Sodom and Gomorrah story
I was bringing to those present at a meeting, the Bible study through which the Lord led me; the study which led to repentance for my homophobia some years ago.I was questioned as to exactly what was the meaning of the keyword 'know', in the demand of the men of Sodom in Gen 19:5, translated from the Hebrew in the Revised Standard Version (RSV), New RSV and the King James Versions as 'Bring them out 'that we mayknowthem'.
Some other versions eg New International (NIV), Good News (GNB), New World (NWT) and Living Bible (LB) translate the same verse as 'Bring them out that we may rape them' or 'that we may have sex with them'.
I felt challenged to explore the story of Sodom & Gomorrah more deeply. When I was studying the Bible in 1991 on this issue, I worked hard at the exegesis of all other references, but accepted the Sodom story largely as generally understood, except that I asked questions of it which shew that the sexuality of the offenders was not given, and that it had no bearing on same-sex relationships that are loving, committed and faithful.
But to begin the further exegesis!1. GENESIS 19:1-11 (and 13:13)
This is a story that, as translated and interpreted, has wrongly done great damage to homosexuals and their image. No intelligent, searching Bible student can now deny that the traditional interpretation is incorrect, as you will see. Yet the LB (Living Bible), the NWT (New World Translation); the NIV, (New Int'l Version); the GNB (Good News Bible), and the JB (Jerusalem Bible) etc, all contribute to that damage by incorrectly translating v.5 with words like 'rape' or 'have sex/intercourse with'.
This is contrary both to internal analysis of the story, and more importantly, the words of the prophets and Jesus, who provide the only firm Biblical evidence of Sodom's sin. 'Rape' and 'have sex/intercourse' are words for which there is no Biblical foundation in v5, as follows;
1. THE INTERNAL EVIDENCE OF THE STORY
a) While we know from Gen 13:13 that these were wicked men, we are NOT told in the Gen 19:1-11 story;
1. Specifically, what form their wickedness took, (but the prophets and Jesus tell us) OR
2. who these men were (other than 'men of Sodom') who were going to attack Lot's messengers. There is no basis in the story or in any other Biblical evidence that these were homosexuals, OR that the intended offence was same-sex rape.
b) The Hebrew derivatives of 'yada' (or know) used here is misconstrued as some form of male/male sexual intercourse. But 'yada' (and derivates) occur nearly 700 times in scripture, meaning 'know' in the sense we mean 'know'. It is used only 13 times when it means sexual intercourse, and it is always made clear by an accompanying statement eg 'Abraham knew Sarah his wife, and she conceived and had a son'.
Such a clarification does not occur in the Hebrew in v.5.
c) Why was Lot not raped when he went out to them, if this is a story about same-sex rape? This is incontrovertible evidence that this story is not about same-sex rape per se.
d) Why when offering his daughters, does Lot state that they are virgins? If they were being offered simply as sexual playthings, virginity did not matter, for they would not have been so after their first encounter. So his statement about their virginity was significant!
e) Even if Lot had offered his daughters as sexual playthings, it cannot be reliably inferred that this was to prevent a sexual attack - he could just have well have done so for reasons of diversion from physical violence to, or murder of, his guests.
f) Much more likely, (knowing Lot's background, see g. below) is that he recognised that the gods of Sodom had to be appeased.
Human sacrifice to gods was common then, and a female must be a 'virgin'. An alternative was to appease the local gods by offering his daughters as shrine prostitutes, which also required 'virginity' offered to the gods - this would show that Lot was 'nodding' his recognition and offering appeasement to the gods.
g) Lot was a great compromiser. In Chap 13 'he pitched his tent toward Sodom'. But by Chap 19 he was not only living in Sodom, he was an elder of the city of Sodom, and had betrothed his daughters to Sodom men. To achieve this he would have had to acknowledge the gods of Sodom, while worshipping Jahweh.
He was also a man of obscene wealth and different culture, who brought his God into the territory of the gods of Sodom who would (be considered by the men of Sodom to) be displeased. Now he was abusing that privilege by entertaining his God's messengers.
In spite of Sodom's wickedness, he dwelt in Sodom and 'sat at the gate' ie he was an elder of Sodom and 'judged', or helped judge cases.
Verse 9 gives some clues to the reasons for the attack,'Get out of our way...this fellow came here as an alien, (foreigner), and now wants to play the judge!'- not uncommon reasons for their attacks given by jealous xenophobes today.
2. THE EVIDENCE OF ISAIAH, EZEKIEL AND JESUS
h) Not only does the internal evidence of the story make clear that the story in Gen 19 is NOT about homosexuals and same-sex rape, the prophets and Jesus confirm this.
Most references in the Bible to Sodom do not specify or infer what was Sodom's sin, but some do.
The sins of Sodom;
1. according to Isaiah 1:10ff, were hypocrisy, idolatrous worship, and injustice.
2. according to Ezekiel 16:48-50, were pride, greed, idolatry, stubborn-ness and injustice.
3. according to Jesus Matt 10:11-15; 11:23,24; Mark 6:11; Luke 10:10-12; 17:26-30 were inhospitality, unbelief and unpreparedness.
Thus neither our Lord and Saviour, nor these great prophets, interpreted the story (and thus the sin) of Sodom according to present tradition! This for me is of the greatest significance.
It means that Christians and others who translate and/or interpret it according to present tradition, are doing so at variance with the Lord Jesus - the Living Word, and in spite of the Biblical evidence! And not only does this affect Gen 19:5, but continues to affect other dependent references incorrectly, eg Jude 7, which in modern translations is a gross mistranslation - see why in the Addendum.
There is an unacceptable degree of Biblical mistranslation born of ignorance on this issue, which results in pre-conceived, ie traditional, ideas being introduced to the text.
(NB. David Wolfers re-translated the book of Job in his 'Deep things out of Darkness -a re-translation of the Book of Job' because he found culpable mistranslation in the English translations. Where the Hebrew was perfectly clear, the translations had been made to conform to pre-conceived ideas of what Job was about).
COMPARISON WITH THE STORY IN JUDGES 19, 20
The story in Judges 19 is very significant. The criminals - men of the tribe of Benjamin - are clearly identified and, unlike the men in Gen 19, raped the woman offered to death. This story is similar in some respects to that of Sodom, but far more vicious. Why are homosexuals (who are NOT identified in Gen 19) condemned, while Benjamites who are clearly identified in Judges 19 never mentioned. The reason is not hard to find!