An Offensive Story | Part 3 of 3

by Elouise

Sodom is gone. Lot is still alive in Zoar, but afraid. He leaves Zoar, taking his daughters with him, and heads for the hills. They end up living in cave. This is the last time Lot takes any initiative in this story (Genesis 19).

Lot’s unmarried daughters now have a problem.

  • Their husbands-to-be are dead, destroyed by fire from heaven.
  • Their mother is dead, turned into a pillar of salt.
  • Their father is old.
  • They aren’t likely to meet future spouses out in the hills.
  • Without offspring, the family line will die.

The older daughter makes a plan. It’s the first time either has acted on her own behalf. She tells her sister, “Come, let us make our father drink wine, and we will lie with him, so that we may preserve offspring through our father.” They follow through with the plan, and each of them becomes pregnant.

Some may find their behavior immoral and shameful. But is it?

  • This is at least a fitting reversal of Lot’s offer to the unruly men of Sodom. Here, take my two virgin daughters instead of my two visitors, and “do to them as you please.”
  • Unlike the unruly mob of men, however, the text doesn’t describe Lot’s daughters lusting after anyone. Rather, they want offspring to preserve the family line.
  • Finally, this isn’t the only time a woman uses her wits to carry on the family line as provided for by law and accepted custom.

Through their action, Lot’s family line is preserved. Lot’s daughters and grandsons become ancestors of the Moabites and Ammonites. Both nations play key roles in Israel’s future.

What are we then to make of this story? 

First, Genesis 19 is not about

  • wicked Sodom and righteous Lot
  • inhospitable Sodom and hospitable Lot
  • the disobedient wife of Lot, and obedient husband Lot
  • the shameful daughters of Lot, and respectable father Lot

In addition, it isn’t about hospitality rewarded, or Lot earning the favor of the two angel visitors.

So what is it about?

First, it’s about what the angels see when they come to visit Sodom.  What do they see?

  • Perhaps good intentions in Lot, but no power or courage to carry them out
  • Contempt for strangers within the city gates, including contempt for Lot who is also an alien
  • Callous disregard for the safety of other human beings, strangers as well as family members
  • Indecision and selfishness in the face of impending disaster
  • Impotence dressed up as though it were power
  • Moral blindness and moral deafness
  • A city in which women are almost totally invisible and have no voice
  • A city in which the future of its daughters and sons is already being violently destroyed

In other words, the angels see a city with no room for angels sent from God, no room for fellow human beings, and no room for God who created and longs to redeem them!

Second, this story is about family tragedy in a fallen world. Tragedy for Lot’s family, for the families of Sodom, Gomorrah and all the cities of the Plain, for the families of Lot’s daughters, for Lot’s Uncle Abraham and Aunt Sarah, and for all the unborn children of Israel.

This tragedy touches even the family of Jesus Christ–a descendant not just of Abraham, but of Lot, by way of Ruth the Moabite.

Third, this story is about God’s judgment. God’s judgment is a human tragedy. As believers, we say God’s judgment is just and fair. We must also admit it’s a human tragedy. An offense! Scandalous! Something that didn’t have to happen. Not because of God, but because of us.

God’s judgment, though just and fair, is no reason to celebrate or rejoice. God takes no pleasure in it. The angels take no pleasure in it. We dare not take pleasure in it. It’s a human tragedy. A family tragedy, for which we can only weep.

Finally, most offensive of all, this is a story about God’s mercy. The text is clear. Lot wasn’t sent out of the city because he found favor in the eyes of the angels or the Lord. Lot escaped destruction only because “the Lord had mercy on him” and because “God remembered Abraham!”

It seems the mercy of the Lord is an offensive and scandalous mercy! The same mercy that came to Lot comes to us. To the likes of you, and the likes of me.  Not because of our great goodness, but because God has mercy on us and remembers Jesus Christ and his righteousness.

Like Lot, we can boast only in God’s offensive, undeserved mercy.

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 24 March 2015