Abraham (Genesis 19)

By Mary Jane Chaignot

Categories: Patriarchs

  • It was evening by the time the two heavenly visitors/angels arrived in Sodom.
  • Lot was sitting at the city gate and rose to meet them; he bowed in greeting.
  • People who sat at the gate were generally the leaders of the community—gathering there to discuss matters and resolve disputes.
  • It appears that Lot had become well-integrated into the community life of the Sodomites.
  • His response to the visitors was very similar to Abraham's. He offered lodging and water for their feet. He bowed his face to the ground, which was a rather formal, stilted gesture. He offered a place to rest. Lot's meal was described as a "feast with unleavened bread."
  • Lot was demonstrating hospitality. Lot could be seen as a righteous person because giving hospitality to strangers is a feature of righteousness. Thus far, then, there is one righteous person living in Sodom.
  • The text takes great pains to stress that all the men of Sodom came to Lot's door—young and old, from every quarter of the city, every last one of them—demanding that the visitors be brought out so they could "know" them, or be intimate with them.
  • This violated the code of all civilized men who had a sacred duty to the "stranger within the walls," to the one who had taken refuge within the city.
  • Lot had a duty to protect his guests. He went out to intercede for his guests and shut the door behind him.
  • He begged his fellow citizens not to do "this wicked thing" and then offered his two unmarried daughters to the crowd for them to abuse at their will.
  • No good explanation exists for this, except that these angels were to determine whether the sins of the Sodomites were equal to their reputation. And they were looking for ten righteous men. The offer of his daughters can only be seen as another act of wickedness.
  • The townspeople rejected the offer and turned on Lot, calling him an alien, an interloper, and threatening him.
  • The townspeople tried to break down his door. So the angels intervened. They pulled Lot inside and struck the townspeople with confusion.
  • The men couldn't find the door and eventually left.
  • By this time, however, the angels had their answer. There weren't any righteous people in Sodom.
  • They told Lot of their intentions to destroy the city, giving him ample time to contact any of his family members that he wished to save.
  • His future sons-in-law refused him. Lot returned home alone.
  • Despite the angels' warnings of imminent destruction, Lot "lingered." Finally, the angels simply took Lot and his family by the hand and brought them out of the city.
  • Lot began to argue with them over his final destination. He didn't want to go up into the hills; he wanted to stay in the Jordan valley. He chose the small town, Zoar.
  • By the time Lot reached Zoar, the sun was up and the Lord rained down, burning sulfur on Sodom and Gomorrah. All was lost.
  • There are no extra-Biblical sources attesting to the existence of these cities. Area tar pits could have led to a build-up of gases beneath the earth's surface. An earthquake could easily have released those gases into the air, along with sulfur deposits. Such a combination would have been highly flammable and could have spontaneously ignited. The result would have been burning sulfur raining upon the earth.
  • Lot and his daughters were safe, but his wife was not. She perished on the way to Zoar because she looked back.
  • The text says that she became a pillar of salt. It is likely that she was caught by the spreading devastation. Eventually her body, like everything else in the area, was encrusted with salt, leading to the legend.
  • Lot was not happy in Zoar. He was afraid to stay there.
  • Shortly, he and his daughters went to the hills and lived in a cave.
  • After settling into the cave, his daughters thought they were the only survivors of a worldwide catastrophe. Wanting to bear children, they plotted to get their father drunk. While he was drunk, they used him to get pregnant.
  • The plan worked; both daughters became pregnant. The offspring of this incestuous relationship were the ancestors of two nations, Moab and Ammon. These nations would harass Abraham's descendants throughout much of their history.

Bible Characters