(Genesis 19:13, 24, 25) Did God Send Angels to Kill the Inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah?

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“For we (the two angels) will destroy this place, because the cry of them is waxen great before the face of the LORD; and the LORD hath sent us to destroy it … Then the LORD rained upon Sodom and upon Gomorrah brimstone and fire from the LORD out of heaven; And He overthrew those cities, and all the plain, and all the inhabitants of the cities, and that which grew upon the ground.” (Genesis 19:13, 24, 25)

God is not a God of force. He will never force or threaten anyone to accept Him. God will interfere to try to save us and turn us from the self-destructive consequences of our own deeds and thoughts. He doesn’t “interfere” by killing us, for He need not do that – our own carnal nature inevitably leads us to ruin, it needs no active interference from God.

“For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Romans 6:23)

The phrase “the wages of sin is death” is most-often misinterpreted to mean that, if we sin, God will kill us. But Paul is simply stating the inherent consequence of sin. Sin itself brings death. James says it this way:

“But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death.” (James 1:14, 15)

In both of these comments by Paul and James there is no outside interference by God. David wrote:

Evil shall slay the wicked: and they that hate the righteous shall be desolate. The LORD redeemeth the soul of His servants: and none of them that trust in Him shall be desolate.” (Psalm 34:21, 22)

Notice the contrast that David makes between evil and God.

  • Those who hate righteousness will be slayed (killed) by their evil and become desolate.
  • Those who trust in God will be redeemed by God and not become desolate.

God redeems, while evil kills. Jesus taught that to “do good” means “to save life” but to “do evil” means “to kill” (Mark 3:4). And Isaiah wrote, “Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil” (Isaiah 5:20). I’m sure none of you believe God ever does anything that is evil. 

"For thou art not a God that hath pleasure in wickedness: neither shall evil dwell with thee." (Psalm 5:4)

"Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth He any man." (James 1:13)

Please see the article entitled, Why Does God Say He Will Repent of Doing Evil? if you question this. 

God will only interfere to save us, and the closer we come to our destruction, the more dramatically He will try to interpose to save us. But God will respect our decision in regards to the destiny of our own soul, though it breaks His heart.

The Meaning of “overthrow”

Let us now look more carefully at the word “overthrow”:

“And that the whole land thereof is brimstone, and salt, and burning, that it is not sown, nor beareth, nor any grass groweth therein, like the overthrow (mahpekah) of Sodom, and Gomorrah, Admah, and Zeboim, which the LORD overthrew (hâphak) in His anger, and in His wrath.” (Deuteronomy 29:23)1

When Moses describes the destiny of those cities, he uses two verbs which are both translated here as overthrow/overthrew. While the first one, מַהְפֵּכָה (mahpekah), tends more to mean “destruction”, the second, הָפַךְ (hâphak), means something different:

#H2015 Strong’s Concordance: הָפַךְ hâphak haw-vak’ A primitive root; to turn about or over; by implication to {change} overturn {return} pervert: - X {become} {change} {come} be {converted} {give} make [a {bed]} overthrow ({-turn}) {perverse} {retire} {tumble} turn ({again} {aside} {back} to the {contrary} every way)

Since this could not be a mere redundant expression on the part of Scripture, the second word throws light upon the method of destruction – some kind of overturning. The most common usage of this word is to turn. In the following verse the same word is used to show God turning a curse into a blessing:

“Because they met not the children of Israel with bread and with water, but hired Balaam against them, that he should curse them: howbeit our God turned [H2015] the curse into a blessing.” (Nehemiah 13:2)

The same word is used to describe the conversion of Saul to God:

“And it was so, that when he had turned his back to go from Samuel, God gave [H2015] him another heart: and all those signs came to pass that day.” (1 Samuel 10:9)

The same word is used to describe how the Egyptians were turned against the Israelites.

“Israel also came into Egypt; and Jacob sojourned in the land of Ham. And he increased his people greatly; and made them stronger than their enemies. He turned [H2015] their heart to hate his people, to deal subtly with his servants.” (Psalm 105:23-25)

How did God turn the Egyptians against the Israelites? He sent them Joseph to bless them and through Joseph made them a rich and strong nation, however as time passed “there arose a new king over Egypt, who did not know Joseph” (Exodus 1:8); and he said to his people …

“ ‘Look, the people of the children of Israel are more and mightier than we; come, let us deal shrewdly with them, lest they multiply, and it happen, in the event of war, that they also join our enemies and fight against us, and so go up out of the land.’ Therefore they set taskmasters over them to afflict them with their burdens …” (Exodus 1:9-11, New King James Version)

The providence of God that was designed to turn the hearts of the Egyptians to the true God resulted in turning them against Him. Rather than feel a debt of gratitude to the God of Heaven, they chose to suspect that Israel would seek to overthrow them and take control of the nation. This explains why Amos and Peter said the Lord overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah:

“I have overthrown some of you, as God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah, and ye were as a firebrand plucked out of the burning: yet have ye not returned unto Me, saith the LORD.” (Amos 4:11)

“And turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrha into ashes condemned them with an overthrow, making them an ensample unto those that after should live ungodly.” (2 Peter 2:6)

The overthrow took place as the Son of God could no longer groan in travail under the burden that was inflicted upon the creation by the Sodomites. Just like Pharaoh, the more God pleaded for them to repent, the more hardened their hearts became. What happened to Sodom was not done by force nor by the hand of anyone:

“For the punishment of the iniquity of the daughter of my people is greater than the punishment of the sin of Sodom, that was overthrown as in a moment, and no hands stayed on her.” (Lamentations 4:6)

Here’s how the Darby Bible translate it:

“And the punishment of the iniquity of the daughter of my people is greater than the reward of the sin of Sodom, which was overthrown as in a moment, and no hands were violently laid upon her.”

God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah by giving them up to their own reprobate minds. This is exactly what the Lord said concerning Admah and Zeboim – two other cities nearby that were destroyed with Sodom and Gomorrah:

“How shall I give thee up, Ephraim? how shall I deliver thee, Israel? how shall I make thee as Admah? how shall I set thee as Zeboim? Mine heart is turned within Me, My repentings are kindled together.” (Hosea 11:8)

The provision of this example shows that the Lord left them to the consequences of their own choice – something very painful for Him as their Father:

“The expressions on their faces give them away. They parade their sin around like Sodom; they don't even try to hide it. How horrible it will be for them, because they have brought disaster on themselves!” (Isaiah 3:9, International Standard Version)

When Jesus wept over Jerusalem, knowing of her coming destruction, Jesus cried:

“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing! See, your house is left to you desolate." (Matthew 23:37, 38)

They had crucified Christ in their hearts and cut themselves off from His protective presence. Can't we ignore our self-righteousness and look into Jesus' heart and hear Him say:

“O Sodom and Gomorrah, the cities that resist the prophets and reject those who are sent to them! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing! See, your house is left to you desolate."

The most amazing thing about this Hebrew word for “overthrow” or “turning” is that it is used to describe the work in the conversion of the nations to the truth:

Arise, shine; for thy light is come, and the glory of the LORD is risen upon thee. For, behold, the darkness shall cover the earth, and gross darkness the people: but the LORD shall arise upon thee, and his glory shall be seen upon thee. And the Gentiles shall come to thy light, and kings to the brightness of thy rising. Lift up thine eyes round about, and see: all they gather themselves together, they come to thee: thy sons shall come from far, and thy daughters shall be nursed at thy side. Then thou shalt see, and flow together, and thine heart shall fear, and be enlarged; because the abundance of the sea shall be converted [hâphak] unto thee, the forces of the Gentiles shall come unto thee.” (Isaiah 60:1-5)

So in this sense, when you were converted to the truth, God “overthrew” you. It all comes down to how you react to God’s compassion to save you from self-destruction.

The Earth Reflects the Violence of Sinful Man

“Look, this was the iniquity of your sister Sodom: She and her daughter had pride, fullness of food, and abundance of idleness; neither did she strengthen the hand of the poor and needy. And they were haughty and committed abomination before Me; therefore I took them away as I saw fit." (Ezekiel 16:49-50, New King James Version)

These were some of the abominations in Sodom. Many people fail to realize that the abominations of man have an inherent consequence upon the elements of earth itself:

“And the land is defiled: therefore I do visit the iniquity thereof upon it, and the land itself vomiteth out her inhabitants. Ye shall therefore keep My statutes and my judgments, and shall not commit any of these abominations; neither any of your own nation, nor any stranger that sojourneth among you: (For all these abominations have the men of the land done, which were before you, and the land is defiled;) That the land spue not you out also, when ye defile it, as it spued out the nations that were before you.” (Leviticus 18:25-28)

The earth mourneth and fadeth away, the world languisheth and fadeth away, the haughty people of the earth do languish. The earth also is defiled under the inhabitants thereof; because they have transgressed the Laws, changed the ordinance, broken the everlasting covenant. Therefore hath the curse devoured the earth …” (Isaiah 24:4-6)

God was feeling the defiled earth’s vibrations, and this explains why He heard a cry coming from the land of Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding cities and sought after their rescue:

“And the LORD said, Because the cry of Sodom and Gomorrah is great, and because their sin is very grievous; I will go down now, and see whether they have done altogether according to the cry of it, which is come unto Me; and if not, I will know.” (Genesis 18:20, 21)

The vibrations that were coming from the transgressions of Sodom and Gomorrah turned into a great cry. Through the drastically changed vibrations of the earth under those cities, God could feel that something very disturbing was taking place and that those people were about to bring upon themselves their end through their lawlessness, without even suspecting it. The resonance of that cry violently hurt our Father’s heart. How terrible must have been that cry of Sodom and Gomorrah’s corruption and iniquity for our Father’s tender heart, when years earlier the murder of only one righteous man, Abel, led God to say this to Cain:

“And He (God) said, What hast thou (Cain) done? the voice of thy brother’s blood crieth unto Me from the ground. And now art thou cursed from the earth, which hath opened her mouth to receive thy brother’s blood from thy hand; When thou tillest the ground, it shall not henceforth yield unto thee her strength; a fugitive and a vagabond shalt thou be in the earth.” (Genesis 4:10-12)

Take note how the cry of Abel’s blood affected the earth itself. Like the cry of Sodom and Gomorrah, it caused the earth to echo. Can we feel the suffering of the Father and His Son in these words? The vibrations caused by one man’s iniquity arrived painfully to Their hearts, so what might the accumulated and concentrated iniquitous cries of a great mass of people in the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah cause?

Through the means of the intimate connection between man and the earth, a storm could be brought about even through several men’s restless thoughts and feelings:

“Because they sow the wind, they will reap the wind storm.” (Hosea 8:7; International Standard Version)

Could this be the same principle in the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah? Did the earth respond in violent fire due to their burning lusts?

“This then is the reason why God gave them up to vile passions. For not only did the women among them exchange the natural use of their bodies for one which is contrary to nature, but the men also, in just the same way—neglecting that for which nature intends women—BURNED with passion towards one another, men practising shameful vice with men, and receiving in their own selves the reward which necessarily followed their misconduct.” (Romans 1:26, 27, Weymouth’s New Testament)

“Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting.” (Galatians 6:7, 8)

The cities of Sodom and Gomorrah were situated in the plain of Siddim. Genesis 14:10 tells us “the Valley of Siddim was full of tar pits” (ISV). The NKJV says “asphalt pits”, while others say "bitumen." Yes, the earth itself was ripe to be ignited by the burning passions of Sodom and Gomorrah. Just as God was protecting His people from the fiery serpents in the wilderness (Deuteronomy 8:15), He was protecting the inhabitants of the two cities from fiery destruction. However, just as the people distrusted His protection by their murmurings, thus grieving His Spirit (presence) by pushing Him away, resulting in God giving them up to the fiery serpents, God also “gave them (Sodom and Gomorrah) up to their vile passions” and their burning lusts, which naturally resulted in their fiery destruction.

"Today 'the shores around the Dead Sea are covered with lava, sulfur, and rock salt. Gases escape from the surface of the water.' [World Book Encyclopedia, 1954, p. 1891]. Note the existence in this scenario of all the ingredients necessary to destroy these cities in a great fiery conflagration. Bitumen, asphalt, oil, gas—even salt to turn Lot’s wife into a pillar. Another name for 'brimstone,' which Scripture says God 'rained' upon these cities is sulfur, a major export of this region today. One need only consider the swiftness with which the ancient city of Pompeii met its doom via volcano to know something similar could have happened to these cities in such a volatile location. Modern archeologists have concluded that a massive earthquake occurred in this region sometime in the ancient past which not only ruptured some of the cities and altered the landscape significantly, but also likely caused the sulphur, bitumen, and other lethal elements to explode high into the air and come back down burning with intense fire that rained on everything in sight. God did not personally hurl fireballs at Sodom and Gomorrah. Rather, He did not prevent this natural disaster, because the free-will choice of the people had denied authority for God to block this disaster from coming on them." (Marilyn. M. Cambell, Light on the Dark Side of God, p. 53)

Also commenting on the area of the Dead Sea, the PBS documentary entiled, "The Dead Sea, a Naked Planet Special" said:

"Geologists have discovered large pockets of gas trapped under the sediment ... in the southern Dead Sea. [When the bubbles escape or are] released into the atmosphere by an earthquake, it would only take a spark to ignite a giant inferno; a vast ball of flame raining down."

But Didn't the Angels Say THEY Were Going to Destroy It?

But how can we understand what the angels said to Lot?

“For we will destroy this place, because the cry of them is waxen great before the face of the Lord; and the Lord hath sent us to destroy it.” (Genesis 19:13)

The soul’s destruction always comes as a result of the rejection of timely light. The light the Lord was giving to the inhabitants of Sodom by Lot was to a great degree eclipsed by his compromising and adaptation to those people’s culture. The two angels were not sent to personally destroy the city themselves, but the reaction of the inhabitants of Sodom to those angels shut the door of mercy in their own faces because they did not believe in mercy. Like Jesus who “came to His own, and His own did not receive Him” (John 1:11), these angels went to try to move upon the hearts of the straying inhabitants of Sodom and bring them back into the fold. Unlike the inhabitants of Nineveh who repented when hearing the message of Jonah, resulting in thier city being saved (Jonah 3:4-10), the inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah hardened their hearts and spiritually crucified Jesus from their conscience (see, Revelation 11:8). Thus through the work of Lot and the angels who intended to save them, the inhabitants of these cities were destroyed by their own choice. They reacted as Pharaoh who destroyed Egypt by resisting the appeals of Moses to let Israel go (see the article entitled: Who Really Killed the Firstborn in Egypt?).

Because the angels came into the city of Sodom in the form of men, the men of Sodom, inflamed by the vilest passions, revealed the perversity of their evil hearts in seeking to have sexual relations with them. The blindness that came upon these men (Genesis 19:10, 11) was a pleading warning to repent and cease what they were doing. But this act was like oil upon the flames and their refusal to repent led these men to the climax of their guilt and this is what doomed that city. No hand was laid upon the city, the defilement of the city itself destroyed them.

Just as God knew His merciful invitation would harden Pharaoh's heart (Exodus 7:3), the angels knew that their merciful invitation towards the inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah would turn [Strong’s H2015] and completely harden them and thus lead to their destruction. The inhabitants’ response to the angels caused them to pass the boundary as their conscience was fully seared (1 Timothy 4:2) resulting in their inability to repent. Not that God would refuse any repentance, but their minds were not even capable of repenting at this point. 

The angels had to finish the work which Lot was not able to do in a more complete presentation of God’s righteousness, holiness and love that exposes sin. This testimony would act as fire for their souls, and if they repented in the face of this revelation of God’s glory, the judgment upon those cities would have been canceled. But instead of repentance, their rage became like the roaring of a tempest.

The Lord was waiting in anguish for them until the last occasion for repentance faded away; for He is “longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). Again, the destruction came, not because there wasn’t anyone who would repent, but that no one could repent due to their reprobate mind (Romans 1:28) and seared conscience. Like the Ark during Noah’s day, the door was then shut.

If God or the angels were the direct cause of the destruction then why were the angels in such a hurry to get Lot and his family out? All that needed to be done is simply get them to safety then turn around and destroy the city. The truth is, like the four angels mentioned in Revelation chapter 7, these angels were holding the "winds of strife" back. As the angels were preventing the fiery storm, they were trying to get as many people out of harm's way as possible. In Revelation 7 it says:

"After these things I saw four angels standing at the four corners of the earth, holding the four winds of the earth, that the wind should not blow on the earth, on the sea, or on any tree. Then I saw another angel ascending from the east, having the seal of the living God. And he cried with a loud voice to the four angels to whom it was granted to harm the earth and the sea, saying, 'Do not harm the earth, the sea, or the trees till we have sealed the servants of our God on their foreheads.'”(Revelation 7:1-3)

At first glance the language seems to suggest that it's the angels who would "harm the earth and the sea." But notice they are holding back the destructive winds. It's the "winds" that would directly harm the earth and the sea AFTER the angels let go. These four angels will be "granted to harm the earth and the sea" in the sense of being given divine permission to "let go" after everyone makes their final choice. These events take place just before Jesus' second coming to which Jesus compares to "the days of Lot":

"Likewise also as it was in the days of Lot; they did eat, they drank, they bought, they sold, they planted, they builded; But the same day that Lot went out of Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven, and destroyed them all. Even thus shall it be in the day when the Son of man (Jesus) is revealed." (Luke 17:28-30)

Therefore, the destruction upon Sodom and Gomorrah was not the direct cause of the angels, but came after they "let go" and permitted the destruction to come. Although the historian Josephus projects the destruction coming directly from God, he says "God then cast a thunderbolt upon the city, and set it on fire." (Josephus, The Complete Works, Ch. 11). But isn't it better to understand this as the angels were holding back the thunderbolts until everyone who desired to be saved were led out to safety? The thunderbolts then striking the asphalt setting the cities on fire? 

God Took Them Away in His Anger, and in His Wrath?

But what does God mean by saying “I took them away” in Ezekiel 16:50? Let’s compare this to the result of Israel wanting an earthly king like the other nations. God said:

“O Israel, thou hast destroyed thyself; but in Me is thine help. I will be thy King: where is any other that may save thee in all thy cities? and thy judges of whom thou saidst, Give me a king and princes? I gave thee a king in Mine anger, and took him away in My wrath.” (Hosea 13:9-11)

How did God take away king Saul? 1 Chronicles chapter 10 tells us “Saul died for his transgression which he committed against the LORD … therefore He (God) slew him, and turned the kingdom unto David the son of Jesse” (Verses 13-14). But did God really kill Saul? Not according to verses 3-6 which clearly tell us Saul committed suicide:

“And the battle went sore against Saul, and the archers hit him, and he was wounded of the archers. Then said Saul to his armourbearer, Draw thy sword, and thrust me through therewith; lest these uncircumcised come and abuse me. But his armourbearer would not; for he was sore afraid. So Saul took a sword, and fell upon it. And when his armourbearer saw that Saul was dead, he fell likewise on the sword, and died. So Saul died, and his three sons, and all his house died together.”

Like Israel and Saul, Sodom and Gomorrah had “destroyed themselves” (Hosea 13:9) by their rejection of God’s love. Or, as Isaiah put it, “they have brought disaster on themselves!” (See again, Isaiah 3:9). God took away Saul by not preventing him from committing suicide. Therefore, by the removing of God’s presence from the two cities, at their own request, they suffered self-destruction as they committed spiritual suicide.

May we all heed this last message of mercy and separate ourselves from anything which will cause our soul's destruction. 

"Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? ... Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be My sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty." (2 Corinthians 6:14, 17, 18)


For more information on God's wrath and anger see the article: What is God's Wrath?

If you would like a deeper study on what you've just read see the book entitled: The Crucifixion of Christ in the Days of Noah and Lot