This past Sunday I was asked by a friend to help them understand what was happening in Genesis 19. The event he was referring to pertained to the story about Lot protecting the “two angels” when they entered Sodom.
Apparently, the whole town found out about the two men and that he was with Lot in his home. They came and surrounded the house and demanded that the two men be brought to them so that they could “know” them. This was not in a shake-hands and exchange business card sense of “know”. It was an Adam and Eve sense of “know”. The men of Sodom were demanding Lot’s guests, these two angels, be brought to them so they could gang rape them. Certainly, this would be the puzzling and disturbing part of the story, right?
What puzzled my friend – and it was a good question – was, “How could Lot respond the way he did?”
In the story, Lot doesn’t let the two angels go out of the house, or the men of the city to come in. But instead, he offers up his two daughters to the men instead. What puzzled my friend, and should puzzle us all, is “The men of Sodom are obviously wicked. That’s why the angels are coming to deal with them. And if you’ve been reading the Bible this far, it shouldn’t surprise anybody that we can take things to a very depraved level, very quickly (Gen 3-4 are proofs of that)…
…But why is Lot offering up his daughters – his own family, flesh and blood – to be raped by an entire city? How is that any better than the men outside his home?”
Its a great question. Its essentially asking, “Why doesn’t Lot just take the high road? Why doesn’t he do the right, noble, heroic thing?”
My answer to my friend, and I offer it here, is two-fold. First, we have to understand that the worldview of the Biblical characters can be vastly different than our own. For Lot, it seemed more noble to protect the guests he was offering shelter and hospitality to than to his own daughters. That wouldn’t fly today. Truth be told, it shouldn’t have flown then, but it the way Ancient cultures tended to treat women, and Lot is no different, was to view them as commodities and property, instead of family.
But that’s the ancillary point. The more significant point is to respond with the question, “Who said Lot was more noble, heroic or righteous than the men of Sodom?” After all, Lot chose to dwell in Sodom. He must have had his reasons. When he and Abraham separated, Lot was motivated more by selfishness than anything in his choice.
What makes us think that Lot will be the guy to do the right thing? Its a natural response, I think, to want to hope in somebody to come through when we need them most. Its no different when we watch movies or read stories, even biblical stories.
But nowhere in the Bible do we find such men until we get to Jesus Christ. All of them had their flaws, weak-points and failures. No one was perfectly noble, all the time, every time. Lot is no different than the men outside his door.
The only difference is the angels were in his house. And this is the very surprising thing. You see Lot was spared the fate that would befall Sodom. He and his household were not destroyed with the rest of the city. Why not?
It was because of his relationship with Abraham. In the previous chapter (Genesis 18) Abraham had pleaded with the Lord to not destroy the city for the sake of the righteous living inside Sodom. The negotiations were abysmal, as Abraham kept lowering the number to ten (from fifty).
We’re not actually told if there were, but judging from the history of the negotiations, we can safely assume there weren’t. The angels were dispatched at the very end and headed towards Sodom at the beginning of chapter 19. But Lot and his family are spared, and I contend that it was not because of his good deed of sheltering the angels from the men.
I believe it was because Lot – good old, despicable Lot – had a relationship with Abraham. And Abraham was God’s covenant mediator, meaning that as you related to the mediator, God would relate to you (cf. Rahab hiding the spies in Joshua 2, and Achan in Joshua 7).
Lot wasn’t spared because he took the “high road” and was more noble, righteous or heroic. He was spared because of the work of another, and it is no different for you or I today.