One of the most unsettling aspects of the Torah is its condemnation of homosexuality. Radio talker Dennis Prager who writes a lot about religion, obsesses about this problem and it has caused a lot of pain throughout history. The story of Sodom is often quoted to emphasize that the Lord hates homosexuality. Gay activists and like-minded fellows argue against it. They say the story was about guest rights. Both sides are wrong.
When Abram’s (later called Abraham) brother Lot moves to Sodom, the city was at war with the cities of Shinar, Ellasar, and Elam as well as with King Tidal who ruled over multiple peoples. On the side of Sodom fought Gomorra, Adma, Zebojim and Bela. In this war voices reached the Lord that complained, Sodom and Gomorra committed grave sins. He already decided to eradicate the cities on the basis of these claims – which most certainly had nothing to do with “guest rights.”
The Lord sent two angels to the city to check out how bad the situation was (I might add a general truism – almighty or all-seeing in the biblical context just means more than everybody else and not all all). Abram knew that his brother had moved there, assumed that he had made friends and asked the Lord to spare the city if he found only ten or more righteous people. The Lord agreed. The men who knocked on Lot’s door demanded to “see” the two angels (angels look like men throughout the Torah). They must have assumed that the strangers were spies. So “see” could very much mean “see” and not “bang.”
The Hebrew original (וְנֵדְעָ֖ה = see/know/have sex with) makes it hard to tell the difference, but the situation is obvious. Lot even offered to bribe the crowd with his two virgin daughters. The men were NOT interested in sex. They wanted to “see” the strangers.
The Bible knows another version of the story (Judges 19), which I believe is older. This time Lot is an elderly man who works in the field when an unknown man approaches him with his second wife and a donkey. The old man invites the group to stay with him over night. The men of the city Gibea ask to “see” the strangers. The old man offers his young daughter plus the second wife of his guest if they just left the stranger alone. Again, this is most likely to spare a visitor from interrogation and a potentially false conviction for spying activity.
This time, however, the guest grabs his second wife and throws her to the crowd. They immediately rape her to death. In the morning the stranger finds his wife dead, brings her corpse home, cuts her into twelve pieces and sends them to all corners of Israel. Then the Jews unite to burn Gibea to the ground. I believe this less mythical version is the original because the Lord usually punishes with military losses throughout the Bible. The Sodom story with angels and firestorm looks embellished and probably became the more popular version because of its mysterious, magical nature and the connection to more widely known characters.