Two angels - The two referred to Genesis 18:22.
Sat in the gate - Probably, in order to prevent unwary travelers from being entrapped by his wicked townsmen, he waited at the gate of the city to bring the strangers he might meet with to his own house, as well as to transact his own business. Or, as the gate was the place of judgment, he might have been sitting there as magistrate to hear and determine disputes.
Bowed himself - Not through religious reverence, for he did not know the quality of his guests; but through the customary form of civility. See on verses Genesis 18:3-5; (note) of the preceding chapter.
- The Destruction of Sodom and Amorah
9. גשׁ־ gesh -hāl'âh “approach to a distant point,” stand back.
11. סנורים sanevērı̂ym “blindness,” affecting the mental more than the ocular vision.
37. מואב mô'āb Moab; מאב mē'āb “from a father.” בן־עמי ben -‛amı̂y Ben-‹ammi, “son of my people.” עמון ‛amôn ‹Ammon, “of the people.”
This chapter is the continuation and conclusion of the former. It records a part of God‘s strange work - strange, because it consists in punishment, and because it is foreign to the covenant of grace. Yet it is closely connected with Abraham‘s history, inasmuch as it is a signal chastisement of wickedness in his neighborhood, a memorial of the righteous judgment of God to all his posterity, and at the same time a remarkable answer to the spirit, if not to the letter, of his intercessory prayer. His kinsman Lot, the only righteous man in Sodom, with his wife and two daughters, is delivered from destruction in accordance with his earnest appeal on behalf of the righteous.
The two angels. - These are the two men who left Abraham standing before the Lord Genesis 18:22. “Lot sat in the gate,” the place of public resort for news and for business. He courteously rises to meet them, does obeisance to them, and invites them to spend the night in his house. “Nay, but in the street will we lodge.” This is the disposition of those who come to inquire, and, it may be, to condemn and to punish. They are twice in this chapter called angels, being sent to perform a delegated duty. This term, however, defines their office, not their nature. Lot, in the first instance, calls them “my lords,” which is a term of respect that may be addressed to men Genesis 31:35. He afterward styled one of them Adonai, with the special vowel pointing which limits it to the Supreme Being. He at the same time calls himself his servant, appeals to his grace and mercy, and ascribes to him his deliverance. The person thus addressed replies, in a tone of independence and authority, “I have accepted thee.” “I will not overthrow this city for which thou hast spoken.” “I cannot do anything until thou go thither.” All these circumstances point to a divine personage, and are not so easily explained of a mere delegate. He is pre-eminently the Saviour, as he who communed with Abraham was the hearer of prayer. And he who hears prayer and saves life, appears also as the executor of his purpose in the overthrow of Sodom and the other cities of the vale. It is remarkable that only two of the three who appeared to Abraham are called angels. Of the persons in the divine essence two might be the angels or deputies of the primary in the discharge of the divine purpose. These three men, then, either immediately represent, or, if created angels, mediately shadow forth persons in the Godhead. Their number indicates that the persons in the divine unity are three.
Lot seems to have recognized something extraordinary in their appearance, for he made a lowly obeisance to them. The Sodomites heed not the strangers. Lot‘s invitation; at first declined, is at length accepted, because Lot is approved of God as righteous, and excepted from the doom of the city.
The wicked violence of the citizens displays itself. They compass the house, and demand the men for the vilest ends. How familiar Lot had become with vice, when any necessity whatever could induce him to offer his daughters to the lust of these Sodomites! We may suppose it was spoken rashly, in the heat of the moment, and with the expectation that he would not be taken at his word. So it turned out. “Stand back.” This seems to be a menace to frighten Lot out of the way of their perverse will. It is probable, indeed, that he and his family would not have been so long safe in this wicked place, had he not been the occasion of a great deliverance to the whole city when they were carried away by the four kings. The threat is followed by a taunt, when the sorely vexed host hesitated to give up the strangers. “He will needs be a judge.” It is evident Lot had been in the habit of remonstrating with them. From threats and taunts they soon proceed to violence. His guests now interfere. They rescue Lot, and smite the rioters with blindness, or a wandering of the senses, so that they cannot find the door. This ebullition of the vilest passion seals the doom of the city.
The visitors now take steps for the deliverance of Lot and his kindred before the destruction of the cities. All that are related to him are included in the offer of deliverance. There is a blessing in being connected with the righteous, if men will but avail themselves of it. Lot seems bewildered by the contemptuous refusal of his connections to leave the place. His early choice and his growing habits have attached him to the place, notwithstanding its temptations. His married daughters, or at least the intended husbands of the two who were at home (“who are here”), are to be left behind. But though these thoughts make him linger, the mercy of the Lord prevails. The angels use a little violence to hasten their escape. The mountain was preserved by its elevation from the flood of rain, sulphur, and fire which descended on the low ground on which the cities were built. Lot begs for a small town to which he may retreat, as he shrinks from the perils of a mountain dwelling, and his request is mercifully granted.
Then follows the overthrow of the cities. “The Lord rained brimstone and fire from the Lord from the skies.” Here the Lord is represented as present in the skies, whence the storm of desolation comes, and on the earth where it falls. The dale of Siddim, in which the cities were, appears to have abounded in asphalt and other combustible materials Genesis 14:10. The district was liable to earthquakes and volcanic eruptions from the earliest to the latest times. We read of an earthquake in the days of king Uzziah Amos 1:1. An earthquake in 1759 destroyed many thousands of persons in the valley of Baalbec. Josephus (De Bell. Jud. iii. 10,7) reports that the Salt Sea sends up in many places black masses of asphalt, which are not unlike headless bulls in shape and size. After an earthquake in 1834, masses of asphalt were thrown up from the bottom, and in 1837 a similar cause was attended with similar effects.
The lake lies in the lowest part of the valley of the Jordan, and its surface is about thirteen hundred feet below the level of the sea. In such a hollow, exposed to the burning rays of an unclouded sun, its waters evaporate as much as it receives by the influx of the Jordan. Its present area is about forty-five miles by eight miles. A peninsula pushes into it from the east called the Lisan, or tongue, the north point of which is about twenty miles from the south end of the lake. North of this point the depth is from forty to two hundred and eighteen fathoms. This southern part of the lake seems to have been the original dale of Siddim, in which were the cities of the vale. The remarkable salt hills lying on the south of the lake are still called Khashm Usdum (Sodom). A tremendous storm, accompanied with flashes of lightning, and torrents of rain, impregnated with sulphur, descended upon the doomed cities.
From the injunction to Lot to “flee to the mountain,” as well as from the nature of the soil, we may infer that at the same time with the awful conflagration there was a subsidence of the ground, so that the waters of the upper and original lake flowed in upon the former fertile and populous dale, and formed the shallow southern part of the present Salt Sea. In this pool of melting asphalt and sweltering, seething waters, the cities seem to have sunk forever, and left behind them no vestiges of their existence. Lot‘s wife lingering behind her husband, and looking back, contrary to the express command of the Lord, is caught in the sweeping tempest, and becomes a pillar of salt: so narrow was the escape of Lot. The dashing spray of the salt sulphurous rain seems to have suffocated her, and then encrusted her whole body. She may have burned to a cinder in the furious conflagration. She is a memorable example of the indignation and wrath that overtakes the halting and the backsliding.
Abraham rises early on the following morning, to see what had become of the city for which he had interceded so earnestly, and views from afar the scene of smoking desolation. Remembering Abraham, who was Lot‘s uncle, and had him probably in mind in his importunate pleading, God delivered Lot from this awful overthrow. The Eternal is here designated by the name Elohim, the Everlasting, because in the war of elements in which the cities were overwhelmed, the eternal potencies of his nature were signally displayed.
The descendants of Lot. Bewildered by the narrowness of his escape, and the awful death of his wife, Lot seems to have left Zoar, and taken to the mountain west of the Salt Sea, in terror of impending ruin. It is not improbable that all the inhabitants of Zoar, panic-struck, may have fled from the region of danger, and dispersed themselves for a time through the adjacent mountains. He was now far from the habitations of people, with his two daughters as his only companions. The manners of Sodom here obtrude themselves upon our view. Lot‘s daughters might seem to have been led to this unnatural project, first, because they thought the human race extinct with the exception of themselves, in which case their conduct may have seemed a work of justifiable necessity; and next, because the degrees of kindred within which it was unlawful to marry had not been determined by an express law. But they must have seen some of the inhabitants of Zoar after the destruction of the cities; and carnal intercourse between parent and offspring must have been always repugnant to nature. “Unto this day.” This phrase indicates a variable period, from a few years to a few centuries: a few years; not more than seven, as Joshua 22:3; part of a lifetime, as Numbers 22:30; Joshua 6:25; Genesis 48:15; and some centuries, as Exodus 10:6. This passage may therefore have been written by one much earlier than Moses. Moab afterward occupied the district south of the Arnon, and east of the Salt Sea. Ammon dwelt to the northeast of Moab, where they had a capital called Rabbah. They both ultimately merged into the more general class of the Arabs, as a second Palgite element.
Lot chose Sodom for his home because he saw that there were advantages to be gained there from a worldly point of view. But after he had established himself, and grown rich in earthly treasure, he was convinced that he had made a mistake in not taking into consideration the moral standing of the community in which he was to make his home. 4T 110.1
The dwellers in Sodom were corrupt; vile conversation greeted his ears daily, and his righteous soul was vexed by the violence and crime he was powerless to prevent. His children were becoming like these wicked people, for association with them had perverted their morals. Taking all these things into consideration, the worldly riches he had gained seemed small and not worth the price he had paid for them. His family connections were extensive, his children having married among the Sodomites. 4T 110.2
The Lord's anger was finally kindled against the wicked inhabitants of the city, and angels of God visited Sodom to bring forth Lot, that he should not perish in the overthrow of the city. They bade Lot bring his family, his wife, and the sons and daughters who married in wicked Sodom, and told him to flee from the place. “For,” said the angels, “we will destroy this place, because the cry of them is waxen great before the face of the Lord; and the Lord hath sent us to destroy it.” 4T 110.3
And Lot went out and entreated his children. He repeated the words of the angel: “Up, get you out of this place; for the Lord will destroy this city.” But he seemed unto his sons-in-law as one who mocked; for they had lived so long in Sodom that they had become partakers of the sins of the people. And the daughters were influenced by their husbands to believe that their father was mad. They were well enough off where they were. They were rich and had great possessions; and they could not believe it possible that beautiful Sodom, a rich and fertile country, would be destroyed by the wrath of a sin-avenging God. 4T 110.4Read in context »
In Sodom there was mirth and revelry, feasting and drunkenness. The vilest and most brutal passions were unrestrained. The people openly defied God and His law and delighted in deeds of violence. Though they had before them the example of the antediluvian world, and knew how the wrath of God had been manifested in their destruction, yet they followed the same course of wickedness. PP 157.1
At the time of Lot's removal to Sodom, corruption had not become universal, and God in His mercy permitted rays of light to shine amid the moral darkness. When Abraham rescued the captives from the Elamites, the attention of the people was called to the true faith. Abraham was not a stranger to the people of Sodom, and his worship of the unseen God had been a matter of ridicule among them; but his victory over greatly superior forces, and his magnanimous disposition of the prisoners and spoil, excited wonder and admiration. While his skill and valor were extolled, none could avoid the conviction that a divine power had made him conqueror. And his noble and unselfish spirit, so foreign to the self-seeking inhabitants of Sodom, was another evidence of the superiority of the religion which he had honored by his courage and fidelity. PP 157.2
Melchizedek, in bestowing the benediction upon Abraham, had acknowledged Jehovah as the source of his strength and the author of the victory: “Blessed be Abram of the most high God, possessor of heaven and earth: and blessed be the most high God, which hath delivered thine enemies into thy hand.” Genesis 14:19, 20. God was speaking to that people by His providence, but the last ray of light was rejected as all before had been. PP 157.3
And now the last night of Sodom was approaching. Already the clouds of vengeance cast their shadows over the devoted city. But men perceived it not. While angels drew near on their mission of destruction, men were dreaming of prosperity and pleasure. The last day was like every other that had come and gone. Evening fell upon a scene of loveliness and security. A landscape of unrivaled beauty was bathed in the rays of the declining sun. The coolness of eventide had called forth the inhabitants of the city, and the pleasure-seeking throngs were passing to and fro, intent upon the enjoyment of the hour. PP 157.4Read in context »
God would not be pleased to have any of our institutions located in a community of this character, however great its apparent advantages. Selfish wealthy men have a molding influence upon other minds, and the enemy would work through them to hedge up our way. Evil associations are always detrimental to piety and devotion, and principles that are approved by God may be undermined by such associations. God would have none of us like Lot, who chose a home in a place where he and his family were brought into constant contact with evil. Lot went into Sodom rich; he left with nothing, led by an angel's hand, while messengers of wrath waited to pour forth the fiery blasts that were to consume the inhabitants of that highly favored city and blot out its entrancing beauty, making bleak and bare a place that God had once made very beautiful. 7T 89.1
Our sanitariums should not be situated near the residences of rich men, where they will be looked upon as an innovation and an eyesore, and unfavorably commented upon, because they receive suffering humanity of all classes. Pure and undefiled religion makes those who are children of God one family, bound up with Christ in God. But the spirit of the world is proud, partial, exclusive, favoring only a few. 7T 89.2
In erecting our buildings, we must keep away from the homes of the great men of the world, and let them seek the help they need by withdrawing from their associates into more retired places. We shall not please God by building our sanitariums among people extravagant in dress and living, who are attracted to those who can make a great display. 7T 89.3Read in context »
Lot, Abraham's nephew, though he had made his home in Sodom, was imbued with the patriarch's spirit of kindness and hospitality. Seeing at nightfall two strangers at the city gate, and knowing the dangers sure to beset them in that wicked city, Lot insisted on bringing them to his home. To the peril that might result to himself and his household he gave no thought. It was a part of his lifework to protect the imperiled and to care for the homeless, and the deed performed in kindness to two unknown travelers brought angels to his home. Those whom he sought to protect, protected him. At nightfall he had led them for safety to his door; at the dawn they led him and his household forth in safety from the gate of the doomed city. 6T 342.1
These acts of courtesy God thought of sufficient importance to record in His word; and more than a thousand years later they were referred to by an inspired apostle: “Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.” Hebrews 13:2. 6T 342.2
The privilege granted Abraham and Lot is not denied to us. By showing hospitality to God's children we, too, may receive His angels into our dwellings. Even in our day, angels in human form enter the homes of men and are entertained by them. And Christians who live in the light of God's countenance are always accompanied by unseen angels, and these holy beings leave behind them a blessing in our homes. 6T 342.3
“A lover of hospitality” is among the specifications given by the Holy Spirit as marking one who is to bear responsibility in the church. And to the whole church is given the injunction: “Use hospitality one to another without grudging. As every man hath received the gift, even so minister the same one to another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.” 1 Peter 4:9, 10. 6T 342.4Read in context »