Key Question: Does this passage say anything implicitly or explicitly about committed, loving, monogamous, covenanted same-sex relationships?
This passage comes in the middle of the Abrahamic cycle of Genesis. Interestingly, Abraham is a non character in this narrative for the most part (but see chapter 18 for additional context).
On a broad level, this is actually a fascinating text — and fascinating to consider why the author includes it here. As an undergraduate student, I had the privilege to study Old Testament for two semesters under Dr. Everett Fox. One of the things he always taught us is that apparent non-sequitors can be road signs for broader themes. This narrative is one of those and it is an interesting study to contrast Lot with Abraham, with a focus on what this adds to our understanding of the Abrahamic cycle. This helps us understand that the purpose of this passage is to highlight certain things about Abraham, more than to explore the depths of Sodom. One of the key interpretive questions for us is “what is the sin of Sodom”? We also need to think through how one draws application out of a narrative text that is given to us without contextual interpretation. Normally, developing theology from narrative is dangerous.
Some argue that the sin of Sodom that is being universally and timelessly condemned is the sin of homosexuality. I think it is helpful to let scripture interpret itself here. We ask “what was Sodom’s sin?” and the Bible answers this question for us:
49 ” ‘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 needy. 50 They were haughty and did detestable things before me. Therefore I did away with them as you have seen. (Ezekiel 16:48-50)
This sounds very much like the kinds of sin Jesus highlights in Matthew 25. Almost a dozen other Old Testament references from the prophets say similar things: the sin of Sodom was one of arrogance and injustice.
There is one New Testament reference (among over a half dozen) that references sexual immorality as the primary sin of Sodom (Jude 1:6-8). There seems no doubt that there was lots of sin in Sodom, including sexual sin.
Jesus’ only references to Sodom come in the Gospels when he says that it would be better to be Sodom than to be those who rejected Jesus’ disciples (Matthew 10:14-16 and elsewhere).
What the text DOES SAY about homosexuality?
– The only thing this text says about homosexuality as far as I can tell is that homosexual rape is evil and is sin. I think to conclude that homosexual rape is worse than other forms of rape is a misreading of the text. We also know that rape is not about sex at all but about power. This fits with the words of the prophets who describe Sodom as corrupt, haughty, arrogant, etc.
– I don’t think the text or narrative about Sodom says anything else about homosexuality.
What the text DOES NOT SAY about homosexuality?
– As noted above, the text does not say anything about homosexuality except to condemn homosexual rape (which is not really about sex). The text says nothing about committed, loving same-sex relationships.
Those are my thoughts… what are yours? Questions? Observations?