by James T. Bartsch
The Bible and Contemporary Topics
4 Before they lay down, the men of the city, the men of Sodom, surrounded the house, both young and old, all the people from every quarter; 5 and they called to Lot and said to him, "Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us that we may have relations with them." Genesis 19:4-5
On June 26, 2015, the U. S. Supreme Court made an unconstitutional decision that individual states could not prohibit homosexual and lesbian "marriages." As the Supreme Court is wont to do, five Liberal, Progressive judges legislated from the bench that marriage can be defined as the union between two women or two men. Liberals and Progressives enjoy redefining terms to give their illegal and ungodly acts legal and moral acceptability. But they cannot change reality. Marriage has always been between a man and a woman. It will always be that way. What is to prevent this court from some day defining a sexual relationship between a man and his horse as marriage? The answer is, "Nothing." But the US Supreme Court cannot alter reality. And the Supreme Court cannot alter God's standards or the consequences that their immoral decisions will accrue. The justices who voted to rescind the constitutional right of states to decide reality for their own citizens are deceived, at best (1 Cor 6:9-10), and diabolical at worst. Many churches and a number of denominations have labeled homosexuality and lesbianism as a virtue, and are ordaining homosexuals and lesbians into the ministry. These churches and denominations may describe themselves as being "Christian," but they cannot describe themselves as being Biblical Christians. You can coat horse manure with chocolate and eat it, but it will still be excrement.
This descent into depravity would have been unheard of back in the 1950's, when I was growing up as a child. But our country's plunge into Sodom and Gomorrah has accelerated. Actually, it should not surprise the person who reads the Bible. The Supreme Court's decision, along with the trend to call white black, and black white is all part of the judgment of God upon a nation that has turned its back on God, upon Jesus Christ, and upon the Bible. You can read about the sad death spiral of our country in Romans 1:18-32. But that is another discussion for another day.
If we want to know the truth about homosexuality, there is no better passage to study than Genesis 18:1-19:29. The real truth, the ugly truth about homosexuality, and what God thinks about it are graphically illustrated in this historical narrative. Let us begin our examination of this passage.
1. Abraham provides hospitality for three visitors, one of whom is Yahweh. Gen. 18:1-8.
a. Yahweh appears to Abraham. Gen. 18:1
Yahweh Himself came to visit Abraham while the latter was sitting in the door of his tent in the heat of the day, lodged at the oaks of Mamre, an Amorite neighbor and confederate with Abraham (Gen. 13:18; 14:13, 24). Mamre also came to be known as a geographical location known as Hebron and also Kiriath-arba (Gen. 23:19; 35:27). Yahweh (3068) is the special name of God more fully revealed to Moses at the burning bush (Ex. 3:13-15). Yahweh's name is a form of the verb "to be" (hayah, 1961). It indicates that He is the eternally Self-Existent One. Though Yahweh had appeared to Abraham before in a vision (e.g., Gen. 15:1), here, for the first time He appears to Abraham in human form. Without going into detail here, this particular manifestation was probably an appearance of the Angel of the LORD (or the Messenger of Yahweh).
Why did Yahweh come to visit Abraham personally? His primary purpose was to reassure Abraham and also his aged and barren wife Sarah that she really was going to bear a son. This was by now a physical impossibility with Sarah, but, miraculously she was going to endure child-birth! Yahweh would make a point of chiding Sarah for her disbelief and assure her that she would, indeed, bear a son.
But there was another reason for Yahweh's visit. Abraham's nephew, Lot, had foolishly determined to live in the corrupt city of Sodom (Gen. 13:8-13; 14:12). Yahweh had heard reports of the evil of the cities of Sodom (Gen. 13:13) and Gomorrah (Gen. 18:20), and He was dispatching two messengers to see if things were as bad as they sounded. One way or the other, He would find out (Gen. 18:21). This directly impacted Abraham's nephew. Abraham immediately caught the significance and bargained with Yahweh for preserving the city of Sodom if a sufficient number of righteous people could be found therein (Gen. 18:22-33).
b. The actions of Abraham. Gen. 18:2-8
(1) He observes his guests. Gen. 18:2
Yahweh (3068) (Gen. 18:1) appears to Abraham as a man. We call this a "theophany," a visible appearance of God. Technically, this supernatural being is probably to be identified with a pre-incarnate appearance of the Messiah. So it is better labeled a "Christophany," an OT appearance of Christ. There are two other guests with him. They all appear suddenly, as if out of thin air, which is probably exactly what happened. These three guests who suddenly appear in Abraham's sight are designated simply as "men" (plural of ish, 376). This is the generic, most frequently-used word for man in the Hebrew Bible, appearing more than 2100 times. They are so identified again as ish (376) in Gen. 18:16, 22; 19:5, 8, 10, 12, 16. Later, the other two are identified also as malak (4397), "messengers" (usually translated as "angels") (Gen. 19:1, 15). That these two messengers were supernatural messengers becomes apparent from the rest of this historical narrative. My point here is that, though each of these three was a supernatural being, each of them looked like an ordinary man. Particularly for the two "messengers," that will become a key factor in the remainder of the narrative.
(2) He responds with alacrity. Gen. 18:2
We are told what Abraham thought, only what he did. No sooner had he spied his visitors than he ran to meet them. Jewish men rarely run. Old Jewish men really rarely run. But Abraham ran (ruts, 7323)! And when he arrived in front of the men he bowed down. And he didn't just bow down; he bowed down low - to the ground! Though nothing is said to this point, we get the idea that Abraham sensed something special about these men.
(3) He responds with subservience. Gen. 18:2-3
One of these men must have stood out to Abraham. He addressed the leader as "lord" or "master" (adon, 113). He asked the leader not to pass his servant (ebed, 5650) by. Again, Abraham addresses only the leader. "Do not pass" is singular, and "your" (servant) is singular. Though the narrative does not state it, I believe Abraham suspected that this leader must be Yahweh. His suspicions would be confirmed as the afternoon wore on.
(4) He offers hospitality. Gen. 18:4-5
He offers cleansing: "Please let a little water be brought ...." Abraham is requesting permission from Adonai. "...and wash your feet." For the first time, Abraham takes the other two guests into consideration. "Your feet" is plural. (Gen. 18:4)
He offers shade: "...and rest yourselves under the tree;"
He offers food: "and I will bring you a piece of bread, so that you may refresh yourselves;" (Gen. 18:5)
He grants permission: "after that you may go on, since you have visited your servant."
The guests accept his invitation.
(5) He hastily prepares a meal. Gen. 18:6-8
Not surprisingly, Abraham hurried into the tent to gain assistance from Sarah (Gen. 18:6). And he would go far beyond merely providing a little bread. He would prepare a feast!
Why all the hurry, here and down through the preparation process? I suspect Abraham was very anxious to have fellowship with God – and he wanted to get back. His whole ploy in getting food was partly to buy time with God – He wanted to enjoy the fellowship as long as possible! Of course he also wanted to offer hospitality. But I suspect he wanted to prolong this visit as much as possible. Abraham would have known that during this visit, God would communicate something important to Abraham. That had always been true even when Abraham had not visibly seen God. Communication was very important to God, Abraham realized. And Abraham was eager to hear what God had to say this time. This whole passage reminds us that Abraham is called “the friend of God” (James 2:23).
Abraham asked Sarah to make bread cakes for his visitors. He asked her to use three measures of fine flour. At first glance, one might think that he was allocating a measure per visitor. But one measure, a seah (5429), indicates about eleven quarts of flour. One seah would be more than enough for the three guests. But Abraham specified 33 quarts! Obviously this would be far more than his guests could consume in one sitting. There would be enough bread left over to feed a small army. Abraham was sparing no expense and effort for these guests!
Abraham was not through. Aged though he was, he actually ran to the herd, selected a choice calf, gave it to the youthful servant (naar, 5288), who hastily prepared it for eating (Gen. 18:7). He took curdled milk, fresh milk, and the prepared calf, and placed it all before his three guests. He stood by them under the shade tree, attending their needs as they partook of his meal (Gen. 18:8).
Abraham was a model of hospitality which he rendered to his three guests. Not too many hours later, Abraham's nephew Lot would also graciously render hospitality to two of these guests. But his hospitality would be rudely marred by the men of his city.
2. Yahweh predicts that Sarah will bear a son within a year. Gen. 18:9-15
a. The trio ask about Sarah. Gen. 18:9
Abruptly, it seems, and having finished their meal, the three men almost simultaneously asked Abraham where Sarah, his wife was. This would have been highly unusual. This corporate question seems to introduce the primary business of their visit with Abraham. Abraham replied that she was in the tent. Perhaps he gestured to the appropriate tent. Undoubtedly, Sarah, who had helped prepare the meal for these visitors, but was not invited to participate, suddenly began to listen intently. The men's question had its desired effect.
b. The leader promises she will bear a son in about a year. Gen. 18:10a
Having secured the undivided attention of both Sarah and Abraham, the leader alone makes a startling prediction. He states, literally, "Returning, I will return to you (Abraham) when the time lives" (referring to spring time). The speaker continued, "And behold, a son to Sarah, your wife!!" What an incredible birth announcement to an aged nomad and his aged wife!
c. Sarah's cynical disbelief. Gen. 18:10b-12
We learn something that should not have surprised us. Sarah was listening in the doorway of the tent behind the speaker. (Gen. 18:10b)
Now Moses, the narrator, gives the reader a historical explanatory note. Literally, "Now Abraham and Sarah were old, advanced in days. And it had ceased to be with Sarah after the manner of women" (Gen. 18:11, author's translation). (In other words, Sarah had three strikes against her. First, all her life she had been infertile. She was barren. Second, she was now too old to bear children, and, furthermore, third, she had reached the age of menopause. She no longer had a monthly cycle. For her to bear children was a physical impossibility. (Gen. 18:11)
Now Sarah did something which was certainly understandable. But what she did aroused the ire of the speaker. Sarah laughed inwardly, silently. She said to herself, "After I have become old, will there be for me pleasure, my lord (also) being old?" (Gen. 18:12, author's translation) Sarah was too polite to verbalize her cynicism outwardly, but she was not afraid to express it inwardly. And so she did. She may not have known who the speaker was, but regardless, she did not believe a word that he had just uttered about her and Abraham.
d. Yahweh scolds Sarah for her disbelief. Gen. 18:13-15
And now we are given the identity of this lead speaker. He is Yahweh Himself. All along Yahweh has been addressing Abraham. He does not depart from that custom. Yahweh spoke to Abraham, "What is this – that Sarah laughed, saying, 'Shall I also truly bear when I am so old?'" (Gen. 18:13, author's translation).
Inside the tent, Sarah is turning crimson. Who is this person who can read her thoughts, who knew that, inwardly, she had laughed?
Yahweh had not finished. He continued, "Is anything too difficult for the LORD?" (Gen. 18:14). “Difficult” translates the verb pala (6381), which appears here in the Niphal stem. In this stem it is usually translated, "be too hard" or "be too difficult." But even in the Niphal stem, there are examples where the word refers to performing miracles, which, by inference, are "too difficult" (e.g., Ex. 3:20; 34:10). So Yahweh was asking, “Is Yahweh's word unattainable for Him?” In other words He was asking Abraham, “Is she suggesting I can't pull this off?” "Is she questioning my ability to perform a miracle?" Yahweh was singularly unimpressed!
Yahweh remains polite and decorous throughout. He does not turn around and speak directly to the tent behind him, where He knows Sarah is standing in the doorway listening. He continues speaking to Abraham about his wife.
Then He repeats what He had stated earlier. "At this appointed time I will return to you (masculine, singular) about the time reviving (i.e., spring), and to Sarah – a son! (Gen. 18:14, author's literal translation).
Sarah was absolutely mortified. She had to save face, but what she said next only compounded her culpability – she lied! "Now Sarah lied, saying. 'No, I did not laugh," because she was afraid.
Not to be contradicted, Yahweh simply replied, "No, because you did laugh!" (Gen. 18:15, author's translation.) So why did Yahweh deliberately highlight Sarah's silent laugh? More important, why did Sarah laugh? Yahweh sensed that, though Abraham had laughed earlier (Gen. 17:17), he had believed Him. Sarah did not. Thus the importance of this special visit to Abraham which was, in actuality, a visit for the benefit of Sarah, as much as for Abraham! It was designed to strengthen her faith. Faith is always necessary to serve God (Heb. 11:6). As later Scripture records, this visit had its desired effect – Sarah believed God, considering Him faithful (Heb. 11:11)!
Yahweh was through with that subject. He did not bring it up again, and neither did Sarah.
3. Yahweh reveals to Abraham His impending scrutiny of sinful Sodom and Gomorrah. Gen. 18:16-33
a. Yahweh intends to scrutinize the grievous sin of Sodom and Gomorrah. Gen. 18:16-22
"Then the men rose up from there," – Yahweh and His two messengers had completed the first portion of their terrestrial mission. They had succeeded in delivering and underscoring the new revelation that Sarah herself, not some maid, was to be the chosen mother of the chosen seed of Abraham (Ge. 18:16a).
"...and looked down toward Sodom;" – Their first message to Abraham (but aimed also specifically at Sarah) having been delivered, the men now focus their gaze on Sodom, in the valley below (Gen. 18:16b). This is the second purpose for their earthly visit. Yahweh will reveal to Abraham His intention to scrutinize the evil city of Sodom. In the process, the narrative reveals how utterly corrupt Sodom was, and how terrible was the judgment Sodom reaped. This whole incident is designed to be an eternal illustration of God’s ability to rescue the righteous from judgment and to destine the evil for fiery destruction (2 Pet. 2:6-9).
At this point Abraham does not understand the significance of his guests having "looked down" (Hifil Imperfect of shaqaph, 8259) toward Sodom. He thinks they are simply leaving, and so he "was walking with them to send them off" (Gen. 18:16c), as any good host would do. But Yahweh was not through with Abraham. "The LORD said, 'Shall I hide from Abraham what I am about to do .....?'" (Gen. 18:17). Yahweh seems to be addressing the other two men, but what he states is for Abraham's benefit.
Yahweh begins by describing Abraham's two-fold destiny. First, "Abraham will surely become a great and mighty nation ...." Second, in Abraham "all the nations of the earth will be blessed" (Gen. 18:18).
Next, Yahweh spells out His purpose for having initiated an intimate relationship with Abraham. "For I have chosen him" (literally, "because I have known him" – Qal Perf. of yada, 3045) in order that he may command (Piel Impf of tsavah, 6680) his sons" (plural of ben, 1121) (JTB transl) "and his household after him to keep the way of the LORD by doing righteousness and justice, so that the LORD may bring upon Abraham what He has spoken about him" (Gen. 18:19). The goal of religious instruction is never mere Bible knowledge. It is a changed lifestyle, consisting of righteousness and justice. It is the solemn duty of men and fathers to serve their families as the household priest. We men shoulder the lion’s share of instructing our children and even our household slaves (employees) in such a way that they commit not only to faith in God, but also to obedience to His ways. This is an awesome and solemn responsibility. Passing on one’s faith to one’s children is first and foremost a man’s job (Deut. 6:1-15), to which wives and mothers can certainly add their blessing. But if the father is lax, the mother may not be able to compensate adequately. (That doesn't mean, of course, that she should give up.)
In other words, Yahweh is reminding Abraham that He has chosen to enter into an intimate relationship with Abraham, promising to bless him and the nation to proceed from him so that through this "great and mighty nation" all the nations of the earth will be blessed. But that will happen only if Abraham teaches his sons after him, along with his entire household, the way of the LORD which consists of righteousness (tsedaqah, 6666) and justice (mishpat, 4941). As Abraham succeeds in that mission, only then will God fulfill all His promised blessings for Abraham, and only then will all the nations of the earth be blessed.
Now the LORD is about to make a point. The cities of Sodom and Gomorrah down below in the fertile Jordan valley represent the antithesis of justice and righteousness. Even though Abraham's nephew, Lot, lives down below in Sodom, the evil from the cities below has reached such a fever pitch that God's common grace, allowing the cities to continue to exist, cannot continue. Something must be done to terminate this interminable evil.
Yahweh now began to speak much more explicitly. He said, "The outcry of Sodom and Gomorrah is indeed great, and their sin is exceedingly grave" (Gen. 18:20). Somehow, Yahweh was receiving blistering reports on the great evil of Sodom and its outlying districts. Of course, Yahweh knows everything. I suspect there were messengers (angels) who were regularly reporting to Yahweh on the evils emanating from this region. "Outcry" is za'ak (2201), which apparently refers to the cries of distress from the abused and mistreated of the city-states of Sodom and Gomorrah. If the actions of the men of Sodom as described in Gen. 19:1-11 are any indication, there would be plenty of "outcry" from victims in the two cities. It amazes me how those who wish to justify immorality, and especially blatant immorality, seek to portray the participants and nice, respectable, upright people. Why should we expect immoral people to tell the truth? Why should we expect them to respect the rights of others? Why should we expect them to be compassionate people who don't take advantage of others? There were obviously plenty of victims in Sodom and Gomorrah. God had been hearing the cries of distress from the victims in those cities.
"Sin" is chatta`ah (2403), an offense against God or man. In the case of Sodom and Gomorrah, Yahweh stated that the sin was "exceedingly grave" (kabad, 3513), literally, very "heavy." Net Bible reads that the sin of these cities was "so blatant" (Gen. 18:20. Yahweh determined, "I will go down now, and see if they have done entirely according to its outcry (tsa`aqah, 6818), which has come to Me; and if not, I will know" (Gen. 18:21). The sense seems to be that even Yahweh could hardly believe the extent of the outcry coming to His ears from the victims of the blatant sin in Sodom and Gomorrah.
We are not to understand that Yahweh Himself was going down to Sodom to check out the grave sin there. Rather, He was going to investigate the city through the medium of the two trusted men (shortly to be identified as messengers, or angels, malak, 4397) in Gen. 19:1. So the two men turned away from Abraham and Yahweh and began their descent into the Jordan valley toward Sodom. Yahweh sensed (knew) that Abraham had a very grave concern caused by His own just-uttered words. Neither the LORD nor Abraham ever mentioned Lot by name. But both knew that Lot had moved into the city of Sodom. Abraham had already rescued his nephew and his entire family from the clutches of ruthless invaders from Mesopotamia (Gen. 14:1-24). Abraham was instantly alarmed over what Yahweh's investigation of the corrupt cities of Sodom and Gomorrah meant for his nephew Lot. Would God still destroy Sodom even if there might be some righteous people found there? In other words, would God spare evil Sodom for the sake of righteous Lot and any other righteous people who might be living there? That whole issue became the reason for Abraham's most remarkable bargaining with God as recorded in the next paragraphs.
b. Abraham bargains with God to spare the city of Sodom if sufficient righteous can be found. Gen. 18:23-33
Nothing in OT literature is more fascinating than the following bargaining of Abraham with Yahweh. We are amazed, both at Abraham's temerity, and at God's quiet concessions.
Abraham's first bid (Gen. 18:23-26). I am making no attempt here to trivialize or ridicule what is going on in the following paragraphs. Abraham is concerned about the safety of his nephew Lot and his family. Abraham senses that God is deadly serious about bringing judgment upon the wicked city of Sodom and the other cities in that area. Solely out of concern for Lot, Abraham attempts to "bid down" God's judgment quotient. As he begins his "bidding," he is hoping to avert God's judgment for Lot's sake. As he continues, he realizes that his bid may be too high. It will be too difficult to find a quota of fifty righteous in Sodom, he fears. So he continues to bid down the threshold of God's judgment. Never once does God berate Abraham, nor does he flinch at Abraham's offers.
Gen. 18:23-24. The dialogue begins with Abraham's concern for the righteous in the city of Sodom. Specifically, he is concerned about his nephew Lot and others whom he might have persuaded to worship Yahweh. He never mentions Lot by name, but Lot is the reason for his boldness in approaching Yahweh. Abraham stepped nearer to Yahweh and asked, "Will you indeed sweep away the righteous (tsaddiq, 6662) with the wicked (rasha, 7563)?" (Gen. 18:23). His question presupposes the outcome of the two emissaries' investigation of the city. Abraham assumes this investigation will result in judgment. He does not question God's justness in destroying the wicked. But what about the righteous? Abraham begins with a concrete number. Suppose the two messengers could find fifty righteous within the city. Will God still destroy it (Gen. 18:24)? Will He not spare the city for the sake of fifty righteous?
The word "righteous" (tsaddiq, 6662) appears in Gen. 6:9; 7:1 as a description of Noah. It appears seven times here in Abraham's bargaining with God (Gen. 18:23, 24, 25, 26, 28). It will appear a final time in Abimelech's protest with God (Gen. 20:4). It refers, in most of these contexts, to those who are just and righteous before God in their character and conduct (BDB). In Gen. 20:4 to those who are blameless before God in relation to a single issue.
The word "wicked" (rasha, 7563) appears but three times in Genesis, in Gen. 18:23 and twice in Gen. 18:25. It refers to those who are wicked, and guilty of sin against God or man (BDB).
Gen. 18:25-26. Abraham next elaborated on his concern for Yahweh's justice (Gen. 18:25). He began with a protest, "Far be it from You to do such a thing, to slay the righteous (tsaddiq, 6662) with the wicked (rasha, 7563) ...." His analysis is this: If Yahweh were to do so, He would be treating the righteous (tsaddiq, 6662) and the wicked (rasha, 7563) alike. Abraham then repeats his previous protest: "Far be it from You!" He concludes with a rhetorical question: "Shall not the Judge (shaphat, 8199) of all the earth deal justly (mishpat, 4941)?" (Gen.18:25). A more literal rendering: "Shall not the Judge of all the earth deal with justice?" (The reader should observe that shaphat and mishpat share the same three Hebrew radicals or consonants: shin, pe, and tet. Mishpat adds an initial mem ("m"). Thus the two words, judge and justice, are closely related.) Abraham is stating that it is unthinkable that the Judge of all the earth would not be just in his verdict. Abraham's boldness is staggering.
Yet Yahweh does not take offense. "So the LORD said, 'If I find in Sodom fifty righteous (tsaddiq, 6662) within the city, then I will spare the whole place on their account" (Gen. 18:26). Yahweh essentially agreed with Abraham’s thesis. In this particular instance is was not right or fair to destroy the righteous along with the wicked. If fifty righteous could be found in Sodom, Yahweh would spare the whole city and the surrounding area (cf. Gen. 19:23-25).
Abraham's second bid. Gen. 18:27-28. Abraham is exceedingly humble in his approach. He admits his audacity. So he approaches the Lord (adonay, 136) with extreme caution, admitting himself to be but dust and ashes in God's sight (Gen. 18:27). Then he lowers his bid by five. Supposing there are only forty-five righteous in Sodom. Would God still destroy the whole city on account of the missing five (Gen. 18:28)? God replied that He would not destroy the city if he found forty-five (who qualified as righteous people) (Gen. 18:28).
Abraham's third bid. Gen. 18:29. Abraham gets right to the point. Suppose only forty (righteous people) are found in Sodom? God's reply was equally brief. He would not destroy the city on account of only forty (righteous people).
Abraham's fourth bid. Gen. 18:30. Abraham believes he is venturing out on to ice that is increasingly too thin to support his weight. He asks that the Lord (adonay, 136) not be angry with him. He diminishes his bid by ten people. Suppose that only thirty (righteous people) are found within Sodom. What would God do then? God's reply was magnanimous. He would not destroy the city for the sake of thirty righteous, if they could be found therein.
Abraham's fifth bid. Gen. 18:31. Abraham is emboldened to continue, but he is apologetic. "And he said, 'Now, behold, I have ventured to speak to the Lord (adonay, 136); suppose twenty are found there?' And he said, 'I will not destroy it on account of the twenty.'"
Abraham's sixth and final bid. Gen. 18:32. Abraham makes one final appeal. Having asked the Lord if He would spare the city of Sodom (for the sake of his nephew, Lot) if fifty righteous could be found, he repeatedly backtracks to a lower and more realistic number. Knowing what he does of the city of Sodom, he is not certain that even twenty righteous people can be found in the city. In desperation, he proposes his final bid, ten righteous people. He asks that the Lord (adonay, 136) not be angry (charah, 2734) with him. He had used the same term before (Gen. 18:30), and he closes his final bid with this request. He will speak one final time. Suppose only ten righteous people are found in Sodom? The Lord promised, "I will not destroy it on account of the ten."
The two part ways. "As soon as He had finished speaking to Abraham the LORD (Yahweh, 3068) departed, and Abraham returned to his place" (Gen. 18:33). Abraham had a sense of peace, or perhaps better, resignation. He knew that Sodom was an evil place. There was nothing he could do to change that. But he had a personal assurance from the Lord that He would not destroy Sodom if ten righteous people could be found in the city. He was in hopes that, somehow, his nephew Lot and his family would be spared from the destruction that must surely come if at least ten righteous people could be found in the city.
We are not told what Yahweh did or did not know was going to happen. He certainly knew. But for reasons known only to Him, he was sending two personal emissaries down to Sodom to see if the city was as corrupt and evil as the cries that had been coming up to him seemed to indicate.
So we as readers are left to ponder this question. What would the two men find when they reached Sodom? Would they find corruption in the city? Would they be able to find Lot and test whether or not he was a righteous man? Would they be able to find his family? Would they be righteous people? Would the men be able to find any other righteous people? Would there be at least ten righteous people that could save Sodom from terrible destruction?
4. Lot's scandal-marred hospitality of the two messengers from Yahweh. Gen. 19:1-11
a. The messengers from Yahweh encounter Lot at the gate of Sodom. Gen. 19:1
Let us remember that there were no chapter divisions in Moses' original narrative. Immediately after Yahweh had departed from Abraham, and after Abraham had returned to his place (Gen. 18:33), we are told, "Now the two angels came to Sodom in the evening as Lot was sitting in the gate of Sodom." These two "angels" (Gen. 19:1, 15) are the two messengers (malak, 4397) who earlier had been identified simply as "men" (iysh, 376) (Gen. 18:2, 16, 22), and would so again be identified (Gen. 19:5, 8, 10, 12, 16). The point is that these two were supernatural angels (messengers) from God, but they appeared as normal-looking men. That is the whole point of the narrative at hand. No one could tell, from simply looking at them, that they were anything but men.
Since they were supernatural beings, they could have appeared at Sodom at any time they wished to do so. However, it fit into their Divine mission and purpose to appear at dusk at the gate of the city of Sodom. It was evening, and Lot happened to be sitting in the gate of Sodom. Abraham had been sitting in the doorway of his tent (Gen. 18:1), while later on, Lot was sitting in the gate of Sodom. This evidently meant that Lot had some sort of official position in the city government that qualified him to act as a judge (see Gen. 19:9. Cf. 2 Sam 19:8; Jer. 26:10; 38:7; 39:3).
We are told that, "When Lot saw them, he rose to meet them and bowed down with his face to the ground" (Gen. 19:1). His actions are very much reminiscent of Abraham's actions, except that Abraham had run to meet his guests (Gen. 18:2).
Let us summarize what we know about Lot:
(1) Evidently Lot was a city elder/judge in Sodom (Gen. 19:1, 9).
(2) The word of the men of Sodom in Gen. 19:9 should be taken as a surly acknowledgment and complaint about his being a judge, not a denial of his position. He was acknowledged to have a sense of righteousness. This is precisely what the evil men complained about.
(3) Evidently he was a righteous man, else he would not have been rescued from Sodom (Gen. 18:22-33).
(4) Elsewhere, Peter calls him a righteous man (2 Peter 2:7-8), saying that he was vexed and enormously frustrated by the evil of his city.
(5) This is perhaps why Lot would shortly insist these men spend the night with him. He knew of the bestial nature of the men of Sodom – he knew these hapless visitors would be raped before the night was over if they spent the night in the city square. Thus he insisted on providing safety for them.
(6) The fact that Lot, judge of the city, arose from his seat and bowed deeply to the visitors suggests that he intuitively perceived they were not mere men, but something more than men. His reaction resembles, if it does not exactly duplicate, the reaction of his uncle Abraham toward the three men when he first saw them (Gen. 18:1-2). His extension of hospitality would also resemble that of Abraham.
b. Lot extends hospitality. Gen. 19:2-3
Lot had taken the initiative to rise up from his seat and go to greet the two visitors who were just entering Sodom. His intention was to offer them hospitality at once. Abraham had offered the same guests a meal. Lot will offer them lodging. In addressing these two angels appearing as men, Lot called them “my lords” (adonay, 136), a term of respect used in reference to God, and less frequently, of men. Of the nine uses in Genesis, Abraham addressed Yahweh as Adonay in Gen. 15:2, 8; 18:27, 30, 31, 32. Lot addressed the angels as adonay in Gen. 19:2, 18. And Abimelech addressed God as Adonay in Gen. 20:4.
So Lot offers the two men hospitality (Gen. 19:2). And he said, “Now behold, my lords, please turn aside into your servant’s house, and spend the night, and wash your feet; then you may rise early and go on your way.” He offers them lodging. He anticipates they will spend the night in his home. He will provide them with water to cleanse themselves from the journey. He anticipates that, early in the morning, they will be on their way.
The two men politely demur, offering, instead, to spend the night in the city square (Gen. 19:2). But Lot urged them (Qal of patsar, 6484) exceedingly (meod, 3966), so they entered his house (Gen. 19:3). The question springs to mind, "Why did Lot feel obliged to insist so strenuously that these men should accept his hospitality? The answer is that Lot knew the evil character of the men of Sodom. To spend the night in the town square was asking to be raped by the men of the city. Lot assumed that his guests would at least be safe within his own home. His assumption turned out to be almost fatally flawed. At any rate, Lot prepared a feast (mishteh, 4960) for them. (See, for example, Gen. 21:8; 40:20.) He baked them some unleavened bread, and they ate together.
The significance of Lot's hospitality in a Middle East context cannot be overstated. If you invited someone into your home for a meal, you were obligating yourself for their safety and security. I know someone who lives in the Middle East. He has told me of a story of a man who believed he would be killed by another man for something he had done. To protect himself, he wangled an invitation for himself to eat in the home of the man who wanted to kill him. In that way he ensured his own safety. The man could not kill him, for he had extended him hospitality. Lot believed the only way his guests could be safe in the city of Sodom was if they lodged in his home for the night. But the men of Sodom were so sex-crazed that not even the time-honored tradition of hospitality would deter them from their vile pursuit.
c. The men of Sodom attempt to gang-rape Lot's two guests. Gen. 19:4-11
(1) The time of the attempt. Gen. 19:4
"Before they lay down" - Lot thought his guests were safe within the walls of his own home. Offering hospitality to guests provided them with safety and security. No one would violate the unwritten code of security for a man's guests. But Lot didn't really know the men of Sodom. In a matter of three or four hours, the news about the two new men in town had spread like wildfire through the homosexual city of Sodom. Before Lot and his guests even were ready to retire for the night, the men of Sodom arrived at Lot’s house and surrounded it, panting with lust. The human degradation and perversion narrated in this chapter is stunning.
(2) The participants in the attempt. Gen. 19:4
The narrative in Hebrew is ponderous, deliberate, and inclusive. Before Lot's guests even had the opportunity to retire for the evening, something happened. Here is how the Hebrew text identifies the participants:
men (iysh, 376) of the city - The term men (iysh, 376) denotes they were males. They were males who inhabited the city.
men of Sodom - If there was any doubt as to which city the author had in mind, he further identifies these men as "males (iysh, 376) who inhabited the city of Sodom."
surrounded the house - "Surrounded" is the Nifal of sabab (5437), probably here used in the reflexive meaning. It means to surround or encircle. These men surrounded themselves around Lot's house. There were enough men from the city to encircle the house completely. These men were deadly serious. They knew what they wanted and no one would escape their lust for perverted conquest. This was not an invitation to come to the local bar and enjoy a few beers together. These men had set a trap. There would be no escape.
from the young to the old - Age was indiscriminate. Youths participated - the plural of na'ar (5288) means "boys" or "youth" or "young men" or "lads." Ishmael, for example, was a young teen-ager (Gen. 21:12, 17, 18, 19, 20). Abraham's servants were "young men" (Gen. 22:3, 5, 19). Abraham's son Isaac was a "lad" at the time of his sacrifice (Gen. 22:5, 12). "Old" is zâqên (2205). Abraham was considered "old" (Gen. 18:11; 25:8). So there were representatives of every age group who had gathered for the raping party. Teenagers were there and gray-bearded men were there.
all the people - Here the participants are not designated as men (iysh, 376), but rather as "the people" (‛am, 5971). The noteworthy point is not their identity, but their quantity – it was not some of the people who surrounded Lot's house – it was all (kôl, 3606) the people!
from every quarter – literally, "from extremity" (qâtsâh, 7098). The men who surrounded Lot's house came from every extremity of the city. All of the men without exception were there from every part of the entire city.
Every male in the city, from every part of the city regardless of age participated in this massive intimidation of Lot and his two male guests. This is homosexuality at its ugliest, carried to its logical extreme.
(3) Their evil request. Gen. 19:5
"And they called out to Lot, and they said to him, 'Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us, and let us know them" (Gen. 19:5, author's literal translation).
called out (Qal Impf of qârâ', 7121) – The men of Sodom had surrounded Lot's house. They were yelling out to him from all around the house, long past the appropriate time to come calling. At least they were respectful enough not to break and enter his house. They were calling out to him. But they were not politely knocking at his door and requesting. Men from all around the house were calling loudly to Lot.
Where are the men who came to you tonight? – They called Lot's two visitors "men" (iysh, 376), even though they were actually supernatural messengers (angels, mal'âk, 4397) from Yahweh (Gen. 19:1, 15). Yahweh (Gen. 18:17) had told Abraham the outcry of Sodom and Gomorrah was great, and their sin was grave. He had determined to go down and see if they had done entirely according to its outcry, which had come to Him. If not, He would know (Gen. 18:20-21). Yahweh’s strategy in testing the evil of Sodom and Gomorrah was to send, first, to Sodom, two angels/messengers, appearing to be men, as bait. The strategy was instantly successful, for all the men of Sodom were practicing homosexuals. From the narrative that follows, we deduce that there was no need to send the angels to Gomorrah. They were no better than the men of Sodom.
Bring them out to us – "Bring them out" is the Hifil Imperative of yâtsâ' (3318). This was an order, not a request.
and let us know them – "let us know" is the Qal Imperf. Cohortative from of yâda‛ (3045). In this context, it can only mean, "Let us have intercourse with them" (cf. Gen. 4:1, 17, 25; 19:8; 24:16; 38:26). Yâda‛ (3045) ordinarily means simply, “to know.” Here, however, it is a euphemism (in a horrific context) for “have sexual relations with.”
Because of God’s progressive judgment upon America (Romans 1:18-32), many leaders, politicians, educators, journalists, homosexual activists, and now, the US Supreme Court, have succeeded in portraying homosexuality as a virtue and any criticism of it as a great evil. They label us who hold to the Bible as intolerant. But the ones who are really intolerant are those on the left who support homosexuality. No one could be more intolerant than these homosexuals who would have forced their way into Lot’s home had they not been struck with blindness. The most intolerant among us are those who will not tolerate God.
There is nothing virtuous about homosexuality. Homosexuality can only survive by recruitment, not by reproduction. Homosexuals (as a group, not necessarily as individuals) force their lifestyle upon others. Homosexuals are willing to force their way upon those who do not want to participate in their vice. Historically and anecdotally, homosexuals prey upon young boys. There were Roman senators who had “boys” at home.
There are those who will accuse me of being a homophobe. I do not fear homosexuals, and I do not fear the propagandizing labels of the left. But I fear homosexuality. Indeed, I fear all sin, because all sin brings death and destruction as a consequence (Romans 3:23; 6:23). The person I fear most is God. Sadly, supporters of homosexuality do not. The fiery destruction of the homosexuality-embracing city of Sodom and surrounding cities is a graphic warning of the eternal punishment that will befall all who do not admit their sin and embrace the King who died and rose again for their own eternal salvation (John 3:18, 36; 2 Pet. 2:4-9; Rev. 20:12-15).
(4) Lot desperately attempts to defuse the situation. Gen. 19:6-8
His action: "But Lot went out to them at the doorway, and shut the door behind him" (Gen. 19:6). Lot is in a dangerous position. He goes outside his home to attempt to calm down the passion-inflamed men who have surrounded his domicile. He will attempt to reason with them, but it will soon become apparent that these men are beyond reason.
His rebuke: "and said, 'Please, my brothers, do not act wickedly' (Gen. 19:7). As tactfully as he possibly could under duress, Lot was desperately attempting to defuse a volatile situation. Even though not a native of Sodom, he identified himself with the men, calling them his brothers ('âch, 251). (This word is used far more frequently in Genesis than in any other OT book.) When Lot said, "do not act wickedly," he used the Hifil Imperfect of the verb râ‛a‛ (7489). The Hifil stem of this verb carries overtones of perpetrating harm. Participating in homosexuality is an evil that harms others by ill-treating them and causing them distress. (See the following: Gen. 19:7, 9; 21:11, 12; 31:7; 38:10; 43:6; 44:5; 48:17.)
His sordid alternative – his two virgin daughters: "Now behold, I have two daughters who have not had relations with man" (Gen. 19:8). Literally, he stated he had two daughters who had not known (Qal Perfect of yâda‛, 3045) man. In the context, "not known" means the daughters were virgins. They had never had sex with man.
His offer: "please let me bring them out to you"– Incredibly, this father is offering his virgin daughters as an alternative sex object to these evil men.
His permission: "and do to them whatever you like" – Lot is giving these evil men permission to gang-rape his daughters! If these brutes accept his offer, the chances are good that Lot's daughters will fare no better than did the concubine of the Levite at the hands of the barbaric, frustrated homosexuals of Gibeah (Judges 19:10-28).
His plea for restraint: "only do nothing to these men" – Lot is more concerned about the safety and security of the men (iysh, 376) who have accepted his hospitality than he is about the well-being of his own virgin daughters!
His reason: "inasmuch as they have come under the shelter of my roof." It is inconceivable to us as fathers in the Western world that we would offer up our two virgin daughters to these evil, perverted men. Yet we do not understand Middle East culture. To offer two men sanctuary and a meal in one’s own home makes one obliged to protect them at all costs. Lot was offering the abominable to avoid the unthinkable. For him, it was the lesser of two evils. Lot’s offer, though despicable, was at least understandable from a Middle Eastern point of view. On a much lesser scale, I have sometimes, in American presidential elections, held my nose and voted for the lesser of two evils. But there is no justification for Lot's offer. It was unconscionable. And it serves to highlight the utter depravity of the homosexuals of Sodom. This historical narrative curdles one's blood.
(5) The evil response of the men of Sodom. Gen. 19:9
If the men of Sodom had been reasonable, had backed off, and had politely gone home, we would never have heard about this incident. But they did none of the above. In fact, they invaded Lot's space and doubled down on their demands. All the men of Sodom were militant homosexuals. Here is what happened.
Their reply: "But they said, 'Stand aside.'" The abomination of homosexuality is utterly transparent. God created man by design and desire to enjoy sexual relations with woman, his wife (Gen. 1:26-28; 2:18-24). But these men had forsaken God so wholly that their God-given desire had become completely perverted. Lot's offer of sex with his two virgin daughters did not begin to tempt them. They were consumed with lust for these men!
Their resentment: "Furthermore, they said, 'This one came in as an alien, and already he is acting like a judge;' literally, “he is judging like a judge.” In fact, Lot, though he had moved into Sodom, was so highly respected that he had become a judge. What they objected to was his “judging like a judge” on this particular occasion. Presumably Lot had, in the past, expressed his frustrations with the evil moral tone of the people of Sodom (2 Pet. 2:7-8).
Their revenge: "'...now we will treat you worse than them.'" So much for the tolerance of militant homosexuals.Lot had pled with his neighbors not to abuse (râ‛a‛, 7489) his guests (Gen. 19:7). Now they threatened him, “We will abuse (râ‛a‛, 7489) you worse than them!” (Gen. 19:9). They never succeeded in carrying out their threat, for their stronger initial impulse was to abuse the good-looking house guests Lot had sheltered. Instead, they tried to get around Lot and force their way into his home. Had they succeeded in abusing his guests, there is no telling what they would have done to Lot.
Their forcible assault: "So they pressed hard against Lot ...."
Their near success: "...and came near to break the door." These men were willing to commit virtually any crime to satisfy their lust.
(6) The men within Lot's house rescue him. Gen. 19:10-11
Their action: "But the men reached out their hands" (Gen. 19:10). The text again identifies Lot's two guests as men (iysh, 376). Notice that they have hands.
Their rescue: "...and brought Lot into the house with them," For the first time, the reader begins to observe that these two "men" have supernatural power. Here were all these angry, militant homosexuals pressing hard against Lot, pinning him against his own door. But somehow the two house-guests of Lot were able to reach out, take hold of Lot, extricate him from the men of Sodom, and pull him safely into the home without the Sodomites being able to stop him. Obviously these two men had supernatural strength and supernatural powers.
Their protection: "...and shut the door (Gen. 19:10). The fact that Lot's two house guests were able to shut the door of the house after having pulled Lot inside, but before the mob who were on the outside were able to force their way in, demonstrates once again their supernatural ability and power. These guests were not merely men. They were powerful angels from God who had taken the form and appearance of men. No mere humans could withstand their power and authority.
Their judgment: "They struck the men who were at the doorway of the house with blindness, both small and great," (Gen. 19:11). So ruthless and determined were the homosexuals that the only way Lot's guests could protect him and his family from the mob was to afflict each of them with blindness. Once again, Lot's guests were not merely men. They were powerful angels. At this point, only supernatural intervention could have protected Lot and his family.
Their success: "... so that they wearied themselves trying to find the doorway" (Gen. 19:11). The men of Sodom were utterly crazed for homosexual perversion, as demonstrated by the following: (1) Every man in the city, regardless of socioeconomic status, age, or locale, participated. (2) The existence of two new men in the city excited the Sodomites within a matter of three or four hours. (3) They were prepared to stop at nothing to fulfill their lust. (4) Even when they were struck with blindness they still persisted in trying to break into and enter Lot’s house! (5) The city of Sodom became synonymous with homosexual deviancy as evidenced by the long-standing use of “sodomy” as a prosecutable crime in legal terminology and codes in the English-speaking world.
5. The messengers' frantic attempts to rescue Lot's family. Gen. 19:12-22
a. The two men give Lot an evacuation notice. Gen. 19:12-13
The men's question: The two men who were the messengers of Yahweh have seen enough. The evil of Sodom is irremediable. The totality of the involvement of the entire male population is overwhelming. There are not ten righteous people in this city. Yahweh's judgment is inevitable, proven by the city's horrific treatment of two angels disguised as men. The only recourse now is to get Lot and as many of his family out of the city as possible before judgment begins. Time is now an issue. So they address Lot. Then the two men (iysh, 376) said to Lot, “Whom else have you here? A son-in-law, and your sons, and your daughters, and whomever you have in the city, ..." (Gen. 19:12). They are preparing to persuade Lot to salvage as many of his extended family as they can.
The men's command: "...bring them out of this place;" "Bring" is the Hifil Imperative of yâtsâ' (3318). Lot is the leader of his family. It is his responsibility to lead as many of his family as possible to safety from the city of Sodom before Divine judgment falls upon it.
The men's reasons (Gen. 19:13): The men from Yahweh are prepared to give Lot reasons for their order to him to evacuate.
Impending destruction: "for we are about to destroy this place" – God had granted these angels sufficient authority and power to engineer the destruction of Sodom and its evil citizens. There was no remedy. Lot and his family had better flee the coming judgment!
Because of immense evil: "because their outcry (tse‛ăqâh, 6818) has become so great before the LORD" – The sound of the evil of the people of the city of Sodom has resounded in the ears of Yahweh, as just documented by the Divine test of sending, at evening-time, two angels disguised as men to the city. The true character of the men of Sodom, and the city of Sodom, was stripped bare for Lot and his family to see, for God's messengers to see, for God to see, and for all the world to read about in this historical document.
Because of Divine command: "...that the LORD has sent us to destroy it." The mission of Yahweh's two emissaries was two-fold: (1) To test and see whether the "outcry" of evil was as great as it appeared to be. It was. For God, that was a foregone conclusion. But His baiting technique would simply document for all the world to see the utter and irremediable depravity of the city of Sodom. (2) To bring the Divine judgment upon the city once its evil had been demonstrated. They would be the agents of God's destruction.
b. Lot's futile pleading with his sons-in-law-to-be. Gen. 19:14
His urgent order: Lot dutifully went outside his house to speak to his sons-in-law who were to marry his daughters. Evidently the mob around Lot's house had now calmed down sufficiently so that he could venture out without fear. But it appears his own sons-in-law-to-be had participated in the abortive attempt to rape Lot's two house guests. It appears that some, at least, of the men of Sodom were bisexual. His words to his future in-laws were abrupt and to the point: “Up, get out of this place, for the LORD will destroy the city.” "Up" or better, "Get up!" is the Qal Imperative of yâtsâ' (3318).
Their blind refusal: "But he appeared to his sons-in-law to be jesting." The reaction of Lot's two sons-in-law symbolizes the attitude and perspective of most elites in academia, journalism, entertainment, politics, and law adjudication in our country today. They say, as it were, "You really think God is going to bring judgment on America because we have just condoned and legislated from the bar of the Supreme Court that no state can forbid homosexual marriage? You've got to be kidding! You right-wing Christians are so intolerant we ought to litigate against you for hate-speech!"
c. The two messengers redouble their urgency. Gen. 19:15-16
Command: (Gen. 19:15) – All through this long night, Lot had not slept. Finally, morning dawned, but Lot remained indecisive. Now it is daybreak, and the two messengers (mal'âk, 4397, usually translated "angels") finally urged Lot to get moving. They know what will happen to Sodom, and Lot is running out of time. They ordered him, "Up, take your wife and your two daughters who are here, or you will be swept away in the punishment (literally "iniquity" (‛âvōn, 5771) of the city." This word is used only four times in this book (Gen. 4:13; 15:16; 19:15; 44:16).
Hesitation: (Gen. 19:16) – "But he hesitated." We are not told what went through Lot's mind. He had no idea of the intensity of the judgment coming upon the city. But he was a believer in God, and he was undoubtedly concerned about the apathy of his sons-in-law. Perhaps he had servants who helped and in his home and other friends. Perhaps Lot, who had spent so many years in the city, was fond of living there. Perhaps he had a lot of money stashed away in his house. Perhaps he had some prized possessions. We do not know. But for whatever reason, Lot was paralyzed.
d. The two men compel Lot to exit the city. Gen. 19:16-17
Seizure: (Gen. 19:16) – Once again, Lot's two heavenly visitors are called "men" (iysh, 376). They know the time is short. Each of them seizes two of Lot's family members by the hands. Perhaps one man grabs Lot and his wife, each by the hand, while the other takes hold of the hand of each of Lot's two daughters.
Motivation: (Gen. 19:16) – The reason for this seizure was Yahweh's compassion (chemlâh, 2551, a seldom-used word). His two emissaries had demonstrated that there were not ten righteous people in Sodom. He had no choice but to destroy the city. But He had compassion and pity upon Lot. He would not destroy him in the process.
Compulsion: (Gen. 19:16) – The two men from Yahweh pull these reluctant citizens out of the house, march them down the side streets of the city, down the main street, and out the city gate, where Lot had sat the previous evening, about twelve hours ago. This must have been a strange-looking procession through the city. No doubt some of the citizens gawked at them through their windows. When Lot and his family were safely outside the city, the men let go of their hands. They had done what they could. Now the humans would have to take some initiative and flee on their own!
Commands: (Gen. 19:17) – Having brought the small family outside the city gates, one of them turned to address Lot with a series of dire warnings. It is interesting to observe that one man spoke, and he spoke to one man – Lot. All his commands and instructions are given in the singular with second person singular pronouns ("your" is singular). Lot is the focus of his instructions. If the women are wise, they will pay attention and heed the instructions given to Lot.
"Escape for your life! "Escape" is the Nifal Imperative singular of mâlaṭ (4422). "Life" is the singular of nephesh (5315).
"Do not look behind you," – "look" is the Hifil Imperfect singular of nâbaṭ (5027). The"you" of "behind you" is second person singular. This was a critical instruction that Lot's wife would soon disobey, to her own undoing.
"and do not stay anywhere in the valley;" – "stay" is the second person singular Qal Imperfect of ‛âmad (5975). The whole Dead Sea Valley in which Sodom was situated was corrupt. God's intention was to destroy the entire valley.
"escape to the mountains," – "escape" repeats the Nifal singular Imperative of mâlaṭ (4422) used earlier in this verse. This word will be used again in Gen. 19:19, 20, 22. The man instructed Lot to escape to the mountains because the entire valley was to be bombarded by a fiery, molten lava-like substance.
Reason: "or you will be swept away." "be swept away" is the second person masculine singular Nifal Imperfect of sâphâh (5595). The two men (angels), doing God's bidding, were going to destroy the entire valley. If Lot were to stay anywhere in the valley, he would be destroyed. Of course, the same would apply to his family.
e. Lot pleads for mercy. Gen. 19:18-22
Lot should have simply accepted the heavenly messengers' instructions and fled for his life into the mountains. If the whole family had acted promptly and obediently, much of the sorry, sordid subsequent developments would not have occurred. But Lot did not instantly accept the relief prescribed for him by the angels. Instead, he tried to bargain for an easier escape-route. For a time, he appeared to succeed, but in the end, the instruction of one of the two men proved to have been accurate and well-founded.
Lot's demurral: (Gen. 19:18) – But Lot said to them (plural), “Oh no, my lords (actually, "lord," singular in number)! Lot addresses them with the singular title of adonay (136). It is not wise for humans to disagree with messengers from God. Evidently the whole prospect of this disruption in his life was more than he could bear. From the syntax involved, Lot is speaking to both of the men, but he addresses only one of them, presumably the one who had spoken to him earlier.
Lot recognizes the mercy the men have shown him (Gen. 19:19): He stated, “Now behold, your (singular) servant (‛ebed, 5650) has found favor (chên, 2850) in your (singular) sight (lit., "eyes") ...." This same word was used of Noah in the sight of God (Gen. 6:8). Abraham had also used it in reference to himself in the sight of the Lord (Gen. 18:3). He continued, "...and you (singular) have magnified your (singular) lovingkindness (chêsêd, 2617, "loyal love"), which you (singular) have shown me by saving my life;"
Lot's objection: "...but I cannot escape (Nifal Infinitive of mâlaṭ, 4422) to the mountains (lit., "mountain"), for the disaster will overtake me and I will die ...." It almost appears that, unlike his uncle Abraham, Lot has grown too soft in living in the sheltered life of the city. He is afraid he will die in the wilds of the mountain.
Lot's counter-proposal (Gen. 19:20): Lot must have pointed to a town nearby, visible on the valley floor just up ahead. It was evidently a noticeably smaller town than Sodom, and Lot must have reasoned that it would be too small to be judged by God. Twice he labeled the town a "small" town. There couldn't be that much evil there. He requested permission to "escape" (Nifal Imperfect 1 person singular of mâlaṭ, 4422) there so that his life might be saved (literally, "and my soul (nephesh, 5315) will live").
The man's reply (Gen. 19:21-22a):
Acquiescence (Gen. 19:21): The man who has been speaking to Lot replied to him, "Behold, I grant you this request also, not to overthrow the town of which you have spoken." It sounds as though the man (messenger from God) has some discretionary latitude in judgment. Certainly, however, he does not stray from the will of God. The citizens of the town will probably never know that they were spared, not because of their own virtue, for they had none, but solely as a favor to one man, Lot.
Haste (Gen. 19:22a): He continued, "Hurry, escape (Nifal Imperative singular of mâlaṭ, 4422) there, for I cannot do anything until you arrive there."
Editorial footnote (Gen. 19:22b): "Therefore the name of the town was called Zoar." NASB footnote in connection with "Zoar" reads, I.e. small. According to BDB, it is to be understood as insignificance; a city at the SE end of the Dead Sea. The editorial note could have been placed there by Moses. If it was a later editor who wrote this note, that would not invalidate the Mosaic authorship of the entire book.
6. Yahweh's fiery judgment upon the cities of the valley. Gen. 19:23-29
a. The time of Lot's escape. Gen. 19:23
The events of Genesis 19 last all night and into the morning. Morning had already dawned when the messengers had urged Lot to leave Sodom with his family (Gen. 19:15). It had taken some time for the family to move through the city, for Lot to debate with the messenger, and for Lot and his family to continue to move to Zoar. It was not mid-morning yet, but it was well past dawn and truly "daytime" when Lot, his wife, and his two daughters arrived in Zoar.
b. The fiery nature of the judgment. Gen. 19:24
The source of the judgment: It is Yahweh who is responsible for the catastrophic judgment upon Sodom and Gomorrah. Though the messengers from Yahweh spoke of being the medium of judgment (Gen. 19:13), the judgment came from God, literally, "from the heavens."
The objects of Yahweh's judgment: The two towns of Sodom and Gomorrah are singled out as being the primary targets of judgment. However, the devastation was much broader than just those two towns, as the subsequent narrative reveals.
The nature of the judgment: Then Yahweh rained down upon Sodom and Gomorrah sulfur and fire. Moses used the noun gophrı̂yth (1614). Gophrı̂yth is always translated in the NASB as "brimstone." That is an archaic usage. Most modern versions translate the word as "sulfur." Sulfur is an element that burns with an obnoxious, acrid, "rotten egg" smell. Jesus described this event in Luke 17:29. He said, "but on the day that Lot went out from Sodom it rained fire and brimstone (theîon, 2303) from heaven and destroyed them all." Whether in the OT or in the NT, brimstone, or sulfur, is almost always associated with fire or burning. Fire and brimstone (sulfur) are to be found in the place of God's eternal judgment of sin and unrepentant sinners (Rev. 14:10; 19:20; 20:10; 21:8). Clearly God's treatment of the evil, homosexual sinners of Sodom and Gomorrah is meant to serve as a fiery picture of the reality that awaits all unrepentant sinners in the place known as the Lake of Fire (Rev. 20:14-15).
The burning sulfur was not a volcanic eruption. It rained down from Yahweh out of the heavens. Keil and Delitzsch, in their commentary on this passage, record the following:
By this rain of fire and brimstone not only were the cities and their inhabitants consumed, but even the soil, which abounded in asphalt, was set on fire, so that the entire valley was burned out and sank, or was overthrown (hâphak, 2015) i.e., utterly destroyed, and the Dead Sea took its place.
In the next paragraph, there appears the following note:
(Note: Whether the Dead Sea originated in this catastrophe, or whether there was previously a lake, possibly a fresh water lake, at the north of the valley of Siddim, which was enlarged to the dimensions of the existing sea by the destruction of the valley with its cities, and received its present character at the same time, is a question which has been raised, since Capt. Lynch has discovered by actual measurement the remarkable fact, that the bottom of the lake consists of two totally different levels, which are separated by a peninsula that stretches to a very great distance into the lake from the eastern shore; so that whilst the lake to the north of this peninsula is, on an average, from 1000 to 1200 feet deep, the southern portion is at the most 16 feet deep, and generally much less, the bottom being covered with salt mud, and heated by hot springs from below.)
c. The extent of the judgment. Gen. 19:25
The devastation from the combined effects of the fire and the sulfur was horrific. God overthrew (Qal Imperfect of hâphak, 2015) the cities, that is, He utterly destroyed them. The editors of the New American Bible on the Vatican website opine that the use of the verb "overthrew" means that there was an earthquake, which then caused the events described in Gen. 19:24. Here is a quotation of a footnote on the word "overthrew" in Gen. 19:25:
Overthrew: The consistent use of this term, literally "turned upside down," to describe the destruction of the Cities of the Plain seems to imply that their upheaval (⇒ Genesis 19:29) was caused primarily by an earthquake; this would naturally be accompanied by a disastrous fire, especially in a region containing bitumen (⇒ Genesis 14:10) and its accompanying gases.
Unfortunately, I fear, the editors are afflicted with non-literalism. They, and a great many other scholars within Christendom, often attempt to explain away the supernatural elements of Scripture by imposing a naturalistic explanation. (Note the tell-tale use of the word "naturally" above.) The word "overthrew" does not mean God sent an earthquake. The Hebrews employed an entirely different word to describe an earthquake. It is the verb rah'-ash (7494), which means a "quaking" or a "rattling" or a "shaking." The verb hâphak (2015) means that God "utterly destroyed," or "overthrew" the cities. Moreover, He overthrew the entire valley. (The word kikâr, 3603, literally means "circle." In this context it means the circle of towns confined in the southern Dead Sea basin. "Valley" is an entirely appropriate translation.) He overthrew all the inhabitants of those cities. Not surprisingly, the cataclysmic fire and sulfur mixture even burned up the vegetation that grew on the ground. Nothing in that region was spared, whether man or beast, flora or fauna.
The cataclysmic destruction of everything and everyone in that location came in the form of fire mixed with sulfur from God out of the heavens. It was not an earthquake that emanated from down below in the earth and shook the ground. In my opinion, and it is only an opinion, scholars who opt for a naturalistic explanation of Biblical events are afflicted with non-literalism. And, again, in my opinion, the reason they deliberately choose non-literalism is most likely that they believe so-called "science," with its evolutionary assumptions, trumps the straight-forward teaching of Scripture. And they would be utterly embarrassed to permit the Bible to trump the convoluted and inconsistent assumptions and faulty conclusions of evolutionary science, mired in the dogma of uniformitarianism.
d. The tragic consequences of disobedience. Gen. 19:26
The disobedience of Lot's wife: "But his wife, from behind him, looked back, ..." We can only speculate why Lot's wife looked back. The Net Bible reads that she "looked back longingly." The corresponding footnote reads, "Lot’s wife apparently identified with the doomed city and thereby showed lack of respect for God’s provision of salvation. She, like her daughters later, had allowed her thinking to be influenced by the culture of Sodom." We do not know why she looked back. But we do know that she disobeyed. We as readers are left to draw our own conclusions and learn from her tragic mistake. Had Lot's wife obeyed, she would have remained alive. In that event, it is doubtful that the sordid events described in Gen. 19:30-38 would have taken place.
Her fate: "...and she became a pillar of salt." In Luke 17:28-33, Jesus likened what happened to Lot’s wife to that which will happen to many people alive when He will be revealed at His Second Coming. They will be more concerned with protecting their treasured possessions than they will be about escaping terrible judgment. Just as Lot’s wife was destroyed because her heart was still back in Sodom with her possessions, so will many be destroyed at Christ’s Second Coming. Their hearts will be attached to their possessions and lifestyle instead of being intent on escaping judgment. “Whoever seeks to keep his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life will preserve it” (Luke 17:33).
Commentators speculate on the fate of Lot's wife. Thomas Constable, citing Derek Kidner, opines, "Probably the burning sodium sulfate that was raining down covered Lot's wife as she lingered behind (Gen. 19:26)." But the text does not identify the elements that rained down on the cities as burning sodium sulfate, but rather as fire and sulfur. Modern day salt deposits near the Dead Sea cannot be used to prove that Lot's wife became engulfed in salt as a natural byproduct of the phenomena of this incident. Rather, the text narrates what appears to be a supernatural judgment by God. She looked back and, in judgment, God instantly transformed her into a complete pillar of salt as she stood there.
e. Abraham's role in the tragedy. Gen. 19:27-29
His inquisitiveness. Gen. 19:27-28
His movement: "Now Abraham arose early in the morning and went to the place where he had stood before the LORD;" (Gen. 19:27). Abraham had not heard back from Yahweh, nor had either of the messengers from Yahweh communicated with him. It was yesterday afternoon that Lot's three visitors had finally left. He knew two of the men were going down to Sodom. All evening and all through the night, Abraham wondered and prayed for his nephew. There had been no word. Abraham arose early to walk to the place from which all of them had looked down upon Sodom in the Jordan valley the afternoon before.
His gaze: "...and he looked toward Sodom and Gomorrah, and toward all the land of the valley," (kikâr, 3603, "circle"). Abraham was intently looking out across the entire valley to see what had become of it (Gen. 19:28).
The conflagration: "...and he saw, and behold, the smoke of the land ascended like the smoke of a furnace" (Gen.19:28). Every tree, every bit of vegetation, every home, every bit of land, every animal, and every had burned or was burning. The bitumen pits (Gen. 14:10) added dark black smoke to the inferno.
God's remembrance. Gen. 19:29
His destruction: "Thus it came about, when God destroyed the cities of the valley (kikâr, 3603, "circle"),
His remembrance: "...that God remembered Abraham, ...." God's primary motivation in saving Lot was not his relationship with Lot, but rather His deference to Abraham (Gen. 18:22-33).
His sparing of Lot: "...and sent Lot out of the midst of the overthrow (hăphêkâh, 2018), when He overthrew (Qal Infinitive Construct of hâphak, 2015) the cities in which Lot lived." So there were not ten righteous people in Sodom. But God showed mercy to Abraham and saved his nephew Lot out of the destruction of the region.
What does Genesis 18:16 - 19:29 teach us about the nature of homosexuality? I acknowledge that I am using rather broad brush strokes here. But certain generalizations can be made. I think there are some distinct parallels between the homosexual agenda of the Sodomites and the homosexual agenda of militant homosexuals and homosexual sympathizers in the United States today. I acknowledge that there is a difference between "same-sex attraction" and the practice of homosexuality. One can develop a "same-sex attraction" and refuse to practice homosexuality. I have seen men with a same-sex attraction refuse to yield to that temptation and choose to marry a woman. It can be done. It is not wrong to be tempted. It is wrong to yield to the temptation. I am speaking, in this article, about people who deliberately choose to yield to the temptation of same-sex attraction.
(1) The practice of homosexuality has nothing to do with (agape) love, and everything to do with lust. I am not using the word "love" here in the sense of eros, which is nothing more than a biological urge – libido. Neither am I using "love" in the sense of philía (5373) – fondness, affection, and friendship. Rather I am using "love" in the sense of the highest love, agápē (26), the self-sacrificial love that God employed when He "so loved (agapáō, 25) the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life" (John 3:16). "Agape" love makes sacrifices to achieve good for another person. One who practices homosexuality does not do that. Rather, he is intent on fulfilling the lust (epithumía, 1939) of his flesh (sárx, 4561) (1 John 2:16). The men of Sodom did not love one another, and they did not love Lot, and they did not love Lot's two guests. They lusted after Lot's guests. They were not seeking the good of Lot's guests. They were seeking to gang-rape them. And they were willing to treat Lot worse than they treated his two guests. That is not love. It is unbridled lust.
(2) The practice of homosexuality has nothing to do with (agape) love, and everything to do with conquest. The practice of homosexuality is a learned behavior. The homosexuals of Sodom had already conquered all the other men and boys in town (except Lot and his two guests). And now they were out to conquer the two men who were guests in Lot's home that night. And no one was going to stop them. Lot came out to try to reason with them. He offered them his virgin daughters. They rejected that offer hands down because they wanted to conquer Lot's two male guests. And if they had to abuse Lot and break into his home, and treat him worse than they would treat his two guests, nothing would stop them from their conquest. Similarly, in America today, the homosexual community is out to conquer the whole nation. They have ramrodded their agenda through the legal system to achieve their objective, and now, with the decision of the US Supreme Court on June 26, 2015, they have achieved their immediate legal objective. Though they flaunt the catch-cry of "tolerance", they are utterly intolerant of the views of the vast majority of Americans, who did not wish to legalize homosexual and lesbian marriage. They were out to conquer America, and they have done so. They have forced their agenda on people who disagree with them, and they will not stop there. They will continue to force their agenda on Christian businesses and on churches and on Christians everywhere. They are simply illustrating that the practice of homosexuality is not about tolerance and compassion and love; it is about conquering everybody who disagrees with them.
(3) There is nothing noble, virtuous, or good about practicing homosexuality. God's Word describes homosexuality as a degrading (or dishonorable, atimía, 819) passion (páthos, 3806) (Rom. 1:26). Homosexuality is not natural (phusikós, 5446) (Rom. 1:26, 27), but contrary to (pará, 3844, when used in conjunction with the accusative case) nature (accusative case of phúsis, 5449) (Rom. 1:26). Practicing homosexuality is an abomination (tô‛êbah, 8441, that which is detestable or loathsome) (Lev. 18:22; 20:13), and worthy of death (Lev. 20:13).
(4) The practice of homosexuality, like the practice of any other sin, earns God's judgment. The homosexuals of Sodom, Gomorrah, and the other cities round about earned God's judgment in time (Gen. 19:24, 28; Deut. 29:23; Rom 9:29; 2 Pet. 2:6; Jude 1:7). Unrepentant homosexuals will earn God's judgment throughout eternity. Neither the effeminate (malakós, 3120) nor homosexuals (arsenokoítēs, 733) will inherit the kingdom of God (1 Cor. 6:9-10). (See also 2 Pet. 2:6; Jude 1:7; Rev. 21:8; 22:15.)
(5) NO unrighteous people will participate in the kingdom of God. There will be no fornicators there. No idolaters. No adulterers. No effeminate. No homosexuals. No thieves. No covetous people. No drunkards. No revilers. No swindlers. (1 Cor. 6:9-10).
(6) There will be FORMERLY unrighteous people who inherit the kingdom of God! There will be FORMER fornicators. FORMER idolaters. FORMER adulterers. FORMER effeminate. FORMER homosexuals. FORMER thieves. FORMER covetous people. FORMER drunkards. FORMER revilers. And FORMER swindlers. But they will be the ones who have been washed, sanctified, and justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God (1 Cor 6:9, 10, 11)!
Why is Genesis 18:16 - 19:29 included in the Bible? (1) It shows the evil nature of sin. (2) It demonstrates the lengths to which God will go to in order to inspect sin. (3) It shows the lengths to which God will go in order to honor his promise to Abraham to protect the righteous. Strictly speaking God went above and beyond the call of duty in accordance with his promise to Abraham about preserving the region if ten righteous existed (only three did). (4) It demonstrates that sooner or later, iniquity reaches a point where it must be judged, even in this life. (5) It is an object lesson of the judgment to befall the earth at Christ's return: (a) Just as life went on as normal, but suddenly the judgment of God befell Sodom and Gomorrah... (b) So at Christ's return life will go on apace, when suddenly unbelievers will be destroyed at Christ's unveiling. (c) Those who are attached to the things of this world, unprepared to leave them emotionally, will thus indicate, as did Lot's wife, their real spiritual condition -- unrighteousness. They will be consumed in judgment. (6) The angels were able by their coming, to indicate who was righteous and who was not. (a) So, at Christ's return to rule the earth, the angels will be involved in sorting out the wicked from the righteous (Matt. 13:40-42). (In Lot's day, the righteous were taken away to preserve from judgment, while the wicked were left behind to incur judgment. Note that when Christ returns to rule the earth, unlike in Sodom, the wicked will be taken away in judgment, while the righteous will be left behind to inherit the millennial earth. See Matt. 25:31-46.) (b) Apparently, only Lot and his two daughters were righteous. (7) Lot's materialistic choice of Gen. 13:7-13 has by now turned out to be exceedingly hollow: (a) He lost all his possessions. (b) He lost his wife. (c) He lost his honor: He became the father and the grandfather of two boys (Gen. 19:30-38). What a tragic choice. (8) Yet even here the grace of God shines through. Ruth, a Moabitess (Gen. 19:37), descendant of Lot, is the ancestor of King David (Ruth 4:13-22) and of Jesus Christ (Matt. 1:1-16), the coming King of all Kings on the earth!
(Scripture quotation taken from the NASB.)
Background and Button Image Credit
Originally published on June 26, 2015, the day the US Supreme Court forbade states to forbid homosexual and lesbian marriages.
Updated on June 15, 2020