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The Pulpit Commentaries The Pulpit Commentaries
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These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on Genesis 19". The Pulpit Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
commentaries/ eng/ tpc/ genesis-19.html. 1897.
Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on Genesis 19". The Pulpit Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
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And there came two angels—literally, the two angels, i.e. the two men of the preceding chapter who accompanied Jehovah to Mature; οἱ δύο ἄγγελλοι (LXX.)—to Sodom at even (having left the tent of Abraham shortly after noon); and Lot—last heard of in the narrative as captured by the Asiatic kings, and delivered by his uncle (Genesis 14:12, Genesis 14:16)—sat in the gate of Sodom. שַׁעַר, from the idea of opening, signified the gateway or entrance of a camp (Exodus 32:26, Exodus 32:27), of a palace, of a land (Jeremiah 15:7), or of a city (Joshua 2:7). Corresponding to the ancient forum of the Romans, or agora of the Greeks, the city gate among the Hebrews was the customary place of resort for the settlement of disputes, the transaction of business, or the enjoyment of ordinary social intercourse (cf. Genesis 34:20; Deuteronomy 21:19; Deuteronomy 22:15; Ruth 4:1; Proverbs 31:23). It was probably an arch with deep recesses, in which were placed chairs for the judges or city magistrates, and seats or benches for the citizens who had business to transact. So Homer describes the Trojan elders as sitting at the Scaean gate. In what capacity Lot was sitting in the gate is not narrated. That he was on the outlook for travelers on whom to practice the hospitality he had learned from his uncle (Poole, Calvin, Willet, Lange) is perhaps to form too high an ideal of his piety (Kalisch); while the explanation that he had been pro-meted to the dignity of one of the city judges, though not perhaps justified as an inference from verse 9, is not at all unlikely, considering his relationship to Abraham. And Lot seeing them (and recognizing them to be strangers by their dress and looks) rose up to meet them;—having not yet abandoned the practice of hospitality, or forgotten, through mingling with the Sodomites, the respectful courtesy which was due to strangers, since the writer adds—and he bowed himself with his face toward the ground (cf. Genesis 18:2).
And he said, Beheld new, my lords,—Adonai (vide Genesis 18:3). As yet Lot only recognized them as men—turn in, I pray you, into your servant's house, and tarry all night, and wash your feet (of. Gen 18:1-33 :44 and ye shall rise up early, and go on your ways. Though an act of kindness on the part of Lot, his invitation was not accepted by the angels obviously with a view to try his character (cf. Luke 24:28). And they said, Nay; but we will abide in the street all night. Literally, for in the broad open spaces (i.e. the streets of the town) we will pass the night; no great hardship in that climax.
And he pressed upon them greatly. Being himself sincerely desirous to extend to them hospitality, and knowing well the danger to which they would be exposed from the violence and licentiousness of the townsmen. And they turned in unto him, and entered into his house; and he made them a toast,—mishteh, from shathah, to drink, is rightly rendered πότον (LXX.), a drink, or refreshing beverage (cf. Esther 5:6; Esther 7:7)—and did bake unleavened broad—literally, bread of sweetness, that is, bread not soured by leaven. The banquet was thus of the simplest kind, chiefly, it may be hoped, for the sake of dispatch. And they did eat.
But before they lay down, the men of the city, even the men of Sodom, compassed the house round, both old and young, all the people from every quarter. i.e. of the town, as in Jeremiah 51:31 (Lange); from the extremity, or extremities, of the town (Kalisch); from the extremities, i.e. all the population contained within the extremities (Rosenmüller); all the citizens to the last man (Keil). The text probably conveys the writer's idea.
And they called unto Lot, and said unto him, Where are the men which came in to thee this night? Josephus supposes them to have been of beautiful countenances ('Ant.,' 1.11, 3), which excited the lust of the Sodomites, and caused them to assault Lot's house with shameful cries. Bring them out unto us, that we may know them. The sin here euphemistically referred to (cf. Judges 19:22) was exceedingly prevalent among the Canaanites (Le Genesis 18:22) and other heathen nations (Romans 1:27). Under the law of Moses it Was punishable by death.
And Lot went out at the door unto them,—literally, at the doorway, or opening (pethach, from pathach, to open; cf. pateo, Latin; πρόθυρον, LXX.); in which the gate or hanging door (deleth, from dalai, to be pendulous) swings, and which it closes—and shut the door (deleth, ut supra; θύρα, LXX.) after him,—to protect his visitors, which he also sought to accomplish by personal exhortation—and said, I pray you, brethren, do not so wickedly—and also by an infamous proposal which nothing can extenuate and the utmost charity finds difficult to reconcile any pretence of piety on the part of. Behold now, I have two daughters which have not known man;—i.e. unmarried (cf. Genesis 4:1), though, according to some, already betrothed to two Sodomites (Genesis 19:14)—let me, I pray you, bring them out unto you, and do ye to them as is good in your eyes. The usual apologies—that in sacrificing his daughters to the Sodomites instead of giving up his guests to their unnatural lust. Lot
(1) selected the lesser of two sins (Ambrose);
(2) thereby protected his guests and discharged the duties of hospitality incumbent on him (Chrysostom);
(3) believed his daughters would not be desired by the Sodomites, either because of their well-known betrothal (Rosenmüller), or because of the unnatural lust of the Sodomites (Lunge);
(4) acted through mental perturbation—are insufficient to excuse the wickedness of one who in attempting to prevent one sin was himself guilty of another (Delitzsch), who in seeking to be a faithful friend forgot to be an affectionate father (Kalisch), and who, though bound to defend his guests at the risk of his own life, was not at liberty to purchase their safety by the sacrifice of his daughters ('Speakers Commentary'). Only unto these men—הָאֵל, an archaic form of הָאֵלֶּה, a proof of the antiquity of the Pentateuch (cf. Genesis 19:25; Genesis 26:3, Genesis 26:4; Le Genesis 18:27; Deuteronomy 4:42; Deuteronomy 7:22; Deuteronomy 19:11)—do nothing (i.e. offer to them neither violence nor dishonor); for therefore (vide Genesis 18:5) came they under the shadow of my roof—in order to find protection.
And they said, Stand back. Ἀπόστα ἐκεῖ (LXX.); recede illuc (Vulgate); "Make way," i.e. for us to enter (Keil, Knobel, Gesenius); Approach hither (Baumgarten, Kalisch); Come near, farther off ('Speaker's Commentary'). And they said again, This one fellow (literally, the one, an expression of the Sodomites' contempt) came in to sojourn, and he will heeds be a judge:—literally, and shall he judge, judging; shall he continually play the judge, referring doubtless to Lot's daily remonstrances against their wickedness (cf. 2 Peter 2:7, 2 Peter 2:8)—now will we deal worse with thee, than with them. And they premed Bore upon the man, even Lot (literally, upon Lot, who appears to have offered a sturdy resistance to their violence no less than to their clamors), and came near to break (שָׁבַר, to break to pieces, to shiver) the door.
But the men (i.e. the angels) put forth their hand, and pulled Lot into the house to them, and shut to the door—deleth (vide Genesis 19:6).
And they smote the men that were at the door—the pethaeh, or opening (vide Genesis 19:6)—of the house with blindness,—סַגְוֵרִים (sanverim), from an unused quadrilateral signifying to dazzle, is perhaps here intended not for natural blindness, but for confused or bewildered vision, involving for the time being loss of sight, and accompanied by mental aberration; what Aben Ezra calls "blindness of eye and mind" (cf. 2 Kings 6:18)—both small and great: so that they wearied themselves to find the door—which they would hardly have done bad it been natural blindness only.
Warning lights in Sodom.
I. THE FLICKERING LIGHT OF LOT'S PIETY.
1. That the light of Lot's piety was still burning, though he had long been subjected to the moral contamination of the licentious Pentapolis, is apparent from—
(1) The practice of hospitality, which he appears to have maintained, having probably learnt it while in his uncle's tent. So men often cling to the outward forms of religion when its living power is ceasing to exert an influence upon the heart; and though adherence to the former is not to be mistaken for the latter, yet it renders the decline of the latter less rapid and disastrous than it would otherwise be.
(2) The kindly reception which he extended to his celestial visitors. If scarcely so elaborate as the sumptuous entertainment of Abraham at Mamre, the banquet of Lot was at least as outwardly reverential and as unaffectedly sincere and earnest. It clearly testified that Lot had not yet become insensible to the practical duties of religion, as at that time understood. Early religious training is exceedingly difficult to eradicate.
(3) The courageous defense which he made of his threatened guests. At the risk of his personal safety he endeavored to repel the violence with which the citizens assailed them; and by the proffer of a sacrifice, the greatest surely that a parent could make, he sought to beguile the infamous designs which the townsmen cherished. Whatever may be said of Lot's conduct in this latter action, his behavior throughout towards the angels proved that the life of grace within his soul was not quite extinct.
2. That the light of Lot's piety, though still burning, was fast fading, may be gathered from the circumstances—
(1) That he had remained so long among the Sodomites. Unless a process of moral deterioration had been going on within the soul of Lot, residence among a people so depraved would eventually have become impossible. Instead of being merely vexed in his righteous soul while in Sodom, he would have taken the earliest opportunity to escape from Sodom.
(2) That he had betrothed his daughters to two of Sodom's citizens. That his prospective sons-in-law were infected by the bad taint of the city may be inferred from their subsequent behavior, as well as from the preceding judgment of God on the universal corruption of the city's inhabitants. Hence Lot should rather have kept his daughters virgins than have suffered them to enter into matrimonial engagements with ungodly suitors.
(3) That he actually offered to sacrifice his daughters' purity to the lust of the Sodomites. Whatever apology may be offered for so extraordinary a proposal on the part of Lot, nothing can be plainer than that it implied a strange obliquity of moral vision, and a serious deadening of fine moral feeling. It was a clear proof that the immoral contagion had begun to affect Lot, and that it was high time for him to leave Sodom.
II. THE LURID LIGHT OF SODOM'S IMPIETY. Already well enough known as to its character, the wickedness of Sodom is at length unveiled in all its revolting features and frightful dimensions. The history of that last night in the doomed city proclaimed the sin of Sodom to be—
1. Unnatural. In the unbridled license of their appetites they had far outstripped common sinners; even the natural brute beasts they had left behind; they had sunk to a monstrosity of wickedness of which shame forbids to speak. Paul enumerates their sin amongst the forms of impurity by which the heathen world has at times defiled itself (Romans 1:26, Romans 1:27).
2. Shameless. Disgusting and repulsive as their 'wickedness was, instead of shrinking into darkness and doing it in secret, they openly proclaimed their filthiness, and would have gratified their lusts in public. It is a lower deep in moral degradation when one not only does "those things which are not convenient," but glories in his shame (Philippians 3:19).
3. Violent. This marked a third degree in the wickedness of Sodom, that, rather than be baulked of their lewd design, the citizens were prepared to set at naught the laws of hospitality, which insured the safety of strangers within their city, and, if need were, the rights of property, by breaking into Lot's house, and, still further, the liberties of the person, by laying hands on the objects of their unhallowed lusts. Ordinary sinners are satisfied if they can gratify an unholy impulse without an undue expenditure of crime; these were ready to trample on all laws of God and man to accomplish their desire, "adding sin to sin" (Isaiah 30:1).
4. Obdurate. Even when struck with blindness they did not discontinue their impious attempt. They wearied themselves groping about in the darkness, but it was still in an endeavor "to find the door." Common sinners pause when confronted with the just judgments of Heaven; these were only maddened into greater fury (Psalms 73:7). And, to complete the picture, this appalling wickedness was—
5. Universal. From all quarters and of all ages they clustered and clamored round the door of Lot's house. There does not seem to have been any dissension in the multitude. They were all of one mind. Could anything more signally attest Sodom's ripeness for destruction?
1. How rapidly a good man can deteriorate in evil company.
2. How completely a nation can resist the ameliorating influences of its good men.
3. How disgustingly repulsive sin is when fully developed.
Genesis 19:12, Genesis 19:13
And the men said unto Lot,—after the incident recorded in the preceding verses. Lot by this time had doubtless recognized their celestial character; accordingly, the Codex Samaritanus reads "angels"—Hast thou here any besides? (i.e. any other relatives or friends in the city in addition to the daughters then present in the house) son in law, and thy sons, and thy daughters, and whatsoever (not of things, but of persons) thou hast in the city, bring them out of this place: for we will destroy this place (literally, for destroying this place are we, i.e. we are here for that purpose), because the cry of them—not "the outcry on account of them," i.e. which the men of Sodom extort from others (Gesenius), but the cry against them which ascends to heaven, the cry for vengeance on their iniquities (cf. Genesis 4:10; Genesis 18:20—is waxen great before the face of the Lord (cf. Genesis 6:11; Genesis 10:9); and the Lord (Jehovah) hath sent us (language never employed by the Maleach Jehovah) to destroy it.
And Lot went out (obviously that same evening), and spake unto his sons in law, which married his daughters,—literally, those taking his daughters, meaning either those who had taken them (LXX; Targums, Knobel, Delitzsch), or more probably those intending to take them, their affianced husbands (Josephus, Vulgate, Clericus, Rosenmüller, Ewald, Keil, Kalisch)—and said, Up, get you out of this place; for the Lord (Jehovah) will destroy this (literally, the) city. But (literally, and) he seemed as one that mocked—as one that made laughter; from the same root as the word Isaac (Genesis 17:19; cf. Judges 16:25)—unto his sons in law.
Genesis 19:15, Genesis 19:16
And when the morning arose,—literally, as soon as the dawn (from שָׁחַר, to break forth as the light) went up, i.e. on the first appearance of the morning twilight—then the angels hastened Lot, saying, Arise, take thy wife, and thy two daughters, which are here;—literally, which are found; not implying the existence of other daughters (Knobel), but contrasting with the sons in law (Keil, Kalisch) lest thou be consumed in the iniquity (or punishment, as in Isaiah 5:18) of the city. And while he lingered,—Lot's irresolution would have been his ruin but for his attendant. His heart manifestly clung to the earthly possessions he was leaving. The angels made no mention of his attempting to save a portion of his great wealth—the men laid hold upon his hand, and upon the hand of his wife, and upon the hand of his two daughters; the Lord being merciful to him:—literally, in the mercy, or gentleness, of Jehovah to him; the primary idea of the verb from which the noun is derived being that of softness (cf. Isaiah 63:9)—and they brought him forth, and set him without the city.
And it came to pass, when they had brought them (i.e. Lot and his family) forth abroad (literally, without; sc. the city), that he—one of the angels (Rabbi Solomon, Jarchi, Rosenmüller, Lange, 'Speaker's Commentary'); the one that had taken Lot's hand (Inglis); Jehovah speaking through the angel (Delitzsch); the angel speaking in the name of God (Keil, Kalisch); Jehovah himself, who, though not mentioned, had now appeared upon the scene (Ainsworth, Candlish)—said, Escape for thy life (literally, for thy soul; and clearly in this case the loss of the soul in the higher sense must have been involved in the destruction of the life); look not behind thee. From the event it may be inferred that this injunction was also given to Lot's wife and daughters; perhaps to hide God's working in the fiery judgment from mortal vision (Knobel), but more likely to express detestation of the abhorred city (Bush), to guard against the incipience of any desire to return (Lange), and to stimulate their zeal to escape destruction. Neither stay thou in all the plain—or "circle" (vide Genesis 13:10). Once so attractive for its beauty, it must now be abandoned for its danger. Escape to the mountain (the mountain of Moab, on the east of the Dead Sea), lest thou be consumed.
And Lot said unto them, Oh, not so, my Lord. Adonai, which should rather be translated Lord; whence it would almost seem as if Lot knew that his interlocutor was Jehovah. Keil admits that Lot recognized a manifestation of God in the angels, and Lange speaks of a miraculous report of the voice of God coming to him along with the miraculous vision of the angels. That the historian uses "them" instead of "him" only proves that at the time Jehovah was accompanied by the angels, as he had previously been at Mamre (vide Genesis 18:1).
Behold now, thy servant hath found grace in thy sight (cf. Genesis 18:3), and thou hast magnified thy mercy (language inappropriate to be addressed to the angels, though exactly suitable if applied by Lot to Jehovah), which thou hast showed unto me in saving my life; and I cannot escape to the mountain, lest some evil (more correctly, the evil, i.e. the destruction threatened upon Sodom) take me, and I die.
Behold now, this city is near to flee unto (literally, thither), and it is a little one: Oh, let me escape thither, (is it not a little one?) and my soul shall live. Lot's meaning was that since Zoar was the smallest of the cities of the Pentapolis, it would not be a great demand on God's mercy to spare it, and it would save him from further exertions for his safety. A singular display of moral obtuseness and indolent selfishness on the part of Lot.
And he said unto him, See, I have accepted thee (literally, I have lifted up thy face, the petitioner usually supplicating with his face toward the ground, so that the elevation of his countenance expressed the granting of his request) concerning this thing also, that I will not overthrow this city, for the 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. I.e. "The Little;" obviously from Lot's remark concerning it (Genesis 19:20); Σηγώρ (LXX.). The original name of the city was Bela (Genesis 14:2, q.v.). It has been sought for in the Wady Zuweirah, a pass leading down from Hebron to the Dead Sea, on the west side of the lake (De Sancey); in the Ghor-el-Mezraa, i.e. upon the southern peninsula, Which projects a long way into the Dead Sea (Robinson); and in the Ghor-el-Szaphia, at the south-eastern end of the see, at the opening of the Wady-el-Raumer (Keil); but has now been identified with Zi'ara, at the northern extremity of the lake.
The sun was risen upon the earth—literally, the sun went forth, i.e. it was now above the horizon. Lot had left Sodom with the first streak of dawn; but, having lingered, it was clear morning—when Lot entered into Zoar—or "went towards Zoar," i.e. when the angel left him (Keil).
Then the Lord rained—literally, and Jehovah caused it to rain; καὶ κύριος ἔβρεξε (LXX.), which latter term is adopted by Luke in describing this event (Genesis 17:1-29)—upon Sodom and upon Gomorrah—and also upon Admah and Zeboim (Deuteronomy 29:23; Hosea 11:8), Bela, or Zoar, of the five cities of the Jordan circle (Genesis 14:2, Genesis 14:8) being exempted—brimstone and fire—גָּפְרִית; properly pitch, though the name was afterwards transferred to other inflammable materials (Gesenius); וָאֵשׁ, and fire, which, though sometimes used of lightning, as in 1Ki 18:38; 2 Kings 1:10, 2 Kings 1:12, 2 Kings 1:14; Job 1:16, may here describe a different sort of igneous agency. Whether this Divinely-sent rain was "burning pitch" (Keil), of lightning which ignited the bituminous soil (Clericus), or a volcanic eruption which overwhelmed all the region (Lynch, Kitto), it was clearly miraculous in its nature, and designed as a solemn punitive infliction on the cities of the plain—from the Lord—i.e. Jehovah (the Son) rained down from Jehovah (the Father), as if suggesting a distinction of persons in the Godhead; otherwise the phrase is regarded as "an elegancy of speech" (Aben Ezra), "an emphatic repetition" (Calvin), a more exact characterization of the storm (Clericus, Rosenmüller) as being out of heaven.
And he overthrew—literally, turned over, as a cake'; whence utterly destroyed (cf. Deuteronomy 29:23; κατέστρεψε, LXX.; subvertit, Vulgate). In Arabic "the overthrown' is a title applied, κατ ἐξοχὴν, to Sodom and Gomorrah (Gesenius). From the use of the expression καταστροφή (2 Peter 2:6), Wordsworth thinks an earthquake may have accompanied the burning—those cities,—that they were submerged as well as overthrown (Josephus) is a doubtful inference from Genesis 14:3 (vide infra, Verse 28, on the site of cities of the plain). The archaic הָאל is again employed (cf. Genesis 19:8)—and all the plain,—kikkar, circle or district (Genesis 13:10)—and all the inhabitants of the cities,—a proof of their entire corruption (Genesis 18:32)—and that which grew upon the ground—literally, that which sprouts forth from the ground, the produce of the soil; thus converting "a fruitful land into barrenness for the wickedness of them that dwell therein" (Psalms 107:34).
But his wife looked back from behind him,—i.e. went behind him and looked back; ἑπέβλεψεν (LXX.), implying wistful regard; respiciens (Vulgate); an act expressly forbidden by the angel (Genesis 19:17)—and she became (literally, she was, conveying an idea of complete and instantaneous judgment) a pillar of salt. נְעִיב מֵלַח; στήλη ἀλός (LXX.); a statue or column of fossil salt, such as exists in the neighborhood of the Dead Sea. That she was literally transformed into a pillar of salt (Josephus, Calvin, Rosenmüller, Kalisch, Wordsworth), though not impossible, is scarcely likely. A more probable interpretation is that she was killed by the fiery and sulphurous vapor with which the atmosphere was impregnated, and afterwards became encrusted with salt (Aben Ezra, Keil, Lange, Murphy, Quarry), though against this it has been urged
(1) that the air was not filled with "salt sulphurous rain," but with fire and brimstone; and
(2) that the heaven-sent tempest did not operate in the way described on the other inhabitants of Sodom (Inglis). A third explanation regards the expression as allegorical, and intimating that the fate of Lot's wife was an everlasting monument of the danger of disregarding the word of the Lord, either as a covenant of salt signifies a perpetual covenant (Clark), or with reference to the salt pillars which, in a similar manner, attest the destruction of the cities (Inglis). The notion that Lot's wife, returning to the city, stuck fast in terra salsuginosa, like a salt pillar (Dathius), and that she perished in the flames, having afterwards erected to her memory a monument of the salt stone of the region (Michaelis), may be disregarded.
And Abraham gat up early in the morning (of the catastrophe) to the place (i.e. and went to the place) where he stood before the Lord (vide on Genesis 18:22).
And he looked toward—literally, towards the face, or visible side (cf. Genesis 18:16 where the same phrase is employed to describe the act of the angels on leaving Mamre)—Sodom and Gomorrah, and toward all the land of the plain, or Jordan circle. The cities of the plain are commonly believed to have been situated at the southern extremity of the Dead Sea, The principal reasons assigned for this conclusion may be stated.
1. Josephus and Jerome, the one representing Jewish, and the other Christian, tradition, both speak of a Zoar as existing in that locality.
2. The difference of level between the northern and southern ends of the lake, the one according to Lynch being 1300 feet, and the other not more than 16 feet, seems to favor the idea that the latter is of recent formation, having been, in fact, submerged at the time of the overthrow of the cities.
3. A ridge of rock-salt on the west of the Yale of Salt is called by the name Jebel Usdum, in which a trace of the word Sodom is by some detected; and the pillars of salt that in that region have from time to time been detached from the salt cliffs have been designated by the name of Lot's wife (Bint Sheikh Lot).
4. The statement of Genesis 14:3 appears to imply that the Salt Sea now covers what was originally the vale of Siddim.
5. The expression "like the land of Egypt as thou comest to Zoar" (Genesis 13:10) is suggestive rather of the southern than of the northern extremity of the lake as the site of the Pentapolis. It may be added that this opinion has received the sanction of Robinson, Stanley, Porter, Thomson (The Land and the Book), and other eminent geographers. On the other hand, there are reasons for believing that the true site of the cities was at the north, and not the south, of the Dead Sea.
1. The circle of the Jordan was visible from the Bethel plateau (Genesis 13:10); the southern extremity of the Dead Sea is not.
2. From the heights above Hebron or Mature, though the actual circle is not visible, "yet the depression between the nearer hills and those of Gilead can be perceived, and Abraham could at once identify the locality whence the smoke arose," after Sodom's burning.
3. Chedorlaomer's route (Genesis 14:7-14) was from Kadesh to Hazezon-tamar, midway up the western shore of the Dead Sea, from Hazezon-tamar to the vale of Siddim, and from Siddim to Dan, the natural conclusion being that on reaching Hazezon-tamar he did not turn southward, but continued marching northwards.
4. Moses from Mount Nebo (Deuteronomy 34:3) beheld"' the south, and the plain of the valley of Jericho, the city of palm trees, unto Zoar," which was certainly possible if Zoar was in the line of vision with the plain and the city of Jericho, but as certainly impossible if it was at the southern extremity of the lake This view has been advocated by Grove (Smith's 'Biblical Dictionary,' art. ZONE) and by Tristram, and has been adopted by Drew ('Imp.' 'Bible Dict.,' art. Sodom), Dykes, and Inglis. And beheld, and, lo, the smoke of the country went up as the smoke of a (literally, of the) furnace. Thus the appalling catastrophe proclaimed its reality to Abraham; to subsequent ages it stamped a witness of its severity
(1) upon the region itself, in the bleak and desolate aspect it has ever since possessed;
(2) upon the page of inspiration, being by subsequent Scripture writers constantly referred to as a standing, warning against incurring the Almighty's wrath (Deuteronomy 29:22; Isaiah 13:19; Jeremiah 49:18; Lamentations 4:6; Amos 4:11; 2 Peter 2:6; Jude 1:7); and
(3) upon the course of ancient tradition, which it powerfully affected. Cf. Tacitus, 'Hist.,' Genesis 5:7 : "Hand procul inde eampi, quos ferunt olim uberes, magnisque urbibus habitatos, fulminum jaetu arsisse; et manere vestigia; terramque ipsam specie torridam vim frugiferam perdidisse; nam cuncta atra et inania velut in cinerem vanescunt. Ego, sicut inelitas quondam urbes igne celesti flagrasse concesserim." For traditional notices of this event by Diodorus Siculus, Strabo, Pliny, Ovid, &c. vide Rosenmüller (Scholia I. Gen 19:25).
The judgment of fire.
I. THE DELIVERANCE OF LOT.
1. Mercifully warned. The intimation conveyed by the angels was—
(1) Explicit; the city was to be destroyed. The cry for vengeance could no longer be resisted. The cup of its iniquity was full.
(2) Emphatic; there was no dubiety about the announcement. Already the doom had been decreed, and they had come to be the ministers of its execution.
(3) Merciful; it was designed to secure the escape of himself and friends from the impending overthrow. "Whatsoever thou hast, bring them out of this place."
(4) Timely; there was still ample opportunity for not only getting clear out of the perilous region himself, but for alarming his daughters' intended husbands. So are sinners warned clearly, expressly, graciously, and opportunely in the gospel to flee from the wrath to come, to escape from the city of destruction.
2. Urgently hastened. Notwithstanding the angel's warning, it is obvious that Lot trifled, probably from a latent apprehension that there was plenty of time, if not from any secret dubiety as to the need for the celestial exhortation; and so do sinners dally yet with the solemn announcement of the gospel, which necessitates that they Be vehemently pressed, like Lot, with—
(1) Earnest admonition. "Arise!" "Up!" "Get thee out of this place!"
(2) Serious caution, "Lest thou be consumed in the iniquity of the city."
3. Graciously assisted. Even the urgency displayed by the angels would not have sufficed to rescue Lot, had they not extended to him and his worldly-minded partner a helping hand. Hankering after Sodom, perhaps thinking of the wealth they had to leave, the good man and his wife still lingered, and were at last only dragged forth by main force beyond the precincts of the doomed city. It reminds us that few, probably none, would ever escape from the city of destruction if Divine grace were not practically to lay hold of them and drag them forth; and even this Divine grace would not do unless the Lord were specially merciful to them, as he was to Lot.
4. Minutely directed. To the further prosecution of their journey they were not left without most careful instructions as to how they might secure their safety; and neither are awakened sinners, who have-been aroused to see their peril and to start upon the way of life, permitted to struggle on without celestial guidance as to how to make their calling and election sure. Like the fleeing Lot and his wife, they are counseled
(1) to be in earnest, seeing it is their life for which they flee;
(2) to beware of backsliding, since he who looketh back is not fit for the kingdom of God;
(3) to indulge in no delay, since so long as one continues in the plain of his natural condition he stands in imminent peril; and
(4) to persevere until he reaches the mount of salvation in Jesus Christ.
II. THE OVERTHROW OF SODOM.
1. Supernatural. Whatever the natural forces employed in the destruction of the fair cities of the Jordan circle, their employment with such severity and at such a time, viz; precisely at the moment when the moral degradation of the people showed them to be ripe for judgment, was a signal demonstration of the miraculous character of the catastrophe; as indeed the narrative alleges it to have been a phenomenon altogether, out of the common course of events: "Jehovah rained down fire from Jehovah.
2. Unexpected. It does not appear that the inhabitants of Sodom generally were warned of the approaching fire-storm, though, if Lot's sons-in-law may be accepted as an indication of the temper in which the people at that time were, any such announcement would only have been listened to with mocking incredulity. So was it in the days of Noah (Matthew 24:38); so will it be in the end of the world (2 Peter 3:3, 2 Peter 3:4).
3. Complete. The cities with their inhabitants, the fields with their vegetation, were engulfed in the sulfurous baptism and "turned into ashes." As overwhelming in its kind, though not as sweeping in its extent, as had been the previous submergence of the world by a flood of water, the devastation sent upon the fair Pentapolis of the Jordan circle was a ghastly shadow and premonition of that vengeance of eternal fire which shall yet devour the ungodly (2 Thessalonians 1:8).
4. Righteous. It was a just judgment which had been richly merited, as the visit of the angels had convincingly demonstrated. Indeed that previous unveiling of the filthiness of Sodom which had taken place may be viewed as having been designed to supply a visible justification of the righteousness of the great Judge in consigning them to so disastrous an overthrow. And so before the infliction of the great day of wrath upon the impenitent and the ungodly there will be a revelation of the secret characters of all hearts and lives, that "thou mightest be justified when thou speakest, and be clear when thou judgest" (Psalms 51:3).
5. Public. In particular, besides being experienced by the unhappy sufferers and observed by the trembling fugitives who had sought refuge in Zoar, it was witnessed by Abraham, who gat him up early, and, looking towards Sodom, saw the smoke of the country ascending like the smoke of a furnace to heaven—a fit emblem of the terrible publicity which will invest the final judgment of a sinful world (Mat 25:31-46; 2 Thessalonians 1:7-10; Revelation 18:9).
III. THE FATE OF LOT'S WIFE.
1. Intensely melancholy. Overtaken by the sulfurous storm, she was transfixed where she stood, and in a moment after wrapped in a sheet of saline incrustation. Affecting in itself, her doom was rendered all the more impressive from the circumstance that she had so nearly escaped. Alas, nearly saved means wholly lost!
2. Truly deserved. Contrary to the angel's instructions, she had looked behind. Thus she had brought her tragic fate upon herself. Obedience would have saved her; disobedience proved her ruin, Whether she was lost eternally it is not safe to say, but her temporal destruction had been righteously incurred.
3. Solemnly suggestive. It was doubtless designed to teach many lessons, such as the danger of disobedience, the folly of delay, the severity of the Divine judgments, and the intensity of the Divine displeasure against sin.
1. The difficulty of saving a good man (1 Peter 4:18).
2. The ability of God to punish sin (Hebrews 10:31).
3. The danger of looking back (Hebrews 10:26, Hebrews 10:27, Hebrews 10:38).
4. The possibility of being nearly saved, yet wholly lost (Mark 12:34).
HOMILIES BY J.F. MONTGOMERY
The righteousness of God revealed.
The judgment of God upon Sodom and the cities of the plain. The deliverance of Lot. The reception of the two angels by Lot was a great contrast to that of the three by Abraham. The scene of the Divine judgment is suggestive. The plain of the Jordan was well watered, attracted Lot by its beauty and promise. Early civilization gathered about such spots, but civilization without religion is a blasting influence. There are hidden fountains of judgment ready to burst forth and pour the fire of Divine wrath upon the sinners. The man who "pitched his tent towards Sodom" became at last a townsman, "vexed with the filthy conversation," yet, but for Divine mercy, involved in its punishment. The whole narrative teaches important lessons, especially on the following points:—
I. A TRULY RELIGIOUS LIFE is not a mere secret of the soul, but HAS ITS APPROPRIATE PLACE AND SURROUNDINGS.
II. THE HOUSEHOLD of the true believer is A LARGE ENOUGH CIRCLE IN WHICH TO MANIFEST SINCERITY AND FAITHFULNESS, yet must we take heed that our house is well defended against the invasions of the corrupt world.
III. HOW GREAT A RESULT COMES OUT OFTEN FROM A SMALL BEGINNING OF ERROR! The selfishness of Lot's first choice of his residence was the seed of evil which multiplied into all the subsequent suffering and wrong.
IV. "Behold the GOODNESS and SEVERITY OF GOD"—mingled judgment and mercy, but not mingled in a confused manner, with perfect order. The man who had joined with Abraham in the covenant with Jehovah, who with all his faults was yet a believer, is warned, rescued by angels; able by his intercession to obtain mercy for others.
V. The DIVINE JUSTICE which is manifested on the large scale as BETWEEN THE CHURCH AND THE WORLD is also revealed in the smaller sphere of HOUSEHOLDS and families. Lot's wife is an apostate, and becomes involved in the destruction of the wicked. His sons-in-law mock at the Divine warning. His daughters become the incestuous originators of nations which afterwards greatly trouble the history of the people of God.
VI. THE SAME STEADFASTNESS OF GOD HAS TWO SIDES OR ASPECTS OF IT. "The sun was risen upon the earth when Lot entered Zoar." The same day, while the sun was serenely smiling on the city of refuge, the storm of fire and destruction from heaven was gathering over the doomed people and ready to burst upon them. "When God destroyed the cities of the plain, God remembered Abraham, and sent Lot out of the midst of the overthrow."—R.
HOMILIES BY J.F. MONTGOMERY
The danger of falling back.
"But his wife looked back from behind him, and she became a pillar of salt." Every part of this narrative suggestive of lessons. Reminded how "the righteous scarcely saved," and of the danger of an amiable weakness. In Lot's sons-in-law we see how the world receives the gospel (cf. Ezekiel 20:49; James 1:24). In his wife, one convinced, but not converted; seeking safety, but with a divided aim (James 1:8). In the angel's help, God's watchful care, even where the need is unknown. Text teaches the responsibility of those who hear the gospel. Dangers surrounding us, but a way of safety (Psalms 101:1; 2 Corinthians 2:16). But not enough to be roused (Matthew 10:22; Hebrews 12:1). Many are awakened to flee, yet look back (Luke 9:62). Lot's wife not deaf to the call; did not think it fancy; really believed; felt the danger, and fled (2 Corinthians 6:17; Revelation 18:4). But the sun rose; the valley beautiful; home attractive; no signs of danger. Must she leave all; and at once? She paused. That pause was death.
I. May be roused by ALARM OF CONSCIENCE and yet look back (cf. Matthew 12:43-45). Some, intent on the world, think not of the future. Preaching seems only a venerable form; prayer a proper homage to God. But as to anything more, no hurry. But a time of anxiety comes. Perhaps a wave of revival, or some special occurrence—illness, bereavement, care. Eternity is brought near, false confidence dispelled (Isaiah 28:17). Then in earnest to seek the true refuge (Hebrews 6:18). The Bible read; prayer a real pleading. But the sun arises. The immediate cause passes away. Fears fade away. Then a looking back. Surely some of you can remember times of earnestness. Perhaps in hours of anxious watching, or in preparation for communion, or God has spoken directly to the soul and made you feel his presence (Genesis 28:16, Genesis 28:17). Then the blessedness of accepted salvation was felt. The message was not a parable theft. The Bible and prayer were precious then. But time went on. The immediate influence, gone. All as before. Old ways asserted their power; hard to give them up. In mercy the call once more. Awake; the storm is at hand, though thou, seest it not. Pray that the Holy Spirit may transform thy heart.
II. May be moved by EXAMPLE OF OTHERS, yet turn back. She felt her husband's earnestness, and went with him, but so far only. We know the power of example. When we see those we love affected, we are moved to be as they. So at the preaching of John the Baptist. So at times of missions. Have any felt this influence; been stirred to read and pray? It is well. But has it lasted? For a real saving change there must be a personal transaction with the Lord as a living Savior; a laying hold of him, a real desire and effort that the will and whole nature be submitted to him.
III. A MIGHTIER POWER STILL MAY ACT UPON THE SOUL. While Lot lingered angels laid hold of hands. There are times when God pleads urgently. One refuge after another swept away. Call upon call, sign upon sign, till the will seems conquered. But all is not done (Philippians 3:13). Such pleadings neglected, cease. Observe, God led Lot out of Sodom, not to Zoar. There is work still to be done (2 Peter 1:10). The question is not as to the past, but as to the present. It will not save a man that he was once anxious. Look not back. Look to Jesus (Hebrews 12:2). Let earnestness in every part of Christian life testify that you are not looking back (Hebrews 10:39).—M.
And it came to pass—not a pluperfect (Rosenmüller), as if a direct continuation of the preceding narrative, but a preterit, being the commencement of a new subdivision of the history in which the writer treats of Lot's residence in Zoar—when God—Elohim. Hence, as a fragment of the original Elohist's composition, the present verse is by the pseudo-criticism connected with Genesis 17:27 (Ilgen, Tuch, Block); but "a greater abruptness of style and a more fragmentary mode of composition" than this would indicate "could not easily be imagined" (Kalisch). The change in the Divine name is sufficiently explained by the supposition that the destruction of the cities of the plain was not at the moment viewed by the writer in its connection with the Abrahamic covenant and intercession, but as a sublime vindication of Divine justice—destroyed (literally, in he destroying, by Elohim, or in Elohim's destroying) the cities of the plain, that God remembered Abraham. If the narrative containing the intercession of Abraham and the overthrow of Sodom was due to the Jehovist, how came the earlier author to know anything about those events? The obvious allusions to them in the present verse could only have been made by one acquainted with them. Either, therefore, the present verse proceeded from the hand of the so-called Jehovist, or it requires explanation how in the original document this should be the first and only occasion on which they are referred to. And—in answer to Abatham's prayer (Genesis 18:23)—sent Lot out of the midst of the overthrow (there is no reason to suppose that Abraham was aware of his nephew's escape), when he overthrew—literally, in the overthrowing of the cities, the inf. being construed with the case of its verb—the cities in the which—one of which (cf. Judges 15:7)—Lot dwelt.
And Lot went up out of Zoar (probably soon after), and dwelt in the mountain (i.e. of Moab, on the east of the Dead Sea), and his two daughters—step-daughters, it has been suggested, if Lot married a widow who was the mother of the two girls (Starke)—with him; for he feared to dwell in Zoar—from which the panic-stricken inhabitants may have fled towards the mountains (Murphy), either because at that time it was shaken by an earthquake (Jerome, Rosenmüller); or because he dreaded the conflagration which devoured the other cities might spread thither (Poole, Kalisch, Wordsworth), or the rising waters of the Dead Sea which engulfed them might reach to it (Bush)—apprehensions which were groundless and unbelieving, since God had granted Zoar for an asylum (Lange); or because he saw the wickedness of the inhabitants, who had not been improved by Sodom's doom (Vatablus, Inglis); or simply because he was driven by "a blind anxiety of mind" (Calvin). And he dwelt in a cave,—i.e. in one of those cavernous recesses with which the Moabitish mountains abound, and which already had been converted into dwelling-places by the primitive inhabitants of the region (cf. Genesis 14:6)—he and his two daughters
And the firstborn said unto the younger,—showing that she had not escaped the pollution, if she had the destruction, of Sodom. "It was time that Lot had left the cities of the plain. No wealth could compensate for the moral degradation into which his family had sunk" (Inglis)—Our father is old,—an indirect confirmation of the inference (vide Genesis 11:26) that Abram was younger than Haran, since Lot, Haran's son, now an old man—and there is not a man in the earth—not in the entire world (Origen, Irenaeus, Chrysostom, Kalisch), which is scarcely probable, since they knew that Zoar had been spared; but either in the district whither they had fled (Calvin, Willet), being under the impression that, living in so desolate a region, they could have no more intercourse with mankind; or in the land of Canaan (Ainsworth, Bush), meaning that there were no more godly men with whom they might marry; or perhaps they meant that no man would now care to unite himself with them, the remnant of a curse-stricken region (Knobel, Keil)—to come in unto us after the manner of all the earth.
Come, let us make our father drink wine,—either, therefore, Lot had not left Sodom totally unprovided (Inglis), or some little time had elapsed after his escaping to the mountain cave, since his daughters are provided with this intoxicating beverage—and we will He with him. Considering the town in which the daughters of Lot had been reared, the mother of whom they were the offspring, and the example they had received from their father (Genesis 19:8), "we can understand, though we cannot cease to abhor, their incestuous conduct" (Kalisch). Their proposal was revolting and unnatural in the extreme. By subsequent Mosaic legislation a transgression of such enormity was rendered punishable by death. Even in the present instance the perpetrators were not wholly unconscious of the wickedness of their conduct. The fact that they required a stratagem for the attainment of their purpose shows that at least they could not calculate on their father's approbation. The entire story has been regarded as the invention of later Jewish hatred to the Moabites and Ammonites (De Wette), a conjecture believed by some to be " not improbable (Rosenmüller); but if so, how should the same writer exhibit Abraham (Genesis 18:23) as filled with compassionate tenderness towards the cities of the plain? (Havernick). That we may preserve seed of our father. Literally, quicken or vivify seed (cf. Genesis 19:34). Lot's daughters may be credited with whatever virtue may be supposed to reside in this motive for their conduct.
And they made their father drink wine that night—which was sinful both in them and him (vide Isaiah 5:11; Proverbs 20:1; Habakkuk 2:15)—and the firstborn went in, and lay with her father; and he perceived not when she lay down, nor when she arose. That it was his own daughter quacum concumberet (Rosenmüller), being so intoxicated that he could not discern who it was to whom he had approached, or even what he was doing (Keil). The reading, "when he lay down and when he arose (LXX.) is incorrect, and the explanations that Lot was a mere unconscious instrument in this disgraceful transaction (Kalisch), that he was entirely ignorant of all that had taken place (Chrysostom, Cajetan), that he was struck on account of his intemperance with a spirit of stupor (Calvin), are not warranted by the text.
And it came to pass on the morrow, that the firstborn said unto the younger, Behold, I lay yester night 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.
And they made their father drink wine that night also. The facility with which Lot allowed himself to be inebriated by his daughters Clericus regards as a sign that before this the old man had been accustomed to over-indulgence in wine. The inference, however, of Kalisch, that because "Lot's excess in the enjoyment of wine is no more blamed than it was in Noah," "the narrative exempts him from all serious reproach," can scarcely be admitted. And the younger arose, and lay with him (following the bad example of her sister); and he perceived not when she lay down, nor when she arose (vide supra, Genesis 19:33).
Thus were both the daughters of Lot (who after this disappears from sacred history, not even his death being recorded) with child by their father.
And the firstborn bare a son, and called his name Moab—Meab, from the father, alluding to his incestuous origin; though Mo (water, an Arabic euphemism for the semen virile) and ab has been advanced as a more correct derivation (Rosenmüller). The same is the father of the Moabites—who originally inhabited the country northeast of the Dead Sea, between the Jabbok and the Arnon (Deuteronomy 2:20), but were afterwards driven by the Amorites south of the Arnou—unto this day. This phrase, indicating a variable period from a few years to a few centuries (cf. Genesis 48:13; Exodus 10:6; Numbers 22:39; Joshua 22:3), cannot be regarded as a trace of post-Mosaic authorship (De Wette, et alii), since in Genesis it is always used of events which had taken place several centuries before the time of Moses, as in Genesis 26:33; Gen 35:1-29 :30; Genesis 47:26 (cf. Heil, 'Introduction,' part 1. § 2, div. 1, § 33).
And the younger, she also bare a son, and called his name Ben-ammi. I.e. son of my people, meaning that her child was the offspring of her own kind and blood (Rosenmüller), or the son of her relative (Kalisch), or of an unmixed race ('Speaker's Commentary'). The same is the father of the children of Ammon—an unsettled people who occupied the territory between the Yabbok and the Arnon, from which they had ejected the Rephaims or Zamzummims (Deuteronomy 2:22), and in which they possessed a strong city, Rabbah (2 Samuel 40:1); in their habits more migratory and marauding than the Moabites (Isaiah 15:1-9; Isaiah 16:1-14; Jeremiah 48:1-47.), and in their religion worshippers of Molech, "the abomination of the Ammonites" (1 Kings 11:7)—unto this day.
The last days of Lot.
I. HAUNTED BY TERROR.
1. The terror of Divine judgment. The appalling spectacle of Sodom's overthrow had no doubt filled him with alarm. And so are God's judgments in the earth designed to put the souls of men in fear (Psalms 9:20; Psalms 46:8-10; Psalms 119:120).
2. The terror of men. Dwelling in Zoar, he apprehended an outburst of wrath from the citizens, who probably regarded him as the cause of the ruin which had invaded Sodom. So are better men than Lot sometimes overtaken by the fear of man (2 Samuel 22:5; Psalms 18:4), though they should not (Isaiah 51:12).
3. The terror of conscience. That Lot enjoyed while in Zoar a calm and undisturbed repose of heart and mind is scarcely supposable. Rather it may be safely conjectured that after the storm and the fire and the earthquake through which he had lately passed, the still small voice of conscience spoke to him in awe-inspiring accents, unveiling his past life, reproving him of sin, and piercing him through with many sorrows; and that under the agitations produced by its accusations and reproaches he became afraid, and withdrew to the mountains. "Thus conscience doth make cowards of us all."
II. SOUNDING THE LOWER DEEPS.
1. Descending into unbelief. God had promised to spare Zoar for him, and him in Zoar, and one would have thought Lot had been sufficiently warned of the sin of distrusting God. Yet he is scarcely established in the city which God had granted in response to his own prayer than he begins to think it hardly safe to remain within its precincts. How inveterate is unbelief!
2. Plunging into sin. The details of the present story clearly show that Lot, when he went to the mountain cave, endeavored to escape from his terrors not by carrying them to God's throne, but by drowning them in dissipation. The wretched man, who had once been a saint in God's Church, must have been in the habit of drinking to excess, else his daughters would never have thought of their abominable stratagem. Only one little gleam of virtue can be detected as entitled to be laid to Lot's account, viz; that his daughters apparently believed that unless their father was drunk he would never be brought to assent to their lewd proposal.
3. Sinking into shame. Twice overcome by wine, he is twice in succession dishonored by his daughters; and twice over, while in his drink stupor, he allows himself to commit an act which almost out-Sodoms Sodom. To what depths a saint may fall when once he turns his back on God!
III. DISAPPEARING INTO OBLIVION. Nothing could more distinctly mark the Divine disapprobation with Lot's conduct than the fact that after this he was suffered—
1. To live an unrecorded life, being never heard of again in the pages of Holy Scripture.
2. To die an unnoticed death. Where and how he met his end the historian does not condescend to state.
3. To sink into an unknown grave. Whether buried in his mountain cave or entombed in the Jordan valley no man knoweth unto this day.
1. The danger of turning aside from God and good men (Hebrews 3:12; Hebrews 10:25.
2. The melancholy end of a worldly life (1 Corinthians 10:6; Philippians 3:19 : 2 Timothy 4:10).
3. The bitter fruits of parental neglect (1 Samuel 2:27-36; Proverbs 29:15-17)
HOMILIES BY W. ROBERTS
The destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah
I. THE VISIBLE JUDGMENT. "God overthrew the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah—the cities in which Lot dwelt."
1. The reason.
2. The instrumentality.
3. The reality.
4. The lessons of the overthrow.
II. THE UNKNOWN MERCY. "He sent Lot out of the midst of the overthrow." To Abraham this was—
1. A great mercy.
2. A mercy granted in answer to prayer. But—
3. An unknown mercy, there being no reason to believe that Abraham ever saw Lot again, or knew of his deliverance.
1. That God always mixes-mercy with his judgments.
2. That his mercies are not always so perceptible to the eye of sense and reason as his judgments.
3. That God's people get more mercies poured into their cups than they are at all times cognizant of.—W.