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Old Testament Essays

versión On-line ISSN 2312-3621
versión impresa ISSN 1010-9919

Old testam. essays vol.23 no.3 Pretoria  2010


Why do readers believe Lot? Genesis 19 reconsidered1



Randall C. Bailey

Interdenominational Theological Centei Atlanta University of South Africa





The popular reading of the story of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah in Genesis 19 credits the destruction of the cities to rampant homosexuality. The basis of this reading is found in the ambiguous statement of the deity in Genesis 18:20 as to their "grave sin" and Lot's statement in 19:8 that the men of Sodom should sexually assault his daughters instead of the men. These two statements, grounded in patriarchy, heterosexism, ethnocentrism and theocentrism underpin the sanction to oppress same gender loving people with the "authority of holy hatred". This article will give an alternative reading to the narrative by concentrating on literary cues, often masked by translation choices, by characterizations of Lot and the deity, and by comparisons with other similar plot details. My contention is that the narrative can be read as a spy tale on the order of Joshua 2 and 2 Samuel 10. I also contend that the proposed use of the bodies of Lot's daughters follows other biblical narratives of men feeling threatened and who use women's bodies to protect themselves. Finally I argue that the translation choices of the commentators in presenting the narrative and discussing the passage ignore other options of translation and interpretation, thus, readers are kept bound to see this story as one about homosexuality instead of daughters being sexually abused. The latter possibility is so horrific that the anti-homosexual reading has been sustained by readers in order to not only exonerate the deity but also to support patriarchal, ethnocentric, theocentric and heterosexist privileges.



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Randall C. Bailey,
is the Andrew W
Mellon Professor of Hebrew Bible at Interdenominational Theological Centre, 700 Martin Luther King Jr
Dr. Atlanta
Georgia and was a guest lecturer at the Department of Old Testament and Ancient Near Eastern Studies Unisa



1 An earlier form of this article was presented at a Colloquium at UNISA on 9 February 2010.

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