The Sin of Sodom
Then there is the story of the destruction of the city of Sodom, (Genesis 18:16-19:29). Sodom has given its name to the now somewhat quaint-sounding term ‘Sodomy’, which originally meant a specific male homosexual sex act. Eventually it was expanded to mean any form of sexual expression which happened to be illegal, including things that married heterosexual couples do every day.
However, a close reading reveals the name to be a bit of a misnomer. To start off, Sodom is described simply as a ‘wicked’ place. Lot, Abraham’s nephew, goes to live there to see if even one righteous person can be found there. The sexual theme starts when two disguised angels visit Lot. A mob, described as consisting of the men of the city, ‘both young and old’, attacks Lot’s house and demands that Lot allow them to ‘know’ (in the language of the KJV) the two men. To ‘know’ is, of course, the famous KJV circumlocution for having sexual intercourse.
The next passage bears closer examination. Lot (Gen 19:8) asks the mob to ‘do’ his two virgin daughters instead, but not the two guests, ‘for … they came under the shadow of my roof.’ The rest of the story is well-known: divine wrath ensues, the mob is blinded, the cities of the plain are destroyed by fire and brimstone while Lot and his family flee, Lot’s wife is turned to a pillar of salt because she looks back, and only Lot and his daughters escape. In an often ignored coda to this story, Lot’s daughters have incest with him by getting him intoxicated, (Gen 19:31), presumably to repopulate the country; a similar motif is found in the story of Noah. As in other Biblical narratives, even the heroes end up committing horrendous sins, driven by circumstances. But many ignore the entire context of the story in the rush to justify their own bigotry.
The sin of the city of Sodom was the originally considered to be the violation of the rights of Lot’s guests. Defining the ‘sin of Sodom’ to be male homosexuality was a later interpretation, which was made by medieval Jewish and Christian writers, as a reaction to Pagan acceptance of homosexuality. Near Eastern hospitality, to this day, implies a responsibility to protect guests under one’s roof. The fact that Lot was ready to make a huge sacrifice by offering up his virgin daughters to the mob instead of his guests underlines this.
There is abundant Haggadah, ancient Jewish folklore, which tells of the cruelty of Sodom to strangers, and their mistreatment of the poor and homeless. Among other stories, travelers are given gold but not food; when they starve to death, everything is stolen including the gold and the clothes off their backs, and their bodies are left to rot. One of Lot’s unfortunate daughters is burned to death for the crime of giving a starving man food. Another woman who assists a poor man is smeared with honey and left to be stung to death by bees. Some of these stories are suffused with dark comedic twists. A poor man is assaulted and robbed. Eliezar, a servant of Abraham, is hit on the head when he intervenes. A judge rules that he must pay his assailant for medical treatment! (Bleeding was considered a surgical procedure). Eliezar then hits the judge on the head, drawing blood, and tells the judge to pay his fine. See Ginzburg’s Legends of the Jews and Polano’s The Talmud: Selections, for many more stories along the same lines. After reading these, I guarantee you’ll be rooting for the Lord to rain down the brimstone on the cities of the plain…
There are also numerous Biblical passages warning about mistreating strangers, (with the story of Lot being implied), for instance this one in the NT: “Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.” [Heb. 13:2]
Between the original concept of a violation of the law of hospitality and the medieval focus on a particular sexual act, there is an intermediate stage where Sodom was criticized for other reasons entirely. Where Sodom is mentioned in later books of the Tanach and in the New Testament, it is used as an example of a city which was corrupted by luxury, lacking in values such as charity and humility. Nowhere is this made clearer than in Ezekiel 16:48-50, where Ezekiel, speaking for ‘the Lord God’, enumerates the sins of Sodom: “Saith the Lord GOD…Behold, this was the iniquity of … Sodom, pride, fulness of bread, and abundance of idleness … neither did she strengthen the hand of the poor and needy. And they were haughty and committed abomination before me: therefore I took them away as I saw good”.
Note that in this context ‘abomination’ means human sacrifice and idol worship, not shared tax breaks for long-term same-sex couples, or sexual practices you can see on cable after 10 o’clock. Furthermore, ‘abomination’ is at the end of the laundry list. The primary sin of Sodom, by this account, was that their society was materialistic, greedy and uncharitable. Social and economic justice is a thread that runs through the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament alike, and it is not difficult to extrapolate this to modern struggles for equality, such as those of LGBT people. When governmental and religious institutions and their leaders perpetuate oppression, it would not be farfetched to say that they are committing the actual sin of Sodom.
Jude 7 Even as Sodom and Gomorrha, and the cities about them in like manner, giving themselves over to fornication (They have changed the meanings of the words over the centuries the 17th century meaning of fornication or porneia in English meant idolatry and prostitution, it has been changed.), and going after strange flesh (Idolatry or going after another species of flesh. Sodom was completely ungodly they were cruel people and they tried to rape angels which is the reference to strange flesh non-human flesh (aka not gay)), are set forth for an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire.
2 Peter 6 and having reduced [the] cities of Sodom and Gomorrha (S&G complete rebelled against God’s will. If someone came into those cities, they would beat them and laugh at them, rob them, chain them and watch them starve to death, not to mention going after strange flesh (angels). They raped and kill etc. In fact Lot’s daughter got killed by a Sodomite, because she felt compassion for a beggar that they chained up to allow him to starve and die. (Jasher 18:11 – 19:53)) to ashes, condemned [them] with an overthrow, setting [them as] an example to those that should [afterwards] live an ungodly life;
Ezekiel 16:49 – 50
[This is several different translations all together as I have added the different terms in parenthesis. Notice not one mentions homosexuality.]
Behold, this was the iniquity (guilt/sin) of you sister Sodom; pride (arrogance), fullness of bread (excess of food), and prosperous ease (abundance of idleness) was in here and in her daughters; neither did she strengthen (aid) the hand of the poor and needy. And they were haughty, and committed abomination before me: therefore I took them away as I saw good.
1 And in the evening there came two [a]Angels to Sodom: and Lot sat at the gate of Sodom, and Lot saw them, and rose up to meet them, and he bowed himself with his face to the ground.
2 And he said, See my lords, I pray you turn in now into your servant’s house, and tarry all night, and wash your feet, and ye shall rise up early and go your ways. Who said, Nay, but we will abide in the street all night.
3 Then [b]he pressed upon them earnestly (Why do you think Lot bid them to not stay in the streets? He was trying to protect them from what is spoken of in Jasher they raped travelers, starved them, stole from them, and etc. every kind of cruelty you could imagine.), and they turned in to him, and came to his house, and he made them a feast, and did bake unleavened bread, and they [c]did eat.
[Along with all the cruelty they showed travelers, they also killed one of Lot’s daughters for helping a man in need of food. They raped their own women and swapped them off several times a year. The sin of Sodom was not homosexuality by any means.]
4 But before they went to bed, the men of the city, even the men of Sodom compassed the house round about, from the young even to the old, [d]all the people from all quarters.
5 Who crying unto Lot said to him, Where are the men, which came to thee this night? bring them out unto us, that we may know them.
6 Then Lot went out at the door unto them, and shut the door after him,
7 And said, I pray you, my brethren, do not so wickedly.
8 Behold now, I have two [e]daughters, which have not known man: them will I bring out now unto you, and do them as seemeth you good: only unto these men do nothing: [f]for therefore are they come under the shadow of my roof.
9 Then they said, Away hence: and they said, He is come alone as a stranger, and shall he judge and rule? we will now deal worse with thee than with them. So they pressed sore upon Lot himself, and came to break the door.
10 But the men put forth their hand, and pulled Lot into the house to them, and shut to the door.
[Lot offered them his daughters, because they were human at the very least, as well as in those times, the protection you were to have over the guests of your house. Near Eastern hospitality, to this day, implies a responsibility to protect guests under one’s roof. The fact that Lot was ready to make a huge sacrifice by offering up his virgin daughters to the mob instead of his guests underlines this.]
You can find Jasher at the link above.
Two references from the accepted Canon to Jasher.
“Is not this written in the Book of Jasher?”–Joshua, x. 13.
“Behold it is written in the Book of Jasher.”–II Samuel, i. 18