April 27, 2014

Commentary on the Book of Genesis

By: Tom Lowe

                         

Lesson II.D.4: Lot Rescued and the Cities Destroyed. (Gen. 19:12-29).   

        

Genesis 19:12-29 (KJV)

12 And the men said unto Lot, Hast thou here any besides? son in law, and thy sons, and thy daughters, and whatsoever thou hast in the city, bring them out of this place:

13 For 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.

14 And Lot went out, and spake unto his sons in law, which married his daughters, and said, Up, get you out of this place; for the LORD will destroy this city. But he seemed as one that mocked unto his sons in law.

15 And when the morning arose, then the angels hastened Lot, saying, Arise, take thy wife, and thy two daughters, which are here; lest thou be consumed in the iniquity of the city.

16 And while he lingered, the men laid hold upon his hand, and upon the hand of his wife, and upon the hand of his two daughters; the LORD being merciful unto him: and they brought him forth, and set him without the city.

17 And it came to pass, when they had brought them forth abroad, that he said , Escape for thy life; look not behind thee, neither stay thou in all the plain; escape to the mountain, lest thou be consumed .

18 And Lot said unto them, Oh, not so, my Lord:

19 Behold now, thy servant hath found grace in thy sight, and thou hast magnified thy mercy, which thou hast shewed unto me in saving my life; and I cannot escape to the mountain, lest some evil take me, and I die:

20 Behold now, this city is near to flee unto, and it is a little one: Oh, let me escape thither, (is it not a little one?) and my soul shall live.

21 And he said unto him, See, I have accepted thee concerning this thing also, that I will not overthrow this city, for the which thou hast spoken.

22Haste thee, escape thither; for I cannot do any thing till thou become thither. Therefore the name of the city was called Zoar.

23 The sun was risen upon the earth when Lot entered into Zoar.

24 Then the LORD rained upon Sodom and upon Gomorrah brimstone and fire from the LORD out of heaven;

25 And he overthrew those cities, and all the plain, and all the inhabitants of the cities, and that which grew upon the ground.

26 But his wife looked back from behind him, and she became a pillar of salt.

27 And Abraham got up early in the morning to the place where he stood before the LORD:

28 And he looked toward Sodom and Gomorrah, and toward all the land of the plain, and beheld, and, lo, the smoke of the country went up as the smoke of a furnace.

29 And it came to pass, when God destroyed the cities of the plain, that God remembered Abraham, and sent Lot out of the midst of the overthrow, when he overthrew the cities in the which Lot dwelt.




Introduction

Peter gives his version of this passage in 2 Peter 2:6-8{1], where we find that God turned the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah into ashes, and delivered righteous Lot. We read in the previous lesson of God coming to observe the wickedness of Sodom and to see if there were any righteous there other than Lot. We discovered that Lot was a good man and that there was not even one more like him. We found that the Sodomites were very wicked and vile. God’s emissaries must act before God does, and take Lot and his family to a place of safety. God having shown mercy to Lot proceeded to execute justice by destroying Sodom and turning Lot’s wife into “a pillar of salt.”



Commentary

12 And the men said unto Lot, Hast thou here any besides? son in law, and thy sons, and thy daughters, and whatsoever thou hast in the city, bring them out of this place:



Lot is in a very bad situation. He spent years down in the city of Sodom. He had learned to tolerate the homosexual practices of his neighbors, although he calls it wickedness. He had seen his sons and daughters grow up, and they apparently had married people with those ethical standards. As long as he was in this place he was out of the will of God, and he had no witness for God. He did not win anyone for the Lord in this city.



I don’t believe Lot was a saved man at this point, but remember what Peter said: “if he condemned the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah by burning them to ashes, and made them an example of what is going to happen to the ungodly; and if he rescued Lot, a righteous man, who was distressed by the filthy lives of lawless men (for that righteous man, living among them day after day, was tormented in his righteous soul by the lawless deeds he saw and heard) (2 Pe. 2:6-8). Lot never enjoyed it down there in Sodom. Now that he is going to leave the city, he cannot get anyone to leave with him except his wife and two single daughters.



13 For 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.



God’s message to Abraham was a joyful one; he and Sarah would have the promised son within a year. But the message to Lot was frightening; God was going to destroy Sodom and everything in it! God would have spared Sodom had the angels found ten believers; but because that was not possible, God mercifully rescued the believers they did find (v. 16). God’s message to the lost world is that judgment is coming, but His promise to His own people is that he will rescue them (1 Thess. 5:1-11; 2 Pe. 2:4-10).



14 And Lot went out, and spake unto his sons in law, which married his daughters, and said, Up, get you out of this place; for the LORD will destroy this city. But he seemed as one that mocked unto his sons in law.



Because of his faith and obedience, Abraham was a blessing to his home, and to the whole world. But, because of his worldliness, Lot had no spiritual influence, either in the city or in his own home. When the time came that Lot got this word from the Lord to leave the city, he went to his sons-in-law and said, “Let’s get out of here. God is going to destroy this city.” They just laughed at him. He had lived so long as one of them, without any real noticeable differences that they took his warning as a big joke. Even his wife was so in love with the city that she had to take one last look back, and that look killed her (v. 26; Luke 17:32{2]). Lot’s two daughters accompanied him out of the city; but they ended up in a cave, getting their father drunk and committing incest with him. After separating from Abraham, Lot had allowed his character to deteriorate; and his influence declined with it.



The language, “which married his daughters,” indicates that marriage had already taken place and that Lot, therefore, had daughters living with their husbands in addition to the two daughters who were rescued along with him; the two he had earlier offered to the Sodomites, saying, “I have two daughters who have never slept with a man” (Ge. 19:8).



15 And when the morning arose, then the angels hastened Lot, saying, Arise, take thy wife, and thy two daughters, which are here; lest thou be consumed in the iniquity of the city.

16 And while he lingered, the men laid hold upon his hand, and upon the hand of his wife, and upon the hand of his two daughters; the LORD being merciful unto him: and they brought him forth, and set him without the city.



Here is a man who was God’s man in spite of everything. If I only had the book of Genesis, I am not sure that I would believe Lot was saved, but because Peter calls him a righteous man (v. 12), we know that he was. Lot had become righteous because he had followed Abraham—he believed God, and he had offered the sacrifices.



It seems that Lot didn’t show the proper concern for his safety, and that of his family, for he lingered or dawdled, probably to decide what to take with him, and then to bundle it for his escape from the city. Many have wondered why he “lingered” and that has led to other theories such as, he was depressed due to the prospect of losing all the property he had acquired during his life, or his benevolent heart was paralyzed by thoughts of the looming crisis. This is the charitable way of accounting for a delay that would have been fatal had it not been for the friendly urgency of the angels.



There are multitudes today who are under conviction because of the miserable condition of their spiritual state, and they feel the necessity of making a change, and yet they put it off, and foolishly linger in danger of God’s judgment. Lot did so, and it might have been fatal to him, if the angels had not taken him by the hand and brought him out of Sodom, with mercy mixed with fear—“snatch others from the fire and save them; to others show mercy, mixed with fear—hating even the clothing stained by corrupted flesh” (Jude 23). The Lord was merciful to him, since He could have left him to perish with the Sodomites, because he was so reluctant to leave. The reason He was merciful to him is described in verse 29, as God having remembered Abraham. That’s why, in the face of Lot’s seeming reluctance to leave (“lingered”), the angels personally and forcefully escorted him and his family beyond the city’s precincts. If God had not been merciful to us, our lingering could have been the cause of our ruin.



Notice the gentle, yet forceful manner of the angels, taking Lot’s hand, his wife’s hand, and the hand of his two daughters. But, do you have any idea of the power of an angel’s grip; Lot and his family were without doubt under their control.


17 And it came to pass, when they had brought them forth abroad, that he said, Escape for thy life; look not behind thee, neither stay thou in all the plain; escape to the mountain, lest thou be consumed.



The angels ordered Lot to “escape for thy life.” He must not obsess over what he must leave behind, for they were only things that can be replaced; all his possessions would be destroyed with the city, but he would be saved. Today, the Lord says the same thing to those who live without Christ in their lives: “Escape for thy life,” and flee to Me, and I will give you rest and peace and joy and salvation. Don’t return to sin and Satan for that is looking back to Sodom. Don’t lean on the world and on your own understanding for that is staying in the plain. Reach toward Christ and heaven for that is escaping to the mountain, and you must not stop short.”



18 And Lot said unto them, Oh, not so, my Lord:

19 Behold now, thy servant hath found grace in thy sight, and thou hast magnified thy mercy, which thou hast shewed unto me in saving my life; and I cannot escape to the mountain, lest some evil take me, and I die:

20 Behold now, this city is near to flee unto, and it is a little one: Oh, let me escape thither, (is it not a little one?) and my soul shall live.



The first time God rescued Lot, he was a prisoner of war (See Ge. 14:12, 16); and he went right back to Sodom. That painful experience should have warned him that he was out of the will of God; but if Lot heard the warning, he certainly did not heed it. Now God has to take Lot by the hand (v. 16) and forcibly lead him out of Sodom! First Lot lingered (v. 16); then he argued (vs. 18-19); then he begged to be allowed to go his own way (v. 20). Instead of being grateful for God’s mercy and obeying His rescuers, Lot resisted them and caused trouble for them. In contrast, Abraham obeyed God even to the point of offering up his own son.



21 And he said unto him, See, I have accepted thee concerning this thing also, that I will not overthrow this city, for the which thou hast spoken.

22 Haste thee, escape thither; for I cannot do any thing till thou be come thither. Therefore the name of the city was called Zoar.



God not only spared Sodom until Lot was safe, but he also saved another city (Bela) permanently because of Lot’s pleading. This is one of the Old Testament’s illustrations of eternal security for backslidden believers, of God’s care for His people (Rev. 7:3{7]), and proof of God’s love for a good but weak man. In spite of Lot’s deep apostasy the New Testament assures us that he was a “righteous man (redeemed),” and that his righteous soul was daily vexed with the unlawful deeds of his Sodomite neighbors (2 Pe. 2:8{1]). Doubtless, Lot will be among those who “will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames” (1 Cor. 3:15).



Zoar may have been located at the south end of the Dead Sea. Zoar means “a little one.” Before that it was known as “Bela” (Ge. 14:2{6]).



23 The sun was risen upon the earth when Lot entered into Zoar.

24 Then the LORD rained upon Sodom and upon Gomorrah brimstone and fire from the LORD out of heaven;

25 And he overthrew those cities, and all the plain, and all the inhabitants of the cities, and that which grew upon the ground.



The scene is one of total destruction. The only thing that comes close to duplicating the awfulness and devastation of God’s wrath against Sodom was the destruction created by the atomic bombs dropped on Japan to end World War II. Someone will surely ask “What was the reason for the destruction of Sodom, Gomorrah and the cities of the plain?” Actually, there were several reasons:

1. It was designed to be an enduring revelation of the wrath of God against sin and sinners in all ages.

2. It is often referred to in the Scripture as a pattern of the downfall of Israel, Deut. 29:23; of Babylon, Isa. 13:19; of Edom, Jer. 49:18; of Moab and Ammon, Zeph. 2:9.

3. It was illustrative of the vengeance of eternal fire, Jude 7

4. It was illustrative of the ruin of all who live ungodly lives, 2 Pe. 2:6.

5. It was illustrative of the disaster that comes to all who despise the gospel, Matt. 10:15.

6. It is in allusion to this destruction that the place of the dammed is often represented by a lake that burns as Sodom did, with fire and brimstone.

Many people attempt to remove this calamity from the category of the “miraculous,” by claiming that the destruction was caused by a volcanic eruption. The raining down of fire and brimstone from heaven is perfectly agreeable with this idea, since those very substances, after being propelled high into the air by the force of the volcano, would fall in a fiery shower on the surrounding region. Whether it was supernaturally produced or a natural disaster produced by God is of little consequence: it was a divine judgment, foretold and designed for the punishment of those who were gross sinners. The fact that the destruction was foretold and then happened just as God said it would makes it miraculous either way.



Let us learn from this the evil that sin does and its hurtful nature. Sin tends to ruin and even kill a person. See what a fearful thing it is to fall into the hands of the living God! 



26 But his wife looked back from behind him, and she became a pillar of salt.



I think this verse has been greatly misunderstood. Why in the world did Mrs. Lot turn and look back? I think that the reason is twofold. First of all, she turned and looked back because she did not want to leave Sodom. She loved Sodom. She loved Lot, too, but it was a lot of Sodom that she loved. And she didn’t want to leave it. Her heart was in Sodom. Her body walked out, but she surely left her heart there. 



The other reason she looked back is simply that she did not believe God. God had said, “Leave the city, and don’t look back.” Lot didn’t look back; he believed God. But Mrs. Lot did not believe God. She was not a believer, and so she didn’t really make it out of the city. Lot’s wife was turned into a “pillar of salt” because she was still too reluctant to leave the wicked city; her name has become legendary: “Remember Lot’s wife” (Lk. 17:32).



The deadliest looking back takes place in the imagination which has become entangled in sinful associations which it cannot willingly let go. Lot’s wife was not only accustomed to Sodom; apparently she liked it and did not want to leave. In that respect, she was representative of all those in every time who are caught in the consequences of the evil they cannot quite let go. It is not enough to turn the back tentatively on old temptations; there must be a clean, full break. A man who is addicted to alcohol must be resolute not to take another drink. Unless he genuinely wants to quit, nobody else can help him. My father was what I would call a ‘weekend alcoholic.’ He drank beer Friday evening and all day Saturday, and sometimes on Sunday, but he never drank during the week. One day our family physician told him that he had diabetes and if he took another drink it could kill him—he never drank after that and my life improved immensely. I believe my mother persuaded the doctor to put the fear in my dad. What is true of alcoholism is true for other sins. Lot’s wife’s desires were too entangled with Sodom’s society, and the result was disastrous. 



There is another kind of “looking back” which may not be associated with sinfulness, but which may also be destructive of the great possibilities of life. It is the looking back which is obsessed with the memory of old failures. This may be a danger for men who essentially are good—or want to be. They realize that in certain situations and matters they have failed. If only they could go back and live life over, they say to themselves, how different things would be now. That of course is a natural and inevitable movement of the mind, and it has in it a good element, since it indicates a sensitive conscience. Nevertheless, the mind must be disciplined and trained to go another way. The past must be faced, acknowledged, and written off with an unflinching recognition of the red ink on the ledger; but then the page must be resolutely turned to a new one where another and more positive record can begin. That is the lesson which brave souls must learn. Many men mentioned in the Bible had to overcome original blunders and defeats. Remember, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, and David. Paul the apostle is the great witness to that truth. Looking back on his earlier life, he might have been sucked down into a quicksand of vain regrets; but, as he wrote to the Philippians, he had learned instead to be as one who, “Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead” (Phil. 3:13).



27 And Abraham gat up early in the morning to the place where he stood before the LORD:



“The place where he stood before the LORD” refers to the place where he stood when he pleaded with God not to destroy Sodom if even ten righteous men were there. Now Abraham goes back to that same place, as if his first instinctive act in the morning was to pray from that location. From there he could see the burning city, because ten righteous men could not be found there. 



The result of the Lord’s visit to Abraham was new hope and excitement as Abraham and Sarah joyfully anticipated the birth of a son. Lot, however, lost everything when Sodom was destroyed; and he himself was saved, “yet as by fire” (1 Cor. 3:15). 



28 And he looked toward Sodom and Gomorrah, and toward all the land of the plain, and beheld, and, lo, the smoke of the country went up as the smoke of a furnace.



When Abraham looked down toward Sodom, I think his heart was sad. I’m not sure whether or not he knew Lot had escaped. He probably learned about it later on. When he looked down there he probably was sad for Lot’s sake, but Abraham had not invested a dime down there. When judgment came, it did not disturb him one bit because he wasn’t in love with the things of Sodom and the things of this world. Remember that we are told, “Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. (1 Pe. 2:15).



The two cities, Sodom and Gomorrah, are mentioned as examples of appalling wickedness—with the implication that those who imitate them will meet the same fate.



Verses 27 and 28 indicate that by sunrise the destruction was complete. But this contradicts the implication of verse 15 that the men waited all night—the attempt against them had been made early in the evening according to 19:4—“Before they had gone to bed, all the men from every part of the city of Sodom—both young and old—surrounded the house.” Though the Bible doesn’t provide an explanation for this apparent contradiction, I would offer this: “A full day may have passed from Lot’s departure until Abraham observed the smoke and destruction of Sodom. Fire and brimstone rained down sometime after noon (v. 23), which would provide for Lot’s delayed departure and give him time to reach Zoar. Abraham arose the following morning and went to the place where he had stood before the Lord (v. 27) and saw the destruction for the first time.”  The dense smoke Abraham saw was caused by burning sulfur (v. 24).



I find this very interesting: The plain which is now covered by the Salt or Dead Sea, shows a great difference in the level of the bottom of the lake between the northern and southern ends—the southern end being 13 feet and the northern 1300 feet—that the southern end was of recent formation, and submerged at the time of the destruction of the cities.



29 And it came to pass, when God destroyed the cities of the plain, that God remembered Abraham, and sent Lot out of the midst of the overthrow, when he overthrew the cities in the which Lot dwelt.



Abraham saw that the cities of the plain were destroyed (Ps. 91:8{3]) and knew that God had not found ten righteous people. But God delivered Lot. When all is said and done, Lot was not spared because of his personal merit, but because the Lord was being merciful to him. But why was he merciful to Lot? “God remembered Abraham, and sent Lot out of the midst of the overthrow.” There was not much to remember about Lot that would have deserved his saving. But Abraham’s devotion had thrown a protection around him. So in ways beyond our comprehension, the prayer of the good man may avail much, and may even serve to save another from hurt and even death. What are the limits, if any, of intercessory prayer and of vicarious mercy? The thought that Lot was saved because “God remembered Abraham,” may stand as a little hint of the salvation of mankind made possible because God remembered Jesus and the atonement He made on the Cross.



This passage, in spite of the picture of death and destruction it conjures up, is welcome and instructive. It shows that if God is a consuming fire to the wicked, He is a friend of the righteous. He remembered the intersessions of Abraham, and that should give us confidence that He will remember the intersessions of One greater than Abraham in our behalf.



Lot was conformed to the world (Rom. 12:2{4]). All that he lived for went up in smoke and was buried under ruins somewhere in the area around the Dead Sea. The best archeological evidence locates Sodom and Gomorrah south of the Dead Sea, that is, in the area south of the Lisan Peninsula that juts out on the east, and where there are tar pits which provides sealants for all types of uses. Lot is a warning to all believers not to love the world, not to become friendly with the world, or be stained by the world (James 1:27{5]), because the day of reckoning finally comes. 



SCRIPTURE REFERENCE AND SPECIAL NOTES


{1] (2 Peter 2:6-8) if he condemned the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah by burning them to ashes, and made them an example of what is going to happen to the ungodly; and if he rescued Lot, a righteous man, who was distressed by the filthy lives of lawless men (for that righteous man, living among them day after day, was tormented in his righteous soul by the lawless deeds he saw and heard)—


{2] (Luke 17:32) Remember Lot's wife!


{3] (Ps. 91:8) You will only observe with your eyes and see the punishment of the wicked.


{4] (Rom. 12:2). Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is--his good, pleasing and perfect will.


{5] (James 1:27) Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.


{6] (Ge. 14:2{6]) went to war against Bera king of Sodom, Birsha king of Gomorrah, Shinab king of Admah, Shemeber king of Zeboiim, and the king of Bela (that is, Zoar).


{7] (Rev. 7:3) "Do not harm the land or the sea or the trees until we put a seal on the foreheads of the servants of our God."


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