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.
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
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Have a great day! ~Tim