Lange Commentary on the Holy Scriptures
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;3. The entrance and sojourn of the two angels in Sodom, and the completed manifestation of its corruption in opposition to the better conduct of Lot (Gen 19:1–11).—And there came two angels.—STIER: מַלְאָכים without the article; the peculiar personal angels who here first appear definitely in the history of the kingdom of God, although the idea of the angel, in its wider sense, had been in existence since Gen 3. They arrive at Sodom at evening, having left Hebron after midday. The idea of an actual human journey from place to place is thus complete; but the inmost central points of the narrative are the two great manifestations, of which the first was given to Abraham about midday, and now Lot shares the second at evening. But here the objective character of the manifestation is far more prominent than the possession and extent of the power to perceive the vision, for Lot did not recognize them at first as angels, and they appear to have been seen by the Sodomites, unless we prefer the supposition that they had learned from Lot’s household of the two shining youthful forms who had turned in there for the night. [The term which Lot uses in his address, אֲדנַי, shows that he regarded them as men.—A. G.]—And Lot sat in the gate of Sodom.—Knobel well says: “Jehovah, as the most holy, will not enter the unholy city,” while Delitzsch asserts “that Jehovah came in them to Sodom.” That Lot sat in the gate of Sodom, is mentioned rather to his reproach than to praise his hospitality. [It is a reproach to him that he is in Sodom at all, but his sitting in the gate is not mentioned here as his reproach.—A. G.] He sits at the gate in order to invite approaching travellers to a lodging for the night, and is thus hospitable like his uncle. Knobel remarks, Gen 19:1: “This polite hospitality is still practised among the Arabians; they count it an honor to entertain the approaching stranger, and often contend with each other who shall have the honor. TAVERNIER, ‘Travels,’ i. p. 125; BURCKHARDT, ‘Bedouins,’ p. 280, and ‘Travels in Syria,’ p. 641 ff.; BUCKINGHAM, ‘Syria,’ i. p. 285; SEETZEN, ‘Travels,’ i. p. 400.” “The gate in the East is usually an arched entrance, with deep recesses upon both sides, which furnish an undisturbed seat for the observer; here below and at the gate they gather, to transact business, as there are usually also stands for merchandise in these recesses, and to address narrower or wider circles upon the affairs of the city (Gen 34:20; Deut. 21:19).” Delitzsch.—Behold now, my lords (אֲדנַי).—He does not recognize them immediately as angels, which is the less remarkable since the doctrine of angels must first make its way into the world through such experiences, and which is not excluded by the disposition or fitness to perceive visions (comp. Heb. 13:2).—Nay, but we will abide in the street [i.e., the open, wide place in the gate.—A. G.] (comp. Luke 24:29).—It appears to have been the object of the angels to ascertain the state of the city from the street; but Lot’s hospitable conduct seems, on the other hand, to them a favorable sign for the city, which they will follow.—But before they lay down.—The wickedness of the city immediately develops itself in all its greatness. That the old and young should come; that they should come from every quarter of the city [literally the end; see Jer. 51:31. KEIL: “As we say, to the very last man.”—A. G.]; that they assault the house, notwithstanding the sacred rights of guests; that they so shamelessly avow their pederastic purpose; that they will not even be appeased by Lot, to whom they once owed their salvation (Gen 14), and (as one may say, preferred their demonic, raging, unnatural lusts, to natural offences) that they did not cease to grope for the door, after they were stricken with blindness; this is the complete portraiture of a people ripe for the fiery judgment.—That we may know them.—A well-known euphemism, but, therefore, here an expression of shameless effrontery. It is the mark of their depravity that they seek pleasure in the violation of nature, and have their vile passions excited by the look or thought of heavenly beauty (see GÖTHE’S “Faust,” ii. division, at the close). “The lustful abomination, according to Rom. 1:27 the curse of heathenism, according to Judg. 7. a copy of demonic error, according to the Mosaic law (Lev. 18:22; 20:13) an abomination punishable with death, here had no mask, not even the æsthetic glory with which it was surrounded in Greece.” Delitzsch. The vice of pederasty was reckoned among the abominations of Canaan, and even the Israelites were sometimes stained with it (Judg. 19:22).—Behold now, I have two daughters.—“The Arab holds his guest who lodges with him as sacred and inviolable, and if necessary defends him with his life (see RUSSEL, ‘Natural History of Aleppo,’ i. p. 334, etc).” Knobel. “He commits sin, seeking to prevent sin through sin.” Delitzsch. Keil remarks, “his duty as a father should have been held more sacred.” But it may be questioned whether there is not to be brought into account in Lot an element of cunning—a kind of irony—since he could reckon with certainty upon the taste for unnatural lust in the Sodomites (he so speaks because he knew his people); or whether, rather, the important thing is not found in the supposition that he acted in the confusion of the greatest amazement and anxiety. [Which would naturally be increased if he had discovered by this time that they were heavenly visitors.—A. G.] We must take into account, in this whole history, that a premonitory feeling of the destruction of Sodom rested upon their minds, which had released in Lot the spiritually awakened disposition or preparedness for desperate acts of virtue, as it had in the Sodomites the demonic rage in wickedness; as the same influence has elsewhere appeared during earthquakes and similar events. In any case Lot could not have miscalculated in the thought of a stratagem in which he relied not only upon the opposition of his sons-in-law, but much more upon the unnatural lusts of the Sodomites.1—He will needs be a Judge (Judge and Judge).—See the original text. “We may thus see that there is a sting in the words of Lot, because he would now reprove their unnatural passions, as he had indeed done before (see 2 Pet. 2:7).2—We will deal worse with thee than with them.—“They would smite and kill him, but abuse his guests.” Knobel. In the words, they pressed sore upon the man, the narrator intimates more than lies upon the face of the words. They at the same time attempt to break through the door. The angels interfered, and the Sodomites were stricken with blindness. It is not natural blindness which is meant, but the blinding in which the spiritual power of the angels works together with the demonic fury of the Sodomites. [סַנְוֵרִים, a blindness produced by dazzling light, probably combining total privation of sight and a confusion or wandering of mind.—A. G.] It marks the excess of their wickedness, the continuance of their abomination until the very midst of the judgment, that they do not, even in this condition, cease from seeking the door.
4. Lot’s comparative unfitness for salvation, his salvation with difficulty, and the entrance of the judgment (Gen 19:12–29).—And the men said unto Lot.—They reveal themselves now as heavenly messengers; and no less distinctly their calling to destroy the city and their mission to save him and his household (any one related by marriage—son-in-law). We regard the usual construction, hast thou here any besides? son-in-law and thy sons, and thy daughters, and whatsoever thou hast, etc., as incorrect. 1. Because then son-in-law would precede the sons and daughters, and is used in the singular. 2. Because in the words “whatsoever thou hast,” sons-in-law, as well as sons and daughters are included. [The probable reference is to those in the city and not in the house—any one related to him.—A. G.]—And the Lord hath sent us.—The Angel of the Lord never speaks in this way.—And Lot went out and spake, etc.—There are two explanations: 1. Those taking his daughters, i.e., who had taken his daughters to wife. Thus the Septuagint, the Targums, Jonathan, Jewish interpreters, Schumann, Knobel, Delitzsch. According to this explanation, Lot had, besides his married daughters in the city, two unmarried daughters. 2. לֹקְחִים, those about to accept or take, bridegrooms. Thus Josephus, the Vulgate, Clericus, Ewald, Keil, and others. Knobel quotes (חַנִּמְצָֹאת) Gen 19:15 in favor of the first explanation; but Keil remarks that this does not designate an opposition between the unmarried and married daughters, but between these and the sons-in-law who remained behind. We may add, moreover, that there is no intimation that Lot had warned married daughters to rise up.—The angels hastened Lot.3—Since they were sent to execute the destruction, there does not seem any occasion for the haste, as if it proceeded from some fate—from an agency beyond themselves. But there is a threefold reason for their haste: 1. The zeal of the righteousness of God, since the measure of the iniquity of Sodom was full; 2. their own holy affection; 3. the connection of their mission with the preparation of the judgment in the natural relations of Sodom.—And while he lingered.—It is clear in every way that Lot, from his spiritless, half-hearted nature, which made it difficult to part from his location and possessions, was rescued with the greatest difficulty. [The Lord being merciful to him, literally, by the mercy of Jehovah upon him, i.e., which was exercised towards him.—A. G.]—And set him down.—This completes the work of the two angels in saving Lot, and their work of destruction now begins.—That he said (see the remarks upon the Angel of the Lord, Gen 12)—It is “Jehovah speaking through the angel,” says Delitzsch. But why then does this form occur first here? Before, the angels had said, Jehovah has sent us. Because the approach of Jehovah is not expressly mentioned, Keil also admits here “that the angel speaking, speaks, as the messenger of Jehovah, in the name of God.” Upon the ground of the miraculous help given to him, Jehovah calls him now to personal activity in his own salvation. But Lot, on the contrary, clings to the receding forms of the two angels, and it cannot surprise us, that in his agitation he should confound their appearance and the voice of Jehovah.—For thy life.—Life and soul are here one, not merely according to the verbal expression, but in the very idea of the situation; it includes the thought: “Save thy soul.”—Look not behind thee.—The cause is given in Lot’s wife. It is the religious expression for the desire to return, the hesitation, the lingering, as if one could easily hasten from the divine judgment (see Luke 9:62). Knobel draws analogies from the sphere of heathen religions. “In order not to see the divine providence, or working, which is not permitted the eye of mortals. For similar reasons the ancients in completing certain religious usages did not look around them (p. 173).” Certainly the Lord might take into account the holy horror in Lot at the spectacle of the fiery judgment. Still the first word is explained by the second: Neither stay thou in all the plain; and the second by the third: Escape to the mountain.—It is the mountains of Moab, on the other side of the Dead Sea, which are intended.—And Lot said unto them: Oh, not so, my Lord.—He could not distinguish the miraculous vision of the appearance of the angels and the miraculous report of the voice of Jehovah which now came to him. He pleads in excuse for his want of energy that fear presses heavily upon him; and fear weighs upon him because, while he was free from the abominations of Sodom, he was not free from its worldly mind. [The evil, i.e., the destruction which was to come upon Sodom. He feared that he could not reach the mountain.—A. G.] Lot also now becomes, in his own interest, an intercessor for others. He points to the little Bela, the smallest of the cities of the pentapolis, and thinks it is a small matter for the Lord to grant him this as a place of refuge, because it is so small, and therefore exempt it from destruction. The name Zoar was derived from these events. “Zoar is not to be sought in the Ghor el Mezráah, i.e., upon the peninsula which here stretches into the Dead Sea (see Is. 15:5), but rather in the Ghor el Szaphia, at the south-eastern end of the Sea, in the outlet of the Wady el Ahhsa. This locality is well watered and covered with shrubs and trees at the present time, but is unhealthy. It is inhabited and well cultivated by the Bedouins, who have here a permanent settlement; and in the winter it is the gathering place for more than ten tribes. Thus Seetzen, Burckhardt, Robinson.” Knobel. For further references to Zoar, see in KNOBEL, p. 174; KEIL, p. 165; and the Bible-Dictionaries. [ROBINSON, “Researches,” ii. p. 480, 648, 661.—A. G.]—The sun was risen upon the earth.—According to Keil, Lot was now just on the way, but the text says expressly, that he had entered Zoar. For the distances in the vale of Siddim see KNOBEL, p. 175.—Then the Lord rained [Heb. caused it to rain.—A. G.] fire from the Lord.—The antithesis which lies in this expression, between the manifestation of Jehovah upon the earth, and the being and providence of Jehovah in heaven, is opposed by Keil. The מֵאֵת יְהוָֹה is according to Calvin an emphatic repetition. This does not agree with Keil’s explanation of the Angel of the Lord. Delitzsch remarks here: There is certainly in all such passages a distinction between the historically revealed, and the concealed, or unrevealed God (comp. Hos. 1:7), and thus a support to the position of the Council of Sirmium: “the Son of God rains it down from God the Father.” The decisive execution of the judgment proceeds from the manifestation of Jehovah upon the earth, in company with the two angels; but the source of the decree of judgment lies in Jehovah in heaven. The moral stages of the development of the kingdom of God upon the earth, correspond with the providence of the Almighty in the heavens, and from the heavens reaching down into the depths of cosmical nature.—Brimstone and fire.—Keil, in the interest of the literal interpretation, misses here the religious and symbolical expression. “The rain of brimstone and fire was no mere thunder-storm, which kindled into a fire the ground already saturated with naphtha. [Whatever may be the explanation of this catastrophe, whether we suppose, as seems most probable, that God used natural agencies, or make more prominent and exclusive the storm from heaven, it is clear on either supposition that the event was miraculous, the result of the direct interposition of God. Upon the Dead Sea, the ‘Notes’ of Bush and Jacobus; the ‘Dictionaries’ of Smith and Kitto; ROBINSON: ‘Researches’; STANLEY on ‘Palestine’; and the numerous books of travels may be consulted.—A. G.] For it cannot be proved from such passages as Ps. 11:6 and Ezek. 38:22 that lightning is ever called in the Scriptures brimstone and fire, since these passages evidently refer to the event narrated here. The words must be understood in an entirely peculiar sense, that brimstone with fire, i.e., the burning brimstone, fell from heaven, etc.” But the words are not thus peculiarly understood, brimstone with fire, i.e., burning brimstone, but brimstone and fire. Brimstone cannot mix with fire, in the air, without becoming fire. We might, indeed, think of burning meteors, which stood in reciprocal relations and efficiency with the burning ground. Knobel adopts the explanation of JOSEPHUS: “Antiq.” i. 11, 4; “Bell Jud.” iv. 8, 4; and TACIT.: “History,” v. 7. Fire and brimstone appear also elsewhere as the instruments of divine punishment (Ps. 11:6; Ezek. 38:22). The author does not point out more fully what was the concern of the two angels in the destruction. But in analogous cases, when God was about to send evil diseases or pestilences, he used the angels as his instruments (2 Sam. 24:16; Is. 37:36). DELITZSCH: “Not only Sodom and Gomorrah, but, with the exception of Zoar, the other cities of the pentapolis (Gen 14:2), as is stated Deut. 29:23 (comp. Hos. 11:8), or as it is here, the whole circle, all the plain, was submerged in fire and brimstone; a catastrophe which also Strabo, Tacitus, and Solinus Polyhistor, fully attest, and which is constantly referred to in the later literature, e.g., Ps. 11:6 (see Hupfield upon this passage), even down to the Revelation.”—But his wife looked back from behind him.4—Some conclude from this expression, that she went behind Lot, and thus looked back. But the looking back is plainly not more to be understood in a strict literal sense than the account that she became a pillar of salt. Female curiosity, and the longing for her home at Sodom, led her to remain behind Lot, and delay, so that she was overtaken in the destruction (see Luke 17:31, 32). Keil even departs from the literal interpretation in the term, pillar of salt, when he explains: she was encrusted with salt; resembled a pillar of salt, just as now objects in the neighborhood of the Dead Sea, are soon encrusted from its salty evaporations. This salt-pillar is mentioned as still existing in the “Book of Wisdom,” 11:7, and in CLEMENS of Rome to the “Cor.” 11; JOSEPHUS:“Antiq.” i. 11, 4, as that which they had seen. The biblical tradition has here passed into a mere legend, which points out a pillar-like salt-cone, about forty feet high, at the lower end of the Dead Sea, as this pillar of salt (see KNOBEL, p. 176, SEETZEN: “Travels,” ii. p. 240; LYNCH: “Report,” p. 183 ff.). This salt-cone is connected with the salt-mountain of Usdum (Sodom). ROBINSON: “Researches,” ii. p. 481–485. [Also Grove’s article on the “Salt Sea,” in Smith’s Dictionary.—A. G.]—And Abraham gat up early in the morning. [That is, the morning of the destruction.—A. G.]—The catastrophe of the judgment was soon completed. The destruction, viewed from its universal aspect and relations, is ascribed to Elohim. But it is God, as Elohim also, who saves Lot, for Abraham’s sake (see the remarks upon his intercession).—Out of the midst of the destruction.—A vivid description of the salvation of Lot from the extremest peril, in a place which itself lay in the skirts of the overthrow,—a statement which Knobel, without the least ground, attempts to prove differs from the earlier account.
The destination of this judgment, whose preconditions lay in the terrestrial volcanic character of the vale of Siddim (see Gen 14:10), for an eternal warning to the descendants of Abraham, i.e., all the members of the kingdom of God, appears clearly in the constant quotation in the Holy Scriptures. Sodom is alone named, as the most important city (Is. 3:9; Lam. 4:6; Ezek. 16:48; Matt. 11:23), Sodom and Gomorrah as the two greatest (Is. 1:9, 13, 19, and in other passages), Admah and Zeboim (Hos. 11:8), and in the “Book of Wisdom” the five cities are named in a vague and general way.
The catastrophe, conditioned through the nature of the ground, corresponds with the divine decree of judgment. The fundamental idea is the burning of the earth, through the fire from heaven; but that an earthquake, which are frequent in Palestine, may have been in action, and that volcanic eruptions might have wrought together with this, is intimated in the expression: All the plain was overthrown. The Dead Sea was formed through the flowing in of the Jordan, in connection with the sinking of the ground.
But there are two views concerning the Dead Sea. According to one (Leake, Hoff, and others), the Jordan before this flowed through the vale of Siddim to the Ailanitic gulf of the Red Sea. In the other view (Robinson and others), there was an inland sea, before the catastrophe of Sodom, which forms part of the Dead Sea. For the reasons in favor of the latter view, see KNOBEL, p. 177. A principal reason is found in the fact that the northern part of the Dead Sea has a depth throughout of nearly 1300 feet, while the southern is only 15 feet deep, is rich in asphaltum, has hot places, and is hot at the bottom. BUNSEN: “That northern basin, according to Ritter’s statement (xv. 767, 778), is due to the falling in of the ground; the local elevation of the southern part, to the peculiar character of the ground.” Upon the Dead Sea, see KNOBEL, p. 177; KEIL, p. 165; DELITZSCH, p. 398; and the Dictionaries, especially the article “Salt Sea,” in the “Bible Dictionary for Christian People.” [“The earlier view is now abandoned, and it has no decisive ground in the sacred history.” DELITZSCH, p. 289. See also GROVE, in S. D. p. 1339.—A. G.]
5. Lot’s departure, and his descendants (Gen 19:30–38).—And Lot went out of Zoar.—[“Lot’s rescue is ascribed to Elohim, as the judge of the whole earth, not to the covenant God, Jehovah, because Lot in his separation from Abraham was removed from the special leading and providence of Jehovah.” KEIL, p. 166.—A. G.] After he had recovered from the paralyzing terrors which fettered him in Zoar, a calculating fear took possession of him and drove him from Zoar further into the mountains of Moab, in the east. It was an unbelieving fear, for the Lord had granted Zoar to him as an asylum; he could not trust that divine promise further. The result is, that, poor and lonely, he must dwell with his two daughters in a cave in those cavernous chalk mountains. Lot is thus now a poor troglodyte. “There are in that region now those who dwell in caves and grottoes (Buckingham and Lynch).” KNOBEL, p. 178.—And the first-born said to the younger.—[Our father is old. This confirms the assertion of St. Stephen, in which it is implied that Abraham was not the oldest son of Terah; for Lot was now old, and he was the son of Haran, and Haran was Abraham’s brother. Thus one part of Scripture confirms another, when perhaps we least expect it. WORDSWORTH, p. 89.—A. G.] The desire for posterity led her to the iniquitous thought of incest, which she believes excusable because there is not a man in the earth, etc. According to Keil and Knobel, they did not think that the human race had perished, but only that there was no man who would unite himself with them, the remnant of a region stricken with the curse. Their idea of the world, according to the terms of the narrative, appears to have been sad and gloomy. What did they know of the world, in their mountain solitude? This deed was worthy of Sodom, says Keil. But there is a distinction and a wide difference between incest and pederasty (see introduction). Knobel thinks that they were represented by the writer as moulded by the mother, who was probably a Sodomite; and, on the other hand, that Lot, as the nephew of Abraham, was more favorably (i.e., partially) represented. Every one of these points is fiction! The narrative, Knobel remarks, lacks probability. It assumes that Lot was so intoxicated both times that he should know nothing of what took place, and still, an old man should, with all this, be capable of begetting seed. Keil, on the contrary, says it does not follow from the text that Lot was in an unconscious state during the whole interval, as the Rabbins have, according to Jerome, described this as an incredible thing, taken in connection with the issue of the event. Indeed, the narrative says only that Lot was in an unconscious state, both when his daughters lay down, and when they rose up; in the evening perhaps through intoxication, in the morning through profound, heavy sleep. In any view, a certain measure of voluntariness must be assumed, according to the degree in which he was conscious, and therefore his intoxication can only be urged as an excuse, and this a wretched excuse, since the intoxication was, like the deed itself, immediately repeated. Psychologically, the reaction from great mental effort and tension is to be taken into account in pronouncing upon the pleasures of rest in an indolent and sensual nature.—Moab.—There are two derivations: מֵאָב, from the father, or מוֹ, water (as the semen virile is euphemistically called in Arabic), for semen and אָב. Keil decides in favor of the first derivation, from a reference to the explanatory expressions (Gen 19:32, 34, 36). [And also the analogy of the בֶּנ־עַמִּי.—A. G.]—Ammon.—בֶּנ־עַמִּי, son of my people. According to Delitzsch, the form עַמּוֹן designates simply the descendants of the people. For the character of the Moabites and Ammonites, especially in reference to their origin, see KNOBEL, p. 178, who, however, in his usual method, draws the inference as above remarked, that this narrative has its origin in Jewish animosity. Besides the reply of Keil [See Deut. 2:9, 19, and 23:4. Lot here disappears from the history, and, as Kurtz remarks, it is the design of this narrative to give a support for the later records of the relation of these tribes with the Israelites.—A. G.] Delitzsch also may be consulted (p. 401). Knobel himself recognizes the fact of the descent of both of these peoples from Lot. The nomadic hordes of Lot gradually extended themselves east and northeast, and partly subdued and destroyed, and partly incorporated among themselves, the original tribes of the Emim and Susim.
DOCTRINAL AND ETHICAL
See the preliminary and Exegetical remarks.
1. Upon the manifestation in the oak grove of Mamre compare Gen 12. We observe, however, that the manifestation which was given to Abraham, was complex, because it had reference in part to him and the birth of Isaac, and in part to Lot and Sodom. Hence it resolves itself, in the course of the history, into two manifestations.
2. The connection of the promise of redemption and the announcement of judgment, which is peculiar to this section, runs throughout the whole sacred Scripture.
3. The oriental virtue of hospitality appears here in the light of the theocratic faith, and so likewise its blessing, which is proclaimed throughout the whole Scripture, down even to the epistle to the Hebrews (Heb. 13:2.) It is a contradiction in the natural custom of the Arabs, that they will rob the pilgrim in the desert before he enters their tents, but receive him with the greatest hospitality, as it is generally true that the natural virtues of people are tainted by contradictions. Hospitality, however, is the specific virtue of the Arab, his inheritance from his father Abraham. But in Abraham himself this virtue is consecrated to be the spiritual fruit of faith.
4. The feast of God with Abraham. [How true it is that Abraham has now become the friend of God, James 2:23. And what light this history casts upon the meaning of that term.—A. G.] A New Testament and heavenly sign, whose later reflection is the table of shew-bread in the temple, the Lord’s Supper in the New Covenant, and the Marriage Supper of the Lamb in the new world.
5. The distinction between the laughing of Abraham and Sarah (see above). In Gen 26:6 there appears still another, a third laugh, in order to determine the name Isaac (comp. 5:9). The laughter of a joyful faith, the laughter of a doubting little faith, and the laughter of astonishment or even of the animosity of the world, appear and participate in the name of the son of promise, as indeed at that of every child of the promise.
6. The initiation of Abraham into the purposes of God. In Gen 18:17, “the Scripture has the addition of τοῦ παιδός μου (עבדי) to ἀπὸ ’Αβραὰμ, for which Philo reads τοῦ φίλου μου (comp. James. 2:23). There is scarcely any passage in which this עַבְדִּי or אֹהֲבִי (Isa. 41:8; 2 Chron. 20:7), would be more fitting than in this. Abraham is the friend of Jehovah (among the Moslems it has become a surname; chalíl Allah, or merely el-chalil, from which Hebron is also called Beit-el-chalîl, or simply El-chalîl), and we have no secrets from a friend.” Delitzsch (comp. John 15:15 ff.). The first reason is, that God has chosen Abraham, and that he, as the chosen, has the destination to found in his race for all time, a tradition and school of the revelation of God, of righteousness and judgment. The doctrine of the election first appears here in its more definite form. [God says, I know him, but also that he will command, &c. We ought not to overlook how early family relations, instructions and discipline, assume an important place in the progress of the kingdom of God; and what a blessing descends upon those who are faithful as parents. “Family religion is God’s method for propagating his church. This would lead him to exercise a careful parental authority for controlling his house in the name of God.” Jacobus.—A. G.]
7. A further and more peculiar reason, why God reveals to Abraham the impending judgment upon Sodom, lies in this, that not only the history of Sodom, but also the Dead Sea, should be for all time a constituent part of the sacred history, a solemn warning for the people of God, and for all the world. At the same time this history should make illustrious the justice of God, according to which a people are ripe for judgment, when a cry of its iniquity ascends to heaven.
8. Abraham’s intercession, in its strength and in its self-limitation, is an eternal example of the true position of the believer to the corruption of the world. Upon the self-limitation of intercession see 1 John 5:16. Intercession even falls away from faith and becomes mere fanaticism or frenzy, when it oversteps the limits of truth. Abraham’s excuses in his intercession, his prudent progress in his petitions, his final silence, prove that even the boldest intercourse is morally conditioned. On the other hand, the whole power of intercession and the full certainty that prayer will be answered, appear here most clearly. [See the 29th verse, which makes it clear that Araham’s intercession was not fruitless.—A. G.]
9. It is evident from the intercession of Abraham, that the father of the faithful had a very different idea of righteousness from that which regards it as consisting only in the non plus ultra of punishment. See upon the idea of δίκαιος, Matt. 1:19. Moreover, in the reflection, the prudence, and the constancy of the intercession, the Abrahamic or even the Israelitish character appears here in its true worth and in its sanctified form, as it enters afterward in the life of Jacob at first less sanctified, but at the same fitted for sanctification. But in regard to the thought of Abraham’s intercession, we would make the following remarks: 1. His intercession takes more and more the form of a question. 2. He does not pray that the godless should be freed from punishment, but for the sparing of the righteous, and the turning away of the destructive judgment from all, in case there should be found a sufficient salt of the righteous among them. 3. His prayer includes the thought that God would not destroy any single righteous one with the wicked, although the number of the righteous should be too small to preserve the whole. [The righteous, of course, are not destroyed, although they are often involved in the punishment of the wicked.—A. G.]
10. This history makes the truth conspicuous for all time, that the whole depraved world is preserved through a seed of believing and pious men, and that indeed, not according to a numerical, but according to their dynamic majority. Ten righteous would have saved Sodom. But when even the salt of the earth (Matt. 5:13) does not avail to save a people or a community, then still God cares for the salvation of his chosen, as is seen in the history of Noah, the history of Lot, and the history of the destruction of Jerusalem. But the relative mediators who are given to the world in the “salt of the earth,” point to the absolute mediator, Christ, who is the central saving pivot in the history of the world. [We stand here on the verge of a most striking type of the judgment. We know that the storm is gathering and ready to burst, but in the awful silence which precedes it we hear the voice of the intercessor. Thus while the final judgment is preparing, the voice of the true intercessor is heard.—A. G.]
11. The Angels in Sodom. In all such cases there must come a last final decision. See above.
12. The manifestation which was given to Lot, corresponds with that which was given to Abraham, in a way similar to that in which the vision of the centurion, Cornelius, at Cæsarea, corresponds to the vision of Peter, at Joppa (Acts 10). The precondition for this connection of the revelations was, doubtless, in both cases, the mysterious bond of a common premonition or presentiment of great events.
13. The sin of Sodom runs, as a general characteristic, through the heathen world (see Rom. 1:24); still, in this aspect some nations are far more innocent or guilty than others. Church history also, in this connection, preserves sad remembrances. Among the causes of the ruin of the Osmanic kingdom, this sin stands prominent whose analogue is found in the sin of Onan (Gen 38:8).
14. The description of the night scene in Sodom is a night piece of terrible aspect and impressiveness. It is plain (from the little prospect of the mass for the gratification of personal lusts, and from the probability that the inhabitants of the city only knew indirectly of Lot’s mysterious guests), that the uproar of the Sodomites was more than half an uprising against the judgment of Lot which they had already experienced, and a tumultuous manifestation that their abominable immorality must be held as a public custom, of which we have a purely analogous event in the uproar of the heathen at Ephesus (Acts 19:28 ff). All the spirits of villainy, wantonness, and scoffing unbelief are to be regarded as unfettered. The ripeness of the city for destruction, however, is not to be viewed directly as a ripeness of the Sodomites for damnation (see Matt. 11:23).
15. The demonic and bestial nature of sin appears in this history in frightful, full life, or rather death size. [So, also, its corrupting power. Lot felt its influence, even though he resisted and condemned their vile practices. The offer which he makes to save his guests, although made under great confusion, anxiety and terror, shows its influence.—A. G.]
16. Lot’s salvation is an image of salvation with the utmost difficulty. But the delay of his faint heartedness is raised to its highest power of double heartedness in the history of his wife. She is the example of a worldly mind, which turns back from the way of salvation, and through its seeking after the world falls into the fire of judgment.5 In this sense the Lord has set Lot’s wife as a warning example (Luke 17:32). We may perceive that even Lot was sensibly depressed as to the earnestness of his faith, through the ridicule of his sons-in-law, who regarded him as a jester.
17. The Dead Sea serves to complete the symbolic meaning which is peculiar to the whole land of Canaan. The whole land is an illustration of the divine word, and of sacred history, and thus the Dead Sea in particular, is the glass of the divine judgment. As a monument of the miraculous judgment it stands opposed to the Red Sea, which is the monument of the miraculous deliverance. So, likewise, as the sea of the old covenant, it stands opposed to Genessaret, the sea of the new covenant. In the description of the Dead Sea, however, we must guard against those ancient assumptions, of the apples of Sodom, etc., although some one-sided apologies for these traditions of the Dead Sea have appeared again in recent times. [It is interesting to note how often this event is referred to in the New Testament, not only directly but incidentally. The phrases flee from the wrath to come, unquenchable fire, the description of the suddenness and completeness of the judgment, and its eternal duration in the smoke of their torment, which ascendeth for ever and ever. All have a more or less direct reference to this event.—A. G.]
18. The early rising of Abraham, his hastening to the place where he stood before Jehovah, and his silent look to the smoking vale of Siddim, is a sublime and impressive picture. There stands the mourning priest, lonely and silent in the morning light, as Jeremiah sat upon the ruins of Jerusalem. Now he saw that there were not ten righteous in Sodom, but knew from the rescue of Noah from the flood, and felt confident indeed that his intercession had not been in vain.
19. In the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, as in the primitive miracles in Egypt, and in the biblical miracles generally, the correspondence between the miraculous divine providence and the intellectual and natural conditions upon the earth must not be mistaken.
20. Lot and his daughters. It is a psychological fact that, in human nature, especially in beginners in the age of faith or those whose sensuous nature is strong, after a great tension of the life of faith, of spiritual elevation, great and dangerous reactions occur, during which temptation may easily prove corrupting to the man.
21. Moab and Ammon. See the Bible Dictionaries. “De Wette, Tuch, Knobel, explain the narrative as a fiction of Israelitish national animosity, &c. (See above.) When, however, later debauchery (Num. 2:25) and impiety (e.g. 2 Kings 3:26 ff) appear as fundamental traits in the character and cultus of both people, we can at least hold with equal justice, that these inherited sins came with them from their origin, as that the tradition of their origin has moulded their character.”
22. Lot’s disappearance. The chastising hand of God is seen in the gravest form, in the fact that Lot is lost in the darkness of the mountains of Moab, as a dweller in the caves. But it may be questioned whether one is justified by this, in saying that he came to a bad end, as DELITZSCH does in a detailed description, after a characteristic outline by F. C. V. MOSERS (p. 400, comp. KIEL, p. 167). His not returning poor and shipwrecked can be explained upon better grounds. In any case the testimony for him, 2 Pet. 2:7, 8, must not be overlooked. There remains one light point in his life, since he sustained the assaults of all Sodom upon his house, in the most extreme danger of his life. [It may be said, moreover, that his leaving home and property at the divine warning, and when there were yet no visible signs of the judgment, and his flight without looking back, indicate the reality and genuineness of his faith.—A. G.] His two-fold intoxication certainly has greater guilt than the one intoxication of Noah. His two-fold sin with his daughters may involve greater difficulty than the act of Judah. Both analogies show, however, that in judging so ancient a character we may easily place them too strictly in modern points of view. True, he appears, in comparison with Abraham, with whom he once entered upon the path of the faith of the promise, in a light similar to that in which Esau appears in relation to Jacob. He might have sufficient piety to save his soul, but he was no man of the future, who could found a line of blessing; he was too much like the mass, too much under the senses, and too much involved in respect to worldly things for such a calling. “With the history of Lot,” DELITZSCH remarks, “the side line from Haran is completed, and the origin of two people who are interwoven in the history of Israel is related.”
23. The destruction of Sodom an example of the later destruction of the Canaanites.
24. The prudence which, in the life of Abraham, appears as a sinful prudence, and yet susceptible of being sanctified, appears in the lives of his kindred as a family trait of the children of Therah, in Lot and his daughters, as well as in Laban. But it takes on in them the expression of refined cunning, and thus becomes manifoldly and positively ungodly. Thus Lot himself chose the region of Sodom; thus he flatteringly addressed the Sodomites as brethren; thus he offers them his daughters as a substitute, probably from an ironical expression of a prudent foresight that they, controlled by their demonic and unnatural lusts, would reject his proposal: but his daughters use criminal cunning to obtain offspring. This incest, however, appears in a milder light when set in contrast with the sin of Sodom.
25. PASSAVANT. These cities are represented throughout the old covenant as types of the most severe judgments of God (Jer. 41:11; 50:40, etc.) And there is again another word in the old covenant, a wonderful, mysterious promise, spoken concerning these places, which, at the very least, alleviates the eternity of the pain, and for the sake of Jesus Christ, the only redeemer of all mankind, abbreviates the endurance of the heavy judgments of the poor heathen (see Ezek. 39:25; Jer. 29:14; 48:47; Ezek. 16). [The passages quoted by no means sustain the inference which is here drawn from them; and the inference lies in the face of the general and constant testimony of the Scriptures. The words of our Lord, Matt. 11:24, place the destiny of these places and of the heathen in its true light.—A. G.] That farther prophetic vision of the seer appears to cast new light upon the farther fate of Sodom, when he says: This water flows out towards the east and down into the plain, and goes into the sea (salt sea), and when it comes into the sea its waters shall become healthful (Gen 47:8 ff.; 1 Pet. 3:19 f.; 4:6). [The following learned and impressive note on the destruction of Sodom, kindly furnished me by its author, will be read with the deepest interest.—A. G.]
NOTE ON THE DESTRUCTION OF SODOM—ITS SUDDENNESS—THE DEEP IMPRESSION IT MADE ON THE ANCIENT MIND—ITS FREQUENT MENTION IN THE SCRIPTURES—TACITUS—THE ARABIAN TRADITION.—“As the subversion by God of Sodom and Gomorrah.” Such is the constant style of reference in the Bible. See Deut. 29:22; Is. 13:19; Jer. 49:18; Jer. 50:40; Lam. 4:6; Amos 4:11. Its ever occurring in the same form of words, shows that it was a proverbial or traditional saying; and this reveals to us how vividly the awful event had stamped itself upon the human memory. It is always described in language of its own. The peculiar Hebrew word is used in the same way of no other catastrophe. The word מַהְפֵכָה denotes utter subversion or reversal,—the bringing of a thing, and all that belongs to it, in the direct opposite of its former condition. Land has become water, fertility barrenness and salt, beauty deformity, fragrance and freshness a vile and loathsome putridity. It is not simply decay and ruin, but an overthrow total and remediless.
These cities are thus referred to as a standing warning—a judgment of God visible from generation to generation. It is a region cursed by the Almighty,—doomed ever to bear the marks of its dreadful visitation, to which Peter refers, 2 Pet. 2:6, καὶ πόλεις Σοδόμων καὶ Γομόῤῥας τεφρώσας ΚΑΤΑΣΤΡΟΦΗ κατέκρινεν, ὑπόδειγμα τεθεικώς: “the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah he condemned with an overthrow, when he reduced them to ashes and set them forth as an example.” The Greek word katastrophe is the exact counterpart of the Hebrew מהפכה, having the same peculiar intensity of meaning as used in this connection. In Jude 7. the language is still stronger—πρόκεινται δεῖγμα πυρὸς αἰωνίου: “they are set forth as an example, undergoing (ὑπέχουσαι) the sentence of eternal fire.” This eternal fire does not mean the punishment of the inhabitants in another world (though the event itself may be regarded as the first type of Hell, the first suggestive glimpse to the human mind of that awful doctrine), but has primary reference to their long earthly desolation. The language most graphically expresses the condition of those doomed plains, as showing the signs of their fearful burning, age after age, ἀπ’ αἰῶνος εἰς αἰῶνα.
These regions were very near to Jerusalem, almost if not quite visible from the highest places; and this accounts for the prophet’s frequent appeal to them, εἰς δεῖγμα, et in terrorem. How fearful is the allusion to it made by Ezekiel, 16:46; where the adulterous Judah is told to remember the startling proximity of this her younger or smaller sister, so early buried in volcanic fires: “Thine elder sister, Samaria, that dwelleth on thy left (the N. W.), and thy smaller6 sister, Sodom, and her daughters (the other cities of the plain), that lie upon thy right.” How awful the reminiscence of this lost sister Sodom lying for so many ages under the sulphurous waters of the Dead Sea, with all the burnt district a short distance to the right of Jerusalem, and ever presenting that terrific warning, the δεῖγμα πυρὸς αἰωνίου, to the oft rebellious city.
We find elsewhere evidence of the deep impression this early divine judgment made upon the ancient mind. The language of Tacitus, Hist. v. 7, could only have come from some vivid tradition prevailing in the East and brought thence to Rome: Haud procul inde campi, quos ferunt olim uberes, magnis que urbibus habitatos, FULMINUM JACTU arsisse, et manere vestigia terramque ipsam specie torridam vim frugiferam perdidisse; nam cuncta atra et inania velut in CINEREM vanescunt. Ego, sicut inclitas quondam urbes IGNE CŒLESTI flagrasse concesserim, etc. There is something in the language strikingly resembling that of Peter and Jude. Compare Tacitus’ fulminum jactu arsisse—igne cœlesti flagrasse—manere vestigia, with the δεῖγμα πυρὸς αἰωνίου, and in cinerem with τεφρώσας. They appear to be the set terms in all descriptions. Nothing but an early, most vivid impression could have produced such fixedness and vividness in the language of the tradition.
The same feature of constancy in terms for which no others could be an adequate substitute, appears remarkably in the notices of the Koran, which strong internal evidence shows must have come from tradition independent of the O. T. scriptures. It manifests itself especially in one word ever found in connection. It is the Arabic العُوٌ تَفاَـا ت, which is, etymologically, the same with the Hebrew מַהִפֵּכָה, and used in a similar manner as a participial noun. The peculiarity, however, is, that in the Arabic the primary sense which belongs to it in this connection had long ceased, so that no traces of it are anywhere else found, even in the remains which we have of ante-Mohammedan writing. Both the form and the peculiar sense have become obsolete in all other applications of the root. In this recurring phrase, as used of these ancient cities, it has acquired something like the force of a proper name as a well known appellative, taking its place along with Midian, Egypt, Hud, Thamud, and other names of places that tradition gives as having been specially visited with the divine vengeance. Thus Sodom and Gomorrah are ever called Al-mow-ta-fe-kat, “the overturned.” As in Koran Surat, liii. 51–55, where it occurs with others given as proper names: “And that he destroyed Ad, and Thamud, and left no remainder; and also the people of Noah before them, and the Mow-ta-fe-kat (the overturned) he cast down, and that which covered them covered them.” The last clause of this passage is meant to be intense in its repetition: that is, there is no conceiving the horrors under which they lay; “ that which covered them covered them,”—no tongue can tell it. So, also, Koran lxix. 9: “thus went on Pharoah and those who were before him, the Mow-ta-fe-kat (the overturned), in their sin.” Thamud and Ad, as usual, had been mentioned just before. The constant introducing of the Mow-ta-fe-kat along with these, which are peculiar Arabic traditions, shows that the story of the “overturned” cities had a common origin with them, and was not derived from the Hebrew scriptures.
The usage appears still more clearly, Koran ix. 71, where the term in question occurs in connection with the people of Ad, and the wicked in the days of Abraham, who is the peculiar Mohammedan patriarch: “Did there not come to them the story of those who were before them—the people of Noah and of Ad, and of the people of Abraham, and of the inhabitants of Midian, and of ‘the Overturned’ (the Mow-ta-fe-kat), whose messengers came unto them with their prophecies?” Now what makes this the more striking is the fact (as before indicated) that although the Arabic root, اـفـَك, or دـفـَك, is, in all other cases (and these are quite frequent), used solely in its secondary meaning of falsehood (coming from the primary sense of subversion, turning upside down, through the intermediate ideas of contrariness or opposition, ab invertendo, pervertendo), in these special usages from the Koran, and others like them, the word ever goes back to its primitive Hebrew sense, being taken precisely as הפך and מהפכה in the Bible. If the Hebrew verb had had a hoth-pa-hel form, its participle, מָתְהַפֵּךְ, moth-hap-pek = motaffek, would be almost identical with the Arabic word so constantly used for this purpose (in this sense) and for no other. Evidently it was an archaism in the days of Mohammed, and this accounts for its being used as a proper name, in which form it had become fixed against change and substitution. The root is used in the same manner throughout the Syriac version, but in this branch of the Shemitic it had, in all its applications, kept nearer to its old primary sense preserved in the Hebrew.
What shows that it was an antique phrase in Arabic, or that اـفـَك (or הפך) had lost the sense of subversion in all other applications, and that its employment as a proper name in this particular connection came from traditional preservation, is the fact that even in translating the Old Testament, the Jewish Arabic interpreters never use it,—not even in those places where the Hebrew הפך and מהפכה would have immediately suggested it as the more fitting word; and this, too, notwithstanding that they frequently give to an Arabic term a rarer Hebrew sense. Thus Rabbi Saad does not employ it in this very passage, Isaiah 13:19, but uses, instead, the more common Arabic verb, قلب, to express the sense of overturning which is given by מתפכה: كبا تلب الله سل وم وععووة. Now in the Arabic verb اـفـَك, the letter ה (or هـ) of the Hebrew has been softened into א, but there can be no doubt of the two words being etymologically identical. So, too, in the Koran, sometimes, the Hebrew sense of the antique Arabic العو تٌفكة , is clearly given in different and more common Arabic words. As in Surat xv. 73, 74, where, speaking again of this very judgment, and the manner of it, it says: “And a sudden storm took them at sunrise, and we made the highest parts of it to be the lowest, كعلنا عاليها ساذـا ـها (that is, we turned it upside down), and we rained upon them stones of burning marl”—a volcanic earthquake and a lava shower.
This standing epithet occurs, Lam. 4:6, in the same connection and in the same way; that is, in the nature of a proper name, though there it has the form of the participle perfect of הפך. It is סְדֹם הַהֲפוּכָה, “Sodom the overturned.” Our English translation of the whole passage is far from being clear: “Greater than the punishment of the sin of Sodom which was overthrown as in a moment, and no hands stayed on her”: לֹא חָלוּ בָהּ יָדָיִם. In this passage there is an uncertainty as to the etymology and meaning of the word חָלוּ, but that interpretation is to be preferred which is most in keeping with the ideas of suddenness, or quick alarm, that make so graphic a feature in all allusions to the event, whether Hebrew or Arabic. Gesenius makes חלו from חול (torquere), and gives it the sense: non immissæ sunt manus, “no hands were sent upon, or against her”—meaning, hands of the enemy. Rabbi Tanchum’s Arabic commentary is to the same effect: “Of Sodom it is said here, that there did not come upon her the hand of man, but she was overturned, at one blow, by the divine command; the word being the same as that in Jer. 23:19, ‘on the head of the wicked shall rush (יָחוּל) a rushing tempest, סַעַר מִתְחוֹלֵל (a whirlwind slung or hurled), and also as found Eccles. 5:12, 15. יֵשׁ רָעָה חוֹלָה, there is a sore evil (an impending or threatening evil) that I have seen under the sun.”
It may be a question here, however, whether ידים refers to the hands of the enemy, or to the hands of the inhabitants of the doomed city. If we place the accent on the ultimate, חָלוּ may be from חלה, and this would give us the rendering, “when no hands were weak in her”—that is, suddenly, when they were in their full strength and security. Or the same general idea may be obtained from חול, if we advert to its primary sense, which we find very clearly in the Arabic دـال. It is a curving motion combined with the spiral or oblique. Hence the sense of pain as expressed by twisting, wringing (torquere). It is used to denote the most intense anguish, the wringing of the hands in despair; which is the language employed by the Peschito Syriac version to render ἀπορία (distress or perplexity), Luke 21:25. No hands were wrung in her. So sudden was the storm that there was no time for lamenting over their doom.
All this, too, is expressed by the way in which the frequent Koranic word, صَيكَة, is used when sudden judgments are described, and especially this particular event. It is rendered sometimes, punishment, or pain. It is also used of the crash of the thunder, fragor tonitru; but in its most literal sense it denotes one sharp cry or shriek. Or it may be rendered, a shock. Thus in the passage before quoted, Surat xv. 73: “a sudden storm or shock took them at sunrise” (comp. Gen. 19:23). The same, verse 83 of the same Surat, “took them early in the morning.” Though literally denoting one sudden scream of terror, it is taken for the cause, the thunderstorm or earthquake that produces it. Thus is it most impressively employed to represent the suddenness and surprise of the judgment that came upon those people of Lot, as the Sodomites are styled, ها الٌا صيكة واحلة ها لها هن ذـواف, “only one shock; there was in it no waiting,” no recovery. Or it may be rendered, “only one cry, and all was over.” The remedilessness, as well as the suddenness, is still more graphically set forth in the use of similar language, Surat xxxvi. 25: “Lo, one cry, and they are all still”—literally, burnt out, خاهل ون, extinguished, dead. So, again, Surat liv. 31: “Lo, we sent upon them one shock (one shriek) and they are all burnt stubble.” In the same manner is it used of the day of judgment, xxxvi. 53: “One shock, or one cry, and they (the risen dead) are all before us.” For other similar passages with similar applications, see Koran, xi. 70, 97; xxiii. 43; xxix. 39; l. 41; xv. 73, 83; lxiii. 3.
In the most express terms do the Scriptures assign this catastrophe of Sodom and Gomorrah to the judicial action of God, the Lord of nature. No language can be clearer: “Jehovah rained upon them fire from Jehovah out of heaven,” Gen. 19:24. And yet, in perfect consistency with this, may we regard it as brought about by natural causes, though belonging to those great movements in nature which marked the primitive period of our present earth, or before its constitution became settled in that comparative calm which leads the scoffer to say that “all things continue as they were from the beginning.” This fearful מַהְפֵּכָה, or overthrow, has impressed indelible “vestigia” (to use the language of Tacitus) on the region in which it took place; but no less sharp and incisive are the marks it has left in the Oriental traditions, and the peculiar language to which it has given rise in them all. It sent one sharp cry through the ancient Eastern world, and that cry has echoed down to us through other channels than the Hebrew Scriptures. On this account has the peculiar language employed been so minutely traced, as furnishing evidence of the minute credibility of an event so ancient, and of the strong impression it must have made at the time. It was a divine judgment, a divine revelation in the earth, too awful and too unmistakable to allow much diversity of language in describing it, and it is this constant manner of telling the fearful story which separates it widely from the shadowy and changing mythical, with which some would compare it.—T. L.]
HOMILETICAL AND PRACTICAL
See the Doctrinal and Ethical paragraphs.
The xviiith ch. Abraham, the xixth Lot. Prominent points in Abraham’s life: 1. the great vision; 2. the feast of the angels; 3. the faith in the promise; 4. the intercession for Sodom. Prominent points in the life of Lot: 1. the entertaining of the angels; 2. the moral resistance of the assault of the whole city of Sodom; 3. his faith, and his mission to his two sons-in-law; 4. his emigration with his family in distress, before the judgment. The revelation of grace and of wrath.—The connection of the announcement of salvation with the announcement of judgment.—The oak grove of Mamre, and the burning Sodom.—As Abraham saved Lot the first time through war, so the second time through his intercessory prayer.—Abraham and Lot in their different positions.—In their last position with respect to each other (Abraham the friend of God, Lot the fugitive from Sodom, etc.).—The connection of the manifestation to Abraham and Lot.—The great manifestation of God, in the life of Abraham, in its great significance: 1. A revelation of the incarnation of God, of the future Christ, and at the same time of the angelic world; 2. a revelation of the great sign of the coming redemption, and of the coming judgment.
1. Section. The appearance of Jehovah in the oak grove of Mamre, and the promise of the birth of Isaac (Gen 18:1–15). The great manifestation of God, in the life of Abraham, is the most striking sign in the old covenant of the incarnation of God.—The feast in the oak grove of Mamre; a sign of the incarnation of God.—Abraham in the oak grove of Mamre; great in his power of intuition, and great in his activity—Herein, also, a type of Christ.—As in all great characters, the contrasts of nature are here reconciled and removed.—Abraham’s hospitality as to its peculiar traits.—The real method and spirit of hospitality consists alone in this, that in or with the stranger we receive the Lord himself.—How well love and humility qualify Abraham to be the giver of the feast, the one who makes ready the meal and then stands and serves.—Sarah as the housewife.—Sarah’s doubting laughter, and believing astonishment.
Gen 19:10, The promise of Isaac: 1. a promise; 2. an endless fulness and succession of promises.—Sacred oak grove: sign of the sacred temples, especially of the Gothic Cathedral,—the sacred feast, sign of the most sacred meals.—Abraham’s friendship with God as hospitality: 1. God as the guest of Abraham in this world; 2. Abraham as the guest of God in the other world (to sit down with Abraham, Abraham’s bosom).—STARKE: Gen 19:1 (The manifestation of the Son of God, at first, is not through a natural nor even through a personal union, but through a voluntary and casual union, since he took from his free love a body, or rather the form of a body, for a time).—To this person are ascribed divine works, omnipotence (Gen 19:10, 14), omnipresence (Gen 19:13), the power to execute judgment (Gen 19:25).—The virtue of hospitality is becoming to Christians, and should be practised especially by believers and the pious (Heb. 13:2; Is. 58:7; 1 Pet. 4:9; Job 31:32; Rom. 12:13; Gal. 6:10); but still they must use circumspection here also.—We should not permit strangers to rest in the streets, but receive them and show them kindness and help (Rom. 12:13), to which now innkeepers are in a peculiar sense obliged (Luke 10:34, 35).
Gen 19:15. From the fact that Sarah makes no further reply, but receives her rebuke patiently, we may see that she recognizes her fault, and that God had rebuked it, hence she also is graciously preserved, that she should be at the same time the type of the free New Testament Church (Gal. 4:22, 27, 31) and the mother of believers (1 Pet. 3:6). How severely, on the other hand, Zacharias was chastised for his unbelief (see Luke 1:20.)—A Christian must never measure the promises of God by what seems good to him, but give to the power of God the preference over his reason (Zech. 8:6; Luke 1:37; 1 Pet. 3:6).—GERLACH: In regard to Sarah. Even her unbelief which lay concealed within her, must be brought out into the light, since it was now designed to confirm her confidence in the promise, which should not be fulfilled without her faith.—SCHRÖDER, (LUTHER): Now there is hospitality in all places where the church is. She has always a common purse and storehouse, according to Matt. 5:42, and we should all so serve her, and furnish her, not only with doctrine but also with kindness, and that the spirit and the flesh may here at the same time find refreshment and consolation (Matt. 25:35, 40).—RAMBACH: Gen 19:8. As Abraham’s tent is here the house in which the Son of God and his angels are entertained, so is his bosom the common place of rest for the blessed in the other world (Luke 16:22).—The power and susceptibility for intuition, and the absorbing and even careful attention to business, which were separated in Mary and Martha (Luke 10:39), are here seen united in the same person.—That they must necessarily eat, would be in opposition to their spiritual nature, but the power to eat was given with the human form.
Gen 19:9. Now follows, as LUTHER says, the table talk, that nothing might be wanting in this description, and that the whole world might know that this feast was not so passed as among the monks, who must keep silence at the table.
2. Section. The revelation of God concerning Sodom, and Abraham’s intercessory prayer (Gen 19:16–33).—1. The communing of God with himself before the revelation (Gen 19:18), or the revelation of God throughout the fruit of the highest divine purpose, as the creation of man; 2. the reason for this revelation (Gen 19:19); 3. its contents (Gen 19:20, 21); 4. its results: a. the departure of the men to the judgment (Gen 19:22); b. the intercession of Abraham (Gen 19:23–30).—Abraham the friend of God (child of God, servant of God, the intimate confidant of God).—The cry of the sin of Sodom.—The intercession of Abraham for Sodom as the first long prayer and intercession communicated to us: 1. awakened or animated by the consciousness of salvation which was given to him; 2. as a pattern for all intercessory prayers.—The great importance of intercession.—Its features: 1. The boldness of faith; 2. caution in the fear of God; 3. truthfulness of love.—Even the apparently unavailing intercessions are not in vain.—STARKE: Gen 19:20. They (the Sodomites) went so far that the greatness of their sin had become a proverb (Is. 1:9 ff.), and therefore they were destroyed 400 years earlier than the Canaanites.—The sins crying to heaven are especially, in the Holy Scriptures: 1. the shedding of innocent blood (Gen 4:10; Job 16:18); 2. the sin of Sodom; 3. the oppression of the people of God (Ex. 3:7), especially of widows and orphans. (Ex. 20:22, 27; Sirach. 35:19); 4. the withholding of the hire of the laborer (James 5:4).—Therefore he could not understand by the righteous little children; for, although they are not righteous in their natural state, they could not have committed sins crying to the heavens.—They were, however, included with those destroyed, without, it may be hoped, any injury to their blessedness, or (so will it be added by some in an uncertain way) because God saw that they would tread in the footpaths of their fathers. [But the Scriptures never allude to this knowledge of God as the ground of his acts, either saving or destructive.—The same event bears a very different aspect and meaning as sent to the wicked and the good, e.g., death. So with these judgments.—A. G.] The nearer Abraham comes to God in his prayers and intercession, the more clearly he recognizes his nothingness and entire unworthiness. A glorious fruit of faith.—The people of Sodom, indeed, could not think what was determined in the purpose of the watchers concerning them, and how Abraham stood in the breach.
Gen 19:32. This I will is here repeated six times, to intimate the truth of God, his earnest will, that he does not will the death of the sinner, but rather that he should turn unto him and live (Ezek. 18:11, 32).—BIB. TUB.: Intercession for a brother believer, even for the godless, a Christian duty.—Mark this, ye godless, that ye and the world stand only for the sake of the righteous.—We must come before God with the greatest reverence, and in the deepest humility of heart bow ourselves before his sacred majesty.—The righteous are highly esteemed in the sight of God.—GERLACH: Gen 19:19. Abraham, I have known him, i.e., chosen in my love. As Amos 3:2; John 17:3. Gen 19:23. The righteous who dwell together with the godless in any place, restrain the judgments of God.—ZINZENDORF: I cannot tell in terms strong enough the blessed privilege of speaking with our Lord.—CALWER HANDBUCH: But in this prayer lie concealed deep mysteries, which render conspicuous to us the worth and importance, in the sight of God, of the righteous in the world, and on the other hand helps to explain the wonderful patience and long suffering of God towards the evil, and even towards heaven crying sinners.—SCHRÖDER: CALVIN: If, therefore, oftentimes temptations contend in our hearts, and things meet us, in the providence of God, which seem to involve a contradiction, let the conviction of his righteousness still be unshaken in us. We must pour into his bosom the cares which give us pain and anxiety, that he may solve for us the difficulties which we cannot solve.—PASSAVANT: When I otherwise can do nothing, when I am without any influence, and free access, without any means or any power, then still I may do something through the intercessory prayer.
3. Section. The entrance and sojourn of the angels in Sodom, and the final manifestation of its depravity, in contrast with the better conduct of Lot (Gen 19:1–11). There are parts of this section which do not seem fitted for public reading and homiletical treatment. But the examination of the whole history may be joined, by practical and homiletical wisdom, to the section, Gen 19:1–3.—How sin is radically a beginning of the most extreme corruption: 1. it is against nature, and tends to the most unnatural abominations; 2. a delusion, which tends to fury and madness; 3. an act of disobedience, which issues in rebellion against God; 4. an impudence and falsehood, tending even to blasphemy.—Hellish night-scenes in the earliest antiquity.—The blinding of the godless that they could not find what they sought.—STARKE: (It is incredible that Lot, as the Rabbins think, sat in the gate to judge (Deut. 16:18) and had been a judge in Sodom.)—A Christian must behave towards every one, especially towards the pious, with humility and reverence (Rom. 12:10).—The holy angels dwell cheerfully with the pious.
Gen 19:5. (Lev. 18:22, 24; 20:13.) Has not experience shown, that if here and there songs and prayers have been offered in a home at evening by devout persons, there have been those who have run together before the windows and made them the matter of sport and ridicule, while on the other hand, in other homes every kind of night revel has been endured and approved.
Gen 19:8. The offer of Lot did not spring from evil, but from the greatest confusion and alarm; still he did wrong (Rom. 3:8 ff.). We see from this: 1. that Lot is not to be praised as some have thought (Ambrose, Chrysostom); 2. that he was not guilty of a sin which removes him beyond the grace of God.
Gen 19:9. An unreasonable reproach. Had there been now ten such strangers in Sodom, they would not yet have been destroyed.—The gracious requital. Lot ventured all to preserve his guests; now he experiences how he is saved by them.7 It belongs to no man to prevent a greater sin by a lesser.—Whoever will judge and punish the rough world, must be a disturber and excite an uproar.—Godless people are only hardened the more, through kind and gracious warnings.—Woe to him whom God strikes with spiritual blindness.8—GERLACH: The very nature of the trial which God adopts consists in this, that he honors to the very last the liberty lent by him to the creature, and does not punish to destruction until the most extreme abuse of freedom has been made evident.—CALWER HANDBUCH: Sins and shameful vices appear in their fullest disgracefulness in the night.—Lot appears, also, to have before rebuked their sinful movements, wherefore they reproach him, the stranger, with a lust of power—The nearer the judgments of God, the greater the security of sinners. [The scriptural signs that the judgment is near are: 1. that God abandons men or communities to out-breaking and presumptuous sins; 2. that warnings and chastisements fail to produce their effect, and especially when the person grows harder under them; 3. that God removes the good from any community—so before the flood, so before the destruction of Jerusalem; and, 4. the deep, undisturbed security of those over whom it is suspended.—A. G.]
4. Section. Lot’s salvation. Sodom’s destruction (Gen 19:12–29). Lot’s rescue from Sodom: 1. his obedience. The first message of deliverance (Gen 19:12–14). 2. Then, even, scarcely saved, on account of his delay and fears (Gen 19:15–22).—The test of Lot in the judgment of Sodom: 1. Saved, indeed, but, 2. scarcely saved, and that with difficulty. Urged, importuned by the angels. Paralyzed by his terror in the way. His wife lost. [Almost saved, and yet lost.—A. G.] His daughters.—In the history of Lot, also, the unity of the family is again illustrated: 1. In its great importance; 2. in its final extent.
Gen 19:15. The danger in delaying the flight out of Sodom, i.e., of conversion, or also of separation from the society of the wicked.—STARKE: (Gen 19:12. It may be what belongs to thee, and could therefore relate to his possessions, especially his herds. Still, some doubt, and think that he bore away as a gain or spoil only his own life and the lives of his family, while he must have left the herds behind in his haste.)
Gen 19:14. Acts 17:18.—Sodom a type of the spiritual Babylon (Rev. 11:8).—Whoever will not be borne away and crushed with the godless, he must early and cheerfully separate himself from them, while he has time and leisure9 (Rev. 18:4).
Gen 19:16. God shows his goodness not only to the pious, but to those who belong to them.—Upon Gen 19:21. How God excuses the weakness of the believer, if he walks with God in uprightness.10—As Zoar was spared at the intercession of Lot, so afterwards the house of Laban was blessed for Jacob’s sake, and Potiphar for the sake of Joseph, the widow’s meal-chest and cruse of oil for the sake of Elijah.—That Zoar was made better by the recollection of the terrible overthrow of the cities may be inferred from the fact that it was still standing at the time of Isaiah (Is. 15:5).—(A comparison between Sodom and Rome in eight particulars: beautiful region; security; iniquities; crying to the heavens; the true faith persecuted; announcement of its judgment (Rev.); the rescuing of the pious; punishment by fire; the rising of the sun; the enlightening of the Jews, etc. H. C. Rambach.)—(The Dead Sea: Troilo and others say: I could compare it only with the jaws of hell.)—The fearful judgment upon Lot’s wife: 1. She died immediately; 2. in her sins; 3. an unusual death; 4. remained unburied, an example of the vengeance of God.—Luke 7:32, 33; 9:62.
Gen 19:28. It is calm, pleasant weather with the children of God, when it storms with the godless (Exod. 10:22, 23; Ps. 32:10).—GERLACH: A living type of those whom the messenger of the Lord warns before the future punishment (Luke 17:28, 29).—The word: haste and escape for thy life; this is the deep undertone which must be heard through all preaching of the gospel.—CALW. HAND.: The mercy of the Lord saves Lot and his family, as a brand plucked from the burning. Until Lot is saved the Lord himself restrains his hand.—SCHWENKE: Gen 19:15. The deep impression which the declaration of the near judgment made upon him was greatly weakened by the mocking words of his sons-in-law; he delays, waits, puts off. Flesh and blood, and the clinging to the beautiful city, struggle with obedience to the revelation from God.—SCHRÖDER: The entrance of Lot into the vale of Siddim corresponds to his exodus (Baumgarten).11—How the first universal judgment of the flood, like the partial judgment upon Sodom and Gomorrah, serves in the Scriptures as an example and type of all the divine judgments, and especially of the last judgment (Luke 17:28 ff.; 2 Pet. 2:6, etc.).—HEUSER: Destruction of Sodom: 1. A judgment from heaven; 2. a sign for the earth.—TAUBE: The eternal righteousness of God in the judgment upon Sodom and Lot’s wife. The free mercy of God in saving Lot and his family.
5. Section. Lot’s disappearance and his descendants (Gen 19:30–38). The 30th verse is alone fitted for public use. But from this a faint light may be thrown upon the whole night-scene. Lot’s disappearance as a dweller in caves.—Lot’s history illustrates the truth, that whoever will build a house, must count the cost: 1. His inspired exodus from Haran with Abraham, and journey through Canaan to Egypt, with ever-increasing wealth; 2. his settlement in the valley of Sodom; 3. his asylum in Zoar; 4. his disappearance from the scene in the caves of the mountains.—How should the pious fear temptations when the mind is unbent after extreme spiritual tension.—Man falls easily into the sins of the flesh when the ideals of his intellectual life are dissolved and lose their power.12—Ruth a Moabitess.—STARKE: Lot’s daughters. The reason which moved them was rather a groundless prejudice than wantonness of the flesh. (Anxiety lest the human race should perish. It may be, also, that they were only Lot’s step-daughters, if he had married in Sodom a widow who was the mother of two daughters).—CRAMER: Loneliness in retired places allures not only to good, but also, and much more, to great sins (Eccles. 4:10).—Whoever will avoid sin must avoid the occasions which lead to it.—[Strong drink the fruitful source of untold degradation and sins.—A. G.]—GREGORY I.: There was a moral sense in Lot, but it was confused and disturbed. Intoxication deceived Lot, who was not deceived in Sodom; the flames of lust burn him, whom the flames of sulphur did not burn.—LUTHER: Some think that Lot died soon after, from distress and sorrow, before his daughters were delivered, because otherwise he would not have consented that names should be given them which should constantly remind him of his incest.—He who was not deceived in Sodom, drunkenness deceived; who in Sodom, the very school of unchastity, had lived chastely, in the cave was guilty of incest; suffered shipwreck in the harbor.—Ruth a Moabitess. We may infer from Is. 11:14; Jer. 48:47; Dan. 11:41, that there-will be, besides, some conversions from the Moabites to Christ.—The children of Ammon were characterized by similar sins with those of their brother Moab, and therefore have a similar future.—Drunkenness is the way to all bestial lusts and acts.—(Holy descendants from polluted beds. Judg. 11:1; Heb. 11:32.)—SCHRÖDER: The thought that they should remain alone in case of their father’s early death was one to them very hard to bear. Then, indeed, they would be entirely helpless and without protection in the wide world. If no husband was granted to them, they would at least have children, sons, who could give protection and help.—(Berl. Bibel.: The following riddle has been constructed from the history: My father, thy father, our children’s grandfather; my husband, thy husband, the husband of our mother, and yet one and the same man.)—BAUMGARTEN: This is the crime of Lot’s daughters, that to secure descendants, and those of pure blood, they thought incest a small offence.—HERBERGER: For one evil hour, one must bear the sword at his side a whole year.—THE SAME: Still even such children (illegitimate and springing from incest) should not despair. God can do great things even through the illegitimate Jephtha (Judg. 11:1 ff.). True repentance makes all well. [But true repentance is never separated from true faith. Faith in Christ and repentance make all well.—A. G.]
1[Only to these men do nothing. The form of the pronoun used, הָאֵל, is archaic, and is used also in Gen 19:25; Gen 26:3, 4; Lev. 18:27; Deut. 4:42; 7:22; 19:11. KEIL, p. 163. Therefore came they under my roof; viz., for the purpose of security.—A. G.]
2[Baumgarten urges that גֶשׁ הָלְאָהִ should be rendered “come hither,” instead of “stand back,” on the ground that this is the usual meaning of the verb, and that it gives an equally good sense, p. 211—A. G.]
3[At the morning. The dawn, since the sun rose as Lot entered Zoar. JACOBUS: “Notes,” vol. ii. p. 23.—A. G.]
4[The word here used for look implies a deliberate contemplation, steady regard, consideration, and desire; see Is. 63:5. The Sept. has ἐπέβλεψεν, looked wistfully. WORDSWORTH, p. 89. She became, lit., she was a pillar of salt. “The dashing spray of the salt, sulphureous rain, seems to have suffocated her, and then encrusted her whole body.” Murphy.—A. G.]
5[The looking back shows, on the one hand, her doubt and unbelief of the divine warning, and on the other, that her heart was still clinging to the lusts of Sodom, and that she was an unwilling follower of the rescuing angels. KURTZ, p. 195.—A. G.]
6 אחותך הקטנה. The term generally denotes juniority, and it may be so literally taken here, since the origin of Jerusalem may have been historically older than that of Sodom.—T. L.]
7[God’s people are safe when angels stand sentries at the doors. Bush.—A. G.]
8[It is the use of God, to blind and besot those whom he means to destroy. Bp. Hall; Bush.—A. G.]
9[“The man who will not consult for his own safety, and who, even being warned to beware, yet exposes himself by his sloth to ruin, deserves to perish.” Calvin.—A. G.]
10[It is no new thing for the Lord to grant sometimes, as an indulgence, what he does not approve. Calvin. See Jacobus.—A. G.]
11[The beauty and fruitfulness of nature attracted him, and he chose it without thinking whether it would work injury to his soul. The same power now prevents him from earnestly heeding the salvation of his soul. BAUMGARTEN, p. 213.—A. G.]
12[“Those who have been wondrously preserved from temporal destruction, may shamefully fall into sin.” Jacobus.—A. G.]