The Strange Tale of Sodom and Gomorrah

Edit: This post got even more rambly than usual. If you want a short version of it, check out the last two paragraphs; they contain a summarized version of my points, though you will miss my stories and incomprehensible wordenings.

The reaction to my post The Personality of Gods was predictable, of course, but it takes the ability to ignore a lot of the Bible to believe that the Christian God is a loving, wise, parental figure. The idea that God was surprised when Eve and Adam (order chosen for Biblical order) ate of the fruit of knowledge of Good and Evil seems to indicate a lack of prescience, but that point has been beaten to the ground. For an even better, more comprehensive idea of how much God loves us and can totally see the future, guys, is to look at the tale of Abraham, Lot and the city of Sodom.

When God announced his plans to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah, Abraham stood and called into question God’s judgment. As per Genesis 18, “Will you indeed sweep away the righteous with the wicked? Suppose there are fifty righteous within the city. Will you then sweep away the place and not spare it for the fifty righteous who are in it? Far be it from you to do such a thing, to put the righteous to death with the wicked, so that the righteous fare as the wicked! Far be that from you! Shall not the Judge of all the earth do what is just?”

Read that a few times. That is a human standing up to God, and saying “You know, maybe I’m like… Not perfect, or whatever… But killing everyone, the good and the bad, just because there are lots of bad people? That seems like… Maybe… Kinda dickish. So… What say you tone it down a notch? Maybe?”

There is an extended bartering session between God and Abraham, then. God says he will save the cities if Abraham can find fifty righteous among the population, and Abraham eventually talks him down to ten. So God says “Sure. If you can find ten righteous people, I’ll let the people of the city live.” This always made me incredibly uncomfortable, as no matter which way I read it, this did not point to an omniscient, loving God.

Let’s take a look at it, walk around it a little, think about the implications. God lets Abraham, a person He … Loves? Is that the word? Anyway, he lets Abraham look for these ten people who are righteous. If he is omniscient, he will know two things: Whether those people are there, and whether Abraham will succeed. So what does that signify?

If God knows that there ARE ten righteous amongst the population of Sodom and Gomorrah, and Abraham just has to find them, like some high stakes game of Where’s Waldo mixed with one of the Saw movies, then you are worshiping a God who seems almost sadistic. If God knew that there weren’t ten righteous, why would he let his chosen even search? Seems like a waste of time. Not only that, but God spares Lot, his wife (sort of spares his wife, I suppose? Gives her a chance? But why give her a chance if you are going to kill her in ten minutes? Again, seems almost sadistic), and his three daughters… So that is five people right there! Of course, God kills Lot’s wife who defies him and looks back at the destruction of the city (did he not know she would?). So we are now left with four. Aaaand… Lot gets pissed off his ass and has crazy Old Testament sex with his daughters. So maybe none of them are righteous?

So why did God save Lot and (most) of his family? That part isn’t suuuper explicit, but it is generally accepted in the reading that Lot was saved because Abraham asked God to save him. So it rounds out to something like God saying “Awww, don’t be mad Abraham. Hey, what say I save your nephew? Will that make you feel better? Huh? Yeah, yeah that’ll make you feel better. I’ll kill everyone in the cities except Lot. Can’t get a better deal than that, can you? But they’d better not watch me level those cities, or I’ll still kill them. I mean, fair is fair, right?” It sounds almost petulant, seems almost like God is trying to earn Abraham’s love, rather than Abraham worshiping him.

In the New Testament, we have the idea of The Rapture (while the word is never actually there, there is the idea that 12,000 from each of the 12 tribes of Israel are rescued from the end of the world). Oh hey, while researching this very topic, I read the etymology of the word Rapture. It comes from the Latin “raptura”, meaning “To seize, rape, kidnap.” That actually blew my mind a little, that the Christian population cannot wait to be seized, raped, and/or kidnapped…. BY GOD! Anyway, while the Old Testament God is usually very much on board with wholesale destruction, killing all people for the sins of some, and even explicitly sending all humans to hell for the sins of Adam and Eve, the New Testament God is willing to save 144,000 Jews! Oh, you thought He would save you, theoretical Christian? Given the stats provided in Revelations, you are probably out of luck. I am sorry to bring you this news. Where was I going with this? Oh right, God is willing to save some righteous while he burns the rest of us (the Rainbow Covenant in Genesis, at the end of the flood, said he’d never kill us all via flood ever again, so giving evil free run of the world, with burning, fire, demons, and gnashing of teeth is totally on board. But he’ll save a large group of people this time! Instead of 8, He will save 144,000, which admittedly is quite the improvement.

Now, using rough numbers, God saved 0.0000032% of the Earth’s population the first go ’round (given an estimate of 250 million people alive at the time, and having saved 8), and given the current world population of 7 billion and the number of saved at 144,000, that means he’ll be saving 0.002% this time, a thousandfold improvement! Such mercy! Such love! Such wise judgment!

I don’t know why, whether it be imagined or true, God is so willing to kill so many out of hand. He’s done it before, He promised to do it again. I do not understand why this is considered such a good thing, such a loving thing, such a wise thing. The fact that this is viewed with awe and reverence scares me, I suppose, because I think to believe in a God of Love requires being blind to so much of what is going to happen, what the Bible claims has happened.

It goes further than that; when science and modern Christians give Biblical Literalists a chance to escape, an excuse of “it was local”, or it was “Noah’s whole world,” for the flood, they stand in a position of defiance. “No, God killed everyone except 8 people! HE KILLED THEM ALLLLLLL!! AHAHAHAHAHA!” (I may have added the laughter at the end myself, but other than the laughter, that is an encapsulation of their belief, really.)

Their God of love did not feel he had to devise a targeted apocalypse; the God of Love just said “F*** ’em,” killed everyone, and started over.

And He plans to do it again.

And He loves us.

So, to summarize, I suppose; the God who can see all events of the future was surprised when Eve ate the fruit of the tree of knowledge of Good and Evil, surprised when Adam did the same, surprised when His creation contained a bunch of jerks, surprised when Abraham tried to have the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah saved, surprised when people built the Tower of Babel (that is a story for another day, kids), and all of this surprise by the God who can see all things in the future as though they are happening before his eyes adds up to the fact that He thought it was OK to kill everyone, send them to a pit of eternal torture for the Sins of their forebears (Did you know that, according to the Bible, if a child is born out of wedlock that family line is cursed for ten generations to Hell? Deuteronomy 23:2. Seriously, if in the last three hundred years any of your family was born out of wedlock, you are going to Hell, even if you are the bestest, most worshippingest Christian history has ever recorded).

Anyway, please, tell me why you believe God is a God of Love in the comments. Please, please, please do. I do not understand, I really don’t. While you are at it, let me know why you believe He is omniscient, because he was pretty much perpetually surprised in the Old Testament, as far as I can read. That may sound sarcastic, but I really would like to have some level of respect for God, but the Bible makes it really, really difficult. =(

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4 thoughts on “The Strange Tale of Sodom and Gomorrah

  1. I’m not trying to sound mean here, and please don’t take this the wrong way, but your knowledge of the Bible is, in a word, comical.

    “The idea that God was surprised when Eve and Adam (order chosen for Biblical order) ate of the fruit of knowledge of Good and Evil seems to indicate a lack of prescience, but that point has been beaten to the ground.”

    God wasn’t surprised. It never says He was, in fact the Bible says the exact opposite.

    God said “have you eaten of the fruit of the tree which I told you not to” the same way a parent who knows their kid broke a vase asks him “Bobby, did you break my vase?”

    The Bible says Jesus Christ was slain before the foundation of the world

    Revelation 13:8 And all that dwell upon the earth shall worship him, whose names are not written in the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.

    In order for Jesus Christ to be slain from the foundation of the world, God would have had to know from the start (and He did) that Adam and Eve would sin, therefore He provided atonement for that sin in His plan before the world was even created. Do you see?

    ““Sure. If you can find ten righteous people, I’ll let the people of the city live.” This always made me incredibly uncomfortable, as no matter which way I read it, this did not point to an omniscient, loving God.”

    How so? Just because God is omniscient doesn’t mean He ALWAYS has to operate that way. It’s not a superpower He takes advantage of. It’s an attribute He uses when needed.

    God plays along with people a whole lot. But in the end, He always knows the outcome.

    “the New Testament God is willing to save 144,000 Jews! Oh, you thought He would save you, theoretical Christian? Given the stats provided in Revelations, you are probably out of luck. I am sorry to bring you this news. Where was I going with this?”

    This is not the rapture I have no idea where you got this. The rapture is not the saving of the 144,000 Jews. That’s something entirely different. Read the verse below it. In the same chapter with the 144,000, it says:

    Revelation 7:9 After this I beheld, and, lo, a great multitude, *******which no man could number******, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, stood before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands;

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    • I do not take your comment the wrong way, and I thank you for taking the time to write a comment. I understand that my knowledge of the Bible is in no way complete.

      Comparing God as you do to a parent asking “Bobby, did you break my vase?” is a bit unfair, I fear. God created man and woman, and if I am to believe he created them knowing the fullness of time, then He knew prior to their creation that they would eat of the tree. Why would He create them, knowing this, all in advance?

      In the way I have read the Old Testament, God either did not foresee what his creation would become. if He were a parent, he could have done any number of things to have saved His creation from the fate that befell them. Instead, his remedial action, for lack of a better description was to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah. That obviously didn’t work, so only a short time later flooded the Earth, killing all but 8. I’ve written of it before, but I’ve compared it to a dog owner killing all of the puppies of a dog who peed on his carpet, and while I recognize that such a comparison is inflammatory, I truly cannot understand how it would be inaccurate.

      Now, as far as Jesus being slain from the foundation of the World, that… Well, I am afraid I find this a hard apple to swallow as evidence for a loving God. The reason is this; He created the world, and the people in it, knowing they would sin. To prepare for this, He had a son that was prepared for our Salvation. Instead of being able to forgive us, he *needed* a sacrifice. To expand on my above metaphor, that would be like the dog owner breeding his dog *for the express purpose* of punishing the puppies for the wrongdoings of the parent. . As you said, He planned for atonement from the beginning, and His plan was to have his Son brutally murdered.

      In Revelation 7:9, the multitudes of people which no man could number do not sound, in my personal reading, to be people that have been saved via The Rapture. The way I read it is that those uncountable multitudes are those that have gone before us into death, the people of kingdoms and creeds of the past. Those clothed in white, in the way I have always read it, contained *all* nations and *all* people; in other words, including the people who no longer exist. That is not evidence for the Rapture, that is evidence that John saw all of the hallowed Dead standing before the throne of God.

      Again, I thank you for taking the time to comment, but turning off your superpower to “[play] along with people a whole lot.” In fact, if He always knows the outcome, why does he gamble so much in the Old Testament? He challenges Abraham in Sodom and Gomorrah, he accepts a wager with The Devil in regards to Job, and with regards to Peter, giving the change to sift them like chaff. Either The Devil is the biggest sucker of a gambler, betting against the guy who knows the answers not once but twice… I don’t know, I just still don’t feel as though you have raised evidence for a loving parent.

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      • Hey, thanks for responding.

        You said:

        Why would He create them, knowing this, all in advance?

        The answer is simply I don’t know exactly, and no-one can know exactly, but the Bible says:

        Ecclesiastes 3:10-14 I have seen the travail, which God hath given to the sons of men to be exercised in it.
        11 He hath made every thing beautiful in his time: also he hath set the world in their heart, so that no man can find out the work that God maketh from the beginning to the end.
        12 I know that there is no good in them, but for a man to rejoice, and to do good in his life.
        13 And also that every man should eat and drink, and enjoy the good of all his labour, it is the gift of God.
        14 I know that, whatsoever God doeth, it shall be for ever: nothing can be put to it, nor any thing taken from it: and God doeth it, that men should fear before him.

        Revelation 4:11 Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created.

        No one can find out exactly why God did things the way He did, but we know it is for His pleasure.

        “Instead, his remedial action, for lack of a better description was to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah. That obviously didn’t work, so only a short time later flooded the Earth, killing all but 8. ”

        God destroyed the earth and destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah because of their sins. That didn’t have to do with God trying to fix man’s sins. God already made skins to cover Adam and Eve with. And from thereon out, man killed an animal in sacrifice to God, because God requires blood to pay for sins.

        “To prepare for this, He had a son that was prepared for our Salvation. Instead of being able to forgive us, he *needed* a sacrifice.”

        I have heard this numerous times from atheists. They say why cant God just forgive us, why does anyone have to die?

        If I get a speeding ticket, I cant say to the officer “why cant you just forgive me, why do I have to pay?”

        Sins need payment, and blood is that payment. God provided His own blood for payment (Acts 20:28) He didn’t have to, He could have sent us all to hell. But He Himself payed the penalty.

        That’s not only an omniscient God, that’s an amazing God.

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  2. Thank you again for continuing to reply!

    I think your second to last paragraph, though, really gets to the heart of the issue. He didn’t have to sacrifice his Son, His own blood, but He himself payed the penalty.

    To lean even more heavily on my own metaphor of the dog owner, when my dog does something disagreeable (fight with another dog, pee on a carpet, chew furniture, etc etc), I punish my dog. In my own mercy, the punishment is not severe, and even then the dog, knowing he or she has done wrong, will punish him or herself.

    The dichotomy of “Well, His choices were to either have His own Son die for our Sin, or send us all to Hell,” is an odd one to me. First, it raises the question of why He waited so long; if you are using the timeline of Young Earth Creationism, there was 4000 years between the Creation and Him sending his Son. If you use a scientific timeline, there were hundreds of thousands, or at the very least tens of thousands, of years of humanity prior to Him having sent His Son.

    In any case, I do understand the need for punishment of Sin, but regardless of your reading of the Bible, God’s punishment is often far more severe than any levied by a human. Not only that, but Paul writes frequently of the love and unconditional forgiveness of God, so long as you accept Jesus as your Savior… But that raises the question of “Why should a Christian murderer go to Heaven while an atheist who spent their entire life helping the poor, healing the sick, working to improve the lives all all around him or her, go to hell?”

    To say “It is God’s creation, and He has the right to judge it as he sees fit,” is to open yourself to the criticism of those outside of Christianity. To you, and your reading of the Bible, it may seem that God is just and merciful, but you loved God before you came to that conclusion. While I wish I could believe as you believe, I do not believe I should unconditionally love; I can forgive, I can love, but I won’t decide first to say “I love you,” then judge your actions afterwards. To me, saying God has the right to judge His creation as He sees fit is to invite comparisons to the owner of an ant farm who, finding the ants not to his liking, pours out the contents and kills the ants, then starts over. It is to invite comparisons to a dog breeder who ends up with an aberrant litter while attempting selective breeding; they do not have the traits the breeder wants, so he kills them. It is to invite comparisons to a woman who gets pregnant, and finds that the child will be born with a severe disability, so has an abortion.

    Wait, how did that last one get in there?

    To me the Christian God is as scary as the final moments of a head of cattle in the slaughterhouse, at the moment she has learned her fate. That being the case, one of the few Biblical traits left to me is a healthy fear of God.

    And as for your paragraph, “No one can find out exactly why God did things the way He did, but we know it is for His pleasure.”

    That is a dangerous statement, for with only a slight modification I can come out with “No one can find out exactly why a bully killed that cat the way he did, but we know it is for his pleasure.”

    To hear tales of God, of His punishment (particularly in the Old Testament), it is difficult for me, when I was a strong Christian, and now when I can no longer believe as you believe, to stomach the idea of the way God does things. It just seems so… I want to use inhuman, but humans are particularly and exceptionally awful, sinful creatures. I do not know how to compare what it seems God finds pleasurable to anything in this Earth, as He has a unique capacity and power to hurt the ones He loves.

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