A Stranger Comes to Gibeah

Stranger comes to Gibeah

The Sodom Series, #9

Chapters 19–21 of Judges recount one of the most heinous crimes recorded in all of Scripture. Its account of brutal abuse is strangely like that of Sodom, although the only person who ends up being harmed is a woman.

We’ll examine portions of this passage to see how it relates to and sheds light on the Sodom account.

A man wants his wife back

A Levite from the tribal territory of Ephraim had taken a concubine—a second wife. (Concubines were like first wives, only their offspring received no inheritance from the father.)

In those days, having concubines was customary. Both wives and concubines were considered property of the man. The Expanded Bible calls the concubine “a slave woman.”

This Levite’s concubine left him to return to her father’s house in Bethlehem. Why, we don’t know. After four months of separation, the Levite travels to Bethlehem to persuade her to reconcile with him, determined to bring her back.

Father delays their departure

The concubine’s father welcomes the Levite and, showing generous hospitality, convinces him to stay in their home for three days. The Levite wanted to return to Ephraim, but his father-in-law persuades him to stay two extra days.

He would have them remain a sixth day, but on the evening of the fifth, the Levite refuses to stay the night. He takes his concubine and travels to Jebus (later known as Jerusalem).

The Levite refuses Jebus

Jebus was a place where desert sojourners could lodge overnight. But the Levite refuses to stay there.

11 When they were near Jebus, the day was far spent, and the servant said to his master, “Come now, let us turn aside to this city of the Jebusites, and spend the night in it.”
12 But his master said to him, “We will not turn aside into a city of foreigners, who do not belong to the people of Israel; but we will continue on to Gibeah.”
13 Then he said to his servant, “Come, let us try to reach one of these places, and spend the night at Gibeah or at Ramah.”
14 So they passed on and went their way; and the sun went down on them near Gibeah, which belongs to Benjamin.
15 They turned aside there, to go in and spend the night at Gibeah. He went in and sat down in the open square of the city, but no one took them in to spend the night.
–Judges 19:11–15 NIV

The Levite doesn’t want to stay in Jebus because it is controlled by foreigners. Instead, he desires to sojourn in a city belonging to his countrymen.

Little does he know what lies in store for him from a tribe of his own people.

They arrive at Gibeah

They finally enter Gibeah, a city inhabited by Benjamites (another Israelite tribe).

Gibeah may have had no public inn, for they camp out in the town square.

Like the angels in Sodom’s square waiting for Lot, no one provides them hospitality until an old man comes along.

An old man offers hospitality

16 Then at evening there was an old man coming from his work in the field. The man was from the hill country of Ephraim, and he was residing in Gibeah. (The people of the place were Benjaminites.)
17 When the old man looked up and saw the wayfarer in the open square of the city, he said, “Where are you going and where do you come from?”
18 [The Levite] answered him, “We are passing from Bethlehem in Judah to the remote parts of the hill country of Ephraim, from which I come. I went to Bethlehem in Judah; and I am going to my home. Nobody has offered to take me in.
19 We your servants have straw and fodder for our donkeys, with bread and wine for me and the woman and the young man along with us. We need nothing more.”
20The old man said, “Peace be to you. I will care for all your wants; only do not spend the night in the square.”
21 So he brought him into his house, and fed the donkeys; they washed their feet, and ate and drank.
–Judges 19:16–21

It’s odd that the Levite chooses to stay in a town of his own people instead of in a city of strangers yet finds no hospitality in that town except from a man (another outsider) from Ephraim who happens to be living there temporarily. The word residing in verse 16 is the Hebrew gûr, meaning “sojourner,” as discussed previously.

Is this simply a nice man? No, he’s more: Showing hospitality is an act of righteousness.

But being a sojourner himself, this fellow may have been subject to prejudice and oppression by the native inhabitants of Gibeah and wanted to spare his visitors mistreatment or violence, as Lot did for the angels.

We’ll find out for certain 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

Torture and Abuse at Abu Ghraib Prison

abu-ghraib-leash

The Sodom Series, #8

Why did American soldiers—both men and women—abuse, torture, molest, and rape Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib prison in Baghdad in 2003?

As you ponder this question, follow these links with discretion:

Perhaps the people of Sodom had the same attitude and objectives as the U.S. soldiers at Baghdad Central Prison:

  • Primary: Interrogation—knowledge
  • Secondary: Sexual abuse—degradation

The kind of sex the inhabitants of Sodom wanted was not for sensual pleasure, but for domination, control, cruelty, humiliation, debasement, and abuse.

This kind of treatment isn’t about sex; it’s about racial and imperialistic arrogance that revels in the degradation of foreigners, outsiders, and strangers. It’s xenophobia. It’s the attitude fueling Trump’s Mexico border wall.

Sex as a weapon

In ancient cultures, forcing sex on other men was a way of besting them, of humiliating them and showing them who’s boss.

For instance, during war, besides raping the women and sometimes slaughtering children, victors cut off the garments of the defeated men, exposing their buttocks, and then chained them and paraded them through the streets to debase and humiliate them.

See:

In Ancient Athens, “male rape was employed to signify the victory over foreign enemies in war” (Michael Carden, Sodomy, 35).

Rather than representing sexual desire and erotic expression, rape is best understood as sexual violence intended to assert power or express anger…. [M]ale rapists are primarily heterosexual men…. … In Western society, then, male rape reinforces the heterosexuality of the rapist while casting that of the victim in doubt (Carden 33, emphasis mine).

Sometimes conquerors would rape the men—not because the perpetrators were gay or took passionate pleasure in homosexual acts—but because it was the ultimate humiliation to treat the enemy as women, who in that day were considered little more than property. In essence, it was a way of treating the abused men like slaves.

Among some macho heterosexual men today (as well as school children), the ultimate putdown is to call another guy a “fag.” In ancient times, it was to call a man a “woman” and to treat him like one sexually.

Rape, a tactic of degradation

Did the abusive soldiers at Abu Ghraib do what they did because they all had a homosexual orientation?

Did they strip and molest prisoners of both sexes because they were otherwise incapable of healthy sexual relations with a person they cared about?

abu_ghraib_thumbs_up
Lynndie England and fiance Charles Graner posing behind a pyramid of naked Iraqi prisoners, giving the “thumbs up” sign.

In both Sodom and Baghdad, the horrible acts that took place were not expressions of a gay orientation.

In ancient Babylonian sex-divination texts, anal sex is regarded as a power relationship by which the penetrator is either advanced or diminished according to the status of the men he penetrates. … [I]n the ancient Mediterranean world, the act of penetrating other males did not stigmatize the penetrator and that male-male anal sex was considered an act of aggression by which the penetrated male is feminized by the penetrator. … [H]e also notes that male rape was employed as a form of punishment (Carden 31, emphasis mine).

The people of Sodom weren’t looking for recreational sex with the angels. They wanted to perpetrate a violent act of humiliation and abuse visiting strangers who, as a class, they had no respect for. Rape was only the means to degradation.

Ostensibly, this was Sodom’s common practice, and the cities of the Plain had structured their entire society around it. Their degrading behavior was the opposite of the righteous hospitality that Abraham and Lot showed these outsiders.

[T]he incident clearly indicates that strangers may not be welcome, or have no rights, in Sodom. Attempted rape here is illustrative of the evils of inhospitality and abuse of outsiders that are typical of Sodom (Carden 21).

Like the misguided soldiers at Abu Ghraib prison, the crime of the people of Sodom wasn’t their sexual orientation, but their xenophobic prejudice and shameless contempt for human rights and debasement of outsiders—individuals unlike themselves. (See Sodom’s Hatred of Strangers.)

When children are taken from their parents simply because they’ve crossed our national border, is the U.S. in danger of committing the sins of Sodom?

God commanded Israel, “Do not mistreat or oppress a foreigner, for you were foreigners in Egypt” (Ex. 22:21 NIV). The people of Sodom flagrantly violated a value dear to the heart of God.

The Sodom and Gomorrah account is not the only one that deals with such ungodly mistreatment. To get to the ultimate meaning of the Genesis 19 account, we must study a similar passage in Judges 19. 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

Sodom’s Hatred of Strangers

Sodom

The Sodom Series, #7

Even if the citizens of Sodom did want to have sex with Lot’s mysterious visitors, what kind of sex is in question? The attitude of the mob gives us a clue.

But they replied [to Lot], “Stand back!” And they said, “This fellow [Lot] came here as an alien, and he would play the judge! Now we will deal worse with you than with them.” Then they pressed hard against the man Lot, and came near the door to break it down.
–GENESIS 19:9 NRSV

They cry, “Get out of our way!” These people are pushy, demanding. They accuse Lot of being an outsider, an alien, a foreigner.

Lot was an alien, an outsider

Alien is the Hebrew gûr, meaning “to turn aside from the road (for a lodging or for any other purpose), i.e., sojourn (as a guest); also to shrink, fear (as in a strange place); also to gather for hostility (as afraid)” (Strong’s, H1481).

The root word means to live among people who are not blood relatives; thus, rather than enjoying native civil rights, the ger was dependent on the hospitality that played an important role in the ancient near east; someone who did not enjoy the rights usually possessed by the resident(TWOT, 330, emphasis mine).

Remember what we originally learned from Abraham in episode 1?

  • Being hospitable to strangers is one way to demonstrate righteousness.
  • If you want to be righteous, make it your duty to establish rights for those who don’t have them.

Lot played the judge

The people of Sodom criticized Lot for “playing the judge.” Judge is shapat, meaning, “to pronounce sentence; by extension to govern” (Strong’s, H8199), and “to exercise the processes of government; to act as ruler; to decide cases of controversy as judge” (TWOT, 2443).

It seems the citizens of Sodom resent Lot because he is making decisions, taking authority where he has none. He is showing hospitality to and protecting sojourning strangers—AGAINST THE CUSTOMS OF THE CITY. The people of Sodom don’t like this.

Lot’s insistence on protecting his visitors according to the divine code of hospitality angers the residents of Sodom. Their values are obviously at odds.

They point out that he came to their city as a sojourner—someone who has no rights in their estimation—but who is now putting on airs to act as a judge and ruler by setting policy concerning how visitors are treated (by preventing them from being mistreated).

Note well their mistrust, hostility, and disrespect of foreigners and their prejudice against outsiders—the antithesis of Abraham’s and Lot’s behavior toward strangers. It seems the people plan to treat these visitors as violently as they have treated all other visitors, perhaps those whose anguished outcry God had heard.

A possible scenario

Lot whisked two visiting strangers from the city gate to his home. He refuses to turn them over to the mob.

The people of Sodom perhaps perceive the visitors as hostile, consider them to be spies. Maybe they think Lot is trying to subvert their city. (They appear to have been at odds with Lot about the subject before this.) They want to learn who the visitors are and examine their credentials.

They are highly disturbed upon hearing the rumors that apparently spread like wildfire through the city. Because of this, they become violent and threaten to “deal worse” (ra‘a, evil) with Lot than with his visitors.

What do the people do?

The mob “pressed hard”—with exceeding vehemence—against Lot, attacking him to break down the door.

What do the citizens want? If they are simply lusting for recreational sex, why are they so menacing?

Why do they threaten to harm Lot? If he has lived there for some time, why haven’t they harmed him before this? (Or have they?)

These people are angry, abusive, and violent. But for what reason?

The crucial questions to ask about this passage are:

  • Why do the inhabitants of Sodom threaten to harm Lot and abuse his guests?
  • What is their motivation?

We can discover answers by looking closer to home, at least in time.

If only we could say the answer to Sodom’s behavior is a thing of the ancient past. Unfortunately, it is still happening today. We’ll learn more next episode.

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

The Value of Lot’s Daughters

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

Lot Answers the Door

Lot Answers the Door

The Sodom Series, #5

The inhabitants of Sodom are banging on Lot’s door, demanding that he bring out the mysterious visitors he is hosting.

6 Lot went out of the door to the men, shut the door after him,
7 and said, “I beg you, my brothers, do not act so wickedly.”
–GENESIS 19:6–7 NRSV

Lot goes out to them, shutting the door behind himself, thus denying the citizens access to his visitors.

Because of the Eastern code of hospitality, Lot is duty-bound to protect his guests. This code of hospitality among ancient Arab and Semitic peoples was so strict—considered sacred—that no one was permitted to harm even an enemy who had been offered shelter for the night (NIV Study Bible).

(See Deuteronomy 23:3-4 for an indication of how God feels about those who refuse to offer hospitality.)

Lot appeals to them as brothers, in Hebrew, ah, meaning “brother, relative, fellow countrymen, friend, neighbor” (Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament, 62a).

He begs them not to “act so wickedly.” The Hebrew ra‘a means “to spoil; to be good for nothing; to be bad physically, socially, or morally; to afflict; to do harm” (Strong’s, H7489).

We can understand the essential meaning of ra‘a by its frequent juxtaposition with the word tob, meaning “good.” Moses said, “‘See, I have set before you today life and good [tob], death and evil [ra‘a]’” (Deut. 30:15 NKJV).

Lot apparently recognizes what the people are really there for. How would he know this, if not by previous experience?

What do the citizens really want?

Apparently, word has spread that two foreign visitors—strangers—have come to their city.

We can’t be sure whether the people of Sodom merely want to know more about the guests, but we learn they are unhappy about the visit and about Lot’s behavior toward the sojourners.

From previous experience, Lot seems to know what the citizens of Sodom want with the strangers in their midst, and he realizes he must appease the people. He says,

“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

Instead of his visitors, Lot offers to send out his two daughters “who have not known [yada] a man [îsh].” In this context the meaning of yada indicates the knowledge of intimacy that leads to sexual relations; Lot’s daughters were unmarried virgins, although they were betrothed (Gen. 19:14).

The word for man here is îsh, meaning “a man as an individual or a male” (Strong’s, H376). (Note that this word îsh was not used previously to describe the “men” of Sodom, because the writer was referring to people in general, enôsh.)

Lot says the people of Sodom could do with his daughters what “is good [tob] in your eyes.” Of these people it could be said, “Woe to those who call evil [ra‘a] good [tob] and good evil, who substitute darkness for light and light for darkness…” (Isa. 5:20 HCSB).

Lot begs, “Only do nothing to these men,” enôsh (people), referring to the angelic visitors, “for they have come under the shelter of my roof.” For means because. It is translated in the REB as “on this account.”

Because these visitors have taken shelter under his roof, they are protected by the divine code of hospitality by which Lot and Abraham lived.

The Lord was already inclined to punish Sodom before the angels arrived (see Gen. 13:13; 18:20–23). He considered inhospitality toward strangers a serious sin. (See Deut. 23:3–4; Job 29:16; 31:32; Matt. 25:35; Heb. 13:2). Boswell states,

It should be remembered, moreover, that in the ancient world inns were rare outside of urban centers, and travelers were dependent on the hospitality and goodwill of strangers not just for comfort but for physical survival. Ethical codes almost invariably enjoined hospitality on their adherents as a sacred obligation (96).

Church father Origen points out Lot’s only righteous act:

Hear this, you who close your homes to guests! Hear this, you who shun the traveler as an enemy! Lot lived among the Sodomites. We do not read of any other good deeds of his: …he escaped the flames, escaped the fire, on account of one thing only. He opened his home to guests. The angels entered the hospitable household; the flames entered those homes closed to guests. (Homilia V in Genesim [PG, 12:188–189]).

Lot offers hospitality and protection for his guests but offers the brutish Sodomites his daughters. We’ll discover 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

Sodom’s Welcome Committee

Sodom's welcome committee

The Sodom Series, #4

Two angels are invited to Lot’s home for a feast and to spend the night. But there’s a knock at the front door…

4 But before [Lot and his visitors] 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;
5 and they called to Lot, “Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us, so that we may know them.”
GENESIS 19:4–5 NRSV

Before Lot, his family, and his honored guests lie down for sleep, “the men of the city” came.

Although the word men is used, in ancient cultures women, when present, were often not counted. For example, Matthew 14:21 mentions that, when Jesus fed the multitude with loaves and fishes, “The number of those who ate was about five thousand men, besides women and children” (NIV).

Men in Genesis 19:4 is enôsh, which means “a mortal,” not a male individual (Strong’s H582), “‘man’ in the sense of ‘mankind’” (Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament, 136a).

Both old (zaqan), referring to men and women (Strong’s H2205), and young (naar), referring to boys, girls, and servants (Strong’s, H5288) show up.

All the people” means “people (as a congregated unit), collective troops or attendants” (Strong’s, H5971); “from the common Semitic root amam, meaning… people in general” (TWOT, 1640a). See Genesis 14:21.

The Holman Christian Standard Bible translates the phrase as “the whole population.” The KJV adds, “all the people from every quarter.” Quarter (qâtseh) means “extremity, border, edge, outmost coast” (Strong’s, H7097).

The citizens who showed up at Lot’s house were not only men. EVERYONE was included—the young and old, both males and females. They came from every part of the city, even from its outermost borders and extremities. Whatever reason they came for, it was something that every citizen of the city participated in.

Women and young people, as well men, gathered from the farthest parts of the city surrounded the house. All the people called out to Lot through the door, asking, “Where are the individuals who came to you tonight?”

Why?

So that we may “know” them

The New International Version and other translations use the phrase “so that we can have sex with them.” This is NOT found in other translations, nor is it in the Hebrew.

The correct translation is “so that we may know them,” as is translated in the New Revised Standard Version. See also Num. 31:17,35; Judg. 11:39; 1 Kings 1:4; 1 Sam. 1:19.

The Hebrew word yada, “to know” (Strong’s H3045) is used of knowledge in the vast majority of instances where some form of the word appears in the Old Testament. It “expresses a multitude of shades of knowledge gained by the senses” (TWOT, 848).

It is rarely used to refer to the act of intercourse, and in many of these instances where it is used in this sense, it pertains to intimacy of which sexual relations are only a part.

Knowledge, not sex

The word yada occurs 944 times in the Old Testament. Only ten times—1% of the occurrences—could it be said to refer to intercourse, and only heterosexual intercourse. It means to be acquainted with, to understand. For example, “The ox knows its owner, and the donkey its master’s crib; but Israel does not know, my people do not understand” (Isa. 1:3 NRSV).

In some Bible versions, yada is translated in Genesis 19:5 as “sex” because of the predetermined bias of biblical translation committees. Such bias can be determined by how yada is translated in its other uses, which more clearly refer to intimacy leading to sexual relations.

One such instance is Genesis 4:1: “Now Adam knew [yada] Eve his wife, and she conceived and bore Cain” (NKJV). Most other English translations also use “knew” instead of “sex” in this verse.

Why is yada translated as “sex” in Genesis 19:5 where such a meaning is questionable, but translated as “knew” in its remaining its uses where sexual relations are obvious (Gen. 4:1)?

The Living Bible paraphrases this verse as, “Bring out those men to us so we can rape them.” This perhaps is closer to the intent of the citizens of Sodom, but it is a poor translation for yada.

Why wasn’t shakab used? Shakab means “to lie down for rest or sexual connection” (Strong’s, H7901). Whenever shakab is used in a sexual sense, it refers to illicit relations (TWOT, 2381). (See Gen. 19:32ff; 34:2,7; 35:22; Ex. 22:16; Deut. 22:22; 27:21; Lev. 18:22; 20:13; 1 Sam. 2:22; 2 Sam. 11:4.) But shakab was not used in connection to the citizens of Sodom; yada was used.

Certainly not gay sex

Considering that both male and female, young and old are among those making the request, translating yada in a sexual sense—and primarily as homosexual sex—is puzzling if not ludicrous. John Boswell admits, “[T]he sexual overtones to the story are minor, if present” (Christianity, Social Tolerance, and Homosexuality, 93).

Interpreting the citizens’ request as a demand for homosexual relations is not found in any pre-Christian Judaistic writings for the previous 2000 years; the first recorded instance of homosexual sex being connected to the Hebrew word yada is in the Jewish philosopher Philo’s Quaest. Et Salut. in Genesis IV.31–37, and Philo wrote during Jesus’ lifetime.

Since about the twelfth century A.D., this biblical story has been used to condemn homosexuality. The word sodomy was coined after the name of this city and the behavior of its inhabitants.

Today, biblical traditionalists claim and defend that God destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah because of homosexual activity. But we must continue to examine this passage carefully as well as look at ALL the verses about Sodom in the Bible, which I do in The Sin of Sodom: What the Bible Really Says About Why God Destroyed the Cities of the Plain.

How does Lot respond to the threatening mob at his door? We’ll find out 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

When Angels Arrived in Sodom

Angels arrive at Sodom

The Sodom Series, #3

God told Abraham He had heard a grievious outcry against the people of Sodom. The Lord sends two angels to investigate.

The two angels came to Sodom in the evening, and Lot was sitting in the gateway of Sodom. When Lot saw them, he rose to meet them, and bowed down with his face to the ground.
–Genesis 19:1 NRSV

Disguised as ordinary traveling men, the two angelic visitors need lodging. They meet Abraham’s nephew Lot at the city gateway, which indicates that Sodom was fortified—it was surrounded by walls.

Ancient city gateways also served as administrative and judicial centers where legal matters were discussed and prosecuted. Lot may have been courting Sodom’s ruling council.

Regardless of his position, how did Lot act when he encountered these sojourning strangers?

Lot shows the strangers righteous hospitality

1 … When Lot saw [the two angels], he rose to meet them, and bowed down with his face to the ground.
2 He said, “Please, my lords, turn aside to your servant’s house and spend the night, and wash your feet; then you can rise early and go on your way.” They said, “No; we will spend the night in the square.”
3 But he urged 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.
–Genesis 19:1–3 NRSV

When Lot sees the visitors, he rises and bows to them as Abraham did (Gen. 18:2). The word means to prostrate oneself (Strong’s, H7812).

Lot shows these visitors the respect and hospitality his uncle offered them earlier. He addresses them deferentially as “my lords” and calls himself their “servant” as Abraham did. He asks them to sojourn at his home, where he will refresh them and give them lodging for the night.

They decline, saying they want to spend the night in the public square. “Where there are no inns and no acquaintance, it is not uncommon for travelers to sleep in the street wrapped up in their cloaks” (Jamieson, Fausset and Brown Bible Commentary, Gen. 19:2).

Lot, however, insists they come home with him, perhaps because the open square is an unsafe place after dark or he knows they will find no hospitality elsewhere.

“Urged them strongly” is the Hebrew word pasar, meaning “to peck at, press, push” stubbornly (Strong’s, H6484). Rotherham’s Emphasized Bible translates it: “he became exceeding urgent with them.”

So the two angels accompanied him home.

As his uncle did earlier, Lot prepares a banquet for them. We see more divine hospitality—righteousness in action—Near Eastern style.

It is Lot’s hospitality to strangers that sets him apart from the other citizens of Sodom. This is important to understand the rest of the story.

Meanwhile, outside the walls of Lot’s house, trouble is brewing.

What happens to the divine visitors? We’ll find out 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