What does Genesis 19:28 mean?
ESV: And he looked down toward Sodom and Gomorrah and toward all the land of the valley, and he looked and, behold, the smoke of the land went up like the smoke of a furnace.
NIV: He looked down toward Sodom and Gomorrah, toward all the land of the plain, and he saw dense smoke rising from the land, like smoke from a furnace.
NASB: 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.
CSB: He looked down toward Sodom and Gomorrah and all the land of the plain, and he saw that smoke was going up from the land like the smoke of a furnace.
NLT: He looked out across the plain toward Sodom and Gomorrah and watched as columns of smoke rose from the cities like smoke from a furnace.
KJV: And he looked toward Sodom and Gomorrah, and toward all the land of the plain, and beheld, and, lo, the smoke of the country went up as the smoke of a furnace.
NKJV: Then he looked toward Sodom and Gomorrah, and toward all the land of the plain; and he saw, and behold, the smoke of the land which went up like the smoke of a furnace.
Verse Commentary:
After securing from the Lord a promise not to destroy the city where his nephew lives if ten righteous people can be found there (Genesis 18:32), Abraham returns the next morning to the place where he and the Lord stood looking out over the plain the night before. What he sees is smoke. Abraham sees so much smoke rising from the valley where Sodom and Gomorrah once had been that it looks like the smoke of a furnace rising into the air.

Abraham would have understood, of course, that the Lord had destroyed the cities and the region. He would have understood that the Lord did not find even ten righteous men there. He may not have known yet, though, that the Lord did spare his nephew Lot and Lot's two daughters in the town of Zoar.

This is an important, often overlooked aspect of the story of Sodom and Gomorrah. Abraham worried that God's wrath was too extreme—the lack of righteous people proved this was untrue. Abraham was likely worried about the fate of his nephew, Lot—God's provision to rescue Lot proved that to be unfounded, as well. This story not only teaches us that God will judge sin and evil, but that He will do so in ways which are both fair and just, even though limited human beings cannot see all of the details He does.

This makes the story of Sodom and Gomorrah crucially relevant to the famous story of Abraham and his son, Isaac. When God commands Abraham to sacrifice Isaac in Genesis chapter 22, we need to remember the context of this very story. God proved to Abraham that He would not only act justly, but that He would provide for Abraham's welfare in ways Abraham himself had not considered. This earned trust, not blind faith, is what drives Abraham's obedience in that upcoming event.
Verse Context:
Genesis 19:23–29 describes the utter destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah with sulfur and fire. Based on prior descriptions in the book of Genesis, this devastation is both overdue and well-deserved. The Lord's judgment wipes out the cities, all of the valley, all of the people, and all of the vegetation. God demonstrates that He will judge humans for their sinfulness when the time is right. He also demonstrates His grace and mercy, however, remembering His promises to Abraham in rescuing Abraham's nephew Lot.
Chapter Summary:
Two angels, disguised as men, visit Abraham's nephew, Lot, in the city of Sodom. After the men of Sodom attempt to rape the angels in Lot's home, the angels rescue Lot and his family, forcibly removing them from the city. Then God sends fire and sulfur from heaven. This destroys all of the land and people in and around the cities. As stated in earlier verses, this is the result of their great and ongoing wickedness. Lot's wife is turned to a pillar of salt when she disobeys the angels by looking back on the destruction. Lot and his daughters flee first to Zoar, then to a cave in the hills. There, Lot's confused and frightened daughters get him drunk, have sex with him, and each become pregnant.
Chapter Context:
In the previous chapter, Abraham had bargained with God on behalf of his nephew Lot and the people of Sodom. The Lord assured Abraham He would not destroy the cities if He found ten righteous people there. Chapter 19 immediately demonstrates no righteous people are to be found. Every man of Sodom attempts to attack two visitors, who are God's angels in human form. As the angels rescue Lot, God's judgment falls, utterly destroying everything in the area around Sodom and Gomorrah. Lot and his daughters end up in a cave in the hills, where the daughters scheme to conceive children by making their father drunk. This ends Lot's role in the story of Genesis, with future chapters focusing exclusively on the life and descendants of Abraham.
Book Summary:
The book of Genesis establishes fundamental truths about God. Among these are His role as the Creator, His holiness, His hatred of sin, His love for mankind, and His willingness to provide for our redemption. We learn not only where mankind has come from, but why the world is in its present form. The book also presents the establishment of Israel, God's chosen people. Many of the principles given in other parts of Scripture depend on the basic ideas presented here in the book of Genesis. Within the framework of the Bible, Genesis explains the bare-bones history of the universe leading up to the captivity of Israel in Egypt, setting the stage for the book of Exodus.
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