The Rain of Fire That Fell on a City
Genesis xviii: 1, to xix: 30.
NE day Abraham,—for we shall call him now by his new name,—was sitting in the door of his tent, when he saw three men coming toward him. He knew from their looks that they were not common men. They were angels, and one of them seems to have been the Lord God himself, coming in the form of a man.
When Abraham saw these men coming, he went out to meet them, and bowed to them; and he said to the one who was the leader:
"My Lord, do not pass by; but come and rest a little under the tree. Let me send for water to wash your feet; and take some food; and stay with us a little while."
So this strange person, who was God in the form of a man, sat with his two followers in Abraham's tent, under the oak-trees at Hebron. They took some food which Sarah, Abraham's wife, made ready for them, and then the Lord talked with Abraham. He told Abraham again that in a very little time God would send to him and Sarah a little boy, whose name should be Isaac. In the language that Abraham spoke, the name Isaac means "laughing;" because Abraham and Sarah both laughed aloud when they heard it. They were so happy that they could scarcely believe the news.
Then the three persons rose up to go, and two of them went on the road which led toward Sodom, down on the plain of Jordan, below the mountains. But the one whom Abraham called "My Lord" stopped after the others had gone away, and said:
"Shall I hide from Abraham what I am going to do? For Abraham is to be the father of a great people, and all the world shall receive a blessing through him. And I know that Abraham will teach his children and all those that live with him to obey the will of the Lord, and to do right. I will tell Abraham what I am going to do. I am going down to the city of Sodom and the other cities that are near it, and I am going to see if the city is as bad as it seems to be; for the wickedness of the city is like a cry coming up before the Lord."
And Abraham knew that Sodom was very wicked, and he feared that God was about to destroy it. And Abraham said:
"Wilt thou destroy the righteous with the wicked, the good with the bad, in Sodom? Perhaps there may be fifty good people in the city. Wilt thou not spare the city for the sake of fifty good men who may be in it? Shall not the Judge and Ruler of all the earth do right?"
And the Lord said:
"If I find in Sodom fifty good people, then I will not destroy the city, but will spare it for their sake."
Then Abraham said again:
"Perhaps I ought not to ask anything more, for I am only a common man, talking with the Lord God. But suppose that there should be forty-five good people in Sodom, wilt thou destroy the city because it needs only five good men to make up the fifty?"
And the Lord said, "I will not destroy it, if there are forty-five good men in it." And Abraham said, "Suppose there are forty good people in it,—what then?" And the Lord said, "I will spare the city, if I find in it forty good men." And Abraham said, "O Lord, do not be angry, if I ask that if there are thirty good men in the city, it may be spared." And the Lord said, "I will not do it, if I find thirty good men there." And Abraham said, "Let me venture to ask that thou wilt spare it if twenty are there." The Lord said: "I will not destroy it for the sake of twenty good men, if they are there." Then Abraham said, "O, let not the Lord be angry, and I will speak only this once more. Perhaps there may be ten good men found in the city." And the Lord said, "If I find ten good men in Sodom, I will spare the city."
And Abraham had no more to say. The Lord in the form of a man went on his way toward Sodom; and Abraham turned back, and went to his tent.
You remember that Lot, the nephew of Abraham, chose the land of Sodom for his home (Story Five), and lived there, though the people were so wicked. You remember, too, how Lot was carried away captive when Sodom was taken by its enemies, and how he was rescued by Abram. (Story Six.) But after all that had happened, Lot went to live in Sodom again; and he was there when the angels came to Abraham's tent, as we read in the last story.
Two of the angels who had visited Abraham went down to Sodom, and walked through the city, trying to find some good men; for if they could find only ten, the city would be saved. But the only good man whom they could find was Lot. He took the angels, who looked like men, into his house, and treated them kindly, and made a supper for them.
The men of Sodom, when they found that strangers were in Lot's house, came before the house in the street, and tried to take the two men out that they might do them harm, so wicked and cruel were they. But the men of Sodom could do nothing against them, for when they tried to break open the door, and Lot was greatly frightened, the two angels struck all those wicked men blind in a moment, so that they could not see, and felt around in the dark for the door.
Then the angels said to Lot:
"Have you here any others besides yourself, any sons, or sons-in-law, or daughters? Whomever you have, get them out of this city quickly, for we are here to destroy this place, because it is so very wicked."
Then Lot went to the houses where the young men lived who had married some of his daughters, and said to them:
"Hurry, and get out of this place, for the Lord will destroy it."
But his sons-in-law, the husbands of his daughters, would not believe his words; they only laughed at him. What a mistake it was for Lot to live in a wicked city, where his daughters were married to young men living there!
And when the morning was coming, the two angels tried to make poor Lot hasten away. They said:
"Rise up quickly, and take your wife, and your two daughters that are here. If you do not haste, you will be destroyed with the city."
But Lot was slow to leave his house, and his married daughters, and all that he had; and the two angels took hold of him, and of his wife, and his two daughters; and the angels dragged them out of the city. God was good to Lot, to take him out of the city before it was destroyed.
And when they had brought Lot and his wife and his daughters out of the city, one of the angels said to him:
"Escape for your life; do not look behind you; do not stop anywhere in the plain; climb up the mountain, or you may be destroyed!"
And Lot begged the angels not to send him so far away. He said, "O my Lord, I cannot climb the mountain. Have mercy upon me, and let me go to that little city that lies yonder. It is only a little city, and you can spare it. Please to let me be safe there."
And the angel said, "We will spare that city for your sake; and we will wait until you are safe before we destroy these other cities."
So Lot ran to the little city, and there he found safety. In the language of that time, the word "Zoar" means little; so that city was afterward called Zoar. It was the time of sunrise when Lot came to Zoar.
Then, as soon as Lot and his family were safely out of Sodom, the Lord caused a rain of fire to fall upon Sodom and the other cities on the plain. With the fire came great clouds of sulphur smoke, covering all the plain. So the cities were destroyed, and all the people in them; not one man or woman or child was left.
While Lot and his daughters were flying from the city, Lot's wife stopped, and looked back; and she became a pillar of salt, standing there upon the plain. Lot and his two daughters escaped, but they were afraid to stay in the little city of Zoar. They climbed up the mountain, away from the plain, and found a cave, and there they lived. So Lot lost his wife, and all that he had, because he had made his home among the wicked people of Sodom.
And when Abraham, from his tent door on the mountain, looked down toward the plain, the smoke was rising from it, like the smoke of a great furnace.
And that was the end of the cities of the plain, Sodom, and Gomorrah, and the other cities with them. Zoar alone was saved, because Lot, a good man, prayed for it.