085. Sodom. Any Relevance For Sexuality Today?

Paul was very upset. He had begun to share some aspects of his life with me as his minister.  He was a handsome young man but shy and a bit of a loner. What he shared with me gave me an initial reaction of disgust. It seems that when he was in his late teens he was walking at night through a deserted part of the country town where he lived. As he did so he was attacked from behind by a small group of youths. They held him down and some anally raped him. Homosexual gang or pack-rape is perhaps the term to describe this horrible crime. It certainly had affected him greatly. He didn’t feel free to initiate any close relationship with any woman because he felt he was a “defiled” person, “damaged goods”.  I prayed with him that he might be healed of the damage done through that unexpected and unwanted encounter.  Young men burning with lust forced themselves on an unsuspecting victim, in this case a male.

Perhaps that occurrence is similar to the scene we read about in the story in Genesis 19. In that chapter Lot offered hospitality to two angelic beings. However they must have seemed in appearance to be like young men. Soon after, the men of Sodom of all ages surrounded the house, and called out to Lot, “Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us, that we may know them.” What did they mean by saying that they wanted to “know them?”

 The word for “know” is (yada). It has many meanings but it can mean knowing a person sexually such as in Gen 4:1 Now Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived and bore Cain, saying, “I have gotten a man with the help of the LORD.” It is also used in the same way in 1Kings 1:4, where David’s servants try to keep David warm by selecting a young woman to lie in his arms. Abishag was found and brought to the king. Even though she was very beautiful and attended to the king, he “knew” her not. In other words he did not know her sexually. Another reference to (yada) being used to describe sexual relations is in the story of Rebekah where she is described as a virgin in these words, Gen 24:16  The young woman was very attractive in appearance, a maiden whom no man had known.

In the story in Genesis 19:8 Lot knew what the men were after, namely sexual relations with his guests. He offers his virgin daughters (who have not known [yada] any man) to the men so that the men of Sodom might do to them as they pleased. Rather a despicable attitude but he wanted to save face with his guests at the cost of his daughters’ well-being. However the men of Sodom lusted for the men and would not accept the offer of the daughters. Judgment followed upon those men.

Many modern versions of the Bible spell out the meaning of “know” referring to sexual relations. For example the Holman Christian Study Bible puts it, Gen 19:5  They called out to Lot and said, “Where are the men who came to you tonight? Send them out to us so we can have sex with them!” Lot’s offer of his daughters is translated as, Gen 19:8  Look, I’ve got two daughters who haven’t had sexual relations with a man. I’ll bring them out to you, and you can do whatever you want to them. The NET Bible also puts it starkly, “Bring them out to us so we can have sex with them!” The daughters are described in this version as those, who have never had sexual relations with a man.

It is obvious why the term “sodomy” came into use. It described the sexual activity between males as seen in the city of Sodom. At the very least then, homosexual gang or pack-rape is repugnant to God. But how about homosexual relations between consenting males. Is that wrong too?

Homosexual practice forbidden in Leviticus 18. (See my previous article on this chapter here).

The context in Lev 18:1-30 is the Lord addressing Moses and instructing him to charge His people not to adopt the customs of the nations around them, or the customs of the nations through whose land they would travel. Rather they were to follow God’s rules and statutes and walk in them. Thus many things were forbidden. Among the instructions was this command, (22) You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination. This would obviously include homosexual gang or pack rape which is always wrong in any context. But the words are more general than that. It seems to include consensual male homosexuality.

The seriousness of the charge God gave to Moses is seen in the words that follow in verses 24 to 30, “Do not make yourselves unclean by any of these things, for by all these the nations I am driving out before you have become unclean, (25)  and the land became unclean, so that I punished its iniquity, and the land vomited out its inhabitants. (26)  But you shall keep my statutes and my rules and do none of these abominations, either the native or the stranger who sojourns among you (27)  (for the people of the land, who were before you, did all of these abominations, so that the land became unclean), (28)  lest the land vomit you out when you make it unclean, as it vomited out the nation that was before you. (29)  For everyone who does any of these abominations, the persons who do them shall be cut off from among their people. (30)  So keep my charge never to practice any of these abominable customs that were practiced before you, and never to make yourselves unclean by them: I am the LORD your God.”

 We notice in this passage the references to God’s people not doing “any”, or “all” of the things forbidden. There was also the charge for His people to do “none of the abominations” mentioned in the passage. That would include the situation of a man “lying with another male.” At first sight it seems that in this passage that any form of male homosexual practice is forbidden by God. We therefore need to look more closely at the passage. The term to “ lie” is (shakab). It is often used in the Old Testament to denote sexual intercourse. For example, in addition to the passage in Genesis 19, it is used in Numbers 5:13, if a man lies with her sexually and in 5:19, ‘If no man has lain with you.  Another reference is the rape of Tamar by Amnon in 2 Samuel 13:14, But he would not listen to her, and being stronger than she, he violated her and lay with her.

 There is no doubt that homosexual practice, a man lying with another male (sexual intercourse) is forbidden in this passage. In fact the verse adds the comment that such practice is an abomination to God. “Abomination” is (toebah) meaning something repugnant to God or detestable in His sight. It is used 5 times in this chapter to express God’s abhorrence at any of the practices mentioned. The chapter closes with an expression of God’s hatred  towards such practices, Lev 18:30  ‘So keep my charge never to practice any of these abominable customs that were practised before you, and never to make yourselves unclean by them: I am the LORD your God.”.

Homosexual practice forbidden in Leviticus 20

The context again is God charging His people not to be like the surrounding nations. He told them, consecrate yourselves, therefore, and be holy, for I am the LORD your God. 8 Keep my statutes and do them; I am the LORD who sanctifies you. Lev 20:7, 8. In consecrating themselves to God it meant that they could not follow the customs in the surrounding nations. Homosexual practice was forbidden among God’s people, Lev 20:13  If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination; they shall surely be put to death; their blood is upon them. The word for “lies” here is the same word (shakab) which as we have seen above refers to sexual intercourse.

This verse is even stronger in tone than the corresponding verse in Lev 18:22. The additional words are, they shall surely be put to death; their blood is upon them. In chapter 18 it is the act which is seen as an abomination to God. In chapter 20, the people are seen as guilty before Him for disobeying His commandments to them and rebelling against His rightful rule over them. The act is said to be repugnant to God. The people involved in the act are totally accountable to Him for their behaviour.  It sounds pretty tough until you remember that this is God’s world. He sets the rules. He judges  by His own standard, not ours. He is the Creator  and we are the creatures and He is not accountable to us in any way. To do what the Creator commanded us not to do is really an act of rebellion by creatures against their Creator.

Our predicament

Well that leaves us in a predicament. There are so many folk around the world saying that that homosexual activity is to be accepted and approved of.  Perhaps even suggesting that there could be same-sex marriages which have the same status as heterosexual marriages. Perhaps even inferring that those in such same-sex relationships are to be seen to be in a “family” relationship. Perhaps suggesting that those who don’t agree with homosexual activity or homosexual marriage are homophobic and guilty of hate towards them. Of course the great majority of people are not but the accusation is still being made. As I have written previously (see here)  it is really surprising who is guilty of homophobia and who is not.

But if God has revealed to His people in the Old Testament that He sees homosexual activity as an abomination in His sight, then that puts a different slant on accepting it. Perhaps Jesus had a softer, more up to date,  a more “with it” thinking? Or did He have the same attitude to these things that God the Father had? We leave the Old Testament with the knowledge that God has declared His opinion in the Old Testament on homosexual practice. His opinion is obviously vastly different from the opinions of many people in our world today.  What light might Jesus and the New Testament shed on this issue? We will look at that in future articles.

Blog No.085. Jim Holbeck. Posted on Thursday 23rd August 2012 

About Jim Holbeck

Once an Industrial Chemist working for the Queensland Government but later an Anglican minister in Brisbane, Armidale and Sydney. Last position for eighteen years before retirement in 2006 was as the Leader of the Healing Ministry at St Andrew's Cathedral Sydney.
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