From time to time we see the destructive forces of God and nature wreak havoc and death on unsuspecting, or unwitting, populations. In the Bible we see events that are clearly described as the judgment of God, and in history and modern times we wonder if natural disasters have any bearing on the Divine. Today is the anniversary of one of the most famous of all such disasters.
“Ash was falling onto the ships now, darker and denser the closer they went. Now it was bits of pumice, and rocks that were blackened and burned and shattered by the fire.” – Pliny the Younger, describing the eruption of Mount Vesuvius
On August 24, in the year 79 AD, Mount Vesuvius erupted raining fire and ash upon the cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum in the Roman Empire. You can read the letters of Pliny the Younger and his first hand account of the volcanic eruption here. While archeological excavations show that Pompeii and Herculaneum were opulent cities, actively engaging in gambling and prostitution, saying that such destruction was the hand of God is quite controversial. Most if not all Roman cities of the time engaged in such vices, yet only the cities at the base of a volcano were destroyed, signifying a natural disaster rather than an act of God. But believers of that day could point to another famous account of fire raining from the sky – the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah.
“Then the Lord rained brimstone and fire on Sodom and Gomorrah, from the Lord out of the heavens.” – Genesis 19:24 NKJV
The Biblical story of Sodom and Gomorrah is well-known, and today is confirmed by archeology. But we still wonder if the destruction of these cities, and the saving of Lot and his family, was the direct hand of God or the foreknowledge of God. When you read the account it seems that the destruction had a set time, yet when Lot requested to flee to Zoar instead of the mountains, the angels did say they would hold off the destruction until he was safely in the town. Thus we see God was in control.
As believers we understand that God knows all, and that He is able to do according to His will. As it was in the days of Sodom and Gomorrah, so it was in the days of Pompeii and Vesuvius, so it is in our day and time. What do you think? Is God in control or does nature follow its course on its own? Leave your comment below.
A broader article on the eruption of Mount Vesuvius on August 24, 79 AD can be found on The History Channel website.