God and Abraham part ways after negotiating Sodom’s fate. While God exits the scene, the two “men” who were with Him continue on to oversee the destruction of the wicked cities. There they honor Abraham by saving Lot and most of his family. In the confusion of both salvation and destruction, however, Lot’s character is exposed and his choices come back to haunt him in the worst way. Lot’s final appearance in Genesis is sad, sordid, and sobering.
Apparently the Lord leaves after discussing Sodom’s fate with Abraham. The two men who were with Him proceed to Sodom and in verse 1 they are identified specifically as angels. The angels come to Sodom (in the evening – possibly on the same day they left Abraham) and immediately run into Lot at the city gate.
The angels must look different or have an air that sets them apart, as Lot rises to meet them and then bows before them with his face to the ground. This is similar to how Abraham greeted them when they appeared before his tent (18:2). It is interesting that Lot is the one who sees them and greets them as presumably the city gate is busy with people coming and going (based on what subsequently happens this is clearly a sovereign act of God to make sure Lot sees them first).
Lot assumes they are just passing through and offers his house to them for the night and then assures them that they can continue on their journey in the morning. The angels at first turn him down and tell him they will spend the night in the city square. Lot urges them strongly to reconsider, and convinces them to take him up on his offer of lodging. Lot’s reaction to their wanting to spend the night in the square is the first clue that something is not right in Sodom.
Once the group is at his house, Lot – hard to know if the text means that he himself does this or he has someone else do it – prepares a feast for them. Included in the feast is unleavened bread, so apparently he makes the food in a hurry (it is already evening when they arrive, so there isn’t time to prepare a lavish feast as Abraham did).
Before the members of Lot’s household retire for the evening, the men of the city come and surround the house. The group is made up of young and old, all the people from every quarter of the city, so virtually all the men of Sodom stand outside Lot’s house (this is why God could be so confident with Abraham that there are not ten righteous men in the city). There is no way to know the number of men gathered, but regardless of the number it is likely a very scary situation for everyone inside.
The men call to Lot and ask him about the men who are with him. They apparently know there are visitors in the city (perhaps visitors to Sodom are rare because of the city’s reputation?) and they are staying with Lot. The men then tell Lot to have the men come out so that “we may have relations with them.”
Now it becomes clear why Lot did not want the angels to spend the night in the city square. Sodom is truly a dark and evil place. Almost every man in the city is outside of Lot’s house and each one’s sole purpose in being there is the chance to molest two men who are passing through.
It pays to consider what this means. The city is so morally bankrupt and given over to evil that the entire male population comes out for the chance at relations with new flesh. There are only two visitors, yet that is enough to bring everyone out (young and old). They are so consumed with lust that the cultural mandate for hospitality is completely overwhelmed by physical desire. And no one – other than Lot (as he is about to show) – finds what they are doing to be extraordinary. There is no one left in the city who finds this behavior abhorrent. They want to take turns with two men and see nothing odd or evil with their intentions. Were they ashamed because of the abomination they had done? They certainly were not ashamed, and they did not know how to blush (Jer 8:12). This is what it looks like when God gives people over to their lusts. This is what it means to be blinded by sin and to sin. Sin has such a hold on them that they no longer see it at all, and are so lost in it that it is the only world they know.
And just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God any longer, God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do those things which are not proper, being filled with all unrighteousness, wickedness, greed, evil; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, malice; they are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, arrogant, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, without understanding, untrustworthy, unloving, unmerciful; and although they know the ordinance of God, that those who practice such things are worthy of death, they not only do the same, but also give hearty approval to those who practice them (Rom 1:28-32).
Sodom demonstrates the power of sexual sin. Sin generally is dangerous because of its ability to deceive and blind, but adding sexual desire to it makes it exponentially more hazardous. We live in a culture dripping with sexual temptation, so as believers we must never lose sight of the danger inherent in it. The actions of the men of Sodom seem almost beyond belief, but it pays to remember that those actions are simply the end point of the same path of sexual sin that beckons us today. It is entirely possible to become so lost in lust and selfishness that surrounding a house and demanding that its guests come out to be raped is considered reasonable behavior.
Lot comes out of the house and closes the door behind him. He is likely embarrassed, scared, and horrified by the group and what they want. So he closes the door both to protect the men inside and perhaps to keep them from hearing the conversation.
Before going on, it is worth remembering the words of Peter in regard to Lot (we did a similar review in the notes on 14:12). Peter calls Lot righteous and says Lot is oppressed by the sensual conduct of unprincipled men (for by what he saw and heard that righteous man, while living among them, felt his righteous soul tormented day after day with their lawless deeds) – II Pet 2:7-8. Lot lives in Sodom but he is not as the men of Sodom are. He can still blush. He can still recognize evil. In the rest of the story Lot comes across as anything BUT righteous, but it is important to note that he appears to be the only man in the city who still understands what righteousness is (or perhaps isn’t). There are not ten righteous in Sodom, but there is apparently one who still at least has some familiarity with what that word means.
Lot pleads with the men gathered outside to not act wickedly. He even addresses them as brothers. He has lived in the city for some time and so likely both knows many of the men around his house and is known by them. Perhaps he was a captive (14:12) with some of them. He is presumably not surprised by their demand – since he knew better than to let the angels sleep in the square – but he knows how wicked it is and so tries to convince them to leave.
After asking them to refrain from wickedness he does something so detestable as to almost defy description or belief (verse 8 is where believing Peter’s description of Lot as righteous becomes very difficult). He says to the men, “Now behold, I have two daughters who have not had relations with man; please let me bring them out to you, and do to them whatever you like; only do nothing to these men, inasmuch as they have come under the shelter of my roof.” Lot has two daughters who we will find out are betrothed to be married. This means they are likely in their early-to-mid teens. They have not been married so they are virgins. And Lot offers them to the crowd to satisfy their lust in the hope that by doing so the mob will leave the visitors alone.
There is no way to sugarcoat Lot’s actions here. The best that could possibly be said is that perhaps he knows the men have no interest in women so his offer is safe. But if that were the case, then what is gained by offering them at all? It may also be that he panics, and so perhaps says something he doesn’t really mean. But he seems to be matter-of-fact with the offer. It rather appears that he is more concerned with saving face and fulfilling his responsibilities as a host (notice his closing statement about the men being under the shelter of my roof) than he is with the safety (and probably lives) of his daughters. He places the safety of the visitors he just met (albeit visitors who are very different and probably have an air of authority) over the safety and well-being of his daughters. And in so doing, he effectively offers up his daughters to be gang-raped.
The mob turns him down. The men tell him to stand aside. They then talk amongst themselves and grumble that Lot is not a native of Sodom and yet acts like a judge in telling them what they can and can’t do. After noting this, they start moving toward Lot – to the point that the door behind him begins to buckle – and tell him, “…now we will treat you worse than them” – apparently meaning they intend to sexually abuse Lot himself (this shows that their intentions toward the angels was never benign – they are not looking for friendship).
The angels inside now act. They reach outside and pull Lot in and shut the door behind him. With the press of the mob this cannot be easy – especially to do it without letting anyone in along with Lot. They then strike the members of the mob with blindness, such that they can no longer find the house (although, amazingly, they continue to try even after they can’t see). From here on, the angels take over and make no pretense as to who they are or what they are about.
The angels tell Lot to gather his family – sons, daughters, sons-in-law, etc. – and get out of the city. They are about to destroy the whole place because their outcry has become so great before the Lord that the Lord has sent us to destroy it. The outcry is what God referred to when He discussed Sodom with Abraham (18:20). It is likely the cry of the oppressed – and God has decided to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah because of it.
Lot goes to his sons-in-law – (the existence of sons-in-law means that while Lot is oppressed by the sin of the city, he’s still willing to allow his daughters to marry men who are counted among the unrighteous worthy of death – it also means the men of the city have apparently not rejected women entirely) – and urges them to leave with him, but they assume he is joking and ignore him. It is not hard to imagine their reaction. The thought that a divine being they don’t acknowledge is about to destroy their city when nothing is different than it has been any other day, is a little hard to swallow (It was the same as happened in the days of Lot: they were eating, they were drinking, they were buying, they were selling, they were planting, they were building; but on the day that Lot went out from Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven and destroyed them all – Lk 17:28-29). What is interesting to consider is the sons-in-law’s knowledge of what happened to the mob. Are they aware of the blindness? Would that understanding change their perspective on Lot’s warning? [It seems reasonable to assume the sons-in-law were not part of the mob, else Lot would not come to them immediately after the incident outside his house. But if this is the case, it means verse 4 does not mean that every single man in the city is in the mob – just that it represents all men, young and old, from every part of the city.]
The next morning the angels tell Lot to grab his family – his wife is mentioned for the first time – and get out of the city as quickly as possible. Lot hesitates, so the angels literally grab him and his daughters and his wife by the hands and lead them out (notice that nothing is said about possessions – there is no way they could take much with them and travel as quickly as the angels command – Lot likely loses most everything he owns in the city). Once outside the city, the angels tell him to flee for the mountains as everything in the valley will be destroyed. Lot seems to panic in response (Lot shows several times in this story that he’s not great in a crisis) and pleads for the permission to go to a small neighboring city as he apparently does not think they can make it to the mountains in time (even though he’s talking to the very beings who will determine the timing of everything).
The angels relent and allow him and the family to go to Zoar, a city that apparently otherwise would be destroyed. Interestingly, this development effectively fulfills Abraham’s plea to God that He not destroy the righteous with the wicked. Lot’s visit to Zoar saves it even though presumably it is filled with wicked men who deserve to be destroyed along with the men of Sodom.
The angels tell Lot to hurry as they cannot destroy the city until he is safely away (which – if Lot were thinking – would seem to reassure him that he won’t be destroyed even if he flees to the mountains as they originally urged him to). They also command him and his family to not look back once they leave Sodom.
Lot arrives in Zoar sometime after dawn. As soon as he reaches the city the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah and the other cities in the valley begins. God rains down brimstone and fire on the cities until everything in them is destroyed. Everything and everyone in the cities and in the valley around them is completely annihilated. The judgment is complete – nothing survives (just as in the flood – this is another picture of ultimate judgment – it is naïve to believe that God will not judge the wicked on the Great Day).
In the destruction of the valley it could be that Lot loses his flocks and herds. He has already left behind most everything he owned in the city. Now he potentially loses the rest. Remember that his herds are so big that he and Abraham can’t both live in Canaan. If he does in fact lose everything in the destruction of the cities the loss is enormous.
He loses more than wealth too. As they are either in Zoar or traveling to Zoar – the text isn’t clear – Lot’s wife looks back at Sodom in direct disobedience to the angel’s command. Remember that we conjectured that the reason Lot stayed in Sodom – even after being tormented day after day with the wickedness of its residents (per Peter) – is because he met his wife there. It could be that because it is her hometown that she struggles more than any in leaving it. Perhaps her family is still there. Regardless of the reason – and there is no way to know what it is – she looks back and immediately becomes a pillar of salt. This could mean that she becomes encased in what is coming down on Sodom – some molten mixture which includes salt that is in the air because of the proximity to the Dead Sea.
Abraham rises early on the morning after the destruction of the cities and looks down on the valley where they were. All that is there now is smoke rising like the smoke of a furnace. The text doesn’t say, but perhaps he somehow knows Lot is safe. The text does say that the reason Lot has been saved is because of Abraham – not Lot. God saved him because He remembered Abraham.
Lot does not stay in Zoar very long. After seeing the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah he perhaps is afraid to stay in any city in the valley (and the angels did say Zoar was originally marked for destruction). His nerves are likely shot from the events of the last few days. He takes his daughters and goes to the mountains – where the angels originally told him to flee.
Interestingly, he does not go to Abraham. It would seem that in his present circumstances it would be the logical place to go. He has no home and likely very few possessions – why not go to wealthy Uncle Abraham’s house? There is no way to know. But perhaps it is simply a case of remembering that the angels said it was safe in the mountains and safety is now all that matters.
The three of them go to the mountains and find a cave and then seemingly stay for some time. This does not appear to be for just one or two nights. Lot seems content to just stay in the safety of the mountains for a while. For Lot’s daughters, it could be that they begin to think this is what their lives will be like from here on – in a cave with their father and no one else for the rest of their lives.
At this point it is fair to assess the situation from the girls’ perspective. Their home city and everyone they knew and probably all extended family members are wiped out. The men they were betrothed to are dead. Their mother is dead (and they watched her horrible death). Possibly any wealth that would be used for a dowry is gone. Their father appears to have given up on life. And they apparently are not leaving this cave where they now live, and the only man around is dad.
With that in mind, the older of the two hatches a plan (it is interesting to consider whether or not they know about their father’s offer to the mob – it could be that as a result they hold no special allegiance to him). They will get their father drunk (apparently they were able to take some wine with them when they fled Sodom), and then take turns having relations with him and thereby become pregnant. By doing so they will preserve the family (note the reference to the age of Lot – they perhaps are concerned the last male of the family will soon be gone) and validate themselves through childbirth (this is a good indicator of just how important childbirth is in the culture and how difficult it would be for someone like Sarah who is barren). They will not live the rest of their lives in loneliness without husbands and family.
The oldest one goes first and the plan works. She lies with her father and he is so drunk he does not even realize it happens. The very next night the younger does the same, and again he does not know it. Both girls become pregnant (at which point it would presumably have to be explained to dad what happened) and both later give birth at likely the same time.
Because the girls and Lot are related to Abraham, they do not just give birth to sons. They actually give birth to nations. The older one has a son she names Moab (the name means “of his father” – she doesn’t exactly hide his origin) who becomes the father of the Moabites (an enemy people of Israel throughout most of history, although also the nationality of Ruth who becomes the great grandmother of David). The younger has a son she names Ben-ammi (which means “son of my people” – also a strong clue as to his origins) who becomes the father of the Ammonites (another historical enemy of Israel).
And this is how the story of Lot ends – the last mention of him in Genesis. He started out as the nephew of Abraham who became very wealthy as a result of his association with God’s chosen servant. He ends up drunk in a cave with no possessions having incestuous relations with his daughters. While there was no sin in choosing to travel east for better pasture lands when he and Abraham separated (13:10), his choice to move into Sodom and become integrated into its culture paid horrendous dividends. And though God effectively gave him a chance to start over after the kings of the east took him and all his possessions and Abraham rescued him (14:16), he still moved back and resettled and stayed in a place he knew to be abhorrently wicked. As a result he lost everything, and even beyond that, now lives the rest of his life with grandsons/sons being living and breathing reminders of his sinful choices.
For they sow the wind, and they reap the whirlwind.
Do not enter the path of the wicked
And do not proceed in the way of evil men.
Avoid it, do not pass by it;
Turn away from it and pass on.
For they cannot sleep unless they do evil;
And they are robbed of sleep unless they make someone stumble.
For they eat the bread of wickedness
And drink the wine of violence.
But the path of the righteous is like the light of dawn,
That shines brighter and brighter until the full day.
The way of the wicked is like darkness;
They do not know over what they stumble.
2 thoughts on “Genesis 19”
I don’t understand why Lot’s wife suffers the fate she does
I think it’s simply that she violates a direct command of God. The angels don’t want anyone in the family to look back longingly on what’s targeted for God’s wrath. It could be that she shows her reluctance to leave by looking back. It’s hard to know exactly beyond that – but it makes sense that her disobedience shows her heart.