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Bible Commentaries

John Dummelow's Commentary on the Bible

Genesis 19

 

 

Verses 1-38


The Destruction of the Cities of the Plain

1. The visit of the two angels (who are 'the men' of Genesis 18) may be regarded as the final test of Sodom. If they were hospitably received and honourably treated they might still be spared.

In the gate] The entrance gate of walled Eastern cities is a great place of resort. In front of it the market was held and justice administered. See Ruth 4; 2 Samuel 15:2; Amos 5:10-15; Job 31:21; Deuteronomy 21:19; Jeremiah 38:7.

2. We will abide in the street all night] To sleep out of doors is no hardship in a hot climate. Lot shows that he retained, at all events, the virtues of hospitality and of bravery in the defence of strangers.

3. Unleavened bread] bread made quickly without yeast: cp. Exodus 12:39.

4, 5. The causes which led to the fall of Sodom are alluded to in Ezekiel 16:49, Ezekiel 16:50. See also Christ's comparison of the punishments of Sodom and Capernaum (Matthew 11:20).

7. Do not so wickedly] So St. Peter speaks of 'just Lot vexed with the filthy conversation of the wicked,' 2 Peter 2:7. But Lot himself was only relatively righteous.

8. Lot's sense of the sacred duty of hospitality was no excuse for neglecting his still greater duty of caring for his daughters' honour.

9. He will needs be a judge] Evidently Lot had reproved them before this.

11. Blindness] probably confused or indistinct vision: cp. 2 Kings 6:18.

14. Sons in law] By comparing this expression with Genesis 19:8 and Genesis 19:16 it seems that the men were only betrothed, not married, to Lot's daughters. Indeed, RV has 'were to marry' instead of 'married.'

17. The mountain] the mountains of Moab, E. of the Dead Sea.

18-22. The motive of Lot's request is uncertain. He either feared that there would not be time to reach the mountain, or he was reluctant to leave the place where he had long lived; the latter view seems perhaps most in accordance with his character.

21. Zoar was spared, not because its insignificant size excused its sinfulness, but as a refuge for Lot.

22. Zoar] 'littleness,' perhaps at the SE. end of the Dead Sea, but position disputed. It is called Bela in Genesis 14:2.

24. A consideration of the probable nature of this awful visitation will explain the vivid statement of the text. As was pointed out in Genesis 14, the whole neighbourhood of the Dead Sea abounds in sulphur and bitumen, furnishing the materials for the terrible conflagration which ensued. Probably a convulsion of the earth released some springs of naphtha which flowed through the cities and ignited. In our own days when the petroleum springs at Baku in the Caspian become accidentally ignited, they burn for days. The note on Genesis 14:3 explains in what sense the site of the guilty cities can be said to be covered by the waters of the Dead Sea. Their destruction was due to the agency of fire, not of water. The latter condition of this once fertile and populous district is referred to in Deuteronomy 29:23; Deuteronomy 29:2 Esther 2:8; Esther 2:2 Esther 2:9.

On the religious significance Dean Payne Smith says: 'Though God used natural agencies in the destruction of the cities of the plain, yet what was in itself a catastrophe of nature became miraculous by the circumstances which surrounded it. It was thus made the means not merely of executing the divine justice, of strengthening Abraham's faith, and of warning Lot, but also of giving moral and religious instruction for all time.'

26. She became a pillar of salt] This may mean that she was overwhelmed in the rock salt of the district which was thrown up by the earthquake: see on Genesis 14:3. The story of Josephus that this particular 'pillar' of salt was still to be seen in his day may be explained by the presence of cones of salt which are to be seen standing detached from the salt mountain of Usdum at the SW. end of the Dead Sea: see on Genesis 14:13. Our Lord alludes to the fate of Lot's wife as a warning to His followers against clinging too closely to the world (Luke 17:32).

29. God remembered Abraham] i.e. his intercession for Lot: see Genesis 18.

30-38. The only explanation of the shameful conduct of Lot's daughters, if understood literally, is to be found in their motive, which was probably based on the strong views entertained by Orientals regarding childlessness and the extinction of the family; they seem also, from Genesis 19:31, to have really thought that they were the sole survivors of the terrible catastrophe just narrated. The Moabites and Ammonites settled to the E. of the Dead Sea. They afterwards became bitter enemies of Israel who first came into contact with them when nearing Canaan at the end of the wanderings. See Numbers 21-25, also Judges 3; 1 Samuel 11; 1 Samuel 14:47; 2 Samuel 8:2; 2 Kings 3; 2 Chronicles 20; Isaiah 15 Jeremiah 48 Zephaniah 2:8. Some scholars, however, look upon this story as the expression of the Hebrews' hatred of their two neighbours and enemies. Many of the customs of these people were doubtless abhorrent to the purer-minded Israelites; and their feelings are expressed in this account of a current belief among the people of a later age.

 


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Bibliography Information
Dummelow, John. "Commentary on Genesis 19:4". "John Dummelow's Commentary on the Bible". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/dcb/genesis-19.html. 1909.

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