Genesis 18-19: Here comes the fire and brimstone

Part six of the Genesis series focuses on chapters eighteen and nineteen, whose main story revolves around  the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. For the other posts, click here.

A short summary of these chapters: Abraham is visited by God. During this visit, God tells Abraham that Sarah will bear him a son by that time the following year and then He tells him that He is about to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah. Abraham intercedes on behalf of the possible innocent people there and God agrees not to destroy it if there are only ten righteous people down there. Angels go down to check it out and there are not even ten, just Lot’s family.They spare Lot and then destroy the rest of the cities. Then Lot’s daughters make some rash family planning decisions.


Chapter eighteen

Let’s begin with God’s visit to Abraham. This is the where we begin to see some substantiation to the claim that the “Godhead” consists of the Trinity as we know it in Christian circles today. Abraham sees three men standing in front of him and greets them collectively as if they are one being and that being is God.

O, Lord, if I have found favor in your sight, do not pass by your servant.

Then he makes preparation for Them/Him to eat with him. During this meal, They reiterate the promise from part five that Sarah will have a son, but now They put a timeframe on it.  We aren’t given a clue as to how much time has passed between the first promise of Isaac and this one, but I don’t think it’s likely that it was terribly soon. This scene prepares Abraham and Sarah for that it’s finally happening. Sarah overheard the promise, since she was listening from behind the tent door, and laughs it off. Before He leaves, there’s an internal debate and a decision to tell Abraham what He’s about to do. He begins with:

Because the outcry against..

I think people don’t pay enough attention to this part of it. I’ve heard this story used against homosexuals and in conjunction with forms sexual fetishes and all kinds of things sex related. They weren’t just doing kinky stuff, there was an outcry against them. It is later described as “great” in the sense of large, and then He describes the sin. Some versions, such as the one I’m using, say “grave” to describe the sin, other’s use “grievous”, “serious” and “blatant.” Then He says:

I will go down to see whether they have done altogether according to the outcry that has come to me. And if not, I will know.

What’s interesting about this is that we have returned to the God who checks in before punishing. He heard the outcry of the people, which sound like prayers to me and then is going to check. I appreciate the implication that He isn’t just going to cater to whatever some people find grave or grievous, nor is He going to neglect to ensure that there isn’t something else going on that could explain the outcry.
Before He goes about this, Abraham intercedes. The scene feels a bit like bargaining, and they settle on ten as the magic number. If there are ten people, the whole of it will be spared. In other words, God isn’t all about destroying good people. If there are only TEN the whole will be preserved, even in it’s horrifying state. To me, that puts a lot of other conflicts into perspective. It means that in the midst of some of our greatest horrors, there were at least ten people that were worth not getting rid of the whole thing over. That’s how I take it.
It also means that there was a lot more going on than people being homosexual or having other sexual proclivities. It means that it could have had nothing at all to do with sex. They could have been killing each other in the streets with this wording. Their sin is grave, let me go see what’s going on. If there are ten, I will not destroy it.
It is “the heat of the day” when God is talking to Abraham and “evening” when the angels show up in Sodom. God said he was going Himself to check it out, so I would guess that the angels were sent later to do the destruction but that God had already been there and seen for Himself.


Chapter nineteen
Lot meets the angels at the gate, supposedly because he was sitting there to begin with. Then he insists that they stay with him. He knows he lives among grievous sinners. The angels want to stay in the square, but Lot insists enough for them to appease him. Then “all the people to the last man” come to Lot’s door. Looking at several translations, this can get fairly ambiguous. All the people makes it sound like it was more than just males. People includes women, right? So can “man” in this context. Remember that chapter five defined “man” as the males and females. When Lot addresses them, in some translations he says “brothers,” some say “friends”. Part of the problem is that it has to be translated and that languages have different rules. I grew up speaking English, so it can seem very cut and dry that “men” is only the males. However, in Spanish, which I learned some of later, uses the masculine plural for any group that contains at least one male. Hebrew also uses masculine and feminine plurals, I couldn’t find something reliable that clearly said that mixed groups did the same in Ancient Hebrew, but it does in Modern Hebrew, so it lends to the plausibility for me. So, how could we reliably tell if this group had women in it if the plural of the source language is masculine even when some women are in groups of men? To me, that clue is found in the previous chapter. There are not ten righteous among them. Perhaps there were women in this very crowd, perhaps not. Even if there were not, the women of this town were not more righteous than those in the crowd. The crowd says to Lot:

Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us, that we may know them.

Again, we have a situation with translations. Most of them say “know them” or “have sex with them” but I found it interesting that the Living Bible translation just lays it out there. They use “rape  them”. That’s part of the thing that some people gloss over. They weren’t a mob that was going to ask politely or work at consent or simply invite them to an orgy. They had made up their minds that sex was going to happen, just let them out here and we will make them submit.
Perhaps this is what made their sexual antics “grave” or “grievous”. Perhaps it had nothing at all to do with homosexuality, especially since there may have been women in the crowd. Little known fact: Women are capable of raping men. Yes, yes, they are. If you doubt it, just wait.
Lot refuses and does something that we all want to get judgey on him for. He offers up his virgin daughters instead. Some people have used a hospitality thing to explain that away. I’d like to say that there was no way I’d let my daughter out in a rapey mob before letting out some strange guys, but they aren’t strange guys, are they? Lot knows who they are. Since it isn’t a novel, we aren’t given the luxury of knowing what was going through his mind. We do know that women have not been highly valued in the Bible thus far. Perhaps this is why it is better to offer his daughters. We find out later that they were engaged to be married to some townsmen. Perhaps he thought that their fiances would protest or protect the girls. Perhaps he thought it would defuse the situation. We have no way of knowing. We also have no way of relating unless we’ve had a mob of people at our door demanding they be able to rape angels that we just brought into our home. I don’t think you ever know what you’ll do until you’re in that situation.
He offers the daughters and the mob gets angry and threatens him too now. The angels who were patiently in the house now pull Lot back in and close the door. They tell him to bring whoever else of his family or in-laws to the house because they are about to destroy the whole town. He attempts to do this, but the boys think he’s kidding and don’t go along with him. In the morning, the angels usher him out with his wife and two daughters. They tell him not to look back or stop in the valley.
Then come the fire and brimstone, or sulfur and fire, depending on your translation. God got rid of the angry rape mob. He did not get rid of a bunch of peaceful homosexuals and people with  fetishes. It was an angry rape mob, let’s not forget that. And for whatever reason, Lot’s wife turns around and turns into a pillar of salt. The poor woman. She’s another one that gets painted as a bad person for this. It’s irritating because there could have been any number of things running through her mind when it happened. She could have wanted to see them destroyed, or been startled by the fire or the sounds of its destruction.
Then we have a note about Abraham looking down on the destruction from his home, probably not even knowing that Lot had been spared, probably not worried.
Lot and his daughters went to a small neighboring town, and then left it for no given reason. When they move into a cave, the daughters have a strange conversation about there not being another man for them to have sex and therefore children with. Commentaries were not incredibly helpful on this, either. They had comments about it, but nothing that I thought made sense. Anyway, the daughters decide that there are no men for them.
I’m not sure how the older daughter comes to this conclusion. They were just in a town, they can’t believe that all other families are dead. At the same time, it sounds like a horrific event just happened during a time when they would have been counting on getting married soon and they were raised in crazytown. Who knows what they were thinking?
They were definitely not thinking that getting their dad so drunk he wouldn’t know he had sex with them in order to get pregnant was rape. But it is. They specifically got him drunk so that he wouldn’t fight them on it. Sounds like he didn’t give consent to me. They do get pregnant though and that’s how the chapter ends.

So there are my feelings and impressions on the Chs 18-19 of Genesis. Have you read them? What do you think?


Chapter links go to the ESV translations at Biblehub.com but I’m reading from the ESV Global Study Bible, which is available for free on the Kindle Reading App.

*amended for formatting purposes

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