Homosexuality in the Old Testament Pt. 2
By: Rev. Charles Burnett-Morrow
Having then established the fact that the law was given by God as an example, or schoolteacher, to the Church of Christ who would later be established as one people under the blood-covenant of Jesus Christ. The purpose of the law being to establish forever within our hearts and minds the sure fact that we, as human beings, need a divine Savior to do for us what we cannot do for ourselves. We saw that the law was relentless in its detail and impossible to genuinely implement by any human being. We also saw that the law lent itself to religious zealots who thought themselves capable of living up to each and every code in the law, and it was these same religious sorts who later delivered the Lord to be crucified as He did not embrace their legalistic codes as they would have had Him to do.
Now, understanding all that… let’s move on. It is imperative at this stage in our study that we fully understand one major truth: One cannot possibly study the legalistic codes of the law without taking into consideration the times and customs of the day during which these laws were established.
Let me offer an example. My seventeen-year-old nephew lives with me. Some might feel that the rules, or law, I have established for him are unjust and unnecessary if they were to merely hear these rules listed. For example, he is to be in the house by 8pm. This is just one example. Now, let me explain the reasoning behind these regulations. The area in which we live is populated by a large number of individuals given to drug use, abuse, and peddling. MJ is to be in by 8pm so as to prevent him from being in the wrong place at the wrong time and appearing to be up to no good. The police frequently stop and question folks who are out and about during the dusk hours and later. My purpose in establishing this particular rule is to assist him in avoiding being troubled or harassed by the police and to make relatively sure that when the majority of drug users and sellers are in the streets, he is not. Makes sense, doesn’t it? Now many of his friends who live in a more rural environment do not understand why it is that I have had to set down this early curfew for MJ. It seems harsh and unnecessary, but when you understand the circumstances surrounding the establishing of that rule, it suddenly makes far more sense and seems much more reasonable. So it is within the Old Testament legal passages.
LEVITICUS 18:21-15, particularly vs. 22
21 And thou shalt not let any of thy seed pass through the fire to Molech, neither shalt thou profane the name of thy God: I am the LORD.
22 Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is abomination.
23 Neither shalt thou lie with any beast to defile thyself therewith: neither shall any woman stand before a beast to lie down thereto: it is confusion.
24 Defile not ye yourselves in any of these things: for in all these the nations are defiled which I cast out before you:
25 And the land is defiled: therefore I do visit the iniquity thereof upon it, and the land itself vomiteth out her inhabitants.
I have included with the verse Leviticus 18:22, the context in which it appears in Scripture. It is important that we do so in order that we might fully understand the full import of what Moses was here writing.
Leviticus 20:12-15 particularly vs. 13
12 And if a man lie with his daughter in law, both of them shall surely be put to death: they have wrought confusion; their blood shall be upon them.
13 If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them.
14 And if a man take a wife and her mother, it is wickedness: they shall be burnt with fire, both he and they; that there be no wickedness among you.
15 And if a man lie with a beast, he shall surely be put to death: and ye shall slay the beast.
Remember first and foremost that the law was given to Moses as an express contract between God and the people of Israel. Part of the reason for the law was for God to separate unto Himself a people who would live and act right, based upon the precepts and teachings offered within His law. Also notice that Moses is writing within the law a series of prohibitions that the people of Israel are to observe. In verse twenty-one, he begins by writing that the Israelites are not to imitate the behavior and practices of the followers of the false God Molech. The adherents to that religion engaged in a practice where their children were made to walk coals and pass through fire. God declared that His people were not to engage in similar practices. To do so, He states, would be to besmirch and profane the name of the Lord God Jehovah. Then, in verse twenty-two, the Lord goes on to say that the people of Israel (the subject in this sentence, when the Lord says, “Thou shalt not…” meaning, the people of Israel shall not… “lie with mankind, as with a womankind.” There is likely no single verse in the Bible that the King James translators did a worse job translating than this one. They employed what sounds like very broad gender specific terms, “mankind” and “womankind,” leading most uneducated readers to believe this means simply that “mankind” means any male, and “womankind” means females in general. Unfortunately this is not the case.
The true meaning in these verses is actually found in the literal translation of the term “abomination,” which the Lord states that such behavior would constitute. If I say that to do such and such is a travesty, it means one thing. If I say that for one to do such and such is a felony, obviously there is an entirely different meaning implied in my statement. One speaks of a moral wrong, whereas the other speaks of a prosecutable injustice, which the law of the land has clearly defined as illegal and punishable by time in prison, etc.
KJV - Lev. 18:22 Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is abomination.
NIV - Leviticus 18:22 "Do not lie with a man as one lies with a woman; that is detestable.
KJV - Leviticus 20:13 If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them.
NIV - Leviticus 20:13 "If a man lies with a man as one lies with a woman, both of them have done what is detestable. They must be put to death; their blood will be on their own heads."
In both Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13, the term we see describing the nature of the particular offense in question in the King James Version is “abomination,” and in the NIV the word “detestable” is used. The truth is, the Lord was plainly saying to His people, that the act He afore described constituted an act of IDOLATRY. Look up the meaning of the word “tow’ebeh” which is translated by the KJV as “abomination” and by the NIV as “detestable.” Strong’s dictionary of Hebrew Old Testament words states the definition is as follows, “Tow’ebeh" has a primary meaning of an association with idolatry, or concretely of an idol itself; especially idolatry or (concretely) an idol.”
What does this mean to us then? What it means in context of the times in which it was written is that God did not want His people to engage in the same ritualistic sexual practices that were common for the pagans and heathens whom the Jewish people would come into contact with. Most of the pagan religions of ancient Biblical times believed in fertility gods and engaged in a number of practices, which involved phallic worship. The priests and priestesses of these false religions would lie with a religious subject sexually in an effort to ensure them fertility. It was not at all assumed that the persons engaging in this activity were even remotely homosexual in terms of their sexual orientation, but rather their entire sexual experience with the priest or priestess was strictly an effort on their part to obtain a “blessing,” as it were. And by lying with a religious man or woman representing one of these false gods in an effort to receive their (the false god’s) favor was an act of idolatry! The Lord did not want His people absorbing and conforming to the practices of the people whom He had driven out of the land so that Israel could have it as their own. Look at the very next verses to follow the much debated Leviticus 18:22…
24 " 'Do not defile yourselves in any of these ways, because this is how the nations that I am going to drive out before you became defiled. 25 Even the land was defiled; so I punished it for its sin, and the land vomited out its inhabitants. 26 But you must keep my decrees and my laws. The native-born and the aliens living among you must not do any of these detestable (IDOLATROUS) things, 27 for all these things (IDOLATRIES) were done by the people who lived in the land before you, and the land became defiled.
You must not live according to the customs of the nations I am going to drive out before you. Because they did all these things, I abhorred them.
Therefore, what we find in fact is this, the nature of the crime being committed is IDOLATROUS. This is by no means speaking of two human beings who care about one another engaging in private, symbiotic intimacy; but rather, this is speaking of two human beings having no particular inclination toward homosexuality at all lying with a member of the same sex who occupies a position within the religion of a false god in an effort to secure blessing, prosperity, and fertility of womb, crops, herds, etc. The apostle Paul spoke of very similar circumstances in Romans 1, when he wrote…
Romans 1:18-32 NIV
18 The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness,
19 since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them.
20 For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities--his eternal power and divine nature--have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.
21 For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened.
22Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools
23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images (IDOLS) made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles.
24 Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity
for the degrading of their bodies with one another.
25 They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things (IDOLS) rather than the Creator--who is forever praised. Amen.
26 Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones. (THESE PEOPLE WERE NOT NATURALLY INCLINED TOWARD HOMOSEXUALITY, BUT RATHER THEY PURPOSELY EXCHANGED THEIR NATURAL ORIENTATION TO ENGAGE IN A PRACTICE, WHICH WAS FOR THEM ENTIRELY UNNATURAL.)
27 In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed indecent acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion.
28 Furthermore, since they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, he gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what ought not to be done.
29 They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips,
30 slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents;
31 they are senseless, faithless, heartless, ruthless.
32 Although they know God's righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.
We shall be going into greater detail concerning this passage in a future study covering the New Testament passages, but it is important to note it here as these two areas clearly tie in with one another as they are both CLEARLY speaking to the issue of sexuality as it is practiced as part of a religious, idol worship. One point, however; if the above passage, Romans chapter one, genuinely is describing homosexual people in general, then either God is a liar or homosexual people haven’t any clue as to how they should conduct themselves. After all, according to verses 29-31 all the people Paul writes about are not only perverse IDOLATERS, but they are also God-haters (WHY ARE GAY-LESBIAN PEOPLE STRUGGLING TO BE INCLUDED IN GOD’S CHURCH IF THEY ARE SO MUCH HATERS OF GOD?), greedy (THE GAY COMMUNITY HAS RESPONDED IN THE PAST TWENTY YEARS WITH THE GREATEST LEVEL OF COMPASSION EVER WITNESSED BY HUMANITY IN RESPONSE TO THE HIV/AIDS EPIDEMIC. IT IS A WELL ESTABLISHED STATISTICAL FACT THAT GAY MEN ARE GREATER EARNERS, AS WELL AS GREATER CONTRIBUTORS TO SOCIAL CAUSES THAN ARE THEIR HETEROSEXUAL COUNTERPARTS.), faithless (OF ALL THE GAY-LESBIAN ORGANIZATIONS IN THE WORLD, THE LARGEST ORGANIZATION OF ALL IS A CHRISTIAN CHURCH ESTABLISHED FOR GLBT PEOPLE! THAT’S FAITHLESS PEOPLE?), and the list goes on!
Old Testament prohibition spoke expressly of same sex sexual encounters, which were of a religious sort, after the practices of the worshippers of false gods. And finally today…
If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them.
The case and point for our reasoning relative to idolatrous sexual encounters can be found in the literal translation of this particular verse which brings so many to a place of fear and judgment. In this passage, the author, Moses, clearly makes a distinction between a “man” and the type of man that he is lying with. The second term, translated in the KJV as “mankind” literally comes from the Hebrew word “zakar.” This word specifically speaks of an individual “to be remembered,” or who is held in high regard or esteem, such as a religious priest. Therefore, Moses was clearly stating that a man, or any man, should not lie with a “remembered, esteemed” man (ie-religious leader, priest) as with a woman. The only reason people in Biblical times would do such things was when they were trying to secure the fertility of their crops, herds, etc. It required that they do something that was completely unnatural for them. Imagine how sickening it must have been to a straight male to have to handle the male genitals of the priest in an effort to sexually arouse him enough to bring about ejaculation. Anyone not of a homosexual orientation would likely find this experience anything but pleasant, but necessary if they are to secure the blessings of their idol/god.
In another application, the term "zakar" can speak of one who is of great position and power. It was common in Biblical times for men of war to rape their opponents leaders after securing a victory as a means of degrading and humiliating the defeated enemy. Anyone familiar with the infamous exploits of Caligula will remember how that he, in the spirit and tradition of the idolatrous religions of pagan Rome would use same-sex sexual exploits as a means of torturing, humiliating, and demoralizing his opponents. God taught His people that they were not to behave in this fashion either. When they won a battle and secured a victory, they were able to walk away with the spoils, but they were not to treat zakar (a notable person to be remembered, or held up, noted, etc) as they would a common prostitute. To do so was detestable, or acting as one who served an idol/god, idolatrous rather than as one who served the living King of Israel. Look at the story of Saul in I Samuel 31:6-10
1 Samuel 31:6-10
6 So Saul and his three sons and his armor-bearer and all his men died together that same day.
7 When the Israelites along the valley and those across the Jordan saw that the Israelite army had fled and that Saul and his sons had died, they abandoned their towns and fled. And the Philistines came and occupied them.
8 The next day, when the Philistines came to strip the dead, they found Saul and his three sons fallen on Mount Gilboa.
9 They cut off his head and stripped off his armor, and they sent messengers throughout the land of the Philistines to proclaim the news in the temple of their idols and among their people.
10 They put his armor in the temple of the Ashtoreths and fastened his body to the wall of Beth Shan.
After being mortally wounded in battle, Saul begs his servant to kill him before the heathen Philistines show up to claim their spoils and “abuse” him, literally meaning in this case to sexually rape him as a means of demoralizing and humiliating he and his people. When the armour bearer could not kill the king, Saul opted to end his own life, only to shortly thereafter have his body claimed by the Philistines, his head cut off, and his remains paraded around the various idolatrous temples of the Philistine gods as a trophy of their victory.
The term used in Leviticus 20:13 for “woman” is not the Hebrew word which simply means a member of the female gender, but rather it is a term which speaks of any woman, a common prostitute, or a woman whom you need not know anything about. Therefore, the real prohibition here is as much on the intent of the encounter as it is the nature of the two parties engaging in this conduct. A man would have sex with a male temple prostitute, or priest, representing a fertility god or phallic religion the same way, as one would have sex with a prostitute. You come, do your business, and then go home. Promiscuity at it’s best. No caring, love, or commitment. God told His people that they were not to conduct themselves in this careless a fashion, whether it is with a religious notable figure or a fallen foe or monarch.
QUOTING my friend Sam Kader’s book, “Openly Gay, Openly Christian - How The Bible Really Is Gay Friendly;” (Pg 50, par 4) “ALL the things condemned in Leviticus 18 and 20 were what the idolatrous nations were doing. They did treat zakar, to be remembered as if he were a common prostitute, and did it in the name of idolatrous religion.”
In our next article I shall endeavor to deal with…
5 The woman shall not wear that which pertaineth unto a man, neither shall a man put on a woman's garment: for all that do so are abomination unto the LORD thy God.