“Abomination!” I don’t think anyone has ever called me an abomination. But, do I deserve to be labeled as such? Guess there is one way to find out: by looking at the definition in the Bible and then seeing what things are listed as abominations. Then, at least I can see if God thinks I am an abomination. How could I be? I am straight, celibate and go to church each Sunday. I play nice, I act kindly and I honor my Mom.
If any of us wants to take the verses in Deuteronomy and Leviticus and label the GLBT people as abominations, we had better check out the meaning and make sure we are not condemning ourselves too. I mean, I sure don’t want to point out your splinter if I have a log. That would be stupid.
Abomination comes from the Hebrew word “toebah” meaning something morally disgusting or an abhorrence of something usually connected with idolatry. There is quite a list of things in the OT that the author of those books considered to be abominations. I will try to put them in modern terms. The things specifically listed as abominations in the Old Testament (remember, this is a Hebrew word and only used in the OT) are:
- touching/eating anything with “impurity”, like dead bodies, sperm, unclean animals (camels, rabbits, pigs, four footed animals that are not cattle), any sea life without scales or legs (catfish, lobster, shrimp, oysters, clams, mussels etc.), certain birds that eat carrion.
- customs associated with the worship of anything other-than-God
- any action a person does that is not done in the name of God
- one that departs from God
- those that lie
- people who shed innocent blood (abortions, killing civilians in war, even States that kill innocent people)
- those that cause distress, evil, trouble or wrong toward others
- lying about another person
- people that cause trouble in a community
- cheating in business or exchanges of money
- inauthentic sacrifice and repentance (wrong motive, manipulation)
- doing things for yourself and not God
- passing sentence or judgment on an innocent man or letting an evil man go free
- cheating others in property or matters of goods
- people that turn from hearing God’s Word
- the prayers of an evil person
- sacrificed meat eaten on the third day instead of being burned
- men having sex with men
- any superstitious relic
- an imperfect animal offering
- anyone who visits taro card or palm readers or who reads horoscopes
- wearing clothes of the opposite sex (pants for women, kilts for men–OUT!)
- bringing money earned from prostitution from selling yourself into your home
- remarrying a former spouse
- cheating people
- making images or idols
- having the idols of certain gods in your possession
- prayers not offered in faith
- human sacrifices
- oppression of others that are poor or vulnerable
- breaking promises
- lending money with interest
- having sex with a menstruating woman
- worship of anti-Christ
- things done to gain the popularity with others
Whew, so there is the list. I could stop there and say we are ALL an abomination in the eyes of God. That is why He sent Jesus to save us all. When we position ourselves under a blood stained cross, the case against us closed. BUT, that does not seem to be enough for those who insist on plucking out of the list “men having sex with men” and lead the morality charge with that mantra. When I look at the list, I see only 14 things of which I cannot be condemned. Fourteen out of 43 is pretty bad. Thank goodness human sacrifice, idolizing specific certain gods and worshiping the anti-Christ are on that list. Gives me three easy ones. I have not even listed the things which are forbidden: mixing seeds in fields, trimming hair and beards, interbreeding animals, mixing fabrics in my clothing and letting disabled people come to the holy place. Strangely, however, human slavery is sanctioned. I have broken every one of those rules, but have not owned a slave.
Perhaps with that reality check, there should be even ground at the foot of the cross. We can now look at the context, language and culture of Leviticus and Deuteronomy. Leviticus was written around 1490 BC when the Jews were coming out of a 4000 year period of captivity to the Egyptians. The Book is a collection of sermons given by Moses over a 40-day period. Take this in for a moment: they were about to wander for 40 years and had come from 400 years of living in another pagan culture. God needed them to be separate and holy. The people are reminded about four key things: God is faithful, God is holy, God gives blessings and God warns. Starting in chapter 5, there is a review of the Ten Commandments, the laws concerning sacrifice and special feast days, and new laws given to a new generation of God’s people. Blessing comes to those who obey, and famine comes to those who disobey. The intention is to keep these people separate and holy so that Jesus might be born through a pure blood line. God is serious and lays it out.
Deuteronomy means “the second law” and was also written by Moses, in 1451 BC, after Leviticus. It was given to a new generation that had wandered the desert and was now about to cross the Jordan into their new home. The Law was repeated and history was recounted. I will look at both Books together since they are so similar in message on this subject.
There are some actions that are so bad (beyond abomination), that death is prescribed. These actions are :
- denying God and saying He does not exist
- getting too close to the Tabernacle when you were not supposed to be there
- not observing the Sabbath
- disobeying one’s parents
- cursing or hitting one’s parents
- sexual intercourse with a woman that has her period
- losing your virginity outside “marriage”
- being a false prophet
- male homosexual sex
- worshiping other gods
- using God’s name in vain
- a woman who does not cry out when being raped ,
Whew! I am doing a bit better on this one. I have managed to escape five causes of death, and apparently I have more lives than a cat. I am not intending to demean the Word of God here; I am trying to point out that these consequences were for a time when God needed His people to stay apart. Sure, we have carried many of these “don’ts” to our modern culture, but the bulk, we have mercifully left behind.
When you look outside the Books of Law laid down for the Jews, the death penalty still exists for : witches, hitting one’s parents, idolaters, being a false prophet, those that approach the tabernacle and people that work on the Sabbath. I know I am doing better on this checklist, but still, not clean. So, what have I surmised? I am an abomination to God and deserve to be put to death over and over. And what do I know about God? I know He loves me, and the ultimate proviso for me in the life and death of Jesus, and that I will not ultimately be put to death. I will die a natural death and then live forever.
Still, I must get to the verses in Leviticus and Deuteronomy that cite same-sex behavior. I would not blame those of you who already get the bottom line for bailing out here. Why would I condemn anyone for anything when I scored so miserably on this abomination/deserve-to-die test? Still some do exactly that. Some do go as far as “kill the gays” (church leaders in Uganda, Martin Ssempa, Scott Lively and Lou Engel.) Others only want GLBT people shunned within society and certainly wthin the churches.
Diving in, Leviticus 18:22, 20:13 and Deuteronomy 23:17-18 read:
“Do not lie with a man as one lies with a woman; that is detestable.” (Some versions say “abomination.”)
“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.”
“No Israelite man or woman is to become a shrine prostitute.”
Abomination, death and if you are an Israelite, don’t be a temple prostitute. Looking deeper: when a man lies with a woman, it is penetrative sex. What the pagans did that so repulsed Moses was penetrative sex in the temples and out of them. You cannot add what is not here as much as some would like to. To a Jew, only coitus with a woman was acceptable, no oral, no anal, nothing when they were on their periods, nothing when they were uncircumcised, nothing other than coitus. If men were banned from sex other than the type they had with a woman, were they allowed to have oral sex? Was only anal sex an abomination? If were are going to be strict to the Word, then let’s do that. And what about women having sex with women? That is not addressed here. It was not acceptable to the Jews, but probably was known to the pagans. Women are just not mentioned.
Mixing different kinds of anything was forbidden, or detestable to a Jew (fabrics, seeds, animal species). Likewise mixing up roles was detestable. Men who took the submissive role (of a female) in sex were detestable. Is doing something detestable or abominable sinful and out-of-the-Kingdom worthy? If you have forgotten, please go review the list, put down your Torah and join me as we continue on.
“Toevah” is the Hebrew word. It means ritually unclean and is often used in association with idolatry. This makes sense in so much of the “don’t” list. Many of these actions and things had to do with behaviors that were not clean. The banned foods generally fed on dead things, the banned things were generally used in idol worship. The banned actions were performed while in worship in the temples.
If God wanted to call something “sin,” a wicked thing, an ethical wrong, a heinous crime, something lewd, there was a word that indeed communicate that. That word is “zimah” or “zimmah” and was used to describe prostitution and adultery. I have had this conversation enough to anticipate the next two questions: What about sex with children and sex with animals? Actually and sadly, however much is said about abuse of people, prostitution, offending children and causing them to sin, nothing is directly said about sex with children. I personally see the biggest warning in Matthew 18 when Jesus Himself says that a person is better off never having been born, or better off drowning, than to hurt a child or cause that child to fall away. On the subject of bestiality, it is mentioned outside the Books of the Law. In Exodus 22, anyone who has sex with an animal is to be put to death. In Genesis, Adam rejected all animals as a suitable partner. Jude 7 has a prohibition of going after “strange flesh.” And no, that is not homosexuality either. It would have said homoios flesh and not heteros flesh. (I believe there is an issue of sex with angels that was known in the OT too, but that is for another post.) MY GLBT brothers and sisters are asking for same-sex, mutually-attracted, committed relationships. I do not know one GLBT person that is desirous of marriage with a child or an animal; that is just smoke-blowing foolishness.
The final words to investigate are in Deuteronomy. They are translated “whore”, t”emple prostitute”, “sodomite”, “shrine prostitute.” They appear in Hebrew as “qadesh,” meaning a temple male prostitute and “qedeshah” meaning a female prostitute. Yet,they often have been translated as “homosexual” and “sodomite”. Sodomite should be written male temple prostitute because many of us will do mental gymnastics in our heads that look like this: “Sodom was destroyed because of homosexuality and we know God hates that, so He hates sodomites.” The word is qadesh, prostitute. Translators have inserted the translation “sodomite,” and they were indeed performing male anal sex, but they were doing it in the context of idol worship here. THAT is the issue. Prostitution in idol worship. Hopefully all readers know how God feels about idol worship. It is “zimmah,” sin. This is a freebie here–Jesus came through the line of a prostitute. How can that be? Well, Rahab was an ordinary street whore not involved in the temples. God would have NEVER allowed Jesus to come through a line of temple qedeshahs.
To bring it all back to a point to consider: we are all, all, all guilty of abominations, of detestable behavior, of actions worth the penalty of death in the Old and New Testaments. I see serving another god as sin, adultery as sin, knowing God once and turning from Him as sin, turning a child from God as worthy of death, and all this is without even glancing at the Ten Commandments.
If we are trying to be faithful to the Word of God and neither insert nor subtract anything on the subject of same sex behavior regarding these verses, they can be reduced to stating the following:
- Men are not to have anal sex with men as the pagans do,for it is unclean and ritually dirty.
- If a man has sex with a man, they are both to be put to death.
- No Jew should ever be a temple prostitute.
Can we agree that this is the summary? If we still want to abide by Laws given to Jews in the Books of the Law, then we have to abide by all of them. That means you are an abomination if you: put anything above God, do any action not in His name, cheat, lie, have an abortion, cause others stress or trouble them, lie about another person, cheat in business, have a relic around the house, remarry your ex, perform acts of injustice, have sex with a woman having her period or lend money with interest, amongst others things.)
And for those who really sin (deny God, do not go to church on Sunday, get to close to a church when you should not be , curse or hit your parents, lose your virginity before marriage or commit adultery), we will have to kill you along with gay men who have anal sex. We ‘re going to need to excuse the women here because they are not mentioned in these verses. (For investigation into Romans 1, read here.)
I don’t want these abomination/death controls and edicts on me. I prefer to extend grace to anyone so that these Laws are not held over me. I struggle to keep the two laws that Jesus said were the crux of it all: love God and keep Him first, and love others as I love myself.
Can we please stop laying unnecessary burdens on the backs of the GLBT community? Not only are we not lifting a finger to help, but we are also using that finger to point and condemn. These Books of the Law were intended for the Jews as they entered the Promised Land to keep them holy for the Savior’s bloodline’s sake. I think they are all dead now; can we just get to the business of what Jesus did ask us to do. Love others. Screaming “abomination” at a group is not love. Throwing a gay child out of the home is not love. Keeping 5% of the population from knowing Him and growing in love for Him is not love. Telling those that stand up against injustice that were are heretics is not love. People know what love looks like. It looks like accepting people for who they are and serving to them; it looks like kindness. That is love. I am getting better at extending it when I look to the One Who tells me He loves me and asks me to reflect Him. So, how are you doing? Still toting around the Torah meant for the Jews as they walked into the Promised Land? May I suggest you put it down so that you can use both hands to serve and love? Maybe part of the reason we are degrading as a world is not that we have not kept enough rules, but rather that we have not extended enough grace, we might actually impact our world for good, and it may end up feeling more like a Promised Land to all instead of a prison to some.
Blessings and peace to you, Kathy