A tale of two Old Testament cities
by Robert Randle
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Although this is not a Dicken's classic the narratives do contain a bit of irony.It seems the gay rights debate will be the defining issue of this country for many decades to follow, eclipsing even that of the Civil Rights legislation of the 1960’s. This controversy won’t go away and several Christian denominations have split over openly gay clergy or other involvement in church functions. To those believers who have attended bible classes or worship services, even infrequently, have either read or heard preachers quote the book of Genesis in the Old Testament about God destroying Sodom and the surrounding cities or towns. Progressive Churches that are more about acceptance, being non-judgmental and welcoming say there is another side to this event that is rarely mentioned instead of demonizing and condemning same-sexual relationships. What the focus of this study is in the way of contrast, that is, two different outcomes from essentially the same types of behaviors and no explanationn offered as to the outpouring of divine wrath in one case, and in another, silence.Some passage rereads are in the following:
Genesis 19: 1-8a’
The two angels arrived at Sodom in the evening, and Lot was sitting in the gateway of the city. When he saw them he got up to meet them and bowed down with his face to the ground. “My lords,” he said, “please turn aside to your servant’s house.” You can wash your feet and spend the night and then go your way early in the morning.” “No.” they answered, “we will spend the night in the square.” But he insisted so strongly [that the strange visitors not stay there] that they did go with him and entered his house. He prepared a meal for them, baking bread without yeast, and they ate. Before they had gone to bed, all the men from every part of the city of Sodom-both young and old-surrounded the house. They called to Lot, “Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us that we can have sex with them.” Lot went outside to meet them and shut the door behind him and said, “No, my friends don’t do this wicked thing. Look, I have two daughters who are virgins. Let me bring them out to you and you can do what you like with them, but don’t do anything to these men.”
NOTE: Most, if not all the time the real emphasis of the story starts at verse 4 and nothing is hardly thought about verses 1 through 3.
Now, let’s look at another example that is almost identical but the results are far from what one would have expected.
Judges 19: 11-18
When they were near Jebus and the day was almost gone, the servant said to his master, “Come, let us stop at this city of the Jebusites and spend the night.” His master replied, No. we won’t go into an alien city, whose people are not Israelites. We will go on to Gibeah.” He added, “Come, let us try to reach Gibeah or Ramah and spend the night in one of those places.” So they went on, and the sun set as they neared Gibeah in Benjamin. There they stopped to spend the night. They went and sat in the city square, but no one took them into his home for the night. That evening an old man from the hill country of Ephraim, who was living in Gibeah (the men of the place were Benjamites), came in from his work in the fields. When he looked and saw the travelers in the city square, the old man asked, “Where are you going? Where did you come from?” He answered, “We are on our way from Bethlehem in Judah to a remote area in the hill country of Ephraim where I live. I have been to Bethlehem in Judah and now I am going to the house of the LORD. No one has taken me into his house.
Judges 19: 20, 22-24
“You are welcome at my house,” the old man said. Let me supply whatever you need. Only don’t spend the night in the square.” While they were enjoying themselves, some of the wicked men of the city (Gibeah) surrounded the house. Pounding on the door, they shouted to the old man who owned the house, “Bring out the man who came to your house so that we can have sex with him [the man had a servant so it would be ‘them,’ wouldn’t it??]. The owner of the house went outside and said to them, “No, my friends don’t be so vile (wicked). Since this man is my guest, don’t do this disgraceful thing. Look, here is my virgin daughter, and his concubine. I will bring them out to you now, and you can use them and do to them whatever you wish. But to this man, don’t do such a disgraceful thing.”
NOTE: In this instance there was no divine wrath of fire and brimstone leveled on these people of the covenant (“Benjamites”) as opposed to Sodom and the other surrounding cities.
Ezekiel 16: 49-50
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 the needy [or strangers at the gate??]. They were haughty and did detestable things before Me.
CONCLUSION: There you have it. Some liberal and progressive Bible scholars believe that the sins of the Sodomites was not sexual in nature but rather one of lacking to show hospitality and respect to the strangers who sat in the town square all night, but is this really plausible? Both the texts of Genesis and Judges depict almost verbatim the same event, but the response from on High was surprising different; silence in the case of the latter. Not only that, but in the Genesis account why was Lot so insistent on his unexpected guests not spending the night at the town square, and certainly the inhabitants of Sodom should not have been hostile toward one of their neighbor’s [although an alien resident] practicing hospitality; just like the old man of Gibeah in the book of Judges?
The inhabitants of Sodom deemed Lot’s interventionist part to be some kind of judgment or moral superiority which was met with resistance and threats of harm to him and doubtless his family, too. It’s like they could do whatever they wanted with impunity, without fear of the consequences, and that is what being ‘haughty’ is. So, whether the alternative emphasis will dissuade anyone from changing their view about homosexuality is not under consideration in this study, but rather to reintroduce it in a different light and let the reader decide what the right answer is for them.
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March 10, 2013
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