No one can seem to agree about Sodom and Gomorrah. They were only two of the 5 cities making up the Pentapolis (along with Zoar, Adama and Seboim) and all were destroyed in the accounting given in Genesis 19. Whether or not this destruction actually occurred (which is really irrelevant to the story) there is much disagreement over how nasty these people were and what nasty things that they were doing.
Sexual misconduct is the most popular suggestion, and at first glance the Bible would seem to back this up. A mob of men from Sodom came to Lot’s home, demanding that he turn his angelic guests over to them so they could get to ‘know’ them, ancient code for a gang rape. Some Bible versions translate the word ‘know’ as ‘meet’ but it is apparent from the later use of this word that these men are talking about violent sexual congress. This would support the suggestion that the major sin here was not homosexual behavior but rape, because forced sex of any kind is wrong.
It is this later use of the word ‘know’ which causes some people concern. When confronted with this angry and violent mob how does Lot go about protecting his house guests? He offers his own daughters in their place, even advertising the fact that they are virgins, as no one has yet ‘known’ them. (Genesis 19: 1-8. A similar story takes place in Judges 19: 20-29 )
Later (Genesis 19:30-38) Lot’s two daughters (his wife is now dead), worried that they will be childless, connive to have sex with their old man, getting him drunk on wine so that he isn’t aware of what’s happening (I doubt if that story would go over well today). They become impregnated and their children are the ancestors of some of Israel’s tribal enemies.
Peter calls Lot a righteous man (2 Peter 2:7) and if only considering his faith in leaving Ur with Abraham, then he most certainly was. His behavior later was less than uplifting, even before the mob incident. Yet even after he showed his willingness to give his daughters up to violence and degradation God’s angels helped him to avoid the fate of the five cities.
We struggle to this day trying to determine what activities the Bible speak against. Often the focus seems to be on issues of sexuality. When narrowly looked at, these accounts in Genesis could be taken to mean that God was punishing those cities for their homosexual behavior (although Ezekiel says that a lack of charity and compassion was their true crime). But since the Bible does not seem to condemn Lot’s behavior does that mean that he is somehow excused? Perhaps it was because these people were very primitive, walking a line between barbarity and civility, that it was just not worth commenting on. Lot is another example of how God can and does use despicable people to accomplish his aims. (Which gives me great hope)
So, if we can assume that the primary sins of Sodom and the other 4 cities were sexual in nature, allowing us to coin terms like ‘Sodomite’ and ‘Sodomy’, may I suggest another word or two? Try this one on for size; ‘Lotite‘ for anyone who might sacrifice their own children because of cowardice. Or perhaps ‘Lotian‘ to describe incestuous behavior brought on by drunkenness.