Genesis (Part 76)

Welcome back to my study/review of Genesis. If you missed the previous parts of this study, you can find them HERE.

Genesis: 19:1-5

19 The two angels came to Sodom in the evening, and Lot was sitting in the gate of Sodom. When Lot saw them, he rose to meet them and bowed himself with his face to the earth and said, “My lords, please turn aside to your servant’s house and spend the night and wash your feet. Then you may rise up early and go on your way.” They said, “No; we will spend the night in the town square.” But he pressed them strongly; so they turned aside to him and entered his house. And he made them a feast and baked unleavened bread, and they ate.

But before they lay down, the men of the city, the men of Sodom, both young and old, all the people to the last man, surrounded the house. And they called to Lot, “Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us, that we may know them.”


Let’s remember context for a moment.

Abraham was dining with what the text consistently referred to as three men. The text, in this section, seemed also to refer to one of the men as The Lord, or Yahweh, and used the tetragrammaton to indicate as much. When the men got up after dinner, the text tells us Yahweh/Jehovah remained behind.

Now in verse 19, we see (or we think we see) the two men who did not remain behind with Abraham. However, the text no longer refers to them as men. The text refers to them as angels.

מֲלְאָךְ mălʼâk, mal-awk’; from an unused root meaning to despatch as a deputy; a messenger; specifically, of God, i.e. an angel (also a prophet, priest or teacher):—ambassador, angel, king, messenger.

“Angel” here is a job description. Does it necessarily mean that they are not also men? Or men-like?

Look some more at verse five. When Lot’s house is surrounded, they ask for the men who visited Lot.

אֱנוֹשׁ ʼĕnôwsh, en-oshe’; from H605; properly, a mortal (and thus differing from the more dignified 120); hence, a man in general (singly or collectively):—another, × (blood-) thirsty, certain, chap(-man); divers, fellow, × in the flower of their age, husband, (certain, mortal) man, people, person, servant, some (× of them), stranger, those, their trade. It is often unexpressed in the English versions, especially when used in apposition with another word. Compare H376.

The word that the people of Sodom used for “men” is the same as the word used in Chapter 18.

Let’s look at some Commentaries on this section. From David Guzik’s Commentary:

a. Now the two angels came to Sodom: The two visitors that departed from Abraham in Genesis 18:22 as he and the LORD continued their conversation now came to Sodom. For the first time they are identified as angelic beings, who first accompanied the LORD as He visited Abraham at Mamre (Genesis 18:1-2).

i. We have no reason to believe that Lot knew that these were angels; to him, they probably seemed to be distinguished guests with an air of righteousness and morality about them.

This makes sense. If everyone who comes into contact with the angels also identifies them as men, then it makes sense that Lot would also.

We learn more about the city gate from The Pulpit Commentary:

And there came two angels—literally, the two angelsi.e. the two men of the preceding chapter who accompanied Jehovah to Mature; οἱ δύο ἄγγελλοι (LXX.)—to Sodom at even (having left the tent of Abraham shortly after noon); and Lot—last heard of in the narrative as captured by the Asiatic kings, and delivered by his uncle (Genesis 14:12Genesis 14:16)—sat in the gate of Sodom. שַׁעַר, from the idea of opening, signified the gateway or entrance of a camp (Exodus 32:26Exodus 32:27), of a palace, of a land (Jeremiah 15:7), or of a city (Joshua 2:7). Corresponding to the ancient forum of the Romans, or agora of the Greeks, the city gate among the Hebrews was the customary place of resort for the settlement of disputes, the transaction of business, or the enjoyment of ordinary social intercourse (cf. Genesis 34:20Deuteronomy 21:19Deuteronomy 22:15Ruth 4:1Proverbs 31:23). It was probably an arch with deep recesses, in which were placed chairs for the judges or city magistrates, and seats or benches for the citizens who had business to transact. So Homer describes the Trojan elders as sitting at the Scaean gate. In what capacity Lot was sitting in the gate is not narrated. That he was on the outlook for travelers on whom to practice the hospitality he had learned from his uncle (Poole, Calvin, Willet, Lange) is perhaps to form too high an ideal of his piety (Kalisch); while the explanation that he had been pro-meted to the dignity of one of the city judges, though not perhaps justified as an inference from verse 9, is not at all unlikely, considering his relationship to Abraham. And Lot seeing them (and recognizing them to be strangers by their dress and looks) rose up to meet them;—having not yet abandoned the practice of hospitality, or forgotten, through mingling with the Sodomites, the respectful courtesy which was due to strangers, since the writer adds—and he bowed himself with his face toward the ground (cf. Genesis 18:2).

David Guzik’s Commentary states that Lot’s presence at the city gate indicates he was a civic leader.

b. Lot was sitting in the gate of Sodom: There was a steady progression of compromise in Lot’s life. He went from looking toward Sodom (Genesis 13:10), to pitching his tent toward Sodom (Genesis 13:12), to living in Sodom (Genesis 14:12), and losing everything when Sodom was attacked. Now, back at the infamous city, Lot sat in the gate of Sodom,indicating he was a civic leader.

i. The gate area of an ancient city was sort of a town-hall where the important men of the city judged disputes, conferred with one another, and supervised those who entered and left the city.

ii. Lot himself was a righteous man who was grieved by the sin he saw around him (2 Peter 2:7-8), but because of his deep compromise few of his family and none of his friends were saved. Compromise destroyed his testimony.

Continuing on in verse 2, Lot addresses the angels as “my Lords.”

אָדוֹן ʼâdôwn, aw-done’; or (shortened) אָדֹן ʼâdôn; from an unused root (meaning to rule); sovereign, i.e. controller (human or divine):—lord, master, owner. Compare also names beginning with ‘Adoni-‘.

The Pulpit Commentary frames the interaction with the angels as follows:

And he said, Beheld new, my lords,—Adonai (vide Genesis 18:3). As yet Lot only recognized them as men—turn in, I pray you, into your servant’s house, and tarry all night, and wash your feet (of. Genesis 18:1-33 :44 and ye shall rise up early, and go on your ways. Though an act of kindness on the part of Lot, his invitation was not accepted by the angels obviously with a view to try his character (cf. Luke 24:28). And they said, Nay; but we will abide in the street all night. Literally, for in the broad open spaces (i.e. the streets of the town) we will pass the night;no great hardship in that climax.

The Commentary states that the angels were trying Lot’s character by denying his initial request. Another view, though, might be that they viewed a civic leader, in a place such as Sodom, as someone with whom they did not want to stay. Ultimately they accept the offer, though, because Lot pressed upon them to vehemently to accept it.

מְאֹד mᵉʼôd, meh-ode’; from the same as H181; properly, vehemence, i.e. (with or without preposition) vehemently; by implication, wholly, speedily, etc. (often with other words as an intensive or superlative; especially when repeated):—diligently, especially, exceeding(-ly), far, fast, good, great(-ly), × louder and louder, might(-ily, -y), (so) much, quickly, (so) sore, utterly, very ( much, sore), well.

From Ellicott:

(3) He pressed upon them greatly.—This he did as knowing the licentiousness of the people; but the angels do not readily accept his hospitality, as they had done that of Abraham, because his character had deteriorated.

Unleavened bread.—Heb., thin cakes, like those now eaten by the Jews at the Passover. They took little time in preparation, for which reason we find them also used by the witch of Endor (1 Samuel 28:24).

The story takes a wicked turn in verse 4:

But before they lay down, the men of the city, the men of Sodom, both young and old, all the people to the last man, surrounded the house. And they called to Lot, “Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us, that we may know them.”

Everyone in Sodom surrounds Lot’s house and they told Lot to send out his guests so that they might rape Lot’s guests.

The word translated into English as “know” is:

יָדַע yâdaʻ, yaw-dah’; a primitive root; to know (properly, to ascertain by seeing); used in a great variety of senses, figuratively, literally, euphemistically and inferentially (including observation, care, recognition; and causatively, instruction, designation, punishment, etc.):—acknowledge, acquaintance(-ted with), advise, answer, appoint, assuredly, be aware, (un-) awares, can(-not), certainly, comprehend, consider, × could they, cunning, declare, be diligent, (can, cause to) discern, discover, endued with, familiar friend, famous, feel, can have, be (ig-) norant, instruct, kinsfolk, kinsman, (cause to let, make) know, (come to give, have, take) knowledge, have (knowledge), (be, make, make to be, make self) known, be learned, lie by man, mark, perceive, privy to, × prognosticator, regard, have respect, skilful, shew, can (man of) skill, be sure, of a surety, teach, (can) tell, understand, have (understanding), × will be, wist, wit, wot.

It is possible to read the potential translations of this word and avoid the more evil inference. However, the context helps to provide the intention here.

From Ellicott:

(4) From every quarter.—Heb., from the end. This may mean, either, “to the last man.” or “from the very end of the town.” In either case it shows that there were not in Sodom the ten righteous men who would have availed to save it (Genesis 18:32).

It is noteworthy then that this section of text implies that many of the people in the gathered crowd are friends of Lot – perhaps even members of his not-immediate household.

From the Pulpit Commentary:

But before they lay down, the men of the city, even the men of Sodom, compassed the house round, both old and young, all the people from every quarter. i.e. of the town, as in Jeremiah 51:31 (Lange); from the extremity, or extremities, of the town (Kalisch); from the extremities, i.e. all the population contained within the extremities (Rosenmüller); all the citizens to the last man (Keil). The text probably conveys the writer’s idea.

And they called unto Lot, and said unto him, Where are the men which came in to thee this night? Josephus supposes them to have been of beautiful countenances (‘Ant.,’ 1.11, 3), which excited the lust of the Sodomites, and caused them to assault Lot’s house with shameful cries. Bring them out unto us, that we may know them. The sin here euphemistically referred to (cf. 19:22) was exceedingly prevalent among the Canaanites (Le Genesis 18:22) and other heathen nations (Romans 1:27). Under the law of Moses it Was punishable by death.

There is a fascinating article on what The Talmud perceives to be the sin of Sodom at Here, Tzvi Freeman writes that the great sin of Sodom was a particular form of isolationism. I’ll share a little of it here but I encourage reading the whole thing at the link.

A pinch of Lurianic Kabbalah could help us here. When the world was created, it was at first, as Genesis says,6 “tohu.” Tohu is generally translated as “chaos.” Rabbi Isaac Luria, however, describes tohu as a state of isolated ideals.7

A world of tohu is a world where no two things can work together. A world where the weather is either hot or cold but never warm, where people are either super-friendly or hostile but never just chill, where either I run things or you run things but we can’t cooperate, where I don’t need you and you don’t need me and so no one has any business with the other.

Before this world was created, G‑d first created a world of tohu—a world of absolutes. Absolute benevolence, absolute justice, absolute light and absolute darkness. G‑d was not pleased with that world. But that was okay, because it rapidly erupted on its own. In Lurianic terms, “the light was too great for containment.” We moderns might say that when the parts of the whole work independently of one another, they generate far more energy than the whole can contain. In Rabbi Luria’s narrative, that eruption left fragments of tohu that fell to become our world, a world where harmony, or tikkun, is possible.

The souls of the people of Sodom originated from the realm of tohu. That explains why they were isolationists, wishing neither to benefit anyone nor to receive from anyone. In this way their land was isolated from all other lands, and they managed their own resources so that they didn’t need to receive any goods from any foreign land. Even amongst themselves, each one was isolated and independent.

How do we see this among the people of Sodom? Well, they weren’t hospitable. Not only did they not take in guests, they couldn’t even allow others to have guests stay in their home. That’s the central point of the story with Lot, Abraham’s nephew who lived in Sodom. When Lot had some guests over to his home, the people of Sodom staged a protest outside his door and threatened to harm the guests and their host.

The notion that the souls of the people of Sodom originated from the realm of tohu is interesting. Let’s keep in mind also Genesis 14 (HERE and HERE). We read in that chapter that in THE BATTLE OF NINE KINGS Sodom and the surrounding Canaanite city-states sent giants as part of their military effort. Giants – it might be argued – are a return of the Nephilim we met in Genesis 6. The impression given for Sodom through a reading of Genesis is that the people there are corrupted beyond perhaps even remaining part of humanity.

At the end of this section, we see that there are not ten righteous people in Sodom. By the terms of the agreement that God made with Abraham, God is now free to sweep away Sodom from the earth.

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