Summary: Did Sodom and Gomorrah exist? Were they destroyed as Scripture says they were (short answer: yes, and yes). And what lessons can we learn from this story from Genesis?
OPEN: Just like today, back in 1690s Jamaica was an island paradise. Palm trees in the sand, tropical breezes, beautiful beaches. People of wealth sought it out then just like they do now. And many of them built huge mansions at a town called Port Royal. Now, Port Royal wasn’t a “tourist trap.” It was a Pirate city - hailed as the “17th Century Sodom.” And those who lived back then knew it as one of the wickedest and most depraved cities on earth.
If you could think of something evil people would do… they did it. But then - in 1692 – God came down and brought judgement on Port Royal. In the space of less than 10 minutes, the thriving sea port was shaken by 3 earthquakes (one of which at about 7.6 on the Richter scale) which was followed by a tsunami. Port Royal literally sank into the Caribbean, never to rise again.
An eyewitness described the scene: "The earth heaved and swelled like the rolling billows, and in many places the earth crack'd open, open'd and shut, with a motion quick and fast. In some of these people were swallowed up, in others they were caught by the middle, and pressed to death. The whole was attended with the noise of falling mountains at a distance, while the sky was turned dull and reddish, like a glowing oven"
Of the city’s population of approximately 6500 people about 2000 died in earthquakes and tsunami. Afterwards, lacking of shelter and clean water, nearly 3000 more died of disease. The people of Jamaica were so shaken by what took place, and they were so convinced that it was God who’d destroyed the city that a religious revival swept through the island and they promptly outlawed piracy. To this day, many Jamaicans believe that Port Royal's destruction was the price exacted by an angry God for its sins. (Reader's Digest 5/69 p.192ff)
They called it the 17th Century Sodom. Someone else referred to it as the Sodom of the West. Now, why would they do that? Why would they refer to this city as… Sodom? Well they did that, because Port Royal’s sinfulness and destruction sounded a lot like the story of Sodom in the Bible. In the Bible, Sodom is synonymous with wickedness… and judgment.
The Prophet Isaiah wrote: “Babylon, the jewel of kingdoms, the glory of the Babylonians’ pride, will be overthrown by God like Sodom and Gomorrah.” Isaiah 13:19
Jude 7 declared that: “just as Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding cities, which likewise indulged in sexual immorality and pursued unnatural desire, serve as an example by undergoing a punishment of eternal fire.”
Peter agreed – in 2 Peter 2:6 we’re told “by turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah to ashes (God) condemned them to extinction, making them an example of what is going to happen to the ungodly”
And Jesus said that His coming would be like "the days of Lot. People were eating and drinking, buying and selling, planting and building. But the day Lot left Sodom, fire and sulphur rained down from heaven and destroyed them all.” Luke 17:28-29
Sodom is mentioned 26 times outside of Genesis in Scripture. And it’s spoken of as a place that had existed and stood for God’s judgment.
But, did Sodom and Gomorrah actually exist? And were they actually destroyed as Genesis describes? For a long time skeptics would scoff and say “Nahhh, I don’t think so.” But they don’t say that anymore. In late 1960s archaeologists found the ruins of a major city in the area called “Ebla.” Over 4000 years ago, Ebla was a major merchant center with a population of more than a ¼ million people. And there, archaeologists found tablets written about 800 yrs. before Moses written in a language very much like ancient Hebrew. And on these tablets were the names of various cities throughout Palestine. Places like Joppa, Damascus, Gaza… and Sodom and Gomorrah. (Reader's Digest 6/78 p.89ff, and Eddie Snipes - Sermoncentral.com)
Nowadays NOBODY questions whether these cities existed. They’ve discovered that these cities lay along a major merchant route of the day (the King’s Highway). Up until a few years ago, many scholars thought these cities lay underneath Dead Sea, but more recently, they believe they’ve found their remains to the West and South of the Dead Sea.
ILLUS: A few months ago, I read about certain archaeologists have found strong evidence about these cities and how they were destroyed. They stated that the evidence from radiocarbon dating indicates that a group of civilizations flourished in the area for over two millennia, until approximately 1700 BC, when the mud-brick walls of the buildings in the region simultaneously disappeared and only the stone foundations remained.
At the same time, the pottery in the settlements was heated into glass in the space of milliseconds, according to the results of an analysis of the Zircon crystals formed in the process, indicating that they were briefly exposed to temperatures of approximately 4000 to 12000 degrees Celsius, comparable to the temperature of the surface of the sun.