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Bible Commentaries

Arthur Peake's Commentary on the Bible

Genesis 19

 

 

Introduction

Genesis 18-19. Abraham's Hospitality Rewarded by Promise of a Son; his Intercession for Sodom; the Vileness of the Sodomites and the Deliverance of Lot when Sodom is Destroyed? the Desperate Strategy of Lot's Daughters.—This long and admirably-told narrative belongs to J, apart from Genesis 19:29 (P). But it presents complicated critical problems. Genesis 18:22 b - Genesis 18:33 a seems to be a later insertion. In Genesis 18:22 a "the men" go on toward Sodom, presumably including Yahweh, who has just said He will go, and who seems from Genesis 19:17-22 to be in Sodom. In Genesis 18:22 b - Genesis 18:33 a He stays behind with Abraham. In Genesis 18:20 f. He is going to investigate on the spot the guilt of Sodom, in Genesis 18:22 b - Genesis 18:33 a its guilt has become clear enough for judgment to be passed upon it (similarly in Genesis 18:17-19, which accordingly seems to be an insertion). In the main story the conception of Yahweh is intensely anthropomorphic. He even eats the meal prepared for Him, and has to learn by personal inquiry on the spot whether Sodom deserves what He has heard about it; in the episode of Abraham's intercession, He is the judge of the whole earth. We have also a perplexing interchange of the singular and plural, sometimes "they" or "the men," sometimes "he." This may point to the origin of the main narrative by combination of two sources; or perhaps the original story spoke of three gods, and the necessary transformation has not been carried through so thoroughly as to obliterate all traces of its polytheistic origin. The story has not a few parallels, and it may be a variant of a widely-diffused account of a visit paid to earth by celestial beings, who rewarded with a child those who had hospitably entertained them, but destroyed those who were churlish and their homes with them. It does not follow, however, that our story is simply the application to this district of a legend originally located elsewhere. The overthrow was probably not wrought by volcanic eruption, but by an explosion in the bituminous soil, the matter flung skyward by the explosion falling back on the cities as a fiery rain ("brimstone and fire"). An earthquake may have taken place at the same time. The phenomena are quite suitable to the district (p. 33). The conduct of the Sodomites has a parallel in the hideous story of Judges 19.


Verses 1-11

Genesis 19:1-11. The men reach Sodom at even, and Lot, sitting as was customary in the spacious city gate, invites them, with the same courtesy and hospitality as his uncle, to stay the night in his house. They at first refuse, saying that they will pass the night in the city square. Although this was no special privation, Lot urges his offer, all the more perhaps because he knew the character of the citizens, who, before his guests retired, without exception justified their vile reputation. Lot faced them bravely and alone, pleading with them to desist from the outrage they meditated, and proffering his two virgin daughters to glut their lust. His plea only angered them as coming from an alien, but the men rescued him from their violence, and baffled their attempt on the door by "blindness," apparently a form of perverted vision which prevented them from finding it.

1. the two angels: substituted for "the men," when Genesis 18:22 b - Genesis 18:33 a was inserted.

Genesis 19:4. The men without exception join in the assault, so the depravity of all is made clear, and the object of the investigation is attained.

Genesis 19:8. The obligations of hospitality are so stringent in the East, that Lot's conduct, different though it seems to us, is probably regarded as creditable. At all costs he must protect his guests. Moreover he risks himself by going out alone and unarmed to face an ugly, unscrupulous mob, on fire with perverted passion, and cuts off his own retreat, that he may the more effectively shield his guests.


Verses 1-38

Genesis 12:1 to Genesis 25:18. The Story of Abraham.—In this section the three main sources, J. E, P are present. Gunkel has given strong reasons for holding that J is here made up of two main sources, one connecting Abraham with Hebron, the other with Beersheba and the Negeb. The former associates Abraham with Lot. (For details, see ICC.) On the interpretation to be placed on the figures of Abraham and the patriarchs, see the Introduction. The interest, which has hitherto been diffused over the fortunes of mankind in general, is now concentrated on Abraham and his posterity, the principle of election narrowing it down to Isaac, Ishmael being left aside, and then to Jacob, Esau being excluded.


Verses 12-29

Genesis 19:12-29. The men have learnt all they need to know of Sodom's character, and tell Lot of its impending fate that he may be rescued with his household. His prospective sons-in-law (mg.) do not heed his warning, so, as the morning is drawing on, the angels urge him to escape with his wife and daughters. As he lingers, they hurry them out of the city and bid them escape to the mountain, not looking behind or loitering. Lot fears to do this, and is permitted to find refuge in Zoar, spared for this purpose since it was but tiny. Nothing could be done till he was safe, though his wife disobeyed the prohibition to look back and was turned into a pillar of salt. The sun had risen when Lot reached his refuge, and then fire and brimstone were rained on Sodom and Gomorrah, and the cities and all the Plain with its inhabitants were overturned, apparently by earthquake. Abraham, remembering what his guests had said, goes out in the morning to the place where he had talked with God in sight of Sodom, and where the cities had been he sees only dense volumes of smoke. In Genesis 19:29 we have P's reference to the catastrophe, the stress being laid on the deliverance of Lot for Abraham's sake. In J's narrative he seems to be saved for his own.

Genesis 19:12. Read probably "thy sons-in-law and thy daughters."

Genesis 19:17. look not behind thee: the reason is not clear, whether with hankering for what he is leaving, or because of the delay involved, or because man must not see God at work (Genesis 2:21).

Genesis 19:20-22. An explanation why the district of Zoar (at the S. end of the Dead Sea, cf. Genesis 13:10) was not involved in the catastrophe, and why the city bore its name (= little); it was so insignificant that an exception might be made in its favour.

Genesis 19:25. overthrew: the verb and the cognate noun are regularly used to describe this catastrophe.

Genesis 19:26. An explanation of the origin of a salt column in the district. Josephus says that he had seen the pillar, and there is one in the district now, forty feet high, though whether that seen by Josephus is uncertain.

Genesis 19:28. A vapour often hangs over the Dead Sea.


Verses 30-38

Genesis 19:30-38. Lot's daughters, fearing that, with the exception of their father and themselves, mankind has perished, feel that upon them rests the responsibility of perpetuating the race. Their father alone is available, and he is old; prompt action is therefore necessary. But since they realise that he will not feel the pressure of the situation with its responsibility so keenly as voluntarily to transgress the normal limits of morality, they make him drunk that they may secure his unconscious co-operation. The plan succeeds, and to it Moab and Ammon owe their origin. The story testifies to the kinship which the Hebrews felt to exist between themselves and these peoples, It is told without comment, but the Hebrew narrator would hardly approve. If, as is not unlikely, it is the story told by the Moabites and the Ammonites, it is told in honour of themselves and the two women. They are of the purest stock, and in a desperate emergency Lot's daughters rose to this desperate device. There is no hint of shame or desire for concealment; they themselves give their sons the transparent names, Moab, "from a father," and Ben-ammi, "son of my father's kinsman." There is an interesting parallel (also noticed by Bennett) in Morris' Sigurd the Volsung, Book I, where Signy secures in disguise the birth of Sinfiotli, his father being her own brother. Since Zoar was spared it is curious that the women despaired of a non-incestuous union; the story may, therefore, have been originally independent of Genesis 19:1-28, and told of a catastrophe as universal as the Flood.

 


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Bibliography Information
Peake, Arthur. "Commentary on Genesis 19:4". "Arthur Peake's Commentary on the Bible ". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/pfc/genesis-19.html. 1919.

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