Human sexuality, along with a pleasing sexual imperative, is introduced at the very beginning of the Bible story. Mankind was created with gender. Gender was created with purpose.
So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them. 28 And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it. Genesis 1:27
Compliantly, in the narrative, Adam “knew” his wife and she conceived a son, and then another, and then a third. And though we don’t have details about differing sexual orientations before the flood, it is certain that only heterosexuals were on the Ark.
And Noah went in, and his sons, and his wife, and his sons’ wives with him, into the ark, because of the waters of the flood. Genesis 7:7
Obviously the origin of same-sex attractions significantly predated its rise to the epic proportions apparent in Sodom four centuries later. However rare gay practice must have been at its beginning, we find men and boys (na’ar) from “every quarter” of Sodom involved in the assault on Lot’s home.
How did homosexual practice originally come into existence? The Bible teaches that it rose as part of a judgment on those that invented idolatry. As they abandoned the true worship of Jehovah, their willful ignorance was judged by God by a two-step process. First, God let them slide into same-sex practice. Then He permitted a “due penalty” (sexually transmitted diseases?) to take its toll “in themselves.”
For although they knew God, they … exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles. 24 Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, 25 because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen. 26 For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; 27 and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error. 28 And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. Romans 1:20-28, ESV
Same-sex Attraction and Sodom
As we have already mentioned, four centuries was long enough to lead to a wholesale adoption of unnatural sexual experiences. Sodom and Gomorrah and the cities of the same plain, were particularly guilty of immorality. And more particularly, they were pursuing satisfaction of “unnatural” sexual desires, Jude’s word for gay desires.
just as Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding cities, which likewise indulged in sexual immorality and pursued unnatural desire, serve as an example by undergoing a punishment of eternal fire. Jude 1:7, ESV
Some persons have denied that gay lifestyles ought to be fingered as the leading evil of Sodom. They quote Ezekiel as pointing to a different collection of sins. “They were proud, obese, and lazy,” say they, “and unconcerned with social justice.” Ezek. 16:49-50 To this I would reply that Ezekiel is not arguing with Jude and Moses.
Rather, Ezekiel exposes another path to homosexuality. It was a sinful, self-indulging environment, something akin to our western idea of prosperity, which led to the rise of Sodom’s violent gay mobs:
Behold, this was the iniquity of thy sister Sodom, pride, fullness of bread, and abundance of idleness was in her and in her daughters, neither did she strengthen the hand of the poor and needy. 50 And they were haughty, and committed abomination before me: therefore I took them away as I saw good. Ezekiel 16:49-50
Someone says, “How do you divine sexual orientation from the word ‘abomination’?" That is a good question. The convergence of all three lines of evidence points to this conclusion. Those evidences are the story (below), Jude’s phrase “unnatural desire,” and the use of the same Hebrew word in the catalogue of sexual abominations (Leviticus 18.)
In the story Lot entertains angels unawares. We pick up the story after their meal:
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: 5 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. Genesis 19:4
Their evil served to demonstrate the moral character of that urban center. Moses, who authored the story of Sodom, also very directly connects Ezekiel’s word for “abomination” with homosexual practice in the catalogue of sexual perversions, Leviticus 18. There to’ebhah (abomination) is first used for what God abhors. (Earlier occurrences are to what Egyptians abhor).
There God’s abhorrence of perverse sexual sin is offered as a leading reason why God expelled the Canaanites from their land.
Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is abomination. 23 Neither shalt thou lie with any beast to defile thyself therewith: neither shall any woman stand before a beast to lie down thereto: it is confusion. 24 Defile not ye yourselves in any of these things: for in all these the nations are defiled which I cast out before you: 25 And the land is defiled: therefore I do visit the iniquity thereof upon it, and the land itself vomiteth out her inhabitants. 26 Ye shall therefore keep my statutes and my judgments, and shall not commit any of these abominations; neither any of your own nation, nor any stranger that sojourneth among you: 27 (For all these abominations have the men of the land done, which were before you, and the land is defiled;) 28 That the land spue not you out also, when ye defile it, as it spued out the nations that were before you. 29 For whosoever shall commit any of these abominations , even the souls that commit them shall be cut off from among their people. 30 Therefore shall ye keep mine ordinance, that ye commit not any one of these abominable customs, which were committed before you, and that ye defile not yourselves therein: I am the LORD your God. Lev. 18:22
If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination; they shall surely be put to death; their blood is upon them. Lev. 20:13
When you consider these passages, when you think of Jude’s statement that the Sodom dwellers were pursuing “strange flesh,” when you read the Genesis story itself, it is not hard to identify Sodom’s notable sin. Then there can be no reasonable doubt regarding the meaning of the fatal “abomination” of Sodom mentioned in Ezekiel 16:50.
Gender Confusion and Egyptian Habits
Deuteronomy identifies other abominations: idolatry (and such associated practices as burning infants in the fire), eating of unclean meats, charity from prostitution, experimental divorce and defective offerings.
Additionally, Deuteronomy forbids prostitutes and “sodomites.” The ESV renders the word as “male cult prostitutes.” The word denotes homosexual ritual sex. And it is forbidden.
There shall be no whore of the daughters of Israel, nor a sodomite of the sons of Israel. 18 Thou shalt not bring the hire of a whore, or the price of a dog, into the house of the LORD thy God for any vow: for even both these are abomination unto the LORD thy God. Deu. 23:17
One other gender-oriented “abomination” is mentioned by Moses. That is the act of cross-dressing.
A woman shall not wear a man’s garment, nor shall a man put on a woman’s cloak, for whoever does these things is an abomination to the LORD your God. Deu. 22:5
Think about this question: Why would crossdressing be particularly evil? How this would be immoral is difficult to conceive unless one accepts the idea that a confusion of gender roles is abhorrent to God. Weighty are the implications as they relate to homosexuality.
Leviticus’ larger prohibition against homosexuality, already mentioned above, is found in a section of the Torah that deals with many types of sexual sins. That section is introduced with a prohibition of the evils that Egypt committed (Leviticus 18:3). Did these practices include homosexual activity as the chapter goes on to forbid? One of the more respected Jewish historians (Moses Maimonides) thought so. He summarized an ancient Midrash on Leviticus 18:3.
For women to be [married] with one another is forbidden, as this is the practice of Egypt, which we were warned against: "Like the practice of the land of Egypt ... you shall not do" (Leviticus 18:3). The Sages said … "What did they do? A man married a man, and a woman married a woman, and a woman married two men."
The biblical data on the origin of homosexual attractions is broader than many have realized. The texts point to its origins spiritually: It rose on the heels of the original idolatry. The texts point to its origin socially: It rose in a milieu of prosperous self-indulgence, not unlike modern western society.
Before same-sex attractions ever rose, gender was given by the Creator. Men and women were made to complement each other. Marriage was created to complement them both. And the natural order, heterosexual monogamy, works. God’s plan fills the earth with godly seed.
God abhors sexual deviation, including same-sex activity. Gender confusion, even in clothing, was condemned under Moses.
In a later article we will explore the New Testament contribution to the topic. There the gospel successfully cleanses persons of homosexuality. See 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 for a blessed teaser. There, lust and fantasizing are addressed. In the Old Testament we find origins; in the New Testament, solutions.