More Sidenotes on Sodom

Other Bible references to S&G: Ezekiel 16:48-50 refers to Jerusalem’s sin exceeding that of S&G (a testimony there to God’s patience before judgment!) in that they were arrogant, overfed, unconcerned with the poor, doing destestable things before God. (Indicating that the homosexual greed — an unnatural act — was a symptom of a root sickness).

Sodom had no remorse: they “paraded” their sin (Isaiah 3:9).

Sodom’s fate could be repeated (or worse) for other cities who ignored God’s decrees (Zephaniah 2:9).

The New Testament draws on this incident as an object lesson several times as well: 2 Peter 2:6, Romans 9:29 (quoting from Isaiah 1-3), and Jude 1:7.

Extra-biblical accounts record other traditional horror stories. Sodomites would “graciously” give gold to the poor beggars, but first, would inscribe their own names on the coins. No merchant however would accept signed gold from the poor, and the town as a whole gave approval to their starvation. Once the victim died, the “generous giver” would retrieve his gold — clearly identified with his name — to continue is generosity over and over again. They toyed with the hope of the hopeless.

I’ve got to quote these WikiPedia entries on Sodom as well:

A rabbinic tradition, described in the Mishnah, postulates that the sin of Sodom was related to property: Sodomites believed that “what is mine is mine, and what is yours is yours” (Abot), which is interpreted as a lack of compassion. Another rabbinic tradition is that these two wealthy cities treated visitors in a sadistic fashion. One major crime done to strangers was almost identical to that of Procrustes in Greek mythology. This would be the story of the “bed” that guests to Sodom were forced to sleep in: if they were too short they were stretched to fit it, and if they were too tall, they were cut up.

In another incident, Eliezer, Abraham’s servant, went to visit Lot in Sodom and got in a dispute with a Sodomite over a beggar, and was hit in the forehead with a stone, making him bleed. The Sodomite demanded Eliezer pay him for the service of bloodletting, and a Sodomite judge sided with the Sodomite. Eliezer then struck the judge in the forehead with a stone and asked the judge to pay the Sodomite.

The Talmud and the book of Jasher also recount two incidents of a young girl (one involved a daughter of Lot, named Paltith) who gave some bread to a poor man who had entered the city. When the townspeople discovered their acts of kindness, they burned Paltith and smeared the other girl’s body with honey and hung her from the city wall until she was eaten by bees. (Sanhedrin 109a) It is this gruesome event (and her scream, in particular), the Talmud concludes, that are alluded to in the verse that heralds the city’s destruction: “So Hashem said, ‘Because the outcry of Sodom and Gomorrah has become great, and because their sin has been very grave, I will descend and see…'” (Genesis 18:20-21).

Wow.

I think of the holocaust stories. Terrible crimes against God and humanity were comitted all because the people were desensitized one day at a time.

Questions from Genesis

To give you an insight into my background: There’s a creationist group that promotes a literal understanding of Genesis called “Answers in Genesis.” They’re the ones that have drawn so much attention for the “Creation Museum.” I generally tend to agree with them and appreciate a more literal reading of Genesis, but I’ve always found their name to be a bit funny. I believe scripture to be inspired and inerrant, from God for man. It would follow then, that Scripture is written to be understood. Of all books other than Revelation, however, I find there to be more questions than answers in Genesis.

Here’s a few “What ifs” and “hypotheticals” I’ve gathered.

  • Was all creation vegetarian? It appears meat was not given until after the flood. I’ve heard of post-fall changes, but never really post-flood changes.
  • Was there reproduction in the garden? Eve’s pain in childbearing was greatly multiplied (indicating it didn’t start at zero…) (Gen 3:16) The command to ‘be fruitful and increase in number, fill the earth and subdue it’ (Gen 1:26-30) was pre-fall. Was there sex in the garden?
  • Had you ever noticed that the animals were considered as possible companions for Adam? They were rejected, of course. Think they could talk? After all, no one seemed surprised by the talking serpent with legs…
  • I never noticed that animals had the breath of life (Gen 1:26-30). Though not made in the image of God, they had that part of his essence.

I probably get distracted by trivia a bit too easily…but it’s interesting to ask the “What ifs.” What if the south had won the civil war? (Sorry to burst someone’s bubble…) What if my cat could talk…? What if I could fly?

The real tragedy of the first few chapters of Genesis is knowing that there was zero room for the question: “What if man never fell…” It’s a mere ten generations from fall to flood, and thanks to long lifespans, it seems that everyone would have been intimately familiar with the story of sin in the garden, yet each generation grew worse. “Every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time.” (Genesis 6:5).

God hardly seemed to have a rosy outlook about his creation. That realism only makes his grace more impressive to me…and there’s no question about that!