Story Of Lot Holds Many Interpretations
Finally, after a little more than 10 years, I can help my daughter with her homework again. The last time I was any good with her schoolwork was when she was in the second grade. I helped her with a math quiz. Not to boast, but I did pretty well. I scored seven out of 10.
daughter’s college freshman English class was this: Read the biblical story of Lot and discuss the ways in which it can be interpreted. Easy. For me, the question might as well have been to write the answer to 10 + 1. (The answer is 11. Luckily, I’m a boy, so I use for counting.)
First, a summary of the story: God decided to destroy the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah for their wickedness. Abraham argues with God and tries to persuade God from doing so.
Later, two men — who are actually angels — travel to Sodom to visit the home of Abraham’s nephew, Lot. Lot offers them a lot, including food and lodging.
Soon there is trouble, however. All the men of Sodom surround Lot’s home and demand that Lot bring out his guests so that they can have sex with them.
Lot begs the men not to treat his visitors in this way and offers the men his two virgin daughters instead, telling them that they can do to his daughters as they please. The men don’t take Lot up on his offer and insist that Lot turn over his visitors to them. They try to break the house door down to get at Lot’s two angel guests.
The angels blind the men so that they cannot find the door and command Lot and his family to leave the city as God will destroy it. They also instruct Lot and his family not to look back at the city as they to take a look (one tradition says she wanted to be sure her daughters were with them), and she is turned into a pillar of salt.
Lot and his daughters es- cape and live in a cave in the mountains. Lot’s daughters bemoan the fact that there is not a man left who can give them offspring. They devise a plan to get their father drunk and have sex with him on successive nights.
They become pregnant and give birth to sons, who will become the ancestors of the Moabites and Ammonites. Lot had offered his daughters for rape; now his daughters rape him.
Why is such a story as this in the Bible? Students of mine are sometimes surprised to learn that there were no television sets, internet or phones during biblical times. “How did t hey watch movies?” They didn’t.
People in antiquity told stories instead — stories to entertain and stories that explain the world around them. The story of Lot ridiculed the Moabites and Ammonites, neighbors of the Israelites. The function of the story is similar to racist jokes I used to hear when I was in elementary school. It demeans other groups in order to bolster the standing of one’s own.
The story has a moral aspect as well. Hosts were expected to provide hospitality and protection to strangers. The shameful behavior of the men of Sodom is condemned.