Genesis 19

The Word Made Fresh

1As the sun was setting, the two angels arrived at Sodom. Lot was sitting at the gate and when he saw them, he stood to greet them, then bowed down to them. 2“Please, my lords,” he said, “I am at your service. Come to my house and stay the night. Wash your feet, then you can get up early tomorrow and be on your way.”

“We’ll stay in the square tonight,” they said.

3But Lot insisted, so they followed him to his house. He prepared a meal for them and baked unleavened bread. They ate what Lot had prepared, 4but before they bedded down for the night, every Sodomite man, old and young, gathered around the house. 5They called out to Lot, “Where are the men you took in tonight? Bring them out to us so we can have our sexual initiation part with them.”

6Lot went out to confront them, closing the door behind him. 7“Listen, neighbors,” he said, “don’t abuse my guests. 8Look, I have two virgin daughters; I’ll bring them out to you, and you can do whatever you please with them. But don’t embarrass these men. They are my guests, and I have offered them shelter.”

9But they ordered him to get out of the way. They said, “This foreigner wants to tell us what to do! We’ll have you first, then we’ll get to them!” They pushed Lot back and tried to break the door down, 10but the men inside reached out and grabbed Lot and pulled him back into the house and shut the door. 11Then they struck blind all the men, big and small, who were at Lot’s door, and they were not able then to find the doorway.

12They said to Lot, “Do you have anyone else here in the city – sons-in-law, sons, other daughters, anyone else? Find them and bring them out of here. 13We are going to destroy this whole area because the charges against the people here have become so loud that the LORD has sent us to destroy it.”

14So Lot went out and found the two men who were engaged to his daughters and said, “Get up and get out of here. The LORD is about to destroy this place!” But they thought he was joking with them.

15Not long before sunrise the next morning, the angels became urgent. “Get up! Take you wife and your daughters and get out of here or you’ll be destroyed along with everyone else around here!” 16But Lot was dragging his feet, so they grabbed him and his wife and daughters by the hand because the LORD had mercy on them, and they hurried them to the gate and led them out of the city. 17Once they were outside, they said, “Run for your life! Don’t look back! Don’t stop anywhere in the valley but run to the hills or you’ll be caught up in the destruction!”

But Lot pleaded with them, “No, my lords! You have rescued me and saved my life and I am in your debt, but I cannot run to the hills. The disaster will surely overtake me, and I’ll die. 20Look, that city over there is close enough to reach. It’s just a little town. Let me run there. It’s just a little one, isn’t it? Let me run there and my life will be saved.”

21The angel said, “Okay. I’ll let you go there and that town you’re talking about will not be destroyed. 22But hurry! Run! I’ll hold off until you get there!” (The city was called Zoar, ‘Little.’) 23The sun was already up when Lot made it to Zoar.

24Then the LORD rained sulfur blazing with fire down on Sodom and Gomorrah 25and destroyed those cities and everything else on the plain, including all the people and whatever was growing on the ground. 26But Lot’s wife, following behind him, looked back and was turned into a pillar of salt.

27Meanwhile, Abraham had risen early and gone to the place where he had confronted the LORD. 28He looked down at the valley toward Sodom and Gomorrah and saw the smoke rising, as from a huge furnace. 29So, God remembered Abraham, and when the cities in the valley were destroyed God sent Lot out of the danger zone.

30Soon Lot left Zoar and moved on to the hills with his daughters. He was afraid to stay in Zoar so he lived in a cave with his two girls. 31The older daughter said to the younger, “Our father is an old man, but there aren’t any other men around who can give us children. 32Let’s get our father drunk and have sex with him. That way we can carry on our father’s line.”

33So they got their father drunk with wine that very night, and the oldest daughter went in to him and had intercourse with him, and he never knew when she lay down or when she left.

34The next day she said to her younger sister, “I had sex with him last night. Let’s get him drunk again tonight and it’ll be your turn. You have sex with him and we’ll give our father children.” 35And they did just that. They got him drunk, and the younger daughter had sex with him, and he was unaware of what she was doing. 36So both of Lot’s daughters got pregnant by their father. 37The older daughter had a son, and named him Moab, and he became the ancestor of all the Moabites living today.  38The younger daughter also had a son. She named him Ben-ammi; he is the ancestor of the Ammonites living today.

Commentary

1-11: We have been in Sodom before; in chapter 14 we read of the capture of Lot. King Bera of Sodom seems to have been a leader of those who rebelled against King Chedorlaomer and was the first one to meet Abraham when he returned with their belongings. Abraham treated him with extraordinary deference, refusing to keep for himself any reward. It is interesting, however, that on that occasion the king of Sodom offered to let Abram (as he was called then) keep all the spoils; he only wanted to take back the people. Were they slaves or victims of a wicked society?

Now we enter Sodom again with the two angels. Lot, whom Abraham rescued from Chedorlaomer, is sitting at the gate and extends to them the hospitality any stranger hopes to receive. But they at first refuse, preferring to stay in the square, perhaps to see what goes on in the city from which God has heard such an outcry.

Lot persuades them to come with him, and soon the men of the city gather to demand that the two angels be brought out to them. Lot himself is a resident alien in Sodom, and probably not trusted by the townspeople. Their proposed treatment of the two visitors, however, is presented as evidence of the outcry against the city. Sexual abuse has always been a way, albeit perverted, of humiliating an enemy. It seems the men of Sodom were in the habit of forcing innocent male travelers to engage in homosexual orgies.

We have to expect that Lot knew something about the city’s morality (we may even wonder about his own initiation into such a society), but his offer of his own daughters is beyond defending and suggests to us that the city’s immorality is rubbing off on him. The men of the city take his offer as an insult, and begin to threaten Lot, and the angels take matters into their own hands and pull Lot to safety and strike the mob with blindness. They wander away.

12-14: Lot is invited to bring his daughters’ fiancés to safety, but they refuse. They think he is joking with them.

15-23: At dawn, the men urge Lot to leave. He hesitates, and once again they grab hold of him and compel him to move. They tell him to flee to the hills, but he begs to go to a nearby town, Zoar, and they relent. At this point, notice that the “they” becomes “he.” We are not told why the other “angel” does not seem to be present for this exchange.

24-26: While Lot and his family flee across the valley floor, fire and brimstone begin to rain down on Sodom and the surrounding area in a scene that reads like a volcanic eruption, or perhaps a meteor strike. Lot’s wife is behind him (which again isn’t very complimentary of Lot, but probably simply reflects the customs of the day). She looks back and is turned into a pillar of salt. Indeed, that whole area became known as the Salt Sea (and Dead Sea) Valley and is heavy with mineral deposits, many of which look like they could have been salt statues eroded by centuries of exposure to the elements.

27-29: Abraham arises the next morning and witnesses the destruction that has taken place in the early dawn. Lot, we are told, is saved as a favor to Abraham.

30-38: Unwilling for whatever reason to stay in Zoar, Lot takes his daughters up into the hills and they settle in a cave. The first recorded case of incest is then reported as the two girls, convinced their father will never take them back to civilization, in turn get him drunk and have sex with him and become pregnant. The story is a slur against the Moabites and Ammonites, two historical enemies of Israel, who descend from Lot and his daughters.

Takeaway

God brings destruction on a small area of the earth because of the sinfulness found there. God has promised not to destroy the earth again as he did with the flood in chapters 6-8, but God is certainly capable of and willing to send destruction on a smaller scale.