This verse by verse Bible study on Genesis is an inductive verse by verse study with extensive reflections, verse by verse commentary, cross-references, and applications. They are the personal study of notes of a very good doctor friend of mine. His native tongue is Mandarin, but his English is amazing as you will see below. It is refreshing to take a look at this important book of Genesis through the eyes of a believer from another culture. Without further adieu: The Scribblings According to David.

Genesis 19 Inductive Bible Study

An Unlikely Man of Faith (VIII)


vv.1-15    The Judgment of Sodom – the Dreadful Deliverance

vv.23-29   The Judgment of Sodom – the Dreadful Execution

vv.30-38  The Judgment of Sodom – the Dreadful Aftermath

Textual Summary

The two angels went to Sodom and were received by Lot. Shortly after that, the men of the whole city came to Lot’s house, violently demanding that the two angels be brought out and raped. Lot failed in mediating, even by offering his two virgin daughters to be raped in their stead. The angels struck blind the villains and urged Lot to get out of the city, warning him of the coming judgment. When Lot got away safe, God destroyed the city by raining fire and brimstone from heaven. Lot and his two daughters later lived in a cave. In fear of leaving no offspring behind, Lot’s two daughters each made their father drunk and impregnated him, and each bearing a son, who became the father of the Moabites and the Ammonites, respectively.

Interpretative Challenges

Who were the two angels (v.1)?
Most commentators agree that from the context, namely the narrative flow of Gen. XVIII to XIX, the two angels were the two men accompanied the Lord, subsequently separated from Him and now commissioned to execute judgment against the wicked city Sodom.

Why was Lot sitting at the gate of Sodom (v.1)?
The gate of the city was the place where many major social activities of the town were convened, especially the meeting of the elders for the discussion and prosecution of legal and civil matters (cf. Deut. 21:18-21; Ruth 4:1; Amos 5:15). Not unlike a social hub, the city gate was also a comfortable place to meet. Describing this custom in ancient Palestine, the JFB Commentary says, “In Eastern cities it is the market, the seat of justice, of social intercourse and amusement, especially a favorite lounge in the evenings, the arched roof affording a pleasant shade.”

The fact the Lot was sitting in the city gate of Sodom indicated that he had become well off and even gained a status as a respected ruling elder of the community. He had formerly been living in tents outside the city (Gen. 13:12). Now he had moved into the city and made it to the “upper class”.

Why did the angels say that they would spend the night in the square (v.2)?
In ancient times, most towns had no inns or hotels. A traveller in need of lodging, then, would often go to the town square, which is an open area near to the towered entrance to the city (i.e. city gate). Important cities might have more than one square, e.g. Jerusalem (Neh. 8:16).

They were, however, strongly urged by Lot to stay at his place. The MacArthur Study Bible commented, “Lot’s invitation to the two angels to partake themselves of his hospitality was most likely not just courtesy, but an effort to protect them from the known perversity of the Sodomites (cf. v.8).” In other words, Lot’s hospitality was intended more for protection than refreshment, because he knew full well the wretchedness of the people: if the two men were to spend the night at the square, they would highly likely be sexually harassed and physically harmed by the aggressive rabble in town. Anyway, what Lot feared did come to pass, as the following verses show.

What was the difference between Abraham and Lot in terms of showing hospitality?
Lot was a righteous man (2 Pet. 2:7). And his act of showing hospitality to the two men was one demonstration of his righteousness, even though when compared to his uncle, his hospitality was of a lesser degree.

Both bowed down with his face to the ground, yet upon seeing the visitors, Abraham “ran from the tent door to meet them” (Gen. 18:2), but Lot merely “rose to meet them” (Gen. 19:1). Both made a feast for the guests, yet Abraham prepared a far more extravagant feast (Gen. 18:6-8) than did Lot, for the nephew only “baked unleavened bread” (Gen. 19:3), though the Hebrew word for feast in Gen. 19:3 (“mishteh”) does indicate that wine would be served. But it is also reasonable since the two angels entered the city in the evening (Gen. 19:1), and thus Lot’s baking of unleavened bread might suggest haste rather than casualness. One more interesting difference is that Abraham’s wife, Sarah, was involved in the showing of hospitality, whereas Lot’s wife was not. We know from the rest of the narrative that Lot’s wife became a pillar of salt because she deliberately ignored the angels’ warning. Her absence in the first three verses of the chapter probably gives us further clue of her character.

What exactly was the defining sin of the Sodomites?
The prophet Ezekiel orated, “Behold, this was the guilt of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters had arrogance, abundant food and careless ease, but she did not help the poor and needy. Thus they were haughty and committed abominations before Me. Therefore I removed them when I saw it” (Eze. 16:49-50). As we can see, arrogance out of contentment and oppressing the poor and needy was probably before they “committed abominations”. Sin never exists in a vacuum; never exists in isolation. But the defining sin of Sodom, the “abomination”, is homosexuality, or Sodomy, to use the old English word.

A case against homosexuality has been made elsewhere (Unpublished data…). As homosexuality becomes increasingly tolerated in contemporary secular culture, Gen. XIX is too politically incorrect, or even too blatantly offensive, as perceived by some churches and believers, to be accepted by the unbelieving world. For the sake of effective evangelism, they reasoned, any tension-creating obstacle like this must be removed. And they came up with novel ways to interpret the passage. Some say that the sin of the Sodomites was a lack of hospitality, and the reason is that when they said to Lot, “Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us that we may have relations with them” (Gen. 19:4, NASB; emphasis mine), the original Hebrew word for “have relations with” was in fact know. Therefore, according to this interpretation, the Sodomites were trying to get to know the two angels, but they did it in such a violent and aggressive, thus inappropriate, way that God decided to punish them. That was their sin.

Nothing is farther from the truth, and nothing is more ridiculous than such a flabby way to approach Scripture.

The key to understand the nature of their transgression does lie in a correct understanding of the Hebrew word know. The word was used, for example, in Gen. 4:1, where it says, “Now the man had relations with his wife Eve, and she conceived and gave birth to Cain, …” (emphasis mine) andGen. 4:17, “Cain had relations with his wife and she conceived, and gave birth to Enoch, …” (emphasis mine) The word know unmistakably carries a sexual connotation. It is, in fact, the most intimate relationship between two human beings.

Going back to Gen. 19:4, when the Bible says these Sodomites demanded to know the two angels, it means that these gangsters demanded toknow them carnally. Unmistakably, it was a horrifying attempt of homosexual rape. Furthermore, when Lot offered up his two virgin daughters, he said, “Now behold, I have two daughters who have not had relations with man; please let me bring them out to you, and do to them whatever you like, …” (Gen. 19:8, emphasis mine). The same word was also used here. Lot was saying to the Sodomites, “My two daughters are virgins; please rape them instead.” How Lot spoke of his daughters further substantiates the fact that the Sodomites were not involved in a vulgar lack of civility and hospitality, but in an appallingly perverse sexual aggression.

In a word, to know a person in Hebrews is a euphemistical way in saying to have sexual intercourse. It is the only possible way to provide a unified interpretation of all the related passages. To reject such interpretation is to reject the plain and simple meaning of Scripture, which the true Church has always been affirming and defending for ages past.

One may ask, why are we seeing this anyway? The reason, as the apostle Paul had forewarned, is: “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths” (2 Tim. 4:3). Simply put, when men choose the path of sin, they would go to great length to rationalize it and silence their accusing conscience, and one of the ways to do that is to gather up “teacher” who would make them comfortable. No surprise. The Bible had long ago predicted that.

But as Christians, our mandate is always to “be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth” (2 Tim. 2:15), to “preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction” (2 Tim. 4:2), and to “contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints” (Jude 3).

How did Lot come up with the ghastly idea as to offer his two virgin daughters to be raped by the vicious gang?

The Quest Study Bible made the following speculations:

Three factors may have contributed to Lot’s outrageous proposal: (1) Hospitality was considered one of the highest measures of a man. To take a stranger in was to guarantee his safety – even at personal risk. (2) Wives and daughters were typically viewed as property in his culture. (3) Living as he did in a degenerate society, Lot’s values were likely skewed. Sin distorts priorities and blurs the line between right and wrong. The combination of these factors may have caused Lot to make a horrible suggestion.

Whatever the true intention and motivation Lot might had when he handed over his two virgin daughters, what he proposed was a far cry of what the Bible teaches about the priority of family and sacrificial love. By the grace of God, Lot should have defended the safety of his family and guests, or died trying.

How did Lot’s daughters come up the repellent idea as to impregnate their own father?
One possibility is that, after spending years in Sodom, their thinking had already been seriously infected with all the vile, wretched sins of the infamous city.

This is of no small spiritual relevance to us today. Proximity to the world carries great risks. Even those who draw near to it, trusting in their own spiritual power and discernment, will in the end find themselves in one way or another unconsciously being affected, if not assimilated, by what the world feels, thinks and believes.

“Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, …” (Rom. 12:1-2) wrote the apostle Paul after an 11-chapter length of eloquent theological treatise. The Bible calls Christians to offer themselves as living sacrifice as a spiritual service of worship to God, first and foremost, by living in non-conformity to the world. Yet that calling is rarely accomplished when the believer still harbors love of the world, which manifests itself by being close to the world. In Sodom, Lot might be the only righteous man in town; he might be very careful in conducting his life; it was his prayer (the “outcry” mentioned in Gen. 18:20) that reached God and prompted the act of divine judgment. But do you think what’s going on around him has absolutely no effect on his thinking and acting?

Scripture never urges us to leave the world and pursue monastic lives as a way of holy living, for Christ says, “I do not ask You to take them out of the world, but to keep them from the evil one. … As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world” (Jn. 17:15,18). But we are repetitively warned about the folly and danger of loving the world. Here are a few:

“You adulteresses, do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.” (Jas. 4:4)

“Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world. The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever.” (1 Jn. 2:15-17)

Non-conformity to the world does not mean a primitive lifestyle of plain-cut clothing, horse-drawn carriage and abstinence from the use of electricity. The separatism of the Christian is the separatism of the mind. And it doesn’t take a neuroscientist to tell us what we are exposed to day in and day out will most assuredly have an impact on our thinking. If we keep allowing worldly signals to flood our brain, comfortably thinking that we’re still in control, the truth it, whether or not we may recognize that, its impact is definitely there. If it is really up to us, Paul would not have warned, “Do not be deceived: Bad company corrupts good morals” (1 Cor. 15:33), nor would he exhort, “Now flee from youthful lusts and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart” (2 Tim. 2:22). We ought to choose our friends wisely, and following the same line of thinking, we also ought to choose our circumstances and exposure wisely.

When we take a look on how Lot got into Sodom, we see his migration towards the city was a gradual process. Closer and closer did he move his tent until he finally settled down in it. Several chapters earlier he was taken as a POW; now what he had known as home was totally obliterated. What a high price to pay! All of this simply because he lifted up his eyes, saw Sodom and Gomorrah, and decided to move towards it (Gen. 13:10). QuotingJas. 4:4 again, friendship with the world is hostility towards God. And let us be extra cautious, not to let our proximity to the world be turned intointimacy with the world. Or, better yet, let us not even consider proximity to the world a wholesome choice! Remember, the right question to ask is not “How close I can get without falling into sin?” but “How far I can stay away in order to be pure?”

Lessons and Reflections

Despite all his blemishes, Lot was still called a “righteous” man.
Over and over again I have heard the same complaint against the biblical character Lot from believers and non-believers alike. The Christ