Sunday, June 25, 2017

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The (real) Cause of Sodom's Demise - Part 1

Every sermon I have ever heard about Sodom and Gomorrah has confidently asserted that homosexuality was the cause of their demise.  I have heard sermons chastise cities like San Francisco and other sexually promiscuous cities by referring to them as modern “Sodom and Gomorrahs.”  There is no shortage of laments about how “the gays” are taking over the country .  And I’m sure the recent passage of gay marriage in NY is going to add lots of fuel to many new Sodom sermons.

Let me be clear: Scripture in no way condones homosexual practice.  Engaging in Homosexuality is no different than engaging in adultery or pre-martial sex for that matter: all of these are violations against the covenant of marriage.  But the Scriptural legality of homosexuality is not the issue in this post: the question is why did God destroy Sodom?  It may not be for the reason you think.

Sodom (Hebrew S’Dom) is referred to in the Tanakh 39 times in 38 verses by my count (and thanks for the Hebrew search engines in my Logos Bible software).  Chalk up another 9 in Greek for the B’rit Chadashah.  Lets take a bit of a stroll through these to see what Scripture has to say about Sodom.

In Genesis 13:13, we find that the inhabitants of Sodom were wicked and great sinners.  But the exact nature of their wickedness is not disclosed.

In Genesis 14:11 we find that apparently the residents of Sodom are not great warriors because they are defeated in the famous “war of the kings.”  Nothing about their morality is mentioned, although we learn that the King of Sodom greeted Abraham (Genesis 14:17) and offered a reward to Abraham after his successful raid on the invaders (Genesis 14:21).  Abraham declines this reward – but the reason has to do with Abraham not with Sodom.

In Genesis 18:20 the Lord says that the sin of Sodom (and Gomorrah) is very great.  Nothing new – but apparently we learn from Genesis 18:32 that there are fewer than 10 righteous in the city.  Not good, but again the source of their unrighteousness is not identified.

In Genesis 19:1-29 we get some details – and it isn't pretty.  The men of Sodom want to “know” the visitors who come to visit Lot (Genesis 19:5).  In this context, “know” has a definite sexual connotation, and this is why the mega-sin of Sodom is frequently touted to be homosexuality.  While it is clear that the residents were engaged in sexual promiscuity, this was not the only problem, and as we will see, not the greatest sin of the city.

Sodom drops out of the Bible for a while except as a proverb and a reminder of the wrath of God.  We find this warning in a few places, namely Deuteronomy 29:23, Jeremiah 49:18 Amos 4:11, Zephaniah 2:9 and Lamentations 4:6.  And that pretty much rounds out Sodom as described in the Tanakh – save for 2 very important places that I’ll get to in a minute.

In the B’rit Chadashah we see a similar pattern: In Matthew 10:15, Matthew 11:23-4, Luke 10:12 and Luke 17:29 Yeshua uses Sodom as a metric of divine judgment.  He warns some in Israel that if you think the judgment God brought on Sodom was bad … Paul uses Sodom, a reference to Isaiah, as a metric of the grace of God (Romans 9:29).  John goes with the judgment motif in Revelation 11:8.

But Jude 7 and 2 Peter 2:6, which are 2 very strongly interdependent books, indicate that sexual promiscuity was a clear problem in Sodom.  2 Peter 2:6-7 has an interesting take on it, and really emphasizes more the preservation of Lot more than the destruction of Sodom.  So it would seem that the preachers I heard are justified in equating Sodom with homosexuality.

But not so fast – we forgot 2 key references in Isaiah and Ezekiel.  I rarely, if ever, hear these verses mentioned so it seems wise to spend a moment or 2 on them – next time.

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