What is Sodom referring to in Scripture?
I have found three different types of references to Sodom.
1) Sodom the City
Sodom, of course, in Scripture refers to a real place, a real city.
We are told the location of Sodom.
Genesis 10:19 (ESV) And the territory of the Canaanites extended from Sidon in the direction of Gerar as far as Gaza, and in the direction of Sodom, Gomorrah, Admah, and Zeboiim, as far as Lasha.
Then later Scripture tells us about the men of Sodom.
Genesis 13:13 (ESV) Now the men of Sodom were wicked, great sinners against the Lord.
Then the judgment of the Lord is given due to Sodom’s sin.
Genesis 19:13 (ESV) For we are about to destroy this place, because the outcry against its people has become great before the Lord, and the Lord has sent us to destroy it.”
Judgment came immediately and totally to Sodom.
Genesis 19:24-25 (ESV)
24 Then the Lord rained on Sodom and Gomorrah sulfur and fire from the Lord out of heaven.
25 And he overthrew those cities, and all the valley, and all the inhabitants of the cities, and what grew on the ground.
Another reference throughout Scripture to Sodom is as a picture of sinful cities.
2) A Type of City
Sodom is a type of other cities who are taken over by sin and due to receive the judgment of the Lord.
Deuteronomy 29:22-28 (ESV)
22 And the next generation, your children who rise up after you, and the foreigner who comes from a far land, will say, when they see the afflictions of that land and the sicknesses with which the Lord has made it sick—
23 the whole land burned out with brimstone and salt, nothing sown and nothing growing, where no plant can sprout, an overthrow like that of Sodom and Gomorrah, Admah, and Zeboiim, which the Lord overthrew in his anger and wrath—
24 all the nations will say, ‘Why has the Lord done thus to this land? What caused the heat of this great anger?’
25 Then people will say, ‘It is because they abandoned the covenant of the Lord, the God of their fathers, which he made with them when he brought them out of the land of Egypt,
26 and went and served other gods and worshiped them, gods whom they had not known and whom he had not allotted to them.
27 Therefore the anger of the Lord was kindled against this land, bringing upon it all the curses written in this book,
28 and the Lord uprooted them from their land in anger and fury and great wrath, and cast them into another land, as they are this day.’
Isaiah 1:9-10 (ESV)
9 If the Lord of hosts had not left us a few survivors, we should have been like Sodom, and become like Gomorrah.
10 Hear the word of the Lord, you rulers of Sodom! Give ear to the teaching of our God, you people of Gomorrah!
Zephaniah 2:9 (ESV) Therefore, as I live,” declares the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, “Moab shall become like Sodom, and the Ammonites like Gomorrah, a land possessed by nettles and salt pits, and a waste forever. The remnant of my people shall plunder them, and the survivors of my nation shall possess them.”
3) Spiritual Condition
Yet the most interesting reference to Sodom is spiritual. The passage in Ezekiel 16 refers to Sodom both as Israel, particularly Jerusalem, and as a spiritual condition. Reading the whole chapter would be helpful but here is a portion.
Ezekiel 16:46-51 (ESV)
46 And your elder sister is Samaria, who lived with her daughters to the north of you; and your younger sister, who lived to the south of you, is Sodom with her daughters.
47 Not only did you walk in their ways and do according to their abominations; within a very little time you were more corrupt than they in all your ways.
48 As I live, declares the Lord God, your sister Sodom and her daughters have not done as you and your daughters have done.
49 Behold, this was the guilt of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters had pride, excess of food, and prosperous ease, but did not aid the poor and needy.
50 They were haughty and did an abomination before me. So I removed them, when I saw it.
51 Samaria has not committed half your sins. You have committed more abominations than they, and have made your sisters appear righteous by all the abominations that you have committed.
The whole chapter in Ezekiel lists sin after sin of Israel. In just the above portion abominations, corruption, pride, excess of food, prosperous ease, not aiding the poor and needy, and haughtiness are listed. Most of these are referring to the sins of the heart. Even though they are called Sodom there is no specific reference to homosexuality. Does that mean homosexuality was not a problem? Of course not. But homosexuality is the outgrowth or the fruit of the sins of the heart.
Jerusalem is also a symbolically Sodom because of false prophets and because they crucified the Lord.
Jeremiah 23:14 (ESV) But in the prophets of Jerusalem I have seen a horrible thing: they commit adultery and walk in lies; they strengthen the hands of evildoers, so that no one turns from his evil; all of them have become like Sodom to me, and its inhabitants like Gomorrah.”
Revelation 11:7-8 (ESV)
7 And when they have finished their testimony, the beast that rises from the bottomless pit will make war on them and conquer them and kill them,
8 and their dead bodies will lie in the street of the great city that symbolically is called Sodom and Egypt, where their Lord was crucified.
Throughout Scripture we are given lists of the sins of our heart and flesh.
Matthew 15:18-20 (ESV)
18 But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person.
19 For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander.
20 These are what defile a person. But to eat with unwashed hands does not defile anyone.”
Galatians 5:19-21 (ESV)
19 Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality,
20 idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions,
21 envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.
When we relegate the sin of Sodom to just one particular sin, heinous though it may be. We have missed the point. Judgment will come to all whose hearts are defiled and are not turned to the Lord. While one place may be characterized by homosexuality, another maybe characterized by murder, another by pride and striving and yet another by false teachers.
So if Sodom is everywhere and in our hearts. Where do we flee? We can’t flee from the cities because the country is just as sinful, maybe not as obvious, but sin does reign in the hearts of all mankind until the Lord calls them. We can’t isolate ourselves in our homes because sin is there in our own hearts.
So how do we flee Sodom?
We flee to the Lord seeking His mercy and protection. Otherwise we are still in Sodom.