brimstone and fire

Genesis 19:24

19:24 brimstone and fire. The precise nature of the physical agents used by God in the destruction of the five cities of the plain is uncertain. “Brimstone” is usually associated with sulfur, but the word may be used for any inflammable substance. The word “fire” is also used here for the first time in the Bible and could be understood either as a divine fire (as in Judges 6:21; I Kings 18:38; etc.) or as gases and other combustibles ignited in a volcanic explosion falling to earth after their eruption. The entire region gives abundant evidence of tremendous volcanic activity in the past, although most of this probably antedated Abraham, occurring in the later stages of the Flood and in the early decades following the Flood. The area is still very active tectonically, lying astride the “Great Rift Valley,” extending all the way from the Jordan River Valley into southern Africa. Unless the judgment was entirely miraculous, in its physical nature as well as its timing, the most likely explanation seems to be the sudden release, by an earthquake and volcanic explosion of great quantities of gas, sulfur and bituminous materials that had accumulated from materials entrapped beneath the valley floor during the Flood. These were ignited by a simultaneous electrical storm, so that it appeared to Abraham, watching from afar, that “the smoke of the country went up as the smoke of a furnace” (Genesis 19:28).

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