The Prohibition of Homosexual Behavior

<<  Seven Commandments Contents 
By the Grace of G-d 
Copyright © 2011, 2016 Nathaniel Segal 

One of the Seven Noahide Commandments is to respect the family by not engaging in illicit sexual activity.

These illicit activities are adultery, incest, homosexuality, and bestiality.

Note how the Torah primarily regulates behavior.  Each of us entertains dark feelings and thoughts.  Life would be easier without any inclination to disobey G-d's Commandments.  G-d has, nevertheless, created us with interest in the "dark side," each of us differently though.  G-d then rewards us every time we resist temptation to cross the line to engage in forbidden activities.  He also rewards us for sincere regret over past misdeeds when we dedicate ourselves to refrain from repeating these misdeeds.

(I have heard that early psychiatrist Carl Jung [1875-1961] spoke of a "shadow side."  It may be that the phrase "dark side" only first appeared in George Lucas's film Star Wars.)

The Torah does not consider one man's feeling of love and affection for another man as the "dark side."  However, demonstrating such love sexually is forbidden.  We would be going over to the dark side, to the shadow elements, deep within the human personality.  Noah's Children must not engage in such sexual activity.

In the Torah's assessment of human nature, a man's erotic interest in another man is situational.  Given a man's sexual appetite and his limited opportunities for pleasure and satisfaction, some men engage sexually with another man.  Sometimes curiosity and experimenting are factors.  Beyond this, social homophobic obsession – judgment that homosexual interest is deviant – also tempts men to discover what the fuss is about.

Hebrew Scripture does not describe homosexual behavior as any more deviant than other forbidden relationships.  These prohibitions – some for Jews only – are outlined in the Book of Leviticus, Chapter 18.  In summary, Scripture teaches us "not to do any of these abominations" (verse 27).  All these abominations include adultery, incest, and bestiality – not just homosexuality.

Beyond this, the Hebrew Bible also calls false weights and measures "abominations" and "despicable."

You will not have one weight measure and another in your pocket [to use for the same standard].  You will not have one volume measure and another, one larger and one smaller, in your house [to use for the same standard].  You will [only] have an accurate and just weight measure;  you will [only] have an accurate and just volume measure.  [All this] is for the sake that you may live long on the land that the L-rd your G-d is giving you.  All who do these, all who act in falseness, are despised by the L-rd your G-d. (Deuteronomy 25:13-17)

The Hebrew language's word for "despised" is the same as "abomination."

In addition, the Hebrew Bible calls religious activities of the Canaanites abominations.  They did what G-d despises such as burning up their sons and daughters for the Canaanite gods.  G-d will eliminate the Canaanites because of their despicable behaviors, and G-d warns the Israelites:

Be careful to not be caught up after them [in what they do] (after He has eliminated them for you).  Perhaps you will [try to] consult their gods, asking [and saying], "How did these peoples serve their gods?  I myself, too, will do the same."  Don't do this to the L-rd your G-d, because they did every abomination for their gods that the L-rd hates.  They were burning [as offerings] both their sons and their daughters to their gods [for example]. (Deuteronomy 12:30-31)

Note the Hebrew's language of "abomination."

Furthermore, the Hebrew Bible considers eating certain animals by Jews as an abomination.

You are children of the L-rd your G-d . . .  Do not eat any abomination.  [But] this is the animal which you may eat . . .  However, these you will not eat . . . (Deuteronomy 14:1, 4-5))

Once again, the Bible uses the Hebrew word "abomination."

(Please note that eating these particular animals is only an offense against G-d's covenant with the Jewish people.  Non-Jews may eat these animals.  Both Jews and Gentiles, though, are forbidden from eating flesh that has been torn from any living animal.  This prohibition appears both in G-d's Covenant with the Jewish people as well as in His Covenant with the rest of humanity.)

I like to divide the word 'homosexuality' into two parts.  The 'homo' part is alright.  However, the 'sexuality' part is not alright if it's connected to the 'homo' – male – part of the word.

'Homo' - This part of the word means 'the same' – in this case one man's sexual activity with another male, "the same."

The English word 'heterosexual' refers to a 'hetero' form of sexuality.

'Hetero' - This part of the word means 'different' – in this case a man's sexual activity with a woman (and vice versa), who is "different" each from the other according to the Torah.

Not all heterosexual activity is permitted, though.  Some are abominations, too.