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Leviticus, Homosexuality, and Abominations

You shall not lie down with a male, as with a woman: this is an abomination.

כב. וְאֶת זָכָר לֹא תִשְׁכַּב מִשְׁכְּבֵי אִשָּׁה תּוֹעֵבָה

Leviticus 18:22

Ok wait, we know that Leviticus forbids men having sex with each other, and that the penalty is death. But does G-d give us a reason? Yes, She does. “You shall not lie with a man as with a woman, it is an abomination.” When I was growing up and reading those words, I had no idea what abomination meant, but I knew it must be bad. I had visions of the abominable snowman attacking me if I did any of the mentioned activities that were said to be ‘abominations’. This fearful obedience stopped me from challenging my church’s beliefs about homosexuality for many years.

What does this strange word mean? Well, in Hebrew, the word is ‘to-evah’ (or to-ebah), but that helps little. The word is difficult to translate succinctly, but picture someone or something that is wild and dangerous, highly addictive and contagious. Picture something radioactive, that once unleashed, will spread like wildfire and affect (and infect) everything nearby. It’s not only wild, but disgusting, and describes detestable religious orgies, or idolatrous practices. If you were confronted with that kind of enemy, what would you do? You’d have to destroy it–stop it dead in it’s tracts (sic). If you didn’t, it would soon infect the entire population, yourself included.

One interesting fact is that the first time ‘ABOMINATION’ is used in the Torah is to DESCRIBE WORSHIPPING G-D, when Moses is asking Pharoah to let the Israelites worship G-d in the desert. The Pharoah inquired, “Why can’t they worship right here?” and Moses answered that if the Israelites worshipped G-d in Egypt, their acts would be an ABOMINATION to the Egyptians. Can you believe it? Worshipping the one true G-d is considered an abomination! Why? Because it is the religious rite of a different religion (from the perspective of the Egyptians–the Israelites were going to sacrifice animals whom the Egyptians worshipped, so it was considered detestable). Still don’t believe that toevah is about idolatry? “Do not inquire concerning their gods, saying, ‘How did these nations worship their gods? I also want to do the same.’ You must not do the same for the L-rd your G-d, because every TOEVAH that the L-rd hates they have done FOR THEIR GODS” Deut.12:30-1. This makes it clear, the abominations of the Canaanites weren’t just a bunch of random detestable acts, they were FOR THEIR GODS. As a child I wondered what ‘abomination’ meant, now I have the answer. The Bible gives its own definition in Deut. 12:30-31; an abomination is a detestable religious rite of a religion different from your own.

-from the B’nai HaKeshet (Children of the Rainbow) website

My stated intent to review Matthew Vines’ book God and the Gay Christian has inspired a lot of attention and responses on my blog post, on Facebook, and via email. One such email message led me to the B’nai HaKeshet website from which I quoted above. That quote was taken from a much longer missive which attempts to explain that the Bible never speaks against Homosexuality or Homosexual acts in general.

AshtorethI Googled the definition of the Hebrew word “toevah” which is commonly translated as “abomination,” such as we see in Leviticus 18:22 and the search results returned a lot of the same information, basically saying that this portion of scripture is not a blanket prohibition against male on male sexual acts, but specifically addresses such sexual activity within the context of idolatrous worship. The issue supposedly isn’t a man having sex with another man, but a man having sex with another man (male temple prostitute) in association with worshiping an idol.

It’s difficult to find a source (at least by a quick Google search) that is objective or neutral and simply defines the word and its usage, but the closest I found was a newspaper opinion piece written by Rabbi Bruce Warshal called Lots of abominations in the Bible (Sept. 19, 2012).

Rabbi Silvers discussed the meaning of the Hebrew word toevah, which most English bibles translate as “abomination,” as in Leviticus, chapter 18, verse 22: “Do not lie with a male as one lies with a woman; it is an abomination. He pointed out that the Hebrew word toevah is used extensively in the Bible regarding food prohibitions, idolatrous practices, magic and ethical violations. His prime example is that eating shrimp (shellfish) is toevah. Yet today he knows plenty of Jews who eat shellfish.

I also found a word study written by someone named Skip Moen on the word to’evah:

With this in mind, we can turn to the word to’evot (abominations). What is an abomination? Do you think that it is something so hideous, so immoral, that it ranks among axe murder, rape and incest? Remember the cultural background of the ancient Near East. Something is to’evah’ when it is loathsome and detestable. It may be physical, ritual or moral. It is something offensive to values of the culture. That means to’evah is determined within the culture and community, just like mishpat. And that means God defines what He finds offensive within the community of Israel. The world may not find some of these actions offensive. That doesn’t matter. They are not regulations for the world. They are offenses to the Hebraic biblical way of life. If we want to demonstrate with our behavior the values that God expresses with His words to His chosen community, then these to’evot will not be part of our actions.

We must understand this perspective in order to understand why homosexuality, slander and human sacrifice are in the same category as dishonest business practices and the eating of unclean animals. When it comes to offenses to God’s values, eating pork is the same as child sacrifice; ritual prostitution is the same as cheating a man with false weights and measures; and homosexual behavior is just as repugnant as lying. Forget the arguments about morality. Put aside the nurture/nature nonsense. None of these matter when it comes to embracing the culture of the Kingdom. If you want to be in God’s community, then you behave in ways that honor Him. End of story.

Topical Index: abomination, to’evah, rule, mishpat, Proverbs 6:16-19, Leviticus 18:26

forbiddenThe sense I’m getting from all of this is that the word “toevah” can be applied to many different acts which God forbade the Israelites from performing, considering all of them “idolatry” or alternately “adultery” (I’ll get to that). But does that mean all of the forbidden acts (including sex with close relatives, see the wider text in Leviticus 18) are only forbidden when engaged within the context of idol worship?

(Remember, context, context, context. Leviticus 18:22 is included in the larger context of the Leviticus 18 “forbidden relationships and acts” list for a reason).

Saying that these various sex acts are only an “abomination” if performed as part of idol worship doesn’t make sense. That would mean it would only be forbidden for an Israelite to have sex with his sister or step-mother if that sexual act was performed as part of worshiping a foreign god.

The crux of the argument presented at B’nai HaKeshet is that for something to be an “abomination” it must be related to idol worship and cannot be a “stand alone” prohibition that crosses all contexts. Just read Leviticus 18:6-18 and you’ll see prohibitions against sexual acts all involving either incest or sex with other close relatives (mother-in-law, step-sister, and so on).

As far as Rabbi Warshal’s reference to Rabbi Silvers, just because some or many Jews today eat shellfish in violation of the Torah commandment doesn’t make it right. Disobedience to God is still disobedience regardless of how many people are engaging in the behavior.

Although on the surface, it seems as if the anonymous writer at B’nai HaKeshet has done her homework (she does state that she’s a woman), the logic she employs to come to at least some of her conclusions has “gaps”.

Here’s what I mean.

When the Lord began to speak through Hosea, the Lord said to him, “Go, marry a promiscuous woman and have children with her, for like an adulterous wife this land is guilty of unfaithfulness to the Lord.”

Hosea 1:2

Rebuke your mother, rebuke her, for she is not my wife, and I am not her husband.

Hosea 2:2

“Though you, Israel, commit adultery, do not let Judah become guilty.”

Hosea 4:15

God compared the intimate relationship He has with Israel as a husband to a wife, with God playing the role of husband. When Israel strayed and worshiped false gods instead of or in addition to Hashem, it was compared to committing adultery. But did Israel to the last man and woman cheat on their spouses? Is that what God is talking about? No. He’s employing a metaphor through the prophet Hosea (to the point where Hosea is commanded to marry Gomer, a promiscuous woman) in order to illustrate His point.

hosea and gomerAny act of disobedience committed by the Israelites is compared to idolatry and faithlessness. We can’t say that only an Israelite who cheats on his or her spouse is guilty of idolatry or that it is only forbidden for an Israelite to cheat on his/her spouse in performance of an idolatrous act is forbidden.

You have to look at the broader scope. It is my opinion that toevah can mean many different acts of disobedience to God, some directly related to idol worship but many others involving forbidden activities that are not or at least do not have to involve worshiping an idol. It was still forbidden of the Israelites to eat a ham sandwich, even if it had nothing to do with a pagan practice, just as eating ham (or shellfish) for observant Jews today is considered a forbidden act. That many secular Jews eat ham or shellfish doesn’t make it acceptable in God’s sight.

I’ll stop here rather than continue with my assessment of the B’nai HaKeshet author’s other assertions. I may address them at some other point, but I want to get this published quickly so any of my readers who goes offline for Shabbat can have a chance to respond before Saturday night/Sunday morning. Also, because I’m writing/editing very quickly, this missive isn’t as polished as I’d like it to be, so excuse the rough spots.

I’m not trying to be mean or insensitive and I hope I’m being objective, but it just seems as if a certain bias has entered how these texts are being read, especially in light of the larger context of the Bible and God’s relationship with Israel. I know this doesn’t specifically address Christianity and Homosexuality, but I have some ideas about how to consider that paradigm.

Last point. I wrote this as a way to get my head into the debate relative to Homosexuality and whether or not the Bible supports and endorses (or at least doesn’t outright condemn) homosexual acts in the community of faith. So far, I can’t say there’s overwhelming evidence that God is “cool” with such behavior. Your polite feedback, as always, is welcome.

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63 thoughts on “Leviticus, Homosexuality, and Abominations”

  1. Posting the first comment on my own blog post probably seems like bad form, but someone on Facebook sent me a link to a thought-provoking article written by a gay frum man:

    Orthodox, celibate, gay and that’s OK. Doesn’t exactly address the specifics of today’s topic, but it’s certainly relevant to the issue of Orthodox Judaism and gays.

  2. I remember when I first came across this subject a couple of years ago. Truly searching for an honest, educated take, I did try to carefully consider the options being presented by both sides. However, the more I began to probe some of the “pro-same sex” arguments, the more I saw the same holes you spoke about above.

    It all sounds reasonable enough at first glance, “this was only regarding the prohibition of such an act if it was connected to idol worship, pagan temple rites, this is the context, context is key here” etc, etc.

    Thing is, in my opinion, the argument just doesn’t hold much water. Following such reasoning, the same sort of thing could be said about child sacrifice, for instance, if we follow that logic. In a sense one could possibly say (and it might be a stretch, but to draw an analogy) that if one were to simply cast their child to a death in the valley of the son of Hinnom but were to remove from it the sacrificial aspect of worshiping the god Molech, there wouldn’t necessarily be anything inherently wrong there. The pagan ritual aspect was removed, so the death of the child was in a sense, just a physical act, and hence, no abomination rests upon it.

    A quick reference for this example, “Moreover he burnt incense in the valley of the son of Hinnom, and burnt his children in the fire, after the abominations of the heathen whom the Lord had cast out before the children of Israel.” 2 Chron. 28:3

    Again, as Skip Moen whom you quoted seems to have aptly put it, “Put aside the nurture/nature nonsense. None of these matter when it comes to embracing the culture of the Kingdom. If you want to be in God’s community, then you behave in ways that honor Him. End of story.”

    Specifically, when it comes to pagan worship and ritual, in my mind at least, it’s very hard to divorce the act itself (eating swines flesh, orgies, child sacrifice, etc) from the inherent reason it is deemed evil in the first place, Ie; God doesn’t approve of it. Whether or not they are actually done in ritual observance to a pagan god, or not, isn’t really the issue. The two go hand in hand; the practice is evil because it is rooted in paganism, and paganism is evil because of it’s practices. We don’t get to define these things. We don’t have such a luxury. God defines, “end of story.”

    Anyways, just my two-cents.

    Shalom to you, James.

  3. I realize now that that was a quote….but still a typo?!

    “Saying that these various sex acts are only an “abomination” if performed as part of idol worship doesn’t make sense. That would mean it would only be forbidden for an Israelite to have sex with his sister or step-mother if that sexual act was performed as part of worshiping a foreign god.” Best part!

  4. Hi Tracy. Typically in a quote, you don’t correct spelling or syntax errors since then it wouldn’t authentically be a quote. I did put (sic) after one particular string of spelling and punctuation errors, which means I’m quoting literally and am aware of the errors, but I didn’t feel like getting out my “red pen” and going over the text to call out all the writing problems. I try to carefully edit my own stuff, but everyone misses mistakes from time to time.

    Funny you should mention Michael Brown since I was just reading something about him in this context at the Rosh Pina Project. He does get around, doesn’t he?

    Best part!

    Thanks.

  5. Good analysis of the rather obvious holes in these arguments. But we know that the audience for those arguments likely know little scripture and care less to know more. We can’t approach scripture in the manner that one approaches a contract they wish to get out of, looking for loopholes.

    Excellent linked to article, and I applaud the author for his honesty and willingness to set himself up for abuse in speaking openly. I was aware of the vicious attack upon those who identify as former gays, and wasn’t aware that there was an agenda also against those who identify as gay but choose to be celibate.

    One issue you mentioned is that God decides what is required and what is forbidden for his community. We don’t have the right, as some evangelicals claim they do, to proscribe behavior for those outside the people of Israel and those who have joined themselves to Israel, any more than I have a right to tell the neighbor’s kid what time to come home.

    Scripture doesn’t say anything about an orientation; this is a modern construct, and driven home by unopposed media. The bible only discusses 1) desires 2) behaviors. According to scripture, we are provided with the grace and strength to overcome both. That we fall and fail is a given, and not evidence that it is a deception that we cannot change. I see enough evidence in scripture that both desires as well as behavior can change. I realize that this may not be the best analogy, but is it so different from the fact that I used to love shrimp dishes and now find it disgusting?

    The dishonesty is those who demand to be included in the family but claim that they should receive a special dispensation to not follow the family rules.

    In any case, the Evangelical fight against same-sex marriage is futile, as the midrash Genesis rabbah (?) states that in the days of Noah, men were making ketubot (marriage legal documents) with men.

  6. @Nate: Thanks.

    @Chaya: I think it was one of the quotes that mentioned ”God decides what is required and what is forbidden for his community,” but I agree that God is proscribing for His community, that is, those who are either born in covenant (Jewish people) or those who are grafted in (Christians). I also believe that ultimately, God will judge the whole world.

    So on the one hand, we can’t really tell people outside the faith community what to do with their lives, but on the other hand, we may actually have a responsibility to repair the world by sharing our understanding of final judgment so that at least some might make teshuvah. It’s a tough situation because most gay people are used to being “bashed” by religious people and are bound to have a definite response to us.

    However, in this context, we’re addressing gay people who say that the Bible supports and endorses same-sex relationships up to and including marriage.

    I’d be interested in seeing the actual source in midrash that tells of men marrying men in the days of Noah.

  7. You don’t have to post this if you find it offensive, however it is in the Bible. I suppose it is okay, given the arguments above, that sex with a goat is okay,too, as long as it isn’t for religious reasons. It always seemed unfair to me that the goat had to be put to death. I don’t see how he had a choice in the matter. Same context, folks. Read your Bible.

  8. It’s true that sex with an animal is also forbidden. I think the animal had to be put down because of the impact on its own behavior.

    I do want to make it clear that I don’t want to compare gay people with animals, which could be implied here. Remember, we’re talking about real, breathing, feeling human beings. This article (I also posted the link in an earlier comment) puts a very compassionate face on gay religious people.

  9. Genesis Rabbah 26:5; Leviticus Rabbah 23:9

    From Wikipedia: . Maimonides, in his Mishneh Torah, summarizes the matter as follows:[2]

    For women to be mesollelot[vague] 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 [in the midrash of Sifra Aharei Mot 8:8–9], “What did they do? A man married a man, and a woman married a woman, and a woman married two men.” Even though this practice is forbidden, one is not lashed [as for a Torah prohibition] on account of it, since there is no specific prohibition against it, and there is no real intercourse. Therefore, [one who does this] is not forbidden to the priesthood because of harlotry, and a woman is not prohibited to her husband by this, since it is not harlotry. But it is appropriate to administer to them lashings of rebellion [i.e., those given for violation of rabbinic prohibitions], since they did something forbidden. And a man should be strict with his wife in this matter, and should prevent women known to do this from coming to her or from her going to them.

    Classical rabbinic Jewish sources do not specifically mention that homosexual attraction is inherently sinful. However, someone who has had homosexual intercourse is considered to have violated a prohibition. If he does teshuva (repentance)—i.e., he ceases his forbidden actions, regrets what he has done, apologizes to God, and makes a binding resolution never to repeat those actions, he is seen to be forgiven by God.[3]
    Same-sex marriage in the Midrash and the Talmud

    The Midrash is one of the few ancient religious texts that makes reference to same-sex marriage. The following teaching can be found twice in the Midrash:

    “Rabbi Huna said in the name of Rabbi Joseph, ‘The generation of the Flood was not wiped out until they wrote גמומסיות (either sexual hymns or marriage documents) for the union of a man to a male or to an animal.'”[4]

    Another reference is found in the Babylonian Talmud:

    “‘Ula said: Non-Jews [litt. Bnei Noach, the progeny of Noah] accepted upon themselves thirty mitzvot [divinely ordered laws] but they only abide by three of them: the first one is that they do not write marriage documents for male couples, the second one is that they don’t sell dead [human] meat by the pound in stores and the third one is that they respect the Torah.'” [5]

  10. James, I enjoyed seeing you post a quote by Skip Moen. Personally I read his “Today’s Word” postings everyday, which are short insights into usually 1 or 2 words in Scripture. He many times shows how we read our modern perspectives into the text and ignore the underlying Hebrew context. In my opinion Dr. Moen is a brilliant scholar who presents balanced, challanging insights into the Word. If you or any of your readers enjoy good word studies you can check him our at: http://skipmoen.com/category/tw.

    On the subject you addressed in this blog the only thing I have to offer is an article by Dennis Prager that appeared in Orthodoxy Today some time back. It is rather lenthy but since you may be looking for material on the subject I thought I would suggest it. I thought it was a good article and when I posted it on a MJ Facebook site, a couple of MJ rabbis said they also thought it was good. It’s called “Judaism’s Sexual Revolution: Why Judaism (and then Christianity) Rejected Homosexuality” and can be found at this link: http://www.orthodoxytoday.org/articles2/PragerHomosexuality.php

  11. I’m going to throw my two cents in this pot. I really don’t take a hard stance on the issue. I don’t know if it’s God’s design for Homosexuals to live in whatever way they desire and still be part or the church or God’s people. I tend to side with the literal interpretation, that it doesn’t belong as part of being a holy people. Yet this mostly because it’s what I was raised to believe. Even still, I believe that it’s no greater a sin than someone living in adultery or that it’s any more grave than any other sin that places separation between us and God. Now as for the language I have no experience in either Greek or Hebrew, but I do a bit or reading and I would say that the language isn’t the clearest thing. As an example, in reading the Talmud I was shocked that are arguments for Human sacrifice, as well as child sacrifice, and how to avoid breaking Torah if it’s done. I’m not saying that the Rabbi’s that argued about it in the Talmud are correct, I have no idea, yet it’s something taken from the language that’s used to justify those idea’s. I bring it up the Talmud is because the language is tricky.

    As for it being part Pagan worship, I would say that the theory is plausible. God gave customs that were very similar to ones that were from far before the time of Israel, specifically in Canaan. There is a large debate over things such as whether or not human sacrifice to God was part of the practices of early Israelites. It’s not that farfetched to think that the abominations are being spoken of in an idolatrous context, especially when you take beliefs like this into account. This is why I believe intent and clear and purposeful veneration and worship are what makes something idolatrous, not similarities.

    I don’t know where I stand personally, I’m not about to go out and condemn the world for it. I will however do my best to help others seek God’s will on the issue. I know a man who took a vow of celibacy because of his belief that his lifestyle was wrong. He struggles with it daily and struggles heavily with depression over it, and while I’m happy for him that he has made a choice that he feels God desires, and that he wants to be right with God, it’s not a choice that’s easy to live with. I look forward to hearing your review of the book.

  12. @Mel: Thanks for the info. Busy day today, so I’ll have to read later this evening or tomorrow. Hope you and yours are doing well.

    @Jim: I’ll agree that no one sin should be greater than another, but the question is whether or not something called an “abomination” is considered more heinous in God’s sight than other sins not so classified? Frankly, I don’t know. I’m also not convinced that anything called an “abomination” must always be associated with pagan worship. Eating shellfish is called an “abomination” (same word in Hebrew) as a man having sex with another man and I can’t imagine that God is saying to the Israelites it’s OK to eat shellfish as long as it’s not associated with the worship of pagan gods.

    All that said, I am not unmindful of the struggles and suffering of gay men and women in the community of faith, but I can’t disregard the Bible, either. In any event, when I receive my copy of Matthew Vines’ book “God and the Gay Christian,” I will thoroughly read it and examine his arguments to see if he can shed some illumination on the scriptures.

  13. I wish to commend Dennis Prager’s article as an excellent discussion of the subject. Thanks for sharing the link to it.

  14. chaya1957 says:
    April 25, 2014 at 3:16 pm
    We can’t approach scripture in the manner that one approaches a contract they wish to get out of, looking for loopholes.
    _______________

    That has to be my favourite quote of the month!

    Sadly many people do approach scripture that way – it’s one of the reasons that some passages of scripture are considered “difficult” – because its not easy to interpet them in a way that supports what a person wants to believe.

  15. @Onesimus (&@chaya) — I also appreciated chaya’s quotable observation very much, though it put me in mind of something that is a bit off-topic here. Many people have accused rabbinic literature of exactly that sort of loophole exploitation, in part because of Rav Yeshua’s criticism to some Pharisees about straining out gnats and swallowing camels (viz: Mt.23:24). While this simile is akin to a more modern one about focusing too closely on individual trees so as to miss the bigger context of the entire forest, which is certainly an intellectual and moral danger to avoid, I wish to point out that there was also an admirable purpose to the Talmudic discussions that explored the possibility of exceptions or that “pushed the envelope” of Torah. Such discussions were intended to study all the possibilities inherent in Torah, and to develop and demonstrate methods for doing so, in order to obtain the broadest and deepest possible understanding of what HaShem had revealed and placed into human hands to administer. It was an exercise in taking responsibility for that gift. Sometimes the strengths and weaknesses of a contract are not fully understood until someone tries to find loopholes in it. I should also point out, however (as did Rav Yeshua), that doing so can have moral implications and one must be careful not to allow an intellectual exercise to become an excuse for ignoring or condoning dangerous or unkind or otherwise inappropriate consequences in practice. It is one thing to be able to recognize the existence of, and the difference between, gnats and camels or trees and forests; it is quite another to deal with each one in its proper manner.

  16. “Disobedience to God is still disobedience regardless of how many people are engaging in the behavior.”

    Read through this a couple of times now, and that sentence sums it up for me. I don’t think that we’ll always, 100% understand why God names something as sin. We have to live in a place of faith and respect, acknowledging that He has the right to do so. Only He sees the totality of the picture.

  17. This is true, Marie. Jesus himself said that the gate is narrow. On the other hand, given my current perspectives on the Bible, I’m obviously someone who believes the standard Christian exegesis can be wrong, so I want to give author Matthew Vines and his book “God and the Gay Christian” a chance. USPS tracking says the estimated arrival date of the book is this coming Saturday, so I’m looking forward to seeing what he has to say.

    Only when viewed through the lens of the Bible can we see truth. Of course the interpretative matrix used to understand the Bible makes a great deal of difference.

  18. I am not sure this is the same guy who I have read some of his posts and articles, who sort of speaks for gay Christians and is practicing a gay version of Christianity, in that he claims he is “waiting for the right one,” albeit the right one is male?

    The thing is, it would be far more honest to admit that you don’t believe in scripture, that you see it as myth like Brother’s Grimm, or that you view it as outmoded. To claim to believe in the truth of scripture and then twist things that are clearly spoken (we are not talking about things that are vague) is dishonest. Twenty years ago gays formed their own synagogues and churches, and were perhaps accepted openly in the most liberal branches. Now they are employing the carrot of social pressure and the stick of a reign of terror to force affirmation and validation, going beyond the previous enforcement of silence.

  19. Those who follow torah don’t have the need to explain why they eat shrimp which is also considered an abomination, just like same sex relations. Dishonest business practices are also described with the same word, and I doubt Christianity or MessyWorld treat that in the same manner. Ever hear any arguments about whether a person who is known for dishonest (not necessarily illegal) business practices should be removed from the pulpit? I suppose as long as they keep their dishonesty in the closet? 🙂

  20. Exactly, Chaya1957, that is how I feel. Abomination is used to describe other things G-d hates, but it doesn’t carry a death penalty. G-d made a distinction when he gave it a death sentence. It is to protect children, families, society as a whole. Murder, adultery (another sexual sin)rape, and other things I won’t write about to save time. I have many thoughts to share, but I am not a writer.

  21. I want to comment on something I read as I linked to various other articles/discussions from this blog topic. Someone said there is much crying over the fact there are men who are not available for marriage because they prefer men or one man wants to be in a relationship with another man. This is true. I understand the sadness. However, we need to consider the whole picture. Do you think there are not women IN marriages who cry because nevertheless the husband prefers men or doesn’t express satisfying interest in the woman/wife? Be realistic unless what you want is for women to be the cliche of seeking men for money (primarily). Of course, if there is ever anything amiss in the marriage, it’s always the woman’s fault; she doesn’t attend to his, shall we say, needs; she doesn’t submit; she doesn’t meet him in plastic at the door… she doesn’t want to be a swinger or have an open “marriage” — it’s a bunch of bull. The best recommendation I’ve heard from a pastor/preacher for a man with “gay” leanings is that such people should NOT marry (a woman). It will be heartache and pain for the woman. Now, there’s one other “reason” to marry (that is one not counting things like green cards, tax breaks, fake lives for appearances and so forth), childbearing within wedlock. Personally, I don’t recommend doing this with such a man.

  22. You bring up a good point, Marleen. Two people shouldn’t enter into a marriage with each other unless they are completely committed to each other and the marriage. If a gay man marries a woman with the idea that they will change because of this, it’s terrifically unfair to the woman. I’ve known gay men who have married women with his idea only to end up going through painful divorces, often with children involved, once the man and woman realize their relationship is not what either of them hoped for and expected.

    This is also a good reason for each person in the relationship to get to completely know their partner prior to getting married. Even if the fellow is wonderful in every other way, if he isn’t truly attracted to and desirous of the woman, then that is a big red flag.

  23. Maybe if you’re a woman who leans toward other women (as to physical interest and/or spiritual and intellectual respect) — and especially if you are somewhat repulsed by or afraid of the male physique — you might be satisfied with such an arrangement on a sexual level. I still wouldn’t recommend; the life of facade or making do with contrivance is not ideal for children.

    Additionally, I have a theory. If there is a way to find out if a man you might marry (or might date) has ever refused to marry a woman he impregnated (through willing sex on his part) or chose abortion as his preference, you can know he’s* going to be (likely) an emotionally greedy person and mentally warped (even if acceptable within his/your culture and even professionally successful).

    In the prophets (of the Bible), it is said the sin of Sodom was that they had plenty but were greedy. I tend to think greedy cultures breed homosexuality. [And that is not to say homosexuals ARE the source of the problem or all greedy. It is to say that unhealthy* societies lead to consequences. Additionally, some men who don’t bear responsibility for their sexuality either in circumstance or at least in REAL acknowledgment of what they’ve done wrong will begin to manifest such odd desires and behaviours whether with women or men.]

  24. Do keep in mind that attraction and desire fade as years accumulate, which is why marriage counselors also emphasize compatibility, companionship, friendship, committed-ness to the partner’s well-being, and the like. In many periods of the past, especially where the culture arranged marriages on behalf of the couple, the modern notion of romantic infatuation was not a consideration in predicting the soundness of the match. Such circumstances demanded that the couple learn to appreciate in each other characteristics which others had noted as valuable or suitable, rather than solely their own individual perceptions and preferences. Under such circumstances, sexual compatibility would be primarily a commitment to please the partner insofar as possible and to take pleasure in doing so successfully. It would not be measured by how well-pleased one was oneself, or whether one had the proper “orientation”. All of this scenario addresses the expectations of the partners. One characteristic of homosexual orientation is its narcissism, its extreme focus on the self, particularly the aspect of one’s own gender, coupled with an apathy or an antipathy toward the other gender. I don’t mean to imply causality in this statement, because perhaps a fear or antipathy associated with the other gender could be causative of the mis-orientation. Regardless of the sequence of causality for the mental program error, such self-centeredness is perhaps an even greater “red flag” against a marital relationship than any lack of attraction. Marriage is not a solution to the problem, as some unfortunate couples have discovered when a concealed orientation problem is ultimately revealed. However, nothing about the nature of a heterosexual marriage need inhibit proper therapy and reprogramming if a psycho-cybernetic problem should appear.

    On another topic, I would challenge Marlene’s assertion that if ever there is anything amiss in the marriage it is deemed to be the woman’s fault. It seems to me that I have heard the blame placed more commonly on the man (e.g., cluelessness, thoughtlessness, insensitivity, intemperateness). But presumably whenever something is revealed to be amiss in a marital relationship, there is sufficient reason to suspect that both partners have a stake in its cause.

  25. It seems the man is usually blamed, but it is the woman’s fault if she expects her husband to read her mind and not communicate what she wants in a way he can understand. If he refuses to listen, then the ball is in his court.

    However, you have the confounding variable that women are socialized to not speak up, not say what they need and desire. A woman is supposed to skillfully manipulate a man to get what she wants, and even if he knows she is doing this, that is okay, because it allows him to feel powerful and in control.

    To play the game, women are supposed to feel sad, depressed, and it is acceptable to cry, because that makes a man feel protective. But a woman must use the previously mentioned tactics to cover up anger, because if a woman expresses anger, the man feels threatened. This reminds him of his mother’s disapproval that made him feel small, weak and helpless.

    Men, on the other hand, are allowed to be angry, but cannot express weak emotions such as fear, sadness, depression.

    This is magnified exponentially in the religious world of most varieties, because men need to continue the fiction that they are strong and women who are weaker need their protection.

    I realize some things cannot be tested evidentially, such as life after death or the nature of deity. But if one makes statements like, “women are weaker,” or, “there is no such thing as mental illness,” they need to produce data to back up their conclusion. But of course they don’t need to, because you are expected to take their word without question. Thank God these guys aren’t running the world of science; instead it is the atheists and seculars they so despise. And there is fraud and flaws within science, but at least their theories are testable.

    I think one bit of evidence that men are the weaker sex is that males have about 2.5 times the instance of homosexuality as women do, and most Lesbians are also capable of a relationships with men and many have children. Women are insecure about things like their attractiveness and body image, but men are insecure about their masculinity.

  26. It has been the habit in “conservative” Christian circles for decades now to put most responsibility for compatibility on the woman. This is facilitated by the idea that she is to submit in all things. So the first thing to “do” is submit more, oh and more, oh and you’re heart is just not in it dear (say the judges who think they know). {This assumption seems to assume that a woman should be capable of manipulating a man sufficiently; and that no man can be so stubborn.} And, by the way, in cultures (of the past or present) where marriages are largely arranged the idea is that the woman is to please the man (end of story unless he simply chooses to give a care). Now if desire and happiness of the individuals don’t really matter, then the sadness of people not finding mates doesn’t really matter so much either. Move on with your life. Do something else that doesn’t involve sex and children. But, back to responsibility. If a man willingly engages in sexual activity, he has obligations for the results. If he is so greedy or self-absorbed that he doesn’t want to, here is your perverted society. Again, the Bible says the sin of Sodom was to disregard the poor or be greedy. Who do you think we’re a large portion of the poor in those days (or even later days such as when Jesus walked the earth)? Orphans, cast away wives, women subjected to prostitution, and so on. Look at the story of Sodom. It wasn’t homosexuality going on there. It was men out of control.

  27. The conversation seems to have drifted off its original topic and into a “male vs female” debate. The issue I wrote on should be sufficiently controversial without bringing in another potentially emotionally charged dialogue into this. Can we either get back to what I wrote about to agree the comments here are ended?

  28. I don’t know why the auto-fill feature is putting an apostrophe in “were” at this point in time.

  29. James, I agree. However, if people want to talk about what the Bible requires and calls sin (prior to the maturity that Jesus called for as they/we are to learn in real life and enabled by the Holy Spirit), it is there to read. People can make things up really read it.

  30. I should add here, I appreciate the comment of ProclaimLiberty earlier that the rabbis have grappled with the law in the Bible to try and glean the full meaning (although they have sometimes been accused of looking for loopholes). I believe theirs is also an effort toward maturity, at the very least learning by observation (but I think more than that and admirably so).

  31. Getting back to the topic of torah interpretation (not specifically same sex relationships) isn’t it almost given that we will look for ways to validate our own ideas, (confirmation bias) rather than seek to discover the real meaning of the text on various levels?

    Marion made a good point. We know that Sodom was wealthy and had an excess of material goods. So, is sin, especially sexual sin and homosexuality in particular, an outgrowth of unappreciated material blessings leading to lack of need for productive work, too much time on ones hands leading to boredom and seeking new thrills?

  32. It seems wealthier, more affluent societies are prone to all kinds of excesses. Just look at Rome at the height of its power…or the United States.

  33. @chaya — I think your “confirmation bias” is dependent on the motivation of the individual who may look for scriptural support of an a-priori agenda. The same bias may occur in scientific research, and it is one reason why double-blind experiments are often structured. However, it is certainly possible to investigate what is actually the most reasonable interpretation of a given scriptural passage from a “purer” motivation that fairly considers textual, historical, and cultural evidences. So, while bias may be a common human tendency, as is sin of various kinds, both can be overcome.

  34. Agreed, PL (on what you’ve said just above).

    I haven’t looked up — for the purpose of quoting it here — where in the prophets it says what the sin of Sodom was (the lack of concern for the poor or weak). It also says Israel wasn’t doing much if any better (sadly worse) at the time of said prophet.

    On Genesis 19 and Judges 19, 20, and through the end of the book, notice that before the law (from Sanai) was given things were not handled (in chosen behavior) significantly differently from after (in a positive direction) — in a similar situation.

    On top of that, the “solution” to anger over the matter turns out in the end to be a selfish plot. But the early response in both cases was to offer two women to violent men. These women even included at least 3 (if not all 4) who should not have been “available” at all.

  35. If all the gay people were rounded up and separated from society…

    Oh how happy we would be…. Right?

    Most of us have probably heard this trope about them not reproducing and our being free of them if we would do this. But this doesn’t actually make sense. As I said, I think selfish societies breed homosexuality. At the same time, I think many homosexual people are very considerate. So, for instance, a young man who sees how women are treated or discounted in their traditional roles may seek not to put a woman into a traditional role. A boy who hears his father complain about the time, money, and so on, it takes him to suffer children may decide not to be part of that ugliness.

    I came across this collection of Jewish rumination on Sodom today. It includes the piece from the prophets I’ve refered to. And, other than that, I especially like the last part.

  36. I’m hardly advocating for “rounding up” gay people. We may disagree with them based on our convictions, but they still have rights in our society, just like you and me.

  37. Yes, I could “read” that about you. I was addressing the pop culture fantasy that gets significant “air-play” in the Christian conservative world.

  38. I would say it wasn’t the only sin. I am not aware of any studies, but it appears that homosexuality is primarily a practice of the upper middle-class and above as far as socio-economics. Or, it could just be that this demographic is more outspoken?

  39. I don’t know about that, Chaya. Many years ago, I worked at a Suicide Prevention hotline in Berkeley. Got a call from a gay guy in Texas (because the Bay Area was known as a “gay mecca,” sometimes gay men from all over the country would call in…go figure) who seemed to be more of a rural guy and who had a terrible crush on his (straight) dentist.

    Just saying that we tend to stereotype gay men as middle to upper-middle class but I don’t think the stereotype holds. If it did, we’d still have to admit that correlation doesn’t equal causation.

  40. I rather doubt that Chaya was suggesting anything like causation in the association with higher socio-economic status, but rather that such status offers a degree of liberty which begs a question of discontent and self-fulfillment. If other self-centered tendencies are present, they are able to develop with less constraint than in more limiting circumstances. As for the sin of Sodom, rabbis have at times described it as a lack of hospitality to strangers, or a sense that tourists exist merely to be exploited; however, the language of the text is clear that the intention of their words was sexual assault. Couple that with mob mentality and you have a recipe for murder. Considering also the ancient view of sex as a mastery of the penetrator over the penetrated only exacerbates this likelihood. Incidentally, Lot is often castigated for offering his daughters in place of the strangers, but this ignores aspects of the social dynamic. The mob didn’t want women from a local family that they would have to continue to live with and from whom they would likely face retaliation and revenge. Harming them would entail far too much social responsibility, and perhaps it was precisely this sense of responsibility that Lot was trying to invoke on behalf of the visitors.

    In this sense it is certainly possible to differentiate the “incidental” homosexuality of the Sodomites and the modern narcissistic form. The former was a weapon of assault while the latter might be considered a sin of self-indulgence. Neither is justifiable, but they are not the same.

  41. The only info I could find was that gays have a higher rate of education. Whether there is any correlation, I can’t say.

    I remember having this dispute with dh, who claimed he thought there was a higher percentage of Jewish Lesbians. I disagreed, and assumed that since Jewish women have a higher level of education and income, they are more likely to be spokespersons and in the public eye.

  42. In spite of all the antidotal information we have from gays that they experienced “being different” from childhood as an indication of being “born that way,” we really have no hard empirical evidence as to why most people are heterosexual and some people experience themselves as homosexual (not to mention other variations on sexual/gender identity).

  43. The daughters who were offered in Sodom were already prepared to marry other specific men. Thus, the sexual assault that would have been perpetrated on them, had they been sent outside (and accepted as usable), would have been adultery according to the law inscribed in stone later (likely already custom or human law). [This is not to say the men outside knew the women were promised (or did they, why (?) don’t THEY get a benefit of the doubt); they probably didn’t know, even if the… hmmm, shall we say generous (or cowardly) or hospitality-obsessed male {to persons not of the female, eh-hem, “lot” in life} offering them DID know.]

    Then, a woman who was already claimed AND “known” (so to speak) by a man was offered in the story in Judges after the law had been given. Not only was she (as well as a virgin daughter) offered, she was tossed out the door and ravaged through the night. We should probably make excuses for the guy who did that too, in fact for the other man who left her out there as well. [I obviously know that by all appearances it would not have done any “good” for the other man, who indicates he’s her husband, to care significantly about her… so no need to bother stating this as if not clear. Obviously, male persons (not real men) should shield themselves.]

  44. @Marleen — No one is making excuses for anyone’s less-than-admirable behavior. There are numerous examples in the scriptures whose purpose is to illustrate how wrong humans can be. The stories from the period of the Judges illustrate a period not unlike the wild, wild, west in the United States. New territories had been settled, and many people were pursuing their own agendas through banditry and other lawlessness. Even though laws had been defined, and Judges were being raised up to deal with some of the problems, widespread enforcement was still not successful. The disciplined generation of the desert had passed and their offspring had not learned the hard lessons or seen the miracles of that desert experience; giving way to a terribly undisciplined social environment. In this transitional period there were also Philistines and other non-Israelites who had not yet been driven out or eliminated, so the problems of lawlessness were compounded. These problems were not really resolved until King David’s reign; and even then idolatry and other deviations from Torah continued to plague Israelite society, especially after the political schism into northern and southern kingdoms. This is why we find prophetic references to the righteous remnant protected by HaShem from an antithetical surrounding social environment.

    In Sodom, of course, the protective principles of Torah and Jewish standards of marriage and sexuality were entirely unknown, and would not be well-defined for another four centuries. Archeology has confirmed for us that the customs of the various peoples of Canaan were already atrocious (by Torah covenant standards), though it would be another four centuries before HaShem would condemn them utterly and command the Israelites to leave none of them, nor even their cattle, alive. Inferring a possible interpretation of Lot’s reasoning in such circumstances is not excusing it, nor justifying it, nor commending it.

    ————————————————-
    OBTW, James — I’ve noticed a solecism or typo in your last reply that has occurred before, in referring to “antidotal” information or reports rather than “anecdotal” ones. As I’m sure you’re aware, an “antidote” is a counter-agent for a poison, while an “anecdote” is a story told without any concern for corroborating proof that it should be considered true — in fact, an anecdote may be entirely apocryphal.

    You might need to adjust your spell-checker’s dictionary to prevent your computer from automatically “correcting” words you may have already typed correctly.

  45. Pretty much my point, the fact of “numerous examples in the scriptures whose purpose is to illustrate how wrong humans can be” and to give examples of the kinds of things God had seen when the prophet Ezekiel spoke (including how low women were on the totem pole, so to speak). It is quite reasonable to respond with more plain social dynamic when one has said, “Lot is often castigated for offering his daughters in place of the strangers, but this ignores aspects of the social dynamic.” Is scripture allowed to illustrate Lot was VERY wrong?

  46. @Marleen — I rather suspect that hindsight analysis of Lot’s behavior generally recognizes that not only his own moral judgment but also that of his crusty wife and his incestuous daughters had been somewhat tainted by their experience of living in a Sodomite environment. I doubt that anyone would be tempted to hold up either his decision or theirs as any sort of commendable example of fine upright behavior. But one might consider the circumstances: for example, when there’s an unruly mob at one’s door, one is likely to be somewhat desperate and not thinking with perfect moral clarity. At times like that one can be exceedingly grateful if there are a couple of angels on hand who can drag one back into the house, shut the door, and generate a blinding light to subdue the mob. [:)]

  47. [ 🙂 indeed; it sure would be nice to have “a couple of angels on hand” to undo stupid decisions, rescue people from authorities over them, etc. ] My hindsight continues to castigate Lot for offering two girls to a “mob” that likely would have not only been disgusting to the girls (and that’s enough for which to castigate him) but, as you indicated and is reflected as well in the story in Judges, likely would have killed them. His girls not only lived in the Sodomite environment but under their father’s thought processes. Often, the heat of a moment shows a man’s true character.

  48. Shavua Tov, Marleen — I tend to doubt that any one incident can be said to reveal someone’s “true character”. The “heat of a moment” or a stressful situation can be revealing of someone’s flaws and weaknesses, but is it really fair to presume that those represent true character or lack thereof? Everyone has weaknesses; no one is perfect, but the content of their character should be evaluated on a much broader basis than any single incident or decision. Should we evaluate the character of Lot’s wife from the event of her hanging back too long (or even trying to go back) such that she was caught in the brimstone fallout and encrusted with salt? We may be able to infer some things, but we should not assume any sort of certainty about such inference without any corroboration. Should we evaluate the character of Lot’s two daughters from their decision to impregnate themselves by getting their father drunk? We can infer that they mistakenly thought themselves to be the sole remaining human survivors from a widespread catastrophe and therefore responsible to repopulate the human species by the only means available with the only male available. Thus we might excuse their incest as driven by a more noble cause. On the other hand, maybe their character was being revealed as “daughters of Sodom” rather than as “daughters of Lot”; and whatever Abrahamic moral views he might have held or tried to teach to his family had been entirely lost on them. We can be lenient in our view of them or we may be harsh; and likewise with Lot we may try to infer that he tried to employ some positive though risky strategy or we may condemn him as devaluing his daughters as mere “cannon fodder”. We might even do a little of both, as we consider all of the moral implications evoked by these events and decisions as they have been reported.

  49. Pretty sure if my dad offered that his friends could pass me around or worse… uh, yeah, that would be a character issue that would stay with me about him. As it is, though (him not being anything like that), I give my own dad credit for being a family-oriented, loving person. I actually do know a couple of girls whose dad/parents offered them to their dad’s co-workers (the girls think probably because someone “had something on him” — and the parents were around while this went on nearby out of sight [but not out of mind], kinda like would have been the case with Lot). There was nothing outright violent, though, in the situation, and no mob (these, now, women might be more inclined to look at the balance of their fathers’ life as he seems like a “nice” guy). I know of another guy who molested his daughters and neice (and, I will guess, girls on softball teams he coached); but he started going to church at some point… so, that must be his true character; add up time in church and acting holier than thou versus time molesting (besides being overly strict/mean with one other daughter, like actual time spanking her and yelling at her for nothing), he was pretty friendly — even though in secret he was still perversely lascivious and his new wife didn’t want to know (and didn’t turn into a pillar of salt for whatever that’s worth). Now, if any of those girls have any kind of high morals, it’s not because they learned their dad’s “moral views” — and it is more because of other examples that they have been able to pull themselves up (with the help of the God of Abraham). Likewise, if Lots daughters could have grown up going to Christian (or, likewise anachronistiic, Jewish) schools (if only to be kept away from a preponderance of black peers), this aspect of their lives could have made up for Lots failure to parent properly. This is a grace, not a reason to blame surrounding culture for one’s children.

  50. I mention black peers because it was common in my youth that parents might send their kids to private/Christian schools not because the parents themselves were so moral. My neighborhood had a fairly large population of black students in public school after the bussing decision (United States). That was a widespread motivation of parents [even though the minority people were not worse]. So, the less-than-upright father could do something that seemed well motivated but was fueled by something not so admirable. Still, the child could (almost accidentally) benefit.

  51. [I went to private schools most of the time. In high school, this included many black people. And my mother had a problem with that; I look down on her for that and other things.] One of the fathers of the girls I referred to sent one of his daughters to my high school. She and I also went to the same public grade school (I only for four years before junior high in a Christian enviromment). I went to school with the daughters of that other father too, only for a year before junior high [when their parents divorced and their mother moved to our area]. The other daughter (older than her younger sister and me) of the former father grew up to be a little immoral but settled down. The older (my age) of the latter grew up to be quite moral and thoughtful — and lives with another woman (in fact, they took a trip to New Mexico to get married). Her younger sister spent a lot of time with church youth after her mother was able to get re-settled. She is married to a man and has two children. Even though her dad also started going to church, I would not say what is good about her is because she is the daughter of what her father taught. Neither is. However, as the daughter of a Christian man who never castigated himself for what he’d done, the latter older one will not be Christian.

  52. @Marleen — We may properly criticize all manner of sexual error and wrongdoing of which we become aware in our own era, but we cannot compare it directly to circumstances four thousand years ago in a culture that had not even the faintest inkling of the biblical moral teaching that has been promulgated across the face of the earth within the past two thousand years, and particularly implemented in the Western world represented in the USA. We have a standard with which to evaluate and criticize that simply did not exist in Lot’s era. Do you seriously entertain the notion that it is fair or just to evaluate him by standards he could know nothing about? The similar action you describe in a modern family setting is not comparable in any way; and whatever disapproval we may unquestionably apply to it cannot be applied to Lot’s decision. It is neither morally equivalent nor circumstantially equivalent. That is not, as I said before, any sort of justification for Lot’s way of thinking nor the action that he proposed. Certainly it would be unthinkable in a Torah-informed society. But, as your story illustrates, people who reject such a standard for their own behavior, or for general societal expectations, can sink to levels just as bad as, or even worse than, ancient societies that did not have access to such standards.

  53. My guess, and probably most anyone’s, is that Lot could very well identify that his daughters ought to be able to keep living and ought not be brutally and repeatedly raped in sundry ways — pretty much like he and anybody else. It’s not complicated.

    Even if some survey results might say that half the people can’t see this (as many do seem to be losing plain sense these days), I would still say CASTIGATING a person for this kind of offer is appropriate. It IS actually MILD in terms of proper scale.

    You and I agree that the sin of Sodom wasn’t mainly lack of hospitality (which angle underplays the arrogance and greed as well as the brutality and so on). People I know of who like that interpretation are fans of “the [so called] book of Enoch.”

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