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About the biblical story of Sodom & Gomorrah

Topics from Genesis 18 & 19

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Genesis 18: When did God decide to exterminate the people of the four cities?

Apparently, we can gather from the account of Abraham's bartering, that God had already decided to kill all of the residents of the four cities before the angels arrived in Sodom -- unless a few righteous people could be found. One might argue that the conflict between Lot and the men of the town obviously was not the reason why God destroyed the cities because the conflict had not yet happened when God made his decision. Others might counter with the argument that God knows the past, present and future. He knew of the men's intentions to anally rape the angels before they happened, and made his decision accordingly.

Genesis 19:4 -- Who was in the mob?

bullet According to the King James Version of the Bible, Genesis 19:4 says: "...the men of the city, even the men of Sodom, compassed the house round, both old and young, all the people from every quarter." (KJV)

bullet The New International Version translates the same verse: "...All the men from every part of the city of Sodom -- both young and old -- surrounded the house." (NIV)

The KJV translation is ambiguous. The first part of the verse talks about "the men of Sodom," -- that is, a male group. The second part talks about "all the people," -- presumably men, women, and children. The NIV implies that Lot was faced by an all-male mob consisting of every man and boy in Sodom; no females of any age were in view.

The ambiguity appears to be due the phrase in the original Hebrew that is transliterated as "anshei ha'ir, anshei S'dom." It can have two meanings. It can mean  "men of the city, even the men of Sodom." But it can also mean "the people of the city, the people of Sodom." It appears that the KJV and NIV translators, perhaps influenced by their homophobia, chose a translation that would make the mob all male. The aauthor of the original Hebrew text may well have intended to say that everyone in Sodom -- men, women and children -- were there. 1

The National Gay Pentecostal Alliance comments:

"This alone tells us that the traditionalists were wrong about the intent of this mob: If you are planning a homosexual orgy, you don't invite the wife and kids!" 1

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Genesis 19:5 -- What does "ya,da" mean?

"Yada, Yada, Yada" is a phrase popularized on the Jerry Seinfeld comedy show to imply sexual activity among unmarried persons. It may be related to the "ya,da' (know) which appears in Genesis 19:5.

bullet According to the King James Version of the Bible, Genesis 19:5 says: "And they called unto Lot, and said unto him, Where are the men which came in to thee this night? bring them out unto us, that we may know them." (KJV)

bullet The New International Version translates the same verse without any ambiguity: "They called to Lot, 'Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us so that we can have sex with them.' "

"Ya,da" is a Hebrew verb which is commonly translated as "know." Its meaning is ambiguous. It appears 943 times elsewhere in the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament). Usually it means "to know a fact." In only about a dozen of these cases does it refers to sexual activity; in these instances, the sexual meaning is always obvious. The text generally talks about a man "knowing" a woman and of her conceiving a child as a result of the "knowing." With the possible exception of this verse, aAll such references involve heterosexual relationships.

It is not clear whether the mob wanted to:

bullet Gang rape the angels. This was a common technique by which men, particularly enemies, were humiliated in that society.
bullet Engage in consensual homosexual sex with the angels: This may the interpretation of the NIV translators. They wrote very clearly that the intent was to "have sex with them." People "having sex" with each other normally implies mutual consent.
bullet Interrogate them. They may have been concerned that the strangers were spies who were sent to the city to determine its defensive fortifications.

"Sodom was a tiny fortress in the barren wasteland south of the Dead Sea. The only strangers that the people of Sodom ever saw were enemy tribes who wanted to destroy and take over their valuable fortress and the trade routes that it protected." As noted above, the city had just recently survived just such an attack, and may have been on high alert. 2

bullet Attack them physically.

Genesis 19:8 -- Lot's offer to have his daughters gang raped:

From the context, it seems obvious that the mood of the mob was not friendly. In Genesis 19:7, Lot expected that the mob would engage in "wicked" behavior. Lot may have assessed that they had sex on their minds, because he offered his virgin daughters as an attempt to placate the mob. Some Christian interpreters maintain that all of the men in the city were present in the mob, and that all were homosexual. Lot would certainly have know of this, for he was a resident of the city. If they were all gay, then he would hardly have made a gift of his daughters to be raped; the mob would have had no sexual interest in women. Instead, he would have given the mob a gift of his two future sons-in-law. His daughters were both engaged to men from Sodom. In their culture, engagement was a binding arrangement, with many of the properties of marriage. It gave Lot authority over his future sons-in-law, much as he had control of his daughters. So he would have been able to sacrifice his daughters future husbands. But he didn't. Thus, we can conclude that most or all of the men of Sodom were not gay.

Other indications that all of the men of Sodom were not gay are:

bullet Extensive biblical references which emphasize that one of the serious sins of Sodom was their neglect of orphans and widows. If all male "Sodomites" were gay then there would be few or no marriages and thus few or no widows and orphans.

bullet As mentioned above, Lot's daughters were engaged to two male residents of the city. If they were gay, they would have had no interest in marrying women.

God was apparently not critical of Lot for offering his two daughters to be raped. If he were, he might have decided to not save Lot and his family.


The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. "The sin of Sodom wasn't what you think," National Gay Pentecostal Alliance (NGPA), at: The NGPA has since merged with the Apostolic Intercessory Ministry to create the Apostolic Restoration Mission at:
  2. Sorry, the citation for this quote has been lost.

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Copyright 1996 to 2012 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Latest update and review: 2012-FEB-29
Author: B.A. Robinson.

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