An Offensive Story | Part 2 of 3
Lot’s visitors, strangers passing through Sodom, have just rescued Lot from an angry mob of men, and ensured safety for Lot and his entire household. (Genesis 19)
The evening has only begun. The visitors immediately give Lot three urgent commands, and identify themselves as servants of the Lord, sent to destroy Sodom.
Command #1: Bring your family out of this city!
The angels don’t say,
- Bring some of your family out, or
- Suggest to your family that they might like to plan a trip today away from this city.
They say, Bring your family–all of your family–out of this city, because we are about to destroy it!
Lot leaves the house, goes into the city and speaks only to his two future sons-in-law. They think he’s joking! Lot apparently returns to his house alone, and does nothing further.
Now it’s the next morning. The angels try again. This time they refer only to family members actually present in the house. Note the added length of this command.
Command #2: Get up!
Take your wife and two daughters who are here,
or you will be consumed in the punishment of the city!
Once again the visitors reach out and put their hands to work.
- They seize Lot by the hand, bring him out and leave him outside the city.
- They return, seize Lot’s wife and daughters by their hands and physically bring them outside the city.
Finally we come to the last command. Do they give this command to all four of them, or to Lot alone? So far, the visitors have communicated directly with Lot, not with the entire family.
The visitors ramp up the intensity of the command yet again–as though further directions and more repetition might get through to Lot.
Command #3: Flee! Flee for your life!
Don’t look back or stop anywhere in the Plain!
Flee to the hills, or you will be consumed!
Lot refuses to flee to the hills!
Instead, he launches into a relatively long, time-consuming speech to tell his visitors all about his better idea and why he cannot possibly flee to the hills. The disaster might overtake him, and he might die!
He begins by expressing gratitude to his visitors for their great kindness, which he takes to mean he has found favor in their eyes. He explains that he won’t be able to make it to the hills in time. Then he says, “Look, that city is near enough to flee to, and it is a little one. Let me escape there–Is it not a little one?–and my life will be saved!”
One of the visitors, gifted with patience and kindness known only to God and God’s angels, agrees to Lot’s plea on his own behalf, and then urges him once again to Hurry!
Just in the nick of time, as the sun rises ‘over the earth,’ Lot arrives at the little city (now called Zoar), and the Lord begins raining sulfur and fire from heaven.
Lot isn’t rescued because of his wonderful obedience. He’s rescued thanks to the kindness of his visitors, and in spite of his stubborn refusal to obey their urgently repeated instructions and warnings.
What about Lot’s wife? The narrator’s comment is chilling. “Lot’s wife, behind him, looked back, and she became a pillar of salt.”
Somewhere on the Plain, where everyone would be consumed except the inhabitants of Zoar, Lot’s wife looked back.
This is the only time we see Lot’s wife acting on her own initiative. We don’t know why she was behind Lot or why she looked back. We can’t even be sure she heard or knew about the command not to look back.
We do know that life with Lot wasn’t easy. Now it seems it’s getting a lot worse. Maybe she believed there was nothing left worth living for. We don’t know.
We do, however, know this: Lot is not a model of willing obedience to God.
There’s one more offensive and painful piece of Lot’s story. That’s the last scene in which Lot’s daughters plot to make their father drink wine so they can become pregnant by him. Did Lot suffer a horrible injustice at the hands of his shamelessly lustful daughters?
Beyond that, what are we to make of this offensive story?
To be continued…
© Elouise Renich Fraser, 22 March 2015