Q: #513. What is brimstone in the Bible?
A: Brimstone is mentioned 15 times in the Bible (KJV). The Hebrew word gophriyth is used 7 times for “brimstone” in the Old Testament, and the Greek word theion is used 7 times in the New Testament. (Theiodes is used in once in Rev 9:17.) Most agree that “brimstone” is the same as what we call “sulfur” or “sulphur” today. (Some modern translations [i.e. NIV, ESV, NLT] use “sulfur” instead of “brimstone.”)
Sulfur is a yellow colored mineral that is highly inflammable (easily set on fire). Many things we use today contain traces of sulfur, such as: gunpowder, car batteries, tires, medicines, matches, paint, and more…. When sulfur / brimstone is ignited, it burns in a dark blue color, and emits a terrible smell, which smells like rotten eggs. (Back in my younger days, someone I knew burned sulfur, and I still remember this smell.) Breathing in the fumes of burning sulfur in high quantities can be toxic. Sulfur can also be found in the lava of volcanoes, in hot springs, and the smell can sometimes be detected after a lightning storm.
***Note: There is a short video floating around online of a brimstone / sulfur fire in Wyoming that is fascinating and mesmerizing to watch. It looks like a lake on fire. (Search: “sulfur fire in Wyoming”)
Perhaps the most famous mention of “brimstone” in the Bible is in (Gen 19:1-26), when God “rained brimstone and fire….out of heaven,” and destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah (Gen 19:24) because of their wickedness (homosexuality / sodomy) being the primary sin) (also see: Lk 17:29). How this occurred is up for debate. (***Note: Some ancient sources say lightning.)
In addition to this incident, brimstone is connected with God’s judgment in other places too (Deut 29:23)(Ps 11:6)(Isa 30:33)(Isa 34:9)(Ezek 38:22)(Rev 9:17-18). The ultimate judgment is found in the book of Revelation, where we find the “lake of fire,” which “burns with fire and brimstone” (Rev 14:10)(Rev 19:20)(Rev 20:10)(Rev 21:8). This will be the eternal final destination for the devil, his angels, and all humans who followed him (those who did not accept Jesus as their Lord and Savior: Rev 21:6-8).
***Note: Today, it is believed by many scientists that the remains of Sodom and Gomorrah lie near the south end of the Dead Sea. This area has very high concentrations of brimstone.