Sodom and Gomorrah
Chapter 18 starts with the Lord once again appearing to Abraham. The Bible says three ‘men’, but we find out two of them are angels, and one is apparently the Lord. Abraham makes them a meal. As the eat, the again tell him Sarah will have a baby, Sarah laughs and they remind her that nothing is impossible with god. The three then admit they are passing through on their way to Sodom and Gomorrah.
And the men rose up from thence, and looked toward Sodom: and Abraham went with them to bring them on the way. And the Lord said, Shall I hide from Abraham that thing which I do; Seeing that Abraham shall surely become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him? For I know him, that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the Lord, to do justice and judgment; that the Lord may bring upon Abraham that which he hath spoken of him.
And the Lord said, Because the cry of Sodom and Gomorrah is great, and because their sin is very grievous; I will go down now, and see whether they have done altogether according to the cry of it, which is come unto me; and if not, I will know. And the men turned their faces from thence, and went toward Sodom: but Abraham stood yet before the Lord.
Is it me or was that weird? The gods have a discussion on whether they should tell Abraham what they are doing. Is god doubting himself? He needs the advice of angels to make a commitment? Then they take the chance to repeat how awesome Abraham is. God doesn’t say explicitly he will destroy Sodom and Gomorrah, but Abraham knows god’s nature, and assumes the worse. He begins negotiating to the lives of the cities inhabitants. Would god spare they cities for 50 righteous? For 45? For 30? Abraham negotiates down to ten people. If there are ten righteous in the cities, god will not destroy them. god knew though, right? He knew this was going to be a waste of time. That, or he didn’t know if there were any righteous in the cities, but was going to destroy them anyway.
Look, this is a bit of a racist observation, but one that I cannot let pass without comment. The Jewish people have had a great many unfavorable stereotypes over they years. One of them is the refusal to accept a deal until they negotiate the price down. There is even a racist term for this, called “jewing someone down.” Well, after receiving the covenant (by getting circumcised), and thereby becoming Jewish, the very next thing Abraham does is enter a negotiation with god himself to lower the “cost” of saving Sodom.
Two angels show up at Sodom and meet up with Lot. (God must have slipped out, he doesn’t get his hands dirty). The whole story is below, which bears a quick read.
And there came two angels to Sodom at even; and Lot sat in the gate of Sodom: and Lot seeing them rose up to meet them; and he bowed himself with his face toward the ground; And he said, Behold now, my lords, turn in, I pray you, into your servant’s house, and tarry all night, and wash your feet, and ye shall rise up early, and go on your ways. And they said, Nay; but we will abide in the street all night. And he pressed upon them greatly; and they turned in unto him, and entered into his house; and he made them a feast, and did bake unleavened bread, and they did eat.
But before they lay down, the men of the city, even the men of Sodom, compassed the house round, both old and young, all the people from every quarter: And they called unto Lot, and said unto him, Where are the men which came in to thee this night? bring them out unto us, that we may know them. And Lot went out at the door unto them, and shut the door after him, And said, I pray you, brethren, do not so wickedly. Behold now, I have two daughters which have not known man; let me, I pray you, bring them out unto you, and do ye to them as is good in your eyes: only unto these men do nothing; for therefore came they under the shadow of my roof. And they said, Stand back. And they said again, This one fellow came in to sojourn, and he will needs be a judge: now will we deal worse with thee, than with them. And they pressed sore upon the man, even Lot, and came near to break the door. But the men put forth their hand, and pulled Lot into the house to them, and shut to the door. And they smote the men that were at the door of the house with blindness, both small and great: so that they wearied themselves to find the door.
And the men said unto Lot, Hast thou here any besides? son in law, and thy sons, and thy daughters, and whatsoever thou hast in the city, bring them out of this place: For we will destroy this place, because the cry of them is waxen great before the face of the Lord; and the Lord hath sent us to destroy it. And Lot went out, and spake unto his sons in law, which married his daughters, and said, Up, get you out of this place; for the Lord will destroy this city. But he seemed as one that mocked unto his sons in law. And when the morning arose, then the angels hastened Lot, saying, Arise, take thy wife, and thy two daughters, which are here; lest thou be consumed in the iniquity of the city.
Genesis 19:1-15 (KJV)
The angels wish to sleep in the street, but Lot convinces them to stay at his house. A mob comes to the house to rape the outsiders, but Lot (the righteous guy in the story) offers his virgin daughters to be raped in their place. The angels then strike the crowd blind, and tell Lot to get all of his relations together to leave. Notice they didn’t try to figure out how many righteous were in the city, or care if Lot’s relatives were righteous. He went to his sons in law and they thought he was joking. So, the angels said to take just his wife and his two daughters and go…his two married, but virgin, daughters. Most people seem to believe that he had four daughters, and the married ones stayed behind. Others have said they were only betrothed, and not married yet, so there were only two.
Any Good ChristianTM will tell you that the sin of Sodom and Gomorrah was homosexuality. Jay Michaelson said, “Homosexual rape is the way in which they violate hospitality—not the essence of their transgression. Reading the story of Sodom as being about homosexuality is like reading the story of an ax murderer as being about an ax.” In the book of Ezekiel, god said “Behold, this was the iniquity of thy sister Sodom, pride, fulness of bread, and abundance of idleness was in her and in her daughters, neither did she strengthen the hand of the poor and needy. And they were haughty, and committed abomination before me: therefore I took them away as I saw good.” Many people are quick to condemn homosexuality but seem to ignore the part where they have to care for the needy.
It is also worth noting that in the Quran, Lot is preaching to the citizens of Sodom, and they mock him, even telling him if his god is real, why hasn’t he judged them? This is what brought the judgment to the cities of the plains. In Jewish (and most Christian) tradition, Lot was living in Sodom to engage in sin.
The group make in outside the cities, and the angels tell them to flee to the mountains and don’t look back. Lot negotiates with the angels to go only to a nearby, small city. (Abraham’s family are really good at negotiating)! The angels agree, but Lot’s wife looks back and is turned into a pillar of salt. Why? That seems to be excessive. There has been talk through the ages on what her sin actually was. Some have said she looked back because her love for sin was greater than her love for god, others have said she went to neighbors to get salt for their visitors, which tipped off the mob. Whichever it is, it seems her punishment as very severe. In reality, this region has pillars of salt as geological features, and this was simply a story to explain them.
The remaining three people went to the city of Zoar. Quickly, Lot worried that living in the city was a bad idea, so he decided to take his girls and live in a cave.
The daughters conspire to have sex with their father. There are several interpretations of this act. In some Jewish tradition, this has been interpreted as tit for tat. Earlier Lot had offered up his daughters’ virginity and this episode was his punishment. Some have argued that Lot had chose to live in Sodom for all the great sinning he could do, and the incest was punishment. Others have said (and the Bible seems to support) the girls thought the entire earth was destroyed, and they simply were trying to preserve the human race. This is problematic since they had been in Zoar after the destruction of the other cities and had to know the destruction was not world wide. In any event, there was a need to ensure that the girls (whose descendants included the Moabites) were treated as innocent. Ruth came from their line and was part of the bloodline of David (and therefore Jesus).
And the firstborn said unto the younger, Our father is old, and there is not a man in the earth to come in unto us after the manner of all the earth: Come, let us make our father drink wine, and we will lie with him, that we may preserve seed of our father. And they made their father drink wine that night: and the firstborn went in, and lay with her father; and he perceived not when she lay down, nor when she arose. And it came to pass on the morrow, that the firstborn said unto the younger, Behold, I lay yesternight with my father: let us make him drink wine this night also; and go thou in, and lie with him, that we may preserve seed of our father. And they made their father drink wine that night also: and the younger arose, and lay with him; and he perceived not when she lay down, nor when she arose. Thus were both the daughters of Lot with child by their father. And the first born bare a son, and called his name Moab: the same is the father of the Moabites unto this day. And the younger, she also bare a son, and called his name Benammi: the same is the father of the children of Ammon unto this day.
Genesis 19:31-38 (KJV)
And that’s it! End of story. Lot is only mentioned in passing later, and never as “the guy who banged his daughters and had kids.” Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed for being wicked, and the people that were too righteous to die and were saved by the direct intervention of god, immediately embarked on drunken incest that resulted in pregnancy. The good guys in the story.
Up next, Abraham lies about his wife again she finally has that baby!
Want to read it for yourself? Try the online Bible at Bible Gateway.