Recap: (For chapters 1-18 see Genesis18 recap)

We have now entered the section of Genesis dealing with Abraham and Sarah, and are now looking at Sodom and Gomorrah.

First read Genesis 19 1-29

1 The two angels arrived at Sodom in the evening, and Lot was sitting in the gateway of the city.

The city gate was where you met people. Just for gossip, or perhaps to trade. Sometimes the city elders would meet there to settle disputes. But Sodom was no ordinary city - (Genesis 18:20,21) ‘The outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is so great and their sin so grievous that I will go down and see if what they have done is as bad as the outcry that has reached me. If not, I will know.’

For the Sodomites it was also a place to waylay unwary travellers entering the city. Why was Lot there? It was evening – the time when visitors would be looking for overnight lodgings.

Perhaps Lot wished to offer true hospitality to any strangers before others could accost them. There is a hint at the end of verse 2: ‘go on your way early in the morning’   .  .  .  maybe it’s best that you don’t hang around here.

When he saw them, he got up to meet them and bowed down with his face to the ground. 2 ‘My lords,’ he said, ‘please turn aside to your servant’s house. You can wash your feet and spend the night and then go on your way early in the morning.’

The Angels were obviously people with bearing – to bow down with your face to the ground was not a normal practice to meet ordinary visitors. Lot would have had no idea as to their true identity. But he asks them to accept his hospitality.

‘No,’ they answered, ‘we will spend the night in the square.’

3 But he insisted so strongly that they did go with him and entered his house. He prepared a meal for them, baking bread without yeast, and they ate.

If the visitors spent the night in the square they would be asking for trouble. That was precisely what the Angels had come to observe – but Lot would have none of it. So finally they entered his house and had supper.

4 Before they had gone to bed, all the men from every part of the city of Sodom – both young and old – surrounded the house. 5 They called to Lot, ‘Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us so that we can have sex with them.’

Immediately we are reminded of Abraham’s prayer ‘What if only ten [righteous people] can be found there?’ (18:32) but here we are told that it was all the men, both young and old.

The Angels had obviously been seen, and were obviously attractive. Word had spread, and a concerted effort was made to have them.

6 Lot went outside to meet them and shut the door behind him 7 and said, ‘No, my friends. Don’t do this wicked thing. 8 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.’

Now Lot was in a quandary. The men had accepted his hospitality, but that meant that Lot was now responsible for their protection. For Lot, honour and duty were everything. Even above the worth of his daughters. They would have been pre-teens, or young teenagers: betrothed (probably for their own protection) but not old enough to be married (v14).  

9 ‘Get out of our way,’ they replied. ‘This fellow came here as a foreigner, and now he wants to play the judge! We’ll treat you worse than them.’ They kept bringing pressure on Lot and moved forward to break down the door.

Although Lot was a man of some standing in the town (and had so far escaped the attention of the men), mob rule now took over and the fact that he was a foreigner, and not ‘one of them’ now meant that he was an easy target.

10 But the men inside reached out and pulled Lot back into the house and shut the door. 11 Then they struck the men who were at the door of the house, young and old, with blindness so that they could not find the door.

I like that! I like to think that this was a selective blindness – ‘so that they could not find the door’. How frustrating was that! Presumably they eventually gave up and went home.

12 The two men said to Lot, ‘Do you have anyone else here – sons-in-law, sons or daughters, or anyone else in the city who belongs to you? Get them out of here, 13 because we are going to destroy this place. The outcry to the Lord against its people is so great that he has sent us to destroy it.’

14 So Lot went out and spoke to his sons-in-law, who were pledged to marry his daughters. He said, ‘Hurry and get out of this place, because the Lord is about to destroy the city!’ But his sons-in-law thought he was joking.

Lot would have had employees too (13:7), but the Angel’s instruction seems only to be aimed at Lot’s family members. Lot was obedient, and warned the two potential sons-in-law, but in the same way that the people laughed at Noah, ‘his sons-in-law thought he was joking’.

Does the fact that we might be laughed at stop us from warning people of the Judgement that is coming?  

15 With the coming of dawn, the angels urged Lot, saying, ‘Hurry! Take your wife and your two daughters who are here, or you will be swept away when the city is punished.’

16 When he hesitated, the men grasped his hand and the hands of his wife and of his two daughters and led them safely out of the city, for the Lord was merciful to them.

Why did Lot hesitate? (Maybe he couldn’t believe that judgement was actually coming in the next few hours. Did he now realise that he was totally unprepared for what was about to happen and there were people to tell, goods to secure, and valuables to collect?)

If we knew that Jesus was returning today, are there things we would want to do?

17 As soon as they had brought them out, one of them said, ‘Flee for your lives! Don’t look back, and don’t stop anywhere in the plain! Flee to the mountains or you will be swept away!’

18 But Lot said to them, ‘No, my lords, please! 19 Your servant has found favour in your eyes, and you have shown great kindness to me in sparing my life. But I can’t flee to the mountains; this disaster will overtake me, and I’ll die. 20 Look, here is a town near enough to run to, and it is small. Let me flee to it – it is very small, isn’t it? Then my life will be spared.’

Lot was unfit for serious running. He had given up the itinerant life to be a comfortable city-dweller. He couldn’t run to save his life! But at least he was honest and he has no doubts now about the impending judgement.

21 He said to him, ‘Very well, I will grant this request too; I will not overthrow the town you speak of. 22 But flee there quickly, because I cannot do anything until you reach it.’ (That is why the town was called Zoar.)

23 By the time Lot reached Zoar, the sun had risen over the land. 24 Then the Lord rained down burning sulphur on Sodom and Gomorrah – from the Lord out of the heavens. 25 Thus he overthrew those cities and the entire plain, destroying all those living in the cities – and also the vegetation in the land.

The Jordan Rift Valley is actually where two continental plates rub against each other. Even now there are a few measurable earthquakes each week, and every few years one which causes some damage. The area of the Dead Sea is the deepest land anywhere on earth, where the crust is thin. In Abraham’s time it had hot springs, and pits full of tar and asphalt. Even today oil can often be seen floating on the water.

So burning sulphur raining from heaven was a most appropriate punishment, and could well have caused the whole area to ignite, even burning the vegetation (v25), so that the next day Abraham ‘saw dense smoke rising from the land, like smoke from a furnace’. (Or burning oilfields as we saw during the Gulf War.) (v28)

Excavations in the area have revealed towns where the fire damage has even reached to charred bones in their cemetery.

26 But Lot’s wife looked back Why?

(She was being dragged (literally) away from the pleasant life that she had enjoyed. People and possessions now abandoned. She couldn’t bear it – she had to stop and look back.)

Was that truly where her heart belonged – so she joined them in their punishment? What can we learn about stopping and looking back?

    - Our Christian life should always be one of moving forward.

    - If we become lax there is a danger of slipping back.

    - Looking back and remembering the ‘Pleasures’ of our pre-Christian lives
       might produce in us unhelpful desires.

    - ‘No one who puts a hand to the plough and looks back is fit for service in
       the kingdom of God.’ (Luke 9.62)

27 Early the next morning Abraham got up and returned to the place where he had stood before the Lord.

What thoughts had caused Abraham to get up early and return to the place where he could look down to the south of the Dead Sea?

He had no idea when the Lord might act, or how he would bring punishment. Perhaps a plague or a flood. And had Lot been spared?

28 He looked down towards Sodom and Gomorrah, towards all the land of the plain, and he saw dense smoke rising from the land, like smoke from a furnace.

29 So when God destroyed the cities of the plain, he remembered Abraham, and he brought Lot out of the catastrophe that overthrew the cities where Lot had lived.

This was God’s demonstration to Abraham that he can work quickly; that if punishment is deserved it will be given; that this land, God’s land, is to be kept pure; and where he has promised salvation, that too will be certain.

What then happened to Lot? Having been surrounded by fire and destruction on every side he was too petrified to stay living on the plain.

30 Lot and his two daughters left Zoar and settled in the mountains, for he was afraid to stay in Zoar. He and his two daughters lived in a cave.

This became their permanent home and time passed by until his daughters were older.

31 One day the elder daughter said to the younger, ‘Our father is old, and there is no man round here to give us children – as is the custom all over the earth. 32 Let’s get our father to drink wine and then sleep with him and preserve our family line through our father.’

33 That night they got their father to drink wine, and the elder daughter went in and slept with him. He was not aware of it when she lay down or when she got up.

34 The next day the elder daughter said to the younger, ‘Last night I slept with my father. Let’s get him to drink wine again tonight, and you go in and sleep with him so we can preserve our family line through our father.’ 35 So they got their father to drink wine that night also, and the younger daughter went in and slept with him. Again he was not aware of it when she lay down or when she got up.

36 So both of Lot’s daughters became pregnant by their father. 37 The elder daughter had a son, and she named him Moab; he is the father of the Moabites of today. 38 The younger daughter also had a son, and she named him Ben-Ammi; he is the father of the Ammonites of today.

Why do we have this unsavoury episode recorded for us in the Bible?

Probably to record the origin of the two nations: Moabites and Ammonites. The Lord later assigned land to them east of the Jordan, before the Children of Israel left Egypt (Deuteronomy 2:9, 18-19). These nations occasionally caused trouble to Israel, but also sometimes provided refuge to threatened kings.

More importantly we will eventually see how the Lord brings good out of evil: Ruth, a Moabitess was the mother of Obed, who was father of Jesse, father of David. (Ruth 4:13, 17).

And as the NIV introduction to Ruth states:
Participation in the coming Kingdom of God is decided, not by blood and birth, but by the conformity of one’s life to the will of God through the ‘obedience that comes from faith’ (Romans 1:5)

The next study is a short one and could be combined with this one.

Genesis 20Genesis 18

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Genesis 19:1-38 Sodom and Gomorrah, Lot’s daughters