The Sin Of Sodom Wasn't What You Think It Was.

Genesis 19 tells the story of the destruction of the city of Sodom. It's kind of intense.

Maybe we shouldn't start with the end of Sodom. That would make for a rather short post. Let's back up. Here's what we know about Sodom according to the book of Genesis.

The first mention of Sodom, found in Genesis 10:19, is a rather inconspicuous one. In describing the territory of Canaan, Genesis says it extended "from Sidon, in the direction of Gerar, as far as Gaza, and in the direction of Sodom, Gomorrah, Admah, and Zeboiim, as far as Lasha" (NRSV).

I'll be honest. I can't plot these places on a map of ancient Canaan. Frankly, I'm ok with that. For the sake of illustration, let's just say it's a little like describing the United States as extending as far northwest as the state of Washington, as far northeast as Maine, as far southeast as Florida, and as far southwest as California. No offense, Hawaii and Alaska. Y'all are great. It's just an illustration.

The next time Sodom shows up is in Genesis 13:1-3. Abram (later called Abraham) and his nephew Lot have been traveling together. They both have a lot of stuff (livestock, flocks, herds, tents, etc.) and the land can't support the both of them, so they decide to go their separate ways. Abram chooses Canaan while Lot chooses Sodom. Genesis 13:13 follows up Lot's decision with a bit of a red flag: "Now the people of Sodom were wicked and sinning greatly against YHWH." Cue ominous music here.

Genesis 14 is the next appearance of Sodom. In this chapter, four kings wage war against five other kings.

Hmmmm. I think I've heard about this sort of thing before.

The king of Sodom is part of the group of five kings, and things do not go well for him. Sodom is plundered, not only of goods and provisions, but also of people. Lot, the nephew of Abram, is now a prisoner of war. Luckily, Uncle Abe saves the day. He pushes back the would-be conquering kings and rescues Lot. The king of Sodom offers a healthy reward to Abram, inviting him to keep all the plunder (originally the possessions of Sodom) that Abram had brought back in victory. But in Genesis 14:23, Abram refuses to take any of it, because he doesn't want to afford the king of Sodom the opportunity to say, "I made Abram rich." Ominous music returns.

Let's review. What do we know about Sodom so far?

1) It's used to detail the geographical perimeters of the land of Canaan.

2) Its people were wicked and sinning a bunch against YHWH.

3) Its king tried to reward Abram for saving his people but Abram wanted nothing to do with it.

Okay, let's keep going. We're closing in on the final days of Sodom.

Genesis 18 is a strange chapter. Abraham (he's no longer called Abram; God changed his name to "Father of a multitude," because he would be) gets some visitors. There's a lot going on in this first section of Genesis 18, but I'm jumping ahead to our relevant material. When the visitors decide it's time to leave, they look toward Sodom and YHWH decides he needs to tell Abraham what his plans are. When you first read this in Genesis 18:17-19, it's easy to think you missed something earlier. Maybe Genesis had already mentioned these visitors were going to make their way to Sodom and God's plans had already been mentioned. But that's not the case. This is the first time we hear of it. In Genesis 18:20, YHWH finally reveals, "The outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is great and their sin is very heavy. I will go down and see if they have done altogether according to the outcry which has come down to me; and if not, I will know." In other words, God will see for himself if things are as bad as he's heard, and if it's not that bad, he'll know. The visitors continue toward Sodom and Abraham proceeds to open negotiations with YHWH, asking him not to kill the righteous along with the wicked. He manages to convince YHWH to spare the city if ten righteous people are found there.

Now, at last, we return to Genesis 19. The visitors, described in Genesis 19:1 as two angels, show up in Sodom. Lot welcomes them to his home as soon as he sees them and even makes a meal for them. Then the plot thickens. All the men of the city, and the Bible is clear here, every last one in Sodom, show up at Lot's door and call to Lot, asking him to send out the men who were visiting him so they could have sex with them.

Whoa. That took a rather nasty turn. But wait. It gets worse.

Lot, in his infinite wisdom, offers his two virgin daughters to the mob outside, telling the men to do as they wish to his daughters but leave the visitors alone.

Let's pause for a moment, shall we? Maybe catch our breath, step outside, take in some sunlight and step away from this nastiness for a moment?


Better.

Okay. Ready? Let's keep going.

Thankfully, the men of Sodom decide they would rather gang rape the two angels than the two virgin daughters.

"Thankfully, W.G.? What do you mean, thankfully?"

The angels are messengers of YHWH. I feel like they can handle themselves.

And that's exactly what they do. They strike the mob blind and at first light Lot, his wife, and two daughters leave town at the behest of the two angels. If you're keeping count, that's six people, by the way. Four shy of the ten Abraham negotiated with God for. Sure enough, in Genesis 19:24 Sodom and Gomorrah goes down in flames.

This story in Genesis 19 is probably the story most folks think of when they think of Sodom. Because of this story, you may have heard that Sodom was destroyed because the town was guilty of rampant homosexuality. But let's take a closer look. What does the Bible say about the sin of Sodom?

Genesis 13:13: "Now the people of Sodom were wicked and sinning greatly against YHWH."

Genesis 18:20: "The outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is great and their sin is very heavy."

Not very specific, is it? The only specific instance we have is, in essence, the last sin they commit. Attempted gang rape of two angels.

Actually, I would argue that the last sin committed by a resident of Sodom is Lot offering his two daughters to the mob to be gang raped.

I think we've listened to human tradition far too long when it comes to this story, ignoring the Biblical text. There is nothing in this story (or the stories leading up to this one) to suggest that Sodom was destroyed because they practiced rampant homosexuality. There just isn't. That's not to say that the Bible doesn't have more to say on this subject in other places. I just don't think Genesis 19 is all that relevant on the matter.

I know some readers won't agree with me. I understand. Perhaps you'll agree with Ezekiel.

Ezekiel was a prophet in the 6th century. He has a big old book in the Hebrew Bible. He once preached to God's people, telling them they were a lot like Sodom. In Ezekiel 16:49-50, we find these words:

For this was the sin of Sodom, your sister:
She and her daughters had pride, plenty of food, and undisturbed ease,
and they did not strengthen the hand of the poor and needy.
They were prideful and did abominable things before me,
so I removed them when I saw it.

Don't take my word for it. Take Ezekiel's.

Comments

  1. This is great. I bet you respectfully eye roll every self righteous pro conversion therapy homosexual hatin person who uses this story as evidence against same sex relationships. What would we do without the wisdom of WG? I know I appreciate it.

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  2. Just to reiterate, I know the Bible has more to say on that subject in other parts of the Bible. I just don't think this story is about that.

    Also, I don't imagine I've ever "respectfully" eye-rolled anyone. Is that even possible?

    Thanks for reading and commenting. I promise there is lots of wisdom to be found out there, and I'm certain I've offered up more than my fair share of foolishness at times.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Yes I know. God has revealed His stance on the subject to me and convicted my heart on the matter after I searched and studied what you had previously shared with me. I was playing around a bit. I always enjoy reading your perspective WGIV translation

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