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Bible Commentaries

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible

Genesis 19

 

 

Verse 1

1. Two angels — Hebrews, the two angels, evidently the two who left Abraham on the heights. Genesis 18:22. Knobel suggests that Jehovah, the most holy, sent his angels, but would not himself enter the wicked city.

At even — They dined with Abraham in the heat of the day; they will sup with Lot.

Sat in the gate of Sodom — “The gate of the city was, in the ancient towns of the East, the common place of public resort, both for social intercourse and for public business. This gate of the city nearly corresponded with the forum, or market-place of Greece and Rome.

Not only was it the place of public sale, but judges and even kings held courts of justice there. The gate itself was probably an arch, with deep recesses, in which were placed the seats of the judges, and benches on either side were arranged for public convenience. Comp. Genesis 34:20; Deuteronomy 21:19; Deuteronomy 21:22; Deuteronomy 21:15; Ruth 4:1.” — Speaker’s Com.


Verses 1-23

LOT RESCUED BY THE ANGELS, Genesis 19:1-23.

In this chapter we have another picture of the life and character of Lot. After his rescue from the eastern kings by Abraham, he went back again to his coveted Sodom. His daughters married men of the city, and his family appear to have become damagingly affected by the vices of the place. Lot himself lost not the uprightness of character developed by his long residence with Abraham, and he was often “vexed with the filthy conversation of the wicked. For that righteous man, dwelling among them, in seeing and hearing, vexed his righteous soul from day to day with their unlawful deeds.” 2 Peter 2:8. But his moral force was altogether insufficient to stem the tide of evil which was against him. He was wont to sit in the gate of Sodom as one of the judges of the city, (comp. Ruth 4:1,) and thus became familiar with the commerce and conversation of the inhabitants. All this would tend to blunt his moral sense, and lower him from the simplicity and purity of the shepherd life he had led among the hills with Abraham.


Verse 2

2. My lords, turn in — He shows a hospitality like Abraham, and like him entertains angels unawares.

Wash your feet — See on Genesis 18:4.

Nay… in the street — They make as though (comp. Luke 24:28) they would not accept his hospitality, thus testing him. By the street we are to understand the broad, open places of the city, which, in that warm climate, would not be an uncomfortable place to lodge.


Verse 3

3. Made them a feast משׁתה, a feast, is the name usually given to a great feast or banquet. Comp. Genesis 21:8 ; Genesis 26:30; Genesis 40:20; 1 Samuel 25:36.

Unleavened bread — This is the first occurrence of the word מצות, found nearly always in the plural, and translated unleavened bread. It means sweetness, (Gesenius, Lex.,) and denotes bread not made sour by leaven — not allowed time to ferment.


Verse 4

4. All the people from every quarter — Hebrews, from the extremity, that is, of the city. Here we have a picture of the vilest kind of a rabble, debased to the most shameless licentiousness.


Verse 5

5. Bring them out unto us, that we may know them — A euphemism, pointing to the unnatural crime of pederasty, an abomination into which the Canaanitish nations were sunken, and for which they were cast out.

Leviticus 18:22-25; comp. Judges 19:22-25; Romans 1:27. From this incident this crime against nature has received the name of Sodomy. Comp. Isaiah 3:9.


Verse 8

8. Two daughters — This proposition of Lot is utterly shocking and outrageous. But see Judges 19:24, and note there. “We may suppose,” says Murphy, “that it was spoken rashly, in the heat of the moment, and with the expectation that he would not be taken at his word.” The Oriental idea of hospitality would also lead a man to lay down his own life, or go to almost any extreme, for the safety of his guest. With every possible apology, however, Lot’s proposal in this case reveals how his long residence in the wicked city had lowered his moral tone.


Verse 9

9. Stand back — Hebrew, approach far off; or, draw near farther away. The coarse cry of a mob. Kalisch explains: “Approach nearer to us, farther away from the door.”

He will needs be a judge — This Lot, who forsooth came in to sojourn merely, will persist in playing the judge.


Verse 11

11. Smote — By an exercise of supernatural power.

Blindness — The word סנורים is used only here and 2 Kings 6:18, and in both places denotes a miraculous penal stroke. It seems to denote mental aberration as well as inability to see. Hence the Sodomites recognised not the real nature of the stroke, but wearied themselves to find the door. What a wickedness and perversity is here displayed! “That the old and young should come; that they should come from every quarter of the city; that they assault the house, notwithstanding the sacred rights of guests; that they so shamelessly avow their pederastic purpose; that they will not even be appeased by Lot, to whom they once owed their salvation, (chap. 14,) and that they did not cease to grope for the door after they were stricken with blindness; this is the complete portraiture of a people ripe for the fiery judgment.” — Lange.


Verse 12

12. Hast thou here any besides — For Lot’s sake, sons, daughters, family, and possessions may be saved. So, on the other hand, in the ministry of vengeance, all these perish with the accursed father.

Joshua 7:24-25.


Verse 13

13. We will destroy this place — Now they announce themselves as ministers of wrath to Sodom.


Verse 14

14. Which married his daughters — Hebrews, takers of his daughters. The Vulgate renders, who were about to take his daughters; and hence it has been generally supposed that his daughters were only betrothed, not actually married. The Hebrew expression will, however, allow the meaning of actual marriage, and Genesis 19:15 distinguishes the two daughters “which are here,” as if to imply other daughters not present with Lot at the time. No mention is made of sons, except incidentally by the angel, in Genesis 19:12, and there by way of question as to whether he had any in the city. No other mention of sons being made, and the fact that he went and alarmed his sons-in-law, argues rather that he had no sons.

Seemed as one that mocked — This is usually explained as meaning, he seemed to them to be jesting, or trifling. But this verb, in the Piel form, is everywhere used of lascivious sports, or carnal intercourse. His sons-in-law, familiar with the lewd practices so common in the streets of Sodom, supposed Lot was out indulging lascivious passions. See note on Genesis 21:9.


Verse 15

15. When the morning arose — Or, as the dawn went up; as it began to turn towards day, “when the morning star rose.” — Kalisch. It was after sunrise when Lot reached Zoar, (Genesis 19:23,) so that he must have left Sodom some time before.

Hastened Lot — It was hard for him to tear himself so suddenly away from his home.

Which are here — Hebrews, which are found. This implies other daughters which were not found.

In the iniquity of the city — The city and its iniquity are to be blotted out together, and those who perish with the city, perish with and in its iniquity, being identified with it.


Verse 16

16. While he lingered — Still he clings to his home and possessions, and must needs be forced away.

Brought him forth — Thus the mercy of Jehovah, working by the hands of these two angels, reaches forth and grasps Lot and his wife and daughters from the impending ruin.


Verse 17

17. He said — Does Jehovah himself now appear again with the two angels, or is one of the two angels here intended? Either view is possible, but perhaps the more simple and obvious one is, that it is here one of the two angels that speaks. The angel’s words breathe with a quivering energy.

Note the four commands: 1)

Escape for thy life — It is a race for life. 2)

Look not behind thee — One backward look may prove thy ruin. 3)

Neither stay thou in all the plain — All this fair circle of the Jordan, (Genesis 13:10,) on which Lot had cast covetous eyes, was now a doomed field, from which he must get himself utterly away. 4)

Escape to the mountain — The mountains of Moab, on the east of the Dead Sea, were probably intended. Away to the hills must he now betake himself for safety who once left the hills for this attractive valley. The escape, escape, repeated twice, intensifies the thought of his imminent peril, and now it is added:

Lest thou be consumed — Deadly destruction and wrath hover over all the plain.


Verse 18

18. My lord — Or, as translated in Genesis 19:2, my lords. The Masorites mark the word here as “holy,” but in Genesis 19:2 as “profane.” But this is scarcely a necessary distinction. The address would be an appropriate form of salutation, whether the person addressed be Jehovah or one of the angels. Lot’s petition betrays exceeding weakness. He pleads the mercy already shown, inability to do what is commanded, and fear lest the threatened evil overtake him before he can reach the eastern mountains. He urges, finally, that he may be permitted to flee into a neighbouring city, first, because it was near; second, because it was a little one; and then, because, with such permission, there was hope that he might live. How different this from the faith of Abraham!


Verse 20

20. This city — It appears that this city was near to Sodom, and a small town, and for this reason called Zoar, (Genesis 19:22,) which means small. Its previous name was Bela. Genesis 14:2. Nearly all ancient tradition and local names indicate that Zoar and the other cities of the plain were located at the southern end of what is now the Dead Sea. See on Genesis 14:2. Robinson locates Zoar on the southern side of the Wady Kerak, in the eastern part of the Lisan peninsula.


Verse 21

21. I have accepted thee — Hebrews, I have lifted up thy face. Metaphorically, the supplicant is supposed to have his face bowed down to the earth, and a granting of the prayer thus offered was a lifting up of the face.


Verse 22

22. I cannot do any thing till thou be come thither — Mark the limitations of judgment by the purposes of grace! The angel of destruction is held back from his deadly work until Lot is rescued.


Verse 23

23. The sun was risen — Hebrews, the sun went forth over the earth.

That is, the sun was up before Lot completed his flight. From dawn (Genesis 19:15) to sunrise was but a little time to effect such an escape. But the refugees were probably strengthened by the angels.


Verse 24

24. The Lord rained… from the Lord — The divine names here used are JEHOVAH. Jehovah sent rain, or caused it to rain, ( המשׂיר,) from Jehovah out of the heavens. Naturally enough have divines discerned in this peculiar statement the idea of some mysterious interaction of Jehovah and his angel. No doubt the truth is, as many put it, that “the Lord rained from himself;” but it is also true that in that mysterious SELFHOOD there are distinguishable powers and forms of self-manifestation, and these are profoundly intimated in such passages as this, and those that speak of the angel of Jehovah. See on Genesis 16:7 . Such intimations are not to be pressed as proofs of the divine Trinity, but may be properly regarded as inspired adumbrations of a plurality of persons in the unity of God.

Brimstone and fire — These are expressly said to have been rained out of heaven, and the circumstances amply detailed in this and the preceding chapters and the whole context, set forth the manner of the event as miraculous. But we may well believe that in this event, as in the plagues of Egypt, God used natural agencies to accomplish his will. “We know,” says Dr. E. Robinson, “that the country is subject to earthquakes, and exhibits also frequent traces of volcanic action.… Perhaps both causes were at work; for volcanic action and earthquakes go hand in hand; and the accompanying electric discharges usually cause lightnings to play and thunders to roll. In this way we have all the phenomena which the most literal interpretation of the sacred records can demand. Further, if we may suppose that before this catastrophe the bitumen had become accumulated around the sources; and had, perhaps, formed strata spreading for some distance upon the plain; that possibly these strata in some parts extended under the soil, and might thus easily approach the vicinity of the cities, then the kindling of such a mass of combustible materials, through volcanic action or by lightning from heaven, would cause a conflagration sufficient not only to engulf the cities, but also to destroy the surface of the plain, so that ‘the smoke of the country would go up as the smoke of a furnace,’ and the sea, rushing in, would convert it into a tract of waters.” — Biblical Researches, vol. ii, p. 190.


Verses 24-28

DESTRUCTION OF SODOM AND GOMORRAH, 24-28.

This account of the overthrow of the cities of the plain is brief, but graphic. Four things are succinctly told: 1) The means of destruction — fire and brimstone from heaven. 2) The effect — utter ruin of the cities, inhabitants, and vegetation. 3) Lot’s wife perishing. 4) The appearance of the country after the destruction, as seen by Abraham — like “the smoke of a furnace.”

It is scarcely necessary to repeat here the various speculations and controversies touching the sites of the “cities of the plain,” (see on chapter 14:3,) the possible causes of their destruction, and the present configuration of the Dead Sea. On these subjects the reader must consult the special treatises, and the Biblical Dictionaries. See especially McClintock and Strong’s Cyclopaedia, articles Dead Sea, Gomorrah, Sodom, Siddim, and Zoar.

It has been supposed that the Jordan once flowed southwards through the Arabian Ghor, and emptied into the Red Sea through the Gulf of Akabah. But it is now generally conceded that this salt lake, now nearly 1,300 feet lower than the Mediterranean, and over 1,300 feet lower than the Red Sea, never communicated with the latter, but must have existed long before the age of Abraham. But very probably this ancient lake, which received the waters of the Jordan and many other streams, was very much smaller than the present Dead Sea. This latter, doubtless, covers much surface which was anciently a luxuriant plain. According to Major Wilson, of the Palestine Exploration Fund, “the basin of the Dead Sea has been formed without any influence from, or communication with, the ocean; whence it follows that the lake has never been any thing but a reservoir for the rainfall, the saltness of which originally proceeded from the environs of the lake, and has greatly increased under the influence of incessant evaporation. At a later date volcanic eruptions have taken place to the north-east and east of the Dead Sea, and the last phenomena which affected its basin were the hot and mineral springs and bituminous eruptions which often accompany and follow volcanic action.” It is the province of scientific research to bring to light all that can be ascertained as to the geological formation of this mysterious gulf. The destruction of the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah was, according to the obvious import of our narrative, miraculous. See the exposition below.


Verse 25

25. Overthrew those cities… plain… inhabitants… that which grew — Note the fourfold destruction. This sudden and awful ruin is referred to repeatedly as an example of God’s fearful judgments upon the wicked. Comp. Deuteronomy 29:23; Jeremiah 49:18; Jer 40:40; Zephaniah 2:9; 2 Peter 2:6. It is interesting to notice in this connexion the remarks of the old geographer Strabo, who was born about half a century before Christ. Near Masada, he says, “are to be seen rocks bearing the marks of fire; fissures in many places; a soil like ashes; pitch falling in drops from the rocks; rivers boiling up and emitting a fetid odor to a great distance; dwellings in every direction overthrown; whence we are inclined to believe the common tradition of the natives, that thirteen cities once existed there, the capital of which was Sodom, but that a circuit of about sixty stadia around it escaped uninjured. Shocks of earthquakes, however, eruptions of flames and hot springs, containing asphaltus and sulphur, caused the lake to burst its bounds, and the rocks took fire. Some of the cities were swallowed up; others were abandoned by such of the inhabitants as were able to make their escape.” Book 16:2, 44. Bohn’s Ed. Comp. Tacitus, Hist., 5:7, and Josephus, Ant., 1:11, 4, and Wars, 4:8, 4.

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Verse 26

26. His wife looked back — Prompted by her longing for what she had left behind, and a curiosity to witness the destruction. Her example is given as a warning against desire and effort to take one’s goods when God calls away. Luke 17:32.

She became a pillar of salt — Looking backwards and lingering behind, she was probably smitten by the fire and brimstone, and afterwards covered over by a deposit of salt, and became a mound, or pillar, like those which may even now be seen at the southern end of the Dead Sea. The apocryphal Book of Wisdom (x, 7) says that in that waste land to this day “a standing pillar of salt is a monument of an unbelieving soul,” and accordingly many a traveller has sought to identify this pillar. The… following cut represents a column, called by the Arabs Bint Sheik Lot, which was visited by Palmer, and described as “a tall, isolated needle of rock, which really does bear a curious resemblance to an Arab woman with a child upon her shoulder.” But he observes, “the rock discovered by us does not fulfil the requirements of the Scripture story, but there can be no doubt that it is the object which has served to keep alive for so many ages the local tradition of the event.”


Verse 27

27. Early in the morning — Probably the morning of the day of destruction is intended; the next day after his intercession. While Lot is entering Zoar, on the east of the plain, Abraham is gazing from the west upon the smoking gorge between them. They are now separated by a great gulf, and come no more together.


Verse 28

28. Looked toward Sodom… smoke — The fearful sight shows him that there were not even ten righteous persons to be found in Sodom. But Abraham’s intercession had an answer in the salvation of Lot. See Genesis 19:29.

As the smoke of a furnace — The rain of fire and brimstone left behind it a smoking ruin, and the deep depression from which the smoke ascended might well remind one of the mouth of a furnace.


Verse 29

LOT’S INFAMOUS DAUGHTERS, Genesis 19:29-38.

29. God remembered Abraham, and sent Lot out — Thus Lot’s rescue is attributed to Abraham’s prayer. This was Lot’s second rescue by the help of Abraham. See Genesis 14:16.


Verse 30

30. In the mountain — One of the mountains on the east of the Dead Sea, afterwards known as the mountains of Moab. He who covetously chose the inviting plain (Genesis 13:11) now gladly seeks the mountain.

He feared to dwell in Zoar — The terror of Sodom’s fall entered into his soul, and he feared to dwell so near the scene of ruin as was Zoar. He knew, also, that even that little city was at first among those doomed to destruction.

Dwelt in a cave — The rocks and mountains on the east of the Dead Sea abound in caves, many of them, perhaps, the original homes of the Horites. See on Genesis 14:6.


Verse 31

31. The firstborn said unto the younger — The infamous measures which this elder daughter proposed, and in which she was readily followed by her younger sister, shows what demoralizing power the city life of Sodom had exerted over them. They became familiar with “the filthy conversation of the wicked,” (2 Peter 2:7;) their sisters had married, and perhaps they themselves had been betrothed to men of Sodom, (see on Genesis 19:14-15,) and possibly their mother was a woman of Sodom, (note on 13, 14;) what could be expected of daughters grown up amid such surroundings! Even though Lot held the faith of Abraham, and reproved his wicked neighbours, his worldly-mindedness was strong, and his parental discipline as feeble, perhaps, as Eli’s. 1 Samuel 2:22-25.

Not a man in the earth — That is, in the land, or country around them. We are not to understand by this, as some of the ancient interpreters, that Lot’s daughters believed the whole human race to have been destroyed, but that they had no hope of marriage with any of the men of the country to which they had fled.


Verse 33

33. He perceived not — “These words do not affirm that he was in an unconscious state; they merely mean that in his intoxicated state, though not entirely unconscious, yet he lay with his daughters without clearly knowing what he was doing.… But Lot’s daughters had so little feeling of shame in connexion with their conduct, that they gave names to the sons they bore which have immortalized their paternity.” — Keil.


Verse 37

37. Called his name Moab — Which means, from father. This, we are informed, was the origin of the Moabites, who occupied the country on the east of the southern half of the Dead Sea, formerly occupied by the Emim. Deuteronomy 2:11.


Verse 38

38. Ben-ammi — Which means, son of my people; that is, begotten of my own race. The Ammonites expelled the Zamzummim, and occupied their land, on the north of the territory of Moab. Deuteronomy 2:19-21. “In Lot’s history we may trace the judgment as well as the mercy of God. His selfish choice of the plain of the Jordan led him, perhaps, to present wealth and prosperity, but withal to temptation and danger. In the midst of the abandoned profligacy of Sodom he, indeed, was preserved in comparative purity, and so, when God overthrew the cities of the plain, he yet saved Lot from destruction. Still Lot’s feebleness of faith first caused him to linger, (Genesis 19:16,) then to fear escape to the mountains, (Genesis 19:19,) and, lastly, to doubt the safety of the place which God had spared for him, Genesis 19:30. Now again he is led by his children into intoxication, which betrays him, unconsciously, into far more dreadful wickedness. And then we hear of him no more. He is left by the sacred narrative, saved indeed from the conflagration of Sodom, but an outcast — widowed, homeless, hopeless, without children or grandchildren, save the authors and the heirs of his shame.” — Speaker’s Commentary.

 


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Bibliography Information
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Genesis 19:4". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/whe/genesis-19.html. 1874-1909.

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