Series: What does the Bible say about homosexuality?
A nation ready for judgment
Does Ezekiel 16 contradict Genesis 19?
Homosexual activists and their sympathizers both inside and outside the church make the argument that the Bible does not condemn homosexual practice. In order to make this assertion stick, however, they must perform mental gymnastics worthy of Olympians.
The story of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah is often the activists’ first stopping place. As I showed in my last blog, the argument that the catastrophe that befell those cities was unrelated to homosexuality is nonsense.
However, at this point Bible-believing Christians might be tempted to make two errors of their own. The first is to imagine that all homosexuals are violent sexual predators like the men of Sodom and Gomorrah. As I will point out in my upcoming blog about Romans 1, Paul makes clear that each rejection of God’s truth results in a “giving over to” further debauchery. Thus we can assume (safely, I think) that the Genesis story of Sodom portrays violent homosexuality as the lowest level of the Romans 1 death spiral.
The second error would be to simply blame homosexuals for the ruin of the two condemned cities. Instead, the teaching of Paul in Romans 1 is that homosexuality itself exists in a moral milieu of idolatry that encompasses a long list of generalized sins (vv. 29-32).
This brings us to Ezekiel 16, a chapter that issues a warning to Israel on the basis of what happened to Sodom:
“Behold, this was the guilt of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters had arrogance, abundant food, and careless ease, but she did not help the poor and needy. Thus they were haughty and committed abominations before Me. Therefore I removed them when I saw it” (Eze. 16:49-50).
Some argue that this chapter proves that Sodom’s destruction was over a luxurious and self-centered lifestyle. For example, atheist Bob Seidensticker states that, rather than homosexuality, “we have [here in Ezekiel 16] arrogance, lack of concern for the needy, and unspecified ‘detestable things.’ This gives no tangible support for the Homosexuality Hypothesis.”
Since that is the case, goes the assertion, Ezekiel 16 disproves the contention that homosexuality had anything to do with the catastrophe that overtook Sodom.
So, do we have two conflicting accounts of Sodom’s guilt in Scripture? Does Genesis focus on homosexuality, while the prophet Ezekiel accuses the city’s inhabitants of pride and inhospitality?
As we’ll see, there is no contradiction, but we cannot ignore the bigger picture in Ezekiel 16. The prophet clearly links Sodom’s judgment – at least in part – to the city’s pride, luxurious lifestyle, and the inhabitants’ refusal to help those in need.
However, the two passages are actually in agreement, for Ezekiel does not ignore the issue of homosexuality at all. The prophet’s reference to the fact that Sodom “committed abominations” before God is no doubt a reference to the inhabitants’ homosexual proclivities – especially with the Genesis story in the minds of Ezekiel’s hearers. After all, the Jews understood “abomination” as a common way of referring to sexual sin like homosexuality (Lev. 18:22). (The New Testament references to the doom of Sodom, mentioned in my last blog, also make clear the connection to homosexuality.)
Therefore, rather than being an unexpected revision of Scriptural history, Ezekiel’s reference to Sodom is a clear explanation of it, adding to the Genesis account, rather than contradicting it. The arrogant self-indulgence of Sodom’s citizens contributed to their sexual sin.
In fact, this supposition fits more reasonably within the context of Ezekiel’s denunciation of Israel – who, after all, is the real subject of the prophet’s preaching. Israel’s harlotries and abominations, clearly laid out in the earlier portions of Ezekiel 16, are tied to the unfaithful nation’s own wealth and material blessings (vv. 10-14). Such luxury and arrogance is the result of the sin of idolatry in Israel.
By the way, this is precisely what we would expect from reading Romans 1: Idolatry is the core, destructive sin underlying a host of other sins. In Ezekiel 16, there is even a mention of the slaughter of Israel’s children in the midst of the nation’s idol worship (Eze. 16:20, 21), a clear parallel to our own nation’s stubborn embrace of abortion.
Is it any wonder, when we compare Genesis 19 and Ezekiel 16 (and Romans 1) that we would discover that idolatry also leads to sexual perversion?
This would be the precise impact of Ezekiel’s reference to Sodom. The prophet’s warning is that the embrace of homosexuality occurs when a culture has embraced other forms of evil first. The prophet warns Israel to repent of its sins by pointing to the destruction of Sodom and the causes of it. It was only in the feverishness of that morally sick condition that Sodom had embraced homosexuality, and Israel was fast approaching that condition.
That is precisely what has happened in the U.S. The homosexual movement has had such great success because Americans have become idolatrous and arrogantly self-indulgent. Straight America has embraced homosexuality because straight Americans first embraced the sexual revolution for the satisfaction of their own perverse sexual appetites.
Thus homosexuality often becomes the barometer of a culture rotting out from the inside. If the problem were only homosexuality, then the simple act of pushing it back into the closet (if that were possible) would be enough to forestall judgment.
But what Ezekiel 16 teaches us is this: By the time a culture accepts idolatry, abortion and homosexuality, it is already ripe for the devastation wrought by God’s wrath.