If David and Jonathan were gay, why were they not put to death?
by Robert Gonzalez
(Queens, New York, USA)
Jonathan and David
Thanks for such a great question about David and Jonathan. Today when people read the Bible, they tend to read into scripture their own view from the twenty first century, instead of thinking about the ancient context and what scripture meant to the people who first heard it.
So when people read Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13, where we are told that a man should not lie with a man, people assume it's talking about being gay. They further assume that God demands the death penalty for gays. Nothing could be further from the truth. Here are the verses people so often misinterpret because they ignore context.
"Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is abomination." -Leviticus 18:22
"If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them." -Leviticus 20:13
These verses should not be read as isolated texts. They were give in a context which helps us understand what they mean. To understand Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13, we need to look at the context to see if it's talking about homosexuality or if it's talking about something else.
What is the context?A. The historical context:
When we look at history in the ancient near east, we discover that the inhabitants of the land God called Canaan, what the Romans called Palestine and what we call Israel, worshiped false gods like Molech
and his fertility goddess consort Ashtoreth.
This worship consisted of shrine prostitutes,
men (and sometimes women) offering themselves sexually to men in an effort to get the false gods, Molech and Ashtoreth, to bless their fields, flocks and families with increase. This false worship of Molech and Ashtoreth is what Moses and God were talking about in Leviticus 17:7,
18:22 and 20:13.B. The religious context:
When we look at Leviticus, we find that chapter 18 is in the context of forbidding the worship of false gods. Scripture warns against worshiping false gods."After the doings of the land of Egypt, wherein ye dwelt, shall ye not do: and after the doings of the land of Canaan, whither I bring you, shall ye not do: neither shall ye walk in their ordinances... I am the LORD your God."
God says: Don't do like the heathen in Egypt where you came from and don't do like the heathen in Canaan, where you're going."And thou shalt not let any of thy seed pass through the fire to (Molech), neither shalt thou profane the name of thy God: I am the LORD."
Notice that God places the man with man prohibition in the context of Molech worship. God warns against worshiping Molech, whose fertility goddess consort was Ashtoreth. Ashtoreth worship involved same sex activity to provoke the gods to make their fields, flocks and families fertile."Defile not ye yourselves in any of these things: for in all these the nations are defiled which I cast out before you:"
-Leviticus 18:24"(For all these abominations have the men of the land done, which were before you, and the land is defiled;)"
God warns that following the customs of the heathen will get them cast out of the promised land, just like God cast out the heathen before them."Again, thou shalt say to the children of Israel, Whosoever he be of the children of Israel, or of the strangers that sojourn in Israel, that giveth any of his seed unto Molech; he shall surely be put to death: the people of the land shall stone him with stones."
-Leviticus 20:2"And I will set my face against that man, and will cut him off from among his people; because he hath given of his seed unto Molech, to defile my sanctuary, and to profane my holy name."
-Leviticus 20:3"And if the people of the land do any ways hide their eyes from the man, when he giveth of his seed unto Molech, and kill him not:"
-Leviticus 20:3"Then I will set my face against that man, and against his family, and will cut him off, and all that go a whoring after him, to commit whoredom with Molech, from among their people."
How many times does God have to mention Molech in the context of same sex activity, Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13, before people get the connection?"And ye shall not walk in the manners of the nation, which I cast out before you: for they committed all these things, and therefore I abhorred them."
-Leviticus 20:23"And ye shall be holy unto me: for I the LORD am holy, and have severed you from other people, that ye should be mine. "
God says: You Israelites are mine. You do not belong to the pagan gods of Canaan or the people who serve them. You are mine.
If David and Jonathan were gay,
why were they not put to death?
The death penalty in Leviticus 20:13 was NOT for being gay. It was for idolatry - using same sex activity to worship false gods. Remember that Satan worshipers use sex between opposite sex folks to worship Satan. Yet no one is dumb enough to suggest that all heterosex is sinful. Gay orientation or being in a gay marriage
are not the same as using sex to worship false gods. Things different are not equal.
Why did David call Jonathan
In opposite sex relationships in the Bible, a wife is sometimes referred to as a sister or a spouse, not meaning a biological sister but a sister in the sense of being a female, a spouse, a wife."Have we not power to lead about a sister, a wife, as well as other apostles, and as the brethren of the Lord, and Cephas?"
1 Corinthians 9:5, KJV"Thou hast ravished my heart, my sister, my spouse; thou hast ravished my heart with one of thine eyes, with one chain of thy neck."
Song of Solomon 4:9, KJV - see also Song 4:10, 4:12, 5:1, 5:2 "I am distressed for thee, my brother Jonathan: very pleasant hast thou been unto me: thy love to me was wonderful, passing the love of women."
2 Samuel 1:26, KJV
When David refers to Jonathan as his brother, he doesn't mean a biological brother. He is referring to Jonathan as his spouse, using the same kind of reference that a man would use in referring to a female spouse. David refers to Jonathan as his brother in the sense of being a male, a spouse, a husband. Jonathan was David's spouse.* * * Robert's Original Question:
"Not advocating the death of someone because they are gay; Jesus said "A new command I give you, love each other." A christian should love everybody because Christ loves us. But in that time in the old testament, the penalty for being gay was death. My question is: If David and Jonathan were Gay, why were they not put to death? Thank you for taking the time out to respond."
Helpful links to more information
How do you interpret Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13, man should not lay with man?
What is an abomination in the Bible?
Are lesbians treated the same as gays in the Bible?
Does Romans 1:26-27 condemn homosexuals?
Return to Gay Christian FAQ
From, If David and Jonathan were gay,
return to Gay Christian 101 Home
Giovanni Battista Cima da Conegliano's David and Jonathan, 1505-1510, from the National Gallery, London, is in the public domain.
This page revised November 14, 2014