Saturday, September 19, 2009

What's Up With Sodom? -- by Richard C. Speaks

God's Homophobia part 3 of 3

The Sodom and Gomorrah (S&G) story has been used to condemn homosexuals, and even to justify intolerance and persecution by the just and faithful followers of Yahweh, Jehovah, Allah, Jesus, and his followers, down through the ages. Those detested towns, S&G, have been used as a metaphor to denounce idolatry, sorcery, and sex in the Bible so often that I won't even bother to quote them all.

Did this tale of terror really happen? Is it really about what we've been told it's about, or has the meaning been overwhelmed by the very idea of a drunken mob attempting to gang bang a couple of angels?

To get to the heart of the matter I've decided to do a line by line comparison with the doublet of the S&G story found in the book of Judges. The story of Gibeah of Benjamin is separated by five Mosaic books, and nearly a thousand years of pseudo-history. Both stories read like some super scary prison shower scene.

The Gibeah story is devoid of angels and miracles, but contains many uncanny similarities. The tale of a traveling holy man, with his man servant and concubine, being threatened with gang rape by a drunk and horny mob in a strange town at sundown, and the fiery destruction that followed. Is this one hell of a coincidence, or is this the retelling of the same story, set in different time periods? Both books were probably written after the fall of Babylon by the resettled Hebrews, who were trying to salvage their cultural identity. The mention of domesticated camels in Genesis is a telling clue, as camels weren't domesticated until much later than the age depicted.

Predating and postdating events and stories is still a common practice. Think Romeo and Juliet vs The West Side Story, or the modernized Leonardo DeCaprio film. Think the original Scarface vs the brilliant DePalma remake, or New Jack City. I'm sure you can come up with many other examples yourself, dear reader. George Washinton never chopped down a cherry tree, because the Chinese hadn't planted them in America yet. You get my point.

This story was probably retold so many times that it became distorted, morphing into two separate fables, and winding up in the Bible twice. Perhaps there was an inciting incident. Maybe it was just an ancient version of an urban legend. Who can honestly say?

You be the judge.


When the two angels reached Sodom in the evening, Lot was sitting at the gate of Sodom. As soon as Lot saw them, he stood up to greet them, and bowed to the ground. 'My lords,' he said, "Please come down to your servant's house to stay the night and wash your feet. Then you can make an early start on your journey." "No," they said, "We shall spend the night in the square." But he pressed them so much that they went home with him and entered his house. He prepared a meal for them, baking unleavened bread, and they had supper.
GENESIS 19:1-3

As they approached Gibeah in Benjamin, the sun was setting. So they turned that way to spend the night in Gibeah. Once inside, the Levite sat down in the town square, but no one offered to take them in for the night. Eventually, an old man came along at nightfall from his work in the fields. He too was from the highlands of Ephraim, although he was living in Gibeah; the people of the place,however, were Benjaminites. Looking up, he saw the traveler in the town square. "Where are you going?" said the old man, "And where have you come from?" "We are on our way", the other replied, "From Bethlehem in Judah to a place deep in the highlands of Ephraim. I have been to Bethlehem Judah and now I am going home, but no one has offered to take me into his house, although we have straw and provender for our donkeys, and I also have bread and wine for myself, and this maid servant and the young man who is traveling with your servant; we are short of nothing." "Welcome," said the old man, "I shall see that you have all you want. You cannot spend the night in the square." So he took him into his house and gave the donkeys provender. The travelers washed their feet, then ate and drank.
JUDGES 19:14-21


They had not gone to bed when the house was surrounded by the townspeople, the men of Sodom both young and old, all the people without exception. Calling out to Lot they said, "Where are the men who came to you tonight? Send them out to us so that we can have intercourse with them."
GENESIS 19:4,5

While they were enjoying themselves, some townsmen, scoundrels, came crowding round the house; they battered on the door and said to the old man, master of the house, 'Send out the man who went into your house, we should like to have intercourse with him!"
JUDGES 19:22


Lot came out to them at the door and, having shut the door behind him, said, "Please, brothers, do not be wicked. Look, I have two daughters who are virgins. I am ready to send them out to you, for you to treat as you please, but do nothing to these men since they are now under the protection of my roof."
GENESIS 19:6-8

The master of the house went out to them and said, "No, brothers, please, do not be so wicked. Since this man is now under my roof, do not commit such an infamy. Here is my daughter; she is a virgin; I shall bring her out to you. Ill-treat her, do what you please with her, but do not commit such an infamy against this man."
JUDGES 19:23,24


But they retorted, 'Stand back! This fellow came here as a foreigner, and now he wants to play the judge. Now we shall treat you worse than them.' Then they forced Lot back and moved forward to break down the door. But the men reached out, pulled Lot back into the house with them, and shut the door. And they dazzled those who were at the door of the house, one and all, with a blinding light, so that they could not find the doorway.
GENESIS 19:9-11

But the men would not listen to him. So the Levite took hold of his concubine and brought her out to them. They had intercourse with her and ill-treated her all night till morning; when dawn was breaking they let her go. At daybreak the girl came and fell on the threshold of her husbands host, and she stayed there until it was light.
JUDGES 19:26


When dawn broke the angels urged Lot on, 'To your feet! Take your wife and your two daughters who are here, or you will be swept away in the punishment of the city."

In the morning her husband got up and, opening the door of the house, was going to continue his journey when he saw the woman, his concubine, lying at the door of the house with her hands on the threshold. 'Get up', he said, 'we must leave!' There was no answer. He then loaded her on his donkey and began the journey home. Having reached his house, he took his knife, took hold of his concubine and cut her, limb by limb, into twelve pieces; he then sent her throughout the territory of Israel. He gave instructions to his messengers, 'This is what you are to say to all the Israelites, "Has anything like this been done since the day when the Israelites came out of Egypt until today?" Take this to heart, discuss it; then give your verdict."
JUDGES 19:27-30


Then Yahweh rained down on Sodom and Gomorrah brimstone and fire of his own sending. He overthrew those cities and the whole plain, with all the people living there.
GENESIS 19:24,25

Yahweh defeated Benjamin before Israel and that day the Israelites killed 25,100 men of Benjamin, all of them trained swordsmen.
JUDGES 20:35

But the signal, a column of smoke, began to rise from the town, and the Benjamites looking back saw the whole town going up in flames to the sky. The Israelites then turned about, and the Benjaminites were seized with terror, for they saw that disaster had struck them.
JUDGES 20:41


A Levite priest may not be an angel, but he would be sacred, especially in the time before Israel had a king. God's wrath, in Judges, was carried out through bloody civil war, and the end result was much the same as in Genesis: fiery destruction, and infamy.

Were these ghastly tales merely about God's hatred for male homosexuals? That's an over-simplification for the lovers of hate to exploit. I think these Bible stories were really about disloyalty to Yahweh, and the blatant disregard for the custom of offering hospitality to travelers. A big deal in days of old. A cautionary tale meant to scare the flock away from pagan practices. Beware of the customs of any strange town you may visit. Stay true to the faith that frightens you most. Backsliders make Yahweh angry. All kinds. 

Pagans spilled sperm on their altars. The Yawehists spilled blood. That's why sex became taboo. Fornication was the new Original Sin. Original Sin was originally Adam & Eve's disobeying God and attaining the knowledge of wrongness. To the Yahwehists, this knowledge was the reason why sexuality had become a bad thing. Carnal knowledge. The pagans loved their Earth Mother. The Yahwehists feared their vengeful god. Yawweh was a bully and a major hater. The pagans celebrated sex. The conquors deemed it a shameful thing.

He (God) condemned the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah by reducing them to ashes as a warning to future sinners; but rescued Lot, an upright man who had been sickened by the debauched way in which these vile people behaved -- for that upright man, living among them, was outraged in his upright soul by the crimes that he saw and heard every day. All this shows that the Lord is well able to rescue the good from their trials, and hold the wicked for punishment until the Day of Judgment, especially those who follow the desires of their corrupt human nature and have no respect for the Lord's authority.
2 PETER 2:6-10

They have become deeply corrupt as in the days of Gibeah; He will remember their guilt, He will punish their sins.

What if the Levite had picked the wrong night to visit Gibeah, or S&G? The night some ceremony to some pagan fertility goddess was being celebrated. All were expected to attend to assure a successful harvest. Declining to attend would be unthinkable. But the Hebrews were a peculiar people. The townsfolk were probably roaring drunk by then, and highly pissed off that some snooty foreigners were blowing the ceremony, and risking the town's prosperity. They probably did come calling. Demanding that the hold-outs come and join the fun, or move on. I can see that. When in Rome, or S&G, do as they do.

They probably could've picked their partner, if they hadn't been too uptight to join in the festivities. All they were asking for was a small contribution of seminal fluid for the common good of the community. The Levite threw his concubine (sex slave) to the wolves instead. That was his contribution. Too bad for her.

Lot escaped to the hills with his two daughters before the war broke out, got stinking drunk and knocked them both up in a cave. It was all their fault anyway, as reported in Genesis. They made the poor man get drunk and horny! Lot turned out to be an upright fellow after all. At least his pecker was upright long enough to do the dirty deed with his daughters. What a wonderful roll model!

This was just too good a tale not to retell, but it was much easier for the ancient Hebrew scribes to use Canaanites in this cautionary fable about pagan rapists, than to rehash the shameful behavior of their own kindred. Maybe that's why the S&G version was the popular one. Racism appears to be the only sin left out of the Good Book. That, and slavery. I'm such a damned nit-picker!


Andrea said...

Another lovley tale from the bible!I guess Lot wasnt to much at fault because it was his daughters who got him drunk but he did offer them to be raped in that one part.I cant understand why he was any more rightious then the other men of the city.The way he said it was terrible!Do whatever you please with her!I guess God isnt such a great judge after all.

Anonymous said...

Yes! You are great at finding and showing these lovely bits from the bible, and how stories recylcle.
Yeah for the pagans!!! Seem much more civilized to me...