Genesis (Sodom and Gomorrah)
The story of Sodom and Gomorrah found in Genesis 19 has traditionally been used to condemn homosexuality. Further study of the context reveals the sin of inhospitality which in that day and age could be considered a matter of life or death.
|Key Words Key Scripture: Genesis 19:1-25|
“1 The two angels arrived at Sodom in the evening, and Lot was sitting in the gateway of the city. When he saw them, he got up to meet them and bowed down with his face to the ground. 2 “My lords,” he said, “please turn aside to your servant’s house. You can wash your feet and spend the night and then go on your way early in the morning.” “No,” they answered, “we will spend the night in the square.” 3 But he insisted so strongly that they did go with him and entered his house. He prepared a meal for them, baking bread without yeast, and they ate.4 Before they had gone to bed, all the men from every part of the city of Sodom—both young and old—surrounded the house. 5 They called to Lot, “Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us so that we can have sex with them.” 6 Lot went outside to meet them and shut the door behind him 7 and said, “No, my friends. Don’t do this wicked thing. 8 Look, I have two daughters who have never slept with a man. Let me bring them out to you, and you can do what you like with them. But don’t do anything to these men, for they have come under the protection of my roof.” 9 “Get out of our way,” they replied. “This fellow came here as a foreigner, and now he wants to play the judge! We’ll treat you worse than them.” They kept bringing pressure on Lot and moved forward to break down the door. 10 But the men inside reached out and pulled Lot back into the house and shut the door. 11 Then they struck the men who were at the door of the house, young and old, with blindness so that they could not find the door. 12 The two men said to Lot, “Do you have anyone else here—sons-in-law, sons or daughters, or anyone else in the city who belongs to you? Get them out of here, 13 because we are going to destroy this place. The outcry to the Lord against its people is so great that he has sent us to destroy it.” 14 So Lot went out and spoke to his sons-in-law, who were pledged to marry his daughters. He said, “Hurry and get out of this place, because the Lord is about to destroy the city! ” But his sons-in-law thought he was joking.
15 With the coming of dawn, the angels urged Lot, saying, “Hurry! Take your wife and your two daughters who are here, or you will be swept away when the city is punished. ” 16 When he hesitated, the men grasped his hand and the hands of his wife and of his two daughters and led them safely out of the city, for the Lord was merciful to them. 17 As soon as they had brought them out, one of them said, “Flee for your lives! Don’t look back, and don’t stop anywhere in the plain! Flee to the mountains or you will be swept away!” 18 But Lot said to them, “No, my lords, please! 19 Your servant has found favour in your eyes, and you have shown great kindness to me in sparing my life. But I can’t flee to the mountains; this disaster will overtake me, and I’ll die. 20Look, here is a town near enough to run to, and it is small. Let me flee to it—it is very small, isn’t it? Then my life will be spared.” 21 He said to him, “Very well, I will grant this request too; I will not overthrow the town you speak of. 22 But flee there quickly, because I cannot do anything until you reach it.” (That is why the town was called Zoar.) 23 By the time Lot reached Zoar, the sun had risen over the land. 24 Then the Lord rained down burning sulfur on Sodom and Gomorrah—from the Lord out of the heavens. 25 Thus he overthrew those cities and the entire plain, destroying all those living in the cities—and also the vegetation in the land.”
The traditional interpretation of this text is that the destruction of the ancient cities of Sodom and Gomorrah is God’s wrath against the sin of homosexuality.
Things to consider
God had already decreed judgement on these cities because of their wicked behaviour before the alleged “homosexual” incident. Genesis 18 tells us that God spoke to Abraham about the outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah and warned him of the impending doom. Here we see an exchange between God and Abraham for the lives of those in Sodom and Gomorrah.
Genesis 18:20-33 NIV
“20 Then the Lord said, “The outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is so great and their sin so grievous 21 that I will go down and see if what they have done is as bad as the outcry that has reached me. If not, I will know.” 22The men turned away and went toward Sodom, but Abraham remained standing before the Lord. 23 Then Abraham approached him and said: “Will you sweep away the righteous with the wicked? 24 What if there are fifty righteous people in the city? Will you really sweep it away and not spare the place for the sake of the fifty righteous people in it? 25 Far be it from you to do such a thing—to kill the righteous with the wicked, treating the righteous and the wicked alike. Far be it from you! Will not the Judge of all the earth do right?” 26 The Lord said, “If I find fifty righteous people in the city of Sodom, I will spare the whole place for their sake. ” 27 Then Abraham spoke up again: “Now that I have been so bold as to speak to the Lord, though I am nothing but dust and ashes, 28 what if the number of the righteous is five less than fifty? Will you destroy the whole city for lack of five people?” “If I find forty-five there,” he said, “I will not destroy it.” 29 Once again he spoke to him, “What if only forty are found there?” He said, “For the sake of forty, I will not do it.” 30 Then he said, “May the Lord not be angry, but let me speak. What if only thirty can be found there?” He answered, “I will not do it if I find thirty there.” 31 Abraham said, “Now that I have been so bold as to speak to the Lord, what if only twenty can be found there?” He said, “For the sake of twenty, I will not destroy it.” 32 Then he said, “May the Lord not be angry, but let me speak just once more. What if only ten can be found there?” He answered, “For the sake of ten, I will not destroy it.” 33 When the Lord had finished speaking with Abraham, he left, and Abraham returned home.”
|Point to ponder:
Ø God said that for the sake of ten he would not destroy Sodom and Gomorrah…..does this mean that all but ten people were homosexuals?
There was a very strong emphasis on hospitality to strangers in biblical times. People travelled great distances, many times on foot. Travellers would arrive at the city gates and be offered shelter in the home of a local. Once a person came under the protection of your home you were obligated to care for and protect this person. This is where we see Lot saying in verse 8
8 Look, I have two daughters who have never slept with a man. Let me bring them out to you, and you can do what you like with them. But don’t do anything to these men, for they have come under the protection of my roof.”
Jesus himself had something to say about breaking the law of hospitality. We read where when Jesus send out the twelve he told them this Matthew 10:5-15
5 These twelve Jesus sent out with the following instructions: “Do not go among the Gentiles or enter any town of the Samaritans. 6 Go rather to the lost sheep of Israel. 7 As you go, proclaim this message: ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’ 8 Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received; freely give. 9 “Do not get any gold or silver or copper to take with you in your belts— 10 no bag for the journey or extra shirt or sandals or a staff, for the worker is worth his keep. 11 Whatever town or village you enter, search there for some worthy person and stay at their house until you leave. 12 As you enter the home, give it your greeting. 13 If the home is deserving, let your peace rest on it; if it is not, let your peace return to you. 14 If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, leave that home or town and shake the dust off your feet. 15 Truly I tell you, it will be more bearable for Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgment than for that town.”
Lot was an alien in post war Sodom and Gomorrah
In Genesis 13 we read where Abram and Lot separated ways. Lot chose to go to Sodom but was not originally from Sodom. Then in Genesis 14we read about how the Kings of Sodom and Gomorrah had joined other forces to go to war. During the war they were pushed back. They lost people and goods. Lot and others were taken captive. Abram formed a group of men who rescued Lot and brought Lot and the people and their possessions back to Sodom.
There was a great deal of suspicion in foreigners after the war. Here is this alien Lot at the city gates and he’s inviting these strangers into this home. Can you see how the rumours would be running rampant? Who is this alien and what are these men planning? We see this in verse 9 where they say….
9 “Get out of our way,” they replied. “This fellow came here as a foreigner, and now he wants to play the judge! We’ll treat you worse than them.”
Acts of violence, through forced anal intercourse, (or possibly gang rape) against men was a common practice in these days, particularly in demonstrations of dominion with prisoners of war. Today we see examples of this played out in our prisons. This is not an act of sexual gratification in many cases but rather one of dominance and power.
Verse 4 calls our attention to ALL the men of the city.
4 Before they had gone to bed, all the men from every part of the city of Sodom—both young and old—surrounded the house.
The Hebrew word here for men is Strong’s 376 ish which can be male or female it means mortals. I have never known of any city where ALL the people are gay! We talk all the time about a 10% figure but 100% not likely. Also if this term is referring to all mortals then woman and children are part of the make-up of the crowd. This sits more with the mob mentality that is seeking to know who is visiting and why.
The word know that we see in verse 5 has several meanings in the original language.
The Hebrew word here is Yada – and can be used to mean: “have thorough knowledge of”. The other meaning attributed to yada, is to know sexually but is very rarely used to explain sexual intercourse. In this case however yada could quite easily mean homosexual rape but that does not mean they were homosexual. The people of Sodom could have quite easily felt threatened by these strangers as seen with the threat to assault Lot.
Lot offers his two daughters to these people. He knew these people fairly well so if Lot knew
or thought that the men were gay why would he have offered his daughters to them?
We see a similar story in Judges 19 where a man was traveling with his concubine. They stop in the city square but no one will take them in. Finally an old man takes them in and men surround the house saying bring this man out that we may have sex with him. This time they actually offer the concubine and she is raped and abused her all night.
Proper exegesis requires the following of rules of interpretation to find a common theme within Scripture. What is written or interpreted within scripture must line up with the scripture being studied. We do not see a correlation here with the rest of Scripture.
To put this plainly a sodomite was a person from Sodom. The Hebrew word for male cult prostitute is Qadesh. This word has been mistranslated in some versions of the bible as the word sodomite. This is where the word Sodomy is taken out of context and we are told that sodomy is against the law. In fact the word sodomy is a modern word, and it has been taken out of context when used in the story of Sodom and Gomorrah. Nowadays it is used in a court of law to define sexual relations with “men on men”. Many believe that this word sodomy actually comes from this passage however it does not mean what some have claimed it to mean. The original word is Qadesh and actually means male cult prostitute. Whether gay or straight, we stand under the same judgment if we worship idols and treat others with injustice.
So what is the sin of Sodom?
Ezekiel 16:48-50 does a great job of answering our question.
“49 ‘Now this was the sin of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy. 50 They were haughty and did detestable things before me. Therefore I did away with them as you have seen.
The word detestable (some also use the word abomination) refers to the worship of idols in the original language and is the word toebah (Strong’s 8441).
Sodom’s sins were that of injustice, selfishness and idolatry and the need for material possessions. Many people today suffer from the same sin.