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Bible Commentaries
Genesis 19

Dr. Constable's Expository NotesConstable's Expository Notes


10. The destruction of Sodom ch. 19

Chapters 18 and 19 "paint a vivid contrast between the respective patriarchal ancestors, Abraham and Lot, with an obvious moralistic intent (i.e., a demonstration that human initiatives-Lot’s choice-always lead to catastrophe)." [Note: Helyer, p. 84.]

"In the development of the story two of the themes in counterpoint with Abraham and the Promise-the theme of Lot, the righteous man without the pilgrim spirit, and of Sodom, the standing example of worldly promise, insecurity (chapter 14) and decay-are now heard out to their conclusion. By a master-stroke of narrative, Abraham, who will outlive all such time-servers, is shown standing at his place of intercession (27), a silent witness of the catastrophe he has striven to avert. It is a superb study of the two aspects of judgment: the cataclysmic, as the cities disappear in brimstone and fire, and the gradual, as Lot and his family reach the last stages of disintegration, breaking up in the very hands of their rescuers." [Note: Kidner, pp. 133-34.]

"Lot’s move from a tent pitched near Sodom (Genesis 13:12-13) to a permanent residence in the city showed his willingness to exist with unbridled wickedness." [Note: Davis, p. 200.]

The traditional site of Sodom is near the south bay of the Dead Sea. Many scholars still support this location. [Note: E.g., David Howard Jr., "Sodom and Gomorrah Revisited," Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 27:4 (December 1984):385-400. On the location of Sodom and Gomorrah, see "Cities of the Dead Sea Plain," Buried History 18:3 (September 1982), pp. 35-48; and R. Thomas Schaub and Walter E. Rast, "Preliminary Report of the 1981 Expedition to the Dead Sea Plain, Jordan," Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research 254 (Spring 1984):35-60.]

Verses 1-11

The men of Sodom wanted to have homosexual relations with Lot’s visitors (Genesis 19:5). The Mosaic Law later regarded all homosexual behavior as a capital offense (Leviticus 18:22; Leviticus 20:13; cf. Romans 1:26-27). [Note: For a refutation of denials of this view, see P. Michael Ukleja, "Homosexuality and the Old Testament," Bibliotheca Sacra 140:559 (July-September 1983):259-66. On the modern resurgence of homosexuality and its connection with ancient religious paganism, see Peter Jones, "Androgyny: The Pagan Sexual Ideal," Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 43:3 (September 2000):443-69.] Their lack of hospitality contrasts with Abraham’s hospitality (Genesis 18:1-8) and reflects their respective moral states.

Hospitality was more sacred than sexual morality to Lot (Genesis 19:8; cf. Judges 19:23-25). Compromise distorts values. Lot considered his duty to his guests greater than his duty to his children.

"When a man took in a stranger, he was bound to protect him, even at the expense of the host’s life." [Note: Davis, p. 201. See Desmond Alexander, "Lot’s Hospitality: A Clue to His Righteousness," Journal of Biblical Literature 104:2 (June 1985):289-91.]

Verses 12-22

"In order to show that the rescue of Lot was in response to the prayer of Abraham, the narrative reads so that the words of the messengers ["swept away," Genesis 19:15; Genesis 19:17] recall explicitly the words of Abraham’s prayer in behalf of the righteous in the previous chapter ["sweep away," Genesis 18:23]." [Note: Sailhamer, The Pentateuch . . ., p. 170.]

Verses 23-26

Probably the burning sodium sulfate that was raining down covered Lot’s wife as she lingered behind (Genesis 19:26). [Note: Kidner, p. 135. See Deborah Aufenson-Vance, "Lot’s Wife Remembers," Adventist Review 163:8 (Feb. 20, 1986), p. 5.]

"The heaven’s rain cannot be explained solely as a natural phenomenon, such as earthquake; it was exceptional, never again repeated, providing the parade illustration of the fiery eschatological judgment against the wicked (e.g., 2 Peter 2:6-9). The twin calamities of Noah and Lot illustrate Jesus’ teaching on the suddenness of the coming of the Son of Man (Luke 17:26-30)." [Note: Mathews, Genesis 11:27-50:26, p. 241.]

All that Lot had gained by living in Sodom burned up like wood, hay, and stubble (cf. 1 Corinthians 3:10-15). The Apostle Peter cited Lot as an example of the Lord’s deliverance of the godly from trials that He uses to punish the ungodly (2 Peter 2:6-10). John called believers not to love the world or the things in the world because they will pass away (1 John 2:15-17).

Verses 27-29

As in the Flood story, the writer focused the reader’s attention on the response of individuals to the judgment rather than on the destruction itself. Here those individuals are Lot’s wife and Abraham. Later they will be Lot and his daughters. The picture of Abraham in Genesis 19:27-28 is similar to that of Moses interceding for Israel in the battle with the Amalekites (Exodus 17:11-12). [Note: Sailhamer, The Pentateuch . . ., p. 173.] Lot’s prayer concerning Zoar (Genesis 19:18-20) contrasts with Abraham’s prayer for Sodom (Genesis 18:23-32).

"The substitution of Abraham for Lot in this sentence ["God remembered Abraham," Genesis 19:29; cf. Genesis 8:1] makes an important theological point. Lot was not saved on his own merits but through Abraham’s intercession." [Note: Wenham, Genesis 16-50, p. 59.]

Abraham rescued Lot twice: from the Mesopotamian kings (ch. 14) and from Sodom.

Verses 30-38

Moses evidently included the account of Lot’s incest for at least two purposes.

1. It gives the origin of the Moabite and Ammonite nations that played major roles as inveterate enemies in the later history of Israel. Moab sounds like the words translated "from the father," and Ammon means "son of my kin."

"His legacy, Moab and Ammon (37f.), was destined to provide the worst carnal seduction in the history of Israel (that of Baal-Peor, Numbers 25) and the cruelest religious perversion (that of Molech, Leviticus 18:21)." [Note: Kidner, p. 136. See also Henry O. Thompson, "The Biblical Ammonites," Bible and Spade 11:1 (Winter 1982):1-14.]

2. This story also illuminates the degrading effect that living in Sodom had on Lot’s daughters. The writer censured Lot’s daughters by not naming them (cf. Ruth 4:1). His older daughter was so desperate to marry that she exaggerated the effects of the recent catastrophe (Genesis 19:31).

"Lot was able to take his daughters out of Sodom, but he was not able to take . . . Sodom out of his daughters." [Note: Davis, p. 206.]

"Throughout the ancient Near East, incest between father and daughter was regarded as wrong, and OT law punishes more remote forms of incest with death (Leviticus 20:12). . . . The fact that his daughters had to make him drunk shows that they were consciously flouting normal conventions. Because of his readers’ moral assumptions, the narrator did not feel it necessary to excoriate Lot’s daughters’ behavior. The facts spoke for themselves." [Note: Wenham, Genesis 16-50, pp. 61-62.]

"The story of Lot and his family should provide a sobering reminder that all of our decisions are significant, even that of where we live. Our moral environment significantly influences our lives. For this and many other reasons the New Testament constantly implores the believer to fellowship with those of like precious faith." [Note: Davis, p. 207.]

"There are lives recorded in the Bible which have well been called beacons. There are men like Balaam, Saul, and Solomon, who started well, with every possible advantage, and then closed their careers in failure and disaster. Such a life was that of Lot. . . . There is scarcely a life recorded in Scripture which is fuller of serious and solemn instructions for every believer." [Note: Thomas, p. 171.]

"The impact of the unit focuses more directly on a characterization of the father. The one who offered his daughters for the sexual gratification of his wicked neighbors now becomes the object of his daughters’ incestuous relationship . . . . To be seduced by one’s own daughters into an incestuous relationship with pregnancy following is bad enough. Not to know that the seduction had occurred is worse. To fall prey to the whole plot a second time is worse than ever." [Note: George W. Coats, Genesis, with an Introduction to Narrative Literature, p. 147.]

"In tragic irony, a drunk Lot carried out the very act which he himself had suggested to the men of Sodom (Genesis 19:8)-he lay with his own daughters.

"The account is remarkably similar to the story of the last days of Noah after his rescue from the Flood (Genesis 9:20-27). There, as here, the patriarch became drunk with wine and uncovered himself in the presence of his children. In both narratives, the act had grave consequences. Thus at the close of the two great narratives of divine judgment, the Flood and the destruction of Sodom, those who were saved from God’s wrath subsequently fell into a form of sin reminiscent of those who died in the judgment. This is a common theme in the prophetic literature (e.g., Isaiah 56-66; Malachi 1)." [Note: Sailhamer, The Pentateuch . . ., p. 174.]

From 2 Peter 2:6-9 we know that Lot was a righteous man, though from the record of him in Genesis we might doubt that. He chose to live as, what the New Testament calls, a "carnal" believer (1 Corinthians 3:3). First, he lifted up his eyes and saw Sodom (Genesis 13:10). Then he chose for himself (Genesis 13:11). Then he moved his tent as far as Sodom (Genesis 13:12). Then he sat in the gate of Sodom as one of its judges (Genesis 19:1; Genesis 19:9). Then he hesitated as Sodom’s destruction loomed (Genesis 19:16). Finally he ended up committing incest with his daughters in a cave (Genesis 19:30-38). How far it is possible for a believer to depart from God’s will when we keep making carnal decisions!

A major revelation of this chapter is that it is foolish for a believer to become attached to the things of this world. They will corrupt him, and God will destroy them swiftly and suddenly.

Bibliographical Information
Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Genesis 19". "Dr. Constable's Expository Notes". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/dcc/genesis-19.html. 2012.
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