Genesis 19:28
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.
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(28) Lo, the smoke of the country (really, land) went up as the smoke of a furnace.—The substitution of the word country for land is confusing. It was the land of the Ciccar, just mentioned, which was in flames. As Abraham could see the Ciccar, it must have been at the northern end of the Dead Sea (see Note on Genesis 18:16); and as a violent conflagration was raging throughout it, the site of the cities could not have been submerged (see Note on Genesis 14:3). The violence of the fire is indicated by the last word, which is not the ordinary word for a furnace, but means a kiln, such as that used for burning chalk into lime, or for melting ores of metal.

19:1-29 Lot was good, but there was not one more of the same character in the city. All the people of Sodom were very wicked and vile. Care was therefore taken for saving Lot and his family. Lot lingered; he trifled. Thus many who are under convictions about their spiritual state, and the necessity of a change, defer that needful work. The salvation of the most righteous men is of God's mercy, not by their own merit. We are saved by grace. God's power also must be acknowledged in bringing souls out of a sinful state If God had not been merciful to us, our lingering had been our ruin. Lot must flee for his life. He must not hanker after Sodom. Such commands as these are given to those who, through grace, are delivered out of a sinful state and condition. Return not to sin and Satan. Rest not in self and the world. Reach toward Christ and heaven, for that is escaping to the mountain, short of which we must not stop. Concerning this destruction, observe that it is a revelation of the wrath of God against sin and sinners of all ages. Let us learn from hence the evil of sin, and its hurtful nature; it leads to ruin.Abraham rises early on the following morning, to see what had become of the city for which he had interceded so earnestly, and views from afar the scene of smoking desolation. Remembering Abraham, who was Lot's uncle, and had him probably in mind in his importunate pleading, God delivered Lot from this awful overthrow. The Eternal is here designated by the name Elohim, the Everlasting, because in the war of elements in which the cities were overwhelmed, the eternal potencies of his nature were signally displayed.27. Abraham gat up early in the morning, &c.—Abraham was at this time in Mamre, near Hebron, and a traveller last year verified the truth of this passage. "From the height which overlooks Hebron, where the patriarch stood, the observer at the present day has an extensive view spread out before him towards the Dead Sea. A cloud of smoke rising from the plain would be visible to a person at Hebron now, and could have been, therefore, to Abraham as he looked toward Sodom on the morning of its destruction by God" [Hackett]. It must have been an awful sight, and is frequently alluded to in Scripture (De 29:23; Isa 13:19; Jude 7). "The plain which is now covered by the Salt or Dead Sea shows in the great difference of level between the bottoms of the northern and southern ends of the lake—the latter being thirteen feet and the former thirteen hundred—that the southern end was of recent formation, and submerged at the time of the fall of the cities" [Lynch]. No text from Poole on this verse.

And he looked toward Sodom and Gomorrah, and toward all the land of the plain,.... To see how it fared with them: very probably the Lord had hinted it to him, that the destruction would be that morning, and therefore he rose early, got to the place bearly, and being on an eminence, looked wistly to see if he could observe any sign of it:

and beheld, and, lo, the smoke of the country went up as the smoke of a furnace; after the fiery shower was over, and the cities burnt down, the smoke ascended toward heaven, as the smoke of mystical Babylon will do, Revelation 19:3; like the reek of a boiling cauldron; or, as Jarchi, like the smoke of a lime kiln always burning.

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.
28. the smoke of the land] The word is one used especially in connexion with incense and sacrifice. It is not the usual word for smoke, but rather corresponds to our “reek” or, as Driver, “steam.” Travellers relate that, owing to rapid evaporation, there always appears a steamy mist rising up from the Dead Sea. Wis 10:6-7, “While the ungodly were perishing, wisdom delivered a righteous man, when he fled from the fire that descended out of heaven on Pentapolis. To whose wickedness a smoking waste still witnesseth … Yea and a disbelieving soul hath a memorial there, a pillar of salt still standing.”

a furnace] The word used in Exodus 9:8; Exodus 9:10; Exodus 19:18, “a furnace,” or “kiln,” for burning lime, or making bricks.

29 (P). when God destroyed, &c.] This verse contains P’s brief summary of the whole event. This will explain the repetition of the narrative, and the sudden substitution of “God” (Elohim) for “the Lord” (Jehovah). The expression “God remembered Abraham” would otherwise seem strange after the narrative in 18; but, as a matter of fact, the sentence probably followed after Genesis 13:12, with P’s account of the separation of Abram and Lot. For “destroyed” (shâḥath), cf. Genesis 6:13; Genesis 6:17, Genesis 9:11; Genesis 9:15 (P).

Verse 28. - And he looked toward - literally, towards the face, or visible side (cf. Genesis 18:16 where the same phrase is employed to describe the act of the angels on leaving Mamre) - Sodom and Gomorrah, and toward all the land of the plain, or Jordan circle. The cities of the plain are commonly believed to have been situated at the southern extremity of the Dead Sea, The principal reasons assigned for this conclusion may be stated.

1. Josephus and Jerome, the one representing Jewish, and the other Christian, tradition, both speak of a Zoar as existing in that locality.

2. The difference of level between the northern and southern ends of the lake, the one according to Lynch being 1300 feet, and the other not more than 16 feet, seems to favor the idea that the latter is of recent formation, having been, in fact, submerged at the time of the overthrow of the cities.

3. A ridge of rock-salt on the west of the Yale of Salt is called by the name Jebel Usdum, in which a trace of the word Sodom is by some detected; and the pillars of salt that in that region have from time to time been detached from the salt cliffs have been designated by the name of Lot's wife (Bint Sheikh Lot).

4. The statement of Genesis 14:3 appears to imply that the Salt Sea now covers what was originally the vale of Siddim.

5. The expression "like the land of Egypt as thou comest to Zoar" (Genesis 13:10) is suggestive rather of the southern than of the northern extremity of the lake as the site of the Pentapolis. It may be added that this opinion has received the sanction of Robinson, Stanley, Porter, Thomson (The Land and the Book), and other eminent geographers. On the other hand, there are reasons for believing that the true site of the cities was at the north, and not the south, of the Dead Sea.

1. The circle of the Jordan was visible from the Bethel plateau (Genesis 13:10); the southern extremity of the Dead Sea is not.

2. From the heights above Hebron or Mature, though the actual circle is not visible, "yet the depression between the nearer hills and those of Gilead can be perceived, and Abraham could at once identify the locality whence the smoke arose," after Sodom's burning.

3. Chedorlaomer's route (Genesis 14:7-14) was from Kadesh to Hazezon-tamar, midway up the western shore of the Dead Sea, from Hazezon-tamar to the vale of Siddim, and from Siddim to Dan, the natural conclusion being that on reaching Hazezon-tamar he did not turn southward, but continued marching northwards.

4. Moses from Mount Nebo (Deuteronomy 34:3) beheld"' the south, and the plain of the valley of Jericho, the city of palm trees, unto Zoar," which was certainly possible if Zoar was in the line of vision with the plain and the city of Jericho, but as certainly impossible if it was at the southern extremity of the lake This view has been advocated by Grove (Smith's 'Biblical Dictionary,' art. ZONE) and by Tristram ('Land of Israel,' pp. 354-358, and 'Land of Moab,' pp. 330-334), and has been adopted by Drew ('Imp.' 'Bible Dict.,' art. Sodom), Dykes ('Abraham, the Friend of God,' p. 185), and Inglis ('Genesis, p. 168). And beheld, and, lo, the smoke of the country went up as the smoke of a (literally, of the) furnace. Thus the appalling catastrophe proclaimed its reality to Abraham; to subsequent ages it stamped a witness of its severity

(1) upon the region itself, in the bleak and desolate aspect it has ever since possessed;

(2) upon the page of inspiration, being by subsequent Scripture writers constantly referred to as a standing, warning against incurring the Almighty s wrath (Deuteronomy 29:22; Isaiah 13:19; Jeremiah 49:18; Lamentations 4:6; Amos 4:11; 2 Peter 2:6; Jude 1:7); and

(3) upon the course of ancient tradition, which it powerfully affected. Cf. Tacitus, 'Hist.,' 5:7: "Hand procul inde eampi, quos ferunt olim uberes, magnisque urbibus habitatos, fulminum jaetu arsisse; et manere vestigia; terramque ipsam specie torridam vim frugiferam perdidisse; nam cuncta atra et inania velut in cinerem vanescunt. Ego, sicut inelitas quondam urbes igne celesti flagrasse concesserim." For traditional notices of this event by Diodorus Siculus, Strabo, Pliny, Ovid, &c. vide Rosenmüller (Scholia I. Genesis 19:25). Genesis 19:28On the way, Lot's wife, notwithstanding the divine command, looked "behind him away," - i.e., went behind her husband and looked backwards, probably from a longing for the house and the earthly possessions she had left with reluctance (cf. Luke 17:31-32), - and "became a pillar of salt." We are not to suppose that she was actually turned into one, but having been killed by the fiery and sulphureous vapour with which the air was filled, and afterwards encrusted with salt, she resembled an actual statue of salt; just as even now, from the saline exhalation of the Dead Sea, objects near it are quickly covered with a crust of salt, so that the fact, to which Christ refers in Luke 17:32, may be understood without supposing a miracle.

(Note: But when this pillar of salt is mentioned in Wis. 11:7 and Clemens ad Cor. xi. as still in existence, and Josephus professes to have seen it, this legend is probably based upon the pillar-like lumps of salt, which are still to be seen at Mount Usdum (Sodom), on the south-western side of the Dead Sea.)

- In Genesis 19:27, Genesis 19:28, the account closes with a remark which points back to Genesis 18:17., viz., that Abraham went in the morning to the place where he had stood the day before, interceding with the Lord for Sodom, and saw how the judgment had fallen upon the entire plain, since the smoke of the country went up like the smoke of a furnace. Yet his intercession had not been in vain.

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