Sunday, July 09, 2006

Genesis 19

Genesis 19: Lot sells out his daughters; Sodom and Gomorrah are destroyed; a tale of incest

Synopsis

This is one of those chapters of the Bible that just leaves me feeling sad about the sinful world we live in. Probably your best bet would be to click on the link above, and read the chapter for yourself. But here is my summary anyway:

In the last chapter, God promised Abraham that He would not destroy Sodom if He could find 10 righteous people in the city. This chapter starts off with two angels visiting the city—presumably, to look for 10 righteous people. They are met by Lot, who offers to let them stay at his house. They tell him, no, they’d rather spend the night in the square, but he insists so strongly that they relent, and agree to stay with him.

That evening—the chapter says “before they had gone to bed” (verse 4), but I don’t know what time people went to bed at that time of year, in that part of the world, at that time—the house is surrounded by “all the men from every part of the city of Sodom—both young and old” because they want to have sex with the men who are staying with Lot. (They don’t realize they’re angels, obviously.)

And then comes the most disturbing part of the chapter: Lot goes out to try and deter the men from doing this—and offers to send out his daughters, instead.

Lot went outside to meet them and shut the door behind him and said, “No, my friends. Don’t do this wicked thing. Look, I have two daughters who have never slept with a man. Let me bring them out to you, and you can do what you like with them. But don’t do anything to these men, for they have come under the protection of my roof.” (verses 6–8)

Just as things are starting to get out of hand, the angels pull Lot back into the house, and strike the men who are at the door with blindness, so that they can’t find the door. They warn Lot to get out while the getting’s good, and bring anyone else with him who belongs with him—sons-in-law, daughters, whatever—because the LORD is going to destroy the city. Lot tries to round them up, but his sons-in-law think he’s joking, and refuse to leave with him.

So Lot, and his wife and daughters, flee the city. They’re not really happy about it—they’re so hesitant that the angels have to literally push them out of town—but they go. However, they have been warned not to look back, but Lot’s wife does, and she is turned into a pillar of salt.

Lot and his daughters end up living in the mountains. However, because his sons-in-law refused to come, his daughters feel they have no hope of marriage. So they decide to get Lot drunk, and then sleep with him, in order to have children. And why not? The chapter’s already so bizarre that ending with incest just seems to make sense… The older daughter had a son whom she named Moab, who became the father of the Moabites, and the younger daughter had a son whom she named Ben-Ammi, who became the father of the Ammonites. (“Moab” sounds like the Hebrew for “from father”, and “Ben-Ammi” means “son of my people”. Cute.)

In subsequent Old Testament books, we’ll be seeing the Moabites and Ammonites again.

Thoughts

So… Lot decides to give up his daughters, instead of the strangers, eh? People have been grappling with this episode ever since it happened—with good reason, in my opinion. What the heck kind of messed up priorities does Lot have, that he’s willing to give up his daughters to be raped, instead of his visitors?!? People will point to cultural differences, and different understanding of hospitality, etc. etc., but even with all of that, I can’t believe that this was the right thing to do. I’m almost relieved, when I read in verse 9 that the men of the city don’t agree to Lot’s “compromise”.

I also find it ironic—or is it just poetic justice?—when Lot’s sons-in-law think that he’s joking, and refuse to flee the city with him. Verse 4 says that it was “all the men from every part of the city of Sodom—both young and old” (emphasis added) who came to rape the strangers; which would, presumably, include Lot’s sons-in-law.
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