Sodom and Gomorrah’s sin

Biblical paradigm should not be used as reason to ostracize or place blame on the homosexual community.

Location of Sodom near the Dead Sea 370 (photo credit: Seth J. Frantzman)
Location of Sodom near the Dead Sea 370
(photo credit: Seth J. Frantzman)
Learning of the news that God was going to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 18), Abraham immediately intercedes on behalf of these wicked cities.
A “righteous people” bargaining conversation takes place between Abraham and God. Still, there are not enough righteous people to merit the cities to be saved.
In Genesis 19, two angels go to Sodom and Gomorrah and carry out their mission to destroy the cities and save Lot and his family. It is a gruesome destruction, where sulfur and fire rain down on the inhabitants and the land is turned upside down (v. 24- 25). A chapter and a half are dedicated to one of the most famous episodes in the Bible, but the sin is not clearly understood as to why they incurred God’s wrath.
Sodom is mentioned earlier in Genesis when Lot and Abraham departed ways after the flock incident.
While the beauty of the city is described as God’s garden, its residents are said to be wicked and exceedingly sinful (chap. 13). Again, the Bible does not say what their sin is.
Focusing on “that we may be intimate with them” (19:5), some commentators suggest that Sodom and Gomorrah’s sin was sexual in nature – specifically, homosexuality. Textually, however, this does not seem correct. The men outside did not want to have consensual relations with Lot’s guests but to commit rape against them. Therefore, I see the sin of Sodom and Gomorrah as an issue of showing off one’s power, similar to what one would experience in today’s prison system.
Looking at Jeremiah (23:14), Sodom’s sins were adultery and living a lie.
Ezekiel goes even further by clarifying that their iniquities were pride, their excess of food while the poor and needy suffered (Ezekiel 16:49- 50). Even according to the Christian Gospels, Sodom’s crimes were: not giving hospitality to strangers (Matthew 10-14-15 & Luke 10:7-16) and being ungodly, unprincipled and lawless (2 Peter 6-8). Even though the Book of Jude (v. 7) considers Sodom’s sin sexual in nature, it does not define the sexual immorality and therefore could be in line with Jeremiah’s interpretation of adultery as opposed to homosexuality.
Centering their attention on Genesis 18:20-21, “The cry (za’aka) of Sodom and Gomorrah is great… I will go down now, and see...,” other commentators look into the power of the cry that brought about the annihilation of these cities. This type of cry is similar to the one in Genesis 4:10 – “Your brother’s blood cries (tzo’akim) out to me from the ground.” Just as a murder took place by Cain killing Abel, another murder took place when Sodom’s court killed a young girl for sustaining the poor in the city. To explain: According to the Midrash, Sodom and Gomorrah had laws against hosting guests.
Acts of charity were strictly forbidden, as they feared it would lead to a depletion of their accumulated wealth.
The repercussions of breaking these laws were most severe – the death penalty. When a young girl was found with contraband of food and water to give to the poor, she was taken, covered with honey and hoisted atop the city walls.
Clouds of hornets attacked, and her cries pierced the heavens as her soul left her.
Her cry ascended before the Throne of Glory. In that hour the Holy One, blessed be He, said: “I will go down and see…” God does not tolerate a city not taking care of the vulnerable of society.
This “cry” also echoes another scream that God promises He will hear and act upon – Exodus 22:22-23, the tze’aka from the immigrant, orphan and widow.
Postscript: I want to make clear that this article is not advocating for gay marriage or any other type of agenda.
I believe that by focusing on how we can love someone whose sexual orientation does not line up with our biblical paradigm, more can be accomplished than by ostracizing and making the homosexual person feel like a complete outcast from the religious community. In addition, using the Sodom and Gomorrah story to blame hurricanes or other disasters solely on the gay community’s lifestyle does not line up with other biblical passages on the definition of Sodom’s sins.
David Nekrutman is the executive director of Ohr Torah Stone’s Center for Jewish- Christian Understanding and Cooperation in Efrat. Comments should be directed to