Monday, August 16, 2010

Sodom and Gomorrah

The destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah has been foretold several times up to this point and now in Genesis 19 we finally get the payoff.
God has apparently split following his discussion with Abraham at the end of Chapter 18 and now the two angels are left to carry out the planned destruction. When they arrive at Sodom, the first person they find is Lot sitting in the gateway of the city as if he were expecting them.
Lot treats the two visitors like long-time friends insisting that they come and stay at his house so he can feed them and wash their feet. They refuse at first, but Lot is insistent and they give in.
At this point, we don't really have a clear understanding of why Sodom and Gomorrah are about to be destroyed. We've been told that the towns are wicked, but we don't know why. So the next thing that happens seems to be an over-the-top attempt by the Biblical authors to explain or give an example of this wickedness.
Suddenly we have all the men from every part of the town, both young and old, coming out and surrounding Lot's house and demanding that he send the two visitors out so that they can gang rape them.
Needless to say, this is pretty heady stuff for the Bible and it makes very little sense in a narrative fashion. Every man was there? All of them? Like they had nothing better to do than to demand gay sex from strangers?
This passage would seem to be where a lot of the bigotry and condemnation of homosexuals comes from. We've been told that Sodom is wicked and now we finally see why. They're all gay!!! And like the people from Westboro Baptist Church will tell you, "God Hates Fags!"
But one could still make the case that the real wickedness was not the homosexual act itself, but the notion of forced sex or rape. However, we then have Lot step forward to defend his house guests and in so doing manages to be every bit as despicable by modern standards as the assembled crowd of would-be rapists outside. Lot attempts to appease the crowd by offering them his two virgin daughters in place of the visiting strangers. This is just jaw-droppingly abhorrent! Raping the two strangers would be bad, surely. But raping the two daughters is an acceptable alternative??
Now perhaps by ancient standards this would not have amounted to rape, since the men would have essentially had the father's permission, and apparently the women had no say one way or the other back then. But it is still shocking by today's standards.
Of course, this isn't enough to appease the crowd and they push forward to try and forcibly take the strangers when they are suddenly struck blind by the angels. The angels then tell Lott to gather up everyone in his family and get out of the city. He can't persuade his sons in law to leave and then he hesitates so the angels forcibly drag him, his wife and two daughters out of the city. They tell Lot to flee to the mountains and to not look back, but Lot argues saying the "disaster will overtake me" if he goes to the mountains. He offers to go to a small town nearby and the angels give in.
As they flee, burning sulfur rains down on the city and Lot's wife commits the unpardonable sin of looking back and is turned into a pillar of salt.

As if all of this wasn't bad enough for Lot we have to end this dreadful chapter with a story of incest. Lot's two daughters, now deprived of their husbands and living in the mountains isolated from the rest of the world, decided to get their father drunk and sleep with him so that they can become pregnant.
Each one begets a son in this manner, one is Moab, founder of the Moabites and the other is Ben-Ammi, founder of the Ammonites. I suspect this was another effort by the Biblical authors to tie some loose tribes back to Abraham, but in a way that makes them clearly inferior to the Israelites.

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