Genesis 19:1-11 (NAS)
Now the two angels came to Sodom in the evening as Lot was sitting in the gate of Sodom When Lot saw them, he rose to meet them and bowed down with his face to the ground. And he said, "Now behold, my lords, please turn aside into your servant's house, and spend the night, and wash your feet; then you may rise early and go on your way." They said however, "No, but we shall spend the night in the square." Yet he urged them strongly, so they turned aside to him and entered his house; and he prepared a feast for them, and baked unleavened bread, and they ate. Before they lay down, the men of the city, the men of Sodom, surrounded the house, both young and old, all the people from every quarter; and 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." But Lot went out to them at the doorway, and shut the door behind him, and said, "Please, my brothers, do not act wickedly. "Now behold, I have two daughters who have not had relations with man; please let me bring them out to you, and do to them whatever you like; only do nothing to these men, inasmuch as they have come under the shelter of my roof." But they said, "Stand aside." Furthermore, they said, "This one came in as an alien, and already he is acting like a judge; now we will treat you worse than them." So they pressed hard against Lot and came near to break the door. But the men reached out their hands and brought Lot into the house with them, and shut the door. They struck the men who were at the doorway of the house with blindness, both small and great, so that they wearied themselves trying to find the doorway.
There is a clear sexual reference in this story. There is no doubt about that. But this story is not about sex. It is about hospitality, about rape, about abuse and about a very different culture. Still, the Bible says that Lot was “righteous”.
Lot was the nephew of Abraham. The Bible calls Lot a “righteous” man in 2 Peter 2:7. If Lot lived today, our culture might not define him in any such glowing terms. In fact, Lot would likely be jailed and then murdered in prison. Not only for offering his virgin daughters to a rape gang to protect two strangers whom he just met. But he also later got drunk and had sex with his daughters, getting them both pregnant. (Genesis 19:36) Apparently, he had no idea that he had any sex with his daughters due to his drunkenness but science would argue that if a man is that drunk, he would not even be able to get an erection, let alone ejaculate. The Bible blames his daughters and their trickery for the incest.
In Lot’s culture, he lived in a desert town and one night in the wilderness would mean almost certain death. Hospitality was the law of the land. Men were the only people with any social standing.
In Lot’s culture, his daughters were his property as much as his livestock. He got money from the sale of his daughters and they would have been worth much less if they had actually been turned over to the rape gang and had their virginity stolen. For Lot to have offered them up shows how important hospitality was and how much less important women were.
In Lot’s culture, he did what was right. He not only offered, but implored, two travelers to come stay the night in his home. According to Daniel Helminiak, author of What the Bible Really Says About Homosexuality, “The same rule is a traditional part of Semetic and Arabic cultures. This rule is so strict that no one might harm even an enemy who had been offered shelter for the night. So doing what was right, following God’s law as he understood it, Lot refused to expose his guests to the abuse of the men of Sodom. To do so would have violated the law of sacred hospitality.”
Why did a gang of men even show up to rape these aliens? In Lot’s culture, men humiliated other men by forcing anal sex on them. During war, for example, the victorious soldiers would insult the defeated army by treating them like women by forcing anal sex upon them. After all, in hetero-genital sex, the men were the “active” partner and the women were the “receptive” partner. Since Lot’s “visitors” were really messengers from God, they could have been suspected spies or men from some unknown origin to the people of Sodom who were perceived as a threat. The men of Sodom may have wanted to rape them as a warning against them attacking their city later. It could be to show the strangers how macho they were, how fearless… it doesn’t matter what the specific reason was. They were there to abuse and Lot would not allow it.
What does the Bible say about Sodom and its sinfulness? First, God had already seen it's wickedness before the incident with the rape gang and He had passed judgment and planned to destroy it. (Genesis 18) In fact, Lot was the lone righteous person there. Nowhere does the scriptures say that Sodom was full of homosexuals or that the sin of Sodom was homosexuality.
Jesus himself made reference to Sodom in Matthew 10:5-15 when he was commissioning his disciples to go into villages to minister. He says that if the people are inhospitable and do not receive them, “it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgment than for that town.” So even Jesus refers to their inhospitality and makes no reference to sex whatsoever.
Other places in scripture that refer to Sodom: Isaiah 1:10-17 and 3:9, Zephaniah 2:8-11 & Jeremiah 23:14. What do these verses have to say about Sodom and sex? Not a thing. But they do refer to oppression, partiality, injustice, lies, as well as other similar sins.
Finally, the Bible makes it as clear as it possibly can in Ezekiel 16:49 “This was the sin of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters had arrogance, abundant food and ceaseless ease, but she did not help the poor and needy.” (Memorize that if you plan to battle an Evangelical on this issue).
If Lot was righteous as the Bible defines him, we can assume it is God's grace in overlooking his sinfulness that made him righteous. And if God's grace can overlook incest, drunkeness, and child abuse, it can overlook anything and there is hope for anyone to be "righteous".
The next time that someone tells you about the “sin of Sodom”, I hope that you’ll be prepared to let them know what the sins of Sodom really were and that they had nothing to do with homosexuality. It had everything to do with being given abundant blessings and not sharing them or using them to help others, but rather abusing them. Dr. Helminiak says it best: “Those who oppress homosexuals because of the supposed ‘Sin of Sodom’ may themselves be the real ‘Sodomites’ as the Bible understands it.”
To read more about the differing views and the history of Sodom, CLICK HERE.
Next Lesson: The Abomination of Leviticus: Uncleaness
Still, the Bible says that Lot was “righteous”.