Was the sin of Sodom and Gomorrah not being hospitable?

John Martin’s rendering of Sodom and Gomorrah’s destruction (Courtesy Creationwiki)

By Spencer D Gear

I find it disconcerting how wide of the mark some secular journalists can become in their understanding of Scripture. A recent example was that of Elizabeth Farrelly in The Age, a Melbourne newspaper (also online). The article was titled, ‘Tenets of democracy get lost in hate storm’.[1]

The first line was, ‘The sin of sodomy, say biblical scholars, was not homosexual sex but a failure of hospitality’. Really?

Norman Geisler and Thomas Howe give this reason behind the ‘hospitality’ interpretation of Gen 19 rather than sexual sodomy:

Some have argued that the sin of Sodom and Gomorrah was inhospitality, not homosexuality. They base this claim on the Canaanite custom that guarantees protection for those coming under one’s roof. Lot is alleged to have referred to it when he said, “Don’t do anything to these men, for they have come under the protection of my roof” (Gen. 19:8 NIV). So Lot offered his daughters to satisfy the angry crowd in order to protect the lives of the visitors who had come under his roof. Some also claim that the request of the men of the city to “know” (Gen. 19:5 ) simply means “to get acquainted,” since the Hebrew word “know” (yada) generally has no sexual connotations whatsoever (cf. Psalm 139:1 ) (Geisler & Howe 1992:48).

Farrelly’s view is that biblical scholars claim that the issue for Sodom & Gomorrah is not the sin of male homosexuality but of being inhospitable.

That is not how the Hebrew scholars who translated the New International Version of the Bible saw it. Their translation of Genesis 19:5 is that the men from every part of Sodom who ‘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”‘. That’s not hospitality but sexual perversion.

While the Hebrew word, yada (know),[2] is not mandatory to be translated as ‘to have sex with’, in 10 of its 12 times in Genesis (see Gen 4:1, 25), it does mean that. We know from Gen 19:8 that it means sexual intercourse as Lot refers to his virgin daughters who had not ‘known’ a man, obviously meaning sexual intercourse.

‘Know’ cannot mean a hospitable person getting acquainted with someone else because it is associated with ‘a wicked thing’ in Gen 19:7. In addition, God said he would be destroying Sodom & Gomorrah in Gen 18:16-33, before the evidence of Gen 19:5, 8.

Elizabeth Farrelly, as a journalist, has violated a fundamental of interpretation in her statement that the sin of Sodom was not homosexual sex but failure to be hospitable. That fundamental of hermeneutics is that the meaning of any text, including Farrelly’s writing in The Age, is determined by the context in which it is used. To determine the context for the Sodom situation, one has to go to Genesis 18 and 19. There one finds evidence that the sin of sodomy definitely refers to sexual intercourse between men (homosexuality) and not to inhospitality.

Farrelly concludes her article with these words:

When the men of Sodom demanded that Lot relinquish his angel visitors, his asylum seekers, God punished Sodom for this breach of the sacred duty of welcome. A sodomite was a hard-heart, a jackboot, a repeller of blow-ins.

So I ask again, is Scott Morrison a sodomite? Is Tony Abbott? Are we okay with this?

Farrelly is right off track because she can’t be on track with her interpretation of Sodom and the sodomites in Genesis 19. If she gets that context wrong, how can she be correct with her application to Scott Morrison or Tony Abbott?

Am I okay with Farrelly’s interpretation of sodomites and application to Morrison and Abbott? Absolutely not! She is pushing her politically correct agenda and it has nothing to do with an accurate, contextual interpretation of the Sodom and Gomorrah events of Genesis 19.

Therefore, based on the above exposition, it is reasonable to interpret the Genesis 19 passages as referring to something other than Farrelly’s view of not being hospitable. It definitely refers to the sin of sexual sodomy, i.e. homosexuality.

Works consulted

Geisler, N & Howe, T 1992. When critics ask: A popular handbook on Bible difficulties. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Books.


[1] The Age, 25 September 2014. Available at: http://www.theage.com.au/comment/tenets-of-democracy-get-lost-in-hate-storm-20140924-10lbp4.html#ixzz3EHScfs7W (Accessed 25 September 2014).

[2] Some of the following information is based on Geisler & Howe (1992:48-49).


Copyright © 2014 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 20 November 2015.