What was the sin of Sodom? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.
So we’re going back a bit because I was mentally going through Genesis recently and realized I had skipped this story and the next one. This starts in Genesis 13 which tells us that these cities wlil be destroyed and assumes its readers already know that. (Which tells you this had to be a most memorable destruction meant to stay in the minds of the audience.) We could picture it as if a person was telling about the history of New York City and said “This was before the World Trade Center towers were destroyed.”
When the story begins for Lot, he pitches his tent near Sodom. We don’t hear from him again until lo and behold, now he is living in Sodom. Lot’s first mistake here was not keeping his distance from a city that had a wicked reputation. How often do we fail to keep our proper distance from something or someone wicked when we should?
Now move forward to Genesis 18 where God reveals that He is about to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah to Abraham. God gets to the point of saying that if he can find ten righteous people in that city, he will spare it. Unfortunately, those ten righteous people cannot be found.
So what was Sodom being judged for?
We go over to Ezekiel 16 and what do we see?
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.
Well, here you have it! They were prideful and thought only of themselves and didn’t help the poor and needy. That fully backs the inhospitable reading that we often see. Their sin wasn’t homosexual behavior obviously! It was not being kind to others.
Before we just dismiss this, let’s consider some matters. They definitely were inhospitable and that in the ancient world was a great sin. Also, all Christians should definitely agree that pride is a great sin. Lewis called it the greatest sin actually.
Yet if we stopped reading at that verse, we would miss out.
50 They were haughty and did detestable things before me. Therefore I did away with them as you have seen.
The word for detestable is the same as used for the abominations in Leviticus 18 and 20 and does refer to homosexuality. We can then say that if it wasn’t the only reason for destruction, it was a big reason. Perhaps we could say pride was the main reason and this pride led to the inhospitality and to homosexual practice.
Such an idea might seem shocking to modern readers. Aren’t homosexual relationships all about love? In the ancient world, not necessarily. They were often a way of showing social dominance. We say the same today in some cases. We often say rape is not primarily about sex. Rape is about power and showing the dominance a rapist has over their victim, whatever sex the criminal and the victim are. Anyone could easily find someone willing to have sex with them, even if they had to pay money, but rape is not about that.
In these cases, a man would often be seen as feminizing another man by having homosexual intercourse with him. Such was the case going on with Sodom. There was no reason to think that strangers showing up in town were showing up to have sex with other men. Instead, the men want the men who visited Lot to come out so they can “know” them.
And yes, while know can sometimes refer to knowledge, in this and many other cases in the Old Testament, it’s clear it refers to sexual intercourse. This is clear when we see that Lot says his daughters have never known a man. Their Dad is there with them and they are engaged, so surely they know men, but they have never had sex with men.
By the way, there is also no defending Lot’s offer to them. Good guys in Scripture don’t always act like good guys. People make stupid mistakes in stressful situations, and your house being besieged by a personal army of angry men does count as such a situation.
Fortunately, Lot’s angelic visitors save the day. Everyone is given a chance to flee the town as destruction starts. Lot’s wife is the one who suffers since she looks back to the city as she was told to not do.
So why was Sodom destroyed?
Immoral sexual behavior?
(And I affirm the virgin birth)