Friday, January 02, 2015

Stump the Priest: Lot's Daughters

Lot and his two daughters flee the destruction of Sodom

Question: "Why did Lot offer his virgin daughters to the Sodomites? Why wasn't Lot appointed a place with the Sodomites for such a horrible offer?  As a young man I scratched my head at this passage, but now as a father I am incensed. What am I missing?" 

It is very important to understand the genre of a passage of Scripture, if you are going to interpret it properly. In this case, the genre is historical narrative, and historical narrative is always descriptive, but not always prescriptive. In other words, historical narrative tells you what happened, and what people did, but many of the things that we are told that people did are not intended as positive examples, that we should read and then "go, and do thou likewise". And this is true in many cases, even when the good characters in Scripture are involved. For example, one of King David's sons raped his half sister, and while David was angry, he really did not deal with it in any decisive way. This led to Absalom, the full brother of the woman who was raped, to plot to kill his brother, and eventually to lead a revolt against his father (2 Samuel 13:1-18:33). There is nothing in that story to suggest that David handled the rape of one of his daughters in a praiseworthy manner. In fact, it is clear that David's failure to handle this properly led to the disastrous results that followed. Furthermore, given that these events followed closely on the heels of David's sin with Bathsheba, it is clear that these events were in fulfillment of the God's judgment against David, which was pronounced by the Prophet Nathan:

"Now therefore, the sword shall never depart from your house, because you have despised Me, and have taken the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your wife.’ Thus says the Lord: ‘Behold, I will raise up adversity against you from your own house; and I will take your wives before your eyes and give them to your neighbor, and he shall lie with your wives in the sight of this sun. For you did it secretly, but I will do this thing before all Israel, before the sun’"(2 Samuel 12:10-12).

And in the case of Lot, while he is described as a righteous man (2 Peter 2:7), not all of his actions were praiseworthy either. For example, we are told earlier:

"Abram dwelled in the land of Canaan, and Lot dwelled in the cities of the plain, and pitched his tent toward Sodom. But the men of Sodom were wicked and sinners before the Lord exceedingly" (Genesis 13:12-13).

The statement that Lot chose to dwell near Sodom is followed by the assessment of how wicked the people of Sodom were. The next time we hear of him, he is living in Sodom (Genesis 14:12). The narrative does not come out and say that Lot should not have moved into Sodom, but that is a clear inference from the text.

The point of the story of the two angels who visited Sodom was to highlight the depravity of the city. God had told Abraham that he intended to destroy Sodom, but Abraham interceded for them, and God promised that if he could find ten righteous men there, he would not destroy the city. So two Angels went into Sodom, in the appearance of men, and when Lot saw them, he was anxious to have them stay at his home because he knew the wickedness of the city, and knew what they would do to strangers. When the men of the city, both young and old, gathered outside of Lot's home and demand that he send out the two visitors so that they could rape them, Lot was not only concerned for the two visitors, but having a middle eastern sense of hospitality, he saw the violation of his daughters as being less of a shame than the violation of two visitors that he had extended hospitality to. The point of all this is not that Lot's understanding of how hospitality should dictate one's response to such a situation. The point is that this mob of men, given the chance to rape two young women instead, preferred to rape two men. So not only were they immoral, violent, and inclined to take advantage of strangers, they preferred unnatural homosexual sex to natural (though nonetheless forced) heterosexual sex. There is nothing in the text that suggests that Lot's choice was a good one. And as a matter of fact, the two angels blinded the mob, and spared them all from their perversity, and then told Lot to take his family and to get out Sodom, because God would destroy the city, since there were no righteous people in Sodom outside of Lot's own family.