A Response to Genesis 19: What the Bible Really Says Were the Sins of Sodom


Foreword:

This article/post has been referenced a few times as containing additional information that is needed to understand what truly happened to Sodom and the relevance, if any, to homosexuality. To make things easier, I will post it here along with a few comments and responses to make it easier on the reader.

When reading this article, one must remember that the writer is correctly stating that the word homosexuality was never used in the bible, even though we sometimes see it in English translations. The writer will also reference a statement in Harper’s Bible Dictionary that states about the word homosexuality; “a word for which there is no specific equivalent in the Hebrew Old Testament or the Greek New Testament, since the concept itself as well as the English word originated only in the nineteenth century”. The thing to remember is that when it is referring to “the concept” is a relationship where there is a courting type period that would mimic the modern day process of a man and a woman building a relationship over time and forming the emotional connection that would sustain a long term relationship/marriage. This is not to say that two men who had a sexual relationship with each other did not develop an emotion connection that we would equate with a form of love. This is true of heterosexual relationships of the Old Testament time period as well.

Posted on January 1, 2012 by Alex Haiken

Everyone is familiar with the story of Sodom and Gomorrah. At least many people think they are. The point of the story is to condemn homosexuals and homosexual behavior, right? Wrong. And contrary to the belief of some, it’s not merely about a breach of the ancient sacred duty of hospitality either. Fact is there is much to cull from the biblical text that is often missed. Let’s take a closer look at this often misconstrued passage and I suspect you’ll see some things you did not see before.

FIRST HINTS

As historian and Yale professor John Boswell rightly pointed out, “Sodom is used as a symbol of evil in dozens of places [in the Bible], but not in a single instance is the sin of the Sodomites specified as homosexuality.” In Ezekiel chapter 16, we read that the prophet declares the word of God saying that a self-righteously religious Jerusalem had not only imitated the vile deeds of the Sodomites, but had become even more corrupt. Then the prophet spells out explicitly what God calls the sin of Sodom:

“As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign Lord … 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.” (Ezekiel 16:48-50)

Here we have the Bible commentating on the Bible. We can hardly get better Bible commentary than that. Here we have what the Bible says is God’s commentary on the story of Sodom and on Sodom’s sin. Note that contrary to what some are taught, there is no mention of homosexuality in God’s commentary of Sodom’s sin. In fact, in Genesis 18:20, we read that long before the attempted gang rape at Lot’s house in Sodom the Lord said:

“The outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is so great and their sin so grievous that I will go down and see if what they have done is as bad as the outcry that has reached me. If not, I will know.” (Genesis 18:20-21)

Notice the statement that “there is no mention of homosexuality in God’s commentary”. While I will agree that the word homosexual is not specifically used here, what the church and for that matter, Jewish people of the time, saw was that in verse 50, God says that the people “did detestable things before me”. The word detestable here is the same word that is used in Leviticus 18:22 that declares sex between two men as being detestable or an abomination, depending on the interpretation that one is reading.

This word is only used in two different sections in Leviticus. It is used in 18:22 to describe sex between two men and then again in verse 26 when God was telling the people not to do any of the abominations in this passage. Verse 27 says that the people before the Hebrews had committed these abominations in the land and verses 29 and 30 warn the people not to participate in any of these abominations in the land or they will be defiled and removed from the land.

Now, only verse 22 is listed as a double abomination, as it was specifically denoted as an abomination of the listed items that were identified as being abominations. Deuteronomy is seen as the re-giving of the law to the people preparing to leave the wilderness and the word “to`ebah” is used in a broader context here as opposed to Leviticus. This is not to say that the directions given Deuteronomy replaced what was given in Leviticus as the Levitcal laws were followed and still are followed to some degree by orthodox Jews.

I would be wrong to say that the only sin committed by Sodom or the reason they were destroyed was because of the incident outside of Lot’s house. The church has gotten this wrong for many years and that is simply not the case. That being said, we cannot just cast aside “homosexuality” simply because the word was not in use at that time. This is similar to saying that abortion is not addressed in the bible as the word did not exist at that time. It is trying to encourage a logical decision from a technicality.

As evangelical Bible scholar William H. Brownlee explains in the Word Biblical Commentary on Ezekiel 1-19, “The word used for ‘outcry’ always refers to the outcry of the oppressed.” He says, “this is exactly the situation of Ezekiel 16:49. We are to think of the anguished cries to God of the ‘poor and needy’ to whom the wealthy Sodomites afford no help or encouragement. … ‘Gave no help and encouragement is literally ‘did not strengthen the hand of the poor and needy.’ The verb ‘to strengthen’ means not only to give material assistance, but also to give encouragement. …the converse charge [such as is found in Jeremiah 38:4] of ‘weakening the hands of the people’ … means to discourage, to demoralize. Thus the ‘poor and needy’ of Sodom and her daughters were so completely demoralized that they had no one to whom to turn, except to Yahweh.”

I do not deny the outcry of the people, but remember that Yahweh went to destroy these cities and it was Abraham that asked for the city to be sparred if there was some righteous people that could be found there (Gen 18:21-33). While the outcry was from the poor and needy, there were not enough righteous people within the walls to spare the city. The people there did not worship Yahweh, but the cries of all people are heard by Him. Perhaps the poor and needy were living in the surrounding area and was thus sparred.

So God heard their anguished cries of complaint and investigated. Not that there’s anything God is ever in the dark about. But he shows the fairness of his judgments which are never the result of rash or sudden resolves. He judges on his own infallible knowledge, not on the information of others.

DESTESTABLE THINGS

In addition to charges that the Sodomites were arrogant, overfed, unconcerned, and did not help the poor and needy (16:49), God’s commentary on the story of Sodom and on Sodom’s sin also says Sodom “did detestable things before me” (16:50). Some Christians are quick to stop here and say, “Um, its homosexual; that settles it, let’s move on.” But before we read our own interpretation into the text, let’s first see if the Bible tells us specifically what these detestable things were. It is respectful of God’s gift to us to go after his intentions and meanings before arriving at our own. Sure enough, we find that God, speaking though the prophet, spells out in striking “in your face” condemnation explicitly what Sodom’s abhorrent conduct entailed.

Jerusalem we’re told has a resemblance to her “sister” Sodom (16:46, 16:48, 16:49, 16:56). The Lord repeatedly calls them sisters because they are kindred spirits in wickedness. They are also both ancient Canaanite cities. Sodom was a leading Canaanite city (Gen 10:18) and, according to Ezekiel, a city where people would do anything to maintain their surfeit of wealth and ease and power. Sodom’s sister Jerusalem too was an old Canaanite city (16:1-3), conquered by King David who made it his new national capital. And here in Ezekiel 16, the prophet critiques the many cultic Canaanite practices Jerusalem has adopted, some of which are quite revolting. But from the viewpoint of Ezekiel, this isn’t too surprising since Jerusalem was descended from pagans in the first place:

“The word of the Lord came to me: Son of man, confront Jerusalem with her detestable practices and say, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says to Jerusalem: Your ancestry and birth were in the land of the Canaanites…” (Ezekiel 16:1-3)

Starting at the beginning of chapter 16, we see the Lord talking to Jerusalem reminding them how they were made chosen and holy by God and not by whom they were. Jerusalem and all of Judah had become arrogant in their being the chosen bride of the Lord and the Lord is taking this time to remind them how they started out as having the same lineage as their neighbors. Verse 15, the Lord stated that His people started trusting in their beauty and capitalized on their fame by becoming a prostitute. It was just a few verses back that the Lord detailed how he had taken them as his bride. He had put a ring in the nose and a crown on the head. When the Lord starts talking about how Jerusalem prostituted itself out, this is a metaphor about taking up with the false gods of those nations around them.

The root of the unitary nature of these “detestable practices” is everything that had to do with the exercise of the pagan Canaanite religion. Canaanite religious practices were barbarous and thoroughly licentious. The astounding characteristic of Canaanite deities, that they had no moral character whatsoever, brought out the worst traits in their devotees and entailed many of the most demoralizing practices of the time. In his commentary on their sin in Ezekiel 16, God starts by indicating their vile deeds included cultic prostitution and building “high places” (16:15-16).

I think some liberties are being taken with the assumption of cultic prostitution here. While it very well could have occurred, what verse 15 and 16 are referencing is not a literal sexual favor. In the same way that a prostitute trusts in her appearance, Jerusalem was trusting in its beauty and compromising its relationship and faithful worship of God by taking up and worshipping the gods of those who passed by.

Cultic prostitution was practiced by the Canaanites to promote fertility. Fertility was highly prized in Ancient times in ways that are completely foreign to our modern thinking. Fact is in many ways their lives literally depended on it: fertility of the land in the form of rains to ensure and boost crop production, fertility of life through pregnancy and birth, fertility for reproduction of their livestock, and so on. Devotees would visit the pagan shrines and perform sacred sexual rituals with male and female shrine prostitutes to give honor to the Canaanite pagan gods and thereby ensure fertility and prosperity.

According to Harper’s Bible Dictionary, under the definition of homosexuality says; “It is difficult to understand how homosexual prostitution could have had any symbolic function in the Canaanite fertility religion, against the practices of which this legislation was directed. The same may be said of the cultic prostitution mentioned elsewhere (e.g., 1 Kings 14:22-24)”

There are recorded cultic practices on how some religions had male, female, and transgendered prostitutes. Now if Harper’s is wrong here, it might be wrong as well when it said that the concept of homosexuality did not exist until the nineteenth century.

The “high places” were the illicit shrines where their worship occurred and their cultic prostitution rites were performed (1 Kings 13:32; 2 Kings 17:29). God hated the “high places” of the Canaanites and after the Israelites entered the Promised Land they were strictly commanded to overthrow these “high places,” lest they be tempted to worship the Canaanites’ pagan gods and partake in their depraved practices (Ex 34:13; Num 33:52; Deut 7:5; Deut 12:2-3).

Their idolatries also included “making male idols and engaging in prostitution with them” (16:17, 16:20-21, 16:36). If this was not enough, they also “took their sons and daughters and sacrificed them as food to the idols” (16:20-21). The practice of child sacrifice to the Canaanite god Molech included a ritualized slaughter of their children (Lev. 18:21; 20:2-5; 2 Kings 17:31; 23:10; Jer. 7:31; 19:5; 32:35), followed by burning the bodies to ashes. Drums were pounded to drown out the cries of the children.

Liberties are being taken again with the translation here. The “making male idols” here refers to images of men. Not a literal man but of manmade images and gods, such as the golden calf from Exodus. Since Jerusalem is being depicted here, metaphorically as a woman, the images are described as male to complete the imagery. Idols to false gods were not limited to male images only. There were images made of women and animals.

They are also repeatedly condemned for building “lofty shrines” to worship the Canaanite pagan gods (16:24-25, 16:31, 16:36, 16:39). You can read the whole chapter for more on these sordid details and a greatly expanded essay on the subject in Ezekiel 23. They are also described in my earlier post: Leviticus 18: What was the Abomination? (link also found on ”Archives” page). But not in a single instance in this extensive list of vile deeds, or anywhere else in the 26 times where Sodom is mentioned in the Bible (18 in the OT and 8 in the NT), is the sin of the Sodomites ever specified as homosexuality.

Actually, Jude specifically mentions the sexual immoralities of Sodom and Gomorrah, but remember that the writer is looking for the specific understanding of homosexuality as being between a loving couples with a relationship built up from mutual respect and emotions. Even though under a modern day view, homosexuality includes two men having meaningless sex without any relationship, the writer is looking at homosexuality from the perspective of a relationship.

When you go back to the Talmud and the understandings of Jewish scholars from the first century, you can see that their understanding of what Leviticus 18:22 was stating and one of the sins of Sodom was the issue of sex between two men. Sex between two women was included in as Egypt practiced same sex marriages between women prior to the exodus.

Among other things, this illustrates how blinded we can be by our “reifications” and “canonical interpretations”. A reification is when we use a concept or doctrine so often and for so long that it comes to be a distinct “thing” to us, something that’s really there, a piece of our mind’s furniture. We are unaware of how much of our mental furniture consists of reifications. A canonical interpretation is a way of looking at a biblical passage or doctrine that we’ve become so accustomed to, that the interpretation has become indistinguishable in our minds from the text or passages themselves.

SACRED DUTY OF HOSPITALITY

Evangelical Bible scholar Brownlee also notes, “hospitality to strangers was a virtue exemplified by Abraham (Gen 18:1-8) and Lot (Gen 19:1-3) and an important virtue expected of noble-minded people. Contrarily, the oppression of the stranger as exemplified by [the attempted gang rape at Lot’s house] in Gen 19:1-9 was, according to ancient Semitic custom, a very grave crime.”

It is difficult for us as modern readers to imagine that a breach of hospitality could be so serious an offense (though according to Genesis, the Lord was already inclined to punish the Sodomites even before the angels arrived there, which is why they were sent.) In the ancient world, inns were rare outside of urban centers and travelers were dependent on the hospitality and goodwill of strangers not just for comfort but physical survival. In desert country where Sodom lay, to stay outside exposed to the cold of the night could be fatal. Ethical codes almost invariably enjoined hospitality on their adherents as a sacred obligation.

Stories of divine testing of human piety by dispatching beggars or wayfarers to demand the sacred right of hospitality are commonplace in the Old Testament. In nearly all such stories evil persons appear either as neighbors or other townsfolk who do not fulfill their obligation and are punished, violently or by exclusion from some divine benefice, while the solitary upright family is rewarded with a gift or a prophecy of misfortunes to come.

It is shocking to us to think that Lot would have offered his daughters to the Sodomites. But this is another example of how different their culture was from our own. In that time, the father of the house actually “owned” the women. They were his property. He was free to do with them almost whatever he wanted. This action, almost unthinkable in modern Western society, was analogous with the low status of female children at the time and was not without its parallels even in the more “civilized” Roman world. Once again, we cannot assume the ancient people to whom the Bible was written were just like us. In some ways, they were and in others, their thinking was so foreign to us that the gulf is almost impassable.

The identification of Sodom with the breach of the sacred duty of hospitality is also made by Jesus when he warned his disciples, sent like the angels as God’s messengers, that they would not be received in some places:

“If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, shake the dust off your feet when you leave that home or town. I tell you the truth; it will be more bearable for Sodom and Gomorrah on the Day of Judgment than for that town.” (Matthew 10:14-15)

Now when we see this explanation, it makes a lot of sense. Hospitality was and, to a point, still considered a very noble practice among the Middle Eastern cultures. You see this custom being highly elevated among many of the tribes in Africa, so we can form a sense of understanding about what it meant to the people of that time period. What we do not see, however, is an explanation of why the Lord would destroy a region of people because they broke social customs that were never listed as a must keep in Levitcal law. We have to go with the understanding of Ezekiel here and not read into what was being written from our own lack of understanding.

When we see the reference that Jesus makes, we are seeing a warning that those people who rejected the word of God and by that salvation, will have a more serious judgment on them than did Sodom and Gomorrah for their wickedness. One indicator that Jesus was not talking about keeping a social custom was the inclusion of Gomorrah in the reference. The Bible never tells us about how Gomorrah treated visitors. Furthermore, you see Jesus reference Sodom again in Matthew 11:23 when he stated that if the same miracles/works had been performed in Sodom in its day, it would still be around. What is seen in this example, while valid to a point is more of an exegesis nature and less exegesis.

MALE-TO-MALE RAPE

We should also note that during biblical times men (and the kings) of conquered tribes were often raped by the invading army as the ultimate symbol of defeat and humiliation. Male-to-male rape was a way for victors to accentuate the subjection of captive enemies and foes and a way of humiliating visitors and strangers. If we miss this, we not only miss what was going on in the Sodom and Gomorrah text, we also miss the meaning behind other passages such as 1 Samuel 31:4 and 1 Chronicles 10:4 where Saul, gravely wounded by the Philistines, instructs his armor-bearer to:

“Draw your sword and thrust me through with it lest these uncircumcised come and abuse me.” (1 Chronicles 10:4)

I will not deny that men would often rape and humiliate those that it conquered. Perhaps this is one reason that Israel was instructed to always put the men to the sword. That could be pure speculation on my part however, so not to be taken as fact. What we do have as fact is that laws have been found that outlaw the raping of a man by another man, regardless of social status or rank. These were in place, long before Israel ever left Egypt.

What the writer is failing to mention here are there are numerous mentions of sex between men by surrounding nations and from times much older than Sodom. In one of the oldest documents, the Epic of Gilgamesh, we have references to Gilgamesh who had a male lover whom he loved. When his lover was killed, he was grieved over in the same way one would grieve over a wife. Now the writer might point out that the marital process was much different in that time period compared to modern day, but that does not exclude the development of feelings that grow, even within arranged marriages. You can see an example of this with Abraham and the care in which he took to ensure a burial place for his beloved wife. While women were seen as property of husbands and fathers, we cannot dismiss that feelings other than one has for property existed in those relationships. Now the feelings, in the case of a wife, might not have been in place in the beginning of the marriage, the feels developed. To dismiss that any feelings ever developed between two men in the same way, is dishonest at the least.

SUMMARY

So what then were the grievous sins that caused God to judge Sodom worthy of such destruction? The sin of Sodom was avarice, pride, and a determination to have riches at any cost, according to God’s commentary in Ezekiel. Sodom did practice pagan rituals, including cult prostitution involving ambisexual sadomasochism. Why did they do such abominable things? Because they believed that these things would bring them fertility and secure their place in the world. They were haughty, had prosperous ease, too much food and did not aid the poor and needy. Ezekiel said that they practiced all that to get and to maintain their enormous wealth.

Sodom was perverse, according to Ezekiel, because it was rich and powerful and coveted ever more and yet more power. They believed they obtained that power through multi-sexual sadism, the drinking of blood, semen and other body fluids, the eating of flesh, animal sex and the sacrificing of their children to the pagan gods. This was the famous sin of Sodom, not what you’ve heard. And as bad as Sodom was, according to Ezekiel, Jerusalem was much worse off as a city.

This is not my interpretation; it is that which is given in the Bible. You and I do not get to rip passages from their context and replace them in another age for the sake of convenience. And we don’t get to make things up as we go along. As always, we are stuck with the internal interpretation of the text as the primary meaning.

I will leave it up to you to decide what the bible means and meant when it talked about Sodom. There was greed there and pride; an arrogance that intimidated and oppressed the land. While the charges were made against Sodom and Gomorrah in Genesis, we only see the encounter of what happened in Sodom and the attempted rape of the angels by all of the men of the town. We are left to speculate on the evils that occurred in Gomorrah, but we do know that it was not used as a comparison by the Lord in the book of Ezekiel when talking about the detestable practices and abominations.

Look at the evidence that exists and make your own decisions as to what is meant and represented in the texts.

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7 Comments

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7 responses to “A Response to Genesis 19: What the Bible Really Says Were the Sins of Sodom

  1. My dear brother, the more you try to dig your way out of doing responsible biblical exegesis on these passages, the deeper you seem to bury yourself into a hole. But as long as you’re responding to a popst that I wrote, I’ll share a bit of how severely you have violated not only the biblical text, but my post as well.

    YOU SAID: “We cannot just cast aside ‘homosexuality’ simply because the word was not in use at that time.”

    ME: First of all, those of us with respect for Bible interpretation and biblical authority do not look to ‘cast away’ anything. What we seek is harder and infinitely more important. We search for the intention of the original writers. Who was the writer and to whom was he writing? What was the cultural and historical setting of the writer? What was the meaning of the words in the writer’s day? What was the intended meaning of the author and why was he saying it? What should this mean to me in my situation today? To an extent, careful study can open those meanings to us if we are humble enough not to presume we already know. We try hard to get past what we think we already know to find out what we are looking at.

    Remember our task in doing responsible exegesis is to draw out from the text the true meaning of a Bible passage. It means GETTING OUT of the text what it originally meant to the author and to the original intended audience, without READING INTO the text the many traditional interpretations that may have grown up around it. Exegesis is reading out from the Bible what the original writers were saying. Eisegesis — which is what we want to avoid — is reading one’s own ideas or prejudices back into the Bible. Exegesis is about getting out of the text what is truly there in the first place. Eisegesis is about putting into the text something never intended by the author. Exegesis is drawing out the true meaning of a Bible passage. Eisegesis is at best unwise, and at worst extremely dangerous.

    YOU SAID (RE: EZEKIEL 16:15-16): “I think some liberties are being taken with the assumption of cultic prostitution here. While it very well could have occurred, what verse 15 and 16 are referencing is not a literal sexual favor. In the same way that a prostitute trusts in her appearance, Jerusalem was trusting in its beauty and compromising its relationship and faithful worship of God by taking up and worshipping the gods of those who passed by.”

    ME: Sorry bro, but you don’t get to make up things as you go along. As always, you’re stuck with the internal interpretation of the text as the primary meaning. The text in question specifically cites their “GAUDY HIGH PLACES, WHERE YOU CARRIED ON YOUR PROSTITUTION”. Do your homework, bro! The “high places” that the Bible repeatedly talks about were elevated sites, usually found on the top of a mountain or hill, and were CANAANITE PLACES OF PAGAN WORSHIP.

    The average “high place” would have an altar (2 Kings 21:3; 2 Chron. 14:3), a carved wooden pole that depicted the female goddess of fertility (Asherah), a stone pillar symbolizing the male deity (2 Kings 3:2), other idols (2 Kings 17:29; 2 Chron. 33:19), and some type of building (1 Kings 12:31; 13:32; 16:32-33). At these “high places” of worship the people sacrificed animals (at some high places children were sacrificed according to Jer. 7:31 — “THEY BURNED THEIR CHILDREN IN THE FIRE”), burned incense to their gods, prayed, ate sacrificial meals, and were involved with male or female cultic prostitutes (2 Kings 17:8-12; 21:3-7; Hos. 4:11-14). Although most “high places” were part of the worship of Baal, the Ammonite god Molech and the Moabite god Chemosh were also worshiped at similar “high places” (1 Kings 11:5-8; 2 Kings 23:10. Scripture speaks negatively about these heathen places of worship — GOD HATED THEM!!!! Yet they still played a central role in the lives of most of the people who lived in the land. Archaeologists have discovered the remains of high places at Megiddo, Gezer, and numerous other sites.

    When the Israelites came into the land of Canaan, they were ordered to destroy the “high places” of the people who lived in the land (Ex. 23:24; 34:13; Num. 33:52; Deut. 7:5; 12:3) lest the Israelites be tempted to worship the Canaanite false gods and accept their immoral behavior. The Israelites were to worship God alone. As I have been saying to you all along, and as Scripture corroborates, we’re talking about PAGAN IDOLATRY here. Once again, you don’t get to make up things as you go along. As always, you are stuck with the internal interpretation of the text as the primary meaning.

    YOU SAID: “Actually, Jude specifically mentions the sexual immoralities of Sodom and Gomorrah…”

    ME: This is true. But as I’ve asked you repeatedly, by what great exegetical miracle do you then conclude from this generic term for sexual immorality: ‘UM, IT’S HOMOSEXUAL, THAT SETTLES IT; LET’S MOVE ON.” That distances us from God, the writer and the text. . Remember EXEGESIS is about getting out of the text what is truly there in the first place. You don’t get to read into the text things that were never intended by the author.

    YOU SAID: “In [Ezekiel chapter 16] verse 50, God says that the people ‘did detestable things before me’. The word detestable here is the same word that is used in Leviticus 18:22 that declares sex between two men as being detestable or an abomination, depending on the interpretation that one is reading.”

    ME: Yes, it is the same word and the Hebrew word we’re talking about is indeed “toevah.” Again, bro, you really need to do your homework. It should be noted that the term “abomination” is abominably misunderstood. The Hebrew word “toevah” (commonly translated into the English as “abomination”) functions in a very precise way in priestly literature. IT ALWAYS MEANS A PRACTICE THAT IS UNACCEPTABLE BECAUSE IT IS ONE OF THE CULT PRACTICES OF THE PAGAN RELIGIONS SURROUNDING GOD’S PEOPLE.

    The thing may be innocuous in itself, but in order for Israel’s faithful to be safeguarded, even otherwise innocent practices were forbidden. Or it may be something that is intrinsically evil. THE KEY IS THAT IT IS PART AND PARCEL OF THE CULT PRACTICE OF THE PAGAN RELIGIONS. Remember that the next time someone tells you that this or that is an abomination to God. Toevah = practices used specifically as part of the ritual and cultic acts of the pagan Canaanite religion, often to seek fertility.

    Lest you be like some others who try to say: “Hey, what about the instances of the use of ‘toevah’ in the book of Proverbs?” As you would know if you did your homework, Wisdom Literature is part of the Royal Theology of Judah. The opening part of the book of Proverbs is clearly said to be a manual for the devout young man who believes in the Lord to learn how to act at the court, and thus advance himself, his family, and the Lord’s work. The ostensible collector of such wisdom is Solomon, though that is doubtless a cipher. Later we see that King Hezekiah had significant additions made to the book. In other words, the Wisdom Literature is comparatively late, and inherits much of the traditions of Yahwism without needing to go into elaborate theology. Hence, it deals with the practical and everywhere assumes that the reader in not a FOOL, and does not need further elaborate instruction in the theology of the true faith. Hence, when you get a powerful term like ‘toevah,” already set in its meaning for many centuries, you find its use in Proverbs very interesting. Do you actually think such a theologically-laden buzzword could ever, in later years, be divorced from its primary meaning?

    In every one of the verses in Proverbs where “toevah” is used, the wise young man, who listens to Lady Wisdom knows that certain kinds of things are for the devout young man who believes in Yahweh, and listens to the instruction of the wise wisdom teachers, there are certain kinds of things that he should figure out are as if he were a pagan utterly mired in some bloodlust infant burning! A wise Hebrew youth, ready to advance in wisdom, knows that arrogance before God is ‘toevah’. You might as well try to advance your cause by burning your firstborn alive. An arrogant demeanor, a character that typically lies, a murderer who sheds innocent blood to advance himself, someone who devises evil plans — again to advance himself — someone who lies in testimony for the same reason, these and many other things are accounted by God to the young man who has been trained in God’s will as ‘toevah’! He will be mown down by God’s wrath as surely as if he were the last survivor of the seven Canaanite nations!

    You cannot simply read your current day concepts and understanding into the biblical text. Well, you can, but it will continue to be EISEGESIS (reading into the text stuff never intended by the author) instead of EXEGESIS (getting out of the text what is truly there in the first place).

    Sorry, bro. We don’t get to make up stuff as we go along. Like it or not, we’re stuck with the internal interpretation of the text as the primary meaning.

    -Alex Haiken
    http://JewishChristianGay.wordpress.com

  2. What is your definition of homosexuality Alex?

  3. Off the top of my head, I’d say it is a psycho-sexual phenomenon that involves parity between the two partners. (There was no partity bewteen any sexual paerners in the ancient world.) As with heterosexuality, homosexuality can be expressed in a healthy and responsible manner and like heterosexuality, it can be expressed in an unhealthy and irresponsible manner. But unlike “sexuality” that existed in the ancient world where there was class differentiation between sexual partners and that involved abuse, cruelty, idolatry, “ownership” and/or power of the penetrator over the penetrated, homosexuality might best be defined as the naturally occurring ability to fall in love with a person of the same gender rather than with anyone of the other gender. As such, and as any straight person would know from their own experience of heterosexual orientation, it cannot be reduced to a matter of genital nerve ending stimulation and body parts. It’s the same un-asked-for experience for heterosexuals and homosexuals; only in the former case, the person of affection is of the other gender and in the latter case, the person of affection is of the same gender. Experientially, it’s the very same core need, the very same gift of God. It’s about an involuntary enthusiasm of romantic response in the presence of someone seen as wonderfully other, as mystery, as precious differentness from one’s own sense of self, as complementary beloved. And it’s about a deep longing for that person in his or her absence. It is a lack that nothing but the beloved can supply. And it embodies values such as fidelity, mutuality, truthfulness, and permanence.

    -Alex Haiken
    http://JewishChristianGay.wordpress.com

  4. I wanted to make sure I was not off in your definition of homosexuality, because as how you point out that “But unlike “sexuality” that existed in the ancient world where there was class differentiation between sexual partners and that involved abuse, cruelty, idolatry, “ownership” and/or power of the penetrator over the penetrated, homosexuality might best be defined as the naturally occurring ability to fall in love with a person of the same gender rather than with anyone of the other gender” is rather telling in your view.

    I think this is one of the places where we have a difference of views. I think I understand how your view of same sex relations in history differs from my own because you eliminate any possibility of a modern day equivalent since how can that have existed when there was abuse and cruelty involved. I have seen examples in history where a conquering army would rape the men that they had defeated as a sign of victory and superiority. When you look at the heinous acts that were committed through cases of male dominance and aggression, I can see why you would want to distance the modern view of homosexuality with the things that have occurred in the past. Church people are trying to do that all of the time with some of the atrocities that Christians have committed against a multiple of people all in the name of God.

    I think one of the reasons I find it difficult to totally dismiss any similarities however, are the instances of literature that depict a same sex relationship in terms that more equate with actions seen in a marriage. Now I understand that the traditions back then were different then they are now and women did not have the same ability to choose her mate, but that limitation does not dictate if feelings can or where developed in the lifespan of the relationship. It is how the relationship developed and the feelings that I choose to focus on instead of the lack of rights on the part of the people. This is especially true when you see some ancient laws that prevented the raping of a man by another man, regardless of social class. Even through there were few rights available and there were differences in class, some societies saw the raping of one another as something that was wrong. At the same time, there were no laws forbidding sexual relations between men if they were consensual, so it gives us a place to speculate as to how relationships might have developed in this area. Added to this are letters and stories depicting men having feelings towards other men that they were sexually active with. This is in part of how I base my position that the concept of two men having feelings for each other while having a sexual relationship occurred in the ancient near east.

    In response to my criticism of your interpretation of Ezekiel 16:15-16, I stand by what I said. I know it helps your position to take a literal reading of what the text says, but by doing so, you are casting away thousands of years of understanding and teachings within Judaism. This is not a passage that I decided to arbitrarily assign a metaphorical meaning to the marriage between God and Israel; this is what is taught within the Jewish faith. I understand it doesn’t work for you, but you do yourself no favor by trying to change the meaning of the passage.

    Leading up to these verses, we see God reminding Israel how she had humble beginnings yet he took her and made her his own. This patterns the taking of a wife. She whored herself out, by following man made gods instead of the Lord. Looking at verse 17, God describes how Israel made image of men out of the gold and then whore herself out to them. If we are taking your literal translation, that means that Israel used to have sex with the Lord, but committed adultery with the men of neighboring areas. Is this really your stance?

    ALEX: This is true. But as I’ve asked you repeatedly, by what great exegetical miracle do you then conclude from this generic term for sexual immorality: ‘UM, IT’S HOMOSEXUAL, THAT SETTLES IT; LET’S MOVE ON.” That distances us from God, the writer and the text. . Remember EXEGESIS is about getting out of the text what is truly there in the first place. You don’t get to read into the text things that were never intended by the author.

    Let’s try and understand then, what the writer, a 1st century Jew would have thought of as sexual immorality. Now where would there be a list of acts or practices for the Jews to be able to rightfully determine what was sexually immoral and what was not? This would have been the same stipulation that would have to been applied to Gentiles who were in the presence of Jews, since they would have to remain clean as well. This takes us back to Leviticus 18, which contains the list of sexual acts that were deemed an abomination and thus against the Lord. Where did I not take an exegetical approach in this? You are the one who is discarding Jewish practices and teachings, not I. I am following the teachings that outline what was thought and intended, but I suppose since that does not fit with your view, then it must be wrong.

    ALEX: Lest you be like some others who try to say: “Hey, what about the instances of the use of ‘toevah’ in the book of Proverbs?” As you would know if you did your homework, Wisdom Literature is part of the Royal Theology of Judah.

    You are right, Alex. I never would have thought I could find the word in Proverbs. Now I know that Torah takes precedence over the Wisdom books. We see it in the arrangement of the Jewish bible and we see it in teachings as well. The Ketuvim, or writings, are not part of the daily Torah readings for some reason. I suppose that might be one reason that we do not use them to translate what was given to us by Moshe, but I could be wrong of course. You know how us lazy people just jump to conclusions without taking into consideration what was meant by the writers. Since much of proverbs is found documented in other cultures, should we also take into consideration what their views are on what God meant at the time?

    Not to discount Proverbs though, we see that the man who goes astray from the Lord is an abomination (3:32), wickedness is an abomination to my lips (8:7), a perverse heart is an abomination compared to those who are righteous he delights in (11:20), a person who lies (12:22) the ways of the wicked (15:26) and wicked man’s sacrifice (21:27) are all abominations. Let’s not forget one who turns away from hearing the law, even his prayers are seen as an abomination (28:9). Crazy right?

    ALEX: Sorry, bro. We don’t get to make up stuff as we go along. Like it or not, we’re stuck with the internal interpretation of the text as the primary meaning.

    You get to make up what doesn’t fit with your theologies, so it should only be fair that others get to as well.

  5. Bro, I know that you insist on reading your modern day understandings into the ancient texts. But that is exactly where you get yourself tripped up every time. It is not I who “eliminate a modern day equivalent;” No, it is the historians and classicists who have studied what we have been able to learn from these periods from archeology, etc and have written and teach on the topic.
    I know it takes time to get used to seeing this in ancient writings — and none of us assimilates this notion on the first pass — but like it or not, this understanding operates in biblical interpretation and more and more bible scholars working in good faith and out in the open find this reality necessary for grasping what the biblical writers were talking about when they were treating something “sexual”.
    While you keep insisting that “marriage” in the ancient world was equivalent to “marriage” today, the evidence simply does not support your theory. It stands to reason that you’re going to get upset when we apply the common-sense rules of biblical exegesis to passages of Scripture and some of your long-held and cherished doctrines became challenged. But if you refuse to pay attention to the world in which the Bible was written, your understanding will continue to be misunderstanding.

    MARRIAGE:

    “Marriage” for us today commonly refers to an exchange of vows between bride and groom, symbolized by a ring, in a church or government building, with a clerical or governmental official presiding. In patriarchal biblical culture, marriage commonly involved an arrangement in which the groom’s father literally “purchased” the bride from her father, perhaps, accompanied by a banquet (e.g. Genesis 24; John 2). In Ancient times marriage was about PROPERTY and OWNERSHIP.

    ADULTERY:

    In connection with this, “adultery” in the patriarchal culture of the Bible most commonly refers to a PROPERTY offense against the husband, not a betrayal of one’s spouse. SINCE NO VOWS WERE EXCHANGED, THERE WAS NO INFIDELITY. And divorce, since marriage was not a concern of state or church, involved at most a simple unilateral written statement (almost always from the male), not our often complicated legal process involving both parties, with lawyers and judges.

    In Hebrew law, adultery is defined as a man’s having intercourse with a woman married or betrothed to another. The male who commits adultery does not violate his own marriage, but that of the woman and her husband. Adultery was a PROPERTY RELATED matter.

    ROMANTIC LOVE:

    As I’ve stated repeatedly even “romantic love” as we know it today did not exist in Bible times. Romantic love as we understand it did not come into being until the Middle Ages, which is precisely why this period is referred to as the “Romance Period.” The concept of “falling in love” would have been completely foreign to anyone in ancient times. Few Christian theologians before the 12th century made any references to what is today called “falling in love” and the phenomenon would seem to have been completely unknown to Jesus and his followers and to most of the church until the rise of what is loosely termed “courtly love” in the 12th century. THE GREEK WORD FOR ROMANTIC LOVE DOES NOT OCCUR ANYWHERE IN THE NT.

    AMONG NO GROUP OF PEOPLE WOULD CONCEPTS OF ROMANTIC LOVE PARALLEL TO THOSE COMMON TODAY HAVE BEEN THE OPERATIVE FACTORS IN ARRANGING MARRIAGE. “LOVE” BETWEEN HUSBAND AND WIFE WAS SOMETHING EXPECTED TO DEVELOP AS A CONSEQUENCE OF MARRIAGE, NOT TO OCCASION IT. IT CONSISTED OF FAIR TREATMENT, RESPECT AND MUTUAL CONSIDERATION AND OFTEN CORRESPONDED MORE TO PATERNAL AFFECTIONS IN THE PRE-MODERN WORLD. Age differences between husbands and wives may have contributed to that.

    INFIDELITY:

    For you and I, a married person, man or woman, commits adultery by having sex outside of the marriage. The offense is infidelity, betrayal of a trust or commitment, and it is against one’s husband or wife. It is a personal offense. In ancient Israel, adultery was an offense only against the husband; it was an unlawful use of his property, his woman, his wife. More than a personal offense, it involved a financial loss — the man had paid his wife’s father a bridal price for her, and her ability to bear children was important to the expansion of his family, i.e. the increase of his property.

    ABUSE AND CRUELTY:

    I did not say that ALL relationships involved abuse and cruelty, though that was certainly indicative in many. What I did say, as stated above:

    (1) “Romantic love” as we know did not exist in Bible times.

    (2) It did not come into being until the Middle Ages, which is precisely why this period is referred to as the “Romance Period.”

    (3) The concept of “falling in love” would have been completely foreign to anyone in ancient times.

    (4) Few Christian theologians before the 12th century made any references to what is today called “falling in love” and the phenomenon would seem to have been completely unknown to Jesus and his followers.

    (5) The Greek word for romantic love does not occur anywhere in the NT.

    (6) Among no group of people would concepts of romantic love parallel to those common today have been the operative factors in arranging marriage.

    (7) “Love” between husband and wife was something expected to develop as a consequence of marriage, not to occasion it.

    (8) It consisted of fair treatment, respect and mutual consideration and often corresponded more to paternal affections in the pre-modern world.

    LAWS PREVENTING RAPING OF A MAN BY ANOTHER MAN:

    You said: There were “some ancient laws that prevented the raping of a man by another man, regardless of social class.”

    Me: Of course there were. Raping another man was considered to be among the worst things you could do to another man because it was treating man like a women. And a woman had virtually no social standing at all. Her social standing was almost equivalent to that of a slave — which sheds insight on “Romantic love” as we know did not and could not exist in Bible times.

    The restrictions on the sexual behavior of adult males were very complex. Gender, age, class, social standing, and in some cases citizenship, set limitations on the range of acceptable forms of sexual expressions for each individual. With few exceptions, the higher one’s social status the more restrictions would apply to sexual acts, and the fewer to sexual partners. A wealthy and powerful adult male citizen, for example, at the top of the status hierarchy, could penetrate any other person without loss of social status (although a dispute might arise if the other party was the wife or child of another citizen). “What does it matter,” Antony wrote to Augustus, “where or in whom you stick it?” But for the same male to be penetrated — by anyone — would incur disrespect if it were known, and might even subject him to loss of social privilege. By contrast, although a slave (or even freedman) would lose no status for being penetrated by someone more powerful, he might suffer greatly (a slave could forfeit his life) if he penetrated a citizen.

    THE RESTRICTIONS ON THE SEXUAL BEHAVIOR OF ADULT MALES WERE NOT THE RESULT OF PREJUDICE AGAINST HOMOSEXUALITY: the same man could penetrate as many men as he wished without incurring any stigma.

    EZEKIEL 16:15-16:

    You said: “In response to my criticism of your interpretation of Ezekiel 16:15-16, I stand by what I said. I know it helps your position to take a literal reading of what the text says, but by doing so, you are casting away thousands of years of understanding and teachings within Judaism.”

    Me: You can stand by anything you like. But it is eisegesis not exegesis. Here we have the Bible commentating on the Bible. We can hardly get better commentary than that. Here we have what the Bible says is God’s commentary on the story of Sodom and on Sodom’s sin. And He cites their GAUDY HIGH PLACES, WHERE THEY CARRIED ON THEIR PAGAN CULTIC PROSTITUTION RITES.

    As I said above, do your homework, bro! The “high places” were CANAANITE PLACES OF PAGAN WORSHIP.

    The average “high place” would have an altar (2 Kings 21:3; 2 Chron. 14:3), a carved wooden pole that depicted the female goddess of fertility (Asherah), a stone pillar symbolizing the male deity (2 Kings 3:2), other idols (2 Kings 17:29; 2 Chron. 33:19), and some type of building (1 Kings 12:31; 13:32; 16:32-33). At these “high places” of worship the people sacrificed animals (at some high places children were sacrificed according to Jer. 7:31 — “THEY BURNED THEIR CHILDREN IN THE FIRE”), burned incense to their gods, prayed, ate sacrificial meals, and were involved with male or female cultic prostitutes (2 Kings 17:8-12; 21:3-7; Hos. 4:11-14). Although most “high places” were part of the worship of Baal, the Ammonite god Molech and the Moabite god Chemosh were also worshiped at similar “high places” (1 Kings 11:5-8; 2 Kings 23:10. Scripture speaks negatively about these heathen places of worship — GOD HATED THEM BECASUE THEY WERE HEATHEN PLACES OF WORSHIP. And they played a central role in the lives of most of the people who lived in the land.

    I’ll say it again: We don’t get to make up stuff as we go along. Like it or not, we’re stuck with the internal interpretation of the text as the primary meaning.

    -Alex Haiken
    http://JewishChristianGay.wordpress.com

  6. It seems that what you are doing is limiting marriage in the past because it does not match current day customs and practices. Marriage was arranged and treated as property, but as you state, feelings were expected to develop over time. I am not arguing this point with you, but you revisiting this topic of marriage and social life because you can generalize a response and point out the differences between the cultures. Just because ancient marriage is not the same as current day examples, and we are talking about western cultures here as these traditions still exist, does not mean that human nature to love your spouse or your lover is a new concept. This is what I am taking issue with your trying to blindly dismiss my argument. If it is not a complete match to your idea of what a same sex relationship is like, then you discount it fully and say it did not exist. This is you putting your opinions out as fact.

    Now you will probably dismiss my allegations and say it is not your opinion, but historians are relating the facts that they know of the time periods they have studied. They make no allegations or assumptions as to the human nature at that time, as if life was respected or if people felt a certain way. I do not think that marriage has always been how it is seen today in the west, as we know it is not seen that way around the world. What we can see though, from a sociology standpoint is that in those cultures who still practice marriage in a similar form, that there are people who love their mate even if they did not choose to be with them. What we also know is that people in those cultures also have same sex attractions.

    Let’s further explore the laws against male on male sex. Rape was prohibited, which I am glad to see you at least agree with that, but the Assyrians also had laws where you could not slander someone by saying you had relations with them when in fact it did not occur. So we know a man cannot rape another man or even falsely claim to have had sexual relations with a man, but there is not a prohibition of sex with another man. I never claimed that there was a prejudice against men having sex with each other. That is my point. They did have sex with each other. Men would take male lovers due to an attraction and not simply or only as a substitution for a woman.

    I understand why you are referencing a quote from Anthony to Augustus to defend your stance, but this occurred how many years after the Torah was given? Why not go back to Hammurabi’s wife writing about his attraction and desires to have sex with men? At least that occurred closer to when Levitcal laws would have been given and a more appropriate source to base interpretation off of. I mean Nero openly took a male spouse in the time of Paul, so we can’t blindly say that it was completely different or completely limited to pagan practices.

    You keep trying to explain aspects of society as it will prove your point. No one is denying that Israel was worshipping pagan gods. No one is denying that they sacrificed their children to these pagan gods. Take time and actually read the passage for what it says and not what you want it to say.

    Here is a brief synopsis from the Jewish Virtual Library:

    Chapter 16 contains the parable of the nymphomaniacal adulteress. This lurid, even pornographic, parable, immoderate in its language and its historical judgments, combines these elements: the image of marriage for the covenant relation of God and Israel (Hos. 1–3; Jer. 2:2; 3:1); Jerusalem’s Jebusite origin – used to argue the genetic depravity of Israel; the view that political alliances (whether voluntary or coerced) are equivalent to apostasy – both expressing reliance on powers other than God. At verse 44, the figure is skewed and loses its form. Jerusalem is unfavorably compared to her “sisters” Samaria and Sodom. Undeserving as she is, God will, out of faithfulness to His ancient covenant, yet redeem her and let her rule her sisters. Then she will be ashamed of her past.

    It is likely that verses 44ff. are secondary; but to consider them post-fall because of the concluding promise of restoration is to miss the prevailingly condemnatory context of the promise. Contrast the reversed proportions of the same elements in the restoration prophecy of 36:16 –7.

    Ezekiel is not listing out the sexual practices or describing the sexual practices that Israel did that would be considered same sex actions.

  7. YOU SAID: “Ezekiel is not listing out the sexual practices or describing the sexual practices that Israel did that would be considered same sex actions.”

    ME: God, through the prophet Ezekiel, is taking issue with and citing the offense of the Israelites’ worshipping the idols and false gods around them. God’s covenant with his chosen people required that the Israelites serve no other god but Yahweh. If Israel is thought to be bound to God in an exclusive covenant relationship, then Israel can be said to commit adultery (or “play the harlot”) whenever they look to powers other than Yahweh for sustenance, comfort or protection. “Playing the harlot,” as the English translations tend to put it, became a common idiom for their worshipping other gods. Throughout the Hebrew Scriptures, we find time and again that Israel frequented places of idol-worship: “On every high hill and under every green tree you sprawled and played the harlot.” (Jer 2:20) Did you catch that –“on every high hill”? Have we not already discussed ad nauseam what the “high places” were? Over and over, we see that the Israelites did not only borrow from the Canaanite pagan ways of worshipping idols and false gods, but constantly relapsed into them. And God constantly took them to task for it.

    You can try to explain it as much as you like, but as I said, here we have the Bible commentating on the Bible. We can hardly get better Bible commentary than that. Here we have what the Bible says is God’s commentary on the story of Sodom and on Sodom’s sin. Again, sorry, bro. We don’t get to make up stuff as we go along. Like it or not, we’re stuck with the internal interpretation of the text as the primary meaning.

    -Alex Haiken
    http://JewishChristianGay.wordpress.com

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