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When we read the KJV we get the impression that Lot possibly had daughters living with their husbands in Sodom, in addition to two unmarried daughters still living at home:

"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. 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." - Genesis 19:14-15 KJV

However, according to newer translations the sons-in-law spoken of were engaged to his daughters, which would mean that he only had two unmarried daughters:

"Then Lot went out and spoke to his sons-in-law who were going to marry his daughters. He said, “Quick, get out of this place because the Lord is about to destroy the city!” But his sons-in-law thought he was ridiculing them." - NET

I know that the idea that Lot had four daughters apparently comes from Rabbinic sources, so my question is what translation that is most viable from a linguistic point of view. Did Lot have other daughters that perished with their husbands in the destruction of Sodom, or did he only have two daughters? I don't know Hebrew myself, so I'd like the opinion of someone who is familiar with the nuances of Biblical Hebrew.

References: Article that mentions the rabbinic tradition

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I remember reading before the suggestion that because Abraham stopped interceding with God at 10 people that Lot's greater family probably had 10 people. This would imply 3 married daughters and 2 unmarried. But it's really purely speculative. –  curiousdannii Jul 21 at 1:48
    
It seems unlikely the daughters would willingly leave their betrothed behind or that the sons-in-law would easily let them go without them. Further, it would make it more likely the daughters would have been the ones looking back. –  Liam Jul 24 at 7:28

2 Answers 2

up vote 7 down vote accepted

Not Sure One Can Give a Dogmatic Answer, But...

Scripture does not ever give a total number of Lot's daughters. Indeed, the plural "sons-in-law" does not even need to imply two, so (assuming they were married, not just engaged) it could also be that Lot had more than four daughters, two at home and however many were married.

However, BDB states that the word for "son-in-law" (חָתָן; ḥāṯān) can be used either of a husband or bridegroom (i.e. similar, though with more legal connection of commitment, as a fiance), and not only in relation to a father, but also in relation to the wife.

Two clear examples of use for a husband are David and Michal, King Saul's daughter, and David is termed a "son-in-law" of King Saul in 1 Sam 22:14, which is more than just betrothed, as he and Michal were living with one another, 1 Sam 19:11-14). Also, Mose's wife uses the term herself for Moses (already her husband, already having born him a son) in Ex 4:25-26 (some translations put "husband" [e.g. KJV/NKJV] others "bridegroom" [e.g. ESV/NASB/NIV]).

While those examples are clear uses with a husband, I could find no clear uses of it as merely bridegroom relation in Scripture (i.e. where it could be positively affirmed that the ones referred to were betrothed, but not yet considered married). The term does seem to relate often to those newly married, but not necessarily so.1

So purely linguistic use within Scripture would tend to favor the idea that the marriage was already complete, but since some uses (like here in Gen 19 and others) are vague about the actual status, it does not rule out that non-biblical usage may further support a clear reading of merely betrothed, and thus allow for such in these vague places.

A Reason to View it as Only Betrothed (Only Two Daughters)

A reason to view it as betrothed is that one of the two daughter's who escaped was the "firstborn" daughter of Lot (Gen 19:31). If one can (A) demonstrate that the culture in Sodom and Gomorrah area followed the similar tradition that Laban later states (Gen 29:26), the firstborn must be married first, and then (B) confirm that such tradition was followed by Lot, one would have a stronger argument for the idea of betrothal, as obviously the firstborn was not yet married.

However, both of those seem a tall order to me. As to (A), Sodom/Gomorrah was a different country from that of Laban, and even Laban's statement seems more of technical excuse, using some ancient "tradition" that was probably not all that followed to force Jacob to labor longer; after all, Jacob had not heard about such a tradition in the 7 years he was working for Rachel. As to (B), the tradition was not something part of Abraham's family, else Jacob would have known it, so it is unlikely that it was Lot's family tradition (and he was displaced from his people anyway), and it appears that Sodom did not care much about marriage at all, given the behavior of the people.

In short, an argument based on the firstborn must marry first would appear to be weak in this cultural context, but if confirmed, would lend much more weight to the betrothed idea.

Some Observations that Favor Referring to Marriage (More than 2 Daughters)

(1) Clearly, the two daughters Lot is referring to were virgins (Gen 19:8). This does not eliminate the possibility of being betrothed, but his statement may (not necessarily) also be an inference that the has daughters who are not virgins as well. This of itself is a weak argument, but has more force when combined with the following points.

(2) The angels specifically make reference to taking "your two daughters who are here" (Gen 19:15, NKJV, emphasis added). That statement would be superfluous if those were Lot's only two daughters. That is, simply saying take your wife and two daughters would have been enough to communicate who Lot was to take. The additional qualification of the daughters "who are here" (הַנִּמְצָאֹ֔ת; hǎnimāṣāʾoth), the article prefixed to the niphal participle of the verb מָצָא (māṣāʾ; "to find"), which here has the idea of being found in a place, or having possession of (hence the idea of "here"). That these daughters were not "found" in the city and brought here is clear, as they were already in the house (v.8) at the time when the angels requested Lot to round up relatives (v.12) and he went to speak to his son-in-laws. He apparently had no sons, and went to his son-in-laws only, as in all the cultures of this period in the Middle-east, the male would make the decision for the family. He went out to try to persuade his son-in-laws to come, and thus save his daughters they were married to as well. These facts, to me, are the strongest argument for Lot having more than the two daughters.

(3) Another, weaker point, is theorizing on "why" Lot's wife turned back to look (Gen 19:26). While it is true that she may have desired for the life she was leaving behind in Sodom, it is also true that a mother's thoughts for her children and their well being is a powerful motivator. If daughters were left behind, that would be all the more reason why she may have looked back.

Conclusion

I don't believe one can be dogmatic either way, especially if it is true that merely betrothed is a valid interpretation of the word (I do not have time to pursue that at present; I'm just assuming the dictionaries are accurate in that).

However, evidence to me seems to favor that there was real marriage involved, and that Lot had more than the two daughters.


NOTES

1 A point emphasized in the entry for the word in Ludwig Koehler, Walter Baumgartner, M. E. J. Richardson, and Johann Jakob Stamm, The Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament (Leiden; New York: E.J. Brill, 1999), s.v. חָתָן.

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Thank you for your thoughtful and detailed answer! I agree with you that your second point is the most compelling one in favour of Lot having more than two daughters. And this is why I've wondered if I've missed out something essential, because despite of this strong hint in the biblical text that Job might have had more daughters, most modern translations seem to translate this as "sons-in-law betrothed to his daughters" or something similar. –  Cuneiform Aug 2 at 20:30

I believe the text says it like it was, that Lot's 2 daughters were 'married', - in that betrothal was marriage for some people groups, that the only way out of took an actual divorce, even though the consummation, wedding and living together had not yet occurred, ie. the customs of the Jews were such that betrothal was marriage, ie. Joseph thought to put Mary away, because of her supposed immorality, getting pregnant by another man, Joseph thought.

Engagements were marriages, but they were not yet officially wedded, nor was the marriage consummated.

Lots sons in law, who had not yet slept with his daughters, thought Lot was being comical saying the city would be destroyed by fire, and refused to leave the city with them. The daughters were betrothed, a legal situation, that may have required a divorce to remove oneself from.

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The text says clearly that Lot's wife looked back, not the daughters. Google Ron Wyatt on Sodom and Gommorah and the sulfur rocks (brimstone) found on current day Sodom and Gommorah site. –  Hello Sep 30 at 6:17
    
This doesn't show its work, which is a requirement on this site. Don't just tell us what you know, tell us how you know it. This will require citing sources that discuss ancient betrothal practices to support your claims. Also, comparing Mary and Joseph (1st century CE) to Lot (if historical, thousands of years earlier) doesn't make sense. Please further connect the dots for this example. –  Dan Nov 25 at 4:30
    
    
@Maj nem iz daen - I am somewhat more familiar with the site now, I will need to go back over my q/a to add back up info, etc. –  Hello Nov 25 at 20:17
    
Sounds good, @Hello . I put a post notice on this to give you the opportunity to do just that. Once you've updated, go ahead and flag the post with a custom flag indicating that you've edited it with sources and I'll remove the notice. Thanks and I'm looking forward to reading more! –  Dan Nov 26 at 0:50

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