Most Christians are very familiar with the story of Sodom. When asked, many quote that Sodom was a land filled with homosexuals. They recall that the men of Sodom surrounded a house and tried to have sex with 2 males who came to stay with Lot for the night. Then, God destroyed the city with fire because of their wicked homosexuality. This isn’t quite the actual story when we look deeper into the context, but I will get back to that… The focus I would like to explore with you today is a nearly identical story that most Christians are not familiar with in comparison to the story of Sodom. It is quite fascinating that this story isn’t equally as quoted as “proof” that the Bible condemns homosexuality, because there is male/male sex acts mentioned in a matching format to Sodom. As we investigate this story, the reason for this omission to mainstream Biblical knowledge may become more clear. Have you ever heard of the land of Gibeah?
Gibeah (not to be confused with Gomorrah) was a city in the territory of Benjamin. It was one of the twelve tribes of Israel. In the story, we start out with a Levite man traveling home with his concubine and servant. They must stop for the night and decide to stay in the town square of Gibeah. They were approached by an “old man” to stay in his house, just as the 2 men* in the town square of Sodom were approached by Lot to stay at his house as guests. Please take time to review the following verses that show the parallels and describe the similar story. Take note that the biggest difference between the two is the ending which had a VERY different outcome:
As promised, I must explain a bit of the context of Sodom before going on to compare these two stories. Many forget that the 2 men under the protection of Lot’s roof were not human males, but angels. Second, the men of Sodom are not putting forth a friendly request for a gay sex orgy, but are trying to have sex against the angels will, which is clearly RAPE. Additionally, the men of Sodom threatened Lot that they would “do worse to him (Lot) than to them (the angels.)” This could be a threat of more violent rape or murder for not giving up the men. Consequently, he offered his daughters in place of the angels and in attempts of saving his own life.
Similarly, the men of Gibeah attempted to gang-rape the Levite, but the resident offered up his virgin daughter and the Levite’s concubine. They took only the concubine and raped her all night unto death. Outraged by the act, the Levite cut her into 12 pieces and sent her body parts to each other 12 tribes of Israel. They said they had not seen such a thing (gang rape) in Israel “since the Israelites left Egypt.” This shows that these events have occurred in the past, but had not occurred in Israel. Also note that in Judges 20:5, the Levite reported, “They intended to kill me; instead they raped my concubine, and she died.” So not only was there proof of rape, but the Levite felt that his life had been threatened.
So as you can see both the residents of Sodom and Gibeah attempted to gang rape the male/angel visitors, but their hosts offered their women as an alternate option. If the men of the city of Sodom or Gibeah were truly gay men, than why would they offer up females; someone whom they would have absolutely no sexual attraction? The logic of this doesn’t add up… So then the question becomes WHY?
Answer: In Biblical times, there were some inhospitable lands (usually Pagan) that practiced gang rape. Their targets were often times travelers or foreigners who came into their city to lodge. This was not about sex, but power. Rape was used as a tool for power, punishment and/or payment, similar to modern-day prison rape. When the travelers or foreigners came into their city, the men were the first targets of gang rape. On occasion they would accept female counterparts as an alternate payment or punishment, but the value was not as high seeing that women were of lower status. Note that the Gibeans did not accept the residents’ daughter, but only the foreigner’s concubine because the residents were not the target. In Sodom’s case, Lot was not originally from Sodom and was seen as a foreigner which made he and his family possible targets. Sodom was a particularly hostile place seeing that all the men of the city partook in this gang rape practice.
As you can see (above), the outcome of both stories is different, but they could have been identical. The only reason for Lot’s daughter’s being spared from being brutally raped and possibly killed is due to the angles blinding all of the men so that they were unable to break down the door. Sadly for the Levite’s concubine, she did not have angels to aid her. None the less, like Sodom, the city ended up being taken down in utter destruction. This time, it was not fire from above, but the men from the other 12 tribes of Israel went against the tribe of Benjamin in battle. Tens of thousands were killed over this incident and only a few hundred who surrendered and fled survived. It is clear that God will not tolerate this gang-rape practice in His land.
A few other interesting comparisons show that the Hebrew words in Genesis 19 and Judges 19 have more similarities than in the English translation. When Lot and the old man tell the men “not to do such a wicked/outrageous/vile thing,” both use the word “ra’a” which means “afflict harm.” So both are simply telling the men “do not afflict harm (ra’a’) on them,” (not “outrageous,” “wicked,” “vile,” “perverted,” “unnatural,” etc.) Secondly, the word “yada” is used when the men of the city ask for sex AND for when the woman is raped. So “yada” is used for both “sex” and “rape.” Why is it that the translators chose to say “sex” instead of “rape” when the men were propositioning the other men? It is the same word used for “they raped (yada) her and abused her throughout the night” and “instead they raped (yada) my concubine.” Think of how different it would sound if the men of Sodom said “where are the men that came to you tonight? Bring them out to us so we can rape (yada) them.” Likewise, if the men of Gibeah said, “bring out the man who came to your house so we can rape (yada) him!” Why not use “rape” for these other verses when the context is completely clear?
So why is the story of Gibeah not widely known like the story of Sodom? Perhaps it is omitted from common Biblical knowledge because it does not support the idea that God destroyed Sodom due to homosexuality. It makes one question the intentions of Sodom when we see the possible violent intentions and outcome in Gibeah. It raises suspicion that perhaps Sodom wasn’t filled with guys who wanted to have a gay sex party, but violent gang-rapists. It makes one think and question. How can we use a verse that condemns the attempted gang rape of angels to condemn monogamous committed same-gender relationships? Is there any rational way that one can take a story about violent gang rape and attach it to ALL gay attractions, love, and relationships? If the men of Sodom or Gibeah had not mentioned that they wanted to rape the men first, would we have ever said that “God hates straight people?” It seems silly, but this is exactly what many have done with the story and use ancient gang rapists to unfairly condemn all gay people.
You may say, “but wait a minute! God still talks against homosexuality in other verses in the Bible! There’s still Leviticus 18:22 and 2:13, Romans 1:26-28, 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 and 1 Timothy 1:9-11!” Not so fast… I implore you to look at this. Like Sodom, it can all be explained, as a true alternate translation exists WITHIN the Scriptures…