Genesis chapters 18 and 19 tell of God’s destruction of the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. Does this show that God is immoral for killing the men, women and children in these cities? What about free will? Did God override our gift of free will out of wrath?
Three men visited Abraham. As it turned out these men were the Lord and two angels. The Lord was en route to Sodom as the Lord had heard the outcry that the people of Sodom and Gomorrah were sinning gravely (See Genesis chapters 18 & 19 for the full text). Abraham attempted to intercede asking the Lord if He would spare the cities if 50 righteous people were found, then 45, then 40, then 30 until Abraham went as low as 10 righteous people. Each time the Lord agreed He would spare the cities if the number of righteous people Abraham suggested were found within. The Lord then sent the angels ahead to Sodom. Once the angels arrived in Sodom Abraham’s brother, Lot, took them in, and was hospitable, as was the strict custom in the region during this time.
Before the angels laid down for the night Lot’s house was surrounded by the men of Sodom, who insisted that Lot release the men (in this case, angels, but the men of Sodom were unaware of this fact), so the men of Sodom could have sex with the strangers. Lot refused, and even offered his own virgin daughters to the men of Sodom instead! The men of Sodom refused the offering of Lot’s daughters and rushed Lot, but the angels pulled Lot inside, and blinded the men of Sodom, so they could not find their way inside. Lot was allowed to leave Sodom with his two daughters to Zoar (his son-in-laws-to-be refused to leave), and the Lord rained sulfur and fire on Sodom and Gomorrah thereby killing all of the people in the two cities.
What does the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah say about the morality of God in the Old Testament?
The short answer is the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah is demonstrative of two attributes of God: His pure goodness, and His grace. Consider that God said the sins of Sodom and Gomorrah were “very grave” (ESV), or “extremely serious” (HCSB). For the Lord, in His purity and goodness, to give special attention to the sins of Sodom and Gomorrah the immorality and sinfulness of the people of the cities had to have been outstandingly heinous. Further, the Lord’s omniscience allows Him to see what will happen in the future should the gravely sinful acts of the people of the cities be allowed to continue unchecked. Certainly we have evidence of what could have occurred (albeit on a much larger scale if the cities were not destroyed) recorded in the book of Numbers, which we will get into briefly in a bit. The Lord was outraged at the people of the cities in a way that no other being could be based on His own pure goodness. The Lord showed His grace by destroying the people of Sodom and Gomorrah thereby eliminating the possibility of the grievous sins of the people infecting others who may have come in contact with the people of the cities.
Did God directly impede His gift of free will by destroying Sodom and Gomorrah?
No, God certainly did not get in the way of the gift of free will the people of Sodom and Gomorrah were enjoying so frivolously. The impediment of free will should not be confused with consequences borne of the choices one makes. All choices have consequences. In this case the choices made by the people of Sodom and Gomorrah led to their ultimate demise. Any individual living today faces the same danger. While we may not see the Lord rain down sulfur and fire we certainly could face an eternity spent in a similar environment should we make choices in life that separate us from the Lord.
A taste of what could have been
We got a peek into Lot’s twisted sense of right and wrong based on the influence of Sodom when lot offered his own daughters to the men of Sodom in order to protect his house guests. The moral corruption does not stop there. After fleeing Sodom, Lot’s daughters executed a plan to get Lot drunk on wine, so they could have babies by him. Their plan worked, and each of the daughters birthed a son.
37 The older daughter had a son, and she named him Moab; he is the father of the Moabites of today.
If you recall in my post, The Morality of God in the Old Testament Part 2: Would a Moral God Condone Genocide and Rape?, it was the daughters of Moab and Midian that seduced the Israelites in an effort to curse the Israelites. Imagine this type of corruption on a much larger scale if two full cities of like-minded sinners were allowed to continue.
God alone can forgive us our sins, but only if we truly seek Him to do so. God is the ultimate good. Ask yourself, would you do anything less for your children? When you ask yourself that question bare in mind that our human anger is more often then not, unjustified. God’s anger is righteous and just, as He knows all and sees all. Without God no objective moral truths or duties can exist, as we have no ultimate good on which to base such objectivity. God is good, and that is why I am…