Chapters leading up to this show us that Abraham and Sarah will have a son despite their age and also foretell of coming consequences to the wicked cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. In chapter 18, Abraham pleads with God to relent if there should be a number of righteous found in the city. Abraham’s intercession on their behalf leads to some interesting insights:
- Abraham most likely remembered that His brother Lot lived in the area of Sodom and Gomorrah
- Abraham valued righteousness
- Abraham modeled a figure of Christ as he interceded for the righteous (Romans 8:34)
Abraham’s courage is valuable and admirable, but it cannot stop God’s judgment.
Verses 1-11: Wickedness
The two “men,” now understood to be angels, enter Sodom to find Lot sitting in the gate of the city. These angels were going there to verify whether the sin of these cities was as great as the outcry against them said (Genesis 18:21). Lot implores the two angels to stay with him at his home rather than in the open square where he knew they would be violated. The angels agree and Lot prepares a great feast for them.
It is a good thing that they agreed to stay with Lot because before they all laid down to sleep, corrupted old and young citizens from all over the city came to Lot’s house to rape these two “men” that they knew had earlier come into the city. Lot offered the mob his two virgin daughters instead, but the mob was unsatisfied with this alternative. In fact, the mob knew that the angels were there to exact judgment on their wicked ways, and it only increased their anger towards Lot when he offered his daughters. The mob pursued Lot all the more vigorously, but the angels pulled Lot back inside the house and confounded the mob with blindness.
Verses 12-29: Judgment
The men make it clear that the cities will be destroyed due to their sins of depravity. They tell Lot to flee with his family so that they will be saved. Lot attempts to bring his sons-in-law with him, but they do not believe that there is an impending threat and, thinking Lot to be joking, they choose to remain in the city.
When the morning comes on the next day, the angels tell Lot to hurry and depart with his wife and daughters because they would be destroying the city very soon. When they leave, the angels tell them that they are not to look back. Lot lingers and the angels eventually take him and his wife and daughters outside of the city and tell Lot to escape to the mountains. Lot, fearful that he will die in the mountains, implores the angels to let him flee to Zoar, a small city that was nearby, but apparently far enough away to not be affected by the immediate destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. Lot and his wife and daughters escape to Zoar, but his wife does look back and she is transformed into a pillar of salt for her disobedience.
Verses 27-29 are Abraham’s only appearance in this chapter. These verses are very important because they show how God honored Abraham’s request to save the righteous. The cities could not be saved because of their great wickedness, but the fact that God remembered Abraham to save Lot is yet another strong sign of God’s love, trust and belief in Abraham.
Verses 29-38: Aftermath
Lot leaves Zoar and dwells in the mountains with his daughters after the destruction. They dwell in a cave and Lot’s two daughters make notice that since their husbands are gone, and Lot’s wife is gone, there will not be a male heir to carry on the lineage of their father. At this time so long ago, lineage of the male line was very important. So the older daughter had the idea that they get Lot drunk, lay with him, and bear his children. The incest takes place and the daughters have two boys, who would eventually grow up to become Moab and Ben-Ammi. These two sons’ descendants would bring great trouble on the house of Israel.
As cringeworthy as these acts of the daughters are, they were acting in a way that made sense to them. But, this does not excuse their behavior. Lot has shown his character to be good at times, but mostly we are left with the impression of his weakness. Instead of choosing righteousness, Lot lived in fear and made choices to serve himself rather than God. The incestuous relationship with his daughters and the offspring produced by them are a consequence in and of themselves for this sin. This is not unlike the New Testament passage in Romans 1:26-27: “For this reason God gave them up to vile passions. For even their women exchanged the natural use for what is against nature. Likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust for one another, men with men committing what is shameful, and receiving in themselves the penalty of their error which was due.”
This passage shows the sinfulness of homosexuality and also demonstrates that the penalty for such sin is the act itself. The quality of life and resulting events that can occur will ruin the lives of those whom engage in them.
This is a very deep and rich chapter. Here are some of the prime lessons we can take from it that can help us as we live in our modern context. God’s Word and the lessons it contains transcend time and are not limited by culture, age, or what we contemporarily refer to as a unique “life experience.”
- The sins of fornication, homosexuality and living only to satisfy our basest desires will bring consequences. In the modern context, do I sometimes believe that these things aren’t really so bad? If so, we need only remind ourselves of God’s wrath in the face of these sins.
- Lot’s sons-in-law did not heed the warning. Their attitude and inability to perceive real danger caused them to lose their lives. It also reveals their lack of righteousness. We need to make sure that we are heeding all warnings to our safety, both physical and spiritual.
- Lot’s wife’s punishment for looking back seems harsh, but it stresses how grievous a situation they found themselves in. The sin was abhorrent and their fleeing was a narrowly won blessing. Lot’s wife would have been much better off to have recognized the seriousness of the situation and taken as sacrosanct the commandments of the two angels by obeying them.
- Abraham asked whether the cities would be spared for the sake of even ten righteous souls. The number of people that escaped was exactly four: Lot, his wife, and their two daughters. God saved the righteous four; but was not bound by his Word to save the cities, because ten righteous were not found. God’s Word is pure, true and reliable.
- The legacy of sin has a long tail with lasting consequences. Regardless of why Lot’s daughters chose to deceive him and bear his children, it was still an abhorrent act. Incest is deemed a sin by God.
- Intercession does not remove God’s judgment or His punishment. Abraham did plead on behalf of the righteous, and some mercy was granted, but God’s desires will always be accomplished.