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Here, we continue our study in Genesis.
1The two angels arrived at Sodom in the evening, and Lot was sitting in the gateway of the city. 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."
"No," they answered, "we will spend the night in the square."
3But 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. 4Before they had gone to bed, all the men from every part of the city of Sodom--both young and old--surrounded the house. 5They 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."
6Lot went outside to meet them and shut the door behind him 7and said, "No, my friends. Don't do this wicked thing. 8Look, 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."
9"Get out of our way," they replied. And they said, "This fellow came here as an alien, 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.
10But the men inside reached out and pulled Lot back into the house and shut the door. 11Then 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.
In this episode, we see very clearly the reason for the judgment upon Sodom. Moses relates one brief situation which demonstrates the depravity of that city. It begins innocently enough: "The two angels arrived at Sodom in the evening, and Lot was sitting in the gateway of the city." The two angels, of course, had just departed from Abraham's house, leaving the Lord to hear Abraham's prayer of intercession for Sodom (see Gen. 18:22-33). The fact that Lot was "sitting in the gateway of the city" may signify that he was an elder (or judge) for the city. The city gate in those times was the place of commerce, arbitration and socializing; thus, the term "sitting in the gateway" may have meant that Lot was "sitting" in some sort of official capacity (see Deut. 21:19 and 22:15 for similar terminology).
We have seen, as we go through Genesis, Lot's progression toward entrenchment in Sodom. First, we saw that, because he was attracted by the prosperity of Sodom, Lot "pitched his tents near Sodom" (13:12); then, we found that Lot was living in Sodom, at the time the city was captured by marauding kings (14:12); finally, here, we see that Lot is a leading citizen of Sodom. Lot's entrenchment in Sodom began with his desire for prosperity. Although not unlawful in itself, the desire for worldly possessions can lead to all sorts of problems. As Paul wrote: "For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil" (I Tim. 6:10). We must tread lightly in this world. "More men are killed by meat than poison. More souls are lost by abuse of things lawful than by the use of things unlawful. It is not wrong to have possessions, it is only wrong to let possessions have us. . .The Christian in the world is right and necessary, but the world in the Christian is wrong and disastrous."[Footnote #1]
Though entrenched in Sodom, it seems that Lot did not participate in the evil of the Sodomites. In fact, Peter tells us that Lot was "distressed by the filthy lives of lawless men" and "tormented in his righteous soul by the lawless deeds he saw and heard" (II Peter 2:7-8). Given this, one might ask, "Why did Lot stay in Sodom?" One can only surmise that Lot stayed because he did not want to give up the financial prosperity that he enjoyed there. It is amazing what we will put up with for the love of money.
Seeing the angels, visitors to the town, Lot in hospitality and concern for their safety offered them lodging at his house. The angels (as per custom) turned down the first offer of hospitality, but acquiesced when pressed. What happened at Lot's house was incredible, and in itself vindicates God's judgment on Sodom: "Before they had gone to bed, all the men from every part of the city of Sodom--both young and old--surrounded the house. 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.'" What a depraved and wicked place! We see from this passage that the depravity of Sodom reached to all corners of that town, all segments of society, for the mob included "men from every part of the city of Sodom--both young and old." Though we know no more of Sodom's sin, except what is in this episode, it is enough to illustrate the depravity of the town, and its ripeness for judgment. Clearly, this was not the first time that this had happened, for they were well organized in their sin. We may wonder, after reading what happened here, why did God wait so long to judge Sodom? But then, we may also ask, why did He not judge us for our many sins? God is longsuffering, giving ample time to repent. He does not zap us at the first sight of sin. On the contrary, He wins us to repentance through His kindness. As Paul asks: "[D]o you show contempt for the riches of God's kindness, tolerance and patience, not realizing that God's kindness leads you toward repentance?" (Rom. 2:4). As was pointed out in the previous issue, God was exceedingly kind to Sodom: they were blessed with the most fertile land in the area (cf. Gen. 13:10) and they were miraculously delivered in war by Abraham (cf. Gen. 14). Given God's kindness, there was no excuse for Sodom's wickedness, and no reason for God to delay further His judgment upon them.
To attempt to forestall harm coming to his guests, "Lot went outside to meet them and shut the door behind him and said, `No, my friends. Don't do this wicked thing.'" To Lot's credit, he risked his own neck by facing the mob alone, trying to prevent the wicked desire of the Sodomites to be carried out. But then, Lot himself stumbles by offering his two virgin daughters to the crowd in order to appease them. How could he do this?! What was he thinking?! As an excuse for offering his daughters, Lot cites the noble motive of protecting his house guests: "But don't do anything to these men, for they have come under the protection of my roof." However, it is wrong to sin, even for noble motives.
Let us ask, then, why did Lot make such a foolish offer? It certainly would have been braver to barricade the door and try to withstand the attack of the mob. But it seems that Lot wanted to remain in Sodom and carry on business there. It seems, entrenched as he was in Sodom, that he did not want to rock the boat with his fellow-citizens there, and so he tried to appease the wicked mob, rather than fight it. Certainly, peace-making is a godly pursuit, but not at the expense of righteousness. As James tells us: "[T]he wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure, then peace-loving" (James 3:17). Note: first pure, then peace-loving. Again, making peace is not to come at the expense of purity. Lot should have fought, rather than appease.
The mob did not accept Lot's offer, but instead, "moved to break the door down." The angels, then, "reached out and pulled Lot back into the house and shut the door." They intervened miraculously to put an end to the situation: "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." It is implied here that, even after they were struck blind, the mob still tried to "find the door." They were drunk with sin. Even blindness could not stop them from attempting to complete the sin they set out to do. Sin is a seductive trap that doesn't let go, once it has gotten a hold of a victim. Sin is a slippery icy slope, with no footholds. Think about your own life. Once you have made up your mind to sin, will anything (short of the miraculous) stop you? Pray that God would strike you blind, as he did the Sodomites. Pray that he would strike you blind, so that you cannot open the door to sin. And when he does, praise Him and turn from sin, rather than groping for the door.
12The 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, 13because 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."
14So 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.
15With 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."
16When 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. 17As 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!"
18But Lot said to them, "No, my lords, please! 19Your servant has found favor 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. 20Look, 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."
21He said to him, "Very well, I will grant this request too; I will not overthrow the town you speak of. 22But flee there quickly, because I cannot do anything until you reach it." (That is why the town was called Zoar.)
23By the time Lot reached Zoar, the sun had risen over the land. 24Then the LORD rained down burning sulphur on Sodom and Gomorrah--from the LORD out of the heavens. 25Thus He overthrew those cities and the entire plain, including all those living in the cities--and also the vegetation in the land. 26But Lot's wife looked back, and she became a pillar of salt.
The angels saw first-hand the wickedness of Sodom, and so the judgment was inevitable. They 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, because we are going to destroy this place." Lot, in carrying out this command of the angels, became a prophet of God sent out to preach a message of salvation to a city entrenched in evil, a commission not too different than our own. Lot was faithful in his commission, preaching the coming of the Lord's judgment to his future sons-in-law, but was not believed: "[H]is sons-in-law thought he was joking" (vs. 14). There comes a time when the word of the Lord must be taken seriously, or it will be too late. Lot's sons-in-law were offered salvation, but they scoffed and went on with their lives in Sodom. Peter tells us the same thing will happen in the last days before God's judgment of the entire world: "First of all, you must understand that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires. They will say, `Where is this "coming" he promised? Ever since our fathers died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation'" (II Pet. 3:3-4).
The next morning, the angels warned Lot to flee: "Hurry! Take your wife and your two daughters who are here, or you will be swept away when the city is punished" (vs. 15). But here we find that Lot was reluctant to depart, for "he hesitated" (vs. 16). Perhaps the scoffing of his sons-in-law concerning the judgment had affected Lot's faith. In any case, it seems that Lot did not want to leave Sodom. Lot had to be literally dragged away: "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." Many of us go kicking and screaming to salvation, but God drags us anyway. This is the mercy of God. We, in effect, shout to God: "Leave me alone!" Praise God for not leaving you alone, for not listening to you in your stubbornness.
"As soon as [the angels] 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!'" Lot also resisted these instructions for his safety: "No, my lords, please! . . .But I can't flee to the mountains; this disaster will overtake me, and I'll die." Foolishly, Lot thought that he knew what was better for him than the angels of the Lord. Let us not be too hard on Lot, though. We also often believe that we know what is best for us, as we ignore the word of the Lord. We can infer Lot's motive in resisting the angels' advice from what he says next: "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?" Lot desired to go to a small town near Sodom, a town similar to Sodom. Lot, despite his hatred for the sin there, still had affection for the lifestyle that Sodom afforded him. He is also subtly asking the angels to spare that small town, saying "it is small...it is very small, isn't it?" Lot (foolishly) thinks that a small town of sin is less deserving of judgment than a large town of sin. We have a similar misconception when we think that a "small" sin is less deserving of judgment than a (so-called) large sin. We swear off and abhor the large sins, but cherish and continue to dwell in the small sins. We think nothing of gossiping, teasing, lusting, profanity, cheating on taxes, etc. We must realize that the small sins are just as destructive and hated in God's sight as the large sins. James states: "[W]hoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it" (James 2:10).
Surprisingly, the angels granted Lot's request. They not only allowed Lot to go to the small town, but they decided not to destroy it on his behalf. They said: "Very well, I will grant this request too; I will not overthrow the town you speak of." There are times when God grants requests through prayer that are not in line with His perfect will. God has a perfect will, but also a permissive will. For instance, He permits us (through exercise of our free will) to sin, but does not approve of our sin. At times, as here with Lot, God will answer prayers that are not in line with His perfect will. "For it is no new thing for the Lord sometimes to grant, as an indulgence, what He, nevertheless, does not approve."[Footnote #2] Such is the power of prayer. Many times He does this to teach a lesson, and the lesson is usually to show us that His perfect will is best. Another prominent example of God answering a prayer contrary to His perfect will is when He granted Hezekiah's request to live longer after he was stricken with a terminal illness (see II Kings 20). God gave Hezekiah fifteen more years to live, but in those fifteen years, Hezekiah made a miserable blunder. In his pride, he showed the palace treasures to some leaders of Babylon. This eventually led to Babylon's conquering of Israel (cf. II Kings 20:17). In Hezekiah's case, God's perfect will was best; and in Lot's also, for (as we shall see) Lot does not remain in that small town very long, but soon flees to the mountains anyway. And so, a lesson we can draw from this: thank God for unanswered prayers. Think back on all the foolish things that you've asked from God: the people you wanted to marry; the places you wanted to move; the jobs you wanted to take; the material possessions you wanted; etc. God knows best.
The angel told Lot to "flee there quickly, because I cannot do anything until you reach it" (v. 22). This verse, and the fact that the angels physically "grasped" Lot and dragged him out of Sodom, suggest that God had determined that Lot would not be judged with Sodom, under any circumstances. When God saves someone, He does so completely. In the same way, there is nothing we (who are saved) can do to get out of salvation! This is the mercy of God at work. What right did Lot have to be so specially saved? He fought his salvation all the way, yet God went out of His way, nevertheless, to bring him to safety.
Just after dawn, the judgment came: "Then the LORD rained down burning sulphur on Sodom and Gomorrah--from the LORD out of the heavens" (v. 24). The "burning sulphur" could have come from some sort of volcanic activity, or it could simply have been a special act of God with no natural explanation. In any case, the judgment came from the LORD: Moses is careful to make sure that we know this. He states so twice in verse 24: "...the LORD rained down...from the LORD out of the heavens." Also, the judgment was foretold by God to Abraham and Lot, proving that it was a specific judgment of God.
By the way, many people think that the Dead Sea was a result of this judgment. Notice that the judgment was not only upon the cities, but also the land: "Thus He overthrew those cities and the entire plain, including all those living in the cities--and also the vegetation in the land" (v. 25). The valley of Zoar would no longer be rich and fertile, never again to give rise through prosperity to evil, as it had done before. The earth suffers through man's evil. The valley of Zoar died through the sin of Sodom; the earth has been "subjected to frustration" and held in "bondage to decay" as a result of Adam's sin (see Rom. 8:20-21).
The Bible, being God's Word, contains many things that are difficult for us to understand. In verse 26, we find such a one: why was Lot's wife turned into a pillar of salt for "looking back"? Now, she was warned by the angels specifically not to "look back" in verse 17. This warning seemed to be for expediency's sake, for they also said: "Flee for your lives! Don't look back, and don't stop anywhere in the plain!" (v. 17). The sense is that if they hesitate at all, there could be dire circumstances. And, indeed, there were. When Lot's wife "looked back", she "became a pillar of salt." But, I think there is more to it than just that she was stricken for not fleeing fast enough. We may ask, why did she look back? Christ Himself gives us some insight into this, when He tells us: "Remember Lot's wife" (Luke 17:32). The context of Christ's statement is that Jesus is warning those who are in Jerusalem before the coming of God's wrath in the end times. They (like Lot and his wife) will have to flee quickly. Christ warns: "On that day no-one who is on the roof of his house, with his goods inside, should go down to get them. Likewise, no-one in the field should go back for anything" (Luke 17:31). Then, Christ says: "Remember Lot's wife." The context of the warning is in desiring to go back and bring one's goods with them when being saved from the wrath of God. God knows the heart. It seems that Lot's wife desired to bring with her what she had left in Sodom. Thus, she also received their judgment.
27Early the next morning Abraham got up and returned to the place where he had stood before the LORD. 28He 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.
29So 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.
30Lot 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. 31One day the older daughter said to the younger, "Our father is old, and there is no man around here to lie with us, as is the custom all over the earth. 32Let's get our father to drink wine and then lie with him and preserve our family line through our father."
33That night they got their father to drink wine, and the older daughter went in and lay with him. He was not aware of it when she lay down or when she got up.
34The next day the older daughter said to the younger, "Last night I lay with my father. Let's get him to drink wine again tonight, and you go in and lie with him so we can preserve our family line through our father." 35So they got their father to drink wine that night also, and the younger daughter went and lay with him. Again he was not aware of it when she lay down or when she got up.
36So both of Lot's daughters became pregnant by their father. 37The older daughter had a son, and she named him Moab; he is the father of the Moabites of today. 38The younger daughter also had a son, and she named him Ben-Ammi; he is the father of the Ammonites of today.
The day after the judgment, Abraham "returned to the place where he had stood before the LORD" (that is, where he had interceded for Sodom) and surveyed the destruction: "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." It must have been a horrible sight, and Abraham must have been sore at heart. After all, he had interceded for Sodom and God had promised not to destroy it for the sake of only ten righteous. Surely there were ten righteous in Sodom! But, much to Abraham's distress, Sodom was destroyed.
However, God did answer Abraham's prayer. No, there were not ten righteous in Sodom, but (we are told) as a result of Abraham's prayer, Lot was saved: "So when God destroyed the cities of the plain, He remembered Abraham, and He brought Lot out of the catastrophe that ovethrew the cities where Lot had lived." God answered the prayer that Abraham really wanted to pray. Abraham wanted all of the righteous saved from the destruction, for he asked God when he interceded: "Will You sweep away the righteous with the wicked?" (Gen. 18:23). But, Abraham ended up praying for the suspension of any destruction for the sake of ten righteous in the city. Abraham, rather, should have prayed for the safety of the righteous. This is the prayer that God answered. God led all of the righteous people out of Sodom before He destroyed it.
In verse 30, we find that Lot and his family ended up settling in the mountains after all, "for he was afraid to stay in Zoar" (v. 30). No doubt, when Lot arrived in Zoar, he saw the same wickedness as in Sodom, and so fully expected the judgment of God on that place as well. Lot got wise and fled for the mountains, as God originally intended him to do (see v. 17).
The final episode in this chapter is lamentable. Since they lived in the mountains, far from other people, Lot's daughters, seeing that there were no men near, got Lot drunk and slept with him. They both became pregnant by him from this deceit. What we see in this episode is the lingering effects upon Lot's daughters of living in Sodom all those years. The exposure to the sinful lifestyle in Sodom affected Lot's daughters. Lot, having lived with the righteous Abraham for so many years, was less susceptible to corruption than his daughters, who lived in Sodom during their formative years. The wicked environment of Sodom victimized Lot's family, more than he knew. Lot, though deemed righteous by God, was apparently not a strong moral leader (as we have seen), and so, did not protect his family adequately from the influence of Sodom. This is a warning to us. We live in a world that is beginning to embrace the values of Sodom. Wicked influences are rampant: suggestive lyrics in popular song, perverted morals approved on TV, pornographic trash readily available on the Internet, etc. We must be careful to provide strong moral leadership for our families, exposing them only to "whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable" (Phil. 4:8).
Lord, help us in this. May we raise our families up in Your way, avoiding the corruption of the world. Help us, by Your Spirit, to be strong morally, to exhibit self-control and purity, to love what is godly. We praise You that You hear our prayers, and answer those that are within Your will. We also praise You for ignoring our foolish requests. Please continue to do so. Give us wisdom to discern and follow Your perfect will. In the name of Jesus, we ask these things, Amen.
1. W. H. Griffith Thomas, Genesis: A Devotional Commentary, pg. 174.
2. Calvin, A Commentary on Genesis, pg. 511.
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