Genesis 19

In Genesis 19:8 Lot has some guests over and all the men in the city come knocking on his door saying bring out your guests because we want to have sex with them. In response, Lot says I have two daughters; do whatever you want with them. He doesn’t give his daughters to the men, but it confused me why he would say such a thing.
Can we get some cultural context to help understand this better?

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@Sgpage That is a great question! I think that we can start to get a better handle on this passage by first considering a few things about the cultural context. Lot’s behavior was clearly wrong. But I think the cultural context does help us understand why he may have done it.

  • an extremely high view of hospitality - when you took someone into your house, you were to defend them with your life. So he offered his own daughters rather than sacrifice his guests. Contrast this with the Sodomites who did not even invite the stranger in. Hospitality is very important in this narrative.
  • the lower view of women within that cultural context - the reality is that most ancient cultures did not understand that men and women are both in God’s image and to be coworkers together in stewarding the earth.
  • Abraham offered his wife to foreign kings twice because he was worried for his own safety - it makes me wonder if this was a common problem in those days and men regularly handled it that way? Obviously that does not make it right at all, but it does tell us something about the culture.
  • Lot was not, in my estimation, the most shining example of righteousness - he picked the better plot of land when Abraham gave him a choice and even though he started out outside Sodom, he eventually moved into the city even though he must have known it was not a good place…

Consider also that Lot’s daughters, shortly after this episode, get him drunk and sleep with him. They may have thought the world had ended like in the flood and were trying to repopulate the earth, or at least I have heard that suggested. But still - that is not something you would normally (I would hope never) see in our modern cultural context either…

Sometimes I think we take for granted how many of our modern ethics have their origins in Jesus. Before Jesus, the world was a very different place - more violent and much less equitable. The Bible is so much a story of how God worked through peoples’ messedupness to graciously make a way for humanity to come back home and to make the Church to be salt and light in a dark world.

Does that begin to help you think through the text?

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Yes! Thank you. Something I heard a few times when I was at ReFresh last week was just because a story is in the Bible, it does not mean the behavior is justified. I thought about that with your last point- Lot wasn’t a role model.

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@Sgpage Yes, some texts are prescriptive, which means we are to obey them or follow the example (like Jesus’ life/teaching or Paul’s teaching). Other texts, like much of the OT narratives - are descriptive - they describe what happened, but they are not condoning the behavior of the actors involved and certainly not recommending it.

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