They should be killed
If there is a man who lies with a male as those who lie with a woman, both of them have committed a detestable act; they shall surely be put to death. Their blood guiltiness is upon them.
NASB  Leviticus 20:13

They should be exiled
Asa did what was right in the sight of the LORD, like David his father. He also put away the male cult prostitutes from the land and removed all the idols which his fathers had made.
NASB  1 Kings 15:11-12
SAB Contradiction 221

Two Issues

This is a serious issue raised by the critic that has two important facets: 1) Resolving a possible contradiction, and: 2) Addressing the still relevant question: “How does the Bible deal with homosexuality?”

Resolving the contradiction

In the first place, we note that there are two different groups classified by the critic as one. Leviticus gives a clear description of homosexuality, but 1 Kings is speaking about “male cult prostitutes” (KJV: Sodomites). This is the translation of “haq’désjim”, “those who are consecrated to cult prostitute”. From several sources we know about temple prostitution in the Middle East.

Already Herodotus (c. 450 BC) wrote about this practice in Babylon: “Each native woman will have sexual intercourse with strangers at least once in her life in the sanctuary of Aphrodite,” (Histories I, 199). Also in Old-Canaan this was an inferior custom in many forms. The idea was that women were made fertile through prostitution with priests of Baal, or through sexual intercourse with ordinary men in Baal festivities. Descriptions of this phenomenon can be found in Numbers 25:1-2 and Hosea 4:10-14. Anyway the members of the second group (1 Kings) are heterosexual priests.

No Bible Contradiction

How Does the Bible Deal with Homosexuality; Death penalty?

The reaction of the reader may be: “OK, so the Bible teaches in Leviticus 20:13 that homosexuals should be killed. That must have been ordinary practice in biblical times.” This conclusion is incorrect. Why? In Israel there was no prosecutor. Everyone who had something damaged by someone else had to go to court himself and make a charge against the opposite party (Exodus 18:15-16, 22). Those who had a homosexual relationship would not make a charge. No charge, no case. So there was freedom in Israel for homosexuals, from the human point of view. Neither in Old-Israel, nor in later Judaism, has there ever been a tradition of executing homosexuals. In fact, there has not even been a tradition of oppressing them.

What about the harsh command in Leviticus 20:13?

First. It had certainly a practical impact. In court it gave at least a tool against rape and pedophilia.
Second. Of course this serious rule didn’t only have a social meaning, but also a spiritual. It gives the message that homosexuality is not God’s plan with human beings.

Let’s take two examples to make clear that the harsh judgements of death penalty in the Torah can only be understood properly in the context of practical jurisdiction in Old and New Testament times.


In 1 Kings we read the well known story of two women – harlots – standing before king Solomon with one living child. Each claimed to be the mother of the child. Solomon ordered to divide the child in two and to give each woman a part of it. It was so cruel that the real mother fell on her knees and begged for the life of the child saying: “Give it to her, but don’t kill it.” Solomon in turn said: “She is the mother, give it to her.” Solomon is praised as follows: “… they (the people) saw that the wisdom of God was in him to administer justice”.

Isn’t it strange that these women were not punished for their obscure profession? We would expect the death penalty for them when we read Deuteronomy 22:22-23, which discusses the judgement concerning men and women having extra-marital relations. At least we would expect them to be forbidden from entering into Solomon’s palace. We see nothing of that. As a judge, Solomon concentrated the judicial procedure of the charge.


In New Testament times, we see a comparable situation. Joseph, having discovered Mary being pregnant, decided to divorce instead of bringing her to court. According to Deuteronomy 22:23-24, he seemed to be obliged to bring her to court. On the contrary, he is qualified as a righteous man “and not wanting to disgrace her, planned to send her away secretly.” This example shows clearly that he made use of his right to abandon a claim or to accuse the other party. He even declined to ask a sum of money as a compensation for the shame, which was the usual way of acting at that time, that was accompanied with the threat of a charge (legal action) in case of a refusal to pay.