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After appearing to Abraham and telling him that He would judge the two great cities of the plains, Sodom and Gomorrah, the LORD listened as Abraham pleaded that the cities be spared (Read: Abraham Pleaded for Mercy for Sodom and Gomorrah).  The LORD agreed that He would spare the cities if He found just 10 people whom He judged as righteous.  The LORD then “went His way” (Gen 18:33) and the two angels journeyed to Sodom.

Genesis 19:1-3

And there came two angels to Sodom at even, and Lot sat in the gate of Sodom: and Lot seeing them rose up to meet them, and he bowed himself with his face toward the ground, And he said, Behold now, my lords, turn in, I pray you, into your servant’s house, and tarry all night, and wash your feet, and ye shall rise up early, and go on your ways. And they said, Nay; but we will abide in the street all night.  And he pressed upon them greatly, and they turned in unto him, and entered into his house, and he made them a feast and did bake unleavened bread, and they did eat.

When the two angels (who appeared as men) arrived at the gates of Sodom, the largest and most prosperous city on the plain, they found Lot there.  Lot had first set up his camp “near Sodom” (Genesis 13). Then he  “dwelt in Sodom” (chapter 14). And finally, Lot “sat at the gate of Sodom” (chapter 19).  Lot had moved closer and closer to the city and its sinful lifestyle and he found himself far from Abraham and the promises of God. He was immersed in the seduction and excitement of the world.  The biblical contrast between the certainty of God’s promises and the emptiness of the world’s promises should be clear to the reader.

At the Gate

In ancient times, the gate of the city was the entry point through the wall that surrounded the city. It was also the place where the trading markets and city government were located.  When outsiders (visitors, merchants, authorities from other cities, etc.) approached, they were granted entry by the official who sat at the gate.  Lot’s seat at the gate tells that he had become an important leader in Sodom, and it was by his authority the two angels entered the city. 

Lot did not know these two men were angels. But in accordance with the ancient customs of hospitality, he greeted them warmly,  he bowed in respect, and he offered lodging at his home.  

Hospitality Extended

In 1500 BC (3,500 years ago), hospitality was of utmost importance.  Generally, people fell into three categories:

  • nomadic tribesmen (people living in tents, on the move regularly, and seeking new pastures for herds, new lands to dwell in, and to farm)
  • those who lived in walled cities (for safety and protection)
  • merchants and tradesmen who traveled between the tribesmen and cities trading goods and products

Both tribesmen and city-dwellers had a huge dependence on the merchants and tradesmen.  Therefore, treating them well was vital to survival.  As a result, hospitality traditions and laws were practiced.  This encouraged the merchants and tradesmen to return frequently with their needed and desired goods and wares.  This was a very important “social contract” of the day and it served both merchants/tradesmen and residents well.  Essentially, this responsibility to welcome, respect, and protect such visitors was an important and honored duty. This duty to protect visitors was even greater than that of protecting their own families. Understanding this will help you digest what occurred next.

Genesis 19:4-11

But before they lay down, the men of the city, even the men of Sodom, compassed the house round, both onld and young, all the people from every quarter: And they called unto Lot, and said unto him, Where are the men which came in to thee this night? bring them out unto us, that we may know them.

And Lot went out at the door unto them, and shut the door after him, And said, I pray you, brethren, do not so wickedly. Behold now, I have two daughters which have not known man; let me, I pray you, bring them out unto you, and do ye to them as is good in your eyes: only unto these men do nothing; for therefore came they under the shadow of my roof.

And they said, Stand back. And they said again, This one fellow came in to sojourn, and he will needs be a judge: now will we deal worse with thee, than with them. And they pressed sore upon the man, even Lot, and came near to break the door.  10 But the men put forth their hand, and pulled Lot into the house to them, and shut to the door.  11 And they smote the men that were at the door of the house with blindness, both small and great: so that they wearied themselves to find the door.

The Sinful Men of Sodom

The men of Sodom were so vile, so wicked, and so deranged that they appeared at Lot’s door calling for him to send the men out so that they could rape them.  In what seems unthinkable to us today, Lot tried to reason with the men of Sodom and he offered his two unmarried, virgin daughters in exchange for the safety of the men.  Again, this was his sacred duty and while it seems insane to us, back then it was likely seen as the more honorable thing to do than to turn the two visiting men over to the crowd.

Just as the crowd was about to storm Lot’s home, the two angels rescued him and caused the crowd to become blind.  They were so evil, that in their blindness they did not flee. Instead, they continued to try to get at the two men and Lot.  

Genesis 19:12-16

And the men said unto Lot, Hast thou here any besides? son in law, and thy sons, and thy daughters, and whatsoever thou hast in the city, bring them out of this place: 13 For we will destroy this place, because the cry of them is waxen great before the face of the Lord; and the Lord hath sent us to destroy it.  14 And Lot went out, and spake unto his sons in law, which married his daughters, and said, Up, get you out of this place; for the Lord will destroy this city. But he seemed as one that mocked unto his sons in law.

15 And when the morning arose, then the angels hastened Lot, saying, Arise, take thy wife, and thy two daughters, which are here; lest thou be consumed in the iniquity of the city.  16 And while he lingered, the men laid hold upon his hand, and upon the hand of his wife, and upon the hand of his two daughters; the Lord being merciful unto him: and they brought him forth, and set him without the city.

Genesis 19:17-26

And it came to pass, when they had brought them forth abroad, that he said, Escape for thy life; look not behind thee, neither stay thou in all the plain; escape to the mountain, lest thou be consumed.  18 And Lot said unto them, Oh, not so, my Lord:  19 Behold now, thy servant hath found grace in thy sight, and thou hast magnified thy mercy, which thou hast shewed unto me in saving my life; and I cannot escape to the mountain, lest some evil take me, and I die:  20 Behold now, this city is near to flee unto, and it is a little one: Oh, let me escape thither, (is it not a little one?) and my soul shall live.

21 And he said unto him, See, I have accepted thee concerning this thing also, that I will not overthrow this city, for the which thou hast spoken.  22 Haste thee, escape thither; for I cannot do anything till thou be come thither. Therefore the name of the city was called Zoar.  23 The sun was risen upon the earth when Lot entered into Zoar.  

24 Then the Lord rained upon Sodom and upon Gomorrah brimstone and fire from the Lord out of heaven; 25 And he overthrew those cities, and all the plain, and all the inhabitants of the cities, and that which grew upon the ground.  26 But his wife looked back from behind him, and she became a pillar of salt.

Sparing Lot and His Family

The two visiting men (angels) revealed to Lot that they would destroy both the cities and everything in them.  They instructed Lot to gather up his family and flee.  Lot went to his sons-in-law and told them to prepare to flee with him.  But they laughed at him and chose to stay.  This left only Lot, his wife, and his two daughters (a total of four) with the chance to escape the coming destruction. 

In the morning, the two angels told Lot to take his wife and daughters and flee to the mountains where they would be safe.  They told Lot and the others not to look back.  Now for whatever reasons, Lot worried that the mountains would be too far and too inhospitable for survival. So he pleaded to be allowed to flee to a nearby small town named Zoar.  The angels agreed and implored Lot to go there quickly, for the destruction would begin the moment he arrived in Zoar.

Lot’s Wife

We’ve all heard the story of Lot’s wife.  She looked back at the city and “became a pillar of salt” (Gen 19:25).    Was she longing for the city she had left?  Was she angry about God’s judgment?  What we know for certain is that she did not follow the angel’s instructions, “look not behind thee” (Gen 19:17).   Why would the angel have instructed this?  Because when one is saved by God, one’s eyes are to be focused on the new life God has given.  Looking back to the old life reveals a heart that is uncommitted and still yearning for what was.  Without turning from the world, one can never have full faith and trust in God.

And therefore, when Lot’s wife turned her eyes back to Sodom, we can discern that her heart turned back also.  Therefore, God imposed His just judgment of her disobedience to His only command given by the angel, “look not behind thee” (Gen 19:17).  This should remind us of the one command that God gave to Adam and Eve,  “But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.” (Gen 2:17)  Disobedience to God (sin) will always be judged by God — in His timing and in His way.

Remember Lot’s Wife

What a lesson for us!  We are to trust and obey God. Jesus tells us to “remember Lot’s wife”

Luke 17:29-32 But the same day that Lot went out of Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven, and destroyed them all.  Even thus shall it be in the day when the Son of man is revealed. In that day, he which shall be upon the housetop, and his stuff in the house, let him not come down to take it away: and he that is in the field, let him likewise not return back. (32) Remember Lot’s wife.

Genesis 19:27-28

And Abraham got up early in the morning to the place where he stood before the Lord:  28 And he looked toward Sodom and Gomorrah, and toward all the land of the plain, and beheld, and, lo, the smoke of the country went up as the smoke of a furnace

This passage of Scripture, about the demise of Sodom and Gomorrah and the rescue of Lot, ends with Abraham coming out of his tent and seeing the flames of destruction from the cities.  Abraham’s tent was in Hebron, about 18 miles from the cities, so we can reason that Abraham understood what he saw taking place:  God had not found 10 people who were righteous in Sodom.

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