The Destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah
1 The two angels came to Sodom in the evening whiletn The disjunctive clause is temporal here, indicating what Lot was doing at the time of their arrival. Lot was sitting in the city’s gateway.tn Heb “sitting in the gate of Sodom.” The phrase “the gate of Sodom” has been translated “the city’s gateway” for stylistic reasons.sn The expression sitting in the city’s gateway may mean that Lot was exercising some type of judicial function (see the use of the idiom in 2 Sam 19:8; Jer 26:10; 38:7; 39:3). When Lot saw them, he got up to meet them and bowed down with his face toward the ground.
2 He said, “Here, my lords, please turn aside to your servant’s house. Stay the nighttn The imperatives have the force of invitation. and wash your feet. Then you can be on your way early in the morning.”tn These two verbs form a verbal hendiadys: “you can rise up early and go” means “you can go early.” “No,” they replied, “we’ll spend the night in the town square.”sn The town square refers to the wide street area at the gate complex of the city.
3 But he urgedtn The Hebrew verb פָּצַר (patsar, “to press, to insist”) ironically foreshadows the hostile actions of the men of the city (see v. 9, where the verb also appears). The repetition of the word serves to contrast Lot to his world. them persistently, so they turned aside with him and entered his house. He prepared a feast for them, including bread baked without yeast, and they ate.
4 Before they could lie down to sleep,tn The verb שָׁכַב (shakhav) means “to lie down, to recline,” that is, “to go to bed.” Here what appears to be an imperfect is a preterite after the adverb טֶרֶם (terem). The nuance of potential (perfect) fits well. all the men – both young and old, from every part of the city of Sodom – surrounded the house.tn Heb “and the men of the city, the men of Sodom, surrounded the house, from the young to the old, all the people from the end [of the city].” The repetition of the phrase “men of” stresses all kinds of men.
5 They shouted to Lot,tn The Hebrew text adds “and said to him.” This is redundant in English and has not been translated for stylistic reasons. “Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us so we can have sextn The Hebrew verb יָדַע (yada’, “to know”) is used here in the sense of “to lie with” or “to have sex with” (as in Gen 4:1). That this is indeed the meaning is clear from Lot’s warning that they not do so wickedly, and his willingness to give them his daughters instead. sn The sin of the men of Sodom is debated. The fact that the sin involved a sexual act (see note on the phrase “have sex” in 19:5) precludes an association of the sin with inhospitality as is sometimes asserted (see W. Roth, “What of Sodom and Gomorrah? Homosexual Acts in the Old Testament,” Explor 1 [1974]: 7-14). The text at a minimum condemns forced sexual intercourse, i.e., rape. Other considerations, though, point to a condemnation of homosexual acts more generally. The narrator emphasizes the fact that the men of Sodom wanted to have sex with men: They demand that Lot release the angelic messengers (seen as men) to them for sex, and when Lot offers his daughters as a substitute they refuse them and attempt to take the angelic messengers by force. In addition the wider context of the Pentateuch condemns homosexual acts as sin (see, e.g., Lev 18:22). Thus a reading of this text within its narrative context, both immediate and broad, condemns not only the attempted rape but also the attempted homosexual act. with them!”
6 Lot went outside to them, shutting the door behind him.
7 He said, “No, my brothers! Don’t act so wickedly!tn Heb “may my brothers not act wickedly.”
8 Look, I have two daughters who have never had sexual relations withtn Heb “who have not known.” Here this expression is a euphemism for sexual intercourse. a man. Let me bring them out to you, and you can do to them whatever you please.tn Heb “according to what is good in your eyes.” Only don’t do anything to these men, for they have come under the protectiontn Heb “shadow.” of my roof.”sn This chapter portrays Lot as a hypocrite. He is well aware of the way the men live in his city and is apparently comfortable in the midst of it. But when confronted by the angels, he finally draws the line. But he is nevertheless willing to sacrifice his daughters’ virginity to protect his guests. His opposition to the crowds leads to his rejection as a foreigner by those with whom he had chosen to live. The one who attempted to rescue his visitors ends up having to be rescued by them.
9 “Out of our way!”tn Heb “approach out there” which could be rendered “Get out of the way, stand back!” they cried, and “This man came to live here as a foreigner,tn Heb “to live as a resident alien.” and now he dares to judge us!tn Heb “and he has judged, judging.” The infinitive absolute follows the finite verbal form for emphasis. This emphasis is reflected in the translation by the phrase “dares to judge.” We’ll do more harmtn The verb “to do wickedly” is repeated here (see v. 7). It appears that whatever “wickedness” the men of Sodom had intended to do to Lot’s visitors – probably nothing short of homosexual rape – they were now ready to inflict on Lot. to you than to them!” They kepttn Heb “and they pressed against the man, against Lot, exceedingly.” pressing in on Lot until they were close enoughtn Heb “and they drew near.” to break down the door.
10 So the men insidetn Heb “the men,” referring to the angels inside Lot’s house. The word “inside” has been supplied in the translation for clarity. reached outtn The Hebrew text adds “their hand.” These words have not been translated for stylistic reasons. and pulled Lot back into the housetn Heb “to them into the house.” as they shut the door.
11 Then they struck the men who were at the door of the house, from the youngest to the oldest,tn Heb “from the least to the greatest.” with blindness. The men outsidetn Heb “they”; the referent (the men of Sodom outside the door) has been specified in the translation for clarity. wore themselves out trying to find the door.
12 Then the two visitorstn Heb “the men,” referring to the angels inside Lot’s house. The word “visitors” has been supplied in the translation for clarity. said to Lot, “Who else do you have here?tn Heb “Yet who [is there] to you here?” Do you havetn The words “Do you have” are supplied in the translation for stylistic reasons. any sons-in-law, sons, daughters, or other relatives in the city?tn Heb “a son-in-law and your sons and your daughters and anyone who (is) to you in the city.” Get them out of thistn Heb “the place.” The Hebrew article serves here as a demonstrative. place
13 because we are about to destroytn The Hebrew participle expresses an imminent action here. it. The outcry against this placetn Heb “for their outcry.” The words “about this place” have been supplied in the translation for stylistic reasons. is so great before the Lord that hetn Heb “the Lord.” The repetition of the divine name has been replaced in the translation by the pronoun “he” for stylistic reasons. has sent us to destroy it.”
14 Then Lot went out and spoke to his sons-in-law who were going to marry his daughters.sn The language has to be interpreted in the light of the context and the social customs. The men are called “sons-in-law” (literally “the takers of his daughters”), but the daughters had not yet had sex with a man. It is better to translate the phrase “who were going to marry his daughters.” Since formal marriage contracts were binding, the husbands-to-be could already be called sons-in-law. He said, “Quick, get out of this place because the Lord is about to destroytn The Hebrew active participle expresses an imminent action. the city!” But his sons-in-law thought he was ridiculing them.tn Heb “and he was like one taunting in the eyes of his sons-in-law.” These men mistakenly thought Lot was ridiculing them and their lifestyle. Their response illustrates how morally insensitive they had become.
15 At dawntn Heb “When dawn came up.” the angels hurried Lot along, saying, “Get going! Take your wife and your two daughters who are here,tn Heb “who are found.” The wording might imply he had other daughters living in the city, but the text does not explicitly state this. or else you will be destroyed when the city is judged!”tn Or “with the iniquity [i.e., punishment] of the city” (cf. NASB, NRSV).
16 When Lottn Heb “he”; the referent (Lot) has been specified in the translation for clarity. hesitated, the men grabbed his hand and the hands of his wife and two daughters because the Lord had compassion on them.tn Heb “in the compassion of the Lord to them.” They led them away and placed themtn Heb “brought him out and placed him.” The third masculine singular suffixes refer specifically to Lot, though his wife and daughters accompanied him (see v. 17). For stylistic reasons these have been translated as plural pronouns (“them”). outside the city.
17 When they had brought them outside, theytn Or “one of them”; Heb “he.” Several ancient versions (LXX, Vulgate, Syriac) read the plural “they.” See also the note on “your” in v. 19. said, “Runtn Heb “escape.” for your lives! Don’t looktn The Hebrew verb translated “look” signifies an intense gaze, not a passing glance. This same verb is used later in v. 26 to describe Lot’s wife’s self-destructive look back at the city. behind you or stop anywhere in the valley!tn Or “in the plain”; Heb “in the circle,” referring to the “circle” or oval area of the Jordan Valley. Escape to the mountains or you will be destroyed!”
18 But Lot said to them, “No, please, Lord!tn Or “my lords.” See the following note on the problem of identifying the addressee here. The Hebrew term is אֲדֹנָי (’adonay).
19 Yourtn The second person pronominal suffixes are singular in this verse (note “your eyes,” “you have made great,” and “you have acted”). Verse 18a seems to indicate that Lot is addressing the angels, but the use of the singular and the appearance of the divine title “Lord” (אֲדֹנָי, ’adonay) in v. 18b suggests he is speaking to God. servant has found favor with you,tn Heb “in your eyes.” and you have shown me greattn Heb “you made great your kindness.” kindnesssn The Hebrew word חֶסֶד (khesed) can refer to “faithful love” or to “kindness,” depending on the context. The precise nuance here is uncertain. by sparingtn The infinitive construct explains how God has shown Lot kindness. my life. But I am not able to escape to the mountains becausetn Heb “lest.” this disaster will overtaketn The Hebrew verb דָּבַק (davaq) normally means “to stick to, to cleave, to join.” Lot is afraid he cannot outrun the coming calamity. me and I’ll die.tn The perfect verb form with vav consecutive carries the nuance of the imperfect verbal form before it.
20 Look, this towntn The Hebrew word עִיר (’ir) can refer to either a city or a town, depending on the size of the place. Given that this place was described by Lot later in this verse as a “little place,” the translation uses “town.” over here is close enough to escape to, and it’s just a little one.tn Heb “Look, this town is near to flee to there. And it is little.” Let me go there.tn Heb “Let me escape to there.” The cohortative here expresses Lot’s request. It’s just a little place, isn’t it?tn Heb “Is it not little?” Then I’ll survive.”tn Heb “my soul will live.” After the cohortative the jussive with vav conjunctive here indicates purpose/result.
21 “Very well,” he replied,tn Heb “And he said, ‘Look, I will grant.’” The order of the clauses has been rearranged for stylistic reasons. The referent of the speaker (“he”) is somewhat ambiguous: It could be taken as the angel to whom Lot has been speaking (so NLT; note the singular references in vv. 18-19), or it could be that Lot is speaking directly to the Lord here. Most English translations leave the referent of the pronoun unspecified and maintain the ambiguity. “I will grant this request tootn Heb “I have lifted up your face [i.e., shown you favor] also concerning this matter.” and will not overthrowtn The negated infinitive construct indicates either the consequence of God’s granting the request (“I have granted this request, so that I will not”) or the manner in which he will grant it (“I have granted your request by not destroying”). the town you mentioned.
22 Run there quickly,tn Heb “Be quick! Escape to there!” The two imperatives form a verbal hendiadys, the first becoming adverbial. for I cannot do anything until you arrive there.” (This incident explains why the town was called Zoar.)tn Heb “Therefore the name of the city is called Zoar.” The name of the place, צוֹעַר (tso’ar) apparently means “Little Place,” in light of the wordplay with the term “little” (מִצְעָר, mits’ar) used twice by Lot to describe the town (v. 20).
23 The sun had just risensn The sun had just risen. There was very little time for Lot to escape between dawn (v. 15) and sunrise (here). over the land as Lot reached Zoar.tn The juxtaposition of the two disjunctive clauses indicates synchronic action. The first action (the sun’s rising) occurred as the second (Lot’s entering Zoar) took place. The disjunctive clauses also signal closure for the preceding scene.
24 Then the Lord rained downtn The disjunctive clause signals the beginning of the next scene and highlights God’s action. sulfur and firetn Or “burning sulfur” (the traditional “fire and brimstone”). on Sodom and Gomorrah. It was sent down from the sky by the Lord.tn Heb “from the Lord from the heavens.” The words “It was sent down” are supplied in the translation for stylistic reasons.sn The text explicitly states that the sulfur and fire that fell on Sodom and Gomorrah was sent down from the sky by the Lord. What exactly this was, and how it happened, can only be left to intelligent speculation, but see J. P. Harland, “The Destruction of the Cities of the Plain,” BA 6 (1943): 41-54.
25 So he overthrew those cities and all that region,tn Or “and all the plain”; Heb “and all the circle,” referring to the “circle” or oval area of the Jordan Valley. including all the inhabitants of the cities and the vegetation that grewtn Heb “and the vegetation of the ground.” from the ground.
26 But Lot’stn Heb “his”; the referent (Lot) has been specified in the translation for clarity. wife looked back longinglytn The Hebrew verb means “to look intently; to gaze” (see 15:5).sn Longingly. Lot’s wife apparently identified with the doomed city and thereby showed lack of respect for God’s provision of salvation. She, like her daughters later, had allowed her thinking to be influenced by the culture of Sodom. and was turned into a pillar of salt.
27 Abraham got up early in the morning and wenttn The words “and went” are supplied in the translation for stylistic reasons. to the place where he had stood before the Lord.
28 He looked out towardtn Heb “upon the face of.” Sodom and Gomorrah and all the land of that region.tn Or “all the land of the plain”; Heb “and all the face of the land of the circle,” referring to the “circle” or oval area of the Jordan Valley. As he did so, he saw the smoke rising up from the land like smoke from a furnace.tn Heb “And he saw, and look, the smoke of the land went up like the smoke of a furnace.”sn It is hard to imagine what was going on in Abraham’s mind, but this brief section in the narrative enables the reader to think about the human response to the judgment. Abraham had family in that area. He had rescued those people from the invasion. That was why he interceded. Yet he surely knew how wicked they were. That was why he got the number down to ten when he negotiated with God to save the city. But now he must have wondered, “What was the point?”
29 So when God destroyedtn The construction is a temporal clause comprised of the temporal indicator, an infinitive construct with a preposition, and the subjective genitive. the cities of the region,tn Or “of the plain”; Heb “of the circle,” referring to the “circle” or oval area of the Jordan Valley. God honoredtn Heb “remembered,” but this means more than mental recollection here. Abraham’s request (Gen 18:23-32) was that the Lord not destroy the righteous with the wicked. While the requisite minimum number of righteous people (ten, v. 32) needed for God to spare the cities was not found, God nevertheless rescued the righteous before destroying the wicked.sn God showed Abraham special consideration because of the covenantal relationship he had established with the patriarch. Yet the reader knows that God delivered the “righteous” (Lot’s designation in 2 Pet 2:7) before destroying their world – which is what he will do again at the end of the age. Abraham’s request. He removed Lotsn God’s removal of Lot before the judgment is paradigmatic. He typically delivers the godly before destroying their world. from the midst of the destruction when he destroyedtn Heb “the overthrow when [he] overthrew.” the cities Lot had lived in.
30 Lot went up from Zoar with his two daughters and settled in the mountains because he was afraid to live in Zoar. So he lived in a cave with his two daughters.
31 Later the older daughter saidtn Heb “and the firstborn said.” to the younger, “Our father is old, and there is no man anywhere nearbytn Or perhaps “on earth,” in which case the statement would be hyperbolic; presumably there had been some men living in the town of Zoar to which Lot and his daughters had initially fled. to have sexual relations with us,tn Heb “to enter upon us.” This is a euphemism for sexual relations. according to the way of all the world.
32 Come, let’s make our father drunk with winetn Heb “drink wine.” so we can have sexual relationstn Heb “and we will lie down.” The cohortative with vav (ו) conjunctive is subordinated to the preceding cohortative and indicates purpose/result. with him and preservetn Or “that we may preserve.” Here the cohortative with vav (ו) conjunctive indicates their ultimate goal. our family line through our father.”tn Heb “and we will keep alive from our father descendants.”sn For a discussion of the cultural background of the daughters’ desire to preserve our family line see F. C. Fensham, “The Obliteration of the Family as Motif in the Near Eastern Literature,” AION 10 (1969): 191-99.
33 So that night they made their father drunk with wine,tn Heb “drink wine.” and the older daughtertn Heb “the firstborn.” came and had sexual relations with her father.tn Heb “and the firstborn came and lied down with her father.” The expression “lied down with” here and in the following verses is a euphemism for sexual relations. But he was not aware that she had sexual relations with him and then got up.tn Heb “and he did not know when she lay down and when she arose.”
34 So in the morning the older daughtertn Heb “the firstborn.” said to the younger, “Since I had sexual relations with my father last night, let’s make him drunk again tonight.tn Heb “Look, I lied down with my father. Let’s make him drink wine again tonight.” Then you go and have sexual relations with him so we can preserve our family line through our father.”tn Heb “And go, lie down with him and we will keep alive from our father descendants.”
35 So they made their father drunktn Heb “drink wine.” that night as well, and the younger one came and had sexual relations with him.tn Heb “lied down with him.” But he was not aware that she had sexual relations with him and then got up.tn Heb “And he did not know when she lied down and when she arose.”
36 In this way both of Lot’s daughters became pregnant by their father.
37 The older daughtertn Heb “the firstborn.” gave birth to a son and named him Moab.sn The meaning of the name Moab is not certain. The name sounds like the Hebrew phrase “from our father” (מֵאָבִינוּ, me’avinu) which the daughters used twice (vv. 32, 34). This account is probably included in the narrative in order to portray the Moabites, who later became enemies of God’s people, in a negative light. He is the ancestor of the Moabites of today.
38 The younger daughter also gave birth to a son and named him Ben-Ammi.sn The name Ben-Ammi means “son of my people.” Like the account of Moab’s birth, this story is probably included in the narrative to portray the Ammonites, another perennial enemy of Israel, in a negative light. He is the ancestor of the Ammonites of today.