Add a bookmarkAdd and edit notesShare this commentary

Genesis 19:8-10 meaning

Lot reminded the lustful mob that the two visitors were under his protection and offered his two virgin daughters to the men to appease them, and protect his guests. The crowd pressed Lot against the door trying to break inside. But the two visitors quickly grabbed Lot and shut the door.

Lot offers to appease the men's lust by handing over his two daughters who have not had relations with man to the sexual predators. It is difficult for readers with a western mindset to conceive how someone the Bible calls righteous could make such an offer (2 Peter 2:7). Lot's decision in this chapter is never described as righteous. This was not his shining moment. In fact, he does not have any shining moments. He only escapes destruction by God's grace. There is no praise for Lot or any idea that we ought to admire Lot's actions. At best, he takes a stand against the mob and preaches against their wickedness, but even then he offers to trade his daughters to purchase safety.

Truly, it was by his faith in God that righteousness was attributed to him (Romans 4:5). He was the one follower of the true God in a city of pagan wickedness, where not even ten righteous men were (Genesis 18:32). The Apostle Peter describes how Lot was miserable living in the evil city of Sodom:

"for by what he saw and heard that righteous man [Lot], while living among them, felt his righteous soul tormented day after day by their lawless deeds."
(2 Peter 2:8)

Lot worshipped and served the God of his uncle Abraham. We will see in the following sections that when God told Lot to leave the city, Lot obeyed. And even then, Lot hesitated and needed the angels to seize his and his family's hands to lead them outside, all because God had compassion on them (Genesis 19:16). That is the most that can be said for Lot, that he hated the sinful culture of Sodom and obeyed God by faith when God offered grace to him. That is the sum of what God calls us to do, rescuing us from sin and calling us to live apart from it by faith, all because He has compassion on us (2 Timothy 1:9).

But, before the escape from Sodom, there is this ugly chapter in the story. A rapacious mob at the door, and the fearful Lot prioritizing his guests' safety by offering his daughters to sate the evil men in the street.

There is a similar story in Judges 19. An Israelite traveling with his female concubine passes by a foreign city in order to stop for the night at an Israelite city, Gibeah. There he would expect to be hosted well. He waits in the city square, expecting to be hosted. After a long wait, an Israelite that lived in Gibeah, but who was not a native of Gibeah, invites him to his house. But the host admonishes him not to spend the night in the city square, just as Lot did in Genesis 19.  

And, just as in this story, the men of the town come and demand to have relations with the visitor. The host (who was from the tribe of Ephraim) pleads with the men of Gibeah (who were of the tribe of Benjamin) not to do this "since this man has come into my house." This demonstrates the ethic common in the ancient near east regarding hospitality. Once a host had taken in a guest, he was honor bound to protect that guest. 

It seems both Lot as well as the host of Judges 19 viewed their predicament of protecting their guest and protecting their daughter's safety as choosing between two evils. Any time we have to choose between two evils, we tend to avoid what we deem the "greater evil," to justify our choice. Both Lot and the Israelite host in the Judges 19 story placed a higher ethical priority on their duty to protect the guest over the sexual safety of their daughter.

No where does the Bible condone these decisions. Scripture cannot be reduced simply to a devotional with moral lessons in each verse. There are many episodes within it that are records of bad humans doing bad things with bad results. The books of Genesis and Judges are particularly full of desperate situations, strife, and exploitative behavior; they contain many graphic, violent occurrences that emphasize how sinful humans do sinful things. Our job is to recognize such evil and learn from it. Ultimately it should drive our hearts to seek God and reject the world. But both of these moments in Genesis 19, Judges 19 are not morally instructive, they are accounts of the depravity of man.

The priority of protecting one's guest above all else was an enduring ethic of the ancient near east. The period of Judges began in Israel roughly five hundred years after the Genesis 19 episode of the destruction of Sodom.

In the Judges story, the host offers his virgin daughter and the traveler's concubine, but the men refuse. It is worthwhile noting that the horde refused the offer of the virgin daughters in each case. It could be that the offer of the daughters is expected to be refused. 

In the Judges 19 story, the Israelite traveler pushes the concubine out of the door. The passage reads:

"So the man seized his concubine and brought her out to them; and they raped her and abused her all night until morning, then let her go at the approach of dawn. As the day began to dawn, the woman came and fell down at the doorway of the man's house where her master was, until full daylight." 
(Judges 19:25-26)

The Israelite traveler was on his journey because his concubine had "played the harlot against him" (Judges 19:2). So perhaps in retribution against her, he pushes the concubine out of the door to get back at her, with disastrous results.

The man displays a high degree of callousness toward his concubine by putting her out to be abused. We can observe the man's callousness toward his concubine again in the morning, by how unconcerned he is with her well-being, bluntly saying, "Get up and let us go" (Judges 19:28). It would seem he thought he was teaching her a lesson. The entire episode is a sad example of twisted human nature in action on all sides.

Perhaps the man felt justified because of his anger toward her for "playing the harlot" or perhaps this indicates his hardhearted nature, which could be part of why the woman fled him to begin with (Judges 19:2). In any event, even though the man went out of his way to retrieve the woman, he does not seem to have much concern for her welfare.

The man clearly did not expect his concubine to be brutalized to the point of death, but that was the outcome. He took her body with him and finished his journey home, then cut her into twelve pieces and sent the pieces to all parts of Israel to show what was going on in Gibeah. All of Israel is shocked and dismayed, saying "Nothing like this has ever happened or been seen from the day when the sons of Israel came up from the land of Egypt to this day" (Judges 19:30). Israel musters and comes to war against Gibeah. This makes it clear that this wicked behavior was not condoned. 

Like the situation in Judges 19, Lot offers up his daughters in order to save his guests. He offers his two virgin daughters for them to sexually abuse. But he has urged this crowd not to "act wickedly" (Genesis 19:7).

Lot pleaded, "let me bring them out to you, and do to them whatever you like." He offered to give his daughters into the power of the mob to protect his guests who had come under the shelter of his roof. Lot warns the crowd of men that if they carry out such contemptible behavior it would be an appalling breach of hospitality. To violate this custom would brand the city lawless. 

Just as in Judges 19, the mob rejects the substitute offer. Further, the mob focused on his description of their planned actions with the two angels as being wicked. They accused Lot of judging them, "This one came in as an alien, and already he is acting like a judge." In Hebrew, the word 'alien' means to sojourn or dwell as a foreigner (not a blood relative) with the sense of "for a little while," not permanently. In other words, not a native-born citizen. The word judge means more than "a critic" or "to criticize." In Hebrew, it is a verb meaning "to govern" like a ruler or governor, especially over disputes. In other words, the crowd of men was saying, "This fellow Lot is not a full-fledged citizen, but only a foreigner. He dares to judge our behavior in our own hometown."

As II Peter tells us, Lot remained righteous while living in Sodom. But he had progressed in the extent to which he was integrated into the city's life.  First, he merely "pitched his tents near Sodom" (Genesis 13:12). Then "he had settled in Sodom" (Genesis 14:12). It was solely because of him that the city had earlier been saved by Abraham (Genesis 14). As we will soon see, his daughters were engaged to some young men of Sodom. Clinging to a righteous standard has caused him to remain an outsider, and he is now in personal jeopardy. 

The men respond by attacking Lot, assuring him they will treat him worse than they will treat the guests. They intend to have their way with all of the men in Lot's house, including Lot. The crowd pressed hard against Lot and came near to break the door. It seems at this point that whatever immunity Lot believe he enjoyed had now evaporated. The crowd of men refuses Lot's offer and move toward his door to secure by force what Lot would not give freely. They were enraged by Lot's attempt to stop their wickedness. They did not want to be condemned or judged. They might have restrained themselves earlier from fear of Abraham. Now their lust and rage causes them to abandon all caution. But they are going to get much more severe judgement than what Abraham could have delivered. 

Having failed to persuade the mob, Lot himself needs to be rescued. The two angels reached out their hands and brought Lot into the house. Lot attempted to save his guests but ended up being saved by them. The angels shut the door.


Select Language
AaSelect font sizeDark ModeSet to dark mode
This website uses cookies to enhance your browsing experience and provide personalized content. By continuing to use this site, you agree to our use of cookies as described in our Privacy Policy.