Genesis 19

 

וַיָּבֹאוּ שְׁנֵי הַמַּלְאָכִים סְדֹמָה בָּעֶרֶב, וְלוֹט יֹשֵׁב בְּשַׁעַר סְדֹם וַיַּרְא לוֹט וַיָּקָם לִקְרָאתָם וַיִּשְׁתַּחוּ  19:1

אַפַּיִם אָרְצָה

Gene. 19:1  And two of the angels came to Sodom in the evening and Lot was sitting in the gate of Sodom, and Lot saw and rose to meet them as he bowed down face earthward.

First notice that in this verse the men are referred to specifically as angels.  We aren’t told what happened to the third angel.  Possibly he went to Gomorrah.  Some think that the third angel was God, and that only two entities left Abraham for Sodom (Gene. 18:22).  From Gene. 18:2, it is not clear that the three men and the Lord were all there.  See my discussion on that verse.  And no where else after that are we told of the number of men again.  Thus it could be possible that one of the three “men” was the Lord.  However, I doubt this, in accordance with my observation relating to Gene. 18:4.

וַיֹּאמֶר הִנֶּה נָּא אֲדֹנַי סוּרוּ נָא אֶל בֵּית עַבְדְּכֶם וְלִינוּ וְרַחֲצוּ רַגְלֵיכֶם וְהִשְׁכַּמְתֶּם וַהֲלַכְתֶּם לְדַרְכְּכֶם  19:2

וַיֹּאמְרוּ לֹּא כִּי בָרְחוֹב נָלִין

Gene. 19:2  And he said, “Behold, please, my lords, turn aside now to the house of your servant, and stay the night and wash your feet and you can rise early and go on your way.”  And they said, “No, only outdoors will we pass the night.”

וַיִּפְצַרבָּם מְאֹד וַיָּסֻרוּ אֵלָיו וַיָּבֹאוּ אֶל בֵּיתוֹ וַיַּעַשׂ לָהֶם מִשְׁתֶּה וּמַצּוֹת אָפָה וַיֹּאכֵלוּ 19:3

Gene. 19:3  But he urged them exceedingly, so they turned to him and went into his house, and he made a feast for them and baked matzos, and they ate.

Although he does not see God, Lot greets and treats the angels in the manner of Abraham.

טֶרֶם יִשְׁכָּבוּ וְאַנְשֵׁי הָעִיר אַנְשֵׁי סְדֹם נָסַבּוּ עַל הַבַּיִת מִנַּעַר וְעַד זָקֵן כָּל הָעָם מִקָּצֶה  19:4

Gene. 19:4  Before they could lie down, then the men of the city, the men of Sodom, surrounded the house, from young to old, all the people from all over.

וַיִּקְרְאוּ אֶל לוֹט וַיֹּאמְרוּ לוֹ אַיֵּה הָאֲנָשִׁים אֲשֶׁר בָּאוּ אֵלֶיךָ הַלָּיְלָה הוֹצִיאֵם אֵלֵינוּ וְנֵדְעָה אֹתָם  19:5

19:5  And they called to Lot and said to him, “Where are the men who came to you this night?  Bring them out to us that we may know them.”

In this verse we have another appearance of a non-inverting vav. It is the prefix to the word h['d>nEw>, translated as “... that we may know ...,” which is contained in an imperative expression.  Note that the verb is first person imperfect. 

Now three interpretations of the phrase “… we may know them,” are possible.  First it could mean “know” in the biblical sense, that is, having sexual connotations.  They wanted to have anal sex with the angels.  Second, it could mean that the men of Sodom wanted access to the angels in order to do physical violence to them.  They are obviously a mean bunch.  Third, they knew the men were angels and they wanted to interrogate them and gain favors from them.

The general belief is that the men were interested in committing sodomy (the origin of the word coming from the city Sodom), but the alternative explanations deserve consideration.  However, some doubt is cast on the alternatives when Lot offers his daughters in the men’s place (v. 19:8).  More doubt may be cast by Deut. 23:18 and 19, where sodomy is coupled with male prostitution (according to my translation there).

That still more doubt is appropriate appears in Ezek. 16:49 and 50.  I claim a significant measure of doubt remains, and it canno’t be easily discounted.

וַיֵּצֵא אֲלֵהֶם לוֹט הַפֶּתְחָה וְהַדֶּלֶת סָגַר אַחֲרָיו  19:6

Gene. 19:6  And Lot went out of the doorway to them, and he closed the door after him.

וַיֹּאמַר אַלנָא אַחַי תָּרֵעוּ  19:7

Gene. 19:7  And he said, “I pray you, my brethren, you must not do wickedly.”

הִנֵּה נָא לִי שְׁתֵּי בָנוֹת אֲשֶׁר לֹא יָדְעוּ אִישׁ אוֹצִיאָה נָּא אֶתְהֶן אֲלֵיכֶם וַעֲשׂוּ לָהֶן כַּטּוֹב בְּעֵינֵיכֶם  19:8

 רַק לָאֲנָשִׁים הָאֵל אַל תַּעֲשׂוּ דָבָר כִּי עַל כֵּן בָּאוּ בְּצֵל קֹרָתִי

Gene. 19:8  “Behold, please, I have two daughters that have not known a man.  Please, I will bring them out to you and do to them what is good in your eyes.  Only to these men you must do nothing, because they have come into the shade of my roof.”

Now one might say that Lot is a man of extreme honor.  He is willing to let his virgin daughters be gang-raped by these wicked men.  But then women were little valued as people in those days.  Does Lot’s offer imply that the men of Sodom were indeed interested in committing sodomy with the men in his home?  My inclination is to answer “Not necessarily!”  There is considerable doubt in my mind as to Lot’s motivation for offering his daughters to the men.  If he had understood that the Sodomites would probably kill the men lodging in his home, might he not have decided to sacrifice his daughters so that the strangers entrusted to him might live?  After all, Lot invited them in over their objections.  Wouldn’t he feel obligated to protect them?  I find it a bit hard to justify the word sodomy being derived from this situation.

וַיֹּאמְרוּ גֶּשׁ הָלְאָה וַיֹּאמְרוּ הָאֶחָד בָּא לָגוּר וַיִּשְׁפֹּט שָׁפוֹט עַתָּה נָרַע לְךָ מֵהֶם וַיִּפְצְרוּ בָאִישׁ  19:9

בְּלוֹט מְאֹד וַיִּגְּשׁוּ לִשְׁבֹּר הַדָּלֶת

Gene. 19:9  And they said, “Go away!”  And they said, “This one comes to sojourn, and he passes judgment.  Now we will deal worse with you than with them.”  And they pressed exceedingly upon the man, upon Lot, and they approached to break down the door.          [Return to Isai. 49:20]

In the phrase “This one comes to sojourn,” the use of the term this one is meant as derogatory.  Remember the use of the term this as applied to Eve.  The phrase “… comes to sojourn,” implies that Lot was dwelling in Sodom temporarily, as a stranger.  I can’t understand why he chose to remain there.  He must have observed their crude and wicked customs.  I’m at a loss for words about this episode.  It boggles my mind.

וַיִּשְׁלְחוּ הָאֲנָשִׁים אֶת יָדָם וַיָּבִיאוּ אֶת לוֹט אֲלֵיהֶם הַבָּיְתָה וְאֶת הַדֶּלֶת סָגָרו  19:10

Gene. 19:10   But the men put forth their hand and brought Lot to them in the house and they closed the door.

The men brought forth their hand....  Through a closed door!  An angelic miracle!  And another in the next verse.

וְאֶת הָאֲנָשִׁים אֲשֶׁר פֶּתַח הַבַּיִת הִכּוּ בַּסַּנְוֵרִים מִקָּטֹן וְעַד גָּדוֹל וַיִּלְאוּ לִמְצֹא הַפָּתַח  19:11

Gene. 19:11   And they smote the men that were at the door of the house with blindness, both small and great, so they were unable to find the door.

וַיֹּאמְרוּ הָאֲנָשִׁים אֶל לוֹט עֹד מִי לְךָ פֹה חָתָן וּבָנֶיךָ וּבְנֹתֶיךָ וְכֹל אֲשֶׁר לְךָ בָּעִיר הוֹצֵא  19:12

מִן הַמָּקוֹם

Gene. 19:12   And the men said to Lot, “Are there more of yours here, son-in-law or sons of yours or your daughters?  And everyone who is yours in the city bring out from the place.”

כִּי מַשְׁחִתִים אֲנַחְנוּ אֶת הַמָּקוֹם הַזֶּה כִּי גָדְלָה צַעֲקָתָם אֶת פְּנֵי יְהוָה וַיְשַׁלְּחֵנוּ יְהוָה  19:13

לְשַׁחֲתָהּ

Gene. 19:13   “For we will be destroying this place, for great is their shouting before the Lord, and the Lord has sent us to destroy it.”

Perhaps we have here the reason why Abraham didn’t have to bargain for one righteous person, or the scribe did not see fit to prolong the bargaining.  While the Lord did not spare the cities, He allowed the one who might be considered righteous to escape.

וַיֵּצֵא לוֹט וַיְדַבֵּר אֶל חֲתָנָיו לֹקְחֵי בְנֹתָיו וַיֹּאמֶר קוּמוּ צְּאוּ מִן הַמָּקוֹם הַזֶּה כִּי מַשְׁחִית  19:14

יְהוָה אֶת הָעִיר וַיְהִי כִמְצַחֵק בְּעֵינֵי חֲתָנָיו

Gene. 19:14   And Lot went out and spoke to his bridegrooms to accept his daughters and said, “Arise, come out from this place, for the Lord will be destroying the city.”  But he was like a jester in the eyes of his prospective sons-in-law.

וּכְמוֹ הַשַּׁחַר עָלָה וַיָּאִיצוּ הַמַּלְאָכִים בְּלוֹט לֵאמֹר קוּם קַח אֶת אִשְׁתְּךָ וְאֶת שְׁתֵּי בְנֹתֶיךָ  19:15

הַנִּמְצָאֹת פֶּן תִּסָּפֶה בַּעֲוֹן הָעִיר

Gene. 19:15   And when the dawn came up, then the angels urged Lot saying, “Arise, take your wife and your two daughters that are here, lest you would be swept away in the iniquity of the city.”

וַיִּתְמַהְמָה ּוַיַּחֲזִיקוּ הָאֲנָשִׁים בְּיָדוֹ וּבְיַד אִשְׁתּוֹ וּבְיַד שְׁתֵּי בְנֹתָיו בְּחֶמְלַת יְהוָה עָלָיו וַיֹּצִאֻהוּ  19:16

וַיַּנִּחֻהוּ מִחוּץ לָעִיר

Gene. 19:16   But he lingered, so the men laid hold on his hand and on the hand of his wife and on the hand of his two daughters because of the compassion of the Lord for him, and they brought him out and they set him outside of the city.

וַיְהִי כְהוֹצִיאָם אֹתָם הַחוּצָה וַיֹּאמֶר הִמָּלֵט עַל נַפְשֶׁךָ אַל תַּבִּיט אַחֲרֶיךָ וְאַל תַּעֲמֹד  19:17

בְּכָל הַכִּכָּר הָהָרָה הִמָּלֵט פֶּן תִּסָּפֶה

Gene. 19:17   And it was as they were carrying them outside that he said, “Escape for your life!  You must not look back, and you must not remain in all the plain.  Escape to the mountain lest you would be destroyed.”

It’s interesting that only one of the angels speaks here:  The verse reads “… that he said….”  Also interesting, perhaps more so, is that all the second-person pronouns in the verse are singular and masculine, so the angel was talking only to Lot.  Could this mean that Lot’s wife did not hear the admonition of the angel?

וַיֹּאמֶר לוֹט אֲלֵהֶם אַל נָא אֲדֹנָי  19:18

Gene. 19:18   But Lot said to them, “I pray you, no, my lord!”

Lot responds to the angel who addressed him in v. 19:17, although it says “… Lot said to them,….”  The you in the latter part of the verse is masculine singular.  In the next verse, the four second-person pronouns appearing there are also all masculine singular

הִנֵּה נָא מָצָא עַבְדְּךָ חֵן בְּעֵינֶיךָ וַתַּגְדֵּל חַסְדְּךָ אֲשֶׁר עָשִׂיתָ עִמָּדִי לְהַחֲיוֹת אֶת נַפְשִׁי וְאָנֹכִי  19:19

לֹא אוּכַל לְהִמָּלֵט הָהָרָה פֶּן תִּדְבָּקַנִי הָרָעָה וָמַתִּי

Gene. 19:19   “Behold now, your servant has found favor in your eyes that you have magnified your kindness which you have done by me in saving my life, but I will not be able to escape to the mountain before the evil will overtake me, and I will die.”

הִנֵּהנָא הָעִיר הַזֹּאת קְרֹבָה לָנוּס שָׁמָּה וְהִוא מִצְעָר אִמָּלְטָה נָּא שָׁמָּה הֲלֹא מִצְעָר  19:20

הִוא וּתְחִי נַפְשִׁי

Gene. 19:20   “Behold now, this city is nearer to flee to there, and it is a little one; please let me flee there -- is it not little? -- so my soul may live.

וַיֹּאמֶר אֵלָיו הִנֵּה נָשָׂאתִי פָנֶיךָ גַּם לַדָּבָר הַזֶּה לְבִלְתִּי הָפְכִּי אֶת הָעִיר אֲשֶׁר דִּבַּרְת  19:21

Gene. 19:21   And he said to him, “See I have also favored you regarding this matter:  I am not going to destroy the city of which you have spoken.”

מַהֵר הִמָּלֵט שָׁמָּה כִּי לֹא אוּכַל לַעֲשׂוֹת דָּבָר עַד בֹּאֲךָ שָׁמָּה עַל כֵּן קָרָא שֵׁם הָעִיר צוֹעַר  19:22

Gene. 19:22   “Hurry, escape there, for I am unable to do anything until your entering there.” Therefore the name of the city is called Zoar.

The name Zoar means insignificance, presumably because it was small and escaped the punishment of the other cities in the plain.  This probably relates to Lot’s remark in v. 19:20 that the city is small.  In other words, it wasn’t much of a place for the Lord to permit it to survive.  You may recall that the kings of five cities of the plain were attacked earlier (Gene. 14:2).  The five cities were Sodom, Gomorrah, Admah, Zeboiim, and Bela (here named Zoar).

הַשֶּׁמֶשׁ יָצָא עַל הָאָרֶץ וְלוֹט בָּא צֹעֲרָה  19:23

Gene. 19:23   The sun rose over the land as Lot came to Zoar.

וַיהוָה הִמְטִיר עַל סְדֹם וְעַל עֲמֹרָה גָּפְרִית וָאֵשׁ מֵאֵת יְהוָה מִן הַשָּׁמָיִם  19:24

Gene. 19:24   Then the Lord rained brimstone and fire upon Sodom and upon Gomorrah from the Lord out of heaven.

And presumably, upon Admah and Zeboiim as well.

וַיַּהֲפֹךְ אֶת הֶעָרִים הָאֵל וְאֵת כָּל הַכִּכָּר וְאֵת כָּל יֹשְׁבֵי הֶעָרִים וְצֶמַח הָאֲדָמָה  19:25

Gene. 19:25   And He overthrew those cities and all the plain and all the inhabitants of the cities and the growth of the ground.

וַתַּבֵּט אִשְׁתּוֹ מֵאַחֲרָיו וַתְּהִי נְצִיב מֶלַח  19:26

Gene. 19:26   But his wife looked from behind him, and she became a pillar of salt.

I’m fairly certain the scribe knew why this had happened, but it’s not clear to me.  I know that the scholars believe that Lot’s wife turned into a pillar of salt because she disobeyed the angel’s warning.  But when the angel had instructed Lot not to look back, he was speaking only to Lot (v. 19:17), not to his wife or daughters.  Moreover, the angel didn’t give a reason for the warning.  If I were Lot – or his wife if she were listening, I would have assumed he meant by his warning that they should hurry without pausing; looking back would have slowed them down.  Again an apparently unnecessary injustice!  There is much in the bible that is difficult to understand.  However, another possibility presents itself.  Perhaps Lot’s wife looked back because she liked her life in the city and longed to be back there with its injustice and guilty excesses.  We cannot say with certainty what the timing of these few verses is.  It seems as if the destruction of the cities occurred before Lot’s wife looked back.  But we occasionally find narratives not in chronological order, and that may be the case here.  What if Lot’s wife looked back before the destruction started?  Then we might find it easier to concede that she looked back with regret.  Thus she should have been destroyed along with the other inhabitants of the cities.

וַיַּשְׁכֵּם אַבְרָהָם בַּבֹּקֶר אֶל הַמָּקוֹם אֲשֶׁר עָמַד שָׁם אֶת פְּנֵי יְהוָה  19:27

Gene. 19:27   And Abraham rose early in the morning at the place where he had stood before the Lord.

וַיַּשְׁקֵף עַל פְּנֵי סְדֹם וַעֲמֹרָה וְעַל כָּל פְּנֵי אֶרֶץ הַכִּכָּר וַיַּרְא וְהִנֵּה עָלָה קִיטֹר הָאָרֶץ  19:28

כְּקִיטֹר הַכִּבְשָׁן

Gene. 19:28   And he looked out toward Sodom and Gomorrah and toward all the land of the plain and watched, and behold, thick smoke was rising; the land was like a smoking furnace.

וַיְהִי בְּשַׁחֵת אֱלֹהִים אֶת עָרֵי הַכִּכָּר וַיִּזְכֹּר אֱלֹהִים אֶת אַבְרָהָם וַיְשַׁלַּח אֶת לוֹט מִתּוֹךְ  19:29

הַהֲפֵכָה בַּהֲפֹךְ אֶת הֶעָרִים אֲשֶׁר יָשַׁב בָּהֵן לוֹט

Gene. 19:29   And it was, with God destroying the cities of the plain, that God “remembered” Abraham, and He had sent Lot from the midst of the overthrow by which He had overthrown the cities in which Lot had dwelled.

וַיַּעַל לוֹט מִצּוֹעַר וַיֵּשֶׁב בָּהָר וּשְׁתֵּי בְנֹתָיו עִמּוֹ כִּי יָרֵא לָשֶׁבֶת בְּצוֹעַר וַיֵּשֶׁב בַּמְּעָרָה הוּא  19:30

וּשְׁתֵּי בְנֹתָיו

Gene. 18:30   So Lot went up from Zoar and dwelled on the mountain, and his two daughters with him, for he was afraid to dwell in Zoar.  And he dwelled in a cave, he and his two daughters.

וַתֹּאמֶר הַבְּכִירָה אֶל הַצְּעִירָה אָבִינוּ זָקֵן וְאִישׁ אֵין בָּאָרֶץ לָבוֹא עָלֵינוּ כְּדֶרֶךְ כָּל הָאָרֶץ  19:31

Gene. 19:31   And the first-born said to the younger, “Our father is old and there is not a man in the land to come into us in the way of all the earth.”

לְכָה נַשְׁקֶה אֶת אָבִינוּ יַיִן וְנִשְׁכְּבָה עִמּוֹ וּנְחַיֶּה מֵאָבִינוּ זָרַע  19:32

Gene. 19:32   “Come, we will make our father drink wine so we can lie with him so we can preserve the seed of our father.”

The next appearance of a non-inverting vav (actually two of them) can be found in this verse prefixing first-person imperfect verbs.  They are translated as “... so we can lie ...,” and “... so we can preserve ....”

One cannot say if the older sister thought she was proposing a sinful act.  According to this verse, she was concerned about the future of their house, and from her vantage point, it looked like the entire region was devastated.  And the act is not strictly a sin.  The Torah forbids only a male from uncovering the nakedness of his father.   If her father were to know, however, the sin would be his.  If he doesn’t know – is too drunk to be aware – then no sin is committed.  However, there is a sticky point in all this.  He would still be guilty and have to atone if and when he learns what happened.  When the women become pregnant and have their babies, would he not at least suspect?

וַתַּשְׁקֶיןָ אֶת אֲבִיהֶן יַיִן בַּלַּיְלָה הוּא וַתָּבֹא הַבְּכִירָה וַתִּשְׁכַּב אֶת אָבִיהָ וְלֹא יָדַע בְּשִׁכְבָהּ  19:33

וּבְקוּמָהּ

Gene. 19:33   And they made their father drink wine in that night and the first-born went in and laid with her father, and he wasn’t aware of her laying down or of her rising.

וַיְהִי מִמָּחֳרָת וַתֹּאמֶר הַבְּכִירָה אֶל הַצְּעִירָה הֵן שָׁכַבְתִּי אֶמֶשׁ אֶת אָבִי נַשְׁקֶנּוּ יַיִן  19:34

גַּם הַלַּיְלָה וּבֹאִי שִׁכְבִי עִמּוֹ וּנְחַיֶּה מֵאָבִינוּ זָרַע

Gene. 19:34   And it was on the next day that the first-born said to the younger, “Behold, I laid last night with my father.  Let us make him drink wine tonight also and you go in, lay with him, so we will preserve the seed of our father.”

There’s another non-inverting vav in the latter part of the verse prefixing a first person imperfect verb.  The word is translated as “... so we will preserve....”

וַתַּשְׁקֶיןָ גַּם בַּלַּיְלָה הַהוּא אֶת אֲבִיהֶן יָיִן וַתָּקָם הַצְּעִירָה וַתִּשְׁכַּב עִמּוֹ וְלֹא יָדַע בְּשִׁכְבָה  19:35

וּבְקֻמָהּ

Gene. 19:35   And they made their father drink wine also in that evening and the younger arose and lay with him, and he wasn’t aware of her laying down or rising.

וַתַּהֲרֶיןָ שְׁתֵּי בְנוֹת לוֹט מֵאֲבִיהֶן  19:36

Gene. 19:36   Thus both daughters of Lot became pregnant from their father.

Maybe the scribe chose not to record it, but wasn’t Lot curious (or suspicious?) about how his daughters became pregnant?  It’s hard to believe that what happened those two nights escaped his awareness altogether.  Moreover, contrast this incident with that of Ham and Noah (Gene. 9:24), where Noah knew what had happened right away.  Maybe Lot was more drunk than Noah had been.

וַתֵּלֶד הַבְּכִירָה בֵּן וַתִּקְרָא שְׁמוֹ מוֹאָב הוּא אֲבִי מוֹאָב עַד הַיּוֹם  19:37

Gene. 19:37   And the first-born bore a son and called his name Moab -- he is the father of Moab until today.

וְהַצְּעִירָה גַם הִוא יָלְדָה בֵּן וַתִּקְרָא שְׁמוֹ בֶּן-עַמִּי הוּא אֲבִי בְנֵי עַמּוֹן עַד הַיּוֹם  19:38

Gene. 19:38   And the younger, she also bore a son and she called his name Ben-ammi -- he is the father of the children of Ammon until today.                                           [Return to Psal. 83:9]

The name Moab means of his father or, more correctly, of a father, and the name Ben-ammi could mean son of my people.  It’s somewhat odd that these last two verses end with the prepositional phrase, until today.  The meaning is quite clear without that addition.  Why was it added?  More strangeness!

 

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