I recently ran across an interesting gem which adds another dimension to the preaching account of John the Baptist recorded in Matt. 3:1-13 and Luke 3:1-9. Both records indicate that John’s preaching circuit took place in the region of the Jordan – ἡ περίχωρος τοῦ Ἰορδάνου (Matt. 3:5; cf. Luke 3:3). This exact phrase shows up twice in, what I think is, a deliberate parallel. It comes from the passage in Genesis 13:10-13:
Lot lifted up his eyes and saw all the valley of the Jordan (τὴν περίχωρον τοῦ Ιορδάνου), that it was well watered everywhere– this was before the LORD destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah– like the garden of the LORD, like the land of Egypt as you go to Zoar. So Lot chose for himself all the valley of the Jordan (τὴν περίχωρον τοῦ Ιορδάνου), and Lot journeyed eastward. Thus they separated from each other. Abram settled in the land of Canaan, while Lot settled in the cities of the valley, and moved his tents as far as Sodom. Now the men of Sodom were wicked exceedingly and sinners against the LORD.
If attentive readers of the passage in Matthew and Luke made the connection with Gen. 13:10-13, then they would likely connect the ‘region of the Jordan’ with the Sodom and Gomorrah incident. Genesis even tells the reader in 13:10 that the LORD eventually destroys the cities, even though that account does not come until chapter 19. You may recall that Lot was spared because of his relationship to Abraham, and then only by the skin of his teeth.
With this in mind, I find the kerygma of John the Baptist to be rather interesting. He is in the same region at the Sodom and Gomorrah incident. He preaches repentance and the coming wrath which will, coincidentally, involve a judgment with fire, just like the fires of judgment mentioned in Genesis 19. John tells his audience that they should not presume that their relationship to Abraham would grant them immunity in the coming judgment, as it did with Lot. No, they should produce fruit worthy of repentance.
What do you think? Is it likely that John the Baptist is drawing on the memory of Sodom and Gomorrah in his preaching?