The Value of Lot’s Daughters

The Sodom Series, #6

People demanding to see the two visitors pound at Lot’s door in Sodom. Lot confronts them and offers something else of value to them.

“Look, I have two daughters who have not known a man; let me bring them out to you, and do to them as you please; only do nothing to these men, for they have come under the shelter of my roof.”
–GENESIS 19:8 NRSV

Present-day followers of Jesus may wonder about the propriety of Lot exposing his virgin daughters to potential violence and abuse. This is obviously another area where the values of ancient cultures differ drastically from ours today.

Near Eastern societies of 4000 years ago valued men and their honor much more highly than that of women. Even St. Augustine, born in the fourth century A.D., wrote, “The body of a man is as superior to that of a woman as the soul is to the body” (De Mend. 7.10).

As shocking as this sounds, we must realize that the equality of females is only a recent development in the history of humankind. Thank God. See Gal. 3:28.

During ancient times, women were considered to be property—see Exodus 22:16–17; Deuteronomy 22:28–29. Daniel Helminiak points out:

In the mind of the Hebrew Testament, adultery is not an offense against a woman nor against the intimacy of marriage nor against the inherent requirements of sex. Adultery is an offense against justice. Adultery offends the man to whom the woman belongs. Adultery is the misuse of another man’s property (What the Bible Really Says About Homosexuality, 49, emphasis mine).

The perceived worth and honor of men trumped that of women in the ancient world, but the honor of guests trumped both.

The laws of hospitality demanded that Lot protect the male honor of his guests; in that age it was better that women be raped than men. Lot protected his visitors, offering his own daughters to appease the mob.

Yet, are the citizens of Sodom simply demanding some new flesh for their sexual pleasure?

The only consideration that points to any sexual desire on the part of Sodom’s citizens is Lot’s offering them his daughters, which they refuse. But it is the most valuable bribe he could make to appease the hostile crowd.

Such an action is unthinkable in modern Western society, but females, and especially female children, held low status in the ancient world. “[E]ven in the more ‘civilized’ Roman world: Ammianus Marcellinus recounts… where the Roman consul Tertullus offers his children to an angry crowd to save himself. There is no sexual interest of any sort in the incident” (Boswell, 95).

Why did the people of Sodom hate strangers so much that they wanted to abuse them? We’ll learn why next time.

More information:

To read the full story, get my book, The Sin of Sodom: What the Bible Really Says About Why God Destroyed the Cities of the Plain, for Kindle and in trade paperback.
The Sin of Sodom cover

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