232. Why does our national broadcaster appear to support only the “Yes” side of the same-sex vote? (The story of Sodom.)

An article [by an Australian theologian] published on the ABC website [NOTE 1] recently, made a number of claims about same-sex marriage. Included in the presentation were some statements which a number of like-minded scholars affirm as well. But are they right in doing so?

One statement is this. The story of Sodom and Gomorrah in Genesis 19 has nothing to say about homosexuality.  The author of the article acknowledges that the story in Genesis 19 is where the terms “sodomite” and “sodomy” originate, and that it has long been associated with biblical condemnation of male homosexual sex. Her conclusion is that it refers to gang-rape and not male homosexual sex. In the story in Genesis 19 Lot offered hospitality to two angelic beings. However they must have seemed in appearance to be like young men. Soon after, the men of Sodom of all ages surrounded the house, and called out to Lot, “Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us, that we may know them.” What did they mean by saying that they wanted to “know them?” Was it simply that the men of Sodom wanted to say something to them like “Hi fellas! Welcome to Sodom! We just felt as a group that we’d like to get to know you a bit better. Do you want to join us down at the pub for a beer?”

I looked at this some time ago in blog No 85 [Note 2] where I commented, ‘{The word for “know” is (yada). It has many meanings but it can mean knowing a person sexually such as in Gen 4:1 Now Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived and bore Cain, saying, “I have gotten a man with the help of the LORD.” It is also used in the same way in 1Kings 1:4, where David’s servants try to keep David warm by selecting a young woman to lie in his arms. Abishag was found and brought to the king. Even though she was very beautiful and attended to the king, he “knew” her not. In other words he did not know her sexually. Another reference to (yada) being used to describe sexual relations is in the story of Rebekah where she is described as a virgin in these words, Gen 24:16  The young woman was very attractive in appearance, a maiden whom no man had known.

In the story in Genesis 19:8 Lot knew what the men were after, namely sexual relations with his guests. He offers his virgin daughters (who have not known [yada] any man) to the men so that the men of Sodom might do to them as they pleased. Rather a despicable attitude but he wanted to save face with his guests at the cost of his daughters’ well-being. However the men of Sodom lusted for the men and would not accept the offer of the daughters. Judgment followed upon those men [as Lot’s family were divinely protected.]

 Many modern versions of the Bible spell out the meaning of “know” referring to sexual relations. For example the Holman Christian Standard Bible puts it, Gen 19:5  They called out to Lot and said, “Where are the men who came to you tonight? Send them out to us so we can have sex with them!” Lot’s offer of his daughters is translated as, Gen 19:8  Look, I’ve got two daughters who haven’t had sexual relations with a man. I’ll bring them out to you, and you can do whatever you want to them. The NET Bible also puts it starkly, “Bring them out to us so we can have sex with them!” The daughters are described in this version as those who have never had sexual relations with a man.

 It is obvious why the term “sodomy” came into use. It described the sexual activity between males as seen in the city of Sodom.’} That is brought out in Jude 1:7 where Jude describes the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah as an example of God’s punishment for what He saw as evil in His sight. The reason given for the destruction was not that on one occasion the males of the city had tried to rape two visitors to town [and by God’s intervention, been unsuccessful]. Rather it was because they “indulged in sexual immorality and pursued unnatural desire”. The word for “Sexual immorality” is [ekporneúō, ἐκπορνεύω] meaning to practise immorality or lewdness. The phrase “pursued unnatural desire” is made up of a number of words. They are [apérchomai,  ἀπέρχομαι meaning to go after or pursue] and [héteros, ἕτερος meaning different or another of a different kind] and [sárx, σάρξ meaning flesh] ie., they were going after or pursuing strange or different flesh. As the Baker’s New Testament Commentary puts it, “Therefore, when the men of Sodom were interested in sexual relations with men, they perverted the created order of natural intercourse. That is, the men of Sodom did not desire females (see Gen 19:8-9); instead, these men demanded homosexual relations with the men who visited Lot.”

 The judgment on Sodom was God’s response to what some would call a widespread sexual proclivity in the city as 19:4 indicates, “all the men from every part of the city of Sodom—both young and old—surrounded the house.” [The words, ‘All the men’. ‘From every part of Sodom’. ‘Both young and old’ show how widespread and deep seated was the lust among the males of the city. They were accountable to God for their lust. He acted to prevent them from putting their desires into action. Nevertheless a greater judgment upon the city was soon to follow.]

It would appear then that the author’s conclusion that Genesis 19 is only about gang-rape and not male homosexual sex is questionable to say the least. However we are fortunate in Australia that the national broadcaster (the ABC) is meant to be balanced in its presentations. So I am looking forward to it publishing or presenting arguments in favour of the historical interpretation of this passage. It hasn’t happened yet to my knowledge but perhaps I just need to wait a little longer!

In the meantime we will investigate in the next article whether the author’s second point is correct when she affirms that the 2 laws of Leviticus (18:22 and 20:13) are “the sum total of what the Old Testament (Hebrew Bible) says about same-sex activities” and are not necessarily verses that can be used as arguments against same sex marriage.


[NOTE 1]  The ABC stands for the Australian Broadcasting Commission and it operates  under the Public Governance, Performance and Accountability Act 2013.  Part of the charter has these words, “It also imposes general duties on all ABC employees to, amongst other things, act honestly, in good faith and for a proper purpose.”  Many assume that this should mean in practice a fair and balanced treatment on all the topics it presents or on which it reports. (Such as a balance for the arguments for the “Yes” and “No” cases for the coming postal vote in Australia. The vote will be about altering the definition of “marriage” in the Marriage Act to include same sex relatioships.)

[NOTE 2] I have written on this and similar themes a number of times over the years and on request linked them together in one blog to enable folk to be able to click on any topic mentioned in the blog that they wanted to investigate. That blog number is 195.

Blog No.232. Jim Holbeck. Posted Friday 25th August 2017

About Jim Holbeck

Once an Industrial Chemist working for the Queensland Government but later an Anglican minister in Brisbane, Armidale and Sydney. Last position for eighteen years before retirement in 2006 was as the Leader of the Healing Ministry at St Andrew's Cathedral Sydney.
This entry was posted in BIBLE PASSAGE OUTLINES, Bible verses. Comments, Forgiveness, Healing, Sexuality, Temptations and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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