Genesis (Part 79)

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

Genesis: 19:17-22

17 And as they brought them out, one said, “Escape for your life. Do not look back or stop anywhere in the valley. Escape to the hills, lest you be swept away.” 18 And Lot said to them, “Oh, no, my lords. 19 Behold, your servant has found favor in your sight, and you have shown me great kindness in saving my life. But I cannot escape to the hills, lest the disaster overtake me and I die. 20 Behold, this city is near enough to flee to, and it is a little one. Let me escape there—is it not a little one?—and my life will be saved!” 21 He said to him, “Behold, I grant you this favor also, that I will not overthrow the city of which you have spoken. 22 Escape there quickly, for I can do nothing till you arrive there.” Therefore the name of the city was called Zoar.


Lot: “Wow, that sounds serious Well… the hills? Oh boy. Here’s the thing. Those hills are pretty far away. Can I just go to Zoar instead? Did I mention it’s a little city? It’s little.”
Angel: [sigh] “Alright, I won’t wipe out Zoar. Just go!”

^ That’s my somewhat uncharitable interpretation of Lot’s words here, at least.

Let’s look at the individual verses. From Ellicott’s Bible Commentary:

(17) Abroad.—Heb., outside—that is, of the city.

Look not behind thee.—This was not merely to prevent delay, but also showed that God demanded of them a total abandonment in heart and will of the condemned cities, and hence the severity with which the violation of the command was visited.

Plain.—The Ciccar or circle of Jordan. So also in Genesis 19:25Genesis 19:28-29; see Note on Genesis 13:10.

We will see the “severity” referred to in this note in the coming verses. More from the Pulpit Commentaries:

And it came to pass, when they had brought them (i.e. Lot and his family) forth abroad (literally, without;sc. the city), that he—one of the angels (Rabbi Solomon, Jarchi, Rosenmüller, Lange, ‘Speaker’s Commentary’); the one that had taken Lot’s hand (Inglis); Jehovah speaking through the angel (Delitzsch); the angel speaking in the name of God (Keil, Kalisch); Jehovah himself, who, though not mentioned, had now appeared upon the scene (Ainsworth, Candlish)—said, Escape for thy life (literally, for thy soul;and clearly in this case the loss of the soul in the higher sense must have been involved in the destruction of the life); look not behind thee. From the event it may be inferred that this injunction was also given to Lot’s wife and daughters; perhaps to hide God’s working in the fiery judgment from mortal vision (Knobel), but more likely to express detestation of the abhorred city (Bush), to guard against the incipience of any desire to return (Lange), and to stimulate their zeal to escape destruction. Neither stay thou in all the plain—or “circle” (vide Genesis 13:10). Once so attractive for its beauty, it must now be abandoned for its danger. Escape to the mountain (the mountain of Moab, on the east of the Dead Sea), lest thou be consumed.

valley = כִּכָּר kikkâr, kik-kawr’; from H3769; a circle, i.e. (by implication) a circumjacent tract or region, especially the Ghor or valley of the Jordan; also a (round) loaf; also a talent (or large [round] coin):—loaf, morsel, piece, plain, talent.

In verse 18, we get Lot’s reply and some confusion regarding the translation. From the Pulpit Commentary:

And Lot said unto them, Oh, not so, my Lord. Adonai, which should rather be translated Lord; whence it would almost seem as if Lot knew that his interlocutor was Jehovah. Keil admits that Lot recognized a manifestation of God in the angels, and Lange speaks of a miraculous report of the voice of God coming to him along with the miraculous vision of the angels. That the historian uses “them” instead of “him” only proves that at the time Jehovah was accompanied by the angels, as he had previously been at Mamre (vide Genesis 18:1).

lord/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 confusion arises in Lot addressing the two men/angels as Adonai. From theopedia:

One of the names for God is Adonai, which is Hebrew for “Lord” (Hebrew: ???????). Formally, this is a plural (“Lords”), but the plural is usually construed as a respectful, and not a syntactic plural. The singular form is Adoni (“lord”). 

The plural form of the word is often translated as singular. It is also (usually) viewed as a name for God, rather than a title. Of course, it is notable that the word is not always used as a name for God. In Genesis 18:12 for example:

So Sarah laughed to herself, saying, “After I am worn out, and my lord is old, shall I have pleasure?”

Here lord is clearly a reference to Abraham.

It is still interesting that the names for God – Elohim and Adonai – are so often plural in the original language.

Continuing on with verse 19 and Ellicott’s notes:

Behold now, thy servant hath found grace in thy sight (cf. Genesis 18:3), and thou hast magnified thy mercy (language inappropriate to be addressed to the angels, though exactly suitable if applied by Lot to Jehovah), which thou hast showed unto me in saving my life; and I cannot escape to the mountain, lest some evil (more correctly, the evil, i.e. the destruction threatened upon Sodom) take me, and I die.

Genesis 19:20

Behold now, this city is near to flee unto (literally, thither)and it is a little one: Oh, let me escape thither, (is it not a little one?) and my soul shall live. Lot’s meaning was that since Zoar was the smallest of the cities of the Pentapolis, it would not be a great demand on God’s mercy to spare it, and it would save him from further exertions for his safety. A singular display of moral obtuseness and indolent selfishness on the part of Lot.

From David Guzik’s Commentary:

a. Escape for your life! Do not look behind you: The angels seemed far more urgent to rescue Lot and than Lot and his family were to be rescued. This is strange, but common in spiritual things.

b. Please, no, my lords! Lot seemed pathetic and whimpering in his prayer, especially in contrast to the bold intercession of Abraham in Genesis 18.

The Angel replies and grants Lot’s request. From the Pulpit Commentaries:

And he said unto him, See, I have accepted thee (literally, I have lifted up thy face, the petitioner usually supplicating with his face toward the ground, so that the elevation of his countenance expressed the granting of his request) concerning this thing also, that I will not overthrow this city, for the which thou hast spoken.

Genesis 19:22

Haste thee, escape thither; for I cannot do anything till thou be come thither. Therefore the name of the city was called Zoar. I.e. “The Little;” obviously from Lot’s remark concerning it (Genesis 19:20); Σηγώρ(LXX.). The original name of the city was Bela (Genesis 14:2, q.v.). It has been sought for in the Wady Zuweirah, a pass leading down from Hebron to the Dead Sea, on the west side of the lake (De Sancey); in the Ghor-el-Mezraa, i.e. upon the southern peninsula, Which projects a long way into the Dead Sea (Robinson); and in the Ghor-el-Szaphia, at the south-eastern end of the see, at the opening of the Wady-el-Raumer (Keil); but has now been identified with Zi’ara, at the northern extremity of the lake.

From Ellicott:

(22) Zoar.—This town is identified by Dr. Tristram (Land of Moab, p. 330) with Zi’ara, at the northern end of the Dead Sea. It is described as lying upon the borders of the Moabite territory, in Isaiah 15:5Jeremiah 48:34. Eusebius says that a Roman garrison was posted there, but he probably accepted the current tradition which placed the five cities at the southern extremity of the lake.

Zi’ara certainly sounds similar to Zoar.

Looking more closely at the reply from the angel, in David Guzik’s Commentary:

c. I cannot do anything until you arrive there: This answers the question, Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right? (Genesis 18:25). God, bound by His own righteousness and honor, could not bring this judgment on Sodom until the righteous people were delivered.

If it is the case that the angel would not start until Lot reached safety, then could the angel have insisted upon him going to the place first directed? Perhaps. It stands to reason though that if the angel had explained he would wait until Lot reached safety, Lot would not have moved swiftly. It may also be the the case that the angel considered it a mercy to spare the small city from the ruin soon to be visited on Sodom.

The next section of verses will finally deliver upon that judgment.