Pardon me for missing a post yesterday. I've started working a second job this week, so I've been really busy. I guess we'll just skip chapter 19, after all, there's nothing interesting there, right? Uh, yeah...
Okay, so two of the three men/angels from the last chapter show up in Sodom, and they meet Lot sitting at the gate. Culturally, this means that Lot was a man considered to be of some authority in the city, which I've always thought a little odd given the rest of the story. The SAB wonders whether angels can have sex, and while this subject was touched upon back at the beginning of the flood story, there are a few different things that ought to be said here. While the question is an interesting one, it's a moot point here, because these angels did not actually have sex with anyone in this story, despite people claiming to wish to do so. Furthermore, even if they did, there's another issue about the terminology. In both the Hebrew and the Greek, the term translated as "angel" is a word that technically means "messenger" (the same word is used several times in Gen 32); these are not necessarily supernatural beings. It's actually possible that these two men are unnamed human prophets that God has sent in His power to deal with the city in a personal manner.
Whoever the men were, they refuse the hospitality of Lot at first, and tell him that they're planning to sleep out on the street that night. This horrifies Lot, who apparently knows this would be a very dangerous thing, and he eventually talks them into staying at his house. Now as I said in yesterday's post, hospitality was a very serious business, and Lot eventually says some things that show he considers their lives more precious than that of his own family, perhaps including himself.
The men of Sodom show up at Lot's door, and insist that Lot turn out these visitors so that they can be gang-raped. Although homosexuality is addressed in the Bible, and it may indeed have been one of the things that God was unhappy about in Sodom, let's face it, this is gang rape, which is wrong regardless of the gender of the people involved. Maybe I'm not good-looking enough, but I've spent many a time in San Francisco, even in public after dark, and nobody ever propositioned me for public group sex. When I was in college, the majority of my close friends were homosexuals, and while we spent many a Friday evening drinking and playing cards, I don't remember anyone ever suggesting we go out knocking on doors in the neighborhood looking for attractive out-of-towners to molest. I know homosexuals, and this is not your standard homosexual behavior.
Well, Lot steps outside and suggests that it would be better for the men to have at his own daughters than at his guests. This is definitely disturbing behavior for a man that the Bible calls "just" and "righteous" in 2Peter. There are a few things that can be said in his defense, but in the end, this is one of those things I have to admit I just can't quite comprehend. One thing is the matter of Middle Eastern hospitality, as I have already mentioned (see the end of verse 8). The other thing is actually from the very passage that speaks so highly of him: that he was "vexed" by the men of Sodom. It seems possible that being a man of some authority in the city (see above) and being unable to do anything about how immoral these men were for so long while living there, he was just so exhausted trying to "fight the good fight" that he was all out of ideas of how to deal with them. Apparently just leaving the door locked wouldn't be enough, as after he spoke with them, they tried to break his door down. In my opinion, that doesn't justify him, but I'd take a plea of "temporary insanity" on his part, so to speak.
The angels cause the men to go blind, and pull Lot back inside, telling him he needs to leave, because the city is going to be destroyed in the morning. The SAB claims that Lot having "sons-in-law" shows that Lot was lying about his daughters being virgins, but this is not the case. While it may be possible that these "sons-in-law" were men that were engaged to be married to his daughters, but had not yet officially married them and consummated the relationship, it's also possible that these men are married to other daughters of Lot. Sure, such daughters are not mentioned, but the two daughters that play an important role in this story are not named.
So Lot leaves with his wife and two virgin daughters, and God destroys the city and nearby region. As for his reason to do so, the SAB gives a link to this article, which I agree is a very good overview of the matter, far better than mine, I'm sure. In leaving, Lot's wife looks back and is turned into a pillar of salt. It happens that the region in which all of this is supposed to have taken place contains several "pillars of salt" which, depending on your view, may either lend extra credence to the story or convince you that it's more of a fable.
After a while, Lot and his two daughters go and live in a cave in the mountains. A friend of mine who was not a Christian always said that the story that finishes out this chapter is Lot's daughters getting revenge on their father for what he did to them by shaming him, and I suppose there may be some truth in it. They get him drunk and when he's apparently so drunk he doesn't even know what's going on, they have sex with him, and get pregnant. This is a weird story, and in no part of the story does God say that he approves of it. The two children are Moab and Bennami (two names that in the Hebrew are suggestive of the incestuous act that conceived them), and their descendants form a couple of nations that would neighbor Israel and cause them trouble from time to time.