Homosexuality: The Questionable Case of Sodom

Sodom!

The very name suggests the vilest evil and causes us to shudder. The story of Sodom is found in Genesis chapter 18 and is the most well-known biblical passage associated with homosexuality.

John Martin - Sodom and Gomorrah, 1852 via Wikimedia Coimmons

The Story of Sodom

Two messengers of God visited Sodom. Lot, the nephew of Abraham, saw them coming into the city and invited them to stay in his home.

“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.”

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.

Lot acted as a welcoming and hospitable host to the strangers. But the townsmen were not so hospitable.

Before they had gone to bed, all the men from every part of the city of Sodom—both young and old—surrounded the house. 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.”

Lot went outside to meet them and shut the door behind him and said, “No, my friends. Don’t do this wicked thing. 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.”

“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.”

Old Testament References to Sodom

In his interaction with the citizens of Sodom, Lot said that what they wanted to do was a wicked thing. Genesis chapter 13 forewarned us that ‘The people of Sodom were wicked and were sinning greatly against the Lord.’

Much later the Church, assuming this ‘evil thing’ of Sodom was homosexuality, began to refer to homosexual acts as sodomy. Was the Church correct, and are we correct, that the wickedness of Sodom was same-sex attraction? I don’t think so.

Sodom is mentioned in a number of places in the Old Testament as an example of a people who were totally destroyed. The future fate of various cities and nations were compared to that of Sodom, but none of these references indicate what the ‘sin’ of Sodom might have been except for Ezekiel chapter 16:

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. They were haughty and did detestable things before me.

In other words, they were inhospitable just as Genesis describes them. Instead of welcoming the strangers, they tried to gang-rape them. This wasn’t sex—this was violence, domination, and humiliation. Note that they also threatened Lot—incensed that this ‘foreigner’ wanted to play ‘judge’ among them.

Jesus and Sodom

Comparing the fate of cities to the destruction of Sodom was still common in the gospels, but on one occasion Jesus included context in his comparison. As Jesus sent his disciples to the cities of Galilee, he instructed them to seek hospitable hosts for accommodation during their stays.

In Matthew chapter 10, Jesus says:

Whatever town or village you enter, search there for some worthy person and stay at their house until you leave. As you enter the home, give it your greeting. If the home is deserving, let your peace rest on it; if it is not, let your peace return to you.

If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, leave that home or town and shake the dust off your feet. Truly I tell you, it will be more bearable for Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgment than for that town.

If the disciples were not welcomed, those towns would be like Sodom which also did not welcome the messengers of God. Later, in Matthew chapter 11, Jesus compares certain unresponsive Galilean cities to Sodom because they did not receive him.

The Wickedness of Sodom

Genesis says all the men from every part of the city were involved in the intended attack. Does this mean every man in Sodom was gay? How did they continue populating the city? Evidently it was not by immigration. Two of Lot’s daughters were pledged to men in the city; were they pledged to marry gay men? That would be strange.

The wickedness of Sodom was not same-sex attraction but abusive treatment of people whom they deemed unacceptable in their community. Perhaps this passage teaches a lesson for us today: If you despise, dominate, and abuse vulnerable minorities—you are probably a true sodomite.

Next time, we will look at two passages in Leviticus used to condemn gays.

Image credit: John Martin – Destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, 1852 via Wikimedia Commons
I invite your comments and observations below.
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Have a great day! ~Tim
This entry was posted in gays, hate, Jesus, sin and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

28 Responses to Homosexuality: The Questionable Case of Sodom

  1. Thank you so much for writing this post! I have several homosexual friends who are Christians and sadly are judged by many other Christians as “sinners”. This post really puts the passages into perspective and I can’t wait to share!

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  2. Pingback: How My Views on Gays Changed | Jesus Without Baggage

  3. Lynn says:

    Good detective work, Tim. I can see your logic, and it sounds entirely plausible. (Aside from the issue at hand, I have to say I’m not too wild about Lot offering his daughters to appease the would-be attackers, symbolic or not. Then again, this is old Testament.)

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    • Lynn, I agree; I would not want to be one of Lot’s daughters! I would think: These strangers have the protection of Dad’s roof but I don’t?!

      Women were not as valued as they are today; often they were mere property. However, among some conservative, patriarchal Christians, devaluation of women is still true today. There has been a resurgence of patriarchy in recent decades through the doctrine of complementarianism. It is not as extreme as in Lot’s case, but still it is really hurtful baggage.

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      • Lynn says:

        Off topic RE: Complementarianism. It’s a shame that a concept that says (in my mind) that men and women can be different yet equally valuable gets twisted and used for control.

        Great discussion going here. Thought provoking comments from all.

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  4. madagoo says:

    hi TIm,

    there are other layers of support for your reading of this story. Firstly, the context. there are two ways to move from this story. One is to read the older parallel story in Judges about the death of the concubine. there are amazing parallels in these stories.but, the most telling is that in the older story in Judges, the comcubine is gang raped and left for dead. It raises the interesting question of why Lot and the Concbines master would ever consider that gay men would be asuaged by offering them women instead. I’ve not found a single gay man who would consider this a reasonable exchange! it therefore causes us to question whether we are right to shoe-horn our 21st century world view into an ancient text. I fear that is where the misinterpretation arises.

    the other way of looking at the Genesis context of Sodom & Gomorroah is to consider its immediate context of the angelic being appearing earlier in the story. see Gen.18:1-8 Abraham’s hospitality which contrasts with the inhospitality of men of Sodom in gen 19:4-11 note verse 8 – under my roof

    However, more telling are the other biblical texts on the “sin of sodom”

    Ezekiel 16:48-49 – refused to take in needy travelers

    Wisdom 19:13-17 punishment of the Egyptians paralleled to those who came to the door of the righteous man (Lot) for “having received strangers with hostility
    Jesus speaks: Mt 10.5-15 lack of hospitality when on mission
    others texts:

    Is 1:10-17 – their insense is an abomination – ie empty worship
    Is 3.8-9 – defying his glorious presence – remember – the Angel was God’s messenger
    Je 23.10-12 – note context of feeding them bitter food and poisoned drink
    Zep2.8-10 – plunder and possessing the land because they have taunted and boasted against the people of the Lord of hosts cp Gen 19:4 “send them out so that we may “know” they – a play on words pretending to want to get to know them but intending to violate them.

    But, what is most notable is that these verses are NOT about same-sex loving relationships but about heterosexual men using sexual rape as a means of subduing and subjugating foreigners.

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  5. Tiffani says:

    I think you hit the nail on the head with this one – it certainly seems to be true that most biblical references to the story Sodom and Gomorrah indicate that it was their lack of hospitality and their generally wicked indulgence that resulted in judgment.

    However, if I could play devil’s advocate for a moment…there is one verse that seems to state otherwise, and likely has a key role to play in why the Church has traditionally leveraged the story of Sodom and Gomorrah as a proof-text to condemn same-sex relationships.

    Could you shed any light on how Jude 1:7 fits into your ideas about the story of Sodom and Gomorrah?

    (For the sake of full disclosure, I affirm gay marriage and do believe Genesis 18 has traditionally been misinterpreted – I just haven’t come a cross a viable explanation for this verse, so I wanted to throw it out there.)

    Thanks!

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    • Tiffani, you raise a good question, and I am glad you did. The book of Jude reads:

      In a similar way, Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding towns gave themselves up to sexual immorality and perversion. They serve as an example of those who suffer the punishment of eternal fire.

      I didn’t mention the reference in Jude because it would require a significant discussion that take us away from the main point, but it is a question the needs to be addressed.

      Most of us know that the process of accepting books for the New Testament took place over hundreds of years. The book of Jude, along with 2 Peter, was one of the most disputed of the books that are now included. A large portion of the church did not accept Jude and 2 Peter until 308 A.D.–more than 275 years after Jesus’ death.

      Even if Jude had not been disputed by many in the early church, I would still have difficulty with it. Even though it is a short book of only 25 verses, it has multiple problems.

      1. Jude quotes the book of Enoch as though it is historically factual and even believes it was written by Enoch, ‘the seventh’ from Adam. Were that true, Noah must have had a copy with him on the ark; in fact it was written no more than a couple hundred years before Jude was written. The book of Enoch provides the foundation for the theory and imagery of angelic revolt, demons, and hell developed by some in the later church.

      2. Jude also alludes to the Jewish Testament of Moses which was written even later than The book of Enoch. Jude states, “But even the archangel Michael, when he was disputing with the devil about the body of Moses, did not himself dare to condemn him for slander but said, ‘The Lord rebuke you!'”

      3. Jude is quite similar to 2 Peter chapter 2 and almost assuredly has some relationship to it. The authorship and authenticity of both books are very problematic, and I would not use either of them for support of anything.

      There is more to be said on these two books than can be accommodated in a comment, but someday I plan to devote an entire post to them.

      Thanks so much for bringing it up; I was hoping someone would do it.

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      • Tiffani says:

        Oh wow, you took quite a different direction than I anticipated. This is all very informative though, thanks!

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        • Tiffani, what sort of response did you anticipate? Did I miss your question?

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          • Tiffani says:

            I think we’re just operating from different premises – I was wondering about how how Jude, as a book that is part of the biblical canon and therefore considered by most Christians to be divinely inspired, ought to inform our reading of Genesis 18.

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          • That makes good sense. I guess I just don’t begin with the premise that Jude is divinely inspired. Are you concerned that this approach is inappropriate or inadequate?

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          • Tiffani says:

            I couldn’t begin to know how to answer that question, as I’m not really in a place where I’m willing to question the divine inspiration of the biblical canon. So, I guess for me personally, I would try to answer the point that Jude 1:7 raises by considering how it fits in with the rest of scripture.

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          • I understand. I would not want you to accept another person’s word over your own judgment. From what I have read from you, you seem to be an intelligent person able to think for yourself.

            Sorry that my answer on Jude took you by surprise.

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  6. sheila0405 says:

    Reblogged this on temporary and commented:
    Another excellent commentary, reblogged. Scriptures ought always to be viewed in context!

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  7. Pingback: Does Leviticus Say Gays are Detestable and Must be Killed? | Jesus Without Baggage

  8. I’ve been frustrated with how adamant many Christians are in the sinfulness of homosexuality without reading the thumper verses in context! Your consice and well-written essay will be a reference for me when others might be exploring this topic and want to read more! Thank you for writing this! 😊

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  9. Pingback: TORN: Rescuing the Gospel from the Gays vs. Christians Debate – a Book Review | Jesus Without Baggage

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