Sample Series: Is Sodom and Gomorrah a Story about Sex, Inhospitality or Social Injustice?


Return to: Sunday Morning Adult Discussion

ICC ADULT BIBLE STUDY
Dr. K. Renato Lings

SIX SUNDAYS WITH THE HEBREW PROPHETS, 1.


Introduction


Early Christianity read and heard the prophetic books included in the Hebrew Scriptures (HS) in Greek translation. These writings had a profound impact on the Second (Greek) Testament. In important ways, they became part of the DNA of Christian theology.

The prophets


Early prophets appearing in HS narratives:

Samuel

1 Samuel 3:19 – 25:1

Elijah

1 Kings 17 – 2 Kings 2:11

Nathan

2 Samuel 7:1-4; 12:1-15

Elisha

1 Kings 19:19-21; 2 Kings 2:1 – 13:20

The Babylonian Exile (598 – 537 BCE)


Two pre-exilic prophets:

Isaiah

740 – 680 BCE

Jeremiah

626 – 605 BCE

Two prophets active during the Babylonian exile:

Daniel

605 – 535 BCE

Ezekiel

593 – 571 BCE


Two post-exilic prophets:

Haggai

520 BCE

Zechariah

519 – 480 BCE

The prophetic tradition and Jesus Christ

Isaiah 35:5


Compare with

Luke 4:16-19

Luke 7:22

Isaiah 61:1-2

Matthew 11:5

Matt 25:34-45

In your view, to what extent are the Isaiah passages reflected in the gospel texts?

SIX SUNDAYS WITH THE HEBREW PROPHETS, 2.

Sodom and Gomorrah in the Prophetic Tradition, Part A.


Introduction


The story of Sodom and Gomorrah unfolds in the book of Genesis, chapters 14, 18 and 19. The names of these two cities occur frequently in the rest of the Bible.

Yet most Christians ignore the earliest interpretations of the story.

This session explores one of four major themes addressed by the Hebrew prophets.

Image of destruction and desolation


Early writings commenting on Sodom and Gomorrah:

Amos

Jeremiah

Deuteronomy

Zephaniah

Isaiah

REFERENCE TEXT GENESIS 19:24, 27


Then the God of Israel (YHWH) caused sulphur and fire to rain out of heaven on Sodom and Gomorrah. He overthrew those cities, and all of the Plain, and all the inhabitants of the cities, and what grew on the ground… and the smoke of the land went up like the smoke of a furnace.

QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION

Comparing the biblical images with the modern world (see overleaf)

Do you see any connections between the prophetic passages and the world today?

Have you heard of pieces of land, or sources of water, destroyed by chemicals applied by humans? (Agent Orange, pesticides, fracking, etc.)

Are these activities ongoing? Have all such sites been cleaned up quickly?

Do you feel that the prophetic images of Sodom and Gomorrah are comparable to nuclear testing grounds?

Does this relate to nuclear disasters such as Chernobyl (Ukraine) and Fukushima (Japan)?

Do you know of plants, animals and entire ecosystems going extinct because of human activity?

The Hebrew Prophets on Sodom and Gomorrah

IMAGE OF DESTRUCTION AND DESOLATION

Amos 4:11

I overthrew some of you

As when God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah

And you were like a brand

Snatched out of the fire.

Deut. 29:23

Sulphur and salt

Its soil burned out

Nothing sown

Nothing sprouting.

Zeph. 2:9

Moab herself shall become like Sodom

And the Ammonites like Gomorrah

A land possessed by nettles and saltpits

And a desolate waste forever.

Jer. 50:40

As when God overthrew

Sodom and Gomorrah and their neighbours

No one shall live there

No one shall settle in her.

Isa. 13:21

And there wild animals will lie down

And its houses will be full of howling creatures.

Jer. 50:39

Therefore wild animals shall live with hyenas…

And in her ostriches shall dwell.

Jer. 49:17–18

Everyone who passes by it will be horrified

And will hiss because of all its disasters.

SIX SUNDAYS WITH THE HEBREW PROPHETS, 3.

Sodom and Gomorrah in the Prophetic Tradition, Part B.


Introduction


The story of Sodom and Gomorrah unfolds in the book of Genesis, chapters 14, 18 and 19. The names of these two Canaanite cities occur frequently in the rest of the Bible. Yet most Christians ignore the earliest interpretations of the story. This session explores the second of four major themes addressed by the Hebrew prophets.

Images of pride and arrogance


Early prophetic writings commenting on the arrogance of Sodom and Gomorrah:

Isaiah

Ezekiel

Jeremiah

Zephaniah

REFERENCE TEXT GENESIS 19:6-9


They called to Lot, “Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us. Let us know them”. Lot said, “Please, my brothers, do not act wickedly. For they have come under the shelter of my roof”. They said, “Come here. We will deal worse with you than with them”.

FIVE QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION

Comparing the biblical images with the modern world (see overleaf)

1 Do any countries today act arrogantly like Babylon, Edom, Moab and Ammon?

2 What would the prophets say to these modern countries?

3 Do we people in the rich countries have prosperous ease and fail to aid the poor and needy?

4 Is Sodom a byword in our mouths?

5 How proud are we of our current lifestyle(s)? Any wickedness?

The Hebrew Prophets on Sodom and Gomorrah

IMAGE OF PRIDE AND ARROGANCE

Jeremiah 50:29

Summon archers against Babylon

Repay her according to her deeds

For she has acted arrogantly against YHWH

The Holy One of Israel.

Jeremiah 50:31

I am against you, O arrogance, says YHWH, God of hosts

For your day has come, the time when I will punish you.

Isaiah 13:19

Babylon, the glory of kingdoms

The splendour and pride of the Chaldeans

Shall become like Sodom and Gomorrah

When God overthrew them.

Jeremiah 49:14-18

Edom shall become an object of horror

Like the overthrow of Sodom and Gomorrah

The terror you inspired and the pride of your heart

Have deceived you.

Zephaniah 2:9-10

Therefore, as I live, says YHWH of hosts, the God of Israel

Moab shall become like Sodom

And the Ammonites like Gomorrah

This shall be their lot in return for their pride.

Ezekiel 16:49-50

This was the guilt of your sister Sodom:

(addressing Jerusalem)

She and her daughters had pride

Excess of bread and prosperous ease

They did not aid the poor and needy.

Ezekiel 16:56

Was not your sister Sodom a byword in your mouth

In the days of your pride

Before your own wickedness was uncovered?

SIX SUNDAYS WITH THE HEBREW PROPHETS, 4.

Sodom and Gomorrah in the Prophetic Tradition, Part C.


Introduction


The story of Sodom and Gomorrah unfolds in the book of Genesis, chapters 14, 18 and 19. The names of these two Canaanite cities occur frequently in the rest of the Bible. Most Christians ignore the earliest interpretations of the story by the Hebrew prophets.


Prophetic books protesting against apostasy and idolatry, using Sodom as a warning:

Deuteronomy

Isaiah

Jeremiah

Ezekiel

Vocabulary:

Apostasy, idolatry, worshipping other gods, evil, wickedness, abominations

The Hebrew Prophets on Sodom and Gomorrah

WARNINGS AGAINST IDOLATRY AND APOSTASY

Deuteronomy 29:22-25 / Jeremiah 22:8-9

And later generations, your children…

Will see the plagues with which YHWH has afflicted her

Like the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah…

And they will ask, “Why did YHWH do thus to this land?”

And they will say, “They abandoned the covenant of YHWH, the God of their ancestors

They turned and bowed down to other gods, worshipping them…”

Isaiah 3:8-9

For Jerusalem has stumbled and Judah has fallen…

Because their tongue and their deeds are against YHWH

They proclaim their sin like that of Sodom

They have brought calamity on themselves…

Jeremiah 50:38-40

For it is a land of graven images, and they go mad over frightful idols.

As when God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah and their neighbours

So no one shall live there, nor shall anyone settle in her.

Ezekiel 16:56 (addressing his native Jerusalem)

Was not your sister Sodom a byword in your mouth, in the days of your pride

Before your own wickedness was uncovered?

Ezekiel 16:48-51

Your elder sister was Samaria, and your younger sister was Sodom…

Did you not walk in their ways and practice their abominations?

As I live, says the Lord YHWH

Your sister Sodom and her daughters have not done

As you and your daughters have done

Samaria has not committed half your sins

You have committed more abominations than they.

QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION

Comparing the biblical images with the modern world

1 How would you explain “idolatry” to someone unfamiliar with the word?

2 Did idolatry only exist in the ancient world? What about today?

3 The mantra of today’s politicians is “economic growth”. A form of idolatry?

4 Is the current strong emphasis on “free speech” a form of idolatry?

5 Do Christians ever commit idolatry?

6 Do you see any form of idolatry happening in your own life?

SIX SUNDAYS WITH THE HEBREW PROPHETS, 5.

Sodom and Gomorrah in the Prophetic Tradition, Part D.


Introduction


The story of Sodom and Gomorrah unfolds in the book of Genesis, chapters 14, 18 and 19. The names of these two Canaanite cities occur frequently in the rest of the Bible. Most Christians ignore the earliest interpretations of the story by the Hebrew prophets.


Prophetic books protesting against corruption, violence, and oppression of the poor, using the name of Sodom as a warning:

Isaiah 1

Jeremiah 23

Ezekiel 16

(Exodus 22)

Vocabulary:

Falsehood, bribes, evil, wickedness, injustice, violence, murder

The Hebrew Prophets on Sodom and Gomorrah

INDIGNATION AT INJUSTICE

Jeremiah 23:14

And in the prophets of Jerusalem I have seen a shocking thing:

They commit adultery and walk in lies

They strengthen the hands of evildoers so that no one turns from wickedness

All of them have become like Sodom to me, and its inhabitants like Gomorrah.

Isaiah 1:21 – 23

How the faithful city has become a whore! She that was full of justice,

Righteousness lodged in her – but now murderers. Your princes are rebels

And companions of thieves. Everyone loves a bribe and runs after gifts.

They do not defend the orphan, and the widow’s cause does not come before them.

Isaiah 1:10-17

Hear the word of YHWH, you rulers of Sodom! Listen to the teaching of our God, you people of Gomorrah!

What to me is the multitude of your sacrifices? Says YHWH. I do not delight in the blood of bulls, or of lambs, or of goats.

I cannot endure solemn assemblies with iniquity. Your new moons and your appointed festivals my soul hates.

When you stretch out your hands, I will hide my eyes from you. Even though you make many prayers, I will not listen.

Your hands are full of blood. Wash yourselves, make yourselves clean. Remove the evil of your doings from before my eyes.

Cease to do evil, learn to do good. Seek justice, rescue the oppressed.
Defend the orphan, plead for the widow.

Ezekiel 16:49

This was the guilt of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters had pride, excess of food, and prosperous ease, but did not aid the poor and needy.

Exodus 22:21-23

You shall not wrong or oppress a resident alien, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt. You shall not abuse any widow or orphan. If you do abuse him, when he cries out to me, I will surely heed his outcry, and my anger shall burn…

Exodus 23:9

You shall not oppress a resident alien. You know the heart of an alien, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt.

QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION

Comparing the prophetic images with the modern world

1 Does Jeremiah 23:14 remind you of any corrupt religious leaders today?

2 Does Isaiah 1:21-23 remind you of any place or time in the modern world?

3 What thoughts come to your mind as you read Isaiah 1:10-17?

4 How do you feel about Ezekiel’s judgment on Sodom in Ez 16:49? Do you see any parallel in the modern world?

5 How do you respond to the two passages from the book of Exodus?

SIX SUNDAYS WITH THE HEBREW PROPHETS, 6.

Sodom and Gomorrah in the Prophetic Tradition, Part E.


Introduction


The story of Sodom and Gomorrah unfolds in the book of Genesis, chapters 14, 18 and 19. The names of these two Canaanite cities occur frequently in the rest of the Bible. Most Christians ignore the significant approaches to the story adopted by the Hebrew prophets.

TODAY:

Introduction to the story of Sodom and Gomorrah in Genesis 14, 18 and 19 from the perspectives of the Hebrew prophets and the book of Exodus. These are the earliest hermeneutical tools available.

Four major themes in the prophets:

  • Destruction, desolation
  • Arrogance, pride
  • Idolatry and apostasy
  • Corruption, injustice, oppression, violence

Theme in the book of Exodus:

  • Mistreatment of foreigners

Key words:

1 nagash, “come forward, draw near”. Three occurrences 18:16, 19:9a, 19:9b

2 zaaqah, “outcry”. Three occurrences 18:20-21, 19:13

3 yada, “know, acknowledge, recognize, investigate”.

Six occurrences 18:19, 18:21, 19:5, 19:8, 19:33, 19:35

Textual progression

The story in GENESIS:

10:19; 13:10-13; 14:11-23; 18:1-8; 18:16-24; 18:32-33

Textual clues in EXODUS:

2:23-24; 3:7; 3:9; 22:21; 22:23-24; 23:9

The story in GENESIS:

19:1-11; 19:13; 19:24-28; 19:31-35.

SIX SUNDAYS WITH THE HEBREW PROPHETS, Bonus.

HOW SODOM AND GOMORRAH BECAME

A STORY ABOUT INHOSPITALITY

In the Christian Tradition


Introduction


The earliest interpretations of the story of Sodom and Gomorrah are found in the Hebrew prophets. They speak of destruction, idolatry, arrogance, injustice, and oppression. Christian theologians read the story of Sodom in Genesis in Greek and Latin translations. Christianity has used the story to persecute lesbian and gay relationships.

The Hellenistic Era: Hospitality

A. APOCRYPHA

The Book of Wisdom 19:13-17. Greek work from Alexandria. Late 1st century BCE.

Major hermeneutical change: spotlight on the visiting strangers in Sodom.

B. THE SECOND TESTAMENT

Written in Greek 50 – 120 CE. All writers read the Greek Septuagint.

(1) Gospel of Matthew 10:14-15

(2) Gospel of Luke 10:10-12

(3) Letter to the Hebrews 13:2

THE SODOM STORY IN GENESIS: TWO PERSPECTIVES

A. Hellenistic

Hospitality — 18:1-8; 19:1-3, 6-8

Inhospitality— 19:4-5, 9-11

B. Prophetic

Injustice, oppression, outcry

Exodus 2:23-24; 3:7; 3:9; 22:21-24; 23:9

Genesis 18:20-21; 19:8-13