Monday, July 06, 2015

Sodom proves a point

Something about what happened to Sodom popped to mind this morning. You may think that in light of recent Supreme Court rulings that it has to deal with homosexuality, but if that’s your thought you would be incorrect. Instead, I’m thinking of when Abraham interceded on behalf of Sodom. The event is found in Genesis 18:22-33, and I will quote it here from the ESV:
So the men turned from there and went toward Sodom, but Abraham still stood before the Lord. Then Abraham drew near and said, “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?” And the Lord said, “If I find at Sodom fifty righteous in the city, I will spare the whole place for their sake.”

Abraham answered and said, “Behold, I have undertaken to speak to the Lord, I who am but dust and ashes. Suppose five of the fifty righteous are lacking. Will you destroy the whole city for lack of five?” And he said, “I will not destroy it if I find forty-five there.” Again he spoke to him and said, “Suppose forty are found there.” He answered, “For the sake of forty I will not do it.” Then he said, “Oh let not the Lord be angry, and I will speak. Suppose thirty are found there.” He answered, “I will not do it, if I find thirty there.” He said, “Behold, I have undertaken to speak to the Lord. Suppose twenty are found there.” He answered, “For the sake of twenty I will not destroy it.” Then he said, “Oh let not the Lord be angry, and I will speak again but this once. Suppose ten are found there.” He answered, “For the sake of ten I will not destroy it.” And the Lord went his way, when he had finished speaking to Abraham, and Abraham returned to his place.
Now obviously, God did not find even ten righteous people in Sodom, as the town (and the surrounding region) were destroyed in Genesis 19:24. This is evidence of the depravity of the town. But here’s what struck me about this passage this morning. This is also evidence of original sin, for surely there had to be more than ten infants or toddlers in Sodom and Gomorrah, yet they were not considered righteous given that God destroyed the towns anyway.

Perhaps some might object, “But Abraham was only asking God to intervene on behalf of righteous men so infants weren’t included in the calculation.” But that objection is refuted by the fact that Abraham asks God to spare “fifty righteous” (then “forty-five”, all the way down to “ten righteous”) without specifying who or what those righteous are. It's just the adjective, righteous. Thus, the term must take on a universal scope for all mankind, not just men in general, unless there is a compelling reason not to do so. The text does not appear to give any reason to limit it to men at all, much less a compelling reason.

Perhaps some others might object, “But the town of Sodom was probably fairly small so maybe there weren’t more than one or two infants there.” But the town was obviously large enough that fifty individuals constituted a small fraction of the population. We know that because when God says He is going to destroy Sodom because of the greatness of their sin, Abraham starts off with “Suppose there are fifty righteous.” If there were only, say, sixty people in the town, it would make no sense to destroy the entire town when there were fifty righteous there, so Abraham's opening salvo makes no sense unless there were far more than fifty people living in the town.

Put it this way. If there were only sixty people in the town, then it seems to make more sense for Abraham to say, "What if there are only ten evil. Would you destroy the whole town because of ten wicked people?" And if God says He wouldn't, Abraham would say, "What if there are five more wicked people? Would you destroy it because there are fifteen?" Etc. up to fifty: "Would you destroy the whole town because there were fifty evil people?"

Therefore, it seems obvious that there are vastly more than fifty people in the town when Abraham intercedes--so many more that fifty is a drop in the bucket. Indeed, archaeological excavations of the “Five Cities of the Plain” (of which, the two famous cities are Sodom and Gomorrah) have shown these cities have cemeteries that are estimated to hold up to half a million people each. This is all the more interesting given that some of the cities are known to have existed for less than 100 years. However, which one is actually Sodom is more difficult to pin down. If modern day Bab edh-Dhra is Sodom, as many Biblical archeologists believe, then it occupied approximately 10 acres of land and had a population of between 600 and 1200 people.

Now let us take those numbers and look at how many children one would expect to be there. Considering that worldwide 26% of the population is under the age of 15 years today (see: then if there were 600 people in Sodom, and assuming the same rate, 156 people would have likewise been under the age of 15 in that town.

Indeed, even in America today, which currently has a birthrate (1.86 children per women) lower than the replacement rate (2.1 children per women), there are 40 million children under the age of 10, per 2013 numbers, out of a population of just over 320 million, meaning 12% of our population is under the age of 10 (see the demographics breakdown here: based on numbers from the CDC). So even if Sodom was dying out because they had our low birthrate, and even if we limit the population to as few as 600 individuals, 12% of 600 is still 72 children under the age of 10. And given the nature of demographics, I have to think there were far more children in Sodom than that.

Yet God destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah. Not only were there not found fifty righteous people of any kind, there weren’t even ten righteous people there.

Thus I conclude that Abraham’s intercession on behalf of Sodom, coupled with God’s promise that He would spare the city if those conditions were met, proves that infants are born depraved and the doctrine of original sin has been confirmed once more by the logical implications of Scripture.

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