And there came two angels to Sodom at even; and Lot sat in the gate of Sodom: and Lot seeing [them] rose up to meet them; and he bowed himself with his face toward the ground;
My understanding is that the gate (sha`ar) is the seat of elders, which is plausible since Lot is presumably one of the wealthier men in the town. On the other hand, maybe its an indication of Lot’s marginal link with Sodom (C@dom ); perhaps he’s even watching out for travelers, because of recent unpleasantness:
And he said, Behold now, my lords, turn in, I pray you, into your servant’s house, and tarry all night, and wash your feet, and ye shall rise up early, and go on your ways. And they said, Nay; but we will abide in the street all night.
In the days before inns, people must’ve either camped outside or found a host. The language sounds like traditional Middle Eastern hospitality, rather than any special recognition of angels (yashab). He certainly acts very hospitable:
And he pressed upon them greatly; and they turned in unto him, and entered into his house; and he made them a feast, and did bake unleavened bread, and they did eat.
But before they lay down, the men of the city, [even] the men of Sodom, compassed the house round, both old and young, all the people from every quarter: And they called unto Lot, and said unto him, Where [are] the men which came in to thee this night? bring them out unto us, that we may know them.
In this context, of course, know (yada`) apparently means homosexual rape; after all, that’s where we get our word sodomy. I know this passage is hotly debated (especially in these days of the gay marriage debate) as to whether homosexuality is the sin for which Sodom was judged, or whether it was simply cruelty to strangers. I look at it differently. Sodom is ultimately judged for turning away from God. One aspect of that is homosexual perversity, and one outgrowth of that is violence towards strangers. But not all idolatry leads to sexual perversity, and not all homosexuality involves direct rebellion against God, or leads towards violence. On the other hand, the passage does seem to suggest some correlation between rebellion, homosexuality, and violence, at least in this context.
And Lot went out at the door unto them, and shut the door after him, And said, I pray you, brethren, do not so wickedly
I’m not quite sure what to make of Lot’s actions here. Is this courage, or cluelessness? His next offer deepens the enigma:
Behold now, I have two daughters which have not known man; let me, I pray you, bring them out unto you, and do ye to them as [is] good in your eyes: only unto these men do nothing; for therefore came they under the shadow of my roof.
Do we applaud Lot for living up to the ultimate ideal of hospitality, or condemn him for cruelty towards his daughters? An ugly question. Fortunately for us (and them!), the offer is rejected:
And they said, Stand back. And they said [again], This one [fellow] came in to sojourn, and he will needs be a judge: now will we deal worse with thee, than with them. And they pressed sore upon the man, [even] Lot, and came near to break the door.
This is a telling passage. Lot really did just want place to dwell (guwr), but ends up needing to act as a judge (shaphat). Such is the lot of all who think that personal righteousness is the only thing that matters. If you ignore the world around you, sooner or later you’ll discover that you can’t live an isolated but righteous life: either you will compromise your morals, or you’ll be forced to confront the culture. But if you wait, it will be at a time of their choosing, and you’ll be faced with no good choices.
But the men put forth their hand, and pulled Lot into the house to them, and shut to the door.
Fortunate indeed was Lot to have angels watching out for him.
And the men said unto Lot, Hast thou here any besides? son in law, and thy sons, and thy daughters, and whatsoever thou hast in the city, bring [them] out of this place:
The first command: to bring out (yatsa’). Why?
For we will destroy this place, because the cry of them is waxen great before the face of the LORD; and the LORD hath sent us to destroy it.
Lot believes, but is not himself believed:
And Lot went out, and spake unto his sons in law, which married his daughters, and said, Up, get you out of this place; for the LORD will destroy this city. But he seemed as one that mocked unto his sons in law.
The angels forcibly remove what appear to be the only righteous they could find:
And while he lingered, the men laid hold upon his hand, and upon the hand of his wife, and upon the hand of his two daughters; the LORD being merciful unto him: and they brought him forth, and set him without the city.
After some debate, the angels let Lot go to the small city of Zoar (Tso`ar, insignificance), rather than the mountains:
Haste thee, escape thither; for I cannot do any thing till thou be come thither. Therefore the name of the city was called Zoar.
The intriguing implication is both that a) God cannot (yakol) do anything until Lot leaves, yet b) is in a hurry. That is, the hurry is not because it was on a fixed timetable which put Lot at risk, but for some other reason. Though, perhaps they did cut it too close:
But his wife looked back from behind him, and she became a pillar of salt.
This passage ends with a very cinematic moment:
And Abraham gat up early in the morning to the place where he stood before the LORD:
And he looked toward Sodom and Gomorrah, and toward all the land of the plain, and beheld, and, lo, the smoke of the country went up as the smoke of a furnace.
With what might be considered a comforting moral:
And it came to pass, when God destroyed the cities of the plain, that God remembered Abraham, and sent Lot out of the midst of the overthrow, when he overthrew the cities in the which Lot dwelt.
Hmm. The implication I get from that is while Abraham’s intercession didn’t save the city, it did save Lot; but that might be reading in too much.
However, the story does not end with that passage:
And Lot went up out of Zoar, and dwelt in the mountain, and his two daughters with him; for he feared to dwell in Zoar: and he dwelt in a cave, he and his two daughters.
The final note is a very sad scene, brought on by the triple tragedies of a) Lot’s fear (yare’ ), b) the loss of Lot’s wife, and c) the loss of their two husbands. Change any one of those three, and we might have avoided this:
Come, let us make our father drink wine, and we will lie with him, that we may preserve seed of our father.
And so they do. Incest, like other forms of perversity, usually has its roots in deeper layers of loss and brokenness. With consequences that endure for generations:
And the firstborn bare a son, and called his name Moab: the same [is] the father of the Moabites unto this day. And the younger, she also bare a son, and called his name Benammi: the same [is] the father of the children of Ammon unto this day.
Lot’s righteousness, together with Abraham’s intercession and God’s mercy, appears to have saved him. But at what price?
God, save me from the fate of Lot. Forgive me for the ways that I have closed my eyes to the need and brokenness of the world around me. Save me from being forced to act as a judge; instead, make me a transformer of the world around me. Help me to bring wholeness and restoration to the world around me, rather than letting their corruption seep into the world inside me. Father, protect my family, that we not be torn about by the destruction of the world, but relate to each other as you intended. Make us intercessors like Abraham, rather than victims like Lot. In the name of Jesus our redeemer, Amen.