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A Practical Commentary On Holy Scripture by Frederick Justus Knecht D.D.

[Gen. 19]

ABRAHAM went part of the way with the strangers, who were going to Sodom. As they journeyed along together, the Lord said to Abraham: “The cry of Sodom and Gomorrha is multiplied, and their sin is become exceedingly grievous.” He told him that He would destroy the two cities. Abraham was struck with fear; for, although the men amongst whom he lived were wicked, he loved them as neighbours. At last, drawing near to the Lord, he said: “Wilt Thou destroy the just with the wicked? If there be fifty just men in the city, shall they perish withal? and wilt Thou not spare that place for the sake of the fifty just, if they be therein?” The Lord replied: “If I find in Sodom fifty just men within the city, I will spare the whole place for their sake.” And Abraham said: “Seeing I have once begun, I will speak again to my Lord, whereas I am but dust and ashes. If there be five less than fifty just persons in the city, wilt Thou destroy it?” And the Lord said to Abraham: “I will not destroy it, if I find five and forty.” Abraham continued to plead in this manner, till at last the Lord said to him: “I will not destroy it for the sake of ten.” Then the Lord disappeared, and Abraham returned to his tent.

The ten just men were not found in Sodom, and the two angels were sent to destroy it. They reached Sodom in the evening, and found Lot sitting at the gate of the city. Lot invited them into his house, and the angels said to him: “Arise, get you out of this place, for the Lord will destroy it. Lot went that night to two young men who were to marry his daughters, and told them to arise and go forth, for the Lord would destroy the city. But they thought that he spoke in jest. At the first dawn of day the angels pressed Lot to depart, saying: “Take thy wife and thy two daughters, lest you also perish in the wicked city.” And, as Lot still lingered, they took him by the hand, and, as it were against his will, led him and his family out of the city, warning them all not to look back, under pain of death. Lot’s wife, however, looked back, and was instantly changed into a pillar of salt. The sun had just risen, when Lot entered the neighbouring city of Segor. Then the Lord rained down from heaven fire and brimstone, and utterly destroyed those two wicked cities, with all their inhabitants.

 

Fig. 7. The Dead Sea. (Phot. Bonfils.)

God’s Holiness and Justice are most plainly shown to us by the terrible fate of the wicked cities. The attack made on them by the strange kings was a visitation, permitted by God for the conversion of their wicked inhabitants. But they remained impenitent, and were quite as wicked after, as they were before that visitation. Lot’s good example might also have been to them a means of conversion, but they paid no heed to it. Then Almighty God could no longer endure their shameful state of vice, for sin is infinitely abhorrent to the Most Holy God. He utterly destroyed the wicked cities from off the face of the earth, and made the whole neighbourhood desolate so that all men might know and fear His terrible justice. “Reducing the cities of the Sodomites and Gomorrhites to ashes, God condemned them to be overthrown”, says Saint Peter, “making them an example to those that should after act wickedly” (2 Pet. 2:6). The punishment of Sodom and Gomorrha is, therefore, always held up as an example of the divine justice.

God’s hatred of impurity. This sin having been the chief cause of the destruction of the cities, you can see how hateful it is in the eyes of God, and how severely He punishes it. Impurity is the most shameful of all sins, and an abomination before God. It leads to many other sins, and easily results in impenitence and impiety, as was the case with the inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrha. Almighty God does not always punish it in this world, but He will certainly do so in the next world. “Do not err; neither fornicators nor adulterers shall possess the kingdom of God” (1 Cor. 6:9).

The duty of intercessory prayer. Intercession for the living and the dead is a spiritual work of mercy. Love prompted Abraham to pray for the wicked Sodomites: love should prompt you to pray for others, for your parents, brothers and sisters, and for your spiritual and temporal superiors; but especially for sinners, that they may have the grace of conversion, and may not be eternally lost. “Pray for one another that you may be saved” (James 5:16).

The characteristics of prayer. Abraham prayed with fervour, with humility, with confidence, and with perseverance, making his petition six times.

The power of prayer. Abraham’s prayer was not made in vain, for Almighty God granted it, in so far that, had there been ten just men in Sodom, the whole city would have been spared. “The continual prayer of a just man availeth much” (James 5:16).

Lot’s steadfastness is worthy of our admiration. He lived for twenty years in the wicked city, and did not let himself be led away into sin, but remained firm in what was right, and brought up his children in the holy fear of God. Therefore, Holy Scripture, in allusion to him, says: “The Lord knoweth how to deliver the godly from temptation” (2 Pet. 2:9); because they pray and co-operate with grace.

Sorrow on account of sin. Lot’s fellow-citizens in Sodom “vexed his just soul with unjust works” (2 Pet. 2:8). The sins and crimes which he was obliged to witness hurt his holy soul, because God was offended by them, and many souls were eternally lost. We, far from jesting about the sins of others, should mourn over them. We shall know by our conduct in such cases, whether or no we have a true love for God and our neighbour. “Blessed are they who mourn.”

Guardian angels. Holy angels protected Lot and his family. Lot’s wife did not take heed to their warning; therefore, she perished.

The torments of hell. The burning of the wicked cities gives us a faint idea of that hell into which the impenitent Sodomites were cast for ever. The torments of the burning inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrha were very terrible; but the torments of the lost souls in hell are far more terrible. The fire of Sodom was kindled from heaven; the fire of hell is kindled by the anger of God. The shrieks of the burning Sodomites were very terrible, but the wailing and gnashing of teeth of the damned are far worse. The bodies of the Sodomites were burnt and the fire was extinguished; but the damned burn and are never consumed, nor is the fire ever quenched.

Intercession. This story shows us how dear the just are in the sight of God. Because Abraham was just, Almighty God heard his prayer, and would have spared the cities for the sake of ten just men. Holy people living in any town or country bring a blessing on the sinners among whom they live, even though they may be scorned and persecuted by them. For their sake, many a temporal punishment is averted. Monasteries and religious houses bring a blessing on the places where they exist.

Inordinate love of temporal possessions. Lot’s wife was punished by the death of her body, because, being too much attached to her possessions which she had been obliged to leave behind her in Sodom, she paid no heed to the angel’s injunctions, but stopped and looked behind her. Was it not foolish of this woman to weigh the very best of earthly gifts, life, in the balance against her paltry household goods? But those act with still greater madness who, from an inordinate love of honours, riches, pleasures &c., forget the salvation of their souls, and lose the possessions and joys which are eternal.

Temporal punishment. God rewarded the virtue of Lot by saving him from the destruction of Sodom. But he lost all his possessions which were destroyed with the city, and he was thus punished for his selfish conduct towards his uncle. By this punishment of Lot and his wife, we see that God punishes the venial sins and imperfections even of the just. Temporal punishment must be suffered either in this world or in the next, i. e. in purgatory.

The sin of Sodom. The Sodomites committed horrible and unnatural sins of impurity which called down the judgment of God. They are, therefore, counted among the sins which cry to heaven for vengeance.

APPLICATION. How can you imitate Lot’s steadfastness?

A just man is wounded by the sins of his fellow-men. He laments their wickedness, and prays for their conversion. How have you behaved hitherto in this respect? How will you behave in future? At the end of this lesson we will say three Our Fathers for the conversion of sinners.

Detest and fear sin, especially sins of impurity. Set hell before your eyes, think of its horrible torments, and carefully avoid all temptations to such sins. Say thus: “What will the whole world profit me, if I follow my own inclinations, and suffer eternally in hell!”








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