The Bible and Homosexuality
by Curt Wildy
Introduction to Part Three
I strongly encourage everyone reading to start with part one; failure to do so will give an incorrect picture of the intent of this series and the rationale behind the arguments. The purpose of this discourse is to refute arguments made in certain churches to support a set of behaviour that God condemns in His word. This series is not designed to hurt, put people down, esteem ourselves over others, etc. It is one sinner (albeit a sinner saved by grace) warning other sinners about their sin. Although it is not my own sin, I do not think that those who engage in the activity described in this series is any more sinful than anyone else. We are all intrinsically, inherently, sinful; all to the same degree by nature. We all have the one wicked heart of man, even if God has ordained that some manifest their sinfulness more than others. Nonetheless, as with so many of my other posts, I aim to refute the errors put forth by those who claim to be part of the Christian church and who mislead and offer false refuges to people.
Homosexuality – Leviticus 18 & 20
In this part, I aim to get to the heart of the matter. In the midst of prohibiting incest, menstrual intercourse, adultery, child-sacrifice, and bestiality, God forbids homosexuality as well… or does He? There are those who maintain that it isn’t committed homosexual relationships that God deems to be an abomination, but only certain instances of same-sex intercourse, and that, only in a ritualistic sense. Consider the language of Leviticus 18:22 and Leviticus 20:13 (the words of which will contain their corresponding Strong’s Concordance numbers):
Leviticus 18:22: Thou shalt not lie (8799) with mankind <H2145>, as with womankind: it is abomination.”
Leviticus 20:13 If a man also lie (8799) with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed(8804) an abomination: they shall surely(8800) be put to death(8714); their blood shall be upon them.
One common argument suggests that these two passages do not pertain to all homosexual activity, but merely address where male same-sex intercourse is allowed. Sites such as http://www.religioustolerance.org/hom_bibh.htm support this “limited prohibition” view. Proponents maintain that male same-sex intercourse cannot be performed in a woman’s bed <04904>, because that location is, as they put it, sacrosanct. They argue that “only the woman, and under certain circumstances a man, may occupy it. Otherwise, a serious defilement would result.” However, they argue that outside of the woman’s bed, such activity is not prohibited.
These individuals believe that the passages at issue, if literally interpreted, should read something like “Two men must not engage in sexual activity on a woman’s bed; it is ritually unclean.” They argue that the passages do not morally condemn male same-sex intercourse on a woman’s bed, but that the passages only deem it to be ritually unclean, “like coming near a dead body, or eating shellfish, or getting a tattoo.” Simply put, they are wrong and I aim to prove them wrong in the paragraphs to come.
First, I would like to look at the meaning of the key words at issue. Once again, I will start with:
Leviticus 18:22: Thou shalt not lie <07901> (8799) with mankind <02145>, as with <04904> womankind <0802>: it is abomination <08441>.
Shakab [ (8799)], the Hebrew word that was translated lie in this verse was translated as lie in the Bible 105 other times; sleep 48 times; lie down 43 times; rest three times; and lien twice. The context makes it clear that sexual intercourse is in view. If anyone doubts that this word is, among other things, used to denote sexual intercourse, one would only need to review the following passages (but a small sampling):
Genesis 19:32 Come, let us make our father drink wine, and we will lie <07901> with him, that we may preserve seed of our father. Genesis 19:33 And they made their father drink wine that night: and the firstborn went in, and lay <07901> with her father; and he perceived not when she lay down <07901>, nor when she arose. 34 And it came to pass on the morrow, that the firstborn said unto the younger, Behold, I lay <07901> yesternight with my father: let us make him drink wine this night also; and go thou in, and lie <07901> with him, that we may preserve seed of our father. 35 And they made their father drink wine that night also: and the younger arose, and lay <07901> with him; and he perceived not when she lay down <07901>, nor when she arose.
Genesis 34:2 And when Shechem the son of Hamor the Hivite, prince of the country, saw her, he took her, and lay <07901> with her, and defiled her…7 And the sons of Jacob came out of the field when they heard it: and the men were grieved, and they were very wroth, because he had wrought folly in Israel in lying <07901> with Jacob’s daughter; which thing ought not to be done.
Zakar (H2145), the Hebrew word that was translated as mankind in this verse was translated as male in the Bible 66 other times; man seven times; child four times; mankind twice; and him once. The word literally means male (of humans and animals) as is clear from the context of Scripture.
Mishkab (H4904), the Hebrew word translated as with in Leviticus 18:22 and lieth in Leviticus 20:13 was translated as bed in the Bible 34 times; bedchamber 4 times; couch once; and as five other miscellaneous words seven times.
Now it is true that Mishkab is used many times where the actual bed or sleeping apparatus is in view. However, it is never used in this way in those verses pertaining to sexual activity. Whenever the sexual act is in view, Mishkab always refers to the act itself and not to the sleeping apparatus, the location, or to the ritual or ceremonial importance of the location of the activity. Consider the following verses:
Genesis 49:3 Reuben, thou art my firstborn, my might, and the beginning of my strength, the excellency of dignity, and the excellency of power: 4 Unstable as water, thou shalt not excel; because thou wentest up to thy father’s bed <04904>; then defiledst thou it: he went up to my couch.
Which relates to the following verse:
Genesis 35:22 And it came to pass, when Israel dwelt in that land, that Reuben went and lay with Bilhah his father’s concubine: and Israel heard it. Now the sons of Jacob were twelve:
As is clear from these two verses and all such verses related to sexual activity, to go into the bed means to have sexual intercourse with whomever is in the bed. Reuben slept with his father’s concubine which is typified by going up to his father’s bed. Where he slept with the concubine is utterly unimportant, the fact that he slept with her is what is important. In fact, he may not have even slept in the actual bed of his father – it may be an idiom, a figure of speech. Consider:
Numbers 31:17-18 “Now therefore kill every male among the little ones, and kill every woman that hath known man by lying with him. 18 But all the women children, that have not known a man by lying <04904> with him, keep alive for yourselves.”
It’s clear from this passage that the bed isn’t what is at issue; Mishkab does not have any ritual meaning in this context. Clearly the word has to do with sexual intercourse and not with where that sexual intercourse was performed. The issue was that all non-virgins were to be killed. It’s not just women who had sexual intercourse with men on their beds, but women that had sexual intercourse with men in general. Consider:
Judges 21:11 And this is the thing that ye shall do, Ye shall utterly destroy every male, and every woman that hath lain <04904> by man. 12 And they found among the inhabitants of Jabeshgilead four hundred young virgins, that had known no man by lying <04904> with any male: and they brought them unto the camp to Shiloh, which is in the land of Canaan.
Again, it is the same idea. It is not the bed that is at issue, or where the sex at took place. The issue is the actual act of sexual intercourse. This point cannot be stressed enough since it goes to the heart of one of the key arguments homosexuals (and their defenders) make. It is important that you check everything out for yourself. At the end of this study, in Appendix II, I have included all of the verses in the Bible where Mishkab <04904> can be found. Please review the context for yourself with Bible in hand; I am confident that you will find that Mishkab, in conjunction with a sexual context, always means the sex act (or, as in one case, sin typified by the sex act).
Ishshah (H802), the Hebrew word translated as womankind in Leviticus 18:22 and woman in Leviticus 20:13 was translated as wife in the Bible 425 times, woman 323 times, one 10 times, married 5 times, female twice, and as other miscellaneous words several times. The literal meaning encompasses the terms woman, wife, and female as is clear from the Biblical context.
Ritual Abomination vs. Moral Abomination
Tow‘ebah (H8441), the Hebrew word translated as abomination in both chapters was translated as abomination in the Bible 111 other times; abominable thing twice; and abominable twice. An abomination is anything that generates the wrath, hatred, and disgust of God. Depending on the context, some argue that a distinction can be made between ritual abomination (e.g., unclean food, tattoos, etc.) and ethical abominations (as in a proud look, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, hearts that deviseth wicked imaginations, feet that are swift in running to mischief, false witnesses, and soweth discord among brethren – Proverbs 6:17). Many would like to downplay just how powerful a word this is; if you read all of the verses in which this Hebrew word is found, you will see that anything that is an abomination is hated and abhorred by God… period.
Nonetheless, an important goal should be to determine which category these sexual sins fall under. In so doing, we should note that this word Tow’ebah comes from the Hebrew word ‘ta‘ab’ (Strong #H8581). This root word literally means to abhor, be abominable, or to do abominably. It is clear from the very meaning of the words at issue that whether we are discussing ‘ritual’ or ‘moral’ abomination – God hates, abhors, and detests them both.
Can we tell from Leviticus 18 and 20 whether these sexual sins should be deemed ethical abominations or ritual abominations? I strongly believe we can. We can tell primarily by way of the context of both passages. First, we must ascertain if the sin at issue in these two passages is the sin of homosexuality in-and-of itself, or if it is just the sin of committing homosexual acts on the woman’s (wife’s) bed. As stated above, and as Appendix II will show, the word for lieth and bed must be interpreted as relating to the actual sex act and not just the location. Why do I say must? Because proper biblical exegesis maintains that we use the Bible to interpret the Bible. We must compare scripture with scripture.
Therefore, if we can clearly ascertain from similar passages the use of a particular word, we should not attempt to go against the grain so-as-to fit a preconceived notion or point of view. Leviticus 18 and 20, when it comes to the issue of homosexual activity, condemn the act not the location.
If, in particular, the sexual act itself is condemned and not just the location, then we must look at the overall context of the two chapters to see if homosexuality merely falls under the ritual abomination category or if it falls under the category of moral or ethical abomination. Some may argue that sexual intercourse during menstruation does not reach the level of ethical or moral abomination, but clearly adultery, incest, child sacrifice, and bestiality, reach that level. I would maintain that given the unsanitary nature of copulation during the menstrual flow, and the possible spread of disease that ensues, it is a moral issue.
So if we have all, or even just almost all, of the acts of sexual misconduct listed as being issues of ethics and morality (as opposed to being ritual issues), then it is safe to say that homosexuality falls in with the rest. The grouping is clear. In the same breath that God deals with incest, child-sacrifice, adultery, unsanitary sex, and bestiality, God also talks about the actual act of homosexual sex. These abominable acts cannot take place under any Godly sanction; nor is God neutral on the subject. The act of homosexuality in Leviticus 18 & 20 is clear and settled. God finds the act to be ungodly, yea even an abomination.
Unmentioned sexual liaisons
Also, notice something that is glaringly obvious; in Leviticus chapters 18 & 20, God never even mentions the following possible types of sexual union:
|§ Mother and Daughter
§ Step-mother and Step-daughter
§ Aunts & Nieces by blood
§ Aunts & Nieces by marriage
§ Mother-in-law and Daughter-in-law
§ Brother-in-law with Brother-in-law
|§ Father and Son
§ Step-father and Step-son
§ Uncles & Nephews by blood
§ Uncles & Nephews by marriage
§ Father-in-law and Son-in-law
§ Sister-in-law with Sister-in-law
|Likewise, God never directly mentions the following prohibitions:§ Any man and another man’s son or grandson
§ Any man and another man’s brother
§ Any woman and another woman’s sister
§ Any woman and another woman’s daughter or grand-daughter
God did not expressly delineate all of the possible combinations of prohibited male-on-male incestuous relations because He had already clearly banned all forms of male-on-male sexual relationships in the same chapter. Would anyone argue that it is wrong for a man to take his granddaughter but not his grandson? How revolting even the thought! Would anyone dare say that a mother-in-law is forbidden to lie with her son-in-law, but free to lie with her daughter-in-law? It is a shame to even have to speak on such matters.
Homosexuality – The Qadesh Issue
In the AV/KJV version, the Hebrew word Qadesh (Strong #H6945) is normally translated sodomite (in the sole exception, it was translated as unclean). The word literally means male temple prostitute. Let’s look at the verses at issue:
Deuteronomy 23:17 There shall be no whore of the daughters of Israel, nor a sodomite of the sons of Israel.
1 Kings 14:24 And there were also sodomites in the land: and they did according to all the abominations of the nations which the LORD cast out before the children of Israel.
1 Kings 15:11 And Asa did [that which was] right in the eyes of the LORD, as [did] David his father. 12 And he took away the sodomites out of the land, and removed all the idols that his fathers had made.
1 Kings 22:46 And the remnant of the sodomites, which remained in the days of his father Asa, he took out of the land.
2 Kings 23:7 And he brake down the houses of the sodomites, that were by the house of the LORD, where the women wove hangings for the grove.
Many argue that the Bible does not speak out against male same-sex intercourse, but rather only male-on-male temple prostitute sex. Said another way, the argument goes that male-on-male sex with a male prostitute is wrong, but male-on-male sex in-and-of itself is okay, especially in a “loving, committed relationship.”
At first it may seem hard to counter this argument given that the word Qadesh literally means male temple prostitute. However, proper biblical exegesis requires us to compare scripture with scripture. We have already seen that:
In light of all of the relevant passages, chapters 18 & 20 of Leviticus outright prohibits male-on-male sexual relations. It clearly does not, as some would claim, merely regulate the location of male-on-male sexual activity.
The nature of the surrounding text in chapters 18 & 20 of Leviticus strongly implies that homosexual activity is not merely ritually abominable in the eyes of God, but that it is morally and ethically abominable as well. In the same two passages, Homosexuality is grouped in with adultery, bestiality, unsanitary sex, incest and child-sacrifice. There is no basis to suggest that homosexuality is not likewise looked upon by God as being immoral when we take into account the fact that all of the above-mentioned forms of sexual immorality are listed alongside it.
God does not even bother to lay out the possible combinations of incestuous homosexual relations as He did with incestuous heterosexual relations because it was clearly understood that all homosexual relationships were prohibited.
With these factors in mind, let us consider the issue of the word Qadesh. We know that it literally derives from a verb meaning to consecrate and refers to male temple prostitutes who were “consecrated” for their false deities just as Qedesha literally refers female temple prostitutes “consecrated” for the same purpose. The question at hand is whether the biblical meaning is limited to temple prostitutes only? Before we address this, we need to consider why God would be against such prostitutes in the first place. I believe that there are three primary reasons why God speaks out against them:
First, the temple at issue clearly was not the Temple of God. These were temples dedicated to false gods and these false consecrated ones were as wicked as the false preachers and prophets that were in the land. By mixing carnal pleasure with their false religion, they were making false worship all the more enticing. They were trying to entice the Israelites to worship and serve false goddesses like Ashtoreth/Astarte.
Secondly, these temple prostitutes undoubtedly helped to spread disease, licentiousness, and other forms of mayhem throughout the land. We can see this with prostitution in our day.
Finally, concerning the Qadesh, these male temple prostitutes were performing acts expressly forbidden in Leviticus 18 and 20. These male prostitutes were lying with men as a heterosexual man would lie with a woman; they were committing the very sin that God calls an abomination in these two chapters.
Returning to the question of whether only literal temple prostitutes are in view, or whether all homosexuals are in view, please note that men inclined to the homosexual lifestyle would likely flock to this profession due to the fact that they 1) would likely have been ostracized or killed by those favouring the Old Testament law; 2) were often considered holy by the heathen masses (thus giving them a sense of legitimacy and respectability); 3) were probably well paid or taken care of by the temple leaders; and 4) their lives were probably full of drinking, revelry, and all sorts of worldly pleasures as can be seen in the lives of prostitutes and the highly promiscuous heterosexuals and homosexuals in our day. Moreover, in the relatively small world of ancient Israelite society, there probably weren’t that many open homosexuals around. Given that the death penalty was in effect under the Levitical law, homosexuals probably did not make their sexual orientation known to the general public outside of temple settings (at least not in areas wherein the godly dwelled). Even in the worst days of Israel, they likely did not have to deal with actual gay marriage, gay adoption, etc.
Note also that there was no separate Hebrew word for someone that practiced homosexuality, so they used the word associated with those who acted as male temple prostitutes. Just as a promiscuous woman in our day is sometimes called a whore, or harlot, regardless of whether or not she actually takes money for her sexual acts, gay men were called Qadesh in Hebrew society for lack of another word… technically. It turns out there was another word for them. In the Hebrew, the word keleb also applied to male prostitutes (and dancers); keleb literally means dog. Am I advocating that we go around wantonly calling people dogs in our day? No, but I am advocating that we teach and proclaim what the word of God declares.
Regarding women, the Hebrew word Zanah (Strong’s #H2181) applied to female cult prostitutes as well as to women that were not engaged in prostitution at all but were sexually promiscuous nonetheless. To support their claims that God is only against homosexual prostitutes and not against homosexuals in general, some point to Deuteronomy 23:17 which states “There shall be no whore (Qedesha) of the daughters of Israel, nor a sodomite (Qadesh) of the sons of Israel.”
Since Qedesha is used here concerning the women, and not the more common Zanah, some people surmise that it must be talking about literal female temple prostitutes and not about loose women in general. They reason that since Qadesh is used in the same sentence, then it must mean literal male temple prostitutes and not homosexual men in general. Even if this is the case, consider again that those who wished to live such a lifestyle (male or female) would be drawn to this occupation. Why become a freelance prostitute, male or female, when you could be a temple prostitute with all of the secular pay, comfort, and “legitimacy” that comes with it? There may not have been too many Zanahs at the time, they may have all become Qedeshas.
Consider also that the use of Qedesha, instead of Zanah, may have simply been to yoke Qedesha and Qadesh together. Whereas Qedesha had Zanah as a synonym, there was no similar synonym for Qadesh (other than using the colloquial “dog” to describe them).
We must remember that the Qadesh were already partaking in behaviour clearly condemned in Leviticus. One could argue all day that a Qadesh should only be considered a male temple prostitute but the point would be moot given that whether they were a prostitute or not, anyone who engaged in homosexual sex had violated the Mosaic/Levitical law and would have been subject to death. Now if anyone would feel better using the term “male temple prostitute” over “sodomite” or “homosexual,” that is their choice. However, we must remember that the male temple prostitute was still acting as a homosexual would, and vice versa, and thus the whole lot of them were subject to death. My problem with the “temple prostitute only” argument is that it is deceiving. It may lead some to believe that homosexuality is fine so long as they are not prostitutes in general, or a temple prostitutes in particular. This argument can be the excuse people use to never look more deeply into the matter. Leviticus 18 and 20 are clear, no one should be misled.
Despite my arguments above, I stress again that homosexuals are sinners like us all. We are not to seek their physical harm, but rather we should witness to them and sound the alarm as God enables. We should not deem them “greater” sinners than ourselves, intrinsically-speaking, because we all fall short of the glory of God by nature. We all need a saviour and we are all filthy in-and-of ourselves. So I write this warning not to “pick on them” but to urge them to disregard the indoctrination of this wicked world and the wicked within the churches that would erect for them false refuges. No matter what modern society may say or teach, homosexuality is filthy in the sight of God (as is all sexual sin, heterosexual ones included) and they must repent. Yet every Christian knows that like faith, repentance is the gift of God, and cannot be mustered by man. Rather than thinking ill thoughts, we as Christians ought to pray that all of God’s elect amongst them will be set free by the Person and work of Christ (knowing and trusting that this will indeed come to pass).
1 Corinthians 6:9-10 states “Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, 10 Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God;” yet verse 11 goes on to state “And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.” God saves His people from all sin and grants them faith, love, repentance, and obedience towards Him. To God the Saviour and King be the glory.
Lord willing, in Part Four, we will look at the arguments pertaining to Sodom and Gomorrah.
To God be the glory.
Continue to Part Four