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Monday, July 15th, 2024
the Week of Proper 10 / Ordinary 15
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Bible Commentaries
Genesis 19

Coffman's Commentaries on the BibleCoffman's Commentaries


In the light of the N.T., this chapter appears as one of very great significance, because the destruction of Sodom was specifically mentioned by the Savior himself as a type of the Second Coming of Christ and the destruction of the whole world at the end of the age.

“Even as it came to pass in the days of Lot; they ate, they drank, they bought, they sold, they planted, they builded; but in the day that Lot went out from Sodom, it rained fire and brimstone from heaven, and destroyed them all: after the same manner shall it be in the day that the Son of man is revealed. In that day, he that shall be on the housetop, and his goods in the house, let him not go down to take them away: and let him that is in the field likewise not return back. Remember Lot’s wife.” (Luke 17:28-32)

The apostle Peter shed further light on this chapter by pointing out that just as God delivered righteous Lot, so the righteous would be delivered out of temptation. God does not destroy the righteous with the wicked. Also, there is evident the special offensiveness of the sins of the Sodomites to the Lord. Those to be punished will be, “chiefly them that walk after the flesh in the lust of defilement.”

The sacred writer, Jude, made the destruction of Sodom to be a type of “the eternal fire” that shall consume the wicked at the time of the Judgment. The full references from Peter and Jude are:

“Turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah into ashes, (God) condemned them with an overthrow, having made them an example unto them that should live ungodly; and delivered righteous Lot, sore distressed by the lascivious life of the wicked (for that righteous man, dwelling among them, in seeing and hearing, vexed his righteous soul from day to day with their lawless deeds): the Lord knoweth how to deliver the godly out of temptation, and to keep the righteous under punishment unto the day of judgment; but chiefly them that walk after the flesh in the lust of defilement, and despise dominion” (2 Peter 2:6-10). “Even as Sodom and Gomorrah, and the cities about them, having in like manner with these given themselves over to fornication and gone after strange flesh, are set forth as an example, suffering the punishment of eternal fire (Judges 1:7).

One other significant N.T. reference to this chapter is in the prophetic description of the great world city, Mystery Babylon the Great, the terminal climax of the human rebellion against God, which is given a triple designation, Sodom, Egypt, and Jerusalem (where the Lord was crucified) (Revelation 11:8). This indicates that in the final judicial hardening of the human race against their Creator, the same “lust of defilement” that marked the excesses of Sodom will again appear on a universal scale.

God saw to it that the human race would never forget the example of Sodom and Gomorrah. Any denial that the events of this chapter actually happened was labeled by Skinner as “an unduly skeptical exercise of critical judgment.”(F1) He added that, “Like the Deluge-story, it retains the power to touch the conscience of the world as a terrible example of divine vengeance on heinous wickedness and unnatural lust.”(F2) As Robinson said, “It is clear that some tremendous event must have occurred in the Dead Sea region which later generations never forgot.”(F3)

We shall ignore the theories of divided sources as variously applied by contradictory exponents of such devices. As Von Rad declared: “So far as the analysis of source documents is concerned, there are signs that the road has come to an end. Some would say that we have already gone too far!”(F4) Indeed, indeed! Amen! Somewhere, sometime, the popular critical fantasy of describing and analyzing “documents” that never existed anywhere on earth except in the imaginations of men must end. The “dead end” of that road does not lie, as Von Rad thought, at the termination of their speculations, but at the beginning of them!

Verses 1-3

“And the two angels came to Sodom at even; and Lot sat in the gate of Sodom: and Lot saw them, and he rose up to meet them; and he bowed himself with his face to the earth; and he said, Behold now, my lords, turn aside, 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 way. And they said, Nay; but we will abide in the street all night. And he urged 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.”

“And the two angels came to Sodom at even” These are the same as the two angels of the previous chapter, showing that we were correct in understanding “the men” there to have been angels. Speiser tells us that the “normal traveling time from Abraham’s tent to Sodom was about two days,”(F5) that is, some thirty-five or forty miles. Although the sacred writer here does not unduly emphasize it, we are clearly dealing with the highest level of miraculous events. Some are tempted to forget this, giving all kinds of natural explanations of just what happened to Sodom; and, despite the fact of its doubtless being true that God used natural forces in the overthrow of the five wicked cities (Zoar being spared), the whole narrative abounds with the supernatural. The prophetic prediction of exactly what would occur, both to Abraham and to Lot, the Saviour’s making this event a type of final Judgment, the perfect timing of the disaster, and the Lord’s announcement of it as punishment of the excessive wickedness of Sodom and the sister cities — such things require us to understand that, “We have here to do not with what is natural, but with what is miraculous.”(F6)

“Lot sat in the gate of Sodom” We agree with Leupold that Lot’s presence here in the gate of Sodom, “constitutes a reproach,”(F7) to this otherwise good and “righteous” man. In fact, despite the fact of Peter’s reference to the righteousness of Lot, we must definitely understand it in a relative, not an absolute, sense. Compared with Sodom he was righteous; or, as said of Noah earlier in Genesis, “He was righteous in his generation.”

Note that Lot did not hesitate to extend hospitality to the strangers, much as Abraham had. Some have sought to make the unleavened bread that Lot served mean that he recognized the visitors as divine, but a better explanation would seem that it was too late for anything else.

Verses 4-8

“But before they lay down, the men of the city, even the men of Sodom, compassed the house round, both young and old, all the people from every quarter; and they called unto Lot, and said unto him, Where are the men that came in to thee this night? bring them out unto us, that we may know them. And Lot went out unto them to the door, and shut the door after him. And he said, I pray you, my brethren, do not so wickedly. Behold now, I have two daughters that 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, forasmuch as they are come under the shadow of my roof.”

“All … from every quarter” The wickedness of Sodom was the contamination, not merely of a few, but of the total population.

“Bring them out unto us” Why had the presence of these two strangers issued in such a general and widespread demand? The tradition mentioned by Josephus is probably correct: “The Sodomites saw the young men to be of beautiful countenances, and that to a remarkable degree.”(F8)

“That we may know them” This is a euphemism for homosexual intercourse. “This is the carnal sin of pederasty, a crime very prevalent among the Canaanites,”(F9) and also the unfailing characteristic of paganism.

“I pray you, my brethren” Not only did Lot sit in the gate of Sodom, indicating his participation in the affairs of the city, and entitling him to recognition as one of the city fathers, but here he refers to these lust-blinded sinners as “my brethren!” His uncle having recently rescued the whole city from plundering by the eastern invaders, and having restored their king to his throne, Lot was evidently enjoying a certain degree of popularity in Sodom, but oil will not mix with water. The events of the dark night proved that Lot did not belong in Sodom. As is always the case, any respect or popularity that sinful men may give to the followers of the Lord is always tentative and uncertain and sure to disappear on the slightest pretext.

“I have two daughters” Lot was most reprehensible in this heartless offer to sacrifice his daughters to the lust of such a mob as had gathered at his door. His pleading the obligations of hospitality as an excuse for so doing was stupid, weak, and sinful. What he would have done was to avoid one sin by committing a greater one. Clearly, his “righteousness” must be understood in a relative sense only.

Verses 9-11

“And they said, Stand back. And they said, This one fellow came in to sojourn, and he will needs be a judge: now we will deal worse with thee, than with them. And they pressed more upon the man, even Lot, and drew near to break the door. But the men put forth their hand, and brought Lot into the house to them, and shut the door. And they smote the men that were at the door of the house with blindness, so that they wearied themselves to find the door.”

“Stand back” If Lot had thought up until that moment that he enjoyed any real influence in Sodom, it disappeared with this blunt rejection. The gratification of carnal lust is supreme with every homosexual. They would even subject Lot himself to their vile passions. The corollary to this is that, given the size of the sadistic mob converged upon Lot’s house, the unhindered gratification of their lust upon three men would inevitably have ended in their murder as well. The insight into this kind of situation which is provided by a similar incident in Judges 19 is all the proof that is needed that murder would have resulted.

“The men” Actually, these were “the angels”; and Lot could no longer have failed to know this, especially when they smote the would-be intruders with blindness.

“The blindness” This was not actually blindness, in the ordinary sense, as proved by a glance at 2 Kings 6:18, where the only other use of this word in the entire Bible is found. “There God smote the Syrian army with blindness, but did not leave them sightless. It was blindness of confusion … they could see but could not identify where they were.”(F10)

Verses 12-14

“And the men said unto Lot, Hast thou here any besides? son-in-law, and thy sons, and thy daughters, and whomsoever thou hast in the city, bring them out of the place. For we will destroy this place, because the cry of them is waxed great before Jehovah; and Jehovah hath sent us to destroy it. And Lot went out, and spake unto his sons-in-law, who married his daughters, and said, Up, get you out of this place; for Jehovah will destroy the city. But he seemed to his sons-in-law as one who mocked.”

The question of the heavenly visitors regarding sons-in-law, sons, etc., naturally suggests that Lot actually had all these in his family. By rendering the clause in Genesis 19:14, “who were to marry his daughters,” some are able to restrict the meaning of son-in-law to those betrothed to the daughters who with Lot escaped from the city, but there is nothing in the text about any betrothal. As Kline noted, “This passage also allows that the marriages had already taken place; and that, therefore, Lot also had daughters living with their husbands in addition to the two daughters with him.”(F11) As for why the wife was not mentioned, the divine messengers knew already that she would be unwilling to escape, and the same would appear to be true also concerning Lot’s sons. The whole problem of just who might have belonged to Lot is unimportant anyway, the only significant thing being that just he and two unmarried daughters survived the holocaust.

What a sad commentary this is upon the family of Lot! Sodom had already destroyed his loved ones. There was no need whatever for him to approach his sons. Long ago they had rejected “the old man” and fallen in enthusiastically with the “new morality” of Sodom. Even his married daughters had no option. Their marriage to Sodomites had removed it. Hence, the only way of saving even them was by approaching their husbands, who of course, hooted at the idea of flight.

“Jehovah hath sent us to destroy the place” The judgment of the Lord upon Sodom was justified. The apostle Paul stated flatly that proponents and practitioners of the type of sins visible here are “worthy of death” (Romans 1:32), and the permissive views of the current society are not sufficient grounds for setting aside divine law. Furthermore, it may not be supposed for one moment that God is any more pleased with the sexual aberrations associated with Sodom in our own day than He was then. In fact, many discerning observers of the current resurgence of this wickedness have pointed out that the usually fatal disease called AIDS could be, and likely is, a divine visitation visible this very day as a deterrent to such sins. Two distinguished members of the medical profession in Dallas, Texas — Dr. Paul Cameron and Dr. Clem Muller — stated that:

“The citizenship of this country must do everything in its power to smash the homosexual movement in this country and to make sure these kinds of acts are criminalized. It is not merely a moral issue, but a grave public health issue.(F12) Gregg Dixon, pastor of the Indianapolis Baptist Temple, and national secretary of the Moral Majority commented thus: “Modern science has now confirmed that the God of the O.T. was not a dirty Bully when he called for the extermination of entire nations who were infected with venereal disease. We know now that He is a loving God who is watching over His creation so that man might not destroy himself.”(F13)

The fact of Sodom’s destruction having been made a type of the final Judgment would appear to suggest that the proliferation and acceptance of the sins of Sodom will again reach a climax before the coming of that great and dreadful Day. God help men to heed the warning!

Verses 15-17

“And when the morning arose, then the angels hastened Lot, saying, Arise, take thy wife, and thy two daughters that are here, lest thou be consumed in the iniquity of the city. But he lingered, and the men laid hold upon his hand, and upon the hand of his wife, and upon the hand of his two daughters, Jehovah being merciful unto him: and they brought him forth and set him without the city. And it came to pass, when they had brought them forth abroad, that he said, Escape for thy life; look not behind thee, neither stay thou in all the Plain; escape to the mountains, lest thou be consumed.”

“Thy two daughters that are here” This indicates that other daughters were “not here” and would therefore be left behind.

“But he lingered” There is not a sadder scene in the dramatic literature of all mankind than this. What a tragic situation! Sons and married daughters, their extensive possessions, all that they had, remained in the doomed city, and it was humanly almost impossible for Lot to tear himself away from it all, and his poor wife failed utterly to do so. Not even Lot would have been spared, but the special mercy of Jehovah exceeded all that could have been imagined in order to save him anyway.

“Escape to the mountains” This is a reference to the mountains of Moab (as later called), lying east and southeast from the doomed cities. The plea of Lot, next related, may be viewed only with disgust. What a marvel it is that Jehovah did not lose patience with him!

Verses 18-22

“And Lot said unto them, Oh, not so my lord: behold now, thy servant hath found favour in thy sight, and thou hast magnified thy lovingkindness, which thou hast shown unto me in saving my life; and I cannot escape to the mountains, lest evil overtake me, and I die. Behold now, this city is near to flee unto, and it is a little one. Oh let me escape thither (is it not a little one?), and my soul shall live. And he said unto him, See, I have accepted thee concerning this thing also, that I will not overthrow the city of which thou hast spoken. Haste thee, escape thither; for I cannot do anything till thou be come thither. Therefore, the name of the city was called Zoar.”

“Lot said unto them … and he said” Some expositors find a problem with the alternating plural and singular in this passage, but in certain statements “the angels” were giving the word of “the Lord,” and that accounts for the changes which are easily understood. How amazingly inadequate are those comments which mention “separate sources” as an explanation of this.

It is quite evident here that not merely Sodom and Gomorrah, but other cities were destroyed at the same time, Zoar being spared only upon the intercession of Lot. “Archaeological explorations within the last decade have shown that at the time of Abraham there were five large cities on the eastern side of the southern portion of the Dead Sea.”(F14) The names of these were Sodom, the southernmost, Gomorrah, Zoar, Admah, and Zeboiim in order toward the north. This sheds light on Judges 1:7, where these other cities are the subject of the clause stating that they too had given themselves over to fornication, etc., “in like manner” to Sodom and Gomorrah. See also Deuteronomy 29:23, and Hosea 11:8.

Verses 23-25

“The sun was risen upon the earth when Lot came unto Zoar. Then Jehovah rained upon Sodom and upon Gomorrah brimstone and fire from Jehovah out of heaven; and he overthrew those cities, and all the Plain, and all the inhabitants of the cities, and that which grew upon the ground.”

We shall spare the reader any description of just how God did this. We do not know, nor does anyone else! Many plausible theories are available, explaining how a great earthquake, releasing vast quantities of natural gas and petroleum, combined with the inflammable nature of the bituminous soil, ignited by lightening, or hot lava from volcanic action, etc., etc., could have resulted “quite naturally” in the destruction noted here. That is all very well, but how do we account for the sparing of Zoar! We do not believe that the wonder visible here is adequately explained by any, or by all such theories combined. When the time was ripe, God destroyed them by means and in a manner truly known only to God. Just so, at the end of our own age, when human rebellion is finally and irrevocably out of control, God has promised to destroy, not merely a few wicked cities, but the entire world, and we receive God’s promises as sure and certain of fulfillment.

There are visible a number of purposes behind God’s judgmental action against those wicked cities:

(1) It was a great strengthening of Abraham’s faith.

(2) It warned Lot.

(3) “It gave moral and religious instruction for all to come.”(F15)

Verse 26

“But his wife looked back from behind him, and she became a pillar of salt.”

All kinds of reasons are alleged for the action of Lot’s wife here, and even what she did is grossly misunderstood. God’s command to “look not behind thee” is not to be understood as any prohibition whatever against merely “glancing backward.” It referred to a purposeful “returning back” to the doomed city. This is perfectly clear from the use that Jesus made of this episode in the passages quoted at the head of the chapter. Therefore, we must reject as nothing short of ridiculous the rendition of these words in The Anchor Bible: “As Lot’s wife glanced backward, she turned into a pillar of salt.”(F16) We hope we are wrong, but it seems to us that such “translations” are for the purpose of making the narrative unreasonable.

Referring again to the use Jesus made of this episode (Luke 17:31-32), our Lord mentioned the conduct of Lot’s wife as an example of what NOT to do, having just admonished his hearers, “He that shall be on the housetop, and his goods in the house, let him not go down to take them away.” The inference is clear enough that the “looking back” done by Lot’s wife was that of interrupting her flight long enough to return to their house in order to remove something she had left behind. It was a fatal mistake. The terrible destruction of the cities fell upon her also.

“She became a pillar of salt” It is a mistranslation to make this read, “She was changed into a pillar of salt.” Such a rendition turns the event into a vengeful retribution executed upon this poor woman, but it was no such thing. God was doing everything He could to save her, even sending angels to take her by the hand and lead her out of the place. The awful destruction, having already been commanded and in progress, was not sent upon Lot and his wife, but upon Sodom. Lot’s wife entered the disaster zone contrary to the will of God and against His specific commandments. Thus, God did not “change her” into a pillar of salt, as in some magical tale; “she BECAME a pillar of salt,” as a result of her own rash decision to enter the disaster zone. There are enough miracles in this episode without making another one out of this. We believe Keil’s analysis of this is correct:

“Lot’s wife, having been killed by the fiery and sulfurous vapour with which the air was filled, was afterward encrusted with salt, resembling an actual statue of salt; just as, even now, from the saline exhalation of the Dead Sea, objects near it are quickly covered with a crust of salt.(F17)

For ages, there was a specific “pillar of salt” in the area that was designated “Lot’s Wife,” and it continued to exist until the times of Jesus Christ and his personal ministry. Josephus declared, “I have seen it, and it remains at this day.”(F18) That it still stood in those times is also attested by Clement of Rome and later by Irenaeus.(F19)


I. She is a warning to all who are tempted to sacrifice their safety in order to win or keep more of this world’s goods.

II. If we strive to possess the best of both worlds, we are likely to lose both.

III. She is a reminder that being “near safety” is not enough.

IV. She is a warning that having begun to follow the Lord’s Word, one may still turn back from the way and be lost.

Verses 27-28

“And Abraham got up early in the morning to the place where he had stood before Jehovah: and he looked toward Sodom and Gomorrah, and toward all the land of the Plain, and beheld, and, lo, the smoke of the land went up as a furnace.”

Nowhere in the Bible does there appear the skill, genius, and inspiration of the sacred author (Moses) any more dramatically than in these two verses. What a picture they present! We are not told what thoughts must have surged in the mind of the great patriarch. Were there not even ten righteous souls in Sodom? What became of Lot? How complete was the destruction? How awful is the judgment of God upon evil! All of the answers lay in that terrible cloud of smoke that lay above the whole Plain. In the loneliness of Faith, Abraham appears here, awe-stricken, stunned, speechless, and grieving over the fate of a city that he had sought to save through prayer. It is not mentioned, but he must have fallen to his knees.

Verse 29

“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 which Lot dwelt.”

“When he overthrew” The word “overthrew” is strongly suggestive of earthquake and volcanic activity, indicating God’s use of violent natural forces in the disaster that he brought upon the wicked city.

“God remembered Abraham” Abraham’s prayers had not been in vain, for they issued in Lot’s being spared.

Not merely the destruction of the wicked, but the protection and salvation of the righteous, is dramatically visible in this event, as was also the case in the judgmental destruction of Jerusalem near the beginning of the Gospel Age, both events pointing squarely to the great promise that God will also protect and redeem the righteous through that final holocaust that shall conclude the era of human probation.

Verse 30

“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 weakness of Lot’s faith appears also in this. He had received divine permission to dwell in Zoar, but nevertheless he was afraid to stay there and decided to flee to the mountains as the angel had at first commanded him to do.

Verses 31-34

“And the first-born said unto the younger, our father is old, and there is not a man in the earth to come in unto us after the manner of all the earth: come, let us make our father drink wine, and we will lie with him, that we may preserve seed of our father. And they made their father drink wine that night; and the first-born went in, and lay with her father; and he knew not when she lay down, nor when she arose. And it came to pass on the morrow, that the first-born said unto the younger, Behold I lay yesternight with my father: let us make him drink wine this night also; and go thou in, and lie with him, that we may preserve seed of our father.”

This tragic, pitiful episode stands here as awesome proof that Lot and his family had been in Sodom too long. They had indeed been delivered OUT OF Sodom, but Sodom was still IN them to a certain degree.

The wine. Evidently, Lot brought along his liquor when he left the doomed city. That opened the door for the evil that came later.

The daughters’ fear. Their notion that not a man on the earth was left was unjustified. They had only recently left the populous city of Zoar; and their allegation that their father only, of all the men on earth, was left had no foundation in fact and appears here more as an excuse for what they wanted to do than as any heroic deed on their part to preserve humanity. Robinson supposed that the daughters might have thought the destruction was universal and wrote that, “In that case, Lot’s daughters must be regarded as heroines who adopted desperate measures to repopulate the earth!”(F20) Such views are impossible of reconciling with what is written here.

Verses 35-38

“And they made their father drink wine that night also: and the younger arose, and lay with him; and he knew not when she lay down, nor when she arose. Thus were both the daughters of Lot with child by their father. And the first-born 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 Ben-ammi: the same is the father of the children of Ammon unto this day.”

The guilt of the daughters. That Lot’s daughters knew the action they initiated was sinful was proved by the fact that they knew that their father would not willingly participate in it. All efforts to understand the action of these young women in any favorable light disappears in the light of the truth that they themselves knew that it was sinful.

The allegations of critical scholars to the effect that this “tale” was invented by the Israelites to cast a slur upon their enemies is totally unreasonable and illogical. As Keil pointed out:

“This account was neither the invention of national hatred of the Moabites and Ammonites, nor was it placed here as a brand upon those tribes. These `discoveries’ of criticism, imbued with hatred of the Bible, are overthrown by the fact, that, according to Deuteronomy 2:9; Deuteronomy 2:19, Israel was ordered not to touch the territory of either of these tribes because of the descent from Lot.”(F21)

The names Moab and Ammon are apparently symbolic: “Moab (Genesis 19:37) closely resembles the Hebrew [~me’ab], meaning “from a father”; and Ben-ammi signifies “son of my kinsman.”(F22) Thus, the degrading circumstances of their birth were memorialized by the Moabites and Ammonites themselves, and it is most illogical to blame Israel in any manner with the charge that they “invented” this account to discredit those peoples.

It is true that long afterward both nations became bitter enemies of Israel, both politically and religiously. It will be recalled that the king of Moab hired Balaam to curse Israel, and that through Balaam’s suggestion, the whole nation of Israel was seduced by the licentious devices of the Moabites at Baal-Peor (Numbers 25), resulting in the whole nation’s rejecting God and becoming attached to Baal. It was the “sacred prostitution” associated with the Baalim cults that proved the undoing of God’s people. “Solomon built a high place for Molech, the god of the Ammonites, and burned incense and sacrificed to this god (1 Kings 11:5; 1 Kings 7:8).”(F23) Molech was the horrible fire god. His image was a huge ugly statue with a hollow belly containing a furnace to heat his brazen arms, into which children were cast as sacrifices. Some of the kings of Israel, notably Solomon and Ahaz, as did also Manasseh, caused their sons “to pass through the fire to go to Molech.”

As Morris pointed out, however, not all of those people were evil. Ruth the Moabitess was honored with one of the O.T. books relating how she became one of the ancestresses of Jesus our Lord. Naamah, an Ammonite woman, was one of Solomon’s wives, and the mother of king Rehoboam.

Despite all of this, the subsequent history of the unfortunate races that descended from Lot’s incestuous union with his daughters was just as sordid as their unhappy beginning.

Bibliographical Information
Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on Genesis 19". "Coffman's Commentaries on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/bcc/genesis-19.html. Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.
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