Same-Sex: The Genesis of the Issue, from an Old Testament Perspective

Though there are many that say that the bible does not address same-sex marriages, they cannot circumvent the fact that it addresses same-sex sex. Previously, we assert that one—of Christian belief—cannot knowingly support a union that creates an environment for a lifestyle they consider sinful to take place as if it is sanctioned by God (see part 2 of this series). In this third installation, we turn our attention to the genesis of the same-sex union. Tracking down the origin and root of same-sex unions in human historical records is an extremely difficult, if not impossible, task. Thus, our survey is confine to the Bible. Ultimately, what really matters from a Christian perspective is God’s view, a view to which we should adjust our lenses if we have not done so already.

Genesis 19 contains the bible’s first mention of the desire for same-sex unions. Initially the men of Sodom seek to fulfill this desire with the two angels that came to the city, and then Lot was threaten when he stood in the way (Gen. 19:4-9). The passage suggests that this type of sexual behavior was already taking place in the city and the arrival of the angels presented an opportunity to engage with new men. Prior to the arrival of the angels God told Abraham, “the outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is so great and their sin so grievous” (Gen. 18:20, cf. Gen 13:12, 13). However, the Lord did not mention a specific sin here.

God told Abraham that the reason He is going to Sodom is to see if it is as bad as He hears (Gen. 18:21). This is followed by Abraham’s questioning of how many righteous people will it take for the Lord not to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah (Gen. 12:23-33). While the angels were in Lot’s home in chapter 19 they were sought after by men who wanted to sleep with them and who had a disregard for hospitality. We must acknowledge that in Genesis, the destruction of Sodom accompanies the reason.

Further evidence in the Tanakh shows that it was not just about same-sex in Sodom. Ezekiel 16:49, 50 lists Sodom’s sin as being “arrogant, overfed and unconcerned, did not help the poor and needy, haughty, and did detestable things.” We Christians often bypass that description of Sodom. We hammer away at homosexuality but ignore our arrogance and the poor that litter our streets.

Some have concluded that since Ezekiel specifically says. “this was the sin [iniquity],” means that any attempts to explain what was wrong in Sodom is limited to the list that follows. This conclusion may have simply been the result of a hasty study. They are ignoring the totality of the biblical revelation on a given subject. Ezekiel and Genesis are not the only ones that speak of Sodom. If you use the NASB or the KJV, you will note that Sodom is mention 48 times in 47 verses, twice in Gen. 19:1 (the NIV mentions it 47 times in 47 verses). To ignore all the mentions and their contextual significance will result in an incomprehensive understanding of what the bible says about Sodom.

The word translated here for sin or iniquity עֲוֹן, is of singular construct. However, Ezekiel gives a list of multiples as the meaning of the word (in this context). The argument can be made that the phrase: “arrogant, overfed and unconcerned, did not help the poor and needy, and haughty,” consist of inter-related terms of thought and action. One who is arrogant and haughty will not be concern about the needs of others unless there is something to gain from lending a hand. Since the poor in those days had nothing to offer—no tax discount for giving to a helping cause—there would have been no incentive to be a humanitarian. Those who had abundance did not help those who lacked.

Such analysis is agreeable, but there is a need to go further and address the תוֹעֵבָה [abomination]. Although  תוֹעֵבָה [abomination] is listed as part of Ezekiel’s explanation of Sodom’s עֲוֹן [iniquity], it is not defined. Ezekiel does not say what he mean by abomination. The reason for this lack of disclosure is found in the answer of an interpretive question: why did Ezekiel mention Sodom?  Ezekiel calls Sodom and Samaria sisters of Jerusalem in the allegory found in chapter 16, which is designed to illustrate how wicked Jerusalem became (Ez. 16:46-47). In fact, Jerusalem was so wicked that it was worst then Sodom. Thus, Ezekiel did not set out to reconstruct a detailed explanation of Sodom’s sin. He used what he needed to make his point. He also acknowledges that the oppression of “the poor and needy” was common to the people of Judah (Ez. 22:29 NIV).

These facts are sufficient to conclude that homosexuality was not only part of Sodom’s (and Gomorrah) lifestyle, but part of the reason why she was destroyed. In our 4th posting, we will look at what the new testament says about homosexuality and whether or not Sodom is mentioned.

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