Abraham and Lot

Genesis 19:8 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

Now behold, I have two daughters who have not known[1] a man; please let me bring them out to you, and do to them as is good in your eyes;[2] only do nothing to these men, inasmuch as they have come under the shadow[3] of my roof.”

In Chapter 19 of Genesis, we come to the event of where God sent two of His angels to visit Lot in Sodom. Showing the common hospitality of the Ancient Near Eastern family, Lot invited them to stay at his home. The evening certainly did not go as Lot had planned. The city surrounded the house, for the purpose of sexually assaulting the visitors. They stood outside demanding the visitors be brought out. Lot said, “I beg you, my brothers, do not act so wickedly. Behold, I have two daughters who have not known any man. Let me bring them out to you, and do to them as you please. Only do nothing to these men, for they have come under the shelter of my roof.” But they said, “Stand back!” And they said, “This fellow came to sojourn, and he has become the judge! Now we will deal worse with you than with them.” Then they pressed hard against the man Lot and drew near to break the door down. But the men reached out their hands and brought Lot into the house with them and shut the door. And they struck with blindness the men who were at the entrance of the house, both small and great so that they wore themselves out groping for the door.—Genesis 19:1-11.

This event has certainly caused quite a bit of confusion, as all of us ask ourselves, ‘how on earth can we reconcile the fact that Lot offered his two daughters up, to circumstances in which they would surely be raped, in place of two total strangers?’ Lot seems to be a coward, trying to save himself. Even more confusing, is how God would inspire the apostle Peter to pen these words: “and if he rescued righteous Lot, greatly distressed by the sensual conduct of the wicked (for as that righteous man lived among them day after day, he was tormenting his righteous soul over their lawless deeds that he saw and heard).” (2 Pet. 2:7-8) Did God approve of the behavior that appears so hideous to our modern-day minds?

We need to keep in mind that we are viewing the account through a modern-day mind, and this will cause us to misunderstand the account. In addition, we need to appreciate that, the Bible itself does not condone or condemn what actions Lot took that night. Moreover, it does not make us aware of what he may have been thinking and feeling, or what moved him to take the course he did.

We are not operating blindly though; we can infer some things from this account and other parts of the Bible. First, we know that Lot was no coward. There is no doubt that Lot found himself in what seemed like an impossible situation. We need to understand exactly what Lot meant by “for they have come under the shelter of my roof.” We can understand that Lot would be moved to protect his visitors. However, just how far would he go? According to the Ancient Near East, it was a host’s obligation to protect the guests in his home, defending them even to the point of death if necessary. Lot was certainly prepared to do that. In addition, the Jewish historian Josephus reports that the Sodomites were “unjust towards men, and impious towards God … They hated strangers, and abused themselves with Sodomitical practices.” This is evidence that Lot was not a coward, as he went out to talk with this unreasonable mob, shutting the door behind him.—Genesis 19:6.

how-to-study-your-bible1However, there is more to what is meant by ‘one coming under the shelter of one’s roof.’ This will help us understand a small facet of why Lot would offer his daughters up, in place of two strangers. The Bible critics assume the worst, but let us try to reason out other possibilities. We know that Lot was a “righteous man,” by the inspired words of Peter, which is, in essence, God’s view of Lot. A righteous man would be a man of faith. Lot was the nephew of Abraham and was traveling with him and Sarah up unto this point. He was able to see Jehovah act on behalf of Sarah firsthand. The powerful Pharaoh of Egypt took Sarah because of her great beauty. Jehovah God acted on behalf of her and Abraham before Pharaoh could violate Sarah. (Gen. 12:11-20) It is entirely reasonable that he had faith that Jehovah would do the same for his daughters. In fact, is that not what happened? The angels of Jehovah stepped in and kept Lot and his daughters safe.

Another possibility was that Lot was trying to buy time. He knew the men were after the angels for homosexual purposes, and they would likely not find his daughters as an acceptable substitute. (Jude 7) In addition, these young women were engaged to two men in the city, and there is the possibility that this offer would cause a division among those men’s households and the rest of the city. (Gen. 19:14) It is the old ‘divide and conquer’ approach.

[1] Hebrew idiom for sexual intercourse (See Gen 4:1) I.e. had intercourse

[2] I.e., whatever you want

[3] I.e., under the shelter (protection) of my roof (house)