Then the Lord said, "The outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is so great and their sin so grievous that I will go down and see if what they have done is as bad as the outcry that has reached me. If not, I will know.” (Genesis 18:20-21)
“The outcry… is so great…” and “…the outcry that has reached me." The narrative of Genesis says that God was alerted to the unjust condition of Sodom and Gomorrah. God was alerted by an outcry. The outcry that God heard was a cry of accusation against Sodom and Gomorrah. It was a cry for deliverance from the unjust and unrighteous way of life of the societies of Sodom and Gomorrah. We see how these accusations are supported by the way that the men of Sodom and Gomorrah seek to treat the angelic visitors. This way of life also seems to have also infiltrated Lot’s way of living by how he offers his daughters as sexual sacrifices.
But who was the whistleblower? Who raised their voice against Sodom and Gomorrah? The text of the narrative does not really say. It just says than an outcry was made against Sodom and Gomorrah.
Now, even though the text of Genesis 18 does not mention the specific origin of the outcry, that does not mean that the Bible does not hint at the source in other ways. Knowing what we know about the character of the people from Sodom and Gomorrah, it is not beyond our imagination to conceive of someone who had been treated unjustly by the people of these societies. Someone who finally said “enough!” and, out of frustration and pain, cried-out for someone to bring about justice for the evil perpetrated.
This situation is not far-fetched by biblical standards. Not too much further in the story of the Bible, the cries of the Israelites will ring-out from the oppression they receive at the hands of the Egyptians. If the cries of the people of Israel in Egypt, grab God’s attention, it is possible other’s cries also grab God’s attention.
But, if it was not a specific oppressed person (or persons) who made the cry against Sodom and Gomorrah, there is another possible explanation. Think back to the account of Cain and Abel in Genesis 4. After Cain kills Abel, and God confronts Cain about his actions. God asks Cain, “Where is your brother Abel?” Cain responds to God by saying, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” God then responds, “…your brother’s blood cried out to me from the ground.”
In the situation with Cain and Abel, God’s attention was grabbed by the outcry that came from the blood of Abel that lay on the ground. The language used for the outcry mentioned with Cain and Abel, in Genesis 4, is similar to the language used in the story of Sodom and Gomorrah, in Genesis 18. It is very likely that the cry that came against Sodom and Gomorrah came not from a human, but from the rest of creation.
Being humans, we often think that we are the only aspect of creation that matters. Biblically, this is a short-sighted worldview. Biblically, God is shown to care for all of his creation, not just humans. Granted, humans have a unique role in creation, having been made in God’s image. But, the fact is, humans are not the whole of creation. And, in some way that I don’t completely understand (and not in an animistic* way), the non-human created realm also matters to God. There is an inherent value to all of creation. And, when creation (whether human or non-human) suffers, God cares.
As we reflect on the account of Sodom and Gomorrah, we see that God cares for creation when it is treated unjustly. And we see that God wants to be intimately near his creation when it is hurting; and desires to do something about the injustice perpetrated. God hears the outcry of injustice happening in Sodom and Gomorrah, and in some manifested way through the angelic visitors, comes to see the injustice in person. And, as we see the story of Sodom and Gomorrah play-out, we also see that God does not let the injustice go un-dealt-with.
Fast-forward to our lives today, and I’m guessing that most of us currently have or have experienced a time when we were the recipients of injustice and oppression. We also cry-out to God for deliverance. We long for God’s presence to be near us in times like this.
The story of Sodom and Gomorrah reminds us that God is attentive to his creation. God desires deliverance from injustice and evil. God desires to be near his creation in the midst of it’s suffering and pain. Ultimately, the story of Sodom and Gomorrah is a preview of the fullest sense in which God will come to be near his creation — the incarnation — the coming of God to earth in the birth and life of Jesus.
May the story of Sodom and Gomorrah be a reminder, not just of the judgment that comes against sin and evil, but all the more a reminder of the beautiful characteristics of God — his attentiveness, care, and concern for all of creation (including your life and mine), all of the time.
* The idea that all of nature has a soul, or is spiritual or inhabited by God.