The Meaning Behind Sodom And Gomorrah

This is an excerpt from a TedX Talk recently given by Pastor Jim O’Hanlon. He discusses how the story of Sodom And Gomorrah is used to justify condemning homosexuality.


Once upon a time there was a city called Sodom, and there were two men travelling trying to find a place to stay in the city limits. They were having zero luck. They were about to give up and spend the night in the town square, but a man named Lot took pity on them and let them crash at his house for the night. Good thing he did because, not five minutes later, the town mob came banging on his door demanding that he bring his guests out that they might know them.

Now, when the Bible says “know” in this context, it’s not saying, “Oh hey, nice to meet you. Let me shake your hand.” No. It’s “Let us know them intimately, sexually and (in this case) violently.”

We’re talking in this case about gang rape.

The story continues. Lot begs the mob, “Please, I beg you! Do not act so wickedly!” He then turns and offers his two virgin daughters to the mob in exchange (which is all kinds of twisted). And then the story ends when God gets angry at the whole situation and destroys the whole city for their sins.

But what exactly was the sin of Sodom? Was it men sleeping with men, or was it an angry mob banging on a man’s door and demanding to rape his houseguests? And you can see how quickly we leap to conclusions and how quickly that begins to affect our judgment. So what does the story say, and what does the story not say?

The story describes an entire city that converges upon one house for the purpose of raping these two people. Does that mean that this is a story about two adults who want to have a consenting relationship, who want to publicly affirm a monogamous relationship, and their commitment to each other? How does it really connect at all to that when it’s talking about an entire city that wants to have a mass rape of two people?

So we see Lot who sees this, and he stands against them. One person who stands against the entire city. He sees these two people. He sees they’re vulnerable. They’re traveling. They’re far from home. They’re people who could be preyed upon. They’re foreigners. They don’t belong so they’re weak and they’re susceptible in so many ways.

Lot wants to protect them, and when the city says “Let them come out here because we want to ‘know’ them,” he begs them not to do this. Good thing. And when he stands against the whole city, they then turn on him and say, “You know what, Lot? You haven’t been here all that long. You’re not really one of us. You don’t have the same beliefs like us.”

So this is a man who himself as vulnerable in this situation who is going to put himself out for someone who is even more vulnerable than he is, and as we heard, he says “Take my daughter’s instead” which raises the issue of “Why would someone insist that you have to literally read this and you have to unquestionably apply the morality in a way that you must be obedient to it?”

When the Bible talks about what was the sin of Sodom, you can look throughout the Bible, and over hundreds of centuries it keeps referring back to Sodom and how bad Sodom was and how wicked Sodom was, but what is it specifically?

What the Bible is talking about is violence.

Seven Woes on the Teachers of the Law and the Pharisees

“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the door of the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to…

“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices–mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law–justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former.

You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel.

Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence.

Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean.

Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean.

In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.”

Matthew 23:13, 23-28, NIV.