And the LORD said,
Because the cry of Sodom and Gomorrah is great, and because their sin is very grave;
Read Chapter 18
Caesarius of Arles
Now let us see what he means by saying, “I descended to see whether they have done all that the outcry which has come to me indicates; if not, I will know.” Because of this, pagans, and especially the exceedingly foul Manichaeans, are wont to assail us by saying, “Behold, the God of the law did not know what was being done in Sodom.” Now we reply with sound understanding and say that God knows the just in one way and sinners in another. What is said concerning the just? “The Lord knows who are his.” What is said about sinners? “Depart from me, all you workers of iniquity; I do not know you.” Moreover, the apostle Paul says, “If anyone is the Lord’s, he knows what I am saying; if anyone ignores this, he shall be ignored.” What does it mean, then, “I do not know you”? “I do not recognize you in my pattern; I do not recognize my image in you. My justice knows something to punish in you, but my mercy does not find anything to crown.” For this reason if one’s actions are unworthy of God, on...
It was not that God, who had just said, “their sins were very grave,” did not know that they had sinned. This was an example to judges not to prejudge a case, even based on very reliable hearsay. For if he who knows all set aside his knowledge lest he exact vengeance without full knowledge before the trial, how much more should they set aside their ignorance and not effect judgment before the case is heard.
Then, to teach the whole human race that even if their sins are exceedingly great and confessed to be such, he does not pronounce sentence before proof is manifest, he says, “I am going down to see if their deeds correspond to the outcry reaching me, so as to know if it is true or not.” What is meant by the deliberation of the expression? “I am going down to see if their deeds correspond to the outcry reaching me, so as to know if it is true or not.” What is meant by the considerateness of the expression? “I am going down to see.” I mean, does the God of all move from place to place? No indeed! It doesn’t mean this; instead, as I have often remarked, he wants to teach us by the concreteness of the expression that there is need to apply precision and that sinners are not condemned on hearsay nor is sentence pronounced without proof.
The cry of Sodom and Gomorrah is multiplied, he said. Well did he say that sins can cry out. Great surely is the cry of sinners as it mounts from earth to heaven. But why does he say that the sins of people cry out? It is because God says his ears are assaulted by the cries of our sins that the punishment of sinners be not delayed. Truly is it a cry, and the cry is great when the love of God is overpowered by the cries of sins to the extent that he is forced to punish the sinners. The Lord shows how unwilling he is to punish even the gravest sinners when he said that the cry of Sodom ascended to him. This means: My mercy urges me to spare them, but the cry of their sins compels me to punish them.