Sodom and Gomorrah Hazing Ritual

Oftentimes people will use the phrase sodomy in reference to same-sex intercourse and sodomite in reference to those that engage in it. Let’s make a note that Sodom and Gomorrah were guilty of far more than just that. Sodom and Gomorrah are mentioned in Ezekiel 16:49 for various sins like pride and abusing the poor. In Jeremiah 23:14 they are compared to the sins of priests in pre-exile Israel who committed adultery and idolatry. In Matthew 11:24 Jesus even compares his generation of Jews to Sodom and says they are more stubborn and hard-hearted. Therefore, Sodom and Gomorrah were guilty of more than just sexual sin.

Sexual immortality is a part of the reason they were judged. Sodom and Gomorrah were in Canaan and the Canaanites were collectively associated with grievous sin and God determined that they were to be exiled and destroyed. The Canaanite region during the time of Abraham and that region was still involved with all the same sins by the time of Moses long after Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed. The illicit sex practices mentioned in Leviticus didn’t end or begin with Sodom and Gomorrah. That’s why Chapters 18 and 20 of Leviticus give the disclaimer that many of the listed sins are practiced in Egypt and Canaan.

Chapter 18 of Leviticus starts off with, (NLT) “1 Then the Lord said to Moses, 2 “Give the following instructions to the people of Israel. I am the Lord your God. 3 So do not act like the people in Egypt, where you used to live, or like the people of Canaan, where I am taking you. You must not imitate their way of life. 4 You must obey all my regulations and be careful to obey my decrees, for I am the Lord your God. 5 If you obey my decrees and my regulations, you will find life through them. I am the Lord.”

Verse 23 of Chapter 20 says, “Do not live according to the customs of the people I am driving out before you. It is because they do these shameful things that I detest them.”

Just like Jesus compares 1st century Israelites to Sodom by saying that Sodom would have received him (Matthew 11:24), he also compared the Israelites of his day to the Ninevites from the story of Jonah (Matthew 12:41). Unlike Sodom, however, the Ninevites repented when Jonah warned them of judgment. Since Jesus references them both one could imply that pre-Abrahamic prophets were sent to Sodom but they didn’t listen, and now they function as a cautionary tale.

There is a repeat of Sodom’s practices by the tribe of Benjamin in Gibeah, in Judges 19-21, which reveals more about what Sodom and Gomorrah were doing. It was a hazing ritual and the tribe Benjamin decided it was okay to copy this practiced in Gibeah. The citizens would deny lodging to foreigners, forcing them to sleep in the square, and then rape them that night. In both stories, there was at least one man who broke with tradition and offered lodging for protection. Then in both cases, the locals came to the host’s house to rape the guest, and the host would offer his daughter(s) to them to be raped instead. In the case of the story in Judges 19-21, the host offered his own daughter and his guest’s (a Levite’s) wife (Judges 19:24). In Genesis 19 the two angels overpowered the men of Sodom, then Lot and his daughters escaped the fiery judgment they had coming. However in Judges 19, the Levite visitor threw his wife outside and shut the door, and the rapists settled for her and abused her all night instead. She died from the assault and the Levite hacked her body into pieces and mailed her body parts to the other tribes and told them what happen. Almost all of Israel went to punish the rapists, and many of the Benjamites defended them and refused to hand them over, so there was a war. The Benjamites were defeated and only about 600 Benjamite men remained. The other tribes had vowed not to give them wives but there was a town that didn’t participate in the battle nor took the oath that had 400 available women. The other 200 took (as in kidnapped) 200 women dancers at Shiloh to be their wives.

When reading both stories it becomes more clear that Sodom and Gomorrah were savages who got what they deserved especially since they ignored God’s warnings. God even said in Gen 18:20-21, “I have heard a great outcry from Sodom and Gomorrah because their sin is so flagrant. I am going down to see if their actions are as wicked as I have heard. If not, I want to know.” When God referred to an outcry, it should trigger us to think of the victims that we aren’t told about. That phrase “outcry” previously appears in Genesis in reference to Abel’s blood “crying out to God from the ground” in Gen 4:10 after he was murdered by Cain. These people weren’t just rapists, they were murderers. The Levite’s wife in Judges 19 bleed out and died the next morning after being gang-raped all night. Since years later the tribe of Benjamin in Gibeah copied their sex customs, there is an implication other Canaanites may have been continuing the tradition and at least retelling the stories of Sodom and Gomorrah. Then for some reason, the Benjamites decided this was something they wanted to repeat despite the final judgment Sodom and Gomorrah got. This is why God told the Israelites to destroy Canaan’s culture and not copy their customs in Leviticus chapters 18 & 20. The Benjamites too were judged for it and nearly exterminated. God only preserved them out of mercy because of his covenant with Israel. God’s judgments in the bible are ALWAYS justified.