20. From City Councilman to Caveman: “What a Difference a Day Makes” (Genesis 19:1-38)
Several weeks ago I was in Washington State visiting with a friend of ours who was also from Texas. We were standing by the lake on which my parents live, looking out over the lush vegetation, the magnificent fir trees, and enjoying the cool temperature. Thoughtfully my friend turned to me and asked, “Tell me again why it is that you want to go back to Dallas?”
I suppose that most of us give considerable thought to getting out of the city, away from high crime rates, people and pollution, unseemly sights, sounds and smells, crowds and congestion. There seems to be a trend of ‘back to the country’ thinking recently. Some would even feel that leaving the city is biblical.
Thus far in the book of Genesis, the city has not been viewed in the best light. Cain built the first city, naming it after his first son, Enoch, and this after he was told that he would be a vagabond and a wanderer (Genesis 4:12,17). In spite of the fact that man had been commanded to populate the earth (9:7), fallen mankind huddled together and began to build the city of Babel with its tower (11:4). Abraham was called to leave urban life to live the life of a sojourner (12:1-3).
And now Lot, who chose to live in Sodom, is about to lose everything: his wife and family, his honor, and all he has worked for. Abraham, living far from the cities of the plain, watches with grief as this destruction is wrought (19:27-29). Does this not indicate that separation involves fleeing from the city? Some think so. But Lot’s downfall did not occur in the sick and secular society of Sodom, but in a secluded cave. The problem was ultimately not with a city, but with a soul. Genesis 19 enables us to put the matter of separation into its proper perspective.
The 19th chapter of Genesis is perhaps the most tragic portion of this book for it describes the destruction of a city. Far worse, it depicts the downfall of a saint. Had it not been for these words of the Apostle Peter, we may never have known with certainty that the pathetic personality known as Lot was a true believer:
And if He rescued righteous Lot, oppressed by the sensual conduct of unprincipled men (for by what he saw and heard that righteous man, while living among them, felt his righteous soul tormented day after day with their lawless deeds), … (II Peter 2:7-8).
If we are candid with each other, we must admit that in the church of Jesus Christ the ‘Lots’ far outnumber the ‘Abrahams.’ If we are truthful we would have to say that in our own lives there is much more of Lot evident in us than of the friend of God, Abraham. If this is true, then the description of the destruction of Lot contains a warning for every true Christian. We must approach this passage carefully and prayerfully if we are to learn Lot’s lessons from literature rather than from life.
Hospitality Versus Homosexuality
“Now the two angels came to Sodom in the evening as Lot was sitting in the gate of Sodom. When Lot saw them, he rose to meet them and bowed down with his face to the ground. And he said, ‘Now behold, my lords, please turn aside into your servant’s house, and spend the night, and wash your feet; then you may rise early and go on your way.’ They said however, ‘No, but we shall spend the night in the square.’ Yet he urged them strongly, so they turned aside to him and entered his house; and he prepared a feast for them, and baked unleavened bread, and they ate” (Genesis 19:1-3).
The two angels arrived at Sodom in the evening. Lot, who was sitting at the city gate, identified them as mortal men and as strangers, but not as messengers of destruction. Since the elders of the city sat as judges at the gates of the city (cf. Job 29:7-12), it is not unlikely that Lot, over a period of time, had gained prominence and power. Personally, it seems to be the same kind as acquired by Billy Carter. You will remember that shortly after Lot moved to Sodom the city was sacked and carried off, only to be rescued by the heroic efforts of Abram (Genesis 14:1-16). Lot’s popularity and power may well have been derived from his relationship to Abraham.
This should in no way detract from the genuine hospitality offered the two strangers. The parallel with Abraham’s hospitality in the previous chapter can hardly be accidental. This act, more than any other, evidenced the righteousness of Lot as indicated by Peter in his epistle. The apparent reluctance of the angels to accept until gently pressed by Lot is more a matter of culture and custom than anything else (cf. Luke 24:28-29).
While we are not told in concrete terms, it would seem that Lot’s persistence is motivated as much by fear for the safety of the strangers as by his generosity. Well did he know the fate of those who did not have a haven for the night. In any other city, sleeping in the city square would not have been unusual or unwise. The depravity of Sodom caused Lot to courteously compel his guests to stay with him and to share his table with them. I am inclined to believe that Lot’s meal was neither as serene nor as sumptuous as that shared at Abraham’s table.177
If Lot had hoped his guests had entered his home unnoticed, he was in for a great disappointment. Sick as it may seem, the men of the city may have had a keener eye for strangers than Lot. Their motives were corrupt and their intentions unspeakable. In a short time the entire city had gathered about Lot’s house seeking sex with the strangers. This was not the ‘broad-minded’ tolerance of a city whose laws permitted such conduct between consenting adults in private. It was not even the shameless solicitation to sin. Rather, it was rape, and that of the worst form. Imagine it, a whole city, young and old. Surely judgment was due.
Lot’s response is typical of his spiritual state; it is a strange blend of courage and compromise, of strength of character and situationalism. The crowd demanded that Lot turn over his guests, an unthinkable violation of the protection guaranteed one who comes under the roof of your house. Lot stepped outside, closing the door behind him, hoping to defuse the situation. He pleaded with them not to act wickedly, and, just as we are about to applaud his courage, he offers to surrender his two daughters to the appetites of these depraved degenerates. How unthinkable! Lot’s virtue (his concern for his guests) has become a vice (a willingness to substitute his own daughters for strangers). We may breathe a sigh of relief that the crowd refused Lot’s offer, but I must tell you that the consequences for this compromise are yet to be seen.
For twenty years Lot had lived in Sodom, yet he was still an alien to the men of the city. I suspect that the reason Lot had been left alone was that these people still remembered the military might of uncle Abraham. Had Lot been attacked they would have Abraham to deal with.
For years Lot had seemingly been content to stand aloof from the sin of this city, but not to rebuke it. Now he would play the part of the judge by speaking out against their wickedness. This was too much for the mob. Finally forced to protest their perversion, he has angered the mob. They will first deal with Lot, then with the other two.
Lot, who supposed it was his duty to save the strangers, is rescued by them. By the words they spoke, their identity and their task were revealed to Lot. Their sight either removed completely or dazzled and distorted, the men of the city groped for the door, but wore themselves out trying to find it (cf. II Kings 6:18).
Lot’s Last Stand
In those twilight hours before sunrise, Sodom saw more missionary activity from Lot than in all the previous years. His efforts were not trained upon the men of the city, however, but were a frantic and futile effort to save his own family, whom he had neglected to win.
Then the men said to Lot, ‘Whom else have you here? A son-in-law, and your sons, and your daughters, and whomever you have in the city, bring them out of the place; for we are about to destroy this place, because their outcry has become so great before the Lord that the Lord has sent us to destroy it’ (Genesis 19:12,13).
His sons-in-law178 were awakened and warned in what must have been a wild-eyed fashion. It was like trying to give the gospel to a rapidly dying man. No doubt Lot’s demeanor did suggest something very bizarre. They took it all for some kind of joke:
And Lot went out and spoke to his sons-in-low, who were to marry his daughters, and said, ‘Up, get out of this place, for the Lord will destroy the city.’ But he appeared to his sons-in-law to be jesting (Genesis 19:14).
Why? Why would they not take Lot seriously? Notice that we are not told that they refused to believe Lot so much as they did not even take him seriously. There seems to be only one possible explanation: Lot had never mentioned his faith before. His words were not a repetition of his life-long warnings of sin and Judgment—they are something totally new and novel. What a rebuke to the witness of Lot. It is one thing to warn men and have them reject our message. It is far worse for them not even to consider our words as spoken seriously.179
Morning came without one new convert, let alone one righteous soul who would flee the wrath of God. Time was up. The angels ordered Lot to take his wife and his two daughters and get out of the city before judgment fell.
The unbelief of the citizens of Sodom is to some degree predictable, but the reluctance of Lot is incredible. Never before has anyone ever tried so hard to keep from being saved. There are several reasons why Lot may have been so hesitant and foot-dragging throughout the entire rescue. First, Lot in his carnal state may not have been fully convinced of the certainty and severity of the judgment. Second, he may have hoped by his delay, to stall for time, in order to preserve friends and family knowing that judgment could not come until he had departed (cf. verse 22). Third, Lot was so attached to this ‘present world’ of friends, family, and things that he just could not bear the thought of leaving it. In the final analysis Lot was literally dragged from the city by the angel.
And when morning dawned, the angels urged Lot, saying, ‘Up, take your wife and your two daughters, who are here, lest you be swept away in the punishment of the city.’ But he hesitated. So the men seized his hand and the hands of his daughters, for the compassion of the Lord was upon him; and they brought him out, and put him outside the city (Genesis 19:15-16).
When given specific instruction to flee to the mountains as far from Sodom as possible (verse 17), Lot again resisted and plead for a less painful program:
But Lot said to them, ‘Oh no, my lords! Now behold, your servant has found favor in your sight, and you have magnified your lovingkindness, which you have shown me by saving my life; but I cannot escape to the mountains, lest the disaster overtake me and I die; now behold, this town is near enough to flee to, and it is small. Please, let me escape there (is it not small?) that my life may be saved’ (Genesis 19:18-20).
What a difference between the intercession of Abraham and the prayer (or plea) of Lot. Abraham prayed for the preservation of the cities for the sake of the righteous, particularly Lot and his family. Abraham had no selfish interest at stake. To the contrary, removing the peoples of the cities might have appeared to have left the land open for Abraham to possess.180 Lot plead for the city of Zoar (previously Bela, Genesis 14:2), not for the sake of those who lived there, but for his own convenience. If judgment must fall, could God not make it easy on Lot? After all, wasn’t it just a little city? And so the city was spared (verse 21).
Fire and Brimstone
Sunrise came just as Lot, with his wife and daughters, approached Zoar (verse 23). Safely out of reach of the devastation, the Lord rained down fire and brimstone from heaven upon the cities of the valley. Many suggestions have been made as to the mechanics employed to bring about this destruction.181 While I believe that natural elements such as lightening, earthquakes, or volcanic eruptions, probably were involved, this makes it no less a miracle. This was judgment from the Lord (19:13- 4; 24-25), and He was in full control of its extent and timing (verses 22,24-25). The devastation included the four towns and even the soil on which they were built. It was a picture of complete devastation:
‘All its land is brimstone and salt, a burning waste, unsown and unproductive, and no grass grows on it, like the overthrow of Sodom and Gomorrah, Admah and Zeboiim, which the Lord overthrew in His anger and in His wrath’ (Deuteronomy 29:23).
The death of Lot’s wife is tragic indeed. She died, it seems, within steps of safety. They had virtually arrived at the city of Zoar. While Lot hastened on, Mrs. Lot lingered. Perhaps her mother’s heart was touched by the death of her sons and daughters, or it may have been the women’s club or their new townhouse, or even the Ethan Allen furnishings they had just paid off. One thing is certain, her looking back differed from Lot’s actions only in degree, not in kind. Her heart, like Lot’s, was in Sodom. She lingered behind, then looked back for only a moment, but it was too late.182 The destruction meant for Sodom struck her as well, and only steps from safety and those she loved. Regardless of her motive, she directly disobeyed a clear command of the angelic messenger (cf. 19:17).
God Answers Abraham
Verses 27-29 serve several purposes. First, they reveal the heart of Abraham in contrast to the self-interest of Lot. Abraham, like God, did not delight in wickedness nor in the destruction of sinners. Both had compassion on the righteous. Abraham had made his appeal to God. I do not think that he went to that same spot as the day before in order to pray, but to watch God answer his prayers. There was no casual ‘what will be, will be’ attitude, but genuine concern over the outcome.
Secondly, these verses underscore the real reason Lot was spared. While a just God would not destroy the righteous with the wicked (18:25), the stress here is that ‘the prayers of a righteous man availeth much’ (James 5:16). It was Abraham’s faithfulness and not Lot’s which resulted in Lot’s deliverance. Humanly speaking, there was little reason for sparing Lot other than the character of God and the concern of Abraham over his fate.
You Can Take Lot Out of Sodom …
While Lot plead with the angels to spare Zoar, he soon left that city in fear. Fear of what? Some have suggested it was a fear of the people of Zoar due to the possibility of retaliation. It may have been a fear of future judgment falling on that city which likely was as wicked as the others.
I am inclined to look at it a little differently. After a period of reflection, Lot may have come to the realization that his having settled in Sodom was the cause of all his troubles. It had cost him his wealth, his wife and most of his family. To stay in Zoar or in any wicked city might result in even more destruction and judgment. And hadn’t God commanded him to flee to the mountains? And so Lot determined to ‘get away from it all.’ Away from the city and its wickedness. Away from the world. Lot sought safety in a cave rather than a city.
One nagging question haunts me. Why didn’t Lot go to be with Abraham? There was surely no problem of too much prosperity now. And didn’t Abraham live in the mountains far from the city? Lot was free to choose where he settled, provided he did not stay in one of the condemned cities when judgment came. I believe that Lot was not up to facing his uncle and fessing up to his folly. With Abraham there could have been fellowship, encouragement, and perhaps the possibility of some God-fearing husbands for his daughters from among Abraham’s entourage.
The remaining verses depict the final state of Lot, the carnal Christian. He is passive and pathetic. In a drunken stupor he became the father of two nations, both of which were to be a plague to Israel. Lot, and those who came from him, were a pain to Abraham and his descendants.
In Lot’s shoes we might have concurred with his decision to forsake the city for a cave. Lot was finally ready to deal with worldliness. He did so by departing from the world. The only problem with this was that while Lot was out of Sodom, Sodom was not out of Lot. Monasticism has never been the solution to materialism; seclusion is no substitute for sanctification. The world without is not nearly so plaguing as the world within (cf. Romans 7).
To Lot’s daughters, the cave was no temporary dwelling place, a place of shelter in the time of storm. It became evident that for Lot it was a permanent dwelling place, home. His daughters also began to conclude that their father was not trying to protect himself so much as them. He would lose no more daughters to wicked men. And so it seemed that Lot would perish without a seed unless the girls did something about it themselves. They concluded, “… there is not a man on earth to come in to us after the manner of the earth” (Genesis 19:31).
Surely this bleak picture was exaggerated. They saw no normal means for them to marry and bear children. While their perception was undoubtedly wrong, it brought them to the added error of deducing that they would have to resort to unusual (perhaps it would be more accurate to say immoral, since incest was probably not unusual in Sodom) means to preserve the line of their father. This reasoning resulted in a sinful plot.
At Lot’s age, action would have to be taken quickly. Evidently the daughters determined that Lot would never knowingly submit to such a scheme, so they never mentioned it to him. Something had to be done to weaken his resistance; wine would adequately perform this task, While Lot was in a drunken stupor the first daughter, and then the second, went in to him and became pregnant. At best, Lot was only partially aware of what had taken place until it was too late.
Two nations were born of this incestuous relationship, Moab and Ammon. While God dealt kindly with these nations because of their relationship to Abraham (cf. Deuteronomy 2:19), they were a continual hindrance to the godly conduct of the Israelites. Kidner says of these two nations:
Moab and Ammon (37f), was destined to provide the worst carnal seduction in the history of Israel (that of Baal-Peor, Nu. 25) and the cruelest religious perversion (that of Molech, Lv. 18:21)183
Eventually, they would suffer the judgment of God as did Sodom and Gomorrah:
‘Therefore, as I live,’ declares the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, ‘Surely Moab will be like Sodom, and the sons of Ammon like Gomorrah—a place possessed by nettles and salt pits, and a perpetual desolation. The remnant of My people will plunder them, and the remainder of My nation will inherit them’ (Zephaniah 2:9).
Several features of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah make it a most disturbing and challenging passage. Let us consider these carefully.
(1) Similarity. The similarities between Sodom and our society today are distressing. Immorality was rampant and perversion had become the norm. Homosexuality is always considered sin in the Bible (cf. Romans 1:24ff), but here it is a symptom of a society so sick with sin that it must be judged. Like a raging cancer, it must be cut out before it spreads further.
I would like to suggest that Sodom has nothing over our society. Homosexuality, while only one symptom of sin, is not only tolerated but is proudly proclaimed and openly advocated as an alternate lifestyle. Movies and other media glamorize sin, and profiteers make their fortunes on it. Now, by means of cable television, the filth of Sodom is being piped into our own living rooms. What remains to be seen in our society which was not in Sodom? I know of nothing.
Sodom stands in Scripture as a symbol of evil and depravity. It also stands as a warning of future judgment (Deuteronomy 29:23; 32:32; Isaiah 1:9-10; 3:9; Jeremiah 49:18). Great as the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah was, it will not compare to the destruction of those who have had greater light through the preaching of the gospel of Jesus Christ:
Truly I say to you, it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgment, than for that city (Matthew 10:15).
The similarity of our society to that of Sodom warns us that judgment is near. The eternal wrath of God has already been meted out on the cross of Christ on Calvary. Jesus Christ became sin for us; He bore our punishment on the cross.
Surely our griefs He Himself bore, and our sorrows He carried; yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, and by His scourging we are healed. All of us like sheep have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; but the Lord has caused the iniquity of us all to fall on Him (Isaiah 53:4-6).
And He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him (II Corinthians 5:21).
By faith in Christ’s death in our place, we will not face the wrath of God:
For God has not destined us (true believers in Christ Jesus) for wrath, but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ who died for us … (I Thessalonians 5:9,10a).
But those who refuse the free gift of salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ must bear the penalty of their sins, eternal separation from God:
… dealing out retribution to those who do not know God and to those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. And these will pay the penalty of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power, … ( II Thessalonians 1:8-9).
Then, too, the similarity between Lot and many professing Christians cannot be overlooked. Lot was, at best, a half-hearted Christian. In New Testament terminology he may have been a believer, but not a disciple (cf. Luke 9:57-62). Lot tried unsuccessfully to keep one foot in the world and the other in the company of the faithful. He was caught up with materialism, concerned more with his own interests than with Abraham’s (cf. Genesis 13 with Philippians 2:1-9). He chose the best land for himself and left the rest to Abraham. He chose the settled life of the city, while Abraham chose the life of a sojourner. Lot jeopardized his family for the chance of financial gain. Lot was a man who was worldly, lukewarm and weak in his convictions.
Is there really any difference between Lot and most of us? I must confess that there seems to be more of Lot in my life than of Abraham.
What is the answer to our dilemma? How can we effectively deal with our own complacency? The solution, I believe must be found in the differences between Lot and Abraham. Lot, at best, was halfhearted in his relationship with God. Abraham had a growing intimacy, evidenced by his intercession for Lot. Lot cared mostly for himself, even to the point of sacrificing his daughters. Abraham cared more for others, evidenced by his generosity in giving Lot the choice of the land and in interceding with God for Lot’s deliverance. Lot was a man who failed to learn from divine discipline. When he moved to Sodom and then was kidnapped, he returned to the same place without any apparent change in action or attitude. Abraham made many mistakes (sins), but he learned from them. Lot was a man who lived only for the present, while Abraham was a stranger and a pilgrim on the earth. He chose to do without many earthly pleasures for the joys of greater and more lasting blessings from God.
(2) Security. Having stressed the failures of Lot we must not lose sight of the fact that he was a saved man (II Peter 2:7-8). Even in the midst of his failures, God spared him from judgment, albeit kicking and screaming all the way. What a picture of the security of the saint, even the most carnal.
The reason for Lot’s security, as ours, is not that he was faithful, for he was not. Lot’s salvation was clearly in spite of himself, not because of his works. What, then, was the basis of his security? So far as our text is concerned, the answer is simple. Lot was saved, not for his own sake, but for Abraham’s. It was not Lot’s faithfulness, but Abraham’s which delivered him from destruction:
Thus it came about, when God destroyed the cities of the valley, that God remembered Abraham, and sent Lot out of the midst of the overthrow, when He overthrew the cities in which Lot lived (Genesis 19:29).
The same principle holds true for Christians today. We are saved, not on account of our faithfulness, but because of the One Who intercedes for us, Jesus Christ, our great high priest:
… who is the one who condemns? Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us (Romans 8:34).
Hence, also, He is able to save forever those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them (Hebrews 7:25).
What a wonderful assurance. We will be saved, not because of our worthiness, but His, Who not only died to save us, but Who continually intercedes for us before the Father:
My little children, I am writing these things to you that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; … (I John 2:1).
Is our security to become a source of slothfulness, or an incentive to sin? Far from it (cf. Romans 6:1ff; I Peter 2:16). While Genesis 19 informs us that Lot was delivered from God’s judgment, he was not kept from the painful consequences of his sins. He lost all his possessions, most of his family, and his honor. Sin never pays! Christians may go their own willful way, but they cannot enjoy it for long.
(3) Separation. Lot’s life serves as a powerful exposition on the doctrine of separation. As I see it, there are two phases of Lot’s life, each tending toward a particular extreme.
The first phase of Lot’s life evidenced a period of identification with the sinner. Separation here manifested itself in not practicing the sins which were generally accepted and acted out. Our Lord, too, identified with sinners, and was criticized for it:
And when the scribes of the Pharisees saw that He was eating with the sinners and tax-gatherers, they began saying to His disciples, ‘Why is He eating and drinking with tax-gatherers and sinners?’ And hearing this, Jesus said to them, ‘It is not those who are healthy who need a physician, but those who are sick; I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners’ (Mark 2:16,17).
While both our Lord and Lot lived in close proximity to sinners without participating in their sins, the difference between the two was that our Lord spoke clearly of sin and of salvation while Lot remained silent. Christians are to be salt in a wicked society. The essence of salt is that it is distinctive. Lot lost his saltiness in the society about him. I suppose the truth is he simply lost his nerve. There was seemingly no sense of danger or urgency for him. Our Lord clearly came to save sinners.
By living in Sodom without being salty, Lot not only failed to save others but he lost his own family. Here is the great tragedy of Lot’s life in Sodom—his children (save two) and his wife, were lost there. If we do not seek to save others, we may even lose our own families. Many, in the process of trying to minister to others, have lost their own families to the world.
The sin of Lot was not being in Sodom, but his motivation for being there. Living in the world is not wrong, but being of the world (John 17:15-16). Living in a crooked and perverse generation is not wrong, but failing to proclaim the message of sin, righteousness and judgment is. Lot’s problem was not so much his living in Sodom, but his lack of salt.184
The later chapter in the life of Lot was lived out in a cave. Here Lot seems to have tried to deal with the world by seclusion. Monasticism has always been a tempting alternative to mingling with sinners. Let me remind you that Lot did not fail in the city as badly as he did in that cave. It was there that drunkenness numbed his senses enough for him to be lured into incest with his daughters.
Lot’s failure in that cave was far more of his own making than most of us would like to admit. It was not just that his daughters had learned so much sin in Sodom—they were still virgins you will recall (19:8). The real problem was not with Sodom, but with Lot. His daughters simply carried out that which they had learned from their own father. These same two girls stood inside the door as they overheard those words from their father,
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; only do nothing to these men, inasmuch as they have come under the shelter of my roof (Genesis 19:8).
From Lot, his two daughters learned that morality must sometimes be sacrificed to practicality. Lot was willing to turn over his own daughters (who were as yet sexually pure, not corrupted by the sins of Sodom) to the Sodomites instead of two strangers. They learned from Lot that morality must sometimes be set aside in emergencies. Once they saw their father’s plight (and their own) as an emergency, incest was no longer a moral problem, for morality must yield to practicality in emergencies.
Many of us, as fathers, are greatly concerned about the world in which our children live. The temptations are infinitely greater. But in our concern for what is happening in the cities, let us not think we can save our children by restricting them to a cave. For in the cave, they are still being influenced by us. Let us be mindful from the tragedy which occurred in Lot’s family that many of the sins of our children are not learned from the world, but from the fathers.
You see, the Christian doctrine of separation must evidence a delicate balance between two equally dangerous extremes. One extreme is to overly stress identification with the world—but without a clear proclamation of the gospel. The other is to seek security in seclusion from the world. This is not the Christian’s solution to sin either:
I wrote you in my letter not to associate with immoral people; I did not at all mean with the immoral people of this world, or with the covetous and swindlers, or with idolaters; for then you would have to go out of the world. But actually, I wrote to you not to associate with any so-called brother if he should be an immoral person, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or a swindler—not even to eat with such a one (I Corinthians 5:9-11).
Lot attempted to live his life in a city and then in a cave. We cannot become one with the world, but neither are we to flee from it. The proper balance between the city of Sodom and the cave is the tent of Abraham. We are to live in the world, but without becoming attached to it or conformed to it. We are to be strangers and pilgrims. As Peter expressed this under inspiration,
Beloved, I urge you as aliens and strangers to abstain from fleshly lusts, which wage war against the soul. Keep your behavior excellent among the Gentiles, so that in the thing in which they slander you as evildoers, they may on account of your good deeds, as they observe them, glorify God in the day of visitation (I Peter 2:11-12).
May God help us to live in the world without becoming a part of it, or it a part of us. As the writer in the Proverbs expressed it:
The house of the wicked will be destroyed, but the tent of the upright will flourish ( Proverbs 14:11).
177 While this is by no means a critical issue, several considerations incline me to this conclusion. First, it was unleavened bread that was served by Lot, but not (seemingly) by Abraham. Unleavened bread was prepared by the Israelites in haste before their exodus from Egypt. Perhaps it was late in the evening and there was no time for leavened bread to rise. But perhaps Lot, knowing the men of the city, did not feel a leisurely meal to be appropriate. When he spoke of them getting up and starting early in the morning (verse 2), was he anxious to send them off before others were awake? In such a case, Lot would be eager to serve a quick meal and get them bedded down for the night. Then, too, the Hebrew word translated ‘feast’ can also mean ‘drink.’ In most instances, this would describe an elaborate feast at which one would drink; sometimes it could even degenerate to a drinking bout. Often, it was a wedding feast. The Septuagint (the Greek translation of the Old Testament) renders the passage so that it suggests Lot prepared his guests something to drink and unleavened bread. The NIV does not go this far, but does not choose to portray a feast either: “He prepared a meal for them, baking bread without yeast, . . . ” The Amplified Old Testament attempts to convey the literal sense by rendering it, “And he made them a dinner (with drinking), and had unleavened bread which he baked; and they ate.” All of this at least leaves room for the suggestion that Lot’s hospitality was hastier and, perhaps, not as sumptuous as that of Abraham’s table.
178 ‘Sons-in-law,’ verse, 14, is understood either as those who were married to Lot’s daughters, or those who were engaged (‘were taking’) to them. If the latter were correct, the daughters would not be those two who were still at home, who ‘have not had relations with man’ (verse 8). These two ‘engaged’ daughters would have gone with their parents to Zoar and then with Lot to the cave. One can see how they would reason that marriage was no longer an option. If the former were the case, these ‘sons-in-law’ had married other daughters of Lot and both the sons-in-law and the daughters were destroyed in the judgment of Sodom. Thus, Lot’s failure would be of even greater magnitude. Verse 15 seems to support the view that Lot had two unmarried daughters and others who had married, when it says, “Up, take your wife and your two daughters, who are here, . . . ” It would thus imply that there were others not present with Lot, but rather with their husbands.
180 The question may be raised, “Why did God render the land unusable by the judgment of Sodom and Gomorrah?” One might suppose that God would have, by this, removed the inhabitants of the valley and given the land to Abraham. God’s purpose, however, had been revealed to Abraham in chapter 15 (verses 13-16). Abraham was not to possess the land in his lifetime, but to be a ‘stranger and pilgrim’ on the earth. In this, his faith was tested and strengthened. Not until the fourth generation would Abraham’s descendants possess the land. Perhaps it was due to the wide-spread devastation of the land that Abraham moved on toward the Negev (20:1).
181 Bush has an extensive discourse on the destruction of Sodom (I, pp. 314-325), at the end of which he concludes, “The catastrophe, therefore, if our interpretation be admitted, was marked with the united horrors of earthquake, and volcano, the latter described as a conflagration from heaven, forming altogether such a scene as baffles conception, and such as the eye of man never witnessed before.” George Bush, Notes on Genesis, Reprint, (Minneapolis: James and Klock Publishing Co., 1976), I, p. 325.
182 “. . . she may well have been overtaken by the poisonous fumes and the fiery destruction raining down from heaven. . . . But once overcome, there she lay, apparently not reached by the fire but salt-encrusted by the vapors of the Salt Sea. Lot and his daughters could not have seen this at the time, for to look back would have involved them in the same destruction. Their love for the one lost will, no doubt, have driven them after the havoc of the overthrow had subsided to visit the spot, and there they will have found the ‘pillar of salt.’ For the words watteh (‘and she become’) in no wise in themselves demand an instantaneous conversion into such a pillar.” H.C. Leupold, Exposition of Genesis (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1942), I, pp. 571-572.
184 A word of caution should be given here. In the history of Israel, God raised up prophets to speak to wicked cities and to warn them of the wrath to come (e.g. Jonah). To my knowledge, however, few, if any, who had such ministries had families which they exposed to the sins which they condemned. There may well be cases where singleness is not only advisable, but imperative. Let us be careful that our ministries are not at the expense of our families.