Sea.
The “city” (or village/town) of Zoar to which Lot & his family hurried, is approximately 10.75 miles (17.3 km) away, behind the large rocky cliff on the left of the illustration.
My illustration shows the heavenly fire, raining down onto the cities of the plain. I suppose it looks a bit like a nuclear strike to our modern eyes! My intention was to show powerful blasts of energy which consume the cities. You can see the white shock waves radiating outwards from the impacts.
It was not only the 2 cities of Sodom & Gomorrah that were destroyed by heavenly fire. Genesis 10:19 informs us of the extent of the Canaanite lands, & includes a list of the cities of the plain… “Eventually the territory of Canaan spread from Sidon to Gerar, near Gaza (on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea, to the west), and to Sodom, Gomorrah, Admah, and Zeboiim, near Lasha (the cities of the plain, or valley or Siddim, in the east).”
Hence there were 5 cities of the plain: Sodom, Admah, Gommorrah, Zeboiim & Zoar. Zoar, meaning “little” & was previously called Bela, was the only “city” to escape the heavenly judgement. The “cities of the plain” along the eastern shore of the Dead Sea have not been positively located by archaeologists. Their association with Zoar and the bitumen pits “in the Valley of Siddim” (see Genesis 14:10) both point to their location being at the southern end of the Dead Sea.
I read an article written by an archaeologist (Bryant G. Wood) who believes that the lost cities of Sodom, Gomorrah, et al are located on the eastern shore of the Dead Sea. His excavations have uncovered evidence of extensive burning of the area, which certainly could be the “fire and burning sulfur” mentioned in the Bible.
Map of Southern Israel showing Sodom
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Why were Sodom, Gomorrah, Admah & Zeboiim destroyed? A note on the behaviour of the men of the cities of the plain.
Genesis 18:20-21 (NLT) tells us:
‘So the LORD told Abraham, “I have heard that the people of Sodom and Gomorrah are extremely evil, and that everything they do is wicked. I am going down to see whether or not these reports are true. Then I will know.” ‘
If the Lord God declares that people’s behaviour is “EXTREMELY EVIL, and that EVERYTHING they do is WICKED”, then that gives us reason enough for his actions!
Genesis 19:13 (NLT) gives us the stated reason for the angelic visit to the cities & their imminent action:
‘ “For we are about to destroy this city completely. The outcry against this place is so great it has reached the Lord, and he has sent us to destroy it.” ‘
There is also reference to the cities in the New Testament, where Jude reminds his readers the following:
Jude 1:7 (NLT)
‘And don’t forget Sodom and Gomorrah and their neighbouring towns, which were filled with immorality and every kind of sexual perversion. Those cities were destroyed by fire and serve as a warning of the eternal fire of God’s judgment.’
The 2 angels mentioned in Genesis 18:1-19:22 were sent by God to visit Lot in the city of Sodom. According to Genesis chapter 18 their mission was to determine if there were ten righteous men living in the city. Genesis 19:4 makes it clear that all (no merely some) of the men of the city confronted Lot about his guests. Clearly there weren’t even ten righteous men living in Sodom. At this time in history, homosexuality was considered a capital offense, & these men’s refusal to listen to reason coupled with their unanimous insistence on violence as they rushed toward Lot’s house only confirmed & sealed the fate of the city. Sodom & the cities of the plain were judged, & destroyed by heavenly fire, sent by the Lord God.
19:23-29 MIRACLE, Redemption (2.22B)
God’s miraculous actions work towards redeeming His people. Sin had engulfed the cities of the plain (Sodom, Gomorrah, etc). God responded in miraculous judgement. Even though only 3 people escaped the destruction (Lot & his 2 daughters) which seems like very limited redemption, this is still evidence of God’s mercy. In allowing Lot to escape, God preserved a nation.