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Bible Commentaries

Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary
Genesis 19

 

 

Verses 1-3

CRITICAL NOTES.—

Gen . And there came two angels to Sodom at even.] Heb. And there came two of the angels. The third remained with Abraham, being held by him in his pleadings for Sodom. (Ch. Gen 18:22; Gen 18:33.) Sat in the gate. The usual place for public gatherings, and for the judges to sit in court. (Job 27:7-12.) The Jewish commentators understand this phrase as implying the exercise of the authority and office of a magistrate. Possibly Lot might have occupied such a position. He was an aged man, and the elders of the city used to assume this office without any formalities. (See Gen 19:9.) Rose up to meet them; and bowed himself with his face towards the ground. It was the Oriental custom to rise up in the presence of superiors, and to pay them homage by bowing low with the face towards the ground.

Gen . My lords.] "The word is the same as that by which Abraham addressed God (ch. Gen 18:3) in the singular, but it is differently pointed in the Hebrew, and evidently must be differently understood, as the sentence is in the second person plural, not singular, as there. And accordingly, while the Masoretic editors have a note against Adonai there, ‘sacred,' meaning that it is the name of God, here they note the ‘profane,' meaning that it is the name of man only." (Alford.) And they said, Nay; but we will abide in the street all night. Heb. Because we will lodge in the open square; i.e., the wide place in the gate.

Gen . And he pressed upon them greatly.] The Heb. word implies an earnestness of importunity amounting almost to violence. The same word is used in Gen 19:9, "And they pressed sore upon the man." A feast. Heb. A banquet. "It was a refreshment, whether called an eating or a drinking. In Est 5:6-7, it is rendered a banquet of wine. This was Lot's generous entertainment—the best at his command, doubtless." (Jacobus.) Unleavened bread. Because this kind could be more expeditiously prepared.

MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PASAGRAPH.—Gen

THE EVE OF JUDGMENT TO THE RIGHTEOUS

This visitation of God's vengeance upon the wicked cities of the plain is typical of the Last Judgment upon mankind; and the conduct of Lot declares to us something of the behaviour of the righteous under the immediate shadow of that judgment.

I. The righteous man is found in the way of duty.

Gen . The duty of his calling. When the two angels came to Sodom at even, Lot was found sitting at the gate, which was the place for news and business. He was, probably, there in the capacity of a judge, (Gen 19:9.) He was in the way of his ordinary duty to which Providence had called him. He was found at his post. So it shall be in the end of the world. Good men will be found walking in the humble ways of duty at the coming of the Lord. They are not to stand still gazing into heaven, and indifferent to all things around them, but to perform the tasks of their appointed day until the night cometh. The Lord expects, when He cometh to judge His servants, to find them carrying out the commands which He left with them.

2. The duty arising from the relations of human life. Lot treats these strangers with kindness and hospitality. (Gen .) He even presses his favours upon them. There were special duties owing to the stranger, and he discharges them willingly from the best and purest motives. There are duties arising from our relations to society, duties which exercise us in the tender charities of human life. Up to the very eve of judgment the righteous will be found doing the deeds of love and kindness. (Mat 25:35-41.)

II. The righteous man is separate from sinners. Lot was not engaged in the wicked practices of the place. He separated himself from the vile sinners of the city—kept up the dignity of his character as a righteous man. It would have been better for him had he not lived amongst this wicked people; but now he had to accept the fact, and strive to separate himself from them in spirit, aim, and purpose. The righteous are in the world, and they maintain their godly life not by seeking seclusion from it, but by living above it, by cherishing a nobler purpose, and acting out the Divine idea of life. They are unworldly just as Christ was unworldly, mingling with men, and yet living the life of heaven upon earth; discharging common duties, and yet attending to the work of His high calling. This separateness, which is necessarily the mark of the righteous character, involves:

1. Sorrow for the spiritual state of men alienated from God. Lot was vexed with the filthy conversation of the wicked, and in seeing and hearing day by day deeds of sin and lawlessness. (2Pe .) It is one of the sorrows of the godly man that his spiritual sensibilities are wounded by the observation of sin around him. He feels pity for those who are in so sad a case, so infatuated and exposed to the danger of judgment; and yet his pity often acquires the temper of a righteous indignation that his God is so dishonoured.

2. A principle which regulates choice of companionship. A godly man will choose for intimate companionship those who are like-minded with himself, and who will further his spiritual interests. He avoids the contagion of evil example, and in the choice of his companions strives ever "to seek those beings which are above." He is constantly attracted to that which is most godlike. Though Lot followed it so feebly, yet such was the direction in which he set his righteous soul. He is pleased with the company of those whom he felt to be kindred spirits. He offers them hospitality, and treats them with every consideration and courtesy. So it shall be when the last Judgment is about to come upon the world. The righteous will still be a separate people, sharing a common feeling and interest.

SUGGESTIVE COMMENTS ON THE VERSES

Gen . Another instance where, under the form of ordinary hospitality, angels are entertained unawares.

A godly training must refine and polish the manners. The continual practice of the duties of religion tends to destroy the love of self, and to foster that consideration for others which is the soul of good behaviour in the intercourse of life. The righteous man does that from principle and real convictions which the man of the world does from a cold regard to artificial standards of duty and courtesy.

Superior beings inspire respect in those whose souls are open to impressions made by what is great and good. The worship of One who is supremely good, generates a regard for goodness wherever it may be found.

There is a humility and reverence due to the pious, for these are but angels in disguise. Such honour must be awarded to the saints, if we consider what they shall be in the great possibilities of the future.

When the two angels came to Sodom at even, Lot was sitting in the gate of Sodom. He was at his post, and on the watch, not forgetful to entertain strangers. This was pre-eminently the office of pious love which he had to discharge. As Abraham, at noon-day, ere he sat down to his meal—so Lot, at night, ere he retired to rest, remained on the look-out for those who might need his hospitality. Especially, if any of the remnant of God's people, persecuted by the idolatrous nations, and compelled to wander on the wide earth, without a home, should be passing through the accursed city where Lot dwelt, it was indeed a most essential service to intecept them at the gate, to prevent them from falling into the hands of the unprincipled and lawless crowd, whose companions or whose victims it was alike fatal to become, and to give them the shelter of a roof beneath which the Lord was worshipped. Thus was Lot employed, when all the rest of the city were probably either sunk in slumber or abandoned to riot. Had he been asleep, like the others, or had he been indulging in vain and sinful dissipation, he might have missed the visit of the friendly angels; they might have passed by his house.—(Candlish.)

Gen . Kindred natures assort easily together.

These minute attentions to the wants of travellers were among the hospitalities practised by all Oriental nations. But the inhabitants of these wicked cities had fallen far below these common standards of duty.

They would have determined to abide in the street all night but for Lot's importunity. So our Saviour would have gone further but that the two disciples constrained Him to stay. (Luk .) This was no simulation; or, if so, yet it was only explanatory, without deceit or hypocrisy. And if Solomon sinned not in making believe he would do that which was unlawful to be done (1Ki 3:24), it can be no sin to do the like in things indifferent.—(Trapp.)

Lot is approved of the Lord as righteous, and exempt from the doom of the city. Therefore the messengers of God can dwell with him.

We should seek opportunities to do good, and even press our favours upon others.

Gen . He pressed them, not merely from an impulse of generosity that he might refresh them with the cheer of his house, or from a wish to enjoy their company and converse, but because he was too well aware of the danger to which they would be exposed were they to adhere to their declared purpose of lodging in the street.—(Bush.)

There may be honest feasting in Lot's house among the riot and gluttony of the Sodomites.—(Hughes.)

Love, like authority, has its constraints. As there is a violence of wickedness, so there is a holy violence which will take no denial.

To Lot's petition the reply is, "Nay, but we will abide in the street all night." Eventually, indeed, they yield to his importunity, and he sups with them and they with him. But whereas in Abraham's case communion is reached, as it were, naturally without an effort, in Lot's there is a struggle of prayer before his desire is granted. By the self-mortified pilgrim communion is easily obtained. Those who live in the world, judging it rather than themselves, though they would gladly welcome the Lord or His servants, find that before communion can be enjoyed a temporary denial and a spiritual struggle must be experienced.—(Jukes: "Types of Genesis.")


Verses 4-11

CRITICAL NOTES.—

Gen . That we may know them.] A well-known euphemism for a foul crime which derives its name from this infamous place. "From Leviticus 22-25 we learn that the practice of the sin here contemplated was among the principal causes why God exterminated the Canaanitish nations." (Alford.) This sin was also the curse of heathenism, even in the best days of Rome. (Rom 1:22.)

Gen . And they called unto Lot.] "That is, with a loud voice; demanded vociferously; which was virtually proclaiming their own shame. In allusion to the circumstance mentioned in this verse, the prophet says of Jerusalem, Isa 3:9 : ‘They declare their sin as Sodom, they hide it not.' Compare the similar instance of enormous wickedness recorded, Jud 19:22, etc." (Bush.)

Gen . And Lot went out at the door.] "The original here, as in Gen 19:11, employs two distinct words for ‘door;' the one signifying the aperture, passage, or doorway, through which ingress and egress were made; the other denoting the ‘leaf' of the door, hung upon hinges, by which the aperture was closed. The distinction is very accurately preserved throughout the subsequent narrative, Gen 19:9-11." (Bush.)

Gen . He will needs be a judge.] Heb. He will judge to judge. "He continually acteth as judge." "It is recorded of Lot in the N.T. that he was greatly and constantly worried and worn down by their gross outrages, and probably he had often rebuked them." (2Pe 2:7-8.) (Jacobus.)

Gen . Blindness.] Onk. Fatuity of sight. "Mental blindness, in which the eye sees, but does not see the right object." (Keil.) The original word occurs only here and in 2Ki 16:18. "The judgment consisted not in a total privation of sight, in which case they would, of course, have desisted from their assault on Lot, and endeavoured to make their way home, but in a confused vision, such as is occasioned by vertigo of the brain, in which objects swim before the eyes, and mock every attempt to approach or seize them." (Bush.)

MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Gen

THE EVE OF JUDGMENT TO SINNERS

The conduct of the men of Sodom, who were so near their doom, is an example of that kind of conduct which the wicked among mankind will still show when the last Judgment draws nigh.

I. Their wickedness is unabated. Time had brought no change for the better with this wicked people. They rather grew worse and worse, descending to the lowest depths of sin and vice. The last days of the world may be days of light and of widely diffused knowledge, yet they will not reveal an universal moral improvement amongst mankind. We are taught in Scripture to expect that these will be perilous times when lawlessness will prevail and iniquity abound. The tares will stand until the harvest shall be reaped. We may note the features of the wickedness recorded here, and they are types of the state of a large portion of human society when the end shall come.

1. It extends to all classes of the community. "The men of Sodom compassed the house round, both old and young, all the people, from every quarter." (Gen .) All classes and all ages were infected by the prevailing vices and sins. With the exception of righteous Lot and his family none escaped from the mire and sink of the greatest pollutions. The saddest fact of all, the "young," too, had imbibed evil principles, and were corrupted in their ways. When the contagion of vice so fastens upon the youth of a nation the swiftest judgments may be expected.

2. It includes the most shameful sins. The men of Sodom desired Lot to give up the strangers sheltered under his roof to their vile lusts. The sin in which they had so bad an eminence derives its very name from this infamous place. They do not seek to hide their sin, but openly avow their love of deeds against the use of nature. It is sad to reflect that men in their vile passions are capable of descending below the level of the brutes. Even the refining influences of civilisation do not suffice to root out some degrading forms of vice, for this unnatural practice prevailed during the best days of Rome. The penal codes of nations still show that this shameful crime has not perished from the earth. How true the Bible is to the facts of human nature, degrading though they be!

3. It opposes the righteous to the last. Lot could not entertain these strangers without making his house a mark for the assaults of these wicked men. They scrupled not to use open violence against him. (Gen .) There must ever be an antagonism between the spirit of the world and that which is of God, and to the end this will bear sad fruit in the persecution of the good. To the last the righteous will suffer at the hands of evil men.

II. They expose themselves to inflictions which foreshadow future judgments. These men were stricken with blindness; a blindness which not only confused the vision but also the mind with insane delusions. This was a more awful visitation than the mere deprivation of sight. Moral blindness and madness prepare the way for the extreme retribution. Sinners will be the victims of such moral infatuation till the end of time. These men, though stricken by such an awful calamity, yet desisted not in their wickedness, but "wearied themselves to find the door." Sinners to the latest times will still engage in the insane endeavour to continue the war against Omnipotence. Moral blindness is a punishment—an act of judgment. God has determined that those who will not see shall not see. Those who refuse to believe shall, in the end, not be able to believe. (Joh .) Powers disused are taken away, as in the case of him who hid his talent in the earth. Judgment has already begun with those whose souls are seized with infatuation. When Christ comes for judgment He will find men acting as distracted persons, full of mirth and jollity, though destruction is around them and they are so close upon their doom. (Mat 24:37-39.)

III. Their conduct often becomes a source of dangerous perplexity to the righteous. These vile sinners made a shameful demand of Lot (Gen ). He refused to yield to them, because he would not be a party to so foul a crime, and he must not betray the rights of hospitality. It was a point of honour, in Oriental countries, to defend at all costs the stranger who was received into the house. In his perplexity, Lot made a desperate suggestion (Gen 19:8). He violated one duty to maintain another. The conflict of duties into which he was forced by this situation disturbed his moral sense. He was like a man bewildered, who is ready to receive any solution of his difficulty. The complication of events led him into temptation and a snare. The awful wickedness of the world often places godly men in circumstances of great perplexity and danger to their souls. So it will be in the end of the world. Because of abounding iniquity the love of many shall wax cold. It would seem that even the very elect shall run the risk of deception. The immense power of evil which is in the world will try the righteous to the last. The severity of the trial is admitted, and yet in the worst possible case a man's duty is still clear. He should do the right, and put his trust in God. It is ours to obey, even in the face of most enormous difficulties, and to leave the consequences with Him. Faith shows a sure way out of the utmost perplexity.

SUGGESTIVE COMMENTS ON THE VERSES

Gen . There are sufficient reasons to justify those terrible acts of Divine vengeance which are recorded in sacred history.

How easily sin is roused to action. The baseness of these wicked neighbours soon betrays itself!

The utter corruption of youth is the last stage in the degeneration of a people. This is the most fatal spot on the social body, showing that mortification has already set in.

The kind offices which Lot was about to perform for these strangers was not an easy exercise of godly charity, or one implying little personal risk. He made his house a mark for the assaults of those men of Belial, who could scarce endure that so godly a man should dwell among them, far less that he should reprove or restrain their sins. That fearful night tried both them and Lot. "The wicked plot against the just." Doubtless they have an old grudge to satisfy. And now they seize the opportunity of at once indulging their passions, and wreaking their vengeance on one whose faithful testimony and consistent life they have found to be an intolerable offence and provocation.—(Candlish.)

The signal had but to be given, and the universal mass of the population were ready at once to flock together to any scene of riot and debauchery. Had they had any useful occupation to follow, were they not completely sunk in profligate idleness, they could not all have found time thus suddenly to rendezvous for deeds of iniquity. But from the peculiar emphasis of the language it would seem that there were no exceptions. Sodom was full of Sodomites. What must have been the extent of its abominations, when the aged, instead of restraining the young, were actually urging them forward in the course of iniquity by their own pernicious example!—(Bush.)

How often it has happened that houses where the voice of prayer and praise was heard have been the mark for the assaults of wicked men, while the abodes of vice and blasphemy have remained unmolested. Such is that hatred of goodness, which is found in the natural heart!

Gen . There is a maturity of corruption in which wicked men are not ashamed to proclaim their sin.

There are sins which in a special manner sully the honour of human nature, put men beyond the pale of common regard, and tend to destroy a people from among the family of nations.

Gen . It is a duty of religion to protect those whom Providence has thrown in our way and given into our care.

Lot shut the door behind him for the purpose of protecting his guests, We put ourselves best in the way of a favourable Providence when we use all reasonable means.

The conduct of Lot in going out and expostulating with them, was in several respects praiseworthy. His "shutting the door after him," expressed how delicately he felt for his guests, though at present he does not appear to have considered them in any other light than strangers. It was saying in effect, "Let not their ears be offended with what passes abroad; whatever is scurrilous, obscene, or abusive, let me hear it, but not them."—(Fuller.)

Gen . It is the duty of good men to dissuade the wicked from sin.

When we cannot by our precept or example turn men entirely from the power of Satan unto God, we must not be indifferent to lesser reforms in their character. It is something if we are able to save them from the grossest sins; for they are then better prepared to listen to the wisdom of the just, and to learn righteousness.

A certain respectful behaviour is due even to the vilest sinners. Even in their lowest degradation we must recognise their humanity.

Lot's gentle and respectful manner of treating this worst of mobs is worthy of notice. Though he could have entertained no respect for them on the score of character, yet he forbore the use of opprobrious terms. Recognising in them his fellow-creatures and near neighbours, he calls them brethren, if perchance by such conciliatory language he may gam their ear, and eventually dissuade them from their wicked purpose.—(Bush.)

Gen . It is difficult to give an account of this offer consistently with any estimate of Lot as a "righteous man." But in our estimating we must remember that the same offer was made and the thing actually done in the parallel case at Gibeah of Benjamin (Jud 19:24.) Guided by that other case, we cannot, as some have done, suppose that Lot had any end in view beyond that which the proposal declares, or that it was due to his perturbation of mind, as Augustine sugests. He seems simply to have had in view the averting of a fearful crime (enhanced in this case by its violating the sacred rights of hospitality) by the permission of another crime, the very thought of which we happily in these Christian days cannot find place for in a father's heart.—(Alford.)

When, to turn off their attention from his guests, he proposes to bring out and surrender his daughters to their pleasure, he hints at an expedient which can by no means be justified. It is not for us to have recourse to one evil in the hope of preventing a greater; but rather to consent to no evil. His regard to the rites of hospitality was indeed commendable; but having used all proper means of preserving his guests, he ought to have left the event to God. It is possible, indeed, that owing to the excessive perturbation of his mind he was scarcely master of his words or actions, and that some excuse may be suggested for him on this score; but in all probability if he had never lived in Sodom, nor become familiarised to their profligate manners, he would not have made such a proposal. As it was, he evidently gained nothing by it but an increased measure of abuse. Persuasion has no force with men who are under the dominion of their lusts, and nothing is more common than for kind admonitions and faithful rebukes to be attributed to unmannerly and arrogant dictation. So Lot's endeavours to restrain these desperate Sodomites from the commission of iniquity was taken in evil part; their resentment was inflamed against him; they thirsted for revenge, and not content with having the men brought out, they will go in unto them, and break the door open to effect their purpose!—(Bush.)

A polluted moral atmosphere is dangerous to the most vigorous righteous character. The whole tone of the spiritual life may become lowered, the conception of duty debased. (1Co .)

Evil examples around affect righteous souls, as it were, inductively. The bad influence is felt, and souls are injured even when they have avoided contact.

Strong faith teaches a man to do the right, even in the most perplexing situations. Results may be safely left with God, who knows how to deliver the godly in the time of temptation.

Gen . This seems to be a menace to frighten Lot out of the way of their perverse will. It is probable, indeed, that he and his family would not have been so long safe in this wicked place had he not been the occasion of a great deliverance to the whole city when they were carried away by the four kings. The threat is followed by a taunt when the sorely vexed host hesitated to give up the strangers. He will needs be a judge. It is evident Lot had been in the habit of remonstrating with them. From threats and taunts they soon proceed to violence.—(Murphy.)

Majorities do not always determine what is right and just. Lot was one against many. The people of Sodom thought that numbers was some justification of their cause, and they derided the opinion of an individual.

The wisdom of the stranger is not to be scorned because he is such. Many nations have risen in the scale of civilisation and become great by giving heed to words of truth and righteousness which have been brought to them by strangers.

How unseasonable are the reproaches of the wicked! Ten such strangers would have saved Sodom!

Gen . God's people are safe when angels stand sentries at their doors. Moses again calls the heavenly messengers by a name indicative, not of what they were, but of what they seemed; for, although they now began to put forth a superhuman power, they had not yet revealed themselves as ministers sent from heaven. The incident here related of them teaches us that though God, in His deep wisdom, often sees fit to defer, till His people are brought into the most trying straits, the aid which He purposes to afford, yet He will not fail them in the last extremity. Lot was made to feel his extremity before the needed succour was vouchsafed him; but as he had kindly and generously opened his doors for the reception of God's messengers; as he had recognised a special providence in their being sent within the sphere of his hospitality; and as he had exposed himself to great perils in their defence, the Most High would not leave him without a witness of His guardian care. By this seasonable interference He reminds us how calmly we may resign ourselves to the custody of an ever-watchful Providence while engaged in the way of duty, and how intrepidly we may face dangers and enemies while following that "which right is."—(Bush.)

Lot is saved by those for whose protection he had ventured all. Thus, often before we look for it, loving deeds bring their own reward.

The righteous discover the hand of God in their deliverance.

Gen . Blindness.

1. Physical. They lost the power of distinct vision.

2. Mental. They were the subjects of illusions. The imagination was diseased, so that they were deceived by false appearances. They acted as distracted persons.

3. Moral. They madly persisted in their design, though an act of Providence had rendered it impossible of accomplishment.

Moral infatuation usually precedes God's great judgments upon men and nations.

The Scriptural signs that the judgment is near are:—

1. That God abandons men or communities to out-breaking and presumptuous sins.

2. That warnings and chastisements fail to produce their effect, and especially when the person grows harder under them.

3. That God removes the good from any community—so, before the Flood, so before the destruction of Jerusalem.

4. The deep, undisturbed security of those over whom it is suspended.—(Gosman.)

Many a one is hardened by the good word of God, and, instead of receiving the counsel, rages at the messenger: when men are grown to that pass, that they are no whit better by afflictions, and worse with admonitions, God finds it time to strike. Now, Lot's guests begin to show themselves angels, and first delivered Lot in Sodom, then from Sodom; first strike them with blindness whom they will after consume with fire. How little did the Sodomites think that vengeance was so near them! While they were groping in the streets, and cursing those whom they could not find, Lot with the angels is in secure light, and sees them miserable, and foresees them burning. It is the use of God to blind and besot those whom He means to destroy.—(Bishop Hall.)

Blindness, both of body and mind, saith Aben Ezra, such as tormented their eyes, as if they had been pricked with thorns, as the Hebrew word signifies. And yet they continue groping for the door, as if they were ambitious of destruction, which now was next door by. Deus quem destruit dementat. So Pharaoh, when under that palpable three days' darkness, rageth against God, and threateneth Moses with death. Though doomsday should be to-morrow next, wicked men must and will serve their lusts. Vale lumen amicum! said Theotimus in St. Ambrose, who chose rather to lose his sight than his sin.—(Trapp.)

God sends judicial blindness upon wicked men, and thus their purposes are frustrated. They weary themselves in a vain effort.

The persecuted for righteousness' sake have the angels on their side, and no weapon that is formed against them can prosper.


Verses 12-22

CRITICAL NOTES.—

Gen . Son-in-law, and thy sons, and thy daughters.] "The mention of the son-in-law before the sons and daughters is somewhat surprising. Lange has proposed to read thus: ‘Hast thou here any besides as son-in-law?' (i.e., connected with thee by marriage), and then follows the mention of the members of Lot's own family. And this would certainly be a more probable arrangement." (Alford.)

Gen . The cry of them is waxen great before the face of the Lord.] Heb. Is become great before Jehovah.

Gen . Spake unto his sons-in-law.] "Some hold these to have been only betrothed to his two daughters before mentioned: and so the Vulgate renders His sons-in-law, who were about to receive his daughters. So also Josephus, and of the moderns, Kalisch, Keil, Lange, Ewald, etc. On the other hand, the LXX. keeps the past tense, and is followed by Rosenmuller, Knobel, and Delitzsch. Certainly, in Gen 19:15, the ‘two daughters which are here' seem to be distinguished from other daughters who were absent. On the whole, the more probable view seems that there were husbands of married daughters living in the city, whereas his two virgin daughters lived with their father at home." (Alford.)

Gen . When the morning arose.] The day-dawn; for the sun did not rise till Lot entered Zoar (Gen 19:23). "The Heb. root signifies splitting or breaking, the streaks of light breaking up the eastern clouds; and it ‘arose,' because the dawn advances from the horizon upwards." Thy two daughters which are here. Heb. "Which are found." Chal. "Which are found faithful with thee." Seems to imply that some of Lot's daughters were not thus found, and therefore perished in the destruction of the city. In the iniquity of the city. The Heb. term signifies either the iniquity or the punishment of the iniquity.

Gen . While he lingered.] Heb. "He delayed or distracted himself." "The original is peculiar and emphatic in its import, leading us to fear that it was not altogether a compassionate sympathy that detained his steps. The word properly implies that ‘he suffered himself to be hindered and embarrassed with distracting cares.'" (Bush.) The Lord being merciful unto him. Heb. "In the gentle mercy of the Lord upon him."

Gen . The plain.] The country round Jordan—the same word as that used in ch. Gen 13:10. The mountain. The mountainous region of Moab, lying several miles to the east of Sodom.

Gen . Lest some evil take me.]. Heb. "Lest the evil, or, this evil"—the threatened destruction.

Gen . It is a little one.] Formerly known by the name of "Bela" (Gen 14:2), now called Zoar from this circumstance. The Jerus. Targ. reads: "It is little, and its sins are little."

MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Gen

THE DELIVERANCE OF THE RIGHTEOUS IN THE TIME OF JUDGMENT

I. God makes known to them the way of deliverance. The angels who had come for the salvation of Lot commanded him, saying, "Arise, take thy wife, and thy two daughters which are here, lest thou be consumed in the iniquity of the city" (Gen .) He is told, further, to escape for his life, not to look behind him, but to escape to the mountain lest he be consumed (Gen 19:17). This was God's revealed way of deliverance. This was His purpose to save, and the manner in which that purpose was to be accomplished. But we learn from this history—

1. That God's way of deliverance is often against our will. Lot lingered as if still unwilling to leave the city. As the Heb. word imports, he delayed, or hindered himself. He suffered many cares and anxieties of business still to hold him to this doomed spot. The angels had to lay their hands upon Lot, and his wife, and his two daughters, and deliver them from destruction, as it were, by a loving violence. The causes of this lingering and hesitation are—

(1) We forget what should be our chief care. It was life here that was at stake. House, and goods, and residence in a rich and pleasant country are of little moment when compared with the value of our lives, with a possession so close and intimate, nearer to us than anything else—ourselves. A man is not profited if he gains the whole world and loses himself. It is folly, when the greatest treasure of all is threatened, to run any risk by losing time over insignificant matters. Such conduct shows that we lack that true nobility of soul which only sets value upon the highest and best things.

(2) We are paralysed by fear. The thought that there is danger near fills us with alarm. We are like those upon whose vital power sudden fear places an arrest. Fear is one of the greatest foes of faith—a hindrance to all effective action. The man who hid his talent in the earth was moved thereto by fear, and therefore he could do nothing. It is only by looking from our danger to God and His salvation that we can be safe. We learn further:

2. That God's way of deliverance does not destroy the necessity for our own exertion. (Gen .) Life is at stake, and Lot has no promise of safety but in flight to the mountain. If he lingers behind, and refuses to make haste, he must be involved in the general destruction. God will not save him without some effort on his part. This is our case. Nothing less than our life is concerned. We are in danger of failing to attain to our better and nobler life, of falling into the condemnation of the wicked. There is only one way of escape—by renouncing ourselves, our trust in our own strength, our sins, and accepting fully of God's way of salvation. We must not linger in the plain of self, or stand still in regretful contemplation of what we have renounced, but must flee to the mountain, to the rock that is higher than we are, for there alone can we rest in safety.

3. That God's way of deliverance is only effective through His mercy. Lot and his family were brought forth and set without the city, "the Lord being merciful unto him." (Gen .) It was by constraining love that he was saved after all. His purpose was too weak to have accomplished his deliverance, and had he been left to himself he would have perished in the common destruction.

"E'en Lot himself could lingering stand

When vengeance was in view;

'Twas mercy plucked him by the hand

Or he had perished too."

Besides the call of God bidding us to "escape," and showing the way of escape, there must be a powerful influence of mercy, otherwise we shall fail of salvation.

II. God is ready to deliver others for their sakes. The household of Lot, son-in-law and sons, were offered the same mercy. Though some of them were reckless and unworthy they were allowed to share in the blessings of the household covenant. Any connection with the people of God is a privilege which may be improved into a real benefit.

1. Hence the righteous can offer salvation to the last. Lot went out and warned his sons-in-law of the coming danger and exhorted them to escape. (Gen .) He was to them a preacher of righteousness, even when they were upon the verge of doom. The door of mercy remains open to the last, and men may find salvation though they come late. It is our duty to proclaim the mercy of God towards sinners while there is time.

2. Our efforts may be unavailing. Lot "seemed as one that mocked unto his sons-in-law." (Gen .) His warning had no effect upon them. They refused to receive the offered mercy. They saw no danger; all things were around them as they had been, and there were no signs that so terrible a destruction was prepared and about to fall. They regarded Lot's words as idle tales, and they believed them not. Thus when sinners are informed of their danger, and exhorted to seek the way of safety, they do not believe that they are in any peril, and therefore despise the message.

III. In the midst of abounding corruption only the few escape. After all this warning and exhortation, only Lot, his wife, and two daughters, escaped from the destruction of Sodom; and one, even of this small number, perished by the way! So it was in the Deluge, and in all God's great judgments on the world. There are times when the wickedness of nations grows rank, and almost universal. That wickedness shows itself in various forms. At one time, it is laxity of morals; at another, it is a prevailing unbelief and a spirit of blasphemy; or it is lawless defiance of authority; or it may be worldliness, coarse or refined. It has ever happened that only the few have escaped the contagion of the abounding iniquity. Such is the character of the world, mostly evil! The majority are found ranging themselves on the side of the kingdom of darkness. These facts, though painful, must be admitted. They teach us—

1. The tremendous power of evil. The moral infection of sin has clung to human nature with an awful tenacity. The course of time, the progress of humanity in arts, sciences, and the refinements of life, have not sufficed to wear out the strength of the poison. This power of evil is a sad and disquieting factor in our estimate of the grandeur of man.

2. They teach us to approve of God's great judgments upon mankind. The Scriptures record the wholesale destruction of peoples and nations on account of their sin. With our compassionate feelings we sometimes think these judgments harsh, or even unjust. But we become reconciled to them, and are ready to believe that they have a sufficient cause, when we think of the enormous wickedness which has provoked them. The long-suffering of God is great; it waits, but there must be an end. If we could only know all that God knows, and see all that He sees of the wickedness of mankind, instead of being distressed at the rigour of His judgments, we should only wonder at His patience.

IV. The righteous can only be saved out of the scenes of iniquity, not in them. Lot and his family could not be saved while they remained in Sodom. As for Lot, the men "brought him forth, and set him without the city." (Gen .) The world is the City of Destruction, and we must separate ourselves from it or we cannot be saved. The principles of the world, its spirit, its acts, are enmity against God. We cannot separate ourselves from the outward world, either of nature or of man, but we can be unworldly as Christ was unworldly. He lived and mingled with men in the ways of social intercourse, but He had far other aims, and was sustained by higher hopes and principles. What God requires of us is that we should not partake of that spirit of life which rules in the hearts of men who are alienated from Him. If we are saved, it must be in the kingdom of light and not in the kingdom of darkness. It must be not in the Sodom which God has doomed, but in the place to which He invites us.

SUGGESTIVE COMMENTS ON THE VERSES

Gen . Here we are to mark the mercy of the Divine proceedings. Ten righteous men would have saved the city; but there seems to have been only one. He, however, shall at all events escape; and not only so, but all that belong to him shall be delivered for his sake, or, if otherwise, it shall be their own fault. It shall not be for the want of a proffered opportunity or a faithful warning. Sons-in-law, sons, daughters, or whatever he had, are directed to be brought out of the doomed city, which was rapidly approaching the crisis of its fate. That remarkable feature of the Divine administration by which the wicked are blessed for the sake of the righteous is here most signally illustrated; for that such were the sons-in-law is evident from the contemptuous manner in which they received the warning, and the fact that they perished in the perdition of the city.—(Bush.)

There are privileges which men have from their connection with the righteous, and to which they have no proper right on the ground of personal character. The indirect advantages of the piety of the few are great. The world little knows for how many blessings it is indebted to the Church.

Gen . God sends judgments upon wicked nations only after all admonitions and chastisements have failed.

The sins of men have a voice which assails heaven and dares its justice.

Even the good angels are God's executioners. And the first execution they did in the world that we read of was among these filthy Sodomites. So it will be, likely, at the last day. And St. Peter seems to say as much. (2Pe .) The Lord reserves the unjust to the day of judgment to be punished, "but chiefly them that walk after the flesh in the lust of uncleanness." Mark that chiefly.—(Trapp.)

Gen . Lot is found here in the character of a preacher of righteousness, and his message is an example of that kind of warning which must be given to sinners.

1. Abrupt and pointed. The case is urgent and admits of no delay. Those concerned, in this instance, were personally addressed, and the danger to which they were exposed was announced in few words. The preacher knew the danger, and men make short work of it when they feel intensely. Like the disciples in the storm, who did not venture upon a long discourse regarding the violence of the winds and the rage of the sea, but had only time to say, "Lord, save us, or we perish." Sinners must be roused by sharp and cutting words which admit of no doubtful meaning.

2. Authoritative. Lot signified to these sinners the authority by which he spake: "For the Lord will destroy this city." Ministers of the Gospel have authority for warning sinners of their danger.

3. Affectionate. Lot went forth at an unusual hour of the night to warn those who were bound to him by the ties of natural relationship. We may be sure that, though his language was earnest and faithful, yet his manner was loving and kind. From the deep affection of his heart he would implore them to obey his message. In such a manner must the righteous preach to sinners as to those who belong to the same family, but who are unworthy and rebellious children.

4. In the face of all discouragements. Lot's message was received with derision, yet he warned them to the last. We must do our duty though our message may be rejected with a heartless disdain. We have delivered our souls.

Lot at once believes what the angels tell him; and he is not afraid to avow his belief. Often before he has warned the ungodly to flee from the wrath to come. Often has he testified against their wickedness; and knowing the terror of the Lord he has sought to persuade men. But who hath believed his report? All day long he has stretched forth his hands to a disobedient and gainsaying people; and as their conversation has vexed him, so his interference has only served to irritate them. Even his own relatives and acquaintances—the very men who are, or are to be, his sons-in-law, to whom his daughters are married or betrothed—are led astray with the error of the wicked. Where are they during this memorable night, when Lot is entertaining his holy guests, and the people have risen in their fury against him? Have they turned their backs on the dwelling of the righteous? Are they keeping company with sinners—if not encouraging, at least not disowning their iniquity? Well might Lot hesitate in these circumstances—however warm his natural affection, and however strong his sense of duty—and be tempted to conclude that, having enough to do at home, he need not venture on a fruitless experiment abroad. It is incurring risk in vain. For how can he expect to be believed, when he has so incredible a tale to tell.—(Candlish.)

The derision of sinners is one of the saddest griefs of the righteous. They recognise in this those signs of infatuation which go before destruction. Mocking is the last refuge of those who oppose the truth, and there is a laughter which is mad.

The lack of belief in God has the same effect upon the soul as the privation of the organs of special sense has upon the body. Therefore men can sport unawares upon the very edge of destruction.

He warns them like a prophet, and advises them like a father, but both in vain: he seems to them as if he mocked, and they do more than seem to him to mock again.—(Bp. Hall.)

The Gospel message has often been regarded as an appeal to the fears and credulities of men, but the end will show that the danger against which they are warned is a dread reality.

The derisive mirth and scorn of sinners in this world will be their sad remembrance in the world to come.

The impenitent may scoff at the warnings of the righteous, but their city in which they trusted shall surely be destroyed.

The most faithful preaching may, in many instances, fail of success. In mechanics we can calculate the whole effect of a number of forces acting in certain directions, but we cannot with the same confidence predict the effect of spiritual forces. We have to deal with that unmanageable factor, the perversity of the human will.

Sodom a type of the spiritual Babylon (Rev ). Whoever will not be borne away and crushed with the godless, he must early and cheerfully separate himself from them while he has time and leisure (Rev 18:4).—(Lange.)

Gen . The commendable faith and piety of Lot were still mingled with some degree of human infirmity. He was disposed to linger, and had to be hastened by the angels. It is easy, indeed, to conceive that one in his situation, though prepared, on the whole, to obey the Divine summons, should still have felt a strong repugnance to an instantaneous flight. His was a struggle like that of the endangered mariner who feels that his only chance of escaping shipwreck and saving his life is to cast all his goods overboard, and yet hesitates and lingers, and can scarcely bring himself to part with what he holds so dear. In Lot's case, however, we may have the charity to believe it was not solely the thought of losing all his worldly substance that made him falter. It was, indeed, putting his fortitude to a severe test to know that he must forsake all, and go forth homeless and destitute, he knew not whither; and our own habitual, practical distrust of Providence enables us but too easily to enter into his feelings, and perhaps to find an apology for them on this score. It may be, also, that his heart was agonised at the thought of leaving so many relatives behind him to perish in the perdition of the city; and we may suppose that it was mainly in consequence of this strong conflict that he so deferred his flight that his deliverers were at last obliged to have recourse to that kind of violence to hasten his departure. Such, in thousands of instances, is the struggle in the minds of men when they are called to leave all and flee from the wrath to come. They do not wholly disbelieve or reject the warnings addressed to them; they are convinced that there is peril in their path, and that ere long something must be done to avoid it; an awful sound is ever and anon in their ears, urging them to expedite their flight from the devoted city; but still they linger, and still would linger to their final undoing, did not the same compulsory mercy of heaven which rescued Lot, save them also from the consequences of their destructive apathy.—(Bush.)

Such is the strength of temptation, and the infirmity even of the best, that the righteous are only saved with difficulty. Their will is too weak, and even they must fail unless constrained by the loving violence of Divine grace.

The love of God not only seeks us and warns us of our danger, but also draws us by a sweet compulsion.

Even those who are in the way of salvation must be hastened on to the place of safety by urging upon them the danger of perdition.

Are you in danger of perishing in the midst of those on whom the wrath of God lies? Are you entangled in the world's friendship, and is the world swiftly to be judged? Is the morning almost already arisen—the morning of the judgment day? And are you still to be delivered? Is the harvest past? Is the summer ended? And are you not saved? And when you open your drowsy eyes, and listlessly catch the hasty summons to arise—will you still complain that it is too soon to be up? And will you still murmur your fond and deprecating entreaty—"Yet a little sleep, a little slumber?" Bless the Lord, if in such a crisis He has not taken you at your word, and let you alone, as you wished Him to do. He leaves you not to repose. He cuts short your half-waking and dreamy musing. He hastens you. He fairly arouses and alarms you—not dealing with you tenderly, as if He feared to give you pain, but, if need be, with unrelenting and unpitying severity, shaking you from your security, and telling you the truth. Awake! Arise! Lest thou be consumed in the iniquity of the city.—(Candlish.)

It was a source of spiritual danger to Lot to have gone to dwell in Sodom at all. That danger had now arrived at a critical stage, and he must do that which he ought to have done at the first—separate himself without delay from that wicked community.

Gen . There is, indeed, scarcely any surer or more characteristic sign of the Lord's manner of delivering the godly out of temptation than this. He uses a constraining force, and teaches them to use it. The kingdom of heaven is taken by violence. For, first, He rouses them betimes, and hastens them to depart, on pain of instant destruction. Again, when they loiter and linger, loath to leave all the world behind, He constrains, and as it were, compels them. Nor will He suffer them so much as to look back or pause; onwards, still onwards, for your lives, is His word. Thus decisive and peremptory is the Lord's dealing with those whom He would save. Nor is it more peremptory than the case requires. For, in this sense, it is true that the righteous scarcely are saved;

1. Not without a loud and startling, as well as a timely alarm.

2. Not without a powerful hand laying hold of them, and dragging them, almost reluctant, along.

3. Not without a call to them to see to the completeness as well as to the promptitude of their escape, and a terrible warning against a single glance behind.—(Candlish.)

We can only be saved from the destruction of the wicked by a loving hand laid upon us—that love which constrains. The love of Christ softens and subdues our nature, so that we feel its gentle power and follow the direction of His will.

If we are saved, it is against our natural will. The mercy of God is, therefore, displayed in drawing us towards Himself.

Such is the infirmity of human nature that men who have principle of sufficient strength to renounce the world, are yet subject to a kind of infatuation when they seriously make that attempt. They are like the wanderer amidst the snows, who feels the fatal torpor creeping upon his frozen limbs, and is tempted to take his rest in what must prove the sleep of death. He needs some one at hand to rouse him up and urge him on to the place of safety.

We are all naturally in Sodom; if God did not hale us out, whilst we linger we should be condemned with the world. If God meets with a very good field He pulls up the weeds and lets the corn grow; if indifferent, He lets the corn and weeds grow together; if very ill, He gathers the few ears of corn and burns the weeds.—(Bishop Hall.)

The losses and afflictions of the righteous are only God's way of laying His loving hand upon them, to the intent that they might not be condemned with the world.

The ultimate force upon which our salvation depends is the loving mercy of God. Our purpose is too weak to secure salvation, even after the promise of it has been given.

Our infirmities would be ever bringing us into danger only that the Lord has compassion upon them.

It is the duty of the godly man to remove himself from every scene which endangers the safety of his soul.

Gen . It is impossible not to spiritualise this history, for considered in itself it has little use. Here we discern the Gospel message.

1. We must strive to escape from our danger. The safety of our souls is involved. We shall lose all if we remain in a state of nature.

2. We must not swerve from our purpose to attain the end of our striving. We may look down through despondency; we ought to look up; but whether we look down or look up we must never look back.

3. We must actually obtain our salvation. We are not safe until we have reached the mountain—until we have laid hold on Christ. There is no salvation in any other.

To look behind upon that world which we have set our hearts to forsake is:—

1. A cause of serious delay. This is the least mischief conceivable by such a course. We certainly interrupt our journey, and delay to make our salvation secure.

2. Shows a divided interest, a distracted attention. Our purpose is hereby weakened, and we cannot follow God with all our heart.

3. A sign of unbelief. It shows some lingering love towards the sins we have left. It is an interruption of the life of our faith which, should it continue, would be fatal.

There were many places about the "plain" which seemed to promise a safe shelter to Lot, but he was told not to stay therein. There are human systems of thought and belief which seem to offer shelter and repose to our souls, but there is no safety for us but in Christ.

God Himself—the Covenant angel—is the Speaker here, and such He is in His message of salvation to mankind. His command to us is, Be saved, which is also an invitation, a privilege. With the command He furnishes the strength to perform.

Salvation implies the effort to renounce ourselves—a hard work. Our Lord requires His disciple to take up His cross and follow Him. This is but a merciful severity.

But shall we say that these Divine monitors were therefore impertinently officious or needlessly severe? Assuredly the more faithful and earnest they were in the discharge of their duty, the more real benevolence they exercised; nor could they have displayed their love in any better way than by seizing hold of them to quicken their pace, and urging them by the most powerful considerations to secure their own safety. In like manner should the earnest appeals and exhortations of Christ's ministers to the impenitent be regarded. They are really prompted by the most benevolent motives. Knowing the tenors of the Lord they endeavour to persuade men. In uttering the denunciations of heaven they may be accused as needlessly harsh or severe; but it is a most unjust imputation, for what they speak will soon be found true; and in thus discharging their duty they perform an office worthy of an angel. They believe God's threatenings, and therefore they speak; and should they speak smooth things to their hearers, and prophesy deceits, they would prove their bitterest enemies. In this urgent matter concealment is treachery and fidelity is love. They must be an echo of the angel's voice, and cry aloud, "Escape for your lives, look not behind you, nor tarry in all the plain." With what altered emotions does Lot now survey that ensnaring plain which had been his great temptation! For many a day he had roved at ease with his flocks and herds over that goodly ground; but now he is to pass over it with the utmost speed, not a moment is to be lost. Fly he must for his life to the mountains beyond, for a deluge of fire is about to break forth and flow on that accursed soil! Ah, how easily can the hand of God turn our choicest worldly comforts into wormwood and gall! How easily can He rob our enjoyments of their zest, and convert our earthly Edens into a dreary waste! "Little children, keep yourselves from idols."—(Bush.)


Verses 18-22

MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Gen

THE INFIRMITIES OF THE HEIRS OF SALVATION

Lot was a representative of the heirs of salvation, inasmuch as it was God's gracious purpose to save him from the judgments coming upon the ungodly; and he worked with that purpose—was obedient to the voice which called him to flee from destruction and make for safe shelter. His efforts betrayed human weakness.

I. These infirmities are seen during the progress of their deliverance. Lot did not obey the command to escape at once to the mountain, but craved the indulgence of resting by the way in a place of his own choice. It was while he was being saved that he showed this weakness. And seekers after salvation are marked more or less by the like infirmities. In the case of Lot, these were—

1. The infirmity of fear. "I cannot escape to the mountain lest some evil take me, and I die" (Gen ). He was afraid lest the fiery stream should overtake him before he reached the mountain. Had his faith been strong, he would have had courage to obey in the face of all the suggestions of sense.

2. Wilfulness. He sets his desire upon a city lying in the course of his flight, where he imagines he shall be safe (Gen ). His request appeared most reasonable to himself, for this city was quite unimportant, and surely it might be spared. "Is it not a little one?" he said (Gen 19:20). He committed the folly of attempting to improve upon God's appointed way of deliverance. He sought to interfere with God's plan by some expedients of his own. Such is the wilfulness of many who are seeking the salvation of their souls. They stop short of the end to which they should attain without delay, and adopt some shelter of their own choosing. The subjugation of our will entirely to the will of God is the result of long training.

3. Forgetfulness of past mercies. God had shown great and marvellous mercy to Lot. We should expect that his sense of those marked favours would have been so fresh and strong that he would have been ready to go wherever God commanded him. But his character was too weak to realise properly both past and present blessings. It takes some time to rise to a sense of what God is doing for us.

4. A lingering selfishness. This characteristic clave to Lot to the last. He was selfish when he chose Sodom for a dwelling-place, and he is selfish now when he asks that this city may be spared merely for his own convenience. He lacked that largeness of soul which inspired Abraham when he prayed for Sodom and Gomorrah. So, many who have taken steps to obey the call of God yet allow their selfishness to stand in their way.

II. God is gracious towards such infirmities. God accepted Zoar as the temporary place of retreat for His servant (Gen ). He bears with the infirmity of His people. Where they have a desire and a firm purpose to flee to the refuge of His salvation, He pardons their many shortcomings in the effort. His charity covers the multitude of their sins. Such are the concessions of the Divine goodness towards human weakness. God "knoweth our frame, He remembereth that we are dust" (Psa 103:14). In the worst desolation there is some bright spot where we may rest and be refreshed, lest the strength of our souls should be tried above measure. But such an indulgence can be only temporary. Lot soon found that Zoar was not safe, and he was glad at last to escape to the mountain (Gen 19:30). We must not rest in what is intended to be merely a provisional shelter, but be ready to quit it soon. God indulges our weakness that He might lead us to higher things.

III. There are certain conditions which fit them for such merciful indulgence.

1. When they have already commenced the flight from danger. Lot believed that destruction was coming upon Sodom, and was now in the act of fleeing from the threatened danger. He had taken steps to secure his salvation, otherwise this favour would have been denied. God must see some desires towards Himself, some acceptance of His message, or He will not grant His great favours. We must break off with our sins, and fly from the danger to which they expose us, or else we cannot expect salvation. Those who remain in Sodom can only look for Sodom's doom.

2. When, though they have not reached it, they are still seeking a sure refuge. Lot had not yet reached the mountain, but his purpose was still set towards it He desired to obey the command of God. His will was accepted for the deed. If we are still seeking salvation, though we may not have attained to all that Christ has purchased for us, He will pity our weakness. He graciously encourages the first beginnings of a new life. Though there be much smoke and ashes, yet if He discovers a single spark of a better desire and hope in us, He will fan it to a flame. Mercy begins the distribution of her gifts as soon as we set out for Christ.

3. When they are satisfied not to rest in anything short of God's command. Lot's better desire was to obey God to the end, by escaping to the mountain. He was soon convinced that the place he had chosen was not intended to be his permanent refuge. Nothing short of Christ, whether it be the Church, the sacraments, or the ministry, can be our permanent resting-place. We are not safe until we have come to the Mountain, and laid hold upon the strength of our salvation. There is no other sure refuge for our souls but Christ.

SUGGESTIVE COMMENTS ON THE VERSES

Gen . But who shall prescribe to the Almighty? or limit the Holy One of Israel? Are we wiser than He? Have we any contrivance by which we can surpass Him? He lets us sometimes have our way, but to our woe at last.—(Trapp).

It must certainly be set down to a weak and wavering faith in Lot that he now made this request. His duty was to have yielded simple obedience to the declared will of Heaven. He should have known that what God dictated was best; that if He had commanded him to go to the mountains, He would certainly enable him to get there, and that He could protect him there as anywhere else. But he pleads hard for permission to flee to the neighbouring city of Zoar, and hopes that he may be excused in this desire, seeing it was but a "little one." The preferring of such a request in such circumstances we should suppose would have drawn forth some marked expression of the Divine displeasure. But God lends a gracious ear to his petition. His infimity is not rebuked; his request was granted; the city was spared for his sake. In this God designed at once to show how much the fervent prayer of a righteous man avails; and at the same time, by the result to teach his shortsighted servant how much wiser a part he would have acted had he confided in a childlike manner in God, and fled to the mountain in the first instance. (Gen .) This instance should fix firmly in our minds the conviction that we can never gain anything by attempting to improve upon God's appointments. He will choose infinitely better than we can for ourselves. Let us learn, moreover, another lesson from this incident. If a petition marked and marred with such faultiness as that of Lot on this occasion still met with a favourable hearing, what efficacy may we conceive to pertain to those prayers which are prompted by a yet more believing spirit, and framed more distinctly in accordance with the revealed will of Heaven?—(Bush.)

It is allowed to us to plead the privileges of our justification.

1. To ground our petition for mercies on what God has done for us already. His grace has saved us, and His mercy has been magnified towards us in many gifts of His love. We may use our experience of the past to encourage our hope for the future. "Because Thou has been my help, therefore in the shadow of Thy wings will I rejoice." (Psa .)

2. To crave pardon for human infirmity in our prayers. Lot knew that it was human weakness which led him to make this request. He was quite overcome by his fears; yet he thought that he could rely upon a mercy which was so plentiful, and which was shown to him in so signal a manner. The mercy of God manifested towards us in our salvation is so great that we may venture to trust it to pardon the lapses of our infirmity. Infinite love will make it all right at last if our hearts are only true and faithful.

Gen . The faith of Lot, simple and sincere as it was, could not be considered perfect. He had his misgivings and doubts. The distant mountain whither he had to flee filled him with anxiety and alarm. "I cannot escape to the mountain lest some evil take me and I die." Might no nearer, no safer, no less dreary refuge be found? It is hard to be all at once cast out upon the solitary wild. Such thoughts vexed the rescued soul of Lot. But in the Lord he found relief. He did not nurse these melancholy musings sullenly and suspiciously in his own bosom. He poured them forth into the ears of the Lord. With humble and holy boldness he ventured to represent his case to a present God—to plead, to reason, to expostulate, with a touching and pathetic, a childlike earnestness, such as only the spirit of adoption, the spirit that cries Abba, Father, could inspire.—(Candlish.)

God is honoured by our using the liberty of taking all our doubts and fears to Him. He can detect what is true and real in us in the midst of all our infirmity.

"Is it not a little one?" Thus men use their reason to sustain requests which have but imperfect conformity to the will of God.

Here we perceive Lot's constant appeal to self-interest; selfishness clung to that man's very soul. We should expect that after all the marvellous mercy shown by God to Lot, that he would have been ready to go wherever He commanded. But no; Lot asks that Zoar may be saved. And God marvellously accepts this demand. Now this shows how God deals with the soul. We use large language; we talk of self-sacrifice, self-devotion, and yet there has always been a secret reservation of some small Zoar; still God accepts. He leaves us some human affection, something to remind us of our earthly home. He weans us by degrees, that so, step by step, leaving earth behind, we may ascend the mountain top, and want nothing but the lovely love of God.—(Robertson.)

Gen . I have accepted thee. Heb. "I have lifted up thy face," i.e., I have a compassionate respect to thee, and will gratify thee by granting this request. The expression probably arose from an Eastern custom. Persons there, in preferring a petition, instead of falling upon their knees, often prostrate themselves with their face to the ground. When the petition is accepted, the prince or potentate commands them to be raised from their lowly posture, which is expressed by "lifting up the face." In common usage, therefore, the phrase is clearly synonymous with "showing favour." Thus doth a gracious God, according to the words of the Psalmist (Psa 145:19), "fulfil the desire of them that fear Him; He also will hear their cry and will save them."—(Bush.)

Before we reach our final salvation we shall need many an indulgence by the way. The great mercy of God allows for the dangers and temptations of our pilgrimage.

You may see the Lord's goodness in the land of the living. In the most sweeping desolation, levelling the houses and cities of your habitation to the ground—in the wide waste beneath which all things bright and fair seem buried—some little Zoar is left, some haven of rest in which the weary spirit may recruit its strength. Such earthly refreshment may the redeemed child of God, who has turned his back on Sodom, lawfully ask—such green spot in the desert—such little city of refuge amid the storm—in the bosom of domestic peace, and the endearments of a quiet home—that he may not be tried above measure. Only let his request be moderate. "See, now, it is a little one." So Lot pleads for this earthly boon. Let it also be a request preferred in faith as to a friend and father, with submission to His wisdom, and trust in His love. And if the request be granted—if the object of his fond regard, for which he speaks, be spared to him—if he get a little Zoar to flee to—let him not set his heart on it too much. For a brief space he may rejoice in it. But let him be ready to quit it soon, as Lot did, and, if need be, to dwell in the mountain and in the cave; for that in the end may be the Lord's way of thoroughly humbling and proving him, to the saving of his soul.—(Candlish.)

Zoar, of all the five cities, was spared by Lot's prayer. God suffers even His great judgments upon sinners to be modified in the range of their effect by the prayers of the righteous.

Gen . God is pleased to bind Himself by what is necessary for the salvation of His people. Lot must be made safe before the fiery judgment comes down upon the cities of the plain. Hence learn:

1. God's great favour towards the righteous.

2. The efficacy of their prayers and intercessions.

Even after the first step towards salvation has been taken, it is necessary that Divine warnings should be repeated that we might escape the snares coming upon the ungodly.

The inability here mentioned is, of course, wholly of the moral and not of the physical kind, similar in its nature, though arising from an opposite cause, to that affirmed of our Saviour (Mar ): "He could there do no mighty work," by reason of the unbelief of the people. He could not because he would not. There was a moral unfitness between such a state of mind and such a display of power, so that He determined not to put it forth. The Most High is pleased to represent His hands as bound by His paramount regard to the welfare of His people. He can do nothing towards the punishment of the wicked till their safety is secured. Had we not a Divine warrant for the use of such language it would doubtless be a high presumption in us to employ it; and when we find the Holy Spirit adopting it we still pause in devout admiration, mingled with a latent misgiving whether we are indeed to understand the words in their most obvious sense. But our doubts are precluded by adverting to numerous parallel instances of God's dealings with His people. On more than one occasion, when He had determined to execute vengeance on Israel for their perverseness, the intercessions of Moses are represented as having been in effect irresistible, so that the threatened judgment was averted. What an argument is this for our pressing earnestly forward to the acquisition of the same character. If we are prompted at all by the noble ambition of becoming benefactors of our race, let us seek to form ourselves on the models proposed in the Scriptures, and thus by being made eminently acceptable to God, become in the highest degree useful to the communities in which we live.—(Bush.)

Judgment is well represented in the Scripture as God's "strange work." He takes greater pleasure in the salvation of men, to secure which He will even consent to delay His judgments.


Verses 23-26

CRITICAL NOTES.—

Gen . Those cities.] Besides Sodom and Gomorrah, other cities were involved in this destruction, the cities of Admah and Zeboim (Deu 29:23; Hos 11:8), and all in the valley of Siddim, Zoar alone being excepted.

Gen . Pillar of salt.] Heb. "And she was a (statue or) column of salt." This pillar is spoken of in the Book of Wisdom as still standing at that time. (Wis 10:7.) Josephus, the early Fathers of the Church, and even some modern travellers have asserted that it was well known in their days. "We may observe, in the spirit of Mr. Grove's article, ‘Lot,' in the Biblical Dict., that no details are given us here at all furnishing a foundation for the legends and tales of travellers which have been built upon the history." (Alford.)

MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Gen

THE DESTRUCTION OF THE CITIES OF THE PLAIN

The previous history shows how they had long been ripe for judgment, now their last day and the inevitable hour had come.

I. It was sudden.

1. As regards the objects of it. They had no belief that God would interfere, but thought themselves secure in their wickedness. The plains around them were full of rich beauty, their cities were flourishing, their houses were filled with coarse plenty. The constancy of Nature was uninterrupted, the bounties of Providence continued without stint or sign of withdrawal. The sun rose brightly on that day, and it promised to be fair and prosperous as any other. But, in a moment, the fiery rain from heaven came down and swept them with sudden destruction. This is an example of what shall take place when the last Judgment shall arrive. It shall be then "as it was in the days of Lot" (Luk ). Men who have no real belief in the evil of sin, and the fate to which it exposes them, are unconcerned to the last. As regards the terrible designs of God's judgments they are like men asleep, but when that judgment comes, they awake on a sudden to the awful reality. The retribution prepared for the wicked appears to them to slumber, as if utterly quiet and harmless, but the time comes when God awakens, and then He despises their image (Psa 71:20). And what He despises cannot endure, but shall suddenly be destroyed.

2. Not sudden, however, as regards the Author of it. The infinite perfections of God forbid the thought that there should be with Him anything like surprise. He has not to adapt Himself to emergencies by a quick decision. This terrible judgment was no sudden thought of God. His anger is slow and deliberate. The doom of Sodom and Gomorrah had already been fixed when God spoke with Abraham, but had been delayed partly on account of Lot, and partly to clear such an act of judgment from the suspicion of haste. Even in His most terrible deeds, God makes it appear to men that His ways are equal. His vengeance is judicial, not the violence of passion. Christ reveals to His chosen ones what the end shall be. They know what to expect, and look for His appearing. But to the rest, destruction comes at an hour when they are not aware. The swiftness of the lightning is the fittest natural image of God's appearing in judgment.

II. It was the direct act of God. The record distinctly states that "the Lord rained upon Sodom and upon Gomorrah brimstone and fire from the Lord out of heaven." Natural agencies were no doubt used, but we have proof that God was present not in an ordinary but in an extraordinary manner. There are distinct evidences of a special act of Divine vengeance.

1. The destruction was predicted. God had already made known to Abraham, and to Lot and his family, what He was about to do. This destruction was not, therefore, an effect arising from the blind forces of nature, but a special act of the God of nature, who imparted to His favoured servants the secret of his design.

2. The destruction was, in its nature, extraordinary. It was out of the way of the usual course of Providence. There has been nothing like it either before or since. No one who had witnessed it could doubt that it was pre-eminently destruction from the Almighty. God rained down fire out of heaven, His agency being clearly manifest as when He destroyed the old world by a flood.

III. It was complete. "Those cities," "all the plain," "all the inhabitants," "that which grew upon the ground" (Gen ). Here was utter ruin, and absolutely without remedy. Every habitation was overturned, every animal and vegetable destroyed—every man perished in this overwhelming disaster. Lot and his family only excepted, the destruction was absolutely total. Their degeneracy was universal, and so was their destruction. Learn—

1. That God's judgments, though deserved, tarry long. They had filled up the measure of their iniquities long ago. While their punishment was delayed they had opportunity to avert it. They sheltered a holy man whose precept and example might have converted their souls. Prayers were offered up on their account. They had a long space in which to consider their ways and turn to the Lord. Learn—

2. That without timely repentance His judgments are sure to fall. God's warning to sinners are no empty threats, but will issue in the terrible facts. Long as the course of history has been or shall be to the end, judgment at length must fall upon the impenitent. Like unto Sodom and Gomorrah, the wicked world is doomed.

SUGGESTIVE COMMENTS ON THE VERSES

Gen . The sun rose brightly that morning; but before it had sunk below the western horizon the blood was cold in many a heart that burned with unhallowed fire, and many a pulse had ceased to beat that a few hours before throbbed with selfish passion. Down came the burning red rain from heaven, the fearful expression of the wrath of God. This strange flood of fire did for the bodies of men what death does for the soul. The attitude in which it found every man, there it sealed him.—(Robertson.)

The sunlight of their last day fell upon these wicked cities and found their inhabitants as unconscious and incredulous of their danger as ever. Night is the time of fears and alarms, the fit season for great disasters. It was at night that the destroying angel passed through Egypt to slay the first-born—at night when the sword of the Lord smote the camp of Assyria and destroyed one hundred and eighty-five thousand men—at night that the shadow of a man's hand wrote on the wall of Belshazzar's palace the awful words announcing the destruction of his kingdom and of his life. But day is the time of security, for light reveals danger, and makes the way of escape easier. The gloomy fears of night are gone, and the morning brings with it gladness and the promise of a peaceful day. But to Sodom, this day brought unexpected vengeance. The danger of sin is great, notwithstanding all appearances to the contrary.

When the sun rose upon Sodom with the promise of a fine day, could anything be further from their thoughts than the overwhelming tempest which almost immediately began to pour down upon them? Had they had the most distant idea of their perilous situation, with what avidity would they have seized the opportunity of escape, and with what persevering efforts would they have exerted themselves to reach a place of safety. But their confidence destroyed them. Let the heedless take warning. The breath of the Lord may kindle a stream of brimstone before they are aware. "He that being often reproved hardeneth his neck shall suddenly be destroyed, and that without remedy."

Gen . Here the Lord is represented as present in the skies, whence the storm of desolation comes, and on the earth where it falls. The Dale of Siddim, in which the cities were, appears to have abounded in asphalt and other combustible materials. (Gen 14:10.) The district was liable to earthquakes and volcanic eruptions from the earliest to the latest times. We read of an earthquake in the days of King Uzziah. An earthquake in 1759 destroyed many thousands of persons in the Valley of Baalbec. Josephus reports that the Salt Sea sends up in many places black masses of asphalt which are not unlike headless bulls in shape and size. After an earthquake in 1834, masses of asphalt were thrown up from the bottom. The lake lies in the lowest part of the valley of the Jordan, and its surface is about 1300 feet below the level of the sea. In such a hollow, exposed to the burning rays of an unclouded sun, its waters evaporate as much as it receives by the influx of the Jordan. Its present area is about forty-five miles by eight. The southern part of the lake seems to have been the original Dale of Siddim, in which were the cities of the vale. The remarkable salt hills lying on the south of the lake are still called Khashm Usdum (Sodom). A tremendous storm, accompanied with flashes of lightning and torrents of rain, impregnated with sulphur, descended upon the doomed cities. From the injunction to Lot to flee to the mountain, as well as from the nature of the soil, we may infer that at the same time with the awful conflagration there was a subsidence of the ground, so that the waters of the upper and original lake flowed in upon the former fertile and populous dale, and formed the shallow southern part of the present Salt Sea. In this pool of melting asphalt and sweltering seething waters, the cities seem to have sunk for ever, and left behind them no vestiges of their existence.—(Murphy.)

Brimstone and fire. The portion of the wicked—a suggestion of that fiery deluge which shall overwhelm the sinful world at the last day. (Psa ; Jude 1:7.) These cities are an example to the world that God will, in the end, utterly vanquish His enemies.

What was the agency which effected this destruction? The Bible refers it to the immediate action of God; and the truth of Scripture, it is thought by some, depends upon establishing the miraculous character of the fall of these cities. A man goes now to the scene of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, and tries to establish the fact that it was nothing but a natural volcanic eruption; and by getting rid of the supernatural agency, he thinks he has got rid of God Himself. Another goes to the same place, and, in his zeal for the supernatural, wishes to make out that the veracity of the Bible depends upon this kind of occurrence never having happened before. Do we mean, then, that only the marvellous incidents of nature,—the fall of Sodom and Gomorrah taking place at an appointed time,—only the positive miracles, are God's doing, and not the commonplace events of everyday life? Nay, God holds all the powers of nature in His hand; small events may be so directed by Him that we shall think them accident; but for all this it is no less certain that the most trifling act of every-day life is directed by Him. What we have to say is this: we agree with the super-naturalist in saying that God did it; we agree with the rationalist in saying that it was done by natural means. The natural is the work of God.—(Robertson.)

Though the descriptions which the Bible gives us of the future punishment of the wicked are but symbolical, yet such a dread judgment as this shows that they signify a terrible something. By a necessary law, sooner or later sin must bring its penalty. The wicked shall not go unpunished.

Gen . In all the plain. He consumed its productions, He destroyed its beauty, He extinguished the very principles of its fertility, and submerged the ground itself under the waters of the Jordan, that the foot of man might never tread it more. The destruction was complete and irreparable; the country was in a manner blotted out of the map of Palestine, so fierce was the indignation, so terrible the overthrow. Thus were the cities of the plain, and the ground on which they stood, set forth for an example to every succeeding age; and to that awful catastrophe the sacred writers often allude in their denunciations of the Divine judgments against apostate Israel. (Deu 23:23; Hos 11:8.)—(Bush.)

The power of God is against sinners: they defy the Omnipotent, but in vain.

THE FATE OF LOT'S WIFE

There was a great difference between the feelings of the elder and the younger branches of Lot's family on leaving their home. His sons and daughters left it in apparent obedience, but with the spirit of the inhabitants of the plain; it was not so with Lot's wife. It is not the character of age to accommodate itself readily to fresh circumstances. The old man does not feel inclined to launch himself afresh on the great ocean of the universe to seek new fortunes. He does not easily make fresh acquaintances, or transplant himself quickly from old haunts and homes. To youth there is a future; to old age there remains nothing but the present and the past. Therefore, while youth went on with its usual elastic step of buoyancy and hope, Lot's wife lingered; she regretted the home of her vanity and luxury, and the lava flood overwhelmed her, encrusted her with salt, and left her as a monument. The moral we are to draw from that is not left us to choose. Christ says, "Remember Lot's wife." It is worse to turn back, when once on the safe path, than never to have served God at all. They who have once tasted of the power of the world to come, let them beware lest they turn again. Sin is dangerous, but relapse is fatal. That is the reason why God so marvellously smooths the way for youth. Early joy enables the young man to make his first steps surely, with confidence in his Maker; love, gratitude, and all his best emotions are thus called forth. But if afterwards he falls, if he sinks back again into the world of evil, think you that his feelings will spur him on again in God's cause? Nay, because at the first time there was hope, the next all the hope is washed out; the stimulus of feeling is weaker because experience has broken down hope; he knows now what those resolves were worth! There is great difficulty in quitting evil after long habit. It becomes a home, and holiness is dull, and cheerless, and dreary. Youth, then, is the time for action—earnest, steady advancement, without looking back. St. Paul says, in his Epistle to the Hebrews, "Let us therefore fear lest, a promise being left us of entering into His rest, any of you should seem to come short of it;" and again he shows us the evil of drawing back—"Now the just shall live by faith: but if any man draw back, My soul shall have no pleasure in him."—(Robertson.)

THE CAUSE AND DANGER OF BACKSLIDING

The sad history of Lot's wife is a fearful warning to backsliders. She had taken steps to secure her salvation, but failed.

I. The cause of backsliding. The bitter root of her sin and error was unbelief. If she had strong faith in God she would have gone forward with an eye wholly fixed and intent on. His command Faith turns from all else to look to Him alone. This unbelief—

1. Leads to disobedience. She broke the command, "Look not behind thee, neither stay thou in all the plain." (Gen .) She stood still, and looked back with a longing heart on what she had left. The sinful past gains power over us when faith fails and our eye turns away from what God has set before us. Even if no sinful thoughts had prompted that look it was not innocent. The simple act of disobedience was a grave offence against God. By such an act our first father fell. In the case of the backslider there is always some unbelief which leads to some special acts of disobedience.

2. Leads to indecision. The looking back upon Sodom, when God had forbidden it, shows that her mind was not fully made up. She was moved at once by opposite feelings and desires. She was perplexed between God and the world. Unless we give up ourselves entirely to God's will, the result must be this indecision of character, when a very slight force will suffice to turn us back again to our old state.

II. The danger of backsliding. The awful doom of Lot's wife shows us how God regards this sin.

1. There is the danger of forfeiting our salvation. Lot's wife never reached the mountain.

2. The danger of punishment. If we turn away from God, and enter upon our old course, and remain in our sins, we must receive the penalty.

SUGGESTIVE COMMENTS ON THE VERSES

We may fail in the way of salvation after we have made some progress on the journey.

How few escape the corruption that is in the world, and secure their own salvation! Only eight in the Flood, now but four from Sodom, and even one of these perished in the ruins of it.

They fall deepest into hell who fall backwards into hell. None are so near heaven as those that are convinced of sin—none so near to heaven as those who have quenched conviction.—(Bunyan.)

Her example is still preserved in sacred history as a warning to all who turn back from the ways of God. She persists throughout the ages "a pillar of salt"—a perpetual monument. What a sad counterpart is she to that woman who poured the precious ointment on the head of Jesus, and whose deed shall be held in remembrance wheresoever the Gospel is preached!

How fearfully is judgment here mingled with mercy! Lot was himself delivered, but at what an expense! It was a dismal spectacle to him to behold the city of his residence, including the habitations of his neighbours and probably of some of his own relatives, with all their inmates, sinking into the flames of the devouring element. But this was not all. One wave of anguish after another rolled over him. His company as he left the city was but small; and now, alas, when he has escaped, one is missing! His wife was the partner of his flight, but not of his preservation. The companion of his youth, the mother of his children, instead of sharing in joy of their deliverance, stands a pillar of salt in the ways towards Sodom, an awful monument of the danger of disobedience! This may be deemed a hard fate for a mere glance of the eye; but that glance, no doubt, was expressive of unbelief and a lingering desire to return. Behold, then, the goodness and severity of God—towards Lot that went forward, goodness; towards his wife that looked back, severity. Though nearly related to a righteous man, and a monument of distinguishing mercy in her deliverance out of Sodom, yet rebelling against an express mandate of Heaven, her privileges and relations availed her nothing; God would not connive at her disobedience; she became a mournful illustration of the truth that the righteous who turn away from their righteousness shall perish. While we lament her fate, let us profit by her example.—(Bush.)

May not the exile, now that he is fairly out of the city, relax his speed, and proceed a little more leisurely? May he not cast his eye once more on the scene he is forsaking, and indulge one last, lingering, farewell look? At his peril if he do it. One who should have shared his flight to the last has tried the experiment. She cleaves to her old home. She loves the world, and in the world's swift judgment she is miserably engulfed. One look behind is fatal. To pause is ruin. Who is there among you who has been persuaded and enabled to come out from among the ungodly—who has escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust? Remember Lot's wife. You may say, let me go and bury my father—let me just return and bid farewell to my friends—but one more embrace, but one more look, and then up and after Christ again. Tempt not the Lord. He who says, Follow Me, utters also these solemn words:—"No man having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God." "If any man draw back, My soul shall have no pleasure in him." Be not of those "who draw back unto perdition, but of them that believe to the saving of the soul." And let the voice of Him who has led you forth, and set you free from the condemnation and corruption of the world lying in wickedness, ring continually in your ears when you would slacken your pace or abate your zeal. "Look not behind thee, neither stay thou in all the plain."—(Candlish.)

We may contrast this flight from Sodom with the conduct which our Lord enjoins upon His disciples when He should come at the destruction of Jerusalem. So sudden was to be their flight, that the man on the house-top must not go down to fetch his clothes. The roofs of their houses were flat, and formed continuous terraces which terminated at the gates of the city, and by these they might escape with safety into the country. Their escape must be quite as sudden as Lot's from Sodom. The exhortation was peculiarly appropriate to His female disciples, for whose safety the tender heart of Jesus was concerned. The advice was taken, for when the Roman armies drew nigh, "many departed from the city as from a sinking ship." All the disciples acted upon the command of their Lord and arrived safely at Pella. None perished. The case of Lot's wife is in sad contrast to this parallel instance. Consider some of the circumstances that make her history full of instruction.

1. She perished after solemn warning. Lot was warned to escape, and while he lingered the men laid hold on him. Lingering nature requires the hand of special grace to save it from destruction. "By grace ye are saved." "But his wife looked back from behind him" with regret and affection to the place. She wavered, stopped by the way, shrank from the grasp of her angel-conductor, leaving her husband to go on his way alone. The storm suddenly came. She was a little too far from Zoar, and a little too near Sodom. She became scorched and encrusted by the burning flood, and remained on the spot—a petrified monument of Divine justice. She met the fate of those who, being often reproved, are suddenly destroyed. So those to whom the Gospel is preached have often been warned—by every affliction, every providence, every death, every sermon. And if these warnings are unheeded, God may say, at last, "Because I have called and ye refused," etc. (Pro .)

2. She perished by a look. The city looked beautiful as ever when the sun rose upon it on that fatal day. That was the deceitful calm before the storm. She had sufficient energy of purpose to leave Sodom, but not enough to leave it altogether. Thus many go far towards obeying God, but not far enough. Lost by a look! Heaven and hell in a single glance of the eye. Eve looked at the tempting tree and brought sin and sorrow to our race. The Israelites looked at the brazen serpent and obtained life. Lot looked forward to Zoar to find safety; his wife back to Sodom to find destruction. One of the dying thieves looked on Christ and obtained eternal life; the other looked from him and died without repentance.

3. She perished after she had stood long, and had enjoyed great advantages. This woman had known Abraham, had the benefits of his pious counsel and of his high example. Angels had come to her habitation. She was now actually outside of the city on which the stroke of doom was about to fall. Thus she failed at the last hour. There is no period at which our caution and vigilance can be safely relaxed. We must feel our dependance upon God's grace from first to last.

4. She illustrates the enormous influence of worldly interests and affections. We are not distinctly told in the history why she looked back, but our Lord implies that it was from a worldly spirit. There was, also, some disbelief of the angels' message, and a want of tender solemnity and awe. Possibly she may have feared to endure the scorn and jeers of her worldly kindred should the destruction threatened not take place. The very brevity and simplicity of the record fits it all the more for manifold instruction.


Verses 27-29

MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Gen

THE RIGHTEOUS MAN'S RETROSPECT OF GOD'S GREAT JUDGMENTS

The judgment which had long been threatened had now come. The righteous vengeance of God had overtaken the guilty inhabitants of these cities, and Abraham witnessed the scene of desolation when all was over (Gen ). The feelings which rose within him at that awful sight are those which must fill the heart of every saint when he is permitted to behold God's great judgments upon sinful men.

I. He regards them with solemn emotion. How terrible was the sight which met the eye of Abraham, when he rose early in the morning and looked towards Sodom! (Gen ). The once fertile and smiling plains were converted into one vast furnace. The cities and their populations were involved in a ruin so complete that not a trace remained. The night before beheld them full of strong life and thoughtless dissipation; the day looked upon a scene of desolation, wherein all life had perished in the sharp agony of the fiery flood. Abraham could not regard without emotion so utter a destruction, and especially as he had taken such an interest in his people as to use all his power with God to save them from the threatened doom. He contemplated this terrible sight—

1. With profound awe. He had waited anxiously for the result of his pleading with God for these sinners. He may have indulged a hope that the Lord would relent at the last—that His pity would prevail, or dispose Him to find a remedy. Now he discovers that his prayers have not availed to stay judgment. This swiftness and certainty of the Divine retribution must have filled his soul with awe.

2. With some pain to personal feelings. Abraham was a tender and benevolent man, and he could not have witnessed the sight of so many human beings hurried into swift destruction without some shock to his better feelings. It is not always easy for a good man to sympathise with God in His terrible judgments upon sinners. Appearances, in the divine government, are often against our notions of justice. It is with difficulty that we can attain to that unquestioning loyalty which meekly submits, and acknowledges the righteousness of all God's ways. It is said, by way of reproach, that the saints, satisfied and comfortable in their own security, look down with indifference upon the fate of sinners, and even enjoy their bliss the more by the sense of contrast. But, in fact, the real tendency of their hearts is otherwise. They bring themselves with difficulty to adore the unsearchable judgments of God. They naturally recoil from the spectacle of multitudes overwhelmed by pain and calamity. Abraham must, at this moment, have felt some yearnings of tenderness towards those who perished in this wholesale destruction. But if a man trusts wholly in God, such a sight must dissipate much false pity and false hope. The sure judgments of God will overtake the wicked, notwithstanding all our pity and hope.

II. He is satisfied with the righteousness of God as seen in them. Through all his history, since he was first called to a life of faith and obedience, Abraham was the friend of God, in His confidence, and yielding himself entirely to Him. He had the deep conviction that the Judge of all the earth would do right. The eye of his faith was still on God, and he was content. He knew that God would be clear when He is judged. All good men will, at length, feel satisfaction that the right is done.

III. He has some compensations in regard to them. There was some element of consolation for Abraham. The whole case was not so bad as it might have been. Some were delivered. The intercession of Abraham had availed, though not so far as he had once hoped. Lot and his family were saved by his prayers, and not for their own righteousness. "God remembered Abraham, and sent Lot out of the midst of the overthrow." All depended upon the power of this one righteous life. So we are saved, not for any good thing in ourselves, but by the intercession of Christ who is the elect of God. Christ prays for us when we forget to pray for ourselves, or, at best, do so but languidly. He rescues us when we are but half alive to our danger.

SUGGESTIVE COMMENTS ON THE VERSES

Gen . Even when we have poured out our full souls in prayer for others, we may well be anxious regarding the result.

Here, again, Abraham comes into view in the narrative. It was daybreak when Lot came to Zoar. And about the same time Abraham, who was in Mamre, near Hebron, went to the place where he had interceded with the Covenant angel for Sodom. This point, as we observed on the spot, commands a view of that region from the heights of Hebron.—(Jacobus.)

The history returns continually to Abraham to show us how God's purpose of redemption through the Messiah was moving on towards accomplishment.

Abraham rose early the next morning, full of anxiety, and turned his eyes towards Sodom and Gomorrah, now only one molten sea of fire. He contemplated the melancholy scene before him, and felt with how fearful and solemn a gaze he should look upon the miseries and punishments of those who do not fear God. It was then Abraham began secretly to understand the mystery of God's will and dealings with man; it was then the agonising suspicion of God's justice, with which he had wrestled, found its solution. Lot was saved, the righteous were not destroyed with the wicked. The strange mystery of this hard, cruel, unintelligible world became plain; and the voice of his inmost heart told him, "All is right." This, then, explains these two magnificent contradictions, which, taken separately, are unintelligible, but which together form the basis of our faith. "God is love," but "our God is a consuming fire."—(Robertson.)

Gen . It is not unlikely that frequent flashes of fire were intermixed with the clouds of smoke that rolled up from the scene of the devastation. The view must have been awful beyond description, and from its terrific features is no doubt made the Scriptural type of hell, which, in allusion to the fate of Sodom, is called "the lake that burneth with fire and brimstone." (Comp. also Deu 29:23; Isa 13:19; Jer 49:18; Jude 1:7; 2Pe 2:6.) The destruction of the spiritual Sodom (Revelation 18, 19) is moreover evidently described, especially where the bewailing spectators are represented as standing afar off and gazing at the smoke of her burning; a circumstance, doubtless, drawn from Abraham here standing at a distance and witnessing the doom of the devoted cities.—(Bush.)

Those may perish for whom many prayers have been offered.

Nothing else was now to be seen of that fair and fruitful plain. Sic transit gloria mundi. When we most greedily grasp earthly things we embrace nothing but smoke, which brings tears from our eyes, and soon vanisheth into nothing.—(Trapp.)

Gen . God bears the prayers of His people long in memory, though He may not answer them according to the extent or to the way of their desire.

One righteous man may be delivered by the intercessions of another. God helps us through human mediators in order that we might learn to trust in the Great Mediation.

God makes haste to relieve the anxieties of His servants. When Abraham saw the smoke of the country as the smoke of a furnace, it seemed that all was lost. But he is soon comforted by finding that some dear to him are safe.

The righteous are only saved by the much-prevailing power of the Great Intercessor.

This rescue is attributed to Elohim, and not to "Jehovah," the Covenant God, because Lot was severed from His guidance and care on his separation from Abraham. The fact, however, is repeated here for the purpose of connecting it with an event in the life of Lot of great significance to the future history of Abraham's seed.—(Keil and Delitzsch.)

The Eternal is here designated by the name Elohim, the Everlasting, because in the war of elements in which the cities were overwhelmed, the eternal potencies of His nature were signally displayed.—(Murphy.)

It is delightful to know that the world, sunk and fallen as it is, is not a neglected province of God's dominions, that it is not abandoned of its Author, and left, like a sea-weed, to float at random over the dark and shoreless ocean of uncertainty and doubt. The Christian knows no such Deity as Chance and Fate. He knows that events occur in a manner too regular for the agency of chance, but in a manner not stated and regular enough to have blind Fatality for their Author. He knows that the very notion of Providence implies design, and in Divine Providence design must extend to everything. We must either exclude God's Providence from having a share in the government of the world, or we must believe that His superintending agency extends to all events of human life. We may be sure that God governs the world in a way worthy of Him, and extends His care to all His creatures, and to all their actions. Hence the deliverance of individuals is not a lucky escape—a thing merely happening, which might have been otherwise. When the first-born of Egypt were destroyed the first-born of Israel were spared. When Jericho was levelled to the ground Rahab was delivered from the ruin. When God destroyed the cities of the plain, He saved Lot because He remembered Abraham. This man was saved by God's set purpose and design. This text shows us—

I. The terrors of God's justice towards the world of the ungodly. Two of the Apostles regard the fact here related as an example of the conduct of the Divine government towards sinners in every age—as a kind of type and pattern of God's displeasure against sin and the certainty of its punishment. (Jude ; 2Pe 2:6-9.) We are not to consider it merely as an historical incident in which we have no more interest than we have in the destruction of Carthage; but we are to regard it as designed to teach us the certain overthrow of all evil, and the wretched doom of the impenitent. The destruction of the Cities of the Plain is illustrative of the certain perdition of ungodly men. This was a judgment immediately inflicted by the hand of God, though natural agencies were employed. Fuller says, "If so it were, God's hand was in it, directing and timing its operations, no less than if it were accomplished without the interference of any second cause." This history illustrates the awful condition of those who have God for an enemy. His enemies are always in His power. The universe is His prison. Flight or escape must be alike impossible when His patience can hold out no longer, and He sends forth the summons for destruction. "There is no darkness or shadow of death where the workers of iniquity may hide themselves." In vain they boast of their riches, their grandeur, their long exemption from punishment. Nothing can defend them when the hour of judgment arrives. God can arm every element against them; the fire shall burn the cities of the plain, the waters shall drown the men of the old world, the air shall breed pestilence, the earth shall tremble and rend asunder beneath their feet, the heavens shall send forth the dreadful thunders and bolts of fire, and the stars in their courses shall fight against Sisera. "Though thou exalt thyself as the eagle, and set thy nest among the stars, thence will I bring thee down, saith the Lord." And, "if these things be done in the green tree, what shall be done in the dry?" If these sparks of vengeance reach us here in the day of mercy, what must be the punishment prepared for the ungodly!

II. The triumph of God's mercy towards the children of His love. St. Peter quotes the deliverance of Lot as an example of God's ability to save the righteous, as well as of His determination to punish the wicked. God "delivered just Lot, vexed with the filthy conversation of the wicked" (2Pe ). This example is quoted to show that "the Lord knoweth how to deliver the ungodly out of temptation." God's regard towards the righteous man is also seen in His remembering Abraham. He remembered the intercession of that holy man, and knew that though Lot was not mentioned by name he was still the object of his earnest solicitude. Lot could not pray for himself, because he did not know of the approach of the calamity; but Abraham prayed for him, and that prayer availed much. How much more shall the intercession of Christ prevail for the subjects of His grace. "If any man sin, we have an Advocate," etc. (1Jn 2:1). God allows mediation to prevail with Him. Thus Job was heard when he prayed for his friends, Moses when he made intercession for Israel, that they might not be blotted out of the book of life. Lot owed his preservation to God's regard for Abraham. As Lot's family was preserved for Lot's sake, so Lot himself was preserved for Abraham's sake. And in a far higher sense, a lost world is recovered and redeemed for Christ's sake. The history of Lot's escape illustrates our deliverance by the power of Divine grace, the whole of which must be ascribed entirely to God. He originates the plan of salvation. It was not Lot who sought the angels, but the angels who sought him. And "by grace ye are saved, through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God." Mercy framed the scheme of deliverance, revealed the Refuge hoped for, implanted the principle of grace in the heart: and mercy maintains the vigour of that principle in spite of all the opposition of earth and hell. God's mercy gives the pardon, and the way to find it, and the hand to receive it, and the eye to search it, and the heart to desire it. In this instance, as in many more, God was found of them who sought Him not. He sent His angel to warn him of the unsuspected danger, to reveal the appointed place of refuge, to arouse him to immediate activity and solicitude. Also we learn that God overcomes the hindrances and obstacles to salvation which arise in our minds. The angels hastened Lot, and lingering nature requires the hand of special grace to save it from destruction. Even in the best men, how many obstacles are there to their own salvation! How much must be overcome before grace has it all its own way!—our pride, our indolence, our worldliness, our unbelief, our self-sufficiency, our tendency to procrastination and delay. God has various means of bringing men to Himself, of rousing them from their sloth, and of directing them in the path of safety and of life. Sickness, pain, disappointments, sorrows, losses, death, the bereavements of friends, the accidents of life,—what are these but so many voices saying, "Up, get ye out of this place?" What are they but so many angel hands laying hold on the lingerer, and setting him in the path of salvation? Let sinners consider that while they are lingering, time is hastening, eternity is advancing, judgment is approaching, evil habits are growing stronger, and the chances of rescue from danger are diminishing day by day. But when once we submit to God—to His plan of deliverance, He will surely bring us to the rest and the refuge which He has prepared for us. In the day of calamity He will remember us for good.

THE FOLLY OF SEEKING OUR OWN CHOICE.—Gen

Lot was bidden to go to the mountain, but requested that he might be allowed to seek refuge in Zoar. In his request he was graciously indulged—allowed to make the experiment which was to convince him of his folly in choosing for himself. We only land ourselves in greater difficulties when we act according to the suggestions of our own human wisdom in opposition to the Divine will. Of such conduct we observe,—

I. The root of it is unbelief. Lot could not trust God fully, and therefore the infinite charity of God stooped to his infirmity. Perfect faith takes God at His word without questioning or hesitation, without clipping His commands to our own notions of duty, or resolving to venture less than He requires. We must trust in God with our whole heart, and lean not to our own understanding. Our faith falls short in so far as we seek to modify the commands of duty by our own wilfulness. Imperfect obedience has its bitter root in unbelief. In the instance of Lot, we see the sad consequences of this timid and imperfect faith. Here we trace the source of the inconsistency and vacillation of his character. Our walk in the path of life and obedience is only steady and sure in proportion as our faith is clear and strong.

II. We are made bitterly to repent of it. "He feared to dwell in Zoar." He was afraid that the destruction would overtake him even there. That spirit of unbelief which renders our obedience imperfect brings dread. We take alarm, for conscience tells us we have left some ground for fear. We have not been perfectly honest and open with God, and we justly expect that we shall smart for it. That perfect love alone which fully confides can cast out all fear. A dreadful penalty is visited upon unbelief when it leads to the total loss of faith, when a man is reduced to that state in which he can believe nothing. To commence following God's command, and then to impair our obedience by our own foolish will, leads in the end to doubt and uncertainty—to that sense of insecurity in which we feel that nothing is sure and safe.

III. We may be compelled to accept God's way at last. Lot finds refuge, at length, in the mountain, where he had been ordered to go at first. A merciful Providence brought him up to the full measures of his duty. He finds, in the end, that it is best to fall in with God's plan. By a painful discipline we are often brought round to God's way, and made to feel that what He chooses is best.

SUGGESTIVE COMMENTS ON THE VERSE

The sight of a sea of waters accumulating in the vale, and gradually approaching the very borders of Zoar, was not a little calculated to inspire terror. How could he know where it would stop? at what point the Most High would say. "Hitherto shalt thou come, but no further." If this were the real cause of his flight, his betaking himself to the mountain would be a very natural step. But the history shows that the rash counsels which good men adopt under the dictation of fleshly wisdom or passion are never attended with prosperous issues. They may appear to succeed in the outset, and their authors may for a time bless themselves in a fond conceit of the happiest results, but eventually the truth of the Divine declaration will be experienced, "Woe to the rebellious children, saith the Lord, that take counsel, but not of Me." (Isa .) But why did not Lot return to Abraham? Perhaps the most probable supposition is, that he was too proud to do this. He left him prosperous; but he must return, if he return at all, poor and degraded, and an outcast. This was too severe a trial for his spirit as a man, and he had rather incur new dangers than submit to it. Whatever were his reasons, he seems to have made a bad choice, and "forsaken his own mercies."—(Bush.)


Verses 31-38

CRITICAL NOTES.—

Gen . Called his name Moab.] "From the father," or "seed of the father."

Gen . Ben-Ammi. "Son of my people."

MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Gen

THE LESSONS OF LOT'S DISHONOUR

This chapter closes with the sad picture of a good man betrayed into sin, and thus covering his name with dishonour. It is a painful history, but there are some lessons of instruction to be learned.

I. That saints who have been, the subjects of extraordinary mercy may yet fall into sin. The temporal deliverance of Lot was a special act of Divine mercy. His conviction of it depended upon no mere emotion. There was the outward fact in which he could distinctly trace the hand of God. Yet, after so distinct a favour of Providence, he falls by an easy temptation into the foulest sin. Thus God's mercy is no guarantee for human gratitude. Those who have been saved, yet so as by fire, are often the very first to forget God their Saviour. The picture which the Bible gives of man is faithful to the facts of human nature. God merciful, but man ungrateful. God just, but man unrighteous. God true, but every man a liar.

II. That it is difficult, even for the best, to escape the effect of evil associations. The conduct of Lot's daughters shows how much they were imbued with the spirit of evil around them, notwithstanding their pious parentage. It is difficult for goodness to stand upright in the land of wickedness. Lot's spiritual character suffered less injury than that of his family from their sojourn in Sodom; yet his moral sense was blunted, his moral fibre relaxed. As there is said to be virtue and healing in the shadow of goodness falling upon us, so the shadow of evil spreads nought but what is baneful.

III. The folly of a worldly choice. Lot had chosen this place with a view of promoting his temporal prosperity, but at what a cost! He had nearly perished in the terrible judgments which fell upon its population. He is scarcely saved. Mercy had to snatch him out of the fire. By choosing this world, against his best spiritual interests, he had exposed himself to bodily danger; and, what is worse than this, to great impairment of his spiritual health and vigour. We run the greatest risk to our souls when worldly considerations are uppermost in our minds in choosing our path in life.

IV. The wisdom of avoiding the occasions of sin. Lot gave way to strong drink, and then committed the sin of incest. There is a special danger in all sins of the flesh, for, when once indulged in, they render easier sins of deeper dye. They dull the intellect and the conscience until all moral perceptions are weakened and confused. If we allow the animal man the mastery, the spiritual man is threatened. How much of the sin, degradation, and misery of mankind is to be traced to strong drink! "Intoxication deceived Lot, who was not deceived in Sodom; the flames of lust burn him whom flames of sulphur did not burn." (Gregory 1.) "Lot, who in Sodom, the very school of unchastity, had lived chastely, in the cave was guilty of incest, suffering shipwreck in the harbour." (Lange.) The occasions of sin—especially those of a fleshly nature—should be avoided, or else we venture upon a current which will, in the end, become too strong for us.

V. The awful depths of human depravity. All sin is evil, but there are sins which defile the whole body and reveal depths of human depravity, from the very thought of which pure minds shrink with pain. There are fleshly sins of so deep a stain that the common fault and corruption of human nature is almost pure by comparison with them. This view of specially degrading sins is confirmed by the usages of language, by which the term "sinner" is applied to a special class. Such sins tend to hurry a man along that path which leads to infamy and shame.

VI. Fleshly sins cover even a fair name with dishonour. Lot is never mentioned in the history after this circumstance. He disappears under a cloud. A blot lies on his memory for all generations. He is now both outwardly and inwardly separated from Abraham, and is of no further importance in the history of salvation. His sin may have been forgiven, and his person accepted, but the deeds themselves are recorded in the iron page, where they remain. They are things done, and cannot be altered. They are happier and more blest who have not greatly fallen, even though the mercy of God is not overtasked by the worst sins of mankind.

VII. The danger of excitement. Lot had witnessed alarming scenes. It was a time of wild excitement when he knew not where to look for rest, and fears were in the way—destruction all around him, his wife stricken down at his side by an awful judgment, he himself a wanderer, having no certain dwelling-place, and not strong in the inspiration of hope. It is a time of great spiritual danger when a man is recovering from the extreme tension of his mind, produced by the excitement of violent and conflicting feelings.

VIII. The faithfulness of the Scripture record. Sacred history records the faults of its good men with a wonderful faithfulness. Here are no impossible characters, no ideal personages created by human imagination, but never seen in actual flesh and blood. The facts of human nature are accepted, though the contemplation of them may be painful and sad. We have men as they are, and not written up to by the devices of literary art. No human story-teller would have forged such a narrative as this. It has all the marks of a truthful record. The gravest sins and faults of the righteous are not concealed.

SUGGESTIVE COMMENTS ON THE VERSES

Gen . The manners of Sodom here obtrude themselves upon our view. Lot's daughters might seem to have been led to this unnatural project, first, because they thought the human race extinct with the exception of themselves, in which case their conduct may have seemed a work of justifiable necessity; and next, because the degrees of kindred within which it was unlawful to marry had not been determined by an express law. But they must have seen some of the inhabitants of Zoar after the destruction of the cities; and carnal intercourse between parent and offspring must have always been repugnant to nature.—(Murphy).

Kalisch well remarks, "No word is employed, no allusion made, in the whole of this tale to express disgust, aversion, or hatred: the laws concerning the allowed and forbidden degrees were not yet fixed: Abraham himself lived in a matrimony cursed as an abomination in the Mosaic code (Lev ): the event is related with all the calmness of historical composition." And it must also not be forgotten that in Deu 2:9-19, the possessions of the "children of Lot" in Ar and in the land of Ammon are recognised by God, and the Israelites are forbidden to distress or meddle with them. But at the same time the necessity which there was for bereaving Lot of his self-command, shows us beneath the surface that his "righteous soul," even though it could brook much which nature now abhors (Gen 19:8), could not have been brought to consent to that into which he was unconsciously betrayed.—(Alford.)

It is a moral duty to take care of our physical nature and to preserve it in its integrity. Whatever confuses the understanding, or weakens the will, exposes to moral danger. Hence drunkenness leads men into crimes from which, in their sober senses, they would shrink in abhorrence. All that which rouses the beast within us tends to destroy our better nature.

Those carnal devices by which morality is strained to meet circumstances show a practical distrust in Providence.

Gen . Both these names justify the view that it was merely to preserve the family that the daughters of Lot had recourse to the expedient. Hence, as we do not find that they ever repeated the stratagem, so neither do they now appear to have been at all ashamed of it, both which would have been natural had their motives been more unworthy than they were. The offspring, however, of this incestuous connection, whatever may be said in behalf of the connection itself, was certainly a bad one. These Moabites soon fell from the faith of God, and became idolators, the worshippers of Chemosh and Baal-peor, and were enemies to the children of Abraham. The same is also true of the Ammonites. As both these make afterwards a considerable figure in the sacred history, the inspired writer takes care to introduce at this early period an account of their origin.—(Bush.)

In the worst races there is an element of hope. Ruth was a Moabitess, and was a member of that family through whom the Messiah came. The prophetic Scriptures give us a picture of the conversion of the Moabites to Christ. (Isa ; Jer 48:47; Dan 11:41.) The golden age for mankind lies in the future, not in the past.

 


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Bibliography Information
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Genesis 19:4". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/phc/genesis-19.html. Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1892.

Lectionary Calendar
Monday, September 16th, 2019
the Week of Proper 19 / Ordinary 24
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