We cut away from Abraham to the city of Sodom, where two unnamed angels are entering the city. Abraham’s cousin Lot lives here and spies them out. They were going to just sleep in the city square, but Lot intervenes, offering them his place. This is an important part of the story, probably the most important part, but we’ll get back to the importance in a moment.
After Lot takes them in, he gets a group of people at the door asking for him to “Bring [the men] out to us, so that we may know them” (Gen 19:5). Two things about this. First, this is not a small group, not just a few people. It is, in fact, “the men of Sodom, both young and old, all the people to the last man, surrounded the house” (Gen 19:4). There was a reason why the previous outcry about this city reached God. Every man, except for Lot, is part of this. Now, there is no mention of the women. They’re not involved in this, but there are hints later on as to their predilections.
Now, the second thing, the whole know thing. Other translations openly make this about sex, and they’re right. Only a couple verses later we have Lot telling the men, “Look, I have two daughters who have not known a man; let me bring them out to you, and do to them as you please” (Gen 19:8). From this context, it’s clear that knowing is about sex.
I told you that the Bible was sexy.
Only, we’re not talking anything good with this chapter, sorry.
Lot just offered up his daughters as sex objects to this mob. From a modern standpoint, this doesn’t sit well. Many take this as an indication about women’s place in society in the Bible, that they are not valued, and are little more than property, reinforced—a little bit—by Sarah becoming one of Pharaoh’s wives (and subsequently getting Hagar as a slave). Modern society condemns him for being a horrible, horrible father to do this to his daughters.
But this is not today, and the situation is more complex. Lot places terms on the use of his daughters, namely, “only do nothing to these men, for they have come under the shelter of my roof” (Gen 19:8). This turns things a bit. Lot offered not just a place to stay to these men, but his protection. He has agreed to put himself and his family in harm’s way to protect these travelers, which is completely normal in the ancient world, and was known as the hospitality tradition.
The ancient world is a harsh place, and travelers were highly respected for making the journey. It was expected that someone would take travelers in to offer shelter, food, and protection. Expected, not recommended. This isn’t the Pirate’s Code where they’re “more like guidelines.” This tradition is more like law.
In Genesis 18, three strangers came to Abraham, and he went out of his way to provide for them. They didn’t bring anything to him. He gave them water, shade, and food—the best he had. He even “stood by them under the tree while they ate” (Gen 18:8) in case they had any further requests. Abraham made himself, in his own words, their servant. This is the kind of tradition we’re talking about. Abraham and Lot were close, so it’s no surprise that Lot would follow through with the same kind of dedication. Also, as I said, this is a near-universal tradition in the ancient world. It’s all throughout the ancient near east, Greece (we’ll even delve into a major story about Greek hospitality, eventually), India, and China. Messing with travelers is not to be done.
For the men of Sodom to violate this is very bad, and it’s importance is enough that Lot feels obligated to offer up his daughters in order to guarantee the safety of these travelers.
What’s that? The homosexuality? Stay tuned, we’ll talk about that. I have a feeling I’ll need lots of space for that one.