Old Testament references
Genesis 13:13; 19:1-11
The story of Sodom and Gomorrah has done more
damage to the image and status of homosexuals than perhaps any other part
of the Bible.
Yet when we read it carefully, we find that we are not told the sexuality
of the offenders.
What we are told, in Genesis 13:13, is that those involved were 'wicked,
great sinners' [NRSV]. The passage aptly describes them. The men of Sodom
were guilty of:
*firstly, the grossest inhospitality:
In a land where hospitality was of the highest importance (as it still
is), and the host was responsible for the safety and well-being of his
guests, Lot was more willing to offer his daughters than let his guests
* secondly, the intended rape of the guests:
The men of Sodom were both intimidating and violent in their manner; but
if this is a story about intended male rape per
se, why did they not rape Lot who went out to them?
The issue here is not the sexuality of the offenders (which we are not
told), but the intention of violent wicked men trying to destroy
Lot's reputation as a host by abusing his guests, thus humiliating him
and driving him away.
We can only guess at the reasons in the story - perhaps jealousy at Lot's
wealth? Or suspicions about racial or cultural differences, or about the
separateness of those people whose God was Yahweh?
These are similar to the motives that cause people nowadays to mistreat
outsiders or perceived intruders. The homosexuals I know are as horrified
at this kind of behaviour as any other responsible person would be.
Doubtless there are wicked men, homosexual or heterosexual, who would do
such things, but we don't know the sexuality of those in the story. It
can't be important, or we would have been told.
The issue the writer is addressing is the demonstrable wickedness of the
people in the story. It is about as far removed as one can get from the
enriching, faithful love that responsible homosexuals, especially Christians,
can share, and which is the burden of this study.
This story has nothing to do with the issue!
How did Jesus see this story? We have the
evidence in the gospels! When he referred to Sodom and Gomorrah
it was not as many do, to castigate a minority group; he used it only
in the context of inhospitality (Matthew 10:
11-15; Luke 10: 8-12), or unbelief (Matt 11:
unpreparedness (Luke 17: 28-30).
There is another possible explanation for this
story being included in the Hebrew Bible.
Sodom gave its name to the sexual act that the Israelites normally associated
with cult male prostitution (of which more anon). Cult prostitution was
hated by the faithful Israelites, and if the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah
were burned when tar pits (known to exist in that area) were ignited, then
cult prostitution may have provided the Israelites with a ready-made explanation
of why God should have punished the people of Sodom.
The Israelites always had to find such a reason for people's misfortunes
- it was the way they thought, and continued to do so even in Jesus' day
(see John 9:1-2 and Luke 13:1-4).
This explanation would have served as a suitable warning to any young Israelite
who was tempted to get involved in cult prostitution.
This passage contains an almost identical story to that of Sodom, except
that here the culprits were from the tribe of Benjamin, and their actions
included violent heterosexual rape leading to the death of the guest's
concubine (although they initially demanded that the male visitor be given
Again, the host went out to them, but they wanted the guest. Their punishment
was a war that decimated the tribe (Judges 20), although
there is a twist in the story's end.
Much the same comment applies as to the story of Sodom in Genesis. The
sexuality of the offenders is not given, but their identity in this case
is, ie Benjamites. The issue is again gross inhospitality, intimidation,
and in this case violent heterosexual rape and the death of the female
victim, when their initial desire for the male guest was frustrated.
It is interesting that the condemnation of homosexuals is justified by
many on the basis of the Sodom & Gomorrah story, (though homosexuals
are not identified in the story), but not the condemnation of all members
of the tribe of Benjamin ie the 'Benjamites' who are positively identified
in the Judges story.
And it is as illogical to castigate all members of the tribe of Benjamin
for the crime of those Benjamites, as it is to castigate all homosexuals
for the crime of Sodom & Gomorrah, even IF those involved were all
homosexuals, which we are not told, and is most unlikely from the order
This story from the book of Judges has no connection with whether God's
love can or cannot embrace homosexuals who share an enriching, faithful,
Yet again, it has nothing to do with the issue.
Leviticus 18:22; 20:13
I shall not comment on these verses at this stage, for reasons that will
become apparent later. These verses need to be dealt with so fully that
they warrant a chapter of their own.
Deuteronomy and Kings
Deuteronomy 23:17-18; 1 Kings 14:24, 15:12, 22:46;
2 Kings 23:7. These five refs are dealt with together as they
all refer to the same issue - that of cult prostitution. In
every case, the King James Version uses the term 'sodomite' incorrectly
(in the modern sense). Reliable modern versions now correctly
translate the Hebrew word variously as:
- 'male temple prostitute'
- 'male prostitute at pagan worship'
- 'sacred male prostitute'
- 'male shrine prostitute'.
The treatment meted out to these cult prostitutes shows how Israel felt
about the sexual practices of Canaanite fertility cults. They hated it!
Because of this, and because Israel was to be a separate people, it fed
back into their law.
This is the total of the relevant references in the Old Testament, which
is the Hebrew Bible, and which was the Bible of
Jesus, the Apostles, and the Early Church, including Paul. The
New Testament, as we know it, was not agreed as part of the canon of scripture
until the 4th Century AD.
We have yet to deal with the references in Leviticus (see next chapter).
But apart from these
there is no passage in
the Hebrew Bible that in any way condemns homosexuality that expresses
itself in a love which is fine and enriching to those who love one
another in a faithful, committed relationship.
There are only passages which condemn various kinds of same-sex sexual