Ezekiel 16:49, What Was the Sin of Sodom and Gomorrah?

Yesterday, I was a featured guest on Reverend Jesse Lee Peterson’s radio program, a conservative live talk show. I knew before accepting the offer that it wasn’t a good fit for me, but I didn’t quite expect the direction the interview went! Rather than discussing the History Channel’s miniseries on the Bible (the stated topic for the day), the Reverend quickly probed out my liberal bent, and began playing to his conservative audience, on topics such as abortion and homosexuality. I didn’t bite on abortion, so for roughly half the interview, we were stuck on the topic of homosexuality, and a comment that I made about how liberal Christians do not tolerate intolerance.

At the very end of the hour, a caller began yammering loudly about the sin of Sodom and Gomorrah (homosexuality, in his opinion) and how God struck them down with fire and brimstone. Reverend Peterson wisely terminated the interview a few minutes early, before I could address the caller. Probably, he knew his scripture better than the caller, and wished to end the session on a fire-and-brimstone note.

The truth is the Bible nowhere says that homosexuality is the sin of Sodom and Gomorrah. This is a widely-held belief whose basis probably comes from Jude verse 7, though that verse doesn’t address homosexuality, but rather condemns “fornication and going after strange flesh.” However, there is one place in the Bible that gives it to us straight about why God condemned them to death. It’s today’s verse in Ezekiel, and it is God speaking directly:

“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. They were haughty and did detestable things before me. Therefore I did away with them as you have seen.”

So there you have it, from the lips of God. Believe me, Ezekiel was no prude, and he wasn’t just being politically correct. If Ezekiel meant to portray the evil of Sodom and Gomorrah as sexual perversity, he had several colorful words in his vocabulary to do so, and no compunction against using them. But he didn’t.

Let’s be clear: there is an ancient law in the Old Testament that speaks against homosexuality. Christians generally recognize that this law code has been superseded by Jesus. Today, we eat shellfish and wear cotton-blend undies and allow hunchbacks in our holy places. There is a man in the New Testament (Paul) who well understood the change Jesus brought, but who couldn’t seem to let go of this one old law about homosexuality. But let’s get our Bible scholarship right. God didn’t destroy Sodom because it was full of homosexuals; he destroyed it because they held no compassion for the poor and needy. Jesus didn’t condemn homosexuals; he condemned those with no compassion for the poor and needy. If we wish to grow as Christians, under the example and teachings of Jesus, we really need to overcome our homophobia and put our focus where it belongs.

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13 Comments

  1. It is unfortunate, but organized Christian doctrine very often does not include such biblical scholarship such as you have done. Rather, doctrine and beliefs stem from decisions and viewpoints from the distant past.

    Much of modern church attitudes on sexual matters stem from St. Augustine, a 4th century bishop that admitted he had major personal problems with sex. His problems with sex were so pronounced that modern-day psychology would list them as obsessive-compulsive and borderline psychotic, but he was still ended up being a major force in shaping both ancient and modern Christian views on sexual matters of all kinds.

    Given the near psychotic attitudes towards sex in general it is no surprise that the sins of Sodom and Gomorrah were declared to be primarily homosexuality.

    Actual research such as you are doing is imperative to break free from the doctrine of the past, doctrine instilled into organized religion as much as a means of control as anything else. Only through research can an understanding of what God desires of us be obtained, for you are entirely correct in what Jesus condemned or did not condemn.

  2. Lee Harmon

    Ah, good old Augustine. For as much as he contributed to doctrinal thinking, he sure had a hang-up about one topic in particular, didn’t he?

    Thanks for contributing, Wilderness!

  3. Michael

    Yes, God destroyed Sodomites because they didn’t help the poor and needy. Good scholarship. Except you ignore the rest: they were “arrogant, overfed and unconcerned…haughty and did detestable things before me”. The chief example of those detestable things would be the mob’s demand that Lot turn over his visitors to them to be abused. That’s not necessarily a condemnation of homosexuality as it is of rape (although Lot does offer his daughters in exchange, so apparently what the mob had in mind was considered even more heinous; admittedly, that heinousness seems to hinge more on hospitality and him protecting his divine visitors than specifics of the abuse). You glob the OT condemnation of homosexuality in the other ‘superseded’ silly laws like shellfish…without any serious consideration whether it belongs in that category or in the timeless category of the Decalogue. Yes, Christ liberated us from the Mosaic law (e.g. kosher, circumcision, purity laws, etc.), but there is no “liberation” from the eternal moral law – lying, cheating, stealing, murder. Fornication obviously falls into the latter category, not the former. You are being disingenuous in your “scholarship.”
    God bless,
    Michael

  4. Lee Harmon

    Hi Michael, thanks for your input! There is no argument that the Bible speaks harshly against homosexuality. Twice…once in the Holiness Code of Leviticus (not in the Decalogue), and again by Paul. I’m not trying to cover that up. I’m merely adding perspective, and pointing out, for those who choose Jesus as their example, that he seemed unconcerned about our sexual preference. If he cared at all, it was not high enough on his list to mention, and that sounds like a reasonable example for us to follow.

    Anyway, as far as the mob’s demand, we agree that rape is detestable, and you are correct that it’s a more heinous sin than homosexuality, thus more likely to be the sin referenced by the “detestable things” of Ezekiel. It’s not, though, because God had condemned S&G to destruction before that particular event. That was clearly not the reason for their destruction.

    I’m not sure what your point is about fornication, or how it relates to this discussion. Help me out on that one, k?

    • So Jesus, as a practicing Jew, had to mention everything thing that He did and did not condone?

      • Lee Harmon

        I believe Jesus’ example of compassion and acceptance speaks loudly. If he wanted us to override his example, and marginalize this one group of people, then yes I would expect him to say so.

  5. There was nothing in the holiness code that spoke to homosexuality anythinking to the contray is well..just wishful..The big problem with organized religion is the stupidity of their interpretations, never would they let context filter into their rational thinking. The HOLINESS CODE of LEVETICUS is written in context of the time..the words translated as being homosexual does exist in the original dialect.What was talked about there was TEMPLE prostitution, which was solely about cult worship of the god and godess Molech and asthorech by the neighbouring cannannite tribe( remember the jews aledgedly just moved from Egypt to the so called pagan enclave of Cannan). Those codes was/were revealed to guard them from being influenced by the overpowering religion of the cannanites. Even as it is..it very obvious that the Isrealites them selves were very polytheistic at this time(hence their eternal lust for worshipping other Gods aside from YAHWEH)..That is topic for another discussion.

    The fact is .Temple prostitution which was cultic worship of the god and godess Molech and Astoreth had no bearing on what HOMOSEXUALITY IS!… It is even sadder that this temple prostitutes also slept with women( offcourse no one talks about that). It was simple if you want something from the Gods , go sleep with the temple prostitute in cultic worship of the Gods.. This had nothing to do with HOMOSEXUALITY.Which is consenting adults loving each other…I never can understand why people cant get this.

    Just also to mention..In theological circles.the debate is still on who exactly this codes were meant for..was it the nominal isrealites or the priestly class?(the house of LEVI)..the truth is in between

  6. We may say all kinds of arguments with what we believe and what we do not believe? What codes or laws exist! There is only one fact that remains the same, whatever the sins of SODOM and GOMORRAH; Homosexuality was never right in the EYES OF GOD! We can give all kinds of excuses with our sins and justifying ourselves that we are right – it all boils one to one thing – is it righteous before the GOD?

    If we believe in GOD and accept HIS word then we know the answer.

    If we do not believe in GOD and accept HIS word then we know the answer.

    Let me just quote: 1 cor 3:19 For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God. For it is written, He taketh the wise in their own craftiness.

    • Lee Harmon

      Jong, you neglected to provide verses to back up your claim that homosexuality is wrong in the eyes of God. Are you referring to the two places I mentioned: the old testament law and Paul’s opinion?

      • Disciple

        I will assist my bro Jong with the supporting scriptures. I however will not debate the Word of the Living God with you because the Word speaks for itself; and it declares to shun profane and vain babbling: for they will increase unto more ungodliness.(2Tim.2:16) or (Titus 3:9)Avoid foolish questions, and genealogies, and contentions, and stringing about the law; for they are unprofitable and vain.

        However the Supporting scripture that homosexuality as well as a multitude of other things is a sin is found Romans 1, read the entire chapter, however Romans 1:20-30 May your understanding of the Word of God be made clear today. The Truth shall set you free!
        Version (NIV)

        20 For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.

        21 For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened.
        22 Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools
        23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like a mortal human being and birds and animals and reptiles.
        24 Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another.
        25 They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen.
        26 Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones.
        27 In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed shameful acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their error.

        28 Furthermore, just as they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, so God gave them over to a depraved mind, so that they do what ought not to be done.
        29 They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips,
        30 slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents;
        31 they have no understanding, no fidelity, no love, no mercy.
        32 Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.

        • Lee Harmon

          :) Yes, Disciple, I agree … as mentioned in the original post, Paul is the New Testament writer who could not see his way past the Old Testament law that Jesus left behind. Sorta sad.

          • So, let me get this straight. Saul hated and was even killing Christians, until Jesus blinded him with His presence. Thus, Saul had the most dramatic transformation to Christianity of anyone, probably ever, and from that time forward he became known as Paul. Jesus used him to preach primarily to the Gentiles (most of us) and God inspired him to pen 13 books of our Bible. All of this, but God made a mistake and Paul went off of God’s perfect path for him and he put his own homophobia into God’s Word? Not possible, because God doesn’t get things wrong and wouldn’t have used him if he was going to twist God’s Word. Just admit it, God loves us all, and He will even save a homo, but it’s the sin He hates, just as other sins, God has always hated homosexuality. And hates it so much he calls it an abomination. So homers, do yourselves a favor, believe Christ died for you and rose again, admit what you do is wrong and try your best to repent. Keep asking Jesus to help you and bury yourselves in God’s Word. Eventually you might make it out, but if not, at least know what you do is wrong and ask forgiveness and stop pretending it’s not sin. If you can’t admit it is sin I don’t see how you can get forgiveness from it.

  7. Proverbs31goalz

    Michael, Disciple & Jeff…Thank you for your TRUTH backed up with SCRIPTURE..not just your personal input…GOD BLESS

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  1. Jude 1:7, Homosexuality and the Bible, Part II of VIII | The Dubious Disciple - [...] out, the sin of Sodom and Gomorrah actually had nothing to do with homosexuality at all … see here. Various …

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