There is more to the story of Sodom and Gomorrah than is commonly known. The prophet Ezekiel and Jesus combine to add some important details to our understanding of these ancient Dead Sea communities.
The Rest of the Story–In the 16th chapter of Ezekiel, the prophet doesn’t emphasize the violence and sexual behaviors for which the twin cities are remembered. Instead, he puts the tears and moral failures of Sodom in perspective. While anticipating the judgment of Jerusalem, and emphasizing that her sins made Sodom look good by comparison, Ezekiel declares,
“The Lord says to the city of Jerusalem, “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).
What the Bible calls Abominable– When Ezekiel says, “And they were haughty and committed abomination before Me,” he is using the same word that the Scriptures use to describe a whole spectrum of ritual, dietary, sexual, and ethical wrongs that, according to the Scriptures, are detestable to the Lord (Leviticus 18:22; Deuteronomy 14:3; 17:1). “Abomination” is also the term Solomon later uses to describe seven things the Lord hates. In his inspired list of seven “detestable things,” Solomon indicates that a proud look, lying lips, a false witness, and spreading discord among brothers are all an “abomination” to God (Proverbs 6:16-19).
The point of focusing on words that describe Sodom’s moral failures is not to minimize the sins she is remembered for but to remind us that there is more to her story than is usually told.
Jesus and Sodom— Here there is more irony. The Messiah we honor for helping us to understand the heart and purpose of moral law, said that, in the day of judgment, it will be worse for his own community than for Sodom.
Expressing His lament over the Galilean lakeshore community where He had headquartered for three years, Jesus declares, “And you, Capernaum, who are exalted to heaven (i.e. for witnessing the coming of Messiah), will be brought down to Hades; for if the mighty works which were done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. But I say to you that it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment than for you” (Matthew 11:23-24; see also Luke 4:31-41).
The people of Sodom did much that deserved the judgment of God. But the people of Capernaum rejected the long awaited Messiah and friend of sinners.
I’m so convinced that the words of Ezekiel and Jesus give us important perspective on the stories of both Sodom and Capernaum. In describing Sodom’s root sins of pride, fullness of food, abundance of idleness; and failure to help the poor and needy, Ezekiel humbles me. Then Jesus gives us the most important perspective of all: Nothing is worse than to reject him. What could be more of an “abomination” to the Father than to reject what his Son suffered for all of us?