"The Destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah", by John Martin, 1832
Contemporary belief about Sodom is that they were destroyed because they were homosexuals. However, here's what Jude said of them:
Jude 1:7 Even as Sodom and Gomorrha, and the cities about them in like manner, giving themselves over to fornication, and going after strange flesh, are set forth for an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire.
The strange flesh Jude refers to are the fallen angels, of the sort mentioned in Genesis 6:4. So apparently the Sodomites had previous experience with these beings, who likely had the same sort of special appearance as these two good angels who were with Abraham. So it is this forbidden intermingling, not homosexuality, which is being described here by Jude.
And here's what Ezekiel says about them:
Ezekiel 16:49 Behold, this was the iniquity of thy sister Sodom, pride, fulness of bread, and abundance of idleness was in her and in her daughters, neither did she strengthen the hand of the poor and needy.
Nothing about homosexuality there either. What Ezekiel is saying is that they were rich ("fulness of bread"), lazy ("abundance of idleness"), and selfish, refusing to share their wealth with the poor. But Ezekiel was being kind. As the following story from the book of Jasher shows, it wasn't merely that they didn't help the poor, they actively preyed upon them in a despicably evil way.
The Sodomites had a certain game which they regularly played on passersby. When a passerby would come into their town, seeking bread and water, they would instead give him gold trinkets and tell him to go to the market and buy. But all the merchants were in on the game, and no matter where he asked, no one would sell him any bread or water. Over the course of many days, their victim withered and eventually died of thirst, whereupon the townspeople would retrieve the trinkets they had given him. The question I had was why. Why did they take pleasure in this game, played on total strangers? What would motivate them to conceive of something like this?
While contemplating this question, something came to mind, and within seconds I felt sure I had the answer: It was that their material wealth had led them into a state of spiritual starvation, and on some level, they knew that all their wealth would not buy relief from this condition. So when they watched their victim, who could not purchase with gold what he needed so desperately, they saw themselves.There is more to this story. According to Jasher, one of Lot's daughters, Paltith, took pity on one of these victims, and secretly fed him water and bread. But she got caught, and for her transgression they burned her to death.
Jasher 19 34-35 And they took Paltith and brought her before their judges, and they said to them, Thus did she do, and it is she who supplied the poor man with bread, therefore did he not die all this time; now therefore declare to us the punishment due to this woman for having transgressed our law.
And the people of Sodom and Gomorrah assembled and kindled a fire in the street of the city, and they took the woman and cast her into the fire and she was burned to ashes.
Another woman was caught giving food to a stranger. For her crime they tied her up, painted her with honey from head to to toe, set a swarm of bees on her, and then stared at her as she screamed while getting stung so many times that her entire body swelled up. These are examples of the state of mind the Sodomites were in. According to Jasher, this incident was the last straw. Her cries
went up to heaven, and shortly thereafter the town was destroyed from above.
It is, to say the least, troubling to see how horribly evil humans can become. But equally troubling to me is the fact that most people think the Sodomites were destroyed because they were homosexuals. This is the contemporary party line, and it's far from the truth. The Sodomites were destroyed because of their exceedingly wicked treatment of human beings, not because they were homosexuals. There is little to suggest they even were homosexuals. They were, however, very rich. Why isn't the truth about Sodom preached today? Perhaps because the Pharisees of today haven't changed—they're more interested in popularity and wealth than in the truth. Condemning homosexuality is a clever way of gaining followers, for by condemning the few, the many feel justified. Condemning wealth, though, is not on the agenda, for obvious reasons. So the myth continues.