Sodom and Gomorrah | A Bible Class on Lot in Sodom (Genesis 19:1-29)


Sodom and Gomorrah | A Bible Class on Lot in Sodom (Genesis 19:1-29)

As we think about characters in the Old Testament, it seems that we really need to think about Lot in Sodom. There are some lessons—both positive and negative—that we can learn from Lot. There is a great deal of talk about homosexuality in the modern world. We hear that homosexuality is simply an “alternative lifestyle.” God destroyed two cities because of that “alternative lifestyle.”

“The cities of Sodom and Gomorrah have become bywords in Christian circles for homosexuality, and justifiably so. In our own time, the homosexual community has made alarming strides in gaining recognition from various sectors of our culture. It should be deeply disturbing to any godly man or woman to see homosexuals being granted the right to marry, adopt children, etc. yet it should concern us even more that antiquity seemed to tolerate homosexuality more than our own society presently does—what does the future hold?” (Michael Whitworth, The Epic of God).

Sodom’s Depravity, vv 1-14

Determining the exact location of Sodom has proved quite troublesome for archeologist. It is likely under the southern portion of the Dead Sea. The fact that the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah have vanished without a trace indicates how total divine judgment can be.

The visit of the two angels was the Lord’s last-ditch effort to keep from destroying the city. Genesis 18:20-21. The angels did not come to Sodom in order to destroy but to spend the night (v 2) and to see firsthand the true character of the people.

The angels were looking for ten righteous people (Gen 18:32). Only Lot offers these men any kind of hospitality. Lot was not a citizen of Sodom, but he was a resident alien (v 9). It is possible that the men of Sodom saw their offers of homosexual contact with the angels as hospitality. We know how twisted such an idea would have been.

The sins of Sodom were many:

  • Injustice (Is 1:10-17; 3:9).
  • Adultery, lying, condoning evil, encouraging wickedness (Jer 23:14).
  • Pride, gluttony, prosperous ease, neglect of the poor (Ezek 16:49).
  • Homosexuality (Jude 7).

Apparently, the people of Sodom had committed these sins for many years. There could be no doubt that the people of Sodom were so steeped in sin that nothing could bring them to repentance (Rom 1:24, 26, 28).

This passage shows not only the depravity of Sodom but also the sinfulness in Lot’s own heart. Lot had an opportunity to influence the people of Sodom for good, but he instead became conformed to the world (Rom 12:2). 2 Peter 2:7-8. Peter may mean that Lot was “righteous” in a comparative sense. In other words, while Lot was not all that he needed to be, he was far better than the people who lived in Sodom.

Lot’s hospitality leaves much to be desired. His hospitality toward these angels (vv 1-3) isn’t as rich as Abraham’s was (18:1-22). The fact that Lot urged the angels not to spend the night in the open square tells us that he knew his neighbors were perverts, but he was content to live with them and raise a family among them. Lot calls these men his “brothers” (v 7). He might have used this simply as a psychological ploy to strengthen his appeal. However, there is a clear indication that Lot wanted the people of Sodom to think of him as their friend. Lot was willing to give his two virgin daughters to these wicked perverts to do with as they please so long as they leaved his guests alone (v 8).

Lot allowed his daughters to marry men of Sodom who were corrupt and had no respect for Lot (v 14).

When it was time to leave the city, Lot “lingered” (v 16). The Lord’s mercy (v 16) prevented Lot and his family from being destroyed. God also remembered Abraham (v 29) and showed him graciousness in rescuing Lot. The angels had to seize Lot and his family by the hand and force them to go out of Sodom. When Lot was brought out of the city, the angels told him to flee to the mountains, but he insisted that he be allowed to go to Zoar (vv 17-19).

Later, Lot and his daughters are afraid in Zoar and they flee to a cave in the hills (v 30). Here, Lot’s daughters get him drunk so that they can conceive children with him. It is safe to say that Lot’s moral compass was very corrupted by his time in Sodom, and that he passed poor values to his daughters. It would also be very possible that his daughters simply picked up these poor values from living in Sodom. Either way, Lot is clearly responsible.

What lessons do you already see in the Lot “saga?”

The two angels came to Sodom in the evening (v 1). It’s possible that Moses is simply telling us what time of day the two angels arrived in Sodom. However, it is possible that they arrived on the same evening that they left Abraham (v 22). The distance from Hebron to Sodom would have been about 40 miles (typically a two-day journey on foot). If they do arrive on the same evening they spoke to Abraham, this would be an indication of their supernatural nature.

The fact that Lot was sitting at the gates of the city likely indicates the esteemed position he was gaining in Sodom. Business transactions took place at the gates of the city. This is also where the elders would judge cases.

It is very possible that Lot is one of the elders of Sodom. Yes, the fact that he isn’t originally from Sodom will be later thrown in his face (v 9). However, the people are angry when they throw Lot’s immigrant status in his face. Don’t people often say hurtful things when they are angry?

Lot has risen to a prominent position in town. How is his prominent position going to come back to haunt him? Is there anything wrong with having a prominent position in our society? What could be some of the pitfalls of being a prominent member of society? What good might could come if we were prominent members of our society?

Lot’s guests volunteer to stay in the square throughout the night (vv 2-3). We do not know why they volunteered to spend the night in the city’s square. This may simply have been a way that they were being polite. They may have intended to investigate the city a little more closely.

Lot insists that he stay with him instead. Obviously, Lot knows how sinful the people are. Do we need to know how sinful people are around us?

Lot lived in a house (v 2). It is apparently well built, for it withstands the mob that comes to Lot’s door. Abraham lives in a tent while Lot is living in a house. Lot’s house was not indicative of his being closer to God or having more blessings than Abraham who lived in a tent. Why do people often think that greater material “things” mean that one is living closer to God?

Abraham made “cakes” for his guests; Lot makes them unleavened bread.

The men of the city surrounded the house (v 4). English Standard Version: “All the people to the last man.” The author of Genesis is certainly wishing to demonstrate that every person in Sodom comes to Lot’s door. This cast serious doubt in the reader’s mind that Abraham’s ten righteous souls (18:32) will be found in Sodom.

The men of Sodom want to “know” Lot’s guests. The New King James Version: “That we may know them carnally.” “Know” means “to have sexual relations with.” That is the meaning of “know” throughout the Old Testament (Gen 4:1, 25; 19:8; Judg 9:25; 1 Sam 1:19). The Code of Hammurabi also uses “know” to mean “to have sexual relations.”

Homosexuality is consistently condemned throughout the Scriptures. Leviticus 18:22; 20:13; Romans 1:26-27; 1 Corinthians 6:9; 1 Timothy 1:10.

There are major efforts to reinterpret the sin of Sodom. Derrick Bailey, an Anglican minister, “The story does not in the least demand the assumption that the sin of Sodom was sexual, let alone homosexual—indeed, there is no evidence to show that vice of the latter kind was prevalent there.” Scott Morchauser says that the mob is afraid that these two men are spies because Sodom had recently been raided by Chedorlaomer (Gen 14). The mob simply wants Lot to give them his guests so that the guests can be interrogated further. If that’s the case, why does Lot offer his two virgin daughters to the mob?

Why are there efforts to reinterpret the sins of Sodom? Why do you think homosexuality is the “in” thing today?

Lot offers his two virgin daughters to the mob (v 8). If Lot had these two virgin daughters, how come he had two sons-in-law (v 14)? It is possible that Lot had daughters other than the two who are still at home. If that’s the case, Lot had daughters whom he had to leave behind in Sodom. How horrible that would have been!

It is equally possible that Lot’s sons-in-law had only been betrothed to his daughters. We know betrothals were just as binding as marriage (e.g, Mary and Joseph before the birth of Jesus—Joseph planned to divorce Mary). This is my personal opinion as to what is going on. To me, this makes sense in light of how the two daughters treat their father in the cave (they had planned to have families shortly). But that’s just opinion.

Some commentators on Genesis suggests that Moses is commending Lot for offering his daughters to the mob. Scripture tells of many things without making a commentary on the rightness or wrongness of an act (e.g., the serpent’s beguiling the woman, Moses’ murder of an Egyptian, and David’s adultery with Bathsheba). There is absolutely no excuse for what Lot does here.

There has been a suggestion that Lot is being sarcastic here. E.g., “Why don’t you just take my daughters while you’re at it….” However, Lot seems too much the coward to have the frame of mind to be sarcastic.

What would have possessed Lot to offer his daughters to the mob? What do you think Lot should have done?

The crowd beats at the door (v 9). Apparently, they have the intention of raping Lot (“We will deal worse with you than with them”). The crowd is so intent on fulfilling their sinful desire that they are willing to do just about anything. How do we keep sinful desires from running our lives?

The angels pull Lot back into the house and strike the men at the door with blindness (v 11). The only other place where this term for blindness occurs in the Old Testament is at 2 Kings 6:18 where Elisha prays that the Aramean troops surrounded his home be struck blind. The term is also rare in Ancient Near Eastern literature and only occurs in medical texts referring to what modern scholars believe in corneal disease.

There is some indication that the Hebrew term used for blindness means day- or night-blindness depending on the context.

Whatever specifically happened here there is a supernatural act that prevents the mob from tearing down Lot’s door. Notice that the mob does not disperse when they are struck blind. They are so intent on fulfilling their degenerate lusts that they continue to grope for the door. Why do some people have a hard time letting go of sin even when they are paying severe consequences for the sin?

The angels told Lot to get any of his family who lived in Sodom and take them out of “this place.” The angels asked Lot, “Have you anyone else here?” Would God not have known whom Lot had in the city? I think this demonstrates the responsibility that Lot had. Lot really becomes something of an evangelist here. He has a responsibility to go to his family and warn them of the destruction to come.

“The outcry against” Sodom had grown great before the face of the Lord. What do the angels mean? Is it possible today that the outcry against cities (nations even) grow great before the face of the Lord?

“Lot went out and spoke to his sons-in-law, who had married his daughters.” Lot has two virgin daughters. Either, he had other daughters who had married these sons-in-law. The fact that the angels mention “sons” to Lot (v 12) might indicate Lot had other children whom he left behind in Sodom. Yet, if the angels were simply giving Lot responsibility, the fact that sons are mentioned means nothing.

Or, the proper identification of these sons-in-law is, in our vernacular, sons-in-law to-be. Betrothal in antiquity was as binding as marriage. Therefore, these men could be betrothed to Lot’s daughters.

Lot’s sons-in-law thought Lot was joking. Lot has zero influence on his sons-in-law. Why would Lot not have had influence? We could certainly look at this as though something was missing in the lives of Lot’s sons-in-law. I think something was certainly missing in their lives. Unless the mention of “all the people” at verse 4 is hyperbole, Lot’s sons-in-law were at his door trying to get to the two angels.

I think this also says, however, that Lot has lost his influence. Lot has lived among the people of Sodom; the people of Sodom could very well have seen this as condoning their actions. It really appears that Lot’s sons-in-law see him as a crazy old man.

How do we keep our influence in today’s world?

Destruction of Sodom, vv 15-29

The angels urge Lot with urgency to leave the city. The destruction of the city has been set for sunrise (vv 23-24). Therefore, the angels urge Lot to flee at dawn.

It would be possible for Lot to be consumed in the punishment of the city. I really find it difficult to believe that God would have allowed Lot to be “collateral damage.” The fact that the angels are there, in part, to warn Lot and to help him escape indicates that he cannot be collateral damage. The fact that God is showing mercy to Abraham (v 29) says that Lot cannot be collateral damage.

However, Lot’s own foolish decisions and his sins could very well lead to judgment. How could Lot’s foolishness lead to judgment? How might our foolishness lead to judgment? How could Lot’s sin lead to judgment? How might our sin lead to judgment?

Lot lingered. Why would Lot “linger” when judgment was so imminent? Do we ever “linger” to obey God when there is pending judgment (cf. Js 5:9)? Why would we do that? How do we keep from lingering in light of imminent judgment?

The Lord was merciful to Lot and the angels brought him and his family by the hand out of the city. God was already showing mercy to Lot and his family in allowing them to flee the city (God would certainly have been justified in consuming Lot and his family). It seems very presumptuous to me that Lot lingered.

One of the angels told Lot and his family to escape for their lives, not to look back or stay anywhere near but to escape to the mountains, lest they be destroyed. There is an urgency in this verse demonstrated by the fact that the command “Flee” occurs 5 times in verses 17-22.

At verse 17, there is also the expectation that a failure to obey the angels’ instruction will result in Lot’s being destroyed. We know that happened to Lot’s wife. The interesting thing to me here is that a failure to obey would lead to judgment. We know that a failure to obey God will lead to judgment. Therefore, it’s imperative that we obey God.

Lot pleads with the angels to allow him to flee to Zoar instead of to the mountains. How foolish and presumptuous can one be?! To bargain with divine beings who are about to bring judgment is the epitome of arrogance! Yet, don’t people bargain with God all the time? E.g., speaking of homosexuality, how many people say that God will not condemn true love or that God made them that way; therefore, He will not judge them for their actions?

Lot doesn’t explain what evil he fears in the mountains. The irony, of course, is that when he becomes afraid in Zoar he moves to the mountains. Evil does overtake him in the mountains.

The angel promises not to overthrow Zoar. The wording at verse 21 makes me think that God really intended to overthrow more cities than Sodom and Gomorrah. However, in His graciousness, He did not do so because Lot asked to go to Zoar.

Lot flees to the mountains because “he was afraid to dwell in Zoar.” Some think that he was fearful to dwell in Zoar because he fears that God will overthrow that city. While the text doesn’t exactly say that, that idea does make perfect sense.

There is a pun in Hebrew with the word “little” and Zoar.

The Lord destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah by raining fire and brimstone on them out of the heavens. The text doesn’t say how exactly the Lord rained fire and brimstone on the city. Some, therefore, talk about lightning igniting a great field of petroleum, bitumen, and the resultant gasses. That is scientifically probable.

However, looking for a scientific explanation for this event is dangerous. This passage is about what GOD did, not what scientifically occurred.

Destruction was God’s work. This was the work of the YHWH; the divine name appears no fewer than three times in the destruction account (vv 23-26). The destruction was warranted, for “the Judge of all the earth” always does the right thing (18:25). The destruction was total, for not even plant life survived (v 25).

Lot’s wife looked back behind him, and she became a pillar of salt. There are some who suggest that that Lot’s wife was trapped by flying debris and over time her remains came to be covered with salt. Of course, there are huge salt deposits in this region. My problem with that interpretation is that’s not what the text says. “His wife looked back behind him, and she became a pillar of salt” (v 26, NKJV). The text, at least, leaves the impression that she became a pillar of salt instantaneously.

It really seems that “Mrs. Lot” did more than simply glance back over her shoulder. It seems that she attempted to go back to the city. That’s the impression Jesus Himself leaves: Luke 17:28-32.

Her turning back, therefore, seems to be much more than a knee-jerk reaction. She seems to have lost faith in God (and in Lot?) and decided she just couldn’t leave the life she had in Sodom. What would have been so spectacular that Lot’s wife couldn’t leave the life she had there? Do people ever have a hard time leaving lives of sin? How do we go about leaving sin behind and not going back to it?

In and around the Dead Sea are human-looking salt cliffs. The Apocrypha speaks of these formations. “[Evidence of Sodom’s] wickedness [remains] even to this day the waste land that smoketh is a testimony, and plants bearing fruit that never come to ripeness: and a standing pillar of salt is a monument of an unbelieving soul” (Wisdom of Solomon 10:7). Josephus mentioned this pillar of salt and claimed to have seen it for himself.

We are again reminded of Abraham at the end of this passage. “Abraham went early in the morning to the place where he had stood before the Lord.” As we have mentioned, the destruction of Sodom seems to have been set for dawn (vv 15, 23). Did Abraham know that destruction had been set for dawn? There is no way to know, but it seems that he did know, and he went out to see if the Lord had found ten righteous souls.

It’s interesting that Abraham went out to the place where he had stood before the Lord. This seems to indicate Abraham’s trust of God. This could also be indicative of Abraham’s prayer life, for he may have gone there again to pray for Lot and Sodom. Can you imagine what went through Abraham’s heart as he saw the destruction? One question: Has Lot been spared?

The smoke of the land went up like the smoke of a furnace. This certainly was written to inform us of the totality of the destruction. No plant or animal or human can survive a furnace.

God sent Lot out of the city because He “remembered Abraham” (v 29). This seems to indicate that Lot’s righteousness was not enough to save him. That makes me think that Peter may speak of Lot’s righteousness in a comparative sense. This does demonstrate that God is faithful to the promises He makes and is faithful to His people.

This Bible class was originally taught by Dr. Justin Imel, Sr., at the Dale Ridge church of Christ in Roanoke, Virginia.

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