One of the “cities of the District” probably located near the southern end of the Dead Sea. (Gen. 13:12) Sodom and Gomorrah were apparently the chief of these cities. Their ruins are believed to be presently submerged under the waters of the Dead Sea, which now cover what in Abraham’s time was described as “a well-watered region . . . like the Garden of Jehovah.” (Gen. 13:10; see DISTRICT OF THE JORDAN.) During the time that Lot, Abraham’s nephew, resided in this fertile District, King Birsha of Gomorrah along with the kings of four other cities of the District rebelled against the domination of Chedorlaomer of Elam and three other allied kings. They were attacked and defeated, however, some of their soldiers falling into the numerous bitumen pits in the area. Sodom and Gomorrah were sacked by the Eastern kings, who took Lot captive.—Gen. 14:1-12.
More than thirteen years later (Gen. 16:15, 16; 17:1), the outcry of complaint about the wickedness of Sodom and Gomorrah became so great that Jehovah sent angels to inspect and to destroy them by a rain of fire and sulphur.—Gen. 18:20, 21; 19:24, 28.
The thoroughness of the destruction of these cities was afterward used as a symbol of complete and everlasting annihilation. (Deut. 29:22, 23; Isa. 1:9; 13:19; Jer. 49:18) Jehovah figuratively expressed the depth of wickedness to which the rulers and people of Judah and Jerusalem had sunk when he addressed them through the prophet Isaiah: “Hear the word of Jehovah, you dictators of Sodom. Give ear to the law of our God, you people of Gomorrah.”—Isa. 1:1, 10; Jer. 23:14.
The apostle Peter said that by reducing Sodom and Gomorrah to ashes God condemned them, “setting a pattern for ungodly persons of things to come.” (2 Pet. 2:6) This mention by Peter and references by Jesus Christ and Jude prove that Jesus and his disciples acknowledged these cities of the District as actually having existed, and that they accepted the Biblical account of them as true. Though the cities underwent “the judicial punishment of everlasting fire” (Jude 7), Jesus indicated that people of Sodom and Gomorrah would experience a resurrection to stand for judgment. He contrasted them with a city that rejected his disciples in their preaching of the Kingdom good news, saying: “It will be more endurable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah on Judgment Day than for that city.”—Matt. 10:7, 14, 15.