Our series continues on understanding what the Bible says (and doesn’t say) about homosexuality. All references made by other authors can be found here.
The first time the issue of homosexuality appears in scripture is in the story of Sodom and Gomorrah, recorded in Genesis 19:4-11. Whenever Christians present a rebuttal against homosexuality, they always start here, with this story, to prove God’s hatred towards this way of life. While God may in fact hate the practice of such a life, what Christians fail to recognize are two important things: God is not attacking the person but rather his sin, and likewise, God is attacking the many sins of Sodom, not just homosexuality. What follows is a look at the word yadda, homosexual rape, and the sin of Sodom.
YADDA: In the five versions of the Bible consulted regarding this particular verse, all connect the actions of verse 5 with some form of homosexuality. The NIV states that the men of the town wanted to have sex with the visitors; the NASB uses the phrase ‘have relations with them’; the AMP takes the action to be one of intimacy; and the ESV and YLT describe the men as wanting to ‘get to know’ the visitors. The phrase ‘get to know’ is translated from yadda in Hebrew, which means “(1) to know by observing and reflecting (thinking), and (2) to know by experiencing” (Vine, p. 130). In this understanding of the second meaning, at times yadda is used in reference to people knowing each other sexually, as in Genesis 4:1. While some refute the use of yadda to mean a sexual knowing in Genesis 19:5, we need to consider the context for which the word is used here.
The pro-gay side contends that the men of Sodom where simply looking to get acquainted socially with Lot’s visitors. This very well may have been their original thought, but this is not what is recorded or how the word yadda is used – by both Lot and the men.
When the men of Sodom ask Lot to send out his visitors, Lot responds by saying, “I beg you, my brothers, do not act so wickedly. Behold, I have two daughters who have not known any man. Let me bring them out to you, and do to them as you please … But they said, ‘Stand back!’ … Then they pressed hard against the man Lot, and drew near to break the door down” (19:7-9). Now, besides the fact that Lot’s parenting skills need to be severely refined, the conversation taking place does not sound pleasant, nor does it suggest that the men wanted to meet the visitors socially. The men were angrily looking for sex, and though Lot offered his daughters for this purpose, the men refused for something else. Given the context and the use of yadda, we can easily conclude that the men were looking not for a social time, but sex from the men in Lot’s house.
This view was overwhelmingly held by everyone, until 1955 when Derrick Bailey began to openly question Genesis 19. Bailey upheld the position that in this passage, yadda was referring to ‘get to know socially,’ and that any attempt to suggest homosexuality in this passage was absurd. While Bailey has raised this question, and while he has many followers of this understanding, to suggest that this passage is not talking about gay sex is irresponsible. As David Bartlett, a seminary professor and pro-gay supporter, even notes, “The integrity of the story indicates that what is at issue in each instance is intercourse, and not just getting acquainted” (Bartlett, p. 134). The question, then, becomes, not was gay sex being sought out, but what type of sex was being suggested.
HOMOSEXUAL RAPE: Here is where I would agree with the pro-gay argument that Genesis 19 is referring to homosexual rape and not consensual sex between adult males. Again, referring to the language and context in verses 19:5-9, one can clearly see that the intent of the men of Sodom was to rape Lot’s visitors. However, these passages also allude to the fact that gay sex was commonly practiced in the city, especially since the passages states that the men of the city, young and old, came to inquire about the visitors. This fact can be backed up by ancient historians Josephus and Philo who agree that homosexual practice was commonly associated with the men (city) of Sodom.
A caution needs to be made here. Although the men in Sodom engaged in gay sex regularly, Genesis 19 does not suggest that all gay men are rapist, or that Sodom was destroyed solely because of gay sex. Why, then, was Sodom destroyed?
SIN OF SODOM: Those who object to the Genesis 19 as a condemnation of homosexuality often refer to Ezekiel 16:49, which states that the sin of Sodom was the fact that they ignored the poor and oppressed, and that it was because of this sin that God destroyed the two cities. While this is correct, in reading further, verse 50 adds to the list of verse 49 and states that Sodom’s sin also included being “haughty and [doing] detestable things before” God (NIV). Likewise, 2 Peter 2:6-7 and Jude 7 also accredit sexual immorality to be part of Sodom’s downfall. It can be concluded then, without going too much further into this particular argument, that there were many sins that caused God to destroy the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, one being their ignorance to the poor and another being the male practice of homosexuality.
The Church should heed warning and stop holding Genesis 19 up as the main text against homosexuality. While the story indicates male-male sex, it is referring strictly to rape. And while the city was destroyed, there were many reasons for it being so.
God’s Original Intent
I want to touchy briefly on the Creation aspect of things, which sometimes comes up in talking about homosexuality. While Genesis states that God created Adam and Eve to have sexual relations with one another, it does not necessarily mean that He did not also create those who would have same-sex relations (this is an argument from silence). This argument suggests that God created both heterosexual and homosexual partners to cohabitate with each other on the Earth. However, no where in scripture – especially in the Creation story – do we find God making, or God joining, same-sex couples. Instead, we find God creating man and woman to live together in unity, as one flesh, within God’s image. This was God’s original intent, before and after the Fall. However, because of the Fall, God’s design became distorted.
As one author points out, it’s difficult “to fit homoerotic behavior within the understanding of the human presented in Genesis 2 … it seems to imply that homosexuality belongs, in its origin, outside the garden”, beyond Genesis 3 (Gaiser, p. 165). This would place homosexual behavior after the fall, which the apostle Paul supports in Romans 1 (a passage that will soon follow). However, this is not to say that homosexuality is the only sexual sin resulting from the fall:
Adultery (see Gen. 26:10), incest (see Gen. 19:36), rape (see Gen. 34:2), and prostitution (see Gen. 38:15) also pose continual threats to sexual wholeness. It is in the light of the Fall and the damage done to our humanity and sexuality that homosexuality and the other deviations from God’s created order must be understood. (Kirk, p. 52)
Genesis 3 messed things up big time. And ever since, God’s original design, set up in Genesis 1 and 2, for sexuality and life itself has been challenged and misconstrued. Again, the lie of Satan still rings within our ears, “Did God really say …,” and it still drives us to attain what we think is best for our lives over what God desires for us.