Take the 2-minute tour ×
Biblical Hermeneutics Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for professors, theologians, and those interested in exegetical analysis of biblical texts. It's 100% free, no registration required.

In Genesis two angels visited Sodom and Gomorrah to check what's what. The residents of the town wanted to rape the angels (who had visited the most virtuous man in the town, Lot). Lot to protect the angels offered his two daughters for rape:

But before they 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. And they called to Lot, “Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us, that we may know them.” Lot went out to the men at the entrance, shut the door after him, and said, “I beg you, my brothers, do not act so wickedly. Behold, I have two daughters who have not known any 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 19:4-8 (ESV)

What kind of man offers his daughters for rape? How are we supposed to take this? What is the meaning?

share|improve this question
Hi John and welcome to Biblical Hermeneutics. I've edited the question a little and removed a parenthetical about the nature of God. (That bit might make a separate question, but since it's got a heavy doctrinal element, it's probably better for Christianity if it's not already been asked there.) I'm not 100% sure what you are asking in this question. Are you asking if offering daughters for rape is sanctioned by the text? Do you see some sort of contradiction? –  Jon Ericson Dec 11 '12 at 19:12
This has already been asked (here and here) on Christianity. I don't think the answers are very satisfactory but they do have some clues as to how Christians interpret the matter. –  Caleb Dec 11 '12 at 22:21
I did not know there was a similar post in christianity. thanks –  John Demetriou Dec 12 '12 at 11:36
A wicked man offers his daughters to be raped. But the Bible speaks of many wicked people who do horrific things. So I'm not sure the point of the question. (The question could be strengthened by bringing a NT citation that calls him righteous. At that point you could tag it with contradiction.) –  Kazark Dec 21 '12 at 3:00

4 Answers 4

up vote 6 down vote accepted

Was Lot righteous in his own merit, or just relatively good? The text here doesn't seem to argue for the former; if Lot was more righteous than the other residents of S'dom (evidenced by the fact that he was saved), that doesn't actually mean he was virtuous. The bar there was pretty low if the town's response to visitors was to initiate gang-rape.

So what kind of a man offers his daughters for rape? A man with low-enough moral standards that, given the choice of the whole region after his separation from Avraham, he nonetheless chose to live in S'dom, a wicked city. A truly-righteous person would do neither of these, but nonetheless Lot was apparently "good enough" to merit rescue. Either that, or being Avraham's nephew counted for something.

Please note: This answer was written for a neutral, academic audience and is not intended to be interpreted in the context of a religious belief or doctrine.

share|improve this answer
So If I am just better than the rest I shall be saved?? If the bar is really low and I am above it will I be saved? –  John Demetriou Dec 30 '12 at 20:54
We don't know why exactly Lot was saved. If it were "least-bad guy in town gets out" then someone would have escaped from each of the cities; the text doesn't tell us about that, though of course that doesn't mean it didn't happen. I didn't read your question as asking why Lot was saved, just how to interpret this part of the story; did I misunderstand? –  Gone Quiet Dec 31 '12 at 0:03

What follows is a reading of the Sodom narrative based on the commentary of Nachmanides which is drastically different from the way this story is commonly understood. No other reading of this story makes sense to me.

Progression of events:

The people of Sodom gather outside Lot's house and they make a request. The original Hebrew is highly ambiguous here:

וַיִּקְרְאוּ אֶל-לוֹט וַיֹּאמְרוּ לוֹ, אַיֵּה הָאֲנָשִׁים אֲשֶׁר-בָּאוּ אֵלֶיךָ הַלָּיְלָה; הוֹצִיאֵם אֵלֵינוּ, וְנֵדְעָה אֹתָם.

5 And they called unto Lot, and said unto him: 'Where are the men that came in to thee this night? bring them out unto us, that we may know them.'

In both English and Hebrew, the word "know" can be understood here in a cognitive or sexual sense. Lot responds to this request by offering the people of Sodom his two daughters:

"do to them as is good in your eyes;"

The townspeople are infuriated by Lot's offer and they respond:

יט,ט וַיֹּאמְרוּ גֶּשׁ-הָלְאָה, וַיֹּאמְרוּ הָאֶחָד בָּא-לָגוּר וַיִּשְׁפֹּט שָׁפוֹט--עַתָּה, נָרַע לְךָ מֵהֶם

'This one fellow [Lot] came in to sojourn, and he will needs play the judge; now will we deal worse with thee, than with them.'


It's clear from their response that the townspeople have no interest in Lot's daughters and that the offer was highly offensive to them. In my opinion, the Sodomites wanted to expel Lot's visitors from the city for any number of social/economic reasons and their justification: "that we may know them," is a thinly veiled threat, like saying: "we just want to talk." "That we may know them" also serves to highlight that these people are outsiders of the town that no one knows. Of course Lot understands the intentions of the mob and so he mocks them for their cruelty by intentionally misunderstanding their previous statement to suggest that the people want to engage in gang rape and sodomy:

ט,ז וַיֹּאמַר: אַל-נָא אַחַי, תָּרֵעוּ. יט,ח הִנֵּה-נָא לִי שְׁתֵּי בָנוֹת, אֲשֶׁר לֹא-יָדְעוּ אִישׁ--אוֹצִיאָה-נָּא אֶתְהֶן אֲלֵיכֶם, וַעֲשׂוּ לָהֶן כַּטּוֹב בְּעֵינֵיכֶם

7 And he said: 'I pray you, my brethren, do not so wickedly. 8 Behold now, I have two daughters that have not known man; let me, I pray you, bring them out unto you, and do ye to them as is good in your eyes;

Lot would never give over his daughters to the people of Sodom and he understands that these people have no interest in his daughters. Lot's offer is meant to be offensive and indeed the people of the town immediately recognize that they are being criticized - "This one fellow came in to sojourn and he will need play the judge [he's judging us]?" This attack by Lot on standard immigration procedure in Sodom makes him the target of their rage in the same way the illegal aliens were the target just a few verses earlier: "now will we deal worse with thee, than with them."

Why the sin of Sodom matters:

The sin of Sodom matters because the Later Prophets regularly compare the nation of Israel to Sodom (Isaiah 1:9-10, 3:9, Jeremiah 23:14, Ezekiel 16:41-56 and more.). If the sin of Sodom was sodomy than this comparison seems hyperbolic and inconsistent with all the common themes in the Later Prophets. However, if the sin of Sodom was xenophobia, insularity and a lack of social justice then this criticism is perfectly consistent with the messages that permeate the prophetic writings from that time.


Lot had no intention of giving his daughters over to people of Sodom and their original request to Lot had nothing to with sex. There was no sodomy in Sodom.

share|improve this answer
"the Sodomites wanted to expel Lot's visitors from the city for any number of social/economic reasons and their justification: "that we may know them," is a thinly veiled threat, like saying: "we just want to talk."" This really seem far fetched and just a way to avoid the condemnation of the Sodomites' homosexual behavior that is the most common interpretation of this passage... –  YoMrWhite Jan 13 '14 at 2:15
Lot offered his daughters without holding back. 'do to them whatever you wish'. It might be that the culture did indeed forbid the men of the city to 'do as they wish' with the women, but Lot is not really holding back here. Sorry for you, but 'know –  user132193 Oct 16 '14 at 10:06

I actually have no intellectual or difficulties of conscience with this story. It just seems good and right to me as it is told. In fact I have always found it very comforting and true to life.

Some have difficulty thinking Lot (a righteous man according to 2 Peter 2:7) sinned in this instance, so they come up with ideas on how even this action could be without guilt. For example, Luther, argues that Lot somehow knew these men had no interest in his daughters so it was more like an appeal something like, "Men, this is such a wicked idea, I would rather that you take my daughters and to prove it I even offer them to you (knowing you have no interest of course).

I do not deny that this is a possibility that by faith and internal prayers Lot may have perceived the situation that way, but I prefer to think of Lot as a man who was righteous but at the same time very much polluted by the wickedness of his surroundings. Notice the relationship to the world, he was salt and light but it blurred that salt and light which was in him. That makes him very righteous. Yet I think it is important to see Lot was not that righteous because of his poor choice in living location. Also Lot always seems portrayed as less righteous than Abraham which is partly why he may have chosen to live where he did. Also Abraham was not perfect either, so what are we to expect of Lot who was less righteous. We must not make saint 'saints' but must remember they are also sinners just as we are.

Therefore, I simply take the story to show that among vile sinners the righteous may seem vile also, but what makes them righteous in the unexplainable value they put on heaven through faith. In this case his righteous soul values his heavenly guests so much that he would rather see his loved daughters defiled before seeing his heavenly guests defiled. In a sense he is sacrificing himself in his daughters, as Abraham was willing to sacrifice himself in killing Isaac. However, unlike Abraham, I think his choice was very much still sinful. His sin of abandoning his beloved daughters from lack of faith, was conflicting with his holy desires from faith, so that his faith was very imperfect and in conflict with his flesh. So the message is even imperfect faith under trial, disguised by many sins, is very righteous still. The world is so wicked that it knows nothing about this. It does not value what God values. The value of faith is scoffed at by the world, but to God faith is righteous.

Lot was a holy man surrounded by sinners. Whatever he did, it was better than his neighbors. Many Christians are the same way - yet God is proud to call them righteous because they are very righteouss when compared to the world. The world scoffs at the righteousness of faith, hates God and despises heavenly things. God saved the stained and tarnished Lot, but destroyed the rest with fire. And so He will do the same thing in the last day.

I think these ideas dig into the underlying spirit of the passages. It's about weak faith.

share|improve this answer

The same word in Hebrew "yada" means "To Know", but the Context tells us that "To Know" means to have sexual intercourse-with or without permission.

In Gen. 4:1, Adam "yada" his wife, and she conceived. You don't get 'conception' by cognitive knowledge-something else had to happen.

In Jdgs 19:22-26, we see a simular passage as Gen. 19:4-8, but in this particular instance, there is no question of what "Yada" meant:

22 Now as they were making their hearts merry , behold, the men of the city, certain sons of Belial, beset the house round about , and beat at the door, and spake to the master of the house, the old man, saying , Bring forth the man that came into thine house, that we may know him. 23 And the man, the master of the house, went out unto them, and said unto them, Nay, my brethren, nay, I pray you, do not so wickedly ; seeing that this man is come into mine house, do not this folly. 24 Behold, here is my daughter a maiden, and his concubine; them I will bring out now, and humble ye them, and do with them what seemeth good unto you: but unto this man do not so vileth a thing. 25 But the men would not hearken to him: so the man took his concubine, and brought her forth unto them; and they knew her, and abused her all the night until the morning: and when the day began to spring , they let her go . 26 Then came the woman in the dawning of the day, and fell down at the door of the man's house where her lord was, till it was light. 27 And her lord rose up in the morning, and opened the doors of the house, and went out to go his way: and, behold, the woman his concubine was fallen down at the door of the house, and her hands were upon the threshold.

There is no question that the men of the town intended to "Sodomize" the visitor, and when the old man who had given him hospitality objected, they 'accepted' the substitute of the man's concubine, who they abused until she was dead.

God did not destroy Sodom and Gomorrah over some "gross misunderstanding" they had; He destroyed them because of their "Yada" ing, which in both the Gen. 19:4-8 and Jdgs. 19:22-26 meant attempting to force themselves sexually on those who visited their village or city. God called it "Abomination"(Lev. 18:22) and in vs 25, the land 'vomited out' it's inhabitants. In the Judges 19 account, the men of Israel rallied together and so destroyed the "Men of Belial" that there were none left of Benjamin to claim an inheritance in the land God gave them(Jdgs. 21:3).

Lot's offering of his daughters was a last ditch attempt to preserve the dignity of the travelers who were being threatened with homosexual rape. Unlike the traveler of Judges 19, the angels were well equipt to handle the Sodomites-striking them with physical blindness for their moral perversity. In both instances, the moral depravity reached the point where not only the perpetrators but also those complicit with them were destroyed.

share|improve this answer

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.