Can you dig your man?

Posted: December 6, 2011 in Genesis, Good Samaritan, literalism, Lot, Old Testament, spirituality

Lot, the nephew of the patriarch of the Abrahamic religions, is famous for being one of three survivors of the fiery holocaust of Sodom. We know that Lot was spared because he was a righteous man (2 Peter 2:6-8), but why exactly did Peter consider him so?

Looking at the text, we can read about Lot’s travels through Canaan, Egypt, and Jordan in Genesis 11 through 14. Other than agreeing to part ways with Abraham in Genesis 13 to avoid a possible tragedy of the commons, we see nothing of Lot’s character outside of Genesis 19. So Genesis 19 must be the chapter upon which Peter bases his character judgment.

Before looking into Genesis 19, we need to look at the context. In Genesis 18, three men who appear as nothing more than travelers arrive at Abraham’s tent. Without being asked, Abraham rushes to show them all hospitality, bringing them food and allowing them to rest and refresh. As it later turns out, one of the three travelers is the Lord and the other two are angels. Abraham has unwittingly passed the test of the Good Samaritan. The divine reward for his hospitality is that Abraham’s elderly wife, Sarah, will miraculously bear Abraham a son.

As he shows the travelers on their way, the Lord informs Abraham that He will destroy the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah because of their unrighteousness. Abraham haggles with God and strikes a bargain in which God will not destroy the cities if 10 righteous men can be found living within those cities.

In Genesis 19, the test of the Good Samaritan passes to Lot. The two angels arrive at Sodom, and Lot immediately rushes to show them all hospitality. While hosting them that evening, however, a mob surrounds the house with the intent of “knowing” Lot’s visitors (in a Biblical sense). Lot offers the mob his virgin daughters if they will spare his guests, but fortunately for his daughters, the angels blind the mob and help Lot and his family escape.

In offering his guests all hospitality and in demonstrating his willingness to sacrifice his family for the safety of his guests, Lot passes the test of the Good Samaritan. Because of his actions, the angels allow Lot and Lot’s two daughters to escape the fire and brimstone they rain down on Sodom. Of course, Lot’s wife is not so lucky, since she commits the unpardonable sin of glancing behind at the destruction (in disobedience to God), being instantly transformed into a pillar of salt as punishment.

The lesson endeth not, however. Lot’s daughters take pity on the fact that Lot is now bereft of his wife and has no sons to carry on his name. So on the first night, one of Lot’s daughters gets Lot drunk and then has sex with him, conceiving a son. On the second night, Lot’s other daughter gets Lot drunk and then has sex with him, also conceiving a son.

We can see the parallels here. Abraham and Lot are both faced with the test of the Good Samaritan. They both pass. In Abraham’s case, his reward is that he is given foreknowledge of the destruction of Sodom, and he is given the blessing of a son. In Lot’s case, his reward is that he is spared the destruction of Sodom, and he is given the blessing of two sons.

Lot’s actions in Genesis 19 are why Peter deems him a righteous man. But taken literally by a 21st century that actually believes women are just as valuable as men, Lot’s actions are completely despicable. Imagine reading in the newspaper about a man who kept two of his dinner guests safe from attackers by allowing the attackers to rape his daughters instead. Or imagine a man who, when confronted with the fact that both of his daughters were giving birth to children he had fathered, gave the following response: “Well my daughter got me drunk, and I had no control over my actions. And then the very next night, my other daughter got me drunk, and I had no control over my actions again.”

Literalism kills the spirituality of the Bible. The point of the story is that those in need should be helped (the Good Samaritan test repeated throughout the Bible), and that those who are dependent upon you should be protected at all costs, whether or not they are blood.


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