In Chapter 18, we were told of three men who spoke in unison and were called “Lord.” These three men were heading towards Sodom to see if it was worthy of destruction. We’re now told that “the two angels came to Sodom” (Gen. 19:1). So God(s) has turned into angels, and three have become two. No word on what happened.
So these two angels get to Sodom and find Lot hanging out by the gates of the city. No word on why he would just be sitting at the city gates. He’s just there because it’s important that he be the one to meet the angels first. Plot critical, and all that.
Like Abraham, Lot plays the good host and invites the angels to spend the night with him. They resist, saying that they would prefer to spend the night in the street, but Lot manages to convince him that his house is a bit better than the street.
What’s for dinner? Rape.
Once the angels are in Lot’s house, every man (young and old) comes to Lot’s house and asks him to produce his two guests so that they can have sex with them. This passage is traditionally interpreted to be about rape, but I think the citizens of Sodom are just really friendly.
In any case, Lot takes his duties as a host a little too seriously and offers his virgin daughters for the crowd to rape. That’s right, his daughters. Not himself – the only person he has any real authority to give to someone for sex. No, his daughters. I’m sure they’re real happy to have a dad like that.
Luckily for the girls, the crowd wants none of this. They’ve already decided to have some angel-butt and no substitutes will suffice.
Lot is spared
The crowd presses in on Lot, but the angels grab him and pull him back into the house. Once in safety, they explain to him that they are here to destroy the city (but first, they blind all the men outside – not to worry, though. They won’t have to spend much time blind).
Lot tells his sons-in-law – not yet wed, they “were to marry his daughters” (Gen. 19:14) – to flee the city, but they assume he’s just pulling a prank and ignore him. So the angels tell Lot to just grab his wife and two daughters and forget the rest of the family. Lot “lingers” (Gen. 19:16), so the angels grab him and his family and pull them out of the city.
We aren’t told why Lot would linger once told that the entire city is about to be destroyed, but I would hope it has something to do with the family he’s leaving behind.
Pillar of salt
The angels warn Lot not to look back or stop anywhere in the valley. “Flee to the hills, lest you be consumed” (Gen. 19:17). I’ve found a couple sources saying that this story may be a “Just So” interpretation of a natural disaster. For example, my study bible says that this story is “a memory of a catastrophe in remote times when seismic activity and the explosion of subterranean gases changed the face of the area.” Another source explains it as earthquakes interacting with the bitumen in the area to produce the effect of “fire and brimstone,” tying the pillar of salt to a salt floe thrown up from the nearby Dead Sea.
Lot refuses to go into the hills “lest the disaster overtake me, and I die” (Gen. 19:19). Oh ye of little faith. Honestly, if the angels of God come to you and tell you that they are saving you, but you must run for the hills, you run for the hills. That’s just what you do. These are angels, for cripes’ sake! I think they would know if you’re likely to make it to the hills or not…
But this doesn’t occur to anyone, and the angels agree to spare Lot even though he’s running to the nearby city, Zoar, instead.
“Then the Lord rained on Sodom and Gomor’rah brimstone and fire from the Lord out of heaven; and he overthrew those cities, and all the valley, and all the inhabitants of the cities, and what grew on the ground” (Gen. 19:24-25). Lot’s wife looks behind her and is turned into a pillar of salt.
Why spare Lot?
We’re given God’s reason for sparing Lot. “So it was that, when God destroyed the cities of the valley, God remembered Abraham, and sent Lot out of the midst of the overthrow, when he overthrew the cities in which Lot dwelt” (Gen. 19:29).
Despite being awkwardly phrased, it’s fairly clear what’s going on here. When Abraham asked “shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?” (Gen. 18:25) he didn’t reach God. Rather, this is just an extension of God’s special treatment of Abraham, as we saw in Chapter 18, where he decides to tell Abraham what he’s going to do to Sodom “seeing that Abraham shall become a great and mighty nation” (Gen. 18:18). Lot was not saved for being a good man, but for being a relative and friend of Abraham.
Why destroy Sodom and Gomorrah?
Three obvious possibilities present themselves from the text:
- Because of the homosexuality exhibited by the male residents of Sodom (and, certainly, this is the interpretation that’s gotten the most traction).
- Because of the attempted rape.
- Because the residents of Sodom are ignoring the rules of hospitality.
Ebonmuse, over at Daylight Atheism, has another suggestion. He’s found a passage that occurs later in the Old Testament that provides an explanation for Sodom’s destruction:
Now this was the sin of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy.
He makes the (rather amusing) point that the term “sodomy” should not, then, be applicable to homosexual acts (or non-vaginal intercourse). Rather, all those televangelist and mega-church pastors are the real sodomites!
In any case, there’s a legitimate moral objection to this story. God has promised that if he found 10 people in Sodom who were not sinners, he would spare the city. He then went on his way to check the city out and assess the moral worth of its residents. But then, he destroyed the city having encountered only the male residents!
Were all the women also sinners? What about the children? What about the fetuses? This is a city we’re talking about. There’s a fairly good chance that at least ten women were pregnant at the time. Are we to understand that those fetuses were immoral? Or is the implication that fetuses are not persons? Neither explanation should provide the Christian with much comfort…
Dan Barker has this to say about the episode: “God did change his mind about the minimum number of good people required to prevent the slaughter, but he went ahead and murdered all the inhabitants of Sodom anyway, including all of the “unrighteous” children, babies and foetuses. It appears that Abraham was more moral than his god…” (Godless, p. 162).
Drunkenness and Incest
After Lot argued with the angels that he was too afraid to go into the hills and would prefer to go to Zoar instead, we get this: “Now Lot went up out of Zo’ar, and dwelt in the hills with his two daughters, for he was afraid to dwell in Zo’ar” (Gen. 19:30). This book is really ridiculous sometimes…
Once Lot is settled in a cave with his daughters, his daughters decide to have sex with him. Really.
They want to have sex with Lot because “there is not a man on earth to come in to us after the manner of all the earth” (Gen. 19:31) and they want to “preserve offspring” (Gen. 19:32). We’re not told why no man would want them. I can only assume that it’s because they had fiancés, but it seems rather cruel that two women would never be allowed/able to marry just because they were once promised to someone who has since died.
I’ve often heard this story as an example of sin, a condemnation of incest. But I wonder what was going on with those two women to make them desperate enough to sleep with their father. Now that they’ve been rendered unmarriageable by their culture’s ridiculous customs, with the pressure still on them to be the “bearers” of their family line, they must have felt like they were backed into a corner. After all, we’re told that Lot is old (Gen. 19:31), and probably won’t be around too much longer. At least if they have sons now, those sons might grow up and be able to support them once their father dies.
This is all speculation based on my very superficial understanding of the culture in that time and place, of course. Maybe they were just randy.
Either way, they get their father so drunk that, for two nights in a row, he “did not know when she lay down or when she arose” (Gen. 19:33). That’s very drunk. And I have to say that people don’t get that drunk through trickery. At some point, generally well before you pass out, you realize that something isn’t right. I can only assume, therefore, that Lot is a dirty old drunk just like Noah.
The eldest daughter has a son named Moab, who is the ancestor of the Moabites, and the younger daughter has a son named Ben-ammi, who is the ancestor of the Ammonites.