Robinson addresses two accounts – first, the story of Sodom and Gomorrah in Genesis 19 and second, Judges 19. We’ll address these one at a time.
Sodom and Gomorrah
The Scripture reads the following:
“And there came two angels to Sodom at even; and Lot sat in the gate of Sodom: and Lot seeing them rose up to meet them; and he bowed himself with his face toward the ground; And he said, Behold now, my lords, turn in, I pray you, into your servant’s house, and tarry all night, and wash your feet, and ye shall rise up early, and go on your ways. And they said, Nay; but we will abide in the street all night. And he pressed upon them greatly; and they turned in unto him, and entered into his house; and he made them a feast, and did bake unleavened bread, and they did eat. But before they lay down, the men of the city, even the men of Sodom, compassed the house round, both old and young, all the people from every quarter: And they called unto Lot, and said unto him, Where are the men which came in to thee this night? bring them out unto us, that we may know them. And Lot went out at the door unto them, and shut the door after him, And said, I pray you, brethren, do not so wickedly. Behold now, I have two daughters which have not known man; let me, I pray you, bring them out unto you, and do ye to them as is good in your eyes: only unto these men do nothing; for therefore came they under the shadow of my roof. And they said, Stand back. And they said again, This one fellow came in to sojourn, and he will needs be a judge: now will we deal worse with thee, than with them. And they pressed sore upon the man, even Lot, and came near to break the door. But the men put forth their hand, and pulled Lot into the house to them, and shut to the door. And they smote the men that were at the door of the house with blindness, both small and great: so that they wearied themselves to find the door. And the men said unto Lot, Hast thou here any besides? son in law, and thy sons, and thy daughters, and whatsoever thou hast in the city, bring them out of this place: For we will destroy this place, because the cry of them is waxen great before the face of the LORD; and the LORD hath sent us to destroy it. And Lot went out, and spake unto his sons in law, which married his daughters, and said, Up, get you out of this place; for the LORD will destroy this city. But he seemed as one that mocked unto his sons in law. And when the morning arose, then the angels hastened Lot, saying, Arise, take thy wife, and thy two daughters, which are here; lest thou be consumed in the iniquity of the city. And while he lingered, the men laid hold upon his hand, and upon the hand of his wife, and upon the hand of his two daughters; the LORD being merciful unto him: and they brought him forth, and set him without the city.” – Genesis 19:1-16 KJV
Robinson makes several claims that must be addressed. First, he writes:
“In comprehending the meaning of this passage of Scripture, most modern Old Testament scholars agree that our traditional interpretation of this story may be misguided and that the point of the story was Sodom’s violation of the rather strict and universally acknowledged norms of hospitality – a code of ethics one still finds in Middle Eastern cultures today.”1
Robinson claims that “most modern Old Testament scholars” believe the point of the story of Sodom and Gomorrah was an issue of hospitality, but Robinson doesn’t give any references to substantiate this claim. Robinson writes later:
“When the two men are welcomed into Lot’s house, local men bang on the door and demand, ‘Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us, so that we may know them.’ There is some debate about the word ‘know’ here. Most scholars would agree that it has the sexual meaning here, but it is very clear that we are talking about homosexual rape, a violent act of aggression – and clearly something we would all condemn and deem worthy of God’s punishment.”2
Robinson seems to have contradicted himself here – first saying most modern Old Testament scholars believe the issue was hospitality, but then saying most scholars would agree the issue was homosexual rape. In either case, I believe we have a situation with three possible elements: homosexuality, gang rape, and inhospitality.
Robinson writes “even by the internal standards of the Scriptures themselves, a condemnation of same-gender intimate relationships is not the point of the story.”3 He argues the point of the story is based on just two elements: gang rape and inhospitality. The problem with Robinson’s conclusion? There is no distinction in the text of Genesis 19 to indicate Sodom and Gomorrah’s sin was strictly limited to gang rape and inhospitality. To draw this conclusion using the text of Genesis 19 alone would be to force a meaning on the text that just isn’t there.
Robinson uses a verse from Ezekiel to substantiate his claim that homosexuality was not the issue. He writes:
“The prophet Ezekiel compares the sins of Jerusalem with those of Sodom, which he says had ‘pride, excess of food, and prosperous ease, but did not aid the poor and needy’ (Ezekiel 16:49). No mention of homosexuality being the problem here.”4
The problem is Robinson leaves out critical context. He quotes Ezekiel 16:49, but verse 50 is covertly absent. Let’s look at the context of verse 49 (highlighted in blue):
“Behold, this was the iniquity of thy sister Sodom, pride, fulness of bread, and abundance of idleness was in her and in her daughters, neither did she strengthen the hand of the poor and needy. And they were haughty, and committed abomination before me: therefore I took them away as I saw good.” – Ezekiel 16:49-50 KJV
Verse 50 continues by saying Sodom was “haughty” and “committed abomination.” The word “abomination” used here is the same Hebrew word used in Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13 to describe homosexual conduct. Furthermore, not once in Scripture is rape described as an “abomination.” Given this connection, Robinson’s claim that there is no mention of homosexuality, or even the possibility of it, is deceptive.
“In short, the story of Sodom and Gomorrah, and all references to it elsewhere in Scripture, provide no guidance for modern-day believers about the morality or immorality of same-gender-loving people.”5
Robinson further claims that all references to Sodom and Gomorrah elsewhere in Scripture provide no guidance for us today about the morality or immorality of homosexual conduct. However, this is also possibly incorrect. Consider Jude 7:
“Even as Sodom and Gomorrha, and the cities about them in like manner, giving themselves over to fornication, and going after strange flesh, are set forth for an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire.” – Jude 7 KJV
Jude 7 describes the fact that Sodom and Gomorrah gave themselves over to fornication and going after “strange flesh.” The usage of the phrase “strange flesh” is debated. Some interpret “going after strange flesh” to mean seeking after flesh against one’s nature. However, some interpret “strange flesh” to mean the fact that the guests in Lot’s house were angels, not humans. In either case, Jude 7 is another piece of Scripture referencing Sodom and Gomorrah that must be considered.
Lastly with Sodom and Gomorrah, let’s address the issue of Lot offering his daughters in place of his guests. Robinson writes:
“And just in case you were not convinced of my characterization of the antiwoman bias before, listen to Lot’s proposed solution to this dilemma: ‘I beg you, my brothers, do not act so wickedly.’ He then offers his two virgin daughters to be abused by these townsmen instead, saying that these strangers should not be treated in such a violent way. That passage alone should cure anyone from wanting to quote this story as one with lasting authority and worthy of emulation.”6
Robinson’s tone here seems to indicate he is discrediting the value of all of God’s Word, which just happens to include Genesis 19. Robinson also seems to be ignorant of the concept of Old Testament narrative. Old Testament narrative involves characters, a setting, and a plot. Referencing Old Testament narratives in Grasping God’s Word, authors Duvall and Hays write:
“The Old Testament is not like the old Westerns . . . The Bible deals with real life and with real people. People are complex, and so are the great stories about them. We should not be surprised to find complicated personalities in the Old Testament . . . Many of the characters will become models for us, providing patterns and examples of faithful living before God. It is essential, then, that we be able to discern the good guys from the bad guys. One of the most common errors made in interpreting Old Testament narrative is to assume that everyone in the story is a hero, a model for us to copy. This is simply not true.”7
The bottom line is that it was wrong for Lot to offer up his daughters to the men. However, Robinson insinuating that the story of Genesis 19 should not have “lasting authority” simply because of the actions of Lot truly shows, frankly, Robinson’s ignorance. Furthermore, Robinson questioning Genesis 19’s “lasting authority” would be to question the authority of God’s Word. Every word in the Scripture is inspired by God and has eternal value to His people.
Robinson also brings up Judges 19 as an example of virgin daughters being given up for rape, but again this is Old Testament narrative and must be interpreted as such!
1. Robinson, God Believes in Love, p. 79
2. Robinson, God Believes in Love, p. 79
3. Robinson, God Believes in Love, p. 82
4. Robinson, God Believes in Love, p. 82
5. Robinson, God Believes in Love, p. 83
6. Robinson, God Believes in Love, p. 80
7. Duvall & Hays, Grasping God’s Word, pp. 347-348