Sodom, Jericho and Babylon

  • “God is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not willing for any to perish, but for all to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9)
  • Then YHVH saw that the wickedness of mankind was great on the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of their hearts was only evil continually. So YHVH was sorry that He had made mankind on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart. Then YHVH said, “I will wipe out mankind whom I have created from the face of the land; mankind, and animals as well, and crawling things, and the birds of the sky. For I am sorry that I have made them” (Genesis 6:5-7)

There is no resurrection without crucifixion and death, and there is no forgiveness without the shedding of blood (see Hebrews 9:22 and Leviticus 17:11). God does not want anyone to perish, but He is also a God of justice – and He is deeply grieved in His heart by the sin and wickedness of mankind.

The Days of Noah were wicked days. God looked down and saw that evil had gone beyond the point of no return – “Every intent of the thoughts of their hearts was only evil continually.” God’s wonderful creation was indelibly marred, and had become wicked to the core. God regretted having made mankind. All of creation was now defiled by the sins of the sons of Adam and the daughters of Eve. The Divine Judge issued His sober ruling: “I will wipe out mankind . . . and animals as well, and crawling things, and the birds of the sky . . .  from the face of the earth.” God’s perspectives on sin and its pervasive and perverting effects are different and more intense than what most of humanity thinks. But, in the end, His perspectives are the ones that carry the day.

  • All humanity is standing on the edge of a cliff, perilously close to a repeat of the judgment that fell on the world in the Days of Noah.

Before Abraham came on the scene

Moses conveys to the Jewish people YHVH’s perspectives regarding the spiritual condition of nations of the Middle East – even before Abram was born:

  • “Do not defile yourselves by any of these things; for by all these things the nations which I am driving out from you have become defiled. For the land has become defiled, therefore I have brought its punishment upon it, so the land has vomited out its inhabitants. But as for you, you are to keep My statutes and My judgments, and you shall not do any of these abominations, neither the native, nor the stranger who resides among you (for the people of the land who were there before you did all these abominations, and the land has become defiled), so that the land will not vomit you out should you defile it, as it has vomited out the nation which was there before you” (Leviticus 18:24-28)

The Hebrew root ‘tameh’ (טְמָא) refers to becoming unclean or defiled – either through sexual sin (like adultery), the worship of anything other than the God of Jacob (like idolatry), or contact with materials that are unclean (like bloodshed or murder). Here are three biblical examples of such defilement where the context is Jewish sin in the land. The sins of the Amorites is mentioned in passing above in Leviticus 18. The horrific sins of modern Hamas terrorists include sexual sin (rape of babies, children, teenagers, mothers), worship of an idol from the Saudi Peninsula (one of the 360 desert spirits found in Mecca), and the shedding of innocent blood through murdering and torturing innocent Israeli families.

  • Then the word of YHVH came to me, saying, “Son of man, when the house of Israel was living on their own land, they defiled it by their ways and their deeds . . . because they had defiled it with their idols (Ezekiel 36:16-18)
  • I brought you into the fruitful land to eat its fruit and its good things. But you came and defiled My land, and you made My inheritance an abomination (Jeremiah 2:7-8)
  • God says, “If a husband divorces his wife and she leaves him and becomes another man’s wife, will he return to her again? Would that land not be completely defiled? . . . You have sat for them by the roads like an Arab in the desert, and you have defiled a land” (Jeremiah 3:1-2)

At an early stage of his sojourn in the Promised Land, “Abram the Hebrew . . .  was residing by the oaks of Mamre the Amorite, brother of Eshkol and brother of Aner. And they were allies with Abram” (Genesis 14:13). Initially, Abram had warm relationships with an Amorite family.

Yet, when YHVH cut the Abrahamic Covenant with Abram, He prophesied to him that the national defilement of the Amorites would cause them to be thrown out of the Land of Canaan. That land would be transformed into the eternal possession of the Jewish people – the descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob:

  • And God said to Abram: “As for you, you shall go to your fathers in peace; you will be buried at a good old age. Then in the fourth generation they will return here, for the iniquity of the Amorite is not yet full.” (Genesis 15:13, 15-16)
  • On that day YHVH made a covenant with Abram, saying, “To your descendants I have given this land, from the river of Egypt as far as the great river, the river Euphrates – the land of . . .  the Amorite, the Canaanite . . . ” (Genesis 18:18-21)

Now the men of Sodom were exceedingly wicked

Sodom first appears in the Bible as a Canaanite town: “The territory of the Canaanite extended from Sidon going toward Gerar, as far as Gaza, and going toward Sodom and Gomorrah” (Genesis 10:19). Moses adds some background spiritual details – the people of Sodom had a reputation for being exceedingly evil: “Abram settled in the land of Canaan, while Lot settled in the cities of the vicinity of the Jordan, and moved his tents as far as Sodom. Now the men of Sodom were exceedingly wicked sinners against YHVH” (Genesis 13:12-13).

God in His mercy sent two angels to warn Lot – he needed to flee from Sodom’s coming destruction:

  • “Whom else do you have here? A son-in-law and your sons and daughters, and whomever you have in the city, bring them out of the place; for we are about to destroy this place, because their outcry has become so great before YHVH that YHVH has sent us to destroy it.” So, Lot went out and spoke to his sons-in-law, who were to marry his daughters, and said, “Up, get out of this place, for YHVH is destroying the city.” But he appeared to his sons-in-law to be joking. When morning dawned, the angels urged Lot, saying, “Up, take your wife and your two daughters who are here, or you will be swept away in the punishment of the city.” But he hesitated  (Genesis 19:12-16).

When God’s judgment fell on the two evil cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, it was not only the people living there who were burned up by divine brimstone and fire. Even the surrounding plain was destroyed, and also the adjoining areas, as well as all that grew on the ground. The entire region was burned to the ground, and Moses tells us that the smoke of the land ascended like the smoke of a furnace:

  • Then YHVH rained brimstone and fire on Sodom and Gomorrah from YHVH out of heaven, and He overthrew those cities, and all the surrounding area, and all the inhabitants of the cities, and what grew on the ground. But Lot’s wife, from behind him, looked back, and she became a pillar of salt. Now Abraham got up early in the morning and went to the place where he had stood before YHVH. And he looked down toward Sodom and Gomorrah, and toward all the land of the surrounding area. And behold, he saw the smoke of the land ascended like the smoke of a furnace (Genesis 19:24-28|)

The iniquity of the Canaanites

The night before the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, YHVH visited Abraham (along with two angels) where He had announced the glad tidings that Sarah, Abraham’s own true wife, would have a covenant son (who would be named Isaac) within the year. After the angels departed from Abraham’s tents, YHVH remained and continued the conversation with him:

  • “Shall I hide from Abraham what I am about to do, since Abraham will certainly become a great and mighty nation, and in him all the nations of the earth will be blessed? . . .  The outcry of Sodom and Gomorrah is indeed great, and their sin is exceedingly grave. I will go down now and see whether they have done entirely as the outcry, which has come to Me indicates; and if not, I will know” (Genesis 18:16-21).

Abraham’s immediate appeal to God was to exercise accuracy in judgment. In our modern world we might call this ‘Abraham’s appeal for a divine proportionate response:’

  • Abraham was still standing before YHVH. Abraham approached and said, “Will You indeed sweep away the righteous with the wicked? Suppose there are fifty righteous people within the city. Will You indeed sweep it away and not spare the place for the sake of the fifty righteous who are in it? Far be it from You to do such a thing, to kill the righteous with the wicked, so that the righteous and the wicked are treated alike. Far be it from You! Shall not the Judge of all the earth deal justly?” So YHVH said, “If I find in Sodom fifty righteous within the city, then I will spare the entire place on their account.” And Abraham replied, “Now behold, I have ventured to speak to YHVH, although I am only dust and ashes. Suppose the fifty righteous are lacking five, will You destroy the entire city because of five?” And He said, “I will not destroy it if I find forty-five there.” And he spoke to Him yet again and said, “Suppose forty are found there?” And He said, “I will not do it on account of the forty.” Then he said, “Oh may YHVH not be angry, and I shall speak. Suppose thirty are found there?” And He said, “I will not do it if I find thirty there.” And he said, “Now behold, I have ventured to speak to YHVH. Suppose twenty are found there?” And He said, “I will not destroy it on account of the twenty.” Then he said, “Oh may YHVH not be angry, and I shall speak only this once. Suppose ten are found there?” And He said, “I will not destroy it on account of the ten.” As soon as He had finished speaking to Abraham YHVH departed, and Abraham returned to his place (Genesis 18:22-33).

The angels then moved down in the direction of the Dead Sea to visit Sodom and to gather on-site intelligence for YHVH. What the angels discovered proved incontrovertibly that Sodom’s evil had gone beyond the point of no return. The angels encountered Sodomites – “all the people from every quarter, both young and old” – who attempted to gang-rape Lot’s visitors and to destroy his house and family:

  • Before they lay down, the men of the city – the men of Sodom – surrounded the house, both young and old, all the people from every quarter. And they called to Lot and said to him, “Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us that we may have relations with them.” But Lot went out to them at the doorway, and shut the door behind him, and said, “Please, my brothers, do not act wickedly. Now look, I have two daughters who have not had relations with any man; please let me bring them out to you, and do to them whatever you like; only do not do anything to these men, because they have come under the shelter of my roof.” But they said, “Get out of the way!” They also said, “This one came in as a foreigner, and already he is acting like a judge; now we will treat you worse than them!” So, they pressed hard against Lot and moved forward to break the door. But the men reached out their hands and brought Lot into the house with them, and shut the door. Then they struck the men who were at the doorway of the house with blindness, from the small to the great, so that they became weary of trying to find the doorway (Genesis 19:4-11)

God’s justice would fall on Sodom and Gomorrah. There were not even ten righteous Sodomites to be found in the city – all were evil accomplices in great wickedness. Sodom would end up being paved like a parking lot by the fiery hand of God. The only ones who escaped through a humanitarian corridor were Lot and his immediate family. That was God’s proportionate response. So here is a question for us all: how well do we know this God of the Bible whom we serve? Do we comprehend who He is and why He did what He did at Sodom or with Noah? Or do we shy away from considering these matter, and just say that those days were primitive days – whereas in our day no great evils are happening?

  • For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell and committed them to pits of darkness, held for judgment; and did not spare the ancient world, but protected Noah, a preacher of righteousness, with seven others, when He brought a flood upon the world of the ungodly; and if He condemned the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah to destruction by reducing them to ashes, having made them an example of what is coming for the ungodly; and if He rescued righteous Lot, who was oppressed by the perverted conduct of unscrupulous people (for by what he saw and heard that righteous man, while living among them, felt his righteous soul tormented day after day by their lawless deeds), then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from a trial, and to keep the unrighteous under punishment for the day of judgment (2 Peter 2:4-9)

YHVH fit the battle of Jericho

Many Bible believers have some difficulty reading the Book of Joshua. They ask, how is it that the God of mercy and compassion, the Savior who leads us as a Shepherd, could command Joshua to raze Jericho to the ground? The Hebrew verb used in Joshua 6:18 is cherem (חֵ֫רֶם) and it means dedicating or appointing something to utter destruction.

  • It came about when Joshua was by Jericho, he raised his eyes and . . . behold, a Man was standing opposite him with his sword drawn in his hand, and Joshua went to Him and said to Him, “Are you for us or for our enemies?”  He said, “No; rather I have come now as Commander of the army of YHVH.” And Joshua fell on his face to the ground, and bowed down, and said to him, “What has my Lord to say to His servant?” . . . But YHVH said to Joshua, “See, I have handed Jericho over to you, with its king and the valiant warriors. And you shall march around the city, all the men of war circling the city once. You shall do so for six days. Also, seven priests shall carry seven trumpets of rams’ horns in front of the ark; then on the seventh day you shall march around the city seven times, and the priests shall blow the trumpets. It shall be that when they make a long blast with the ram’s horn, and when you hear the sound of the trumpet, all the people shall shout with a great shout; and the wall of the city will fall down flat, and the people shall go up, everyone straight ahead” . . . And at the seventh time, when the priests blew the trumpets, Joshua said to the people, “Shout! For YHVH has given you the city. But the city shall be designated for destruction, it and everything that is in it belongs to YHVH” . . . They utterly destroyed everything in the city, both man and woman, young and old, and ox, sheep, and donkey, with the edge of the sword . . . Then Joshua made them take an oath at that time, saying, “Cursed before YHVH is the man who rises up and builds this city Jericho; with the loss of his firstborn, he will lay its foundation, and with the loss of his youngest son he will set up its gates (Joshua 5:13-6:5, 16-21, 26)

The person who gave Joshua this command is called the ‘Commander of the army of YHVH.’ In Joshua 6:2 He is called ‘YHVH.’ These are one and the same Person – Messiah Yeshua. It is Messiah Himself who gives Joshua the exact order of battle, and prophesies that the Israelites’ shout would supernaturally bring down the walls of Jericho. It is Messiah who commands Israel to put this first-of-all-conquered cities ‘under the ban’ – it would be dedicated to total destruction (see Leviticus 27:28-29 and Deuteronomy 13:16-17). Dr. Gleason Archer notes in his A Survey of Old Testament Introduction: “In view of the corrupting influence of the Canaanite religion, especially with its religious prostitution . . .  and infant sacrifice, it was impossible for pure faith and worship to be maintained in Israel except by the complete elimination of the Canaanites themselves” (see Revelation 18:20-21).

A modern generation might suggest that YHVH’s decisions were politically incorrect, and should be subject to challenge or censure by the U.N.  Perhaps then the Commander of YHVH’s armies might buckle and recant, if He were subject to superpower pressure?  But truth be told, moral and biblical decisions of such magnitude stand their ground in the face of secular relativism, Islamic anti-biblicism or Replacement Theology allegorizing.

Who is the strong horse today – Muhammad or YHVH and His people Israel?

The Hebrew Scriptures declares that “YHVH is a warrior! YHVH is His name!” (see Exodus 15:3). His actual name is important to the whole story: in Exodus 3:15, the God of Jacob tells Moses: “This is what you shall say to the sons of Israel: ‘YHVH, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you. This is My name forever, and this is the name for all generations to use to call upon Me.’”

The Hebrew Scriptures proclaim that YHVH is the only God; there is no other Savior (see Isaiah 45:20-23).

The Psalmist declares that “YHVH is great, and greatly to be praised. He is to be feared above all gods. For all the gods of the peoples are idols, but YHVH made the heavens” (Psalm 96:4-5).

Paul teaches that the worship of any so-called deity whose name is name is not YHVH or Messiah Yeshua, is actually the worship of a demon (1 Corinthians 8:4-6 and 1 Corinthians 10:20). The Hebrew Bible clearly states that God’s name is a Hebrew one and not an Arabic one. It certainly is not the name of a tribal deity once worshipped by Mohammed’s family in Mecca in a public chapel along with 359 other spirits.

In the Middle East, history has proved time and again that Israel must respond with overwhelming force and destructive power to Sodom-like provocations.

Lt. Col. (res.) Dr. Mordechai Kedar, senior research associate at the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies, served for 25 years in IDF military intelligence specializing in Syria, Arab political discourse and mass media, Islamic groups and Israeli Arabs. An expert on the Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamist groups, his take on these developments is worth reading: “Given Islam’s pervasive entrenchment in Palestinian society (and for that matter in all Middle Eastern societies) – even Yasser Arafat and most of the PLO’s founding generation were Muslim Brotherhood members in their young age – the acceptance of Israel’s existence by Muslims communities, both within Israel and abroad, will only be feasible upon their realization of the Jewish state’s overwhelming strength and invincibility. Only a powerful, well organized, highly determined and militarily invincible Israel can stand a chance of surviving in its violent and merciless neighborhood.”

This can be described as ‘the strong horse’ principle. In mid-November 2001, Osama Bin Laden spoke to a room of supporters, discussing the 9/11 terrorist attacks: “When people see a strong horse and a weak horse, by nature, they will like the strong horse. This is [the] only goal . . . following the doctrine of Muhammad.” Bin Laden saw Islam as the strong horse, and Christian America as the weak horse.

Investigative reporter Lee Smith based the name of his book The Strong Horse: Power, Politics, and the Clash of Arab Civilizations on Osama bin Laden’s above-mentioned quote. In this work, Smith states that strength or “violence is central to the politics, society, and culture of the Arabic-speaking Middle East, and that Arab politics is driven by the ‘strong horse’ principle.” “Bin Ladenism is not drawn from the extremist fringe but represents the political and social norm [of the Arabic-speaking Middle East].”

Agreeing with Dr. Kedar’s appraisal, Daniel Pipes (Director of the Middle East Forum and Taube distinguished visiting Fellow at the Hoover Institution of Stanford University) applies Bin Laden’s ‘strong horse’ principle to Israel’s role in the Middle East. Israel serves as “a proxy strong horse” for both the United States and the Saudi-Egyptian bloc in the latter’s Cold War rivalry with Iran’s bloc. Pipes outlines the policies of non-Arab actors in the Arab world – unless they are forceful and show true staying power, they lose. “Being nice – say, withdrawing unilaterally from southern Lebanon and Gaza – leads to inevitable failure.  More broadly, when the U.S. government flinches, others (e.g., the Iranian leadership) have an opportunity to ‘force their own order on the region.’ Walid Jumblatt, a Lebanese Druze leader, has half-seriously suggested that Washington [should] ‘send car bombs to Damascus’ to get its message across and signal its understanding of Arab ways.” Pipes concludes that Lee Smith’s ‘strong horse’ paradigm helps us to comprehend the Arabs’ cult of death, honor killings, terrorist attacks, despotism and warfare. Pipes acknowledges that the strong-horse principle may strike Westerners as extremely crude, but he correctly insists on its being a cold reality that outsiders must recognize, take into account, and respond to.

The vengeance of YHVH

Some believers have been taught that vengeance is an ungodly thing. Believers are supposed to only turn the other cheek and suffer. There is no question that sometimes suffering is an integral part of faith, even as Yeshua suffered. At the same time, the Scriptures bring more balance to the equation, showing that YHVH takes vengeance on the enemies of Israel, and that the Jewish people are to call out to God, asking Him to take His vengeance on the Jewish people’s foes:

  • Raise your battle cry against [Babylon] on every side! She has given herself up, her towers have fallen. Her walls have been torn down. For this is the vengeance of YHVH! Take vengeance on her! As she has done to others, so do to her (Jeremiah 50:15)
  • “But I will repay Babylon and all the inhabitants of Chaldea for all their evil that they have done in Zion before your eyes,” declares YHVH. (Jeremiah 51:24)
  • “May the violence done to me and to my flesh be upon Babylon,” the inhabitant of Zion will say; And, “May my blood be upon the inhabitants of Chaldea,” Jerusalem will say. Therefore, this is what YHVH says: “Behold, I am going to plead your case and take vengeance for you. And I will dry up her sea and make her fountain dry” (Jeremiah 51:35-36)
  • Indeed, Babylon is to fall for the slain of Israel, as the slain of all the earth have also fallen for Babylon (Jeremiah 51:49)
  • And I will inflict My vengeance on Edom by the hand of My people Israel. Therefore, they will act in Edom in accordance with My anger and My wrath. So they will know My vengeance, declares the Lord YHVH (Ezekiel 25:14)

The battles going on in Gaza between the Israel Defense Forces and the jihadi terrorists known as Hamas and Islamic Jihad, pit the forces of darkness, terror, violence and deception against YHVH, the God of the armies of Israel, as King David declares: “But David said to the Philistine, ‘You come to me with a sword, a spear, and a saber, but I come to you in the name of YHVH of armies, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied!’” (1 Samuel 17:45).

How should we then pray?

As IDF tanks are rolling in Gaza, here are some bullet points to be praying about:

  • Pray for victory for the IDF as they dismantle Hamas HQs, tunnels, mines, commando teams wherever they are located – even beside mosques and schools or under major hospitals
  • Pray for clarity of strategy, purpose and resolve for Israel to achieve the total and unconditional surrender of Hamas and Islamic Jihad, and their total removal from Gaza
  • Pray for Israel’s leaders to withstand international pressure so that Hamas can finally be removed from its cruel terror dictatorship in Gaza
  • Pray for minimal loss of life on Israel’s side and for those Gazans who are truly innocent
  • Pray for God’s strategies and leading regarding how to deal with Hezbollah, and for the God of Jacob to hold back regional war if possible, involving Hezbollah, Syria, Iran, Turkey, the Yemenite Houthis and other superpowers
  • Pray for the physical rescue of the at least 242 Israelis (including babies) kidnapped by Hamas
  • Pray for the raising up of Ezekiel’s prophetic Jewish army throughout the earth