Understanding Genesis 19:1-11

(Sodom)

Objection: The Sin Of Sodom And Gomorrah Was Not Homosexuality

The story of Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 19:1-11) clearly contains homosexuality. The men of the city wanted to have sex with the visiting men who had been given shelter in Lot’s home. “Sodom” has been adopted in the English word “sodomy” i.e. homosexuality. It is sometimes argued though that Sodom’s sin was really lack of hospitality or that the sin was the excessive lust and the violence rather than the homosexuality per se. This passage, it is argued, is quite clearly not about loving, faithful, homosexual relationships.

Response

It is true that Ezekiel 16:49-50, when talking about Sodom, refers to other sins. It does however also mention “detestable things”. Ezekiel 16:49-50 49  “‘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.  50  They were haughty and did detestable things before me. Therefore I did away with them as you have seen. That there were other sins in such a godless city is no surprise. Depravity is seldom limited to only one sin. Isaiah 3:8-9 says that the people of Jerusalem “paraded their sins” and did not hide them, like Sodom. They were clearly shameless. Nevertheless, their homosexual practice is central to the story and was clearly a large part of both Lot’s disgust (see vv.5-6) and God’s judgement. The reader of Genesis, having been alerted to Sodom’s terrible sinfulness (Gen 13:13; 18:20) is then told a story of that wickedness. The example that highlights the wickedness of the city is homosexuality. Various other passages refer to Sodom, so it is important we hear the Bible’s own commentary on Sodom’s sin. Almost all of those passages refer to sexual immorality or use sexual imagery. Jeremiah 23:14 And 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 not one of them turns from their wickedness. They are all like Sodom to me; the people of Jerusalem are like Gomorrah.’ The whole of Ezekiel 16 (quoted, in part, above) is dominated by frequent and quite graphic references to sexual sin. While this is an analogy for spiritual infidelity, it is likely that the sins of Jerusalem (which Ezekiel is addressing) included the lewdness and promiscuity described. In any case, the sexual allusions are clear. 2 Peter 2:4-10 4  For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but sent them to hell, putting them in chains of darkness to be held for judgment;  5  if he did not spare the ancient world when he brought the flood on its ungodly people, but protected Noah, a preacher of righteousness, and seven others;  6  if he condemned the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah by burning them to ashes, and made them an example of what is going to happen to the ungodly;  7  and if he rescued Lot, a righteous man, who was distressed by the depraved conduct of the lawless  8  (for that righteous man, living among them day after day, was tormented in his righteous soul by the lawless deeds he saw and heard)—  9  if this is so, then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials and to hold the unrighteous for punishment on the day of judgment.  10  This is especially true of those who follow the corrupt desire of the flesh and despise authority. The message here is that God knows how to judge the wicked and how to save the righteous. He has judged and He has rescued before. We should not assume He won’t do it again. Sodom and Gomorrah are cited specifically as “an example of what is going to happen to the ungodly”. It doesn’t explicitly link Sodom with homosexuality but does talk about Lot witnessing “the depraved conduct of the lawless” and their “lawless deeds”. The deeds we were explicitly told about included homosexuality. We have every reason to believe that God has revealed a prime example of their sin, especially when their actions are in conflict with the consistent teaching of scripture elsewhere.  Jude 7 confirms the central part their “sexual immorality and perversion” played. Jude 7 7 In a similar way, Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding towns gave themselves up to
sexual immorality and perversion. They serve as an example of those who suffer the punishment
of eternal fire. Two terms are used here: sexual immorality and, literally, “pursuing strange flesh”. The latter is generally translated as “perversion” (NIV) or “unnatural desire” (ESV) because “pursuing strange flesh” refers not to the Sodomites’ violence or inhospitality but to the perverted nature of the sex. The coerciveness would have added to the sinfulness of the event but Jude makes it clear that the homosexual sex itself was wrong. Let us suppose that the men approached and asked if the visitors would like to have sex with them (i.e. that it was consensual.) Would it then have been morally good? No, it would still have been at odds with God’s design in creation and with the various biblical prohibitions against men having sex with men. It is true that there was more to the sinfulness of Sodom than just the homosexuality. That is a reminder that there are many things that are wrong. It is not as if homosexuality is uniquely sinful or even the worst of all sins. We all need to be conscious of the sins that reside in our own lives or our own churches, and that are, likewise, offensive to God. Nevertheless, the wickedness of this city is epitomised in the story of the men’s request for sex with the visiting men.

What are we to learn from the Sodom and Gomorrah story?

Homosexuality is at least a part of the gross sinfulness of Sodom. There is nothing in scripture that suggests that homosexuality is acceptable so that it was only the lustfulness or violence that was wrong. The most dramatic aspect of the story is the consequence of their sin. Both Jude (v.7) and Peter (2 Peter 2:4-10a) say that Sodom provides an example “to those who suffer the punishment of eternal fire”. God chose to judge their sin in a dramatic and terrible way as an example. Clearly we are meant to learn from that example. God will judge sin.

Related pages

© 2017 Peter Cheyne
A Christian’s Guide To Homosexuality
Truth In Love
Main sections Main sections

Understanding

Genesis 19:1-11

(Sodom)

Objection: The Sin Of Sodom And Gomorrah

Was Not Homosexuality

The story of Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 19:1- 11) clearly contains homosexuality. The men of the city wanted to have sex with the visiting men who had been given shelter in Lot’s home. “Sodom” has been adopted in the English word “sodomy” i.e. homosexuality. It is sometimes argued though that Sodom’s sin was really lack of hospitality or that the sin was the excessive lust and the violence rather than the homosexuality per se. This passage, it is argued, is quite clearly not about loving, faithful, homosexual relationships.

Response

It is true that Ezekiel 16:49-50, when talking about Sodom, refers to other sins. It does however also mention “detestable things”. Ezekiel 16:49-50 49  “‘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.  50  They were haughty and did detestable things before me. Therefore I did away with them as you have seen. That there were other sins in such a godless city is no surprise. Depravity is seldom limited to only one sin. Isaiah 3:8-9 says that the people of Jerusalem “paraded their sins” and did not hide them, like Sodom. They were clearly shameless. Nevertheless, their homosexual practice is central to the story and was clearly a large part of both Lot’s disgust (see vv.5-6) and God’s judgement. The reader of Genesis, having been alerted to Sodom’s terrible sinfulness (Gen 13:13; 18:20) is then told a story of that wickedness. The example that highlights the wickedness of the city is homosexuality. Various other passages refer to Sodom, so it is important we hear the Bible’s own commentary on Sodom’s sin. Almost all of those passages refer to sexual immorality or use sexual imagery. Jeremiah 23:14 And 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 not one of them turns from their wickedness. They are all like Sodom to me; the people of Jerusalem are like Gomorrah.’ The whole of Ezekiel 16 (quoted, in part, above) is dominated by frequent and quite graphic references to sexual sin. While this is an analogy for spiritual infidelity, it is likely that the sins of Jerusalem (which Ezekiel is addressing) included the lewdness and promiscuity described. In any case, the sexual allusions are clear. 2 Peter 2:4-10 4  For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but sent them to hell, putting them in chains of darkness to be held for judgment;  5  if he did not spare the ancient world when he brought the flood on its ungodly people, but protected Noah, a preacher of righteousness, and seven others;  6  if he condemned the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah by burning them to ashes, and made them an example of what is going to happen to the ungodly;  7  and if he rescued Lot, a righteous man, who was distressed by the depraved conduct of the lawless  8   (for that righteous man, living among them day after day, was tormented in his righteous soul by the lawless deeds he saw and heard)—  9  if this is so, then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials and to hold the unrighteous for punishment on the day of judgment.  10  This is especially true of those who follow the corrupt desire of the flesh and despise authority. The message here is that God knows how to judge the wicked and how to save the righteous. He has judged and He has rescued before. We should not assume He won’t do it again. Sodom and Gomorrah are cited specifically as “an example of what is going to happen to the ungodly”. It doesn’t explicitly link Sodom with homosexuality but does talk about Lot witnessing “the depraved conduct of the lawless” and their “lawless deeds”. The deeds we were explicitly told about included homosexuality. We have every reason to believe that God has revealed a prime example of their sin, especially when their actions are in conflict with the consistent teaching of scripture elsewhere.  Jude 7 confirms the central part their “sexual immorality and perversion” played. Jude 7 7 In a similar way, Sodom and
Gomorrah and the surrounding towns 
gave themselves up to sexual
immorality and perversion. They serve
as an example of those who suffer the
punishment of eternal fire. Two terms are used here: sexual immorality and, literally, “pursuing strange flesh”. The latter is generally translated as “perversion” (NIV) or “unnatural desire” (ESV) because “pursuing strange flesh” refers not to the Sodomites’ violence or inhospitality but to the perverted nature of the sex. The coerciveness would have added to the sinfulness of the event but Jude makes it clear that the homosexual sex itself was wrong. Let us suppose that the men approached and asked if the visitors would like to have sex with them (i.e. that it was consensual.) Would it then have been morally good? No, it would still have been at odds with God’s design in creation and with the various biblical prohibitions against men having sex with men. It is true that there was more to the sinfulness of Sodom than just the homosexuality. That is a reminder that there are many things that are wrong. It is not as if homosexuality is uniquely sinful or even the worst of all sins. We all need to be conscious of the sins that reside in our own lives or our own churches, and that are, likewise, offensive to God. Nevertheless, the wickedness of this city is epitomised in the story of the men’s request for sex with the visiting men.

What are we to learn from the Sodom and Gomorrah story?

Homosexuality is at least a part of the gross sinfulness of Sodom. There is nothing in scripture that suggests that homosexuality is acceptable so that it was only the lustfulness or violence that was wrong. The most dramatic aspect of the story is the consequence of their sin. Both Jude (v.7) and Peter (2 Peter 2:4-10a) say that Sodom provides an example “to those who suffer the punishment of eternal fire”. God chose to judge their sin in a dramatic and terrible way as an example. Clearly we are meant to learn from that example. God will judge sin.

Related pages

© Peter Cheyne 2017.
A Christian’s Guide To Homosexuality
Truth In Love
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