WHAT WAS SODOM’S SIN?

PMW 2019-057 by Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr.

In Gen. 19:5 we read: They called to Lot and said to him, “Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us that we may have relations with them.” What do these men intend by this request to Lot?

Historically, Jew and Christian alike have recognized Sodom’s pervasive sin (highlighted in Gen. 18–19) as widespread homosexual conduct. But in the contemporary world of collapsing moral values, many “affirming” scholars, whole liberal denominations, and an increasing number of evangelical Christians have challenged this understanding.

These interpreters invariably point to Ezekiel’s reference to Sodom in his condemnation of Jerusalem. They argue there that Jerusalem’s population (Eze. 16:1–3) was inhospitable to Lot’s visitors, which the prophet links to Israel’s sin of refusing to “help the poor and needy”: “Behold, this was the guilt of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters had arrogance, abundant food and careless ease, but she did not help the poor and needy” (Eze. 16:49).


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Yet, Ezekiel’s surrounding verses speak of “abominations” (Ezek. 16:2, 22, 43, 47, 50, 51, 58), a designation too severe for inhospitality and neglecting the poor (cp. Lev. 18:22; Deut. 22:5). It also employs other sex-based terms in rebuking Jerusalem, such as referring to her “harlotries” (Eze. 16:15–17, 2, 22, 25–31, 33–36, 41), “adultery” (Eze. 16:32, 38), “nakedness” (Eze. 16:7, 8, 22, 36, 37, 39), and “lewdness” (Eze. 16:27, 36, 43, 58).

Why would the sin of inhospitality lead God to execute “capital punishment” against Sodom (Gen. 18:20–32; 19:13, 24, 25, 29; Deut. 29:23; Isa. 13:19; Jer. 49:18; 50:40; Lam. 4:6; Amos 4:11; Zeph. 2:9; Matt. 10:15; 11:24; 2 Pet. 2:6; Jude 7)? After all, homosexual conduct is a capital crime in God’s law, as recorded by Moses, the author of Genesis (Lev. 20:13).

Furthermore, the historical context stands against this inhospitality interpretation. We must recognize that twice before the episode in Gen. 19, the men of Sodom were already denounced as “wicked exceedingly and sinners” (Gen. 13:13) or rejected because “their sin is exceedingly grave” (Gen. 18:20).

Many who do admit the desire for homosexual relations in Gen. 19 insist that the men of Sodom were bent on homosexual rape, not consensual homosexual relations. They see their actions as a desire to humiliate these foreigners through this means of sexual dominance. But this does not explain the situation either. Why would the men of Sodom request that Lot allow them to rape his visitors (Gen. 19:5, 8b) whom he had welcomed into his home (Gen. 19:2–3)?

Rather, Sodom is so overrun by homosexuality that these citizens expected Lot’s visitors to have sexual relations with them. Sodom’s sin was widespread homosexual conduct (Gen. 19:4), seeking “strange flesh” (Jude 7). Initially they were not asking to rape the two men, for rape passages always speak of coercion (e.g., Jdg. 19:25) or use different words than the Hebrew yada, which is used here (Gen. 34:2; 2 Sam. 13:14; Deut. 22:25). Though eventually when rebuffed the Sodomites do threaten rape (v. 9).


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In God’s law homosexuality is not a civil right, but an abomination (Lev. 18:22; 20:13). The New Testament re-states the criminal prohibition of homosexuality in God’s law (1 Tim. 1:8–11). It also warns that tolerance of homosexual conduct is not evidence of social freedom, but is a sign of God’s judgment on a God-denying culture (Rom. 1:24, 26–28). This is because it is contrary to God’s creational design (see note on Gen. 1:27).

Nevertheless, the Christian worldview presents the reality of God and his sovereign, saving grace. Thus, the New Testament also points out that homosexuals can be healed, just as can habitual fornicators and adulterers (1 Cor. 6:9–11). God’s word promises that “though your sins are as scarlet, / they will be as white as snow” (Isa. 1:18; cp. Psa. 51:7; Isa. 43:25).

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2 thoughts on “WHAT WAS SODOM’S SIN?

  1. Alvin Plummer July 16, 2019 at 7:41 pm

    Reblogged this on Across the Stars and commented:
    There’s no getting around the commands of God… even before the arrival of Moses.

  2. kristafal July 17, 2019 at 4:11 pm

    Excellent work! Thanks and God bless.

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