Posted by: Alicia | November 22, 2008

Homosexuality and the Bible – Genesis 19:1-25

What was the sin of Sodom? Was it as many televangelists proclaim the “sin of homosexuality”? A careful look at scripture will correct this mis-interpretation.  Before we read the account of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, let’s read what leads up to it in Genesis 18:16-22.

God destroys Sodom and Gomorrah

God destroys Sodom and Gomorrah

  16 Then the men rose up from there, and looked down toward Sodom; and Abraham was walking with them to send them off. 17 The LORD said, “Shall I hide from Abraham what I am about to do, 18 since Abraham will surely become a great and mighty nation, and in him all the nations of the earth will be blessed? 19 “For I have chosen him, so that he may command his children and his household after him to keep the way of the LORD by doing righteousness and justice, so that the LORD may bring upon Abraham what He has spoken about him.” 20 And the LORD said, “The outcry of Sodom and Gomorrah is indeed great, and their sin is exceedingly grave. 21 “I will go down now, and see if they have done entirely according to its outcry, which has come to Me; and if not, I will know.”
Genesis 18:16-22

22 Then the men turned away from there and went toward Sodom, while Abraham was still standing before the LORD. 23 Abraham came near and said, “Will You indeed sweep away the righteous with the wicked? 24 “Suppose there are fifty righteous within the city; will You indeed sweep it away and not spare the place for the sake of the fifty righteous who are in it? 25 “Far be it from You to do such a thing, to slay the righteous with the wicked, so that the righteous and the wicked are treated alike. Far be it from You! Shall not the Judge of all the earth deal justly?” 26 So the LORD said, “If I find in Sodom fifty righteous within the city, then I will spare the whole place on their account.” 27 And Abraham replied, “Now behold, I have ventured to speak to the Lord, although I am but dust and ashes. 28 “Suppose the fifty righteous are lacking five, will You destroy the whole city because of five?” And He said, “I will not destroy it if I find forty-five there.” 29 He spoke to Him yet again and said, “Suppose forty are found there?” And He said, “I will not do it on account of the forty.” 30 Then he said, “Oh may the Lord not be angry, and I shall speak; suppose thirty are found there?” And He said, “I will not do it if I find thirty there.” 31 And he said, “Now behold, I have ventured to speak to the Lord; suppose twenty are found there?” And He said, “I will not destroy it on account of the twenty.” 32 Then he said, “Oh may the Lord not be angry, and I shall speak only this once; suppose ten are found there?” And He said, “I will not destroy it on account of the ten.” 33 As soon as He had finished speaking to Abraham the LORD departed, and Abraham returned to his place.

In verses 20 and 21 we read:

20 “And the Lord said, “The outcry of Sodom and Gomorrah is indeed great, and their sin is exceedingly grave. 21 I will go down now, and see if they have done entirely according to the outcry, which has come to Me; and if not, I will know.”

According to these two verses, something is happening in Sodom and Gomorrah that is causing the people to cry out to God – something “exceedingly grave”. The scriptures in this account do not tell us what it is that the people are doing. All we know is that it is something so horrible that it has gotten God’s attention; to the point that God is willing to take time out to come down to earth to check it out personally.

Now Abraham, being concerned that innocent people may perish with the guilty parties, pleads with God to spare the innocent people within the cities. God promises Abraham if 10 righteous people are found in Sodom and Gomorrah, then the whole place will be spared.

So what have we learned so far?

  1. Something horrible is happening in Sodom and Gommorah, and because of this God is about to destroy both cities.          

  2. God, being a just judge, is going to personally check out the cities to see if what is being “cried” out is true or not. God does not pronounce judgement based on circumstantial evidence.          

  3. If only 10 righteous people are found in the ciites, the whole place will be spared.          

With all this in mind, let’s read about the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah as found in Genesis 19:1-25

“1 Now the two angels came to Sodom in the evening as Lot was sitting in the gate of Sodom. When Lot saw them, he rose to meet them and bowed down with his face to the ground. 2 And he said, “Now behold, my lords, please turn aside into your servant’s house, and spend the night, and wash your feet; then you may rise early and go on your way.” They said however, “No, but we shall spend the night in the square.” 3 Yet he urged them strongly, so they turned aside to him and entered his house; and he prepared a feast for them, and baked unleavened bread, and they ate. 4 Before they lay down, the men of the city, the men of Sodom, surrounded the house, both young and old, all the people from every quarter; 5 and they called to Lot and said to him, “Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us that we may have relations with them.” 6 But Lot went out to them at the doorway, and shut the door behind him, 7 and said, “Please, my brothers, do not act wickedly. 8 “Now behold, I have two daughters who have not had relations with man; please let me bring them out to you, and do to them whatever you like; only do nothing to these men, inasmuch as they have come under the shelter of my roof.” 9 But they said, “Stand aside.” Furthermore, they said, “This one came in as an alien, and already he is acting like a judge; now we will treat you worse than them.” So they pressed hard against Lot and came near to break the door. 10 But the men reached out their hands and brought Lot into the house with them, and shut the door. 11 They struck the men who were at the doorway of the house with blindness, both small and great, so that they wearied themselves trying to find the doorway.

12 Then the two men said to Lot, “Whom else have you here? A son-in-law, and your sons, and your daughters, and whomever you have in the city, bring them out of the place; 13 for we are about to destroy this place, because their outcry has become so great before the LORD that the LORD has sent us to destroy it.” 14 Lot went out and spoke to his sons-in-law, who were to marry his daughters, and said, “Up, get out of this place, for the LORD will destroy the city.” But he appeared to his sons-in-law to be jesting.

15 When morning dawned, the angels urged Lot, saying, “Up, take your wife and your two daughters who are here, or you will be swept away in the punishment of the city.” 16 But he hesitated. So the men seized his hand and the hand of his wife and the hands of his two daughters, for the compassion of the LORD was upon him; and they brought him out, and put him outside the city. 17 When they had brought them outside, one said, “Escape for your life! Do not look behind you, and do not stay anywhere in the valley; escape to the mountains, or you will be swept away.” 18 But Lot said to them, “Oh no, my lords! 19 “Now behold, your servant has found favor in your sight, and you have magnified your lovingkindness, which you have shown me by saving my life; but I cannot escape to the mountains, for the disaster will overtake me and I will die; 20 now behold, this town is near enough to flee to, and it is small. Please, let me escape there (is it not small?) that my life may be saved.” 21 He said to him, “Behold, I grant you this request also, not to overthrow the town of which you have spoken. 22 “Hurry, escape there, for I cannot do anything until you arrive there.” Therefore the name of the town was called Zoar.

23 The sun had risen over the earth when Lot came to Zoar. 24 Then the LORD rained on Sodom and Gomorrah brimstone and fire from the LORD out of heaven, 25 and He overthrew those cities, and all the valley, and all the inhabitants of the cities, and what grew on the ground. 26 But his wife, from behind him, looked back, and she became a pillar of salt.”

In all of that writing, the one verse that has caused so much controversy concerning this scripture is verse 5:

“and the called to Lot and said to him, “Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us that we may have relations with them.”

The portion of this verse “that we have relations with them” has been taken to imply that the mob of men wanted to rape the angelic visitors. But is this true? Is this what was really meant in the original Hebrew/Chaldee text? Let’s take a look:

Verse 5: “And they called to Lot and said to him, “Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us that we may know them.”

The Hebrew/Chaldee word that is interpreted as “that we may know them” is the word “Yada” pronounced as “yaw-dah”. It is #3045 in the Hebrew and Chaldee Dictionary of Strong’s Concordance. The definition is as follows:

“yada, yaw-dah; a prim. root; to know (prop to ascertain by seeing); used in a great variety of sense, fig., lit, euphem. and infor. (including observation, care, recognition; and [as follow]: – acknowledge, acquaintance (-ted, with), advise, answer, appoint, asssuredly, be aware, [-un-] awares, can [-not], certainly, for a certainty, comprehend, consider, X could they, cunning, declare, be diligent, (can, cause to) discern, discover, endued with, familiar friend, famous, feel, can have be [ig-] norant, instruct, kinsfolk, kinsman, (cause to, let, make) know, (come to give, have, take) knowledge, etc., etc.” I think you get the idea.

In other words, the phrase “that we may know them” means exactly what it says; that we may get to know them – to find out who they are; interrogate them. The mob wanted to know who the strangers where, and if they had to they were going to force the information out of them.   Note:  For a better understanding of what was behind the mob’s intentions, see my post called “Why did the mob visit Lot’s house?”.

Apparently, the mob thought they were spies. Afterall, the angels had been checking out the place. And Lot, afraid for the men’s lives (he obviously didn’t know they were angels yet), wanted to protect them from the mob. Perhaps the mob was known for brutal interrogations.

Let’s take a look at the word Lot used to describe what he thinks they are going to do. The word is in verse 6:

Verse 6: “And Lot went out to them, to the door, and closed the door behind him, and he said, “My brothers, please not act evily

The key phrase is “act evily” or in the Hebrew/Chaldee “ra a”, pronounced “raw-ah”. It is #7489 in the Hebrew/Chaldee Dictionary of the Strong’s Concordance. It’s definition is as follows:

“to spoil (lit. by breaking to pieces); fig. to make (or be) good for nothing, i.e. bad (phys., soc. or mor.): – afflict, associate selves [by mistake for 7462] break (down in pieces), + displease, (be, bring, do) evil (does, entreat, man), show self friendly [by mistake for 7462], do harm, (do) hurt, (behave self deal) ill X indeed, do mischief, punish, still, vex (do) wicked (doer, -ly) be (deal, do) worse.”

In other words, they intended to break to pieces, do harm, punish, do mischief to these men (angels). There is no homosexual connotation in the original Hebrew/Chaldee text. And IF these men were homosexuals, then why, in verse 8 did Lot offer them his daughters to “do with as they please”? I don’t know of any gay men who would like to spend the evening raping, let alone simply having sex with a woman.

Now that the question of whether or not this involved homosexuality has been put to rest, let’s now investigate as to what the true sin of Sodom was. Let’s look at the book of Ezekiel and see what God says was going on that was so horrible.

Ezekiel 16:49-50

“Behold, this was the guilt of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters had arrogance, abundant food and careless ease, but she did not help the poor and the needy. Thus they were haughty and committed abominations before Me. Therefore I removed them when I saw it.”

God heard the cry of the poor and the needy that were being neglected by the people of Sodom and her “daughters” (Gomorrah), and went and saw it in person. The sins that were being committed according to this set of scriptures were:

  • They were arrogant
  • Had abundant food, and yet didn’t help the poor and needy
  • Idleness
  • They were haughty (proud)


All these things were (are) an abomination before God.

Other scriptures that list the sins of Sodom and Gomorrah are:

  • Isaiah 1:9-23 Murderers, rebelllious rulers that hang out with thieves, bribery, greed, don’t defend the orphan, don’t take care of the widows.          

  • Isaiah 3:8-15 Flaunt their sin openly, mistreating the poor          

  • Jeremiah 23:10-14 Adultery, false prophets, priests that lie and encourage the people to do evil          

  • Lamentations 4:3-6 Women no longer cared about the children, children are starving, cruelty

In Summary, the sin of Sodom and Gomorrah, according to the scriptures were as follows:

They didn’t care about the children, the orphans, the widows, and they let the poor and the needy (this includes those who are depressed, not only in circumstances, but also in mind), go without while they lived in abject luxury. They had more than enough to take care of those who were afflicted, but they chose to hoard it to themselves. Their priests and prophets were also corrupt, encouraging the people to continue in their selfishness and greed. This was a city wide problem. Not a single person tried to do anything about it. No ordinances or laws were passed to take care of the orphans, widows, poor and needy.

What angered God was not homosexuality (which is not mentioned in any of the scriptures describing the sin of Sodom and Gomorrah), but it was the selfishness, greed and pride of these people. And when the angels spied out the city, and were nearly attacked by a roaming mob, God knew that the problem was as bad as God had heard.

We can learn a very important and powerful lesson here; any society that refuses to care for its children, its widows, its poor, and its needy faces the judgement of God.

Unfortunately, in its zealousness against the gay community, the Fundamentalist Right has refused to look further into the scriptures to see what the actual sin of Sodom and Gomorrah was. As a result, the true message of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah is not being taught, and we as Christians are not realizing how serious an offense in the eyes of God, neglecting the desititute is.

So what did God,in the Old Testament, command concerning the poor? Here are just some of the scriptures:

Leviticus 19:9,10,15

“9 Now, when you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap to the very corners of your field, neither shall you gather the gleanings of your harvest. 10 Nor shall you glean your vineyard, nor shall you gather the fallen fruit of your vineyard; you shall leave them for the needy and for the stranger. I am the Lord your God. 15 You shall do no injustice in judgment, you shall not be partial to the poor nor defer to the great, but you are to judge your neighbor fairly.”

Deuteronomy 15:7

“15 If there is a poor man with you, one of your brothers, in any of your towns in your land which the Lord your God is giving you, you shall not harden your heart, no close your hand from your poor brother; but you shall freely open your hand to him, and shall generously lend him sufficient for his need in whatever he asks.”

Exodus 22:22-23

“22 You shall not afflict any widow or orphan. If you afflict him at all, and if he does cry out to Me, I will surely hear his cry; and My anger will be kindled, and I will kill you with the sword, and your wives shall become widows and your children fatherless.”

Jesus, in the New Testament, also had a lot to say about the same thing, rebuking the religious leaders of Him time. James, too, reminds us that “pure religion” is to care for the orphans and widows:

Matthew 23:14

“14 Woe to you scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you devour widows houses …”

James 1:27

“27 Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God is this: to visit the orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.”

Project:

Use the online bible search program, http://www.searchgodsword.org/, and look up for yourself scriptures on the poor, widows, orphans, needy, etc. And see what God had to say about it. Be sure and look in both the Old and New Testaments. Make a list of what we should be doing to help them. And then ask yourself (and/or your church), whether or not you are doing enough to help,

Also, search for yourself, all the scriptures on Sodom and Gomorrah and see what you can find about what God had to say about them.


Responses

  1. Alicia,
    Thank you for this blog, it is what we need to get the message out that God is not about Hate, but Love. It would be a shame if a member of our GLBT community lost there faith or denied the inner spiritual self because of what some misguided “Christians” are preaching. Oh, and by the way, not everyone is Christian. This country was formed on seporation of Church and State. Why is the Christian Right trying to control our laws?

    Scott

    • Scott,

      Thank you for your comment, and for understanding what this blog is all about. I agree with your question and concerns about the Christian Right. My answer: they’re trying to make this a Christian-only nation, along with the rest of the world. Christianity in it’s pure form, as Christ taught is very beautiful. But Christianity as put forth by the Religious-Right, is far from what Christ wanted.

      Alicia

  2. I’ve just discovered your excellent blog, and I’m enjoying it thoroughly, but I did want to point out something from my own (admittedly limited) knowledge of the Bible.

    The word “know” is very often used euphemistically for sexual relations (the implication of course being to have carnal knowledge of a person), and the fact that Lot offers his daughters to the men of Sodom implies that they were at least partially referring to carnal knowledge in their demands to “know” the two angels.

    This does not in any way invalidate what you have said, however, because even if they WERE talking about carnal knowledge, their sin in this instance was not the fact that they were homosexuals, but that they were rapists. Just as many men in prison who are completely and totally heterosexual on the outside rape other men while in prison to demonstrate dominance and control, so these men of Sodom raped new visitors to their town in order to exert dominance and control (this would actually make sense in the context of your “Why did the mob visit Lot” post).

    Even still, rape is also not the true crime in this circumstance (as the Levitical law later showed, rape of an unmarried/unbetrothed woman was not considered much of a crime in these times as long as the rapist then married his victim). The modern world has largely forgotten the importance of the law of hospitality in early cultures (and even cultures as late as the Renaissance). I can’t think of the passage now, but Abraham invited a king to dine with him, and forced the king into peaceful relations by the simple act of having salt on his table. Dante’s inferno reserved the final circle of hell for traitors against family (least severe, since one cannot choose their family), country (moderately more severe, since one can always leave their country), and guests/hosts (most severe, since this violates the laws of hospitality).

    So even if the men of Sodom wanted carnal knowledge, rather than interrogative knowledge, their crime was a violation of the sacrosanct laws of hospitality meant to protect travelers and those who offered shelter to them.

    Food for thought, at least. Keep up the good work.

    • Thank you, Tim for your comment. It doesn’t sound like you have a limited knowledge of the Bible at all; thank you for bringing up the hospitality viewpoint of these scriptures. I did think about including it, but it has been done so in many books, and on many other websites. Instead I wanted to show how one should use scriptures within context, utilizing surrounding scriptures, and other sets of scriptures throughout the Bible to backup one’s teaching. I had never read anyone look at Sodom and Gomorrah from the viewpoint of the wars that had been going on prior to this incident, and thus wanted to provide a new, fresh view for the reader.

      Once again, thank you for sharing your knowledge of the scriptures, and for the great compliment.

      Alicia


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