The destruction of Sodom (Gen 19:1-19:29)

 “The two angels came to Sodom in the evening.  Lot was sitting in the gateway of Sodom. When Lot saw them, he rose to meet them, and bowed down with his face to the ground. He said, ‘Please, my lords, turn aside to your servant’s house and spend the night, and wash your feet.  Then you can rise up early and go on your way.’ They said, ‘No. We will spend the night in the street square.’  But he urged them strongly.  So they turned aside to him and entered his house.  He made them a feast, and baked unleavened bread, and they ate.”

How are these two angels related to the three men who visited Abraham? They almost seem the same.  Nevertheless these two are called angels, not men, and there only two as if Yahweh, the third did not come.  Lot met them at the entrance to Sodom.  He promptly asked them to stay the night by washing their feet. They wanted to spend the night in the town square of Sodom, but Lot convinced them to stay with him. So, he prepared a great feast with unleavened bread, which they ate. So these angels eat food.

“But before they lay down, the men of the city, the men of Sodom, both young and old, and all the people to the last man, surrounded the house.  They called to Lot, ‘Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us, so that we may know them.’”

However, before they went to lie down for the night, the whole town surrounded Lot’s house.  Here they are called men not angels.  In a surprising tone, the men of Sodom told Lot to bring the men out so that they might ‘know them.’ ‘Know’ is a euphemism for sex. The wickedness of this town becomes obvious as some kind of homosexual rape.

“Lot went out of the door to the men, shut the door after him, and said, ‘I beg you, my brothers, do not act so wickedly. Look I have two daughters who have not known 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! This fellow came here as an alien, and he would play the judge! Now we will deal worse with you than with them.’ Then they pressed hard against the man Lot, and drew near the door to break it down.  But the men inside reached out their hands and brought Lot into the house with them, and shut the door. They struck with blindness the men who were at the door of the house, both small and great, so that they were unable to find the door.” 

Lot went out to talk to them and told them to not act so wickedly.  In fact, he offered his two virgin daughters, saying you can do anything you want with them.  He begged them not to hurt ‘the two men’ since they had the shelter of his roof.  Then the men of Sodom turned on Lot as an alien. However, the two men or angels pulled Lot inside the house and struck all the men outside the house blind.  It is interesting that Lot would give up his two daughters to protect the two men or angles, showing that men were more valuable than women.  There is a show of force by the two visiting men making the intruders blind.

“Then the men said to Lot, ‘Have you anyone else here? Sons-in-law, sons, daughters, or anyone you have in the city, bring them out of the place. We are about to destroy this place, because the outcry against its people has become great before Yahweh. Yahweh has sent us to destroy it.’  So Lot went out and said to his sons-in-law, who were to marry his daughters, ‘Up, get out of this place.  Yahweh is about to destroy the city.’ But he seemed to his sons-in-law to be jesting.”

Then the two men who were angels at the beginning of this story asked Lot who was with him, because Yahweh had sent them to destroy this place.  Lot went to his future son-in-laws to tell them to come with him because of the destruction of Sodom. They thought that he was joking.

“When morning dawned, the angels urged Lot, saying, ‘Get up, take your wife and your two daughters who are here, or else lest you be consumed in the punishment of the city.’  But he lingered.  So the men seized him and his wife and his two daughters by the hand, Yahweh being merciful to him, and they brought him out and left him outside the city. When they had brought them outside, they said, ‘Flee for your life.  Do not look back or stop anywhere in the valley plain.  Flee to the hills or else you will be consumed.’  Then Lot said to them, ‘Oh, no, my lords.  Your servant has found favor with you, and you have shown me great kindness in saving my life.  But I cannot flee to the hills, for fear that the disaster will overtake me, and I die. Look, that city is near enough to flee to, and it is a little one.  Let me escape there.  Is it not a little one?  My life will be saved!’  He said to him, ‘Very well, I grant you this favor too, that will not overthrow the city of which you have spoken. Hurry, escape there! For I can do nothing until you arrive there.’ Therefore the city was called Zoar. The sun had risen on the earth when Lot came to Zoar.”

The two angels took Lot and his wife and two daughters by the hand outside the city, since they were lingering.  They were to flee to the hills without looking back.  However, Lot resisted and wanted to go to a nearby little city of Zoar and so he went there.

“Then Yahweh rained on Sodom and Gomorrah sulfur and fire from Yahweh out of heaven.  He overthrew those cities, and all the inhabitants of the cities, and what grew on the ground.  But Lot’s wife, behind him, looked back, and she became a pillar of salt.”

Then Yahweh rained on both Sodom and Gomorrah sulfur and fire so that all who lived in those two towns and the plain were destroyed.  It is not clear why Gomorrah was included but it is assumed that they were wicked also.  Lot’s wife looked back and she became a pillar of salt, a striking biblical image.  Remember that this was in the plain by the Dead Sea which was also called the Salt Sea.

“Abraham went early in the morning to the place where he had stood before Yahweh.  He looked down toward Sodom and Gomorrah and toward all the land of the valley plain and saw the smoke of the land going up like the smoke of a furnace.  So it was that, when God destroyed the cities of the valley, God remembered Abraham, and sent Lot out of the midst of the overthrow, when he overthrew the cities in which Lot had settled.”

The next day Abraham looked down on the destruction with smoke in the air like a furnace.  So it was that the cities of the valley plain were destroyed, while Lot was saved.  This is the story of Sodom and Gomorrah, a fiery destructive God dislikes wickedness and destroys it.

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