Then the Lord rained upon Sodom, and upon Gomorrah, brimstone
and fire from the Lord out of heaven.
] And not upon those two cities only, but upon Admah and Zeboiim also, see ( Deuteronomy 29:23 ) ; this was not a common storm of thunder and lightning, with which often there is a smell of sulphur or brimstone; but this was a continued shower of sulphurous fire, or of burning flaming brimstone, which at once consumed those cities and the inhabitants of them; and the land adjacent being bituminous, or however some parts of it, full of slimepits, or pits of bitumen, a liquid of a pitchy quality, ( Genesis 14:10 ) ; this flaming sulphur falling thereon, must burn in a most fierce and furious manner; and which utterly consumed not only houses, goods, and everything upon the land, but the land itself, and turned it into a bituminous lake, called to this day, from thence, the Lake Asphaltites, the Greek word for bitumen being "asphaltos". Of this conflagration some Heathen writers speak, as particularly Tacitus F6 who says, some large and famous cities, or, as some copies have it, Jewish ones, not far from Jordan, were struck with thunderbolts, and were fired "igni ceolesti", with fire from heaven, and were consumed; and so Solinus F7 relates, that,
``at some distance from Jerusalem, a sorrowful lake appears, which the black ground testifies was stricken by heaven and turned into ashes; where were two towns, the one called Sodomum, the other Gomorrum.''This was a righteous judgment on those cities, and a just retaliation for their sin; their sin was an unnatural one, and nature is inverted to punish them, fire comes down from heaven, or hell from heaven, as Salvian's words are, to consume them; they burned with lusts one against another, and flaming sheets of sulphurous fire fall upon them, burn and destroy them; and, in allusion to this terrible conflagration, hell is called the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, ( Jude 1:7 ) ( Revelation 20:14 Revelation 20:15 ) ( 21:8 ) ; and this destruction was brought upon them by Jehovah the Son of God, who had appeared to Abraham in an human form, and gave him notice of it, and heard all he had to plead for those cities, and then departed from him to Sodom, and was the author of this sad catastrophe; this amazing shower of fire and brimstone was rained by him from Jehovah his Father, out of heaven; so the Targums of Jonathan and Jerusalem both call him, the Word of the Lord.
F6 Hist. l. 5. c. 7.
F7 Polyhistor. c. 48.