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Anti-gay clobber texts: the sin of Sodom Genesis 19

August 4, 2015

Sodom mapGenesis 19:1-11 “Two angels came to Sodom in the evening; and Lot was sitting in the gateway of Sodom…”We will spend the night in the square,” they said. But he (Lot) urged them strongly; so they turned aside to him and entered his house….Before they lay down, the men of the city, the men of Sodom, both young and old, all the people to the last man, surrounded the house; and they called to Lot “Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us, so that we may know them.” … “I beg of you my brothers, do not act so wickedly….Do nothing to these men, as they have come under the shelter of my roof.” But they replied, “Stand back! This fellow came here as an alien (Lot was not a born native of Sodom), and he would play the judge! Now we will deal worse with you then with them.”

The text of Genesis 19 implies that God approved of Lot’s behaviour, even though he made an offer of his virgin daughters to be raped. This approval would have been extended to Lot’s family as well. But God apparently had a fierce anger directed at the other inhabitants of the town. He destroyed Sodom with fire and brimstone (sulfur) dumped from above. According to the story, he killed all of the men and women of Sodom, as well as all the innocent children, infants, newborns, etc. who lived in the city. This is one more example of a theme that runs throughout the Bible from Genesis to Revelation: transferring the punishment from guilty people to innocent people. This is commonly called “scapegoating” and is condemned in all major religions.

This was written in the book of Genesis two books BEFORE the written code of Biblical laws that appear to condemn homosexuality as a sin.

When Lot tried defending the angels, the Sodomites replied “Now we will deal with you (Lot) worse than them (the angels)!” Clearly, “dealing worse” with Lot meant a stricter punishment of violence (not friendly gay sex), which may not only have been gang rape, but death. Lot was struck with a dilemma, let the angels be raped or be possibly raped and killed himself. He offered his virgin daughters as an alternative, but thankfully the angels struck the Sodomites blind and this did not occur. In a similar story in Judges 19, strangers come under the shelter of a residents roof in the inhospitable land of Gibeah. These men also wanted to rape the male visitor, but his concubine was offered instead and was taken as an alternative punishment. (Note that if the men of the city were gay and just wanted to have a good time because they found the visitors attractive, they would not have taken a woman instead.) After gang raping her all night, she was found dead the next morning.

the Biblical law of hospitality was very strict in Biblical times. Examples include Hebrews 13:2 that states “Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.” Alike is Leviticus 19:34 which states “You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself.” One more verse out of many which may be the most compelling is Hebrews 11:31: “By faith Rahab the prostitute was not put to death with those who had gone against God’s orders, because she had taken into her house in peace those sent to see the land.” This verse in particular shows that a prostitute was spared by God simply due to her hospitality of strangers. It was clear that the Sodomites did not treat outsiders with hospitality of any kind and acted in dominant perverse ways to their visitors.

The story of the men of Sodom happened AFTER God already had the idea to destroy the city.

It is unclear from this brief passage in Genesis why God demolished the city. The following theories have been advanced.

The people of Sodom:

Engaged in consensual homosexual acts — a same-sex orgy in this case. This is the belief of most conservative Christians. This option seems unlikely because:

  • Genesis 19:5 said that all of the men (perhaps all of the people) of Sodom formed the mob at Lot’s house and demanded to “know” the angels. The percentage of homosexuals in a typical group of male adults is generally around 5%, not 100%.
  • Also, Lot had lived in the city for some years and would have know if all of the men were homosexuals; he would hardly have offered to sacrifice his daughters to the mob if the men were entirely homosexual.
  • Finally, as noted above, if the men of Sodom were all homosexuals, there would be few if any children and widows in the city as are mentioned elsewhere in the Bible.

Were uncharitable and abusive to strangers, the poor, sick, and disadvantaged. In that society, a person had a very strong obligation to protect any guests in their home. Many liberal Christians believe that this is the meaning behind the story of the destruction of Sodom. This belief has considerable support in the many other references to Sodom in the Bible and Jewish literature.
Wanted to humiliate their visitors by engaging in “an act of sexual degradation and male rape…These are acts of violence that are committed by parties seeking to show their hatred for those they are degrading. It is not an act of love or of caring” Some theologians suggest that the sin of Sodom was the threat of mass rape.
Wanted to engage in bestiality — having sex with members of another species. The mob may have wanted to rape the angels; angels are not human beings; they are of a different species. This would be consistent with the frequently mistranslated verse in Jude about the men of Sodom going after “other flesh” or “strange flesh.”
Wanted to absorb the power of the angels: In ancient times, sacred sex was very common. People would engage in sexual intercourse with temple prostitutes who represented a god or goddess. By doing so, the people believed that they would receive a blessing from the deity. If the people of Sodom realized that angels sent by God were present in their city, the men of Sodom may have concluded that raping the angels might give them supernatural powers.

Sodom whylet the Bible interpret itself:

The interpretation of Genesis 19 as referring to a homosexual sin appears to have been created in the 11th century by the Italian ascetic St. Peter Damian. 3 Christian theologians generally accepted this explanation until recently. In fact, the English word sodomy, which popularly means either homosexual or heterosexual anal intercourse, was derived from the name of the city. The term “sodomy” is also used in some ancient laws to refer to a variety of sexual behaviours in addition to heterosexual intercourse.

Opinion among most liberal and mainline Christian and Jewish theologians has now reverted to the original Christian belief that Genesis 19 refers to a lack of charity and to ill treatment of strangers. Consider:

In ancient Jewish literature, such as the Ethics of the Fathers and the Talmud, there are many references to Sodom. The phrase “middat Sdom” was used. It may be translated as “the way the people of Sodom thought”. It meant a lack of charity and hospitality towards others; ignoring the needs of the poor, etc. In the Middle East, a person’s survival could depend upon the charity of strangers. To help strangers was a solemn religious duty of paramount importance. See Leviticus 19:33-34 And if a stranger sojourn with thee in your land, ye shall not vex him. But the stranger that dwelleth with you shall be unto you as one born among you, and thou shalt love him as thyself; for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.

and Matthew 25:35, 38 and 43 For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee? I was a stranger, and ye took me not in: naked, and ye clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not.

Isaiah 1; The entire first chapter is an utter condemnation of Judah. They are repeatedly compared with Sodom and Gomorrah in their evildoing and depravity. Throughout the chapter, the Prophet lists many sins of the people: rebelling against God, lacking in knowledge, deserting the Lord, idolatry, engaging in meaningless religious ritual, being unjust and oppressive to others, being insensitive to the needs of widows and orphans, committing murder, accepting bribes, etc. There is no reference to homosexuality or to any other sexual activities at all.
Jeremiah 23:14:“…among the prophets of Jerusalem I have seen something horrible: They commit adultery and live a lie. They strengthen the hands of evildoers, so that no one turns from his wickedness. They are all like Sodom to me; the people of Jerusalem are like Gomorrah.” Jeremiah compares the actions of the prophets with the adultery, lying and evil of the people of Sodom. Homosexual activity is not mentioned.

Ezekeiel 16:49-50:“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. Therefore I did away with them as you have seen.” God states clearly that he destroyed Sodom’s sins because of their pride, their excess of food while the poor and needy suffered; sexual activity is not even mentioned.

Wisdom 19:14-17 Others had refused to receive strangers when they came to them, but these made slaves of guests who were their benefactors. And not only so—but, while punishment of some sort will come upon the former for having received strangers with hostility, the latter, having first received them with festal celebrations, afterward afflicted with terrible sufferings those who had already shared the same rights. They were stricken also with loss of sight— just as were those at the door of the righteous man—when, surrounded by yawning darkness, all of them tried to find the way through their own doors.

Matthew 10:14-15: And whosoever shall not receive you, nor hear your words, when ye depart out of that house or city, shake off the dust of your feet. Verily I say unto you, It shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrha in the day of judgment, than for that city. – Jesus implied that the sin of the people of Sodom was to be inhospitable to strangers.

Luke 10:7-16: This is parallel passage to the verses from Matthew.

2 Peter 6-8:  And turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrha into ashes condemned them with an overthrow, making them an ensample unto those that after should live ungodly; And delivered just Lot, vexed with the filthy conversation of the wicked: (For that righteous man dwelling among them, in seeing and hearing, vexed his righteous soul from day to day with their unlawful deeds;) – Peter mentions that God destroyed the adults and children of Sodom because the former were ungodly, unprincipled and lawless.

Jude, Verse 7: Jude disagreed with Jesus and Ezekeiel; he wrote that Sodom’s sins were sexual in nature. Various biblical translations of this passage in Jude describe the sin as: fornication, going after strange flesh, sexual immorality, perverted sensuality, homosexuality, lust of every kind, immoral acts and unnatural lust. It looks as if the translators were unclear of the meaning of the verse in its original Greek, and simply selected their favorite sin to attack. The original Greek is transliterated as: “sarkos heteras.” This can be translated as “other flesh”. Ironically, our English word “heterosexual” comes from “heteras.”

A likely interpretation is that the author of Jude criticized the men of Sodom for wanting to engage in sexual activities with angels. Angels are described in the Bible as a species of created beings who were different from humans. The sin of the people of Sodom would be that of bestiality. Another possibility is that the “other flesh” refers to cannibalism, which was a practice associated with early Canaanite culture. However, there is no mention in Genesis 19 about actually eating the angels.

Jude 1:7 speaks of those in Sodom going after “strange flesh” (Greek words: sarkos heteras) which is equated to “going after one not of the same nature or class.” It is obvious that two people of identical gender would be of the same nature or class even more than a male and female. Humans are in a different nature and class to angels just as we are in a different class to animals. Therefore, “strange flesh” is referring to angel and human relations and/or inner-species sex, not gay/lesbian sex.

On the other hand there are some passages which might imply that the sin of Sodom was homosexuality:

Jeremiah 49:18: As in the overthrow of Sodom and Gomorrah and the neighbour cities thereof, saith the LORD, no man shall abide there, neither shall a son of man dwell in it. – Some conservative theologians have interpreted this verse as criticizing the inhabitants of Jerusalem for their sexual sins, and implying that they were like the men of Sodom.

Ezekeiel 16:50: And they were haughty, and committed abomination before me: therefore I took them away as I saw good. – Although the preceding verse describes Sodom’s sins as pride, laziness, insensitivity to the needs of the poor, and haughtiness, verse 50 refers to the citizens of Sodom as having “committed abomination.” The Hebrew word “to’ebah,” translated here as “abomination,” was used throughout the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament) to refer to various ritually impure acts, such as Hebrews and Egyptians eating together, Hebrews eating lobster, shrimp, or snakes, sacrificing an animal in the temple that contained a blemish, women wearing men’s clothing (e.g. pants), a man remarrying his former wife, etc. It was also used in

Leviticus 18:22 Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is abomination. and 20:13 If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them. – to condemn same-sex activity between two males. It is not known which “abomination(s)” occurred in Sodom, but it could conceivably have been same-gender sexual activity.

 Sodom – סְדֹם Sedom
סְ Samech- Grab [the men of Sodom tried to grab the angels], hate [Sodom hated foreigners], Protect [The men of Sodom only cared to protect their own resources. The angels came under the protection of Lot’s roof.]
דֹ Dalet- Door, entrance [the men of Sodom tried to violently break down the door of Lot’s house to retrieve the angels.]
ם Mem- Chaos, mighty, blood. [The city was filled with violence and chaos, and then the mighty were covered in blood by its destruction.]
The letters in the name of this city demonstrates their practice of trying to grab those they hate and break down doors of those who try to protect outside foreigners. The end result is chaos and blood. This definition within the letters could support the alternate translation which shows that the violent men of Sodom attempted to gang-rape the angel visitors in Lot’s house, rather than the traditional interpretation which just sees Sodom as a city full of gay people who wanted to have sex with men for pleasure.

Angels, not men

Genesis 19:1 “Two angels came to Sodom in the evening.”

Genesis 6:1-5:“When human beings began to increase in number on the earth and daughters were born to them, the sons of God (fallen angels) saw that the daughters of humans were beautiful, and they married any of them they chose…The Nephilim (human/angel hybrids, also translated “the giants”) were on the earth in those days—and also afterward—when the sons of God (fallen angels) went to the daughters of humans and had children by them. They were the heroes of old, men of renown (worshiped by humans). And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” This indicated that there was a race of fallen angel/human hybrids on the earth who corrupted the human bloodline into being amerced into evil. This explains why the practice of having sex with angels is especially forbidden in the eyes of God because of what went wrong in the past. Also in this chapter is the statement that God was going to limit human’s lifespan to 120 years, perhaps taking away their prolonged vitality that they may have received from the fallen angels. Following this verse is the account of the great flood in which only the pure human Noah and his pure human family were spared. It could be possible that having sex with these higher beings would bring about some type of supernatural power which gives a whole other spin to the reason in which the Sodomites attempted sexual acts upon these angels.

In Genesis 18, Abraham pleaded with God to save the city if 50 were found to be righteous men. He then asked for 40, 30, 20 and then his final offer of 10. God promised that He would not destroy the city if there were 10 righteous men in the city of Sodom. The only righteous man found in the city was Lot, so the two angels were sent to warn Lot and His family to leave the city before its destruction

Sodom remainsSome scientists believe Sodom was destroyed by fireball

A clay tablet that has baffled scientists for more than a century has been identified as a witness’s account of an asteroid that destroyed the Biblical cities of Sodom and Gomorrah 5,000 years ago. Researchers believe that the tablet’s symbols give a detailed account of how a mile-long asteroid hit the region, causing thousands of deaths and devastating more than one million sq km (386,000 sq miles). The impact, equivalent to more than 1,000 tons of TNT exploding, would have created one of the world’s biggest-ever landslides. Ancient record: Scientists claim the tablet, thought to be a 700BC copy from an even earlier civilisation, describes how a mile-long asteroid hit the Earth. The theory is the work of two rocket scientists – Alan Bond and Mark Hempsell – who have spent the past eight years piecing together the archaeological puzzle. Using computers to recreate the night sky thousands of years ago, they have pinpointed the sighting described on the tablet – a 700BC copy of notes of the night sky as seen by a Sumerian astrologer in one of the world’s earliest-known civilisations – to shortly before dawn on June 29 in the year 3123BC. Half the tablet records planet positions and clouds, while the other half describes the movement of an object looking like a ‘stone bowl’ travelling quickly across the sky. The description matches a type of asteroid known as an Aten type, which orbits the Sun close to the Earth. Its trajectory would have put it on a collision course with the Otz Valley. ‘It came in at a very low angle – around six degrees – and then clipped a mountain called Gaskogel around 11km from Köfels,’ said Mr Hempsell. ‘This caused it to explode – and as it travelled down the valley it became a fireball. ‘When it hit Köfels it created enormous pressures which pulverised the rock and caused the landslide. But because it wasn’t solid, there was no crater.’ The explosion would have created a mushroom cloud, while a plume of smoke would have been seen for hundreds of miles. Mr Hempsell said another part of the tablet, which is 18cm across and shaped like a bowl, describes a plume of smoke around dawn the following morning. ‘You need to know the context before you can translate it,’ said Mr Hempsell, of Bristol University. Read more:

* Wisdom 19.1-22 But the ungodly were assailed to the end by pitiless anger, for God knew in advance even their future actions: how, though they themselves had permitted your people to depart and hastily sent them out, they would change their minds and pursue them. For while they were still engaged in mourning, and were lamenting at the graves of their dead, they reached another foolish decision, and pursued as fugitives those whom they had begged and compelled to leave. For the fate they deserved drew them on to this end, and made them forget what had happened, in order that they might fill up the punishment that their torments still lacked, and that your people might experience an incredible journey, but they themselves might meet a strange death.

For the whole creation in its nature was fashioned anew, complying with your commands, so that your children might be kept unharmed. The cloud was seen overshadowing the camp, and dry land emerging where water had stood before, an unhindered way out of the Red Sea, and a grassy plain out of the raging waves, where those protected by your hand passed through as one nation, after gazing on marvelous wonders.

For they ranged like horses, and leaped like lambs, praising you, O Lord, who delivered them. For they still recalled the events of their sojourn, how instead of producing animals the earth brought forth gnats, and instead of fish the river spewed out vast numbers of frogs. Afterward they saw also a new kind of birds, when desire led them to ask for luxurious food; for, to give them relief, quails came up from the sea.

The punishments did not come upon the sinners without prior signs in the violence of thunder, for they justly suffered because of their wicked acts; for they practiced a more bitter hatred of strangers. Others had refused to receive strangers when they came to them, but these made slaves of guests who were their benefactors. And not only so—but, while punishment of some sort will come upon the former for having received strangers with hostility, the latter, having first received them with festal celebrations, afterward afflicted with terrible sufferings those who had already shared the same rights. They were stricken also with loss of sight— just as were those at the door of the righteous man—when, surrounded by yawning darkness, all of them tried to find the way through their own doors.

The rabbis speak of a Sodomite bed (mittat sedom), which the people of Sodom provided for weary guests. However, when the wayfarer would lie down they made sure that he fit the bed per­fectly. A short man was stretched to fit it and a tall man was cut to size. The people of Sodom are not only protective of their wealth and punishing of acts of charity, but they are also desperate to force everyone to fit a single measure. They have a well-to-do gated com­munity that makes sure no beggars disturb their luxury and peace. They have zoned out both poverty and difference. For Sodom, the needs of others are experienced as a threat; for Abraham, they are opportunities for communion. For Sodom,- the response to difference is violence; for Abraham, curiosity.

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From → Biblical, Sexuality

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