New Defender's Study Bible Notes
19:1 in the gate. Archaeology has shown that it was customary in the Palestinian culture of the time for legal transactions, public proclamations and general business to be carried on at the city gate (Ruth 4:1,2; II Samuel 18:24,33; etc.). Lot had become recognized by this time as a leading resident of the city, despite his faith in God. Possibly the other leaders knew of his relation to Abraham, who had saved the city from destruction by the northern confederacy.
19:4 all the people. The enormity of Sodom’s wickedness is indicated by the eagerness with which not a few degenerates, but all the men of the city desired to commit the crime of homosexual rape, probably leading to murder, on two unknown visitors to their city. Lot’s desire to protect them demonstrates his basically godly character (II Peter 2:8) even though his carnality had led him into this compromising association.
19:8 do ye to them. Lot’s willingness to sacrifice his daughters (the fact that they still were virgins in such a place indicates that he at least had some influence over his family) is hard to understand, but it may well be that, by this time, he knew or suspected the angelic identity of the guests.
19:11 blindness. This miracle, which probably produced a blindness of mental confusion in the mob, rather than of actual physical sight, now clearly identified the two “men” as supernatural messengers of God, but even so, Lot’s family hesitated and his sons-in-law refused to follow their urgent instructions.
19:19 magnified thy mercy. This first reference in the Bible to God’s “mercy” is described quite properly by Lot as “magnified.” God’s mercy is also said to be “from everlasting to everlasting” (Psalm 103:17), and as great “as the heaven is high above the earth” (Psalm 103:11). He is “rich in mercy” (Ephesians 2:4) and has shown “abundant mercy” (I Peter 1:3) in saving us. God’s mercy is appropriately described in superlatives!
19:22 escape thither. Lot had been instructed to go to the mountain (Genesis 19:17), but he prevailed upon the angels to let him live in Zoar. He soon became unwelcome in Zoar, however, and went to the mountain after all (Genesis 19:30). It is always better to follow God’s instructions directly.
19:24 brimstone and fire. The precise nature of the physical agents used by God in the destruction of the five cities of the plain is uncertain. “Brimstone” is usually associated with sulfur, but the word may be used for any inflammable substance. The word “fire” is also used here for the first time in the Bible and could be understood either as a divine fire (as in Judges 6:21; I Kings 18:38; etc.) or as gases and other combustibles ignited in a volcanic explosion falling to earth after their eruption. The entire region gives abundant evidence of tremendous volcanic activity in the past, although most of this probably antedated Abraham, occurring in the later stages of the Flood and in the early decades following the Flood. The area is still very active tectonically, lying astride the “Great Rift Valley,” extending all the way from the Jordan River Valley into southern Africa. Unless the judgment was entirely miraculous, in its physical nature as well as its timing, the most likely explanation seems to be the sudden release, by an earthquake and volcanic explosion of great quantities of gas, sulfur and bituminous materials that had accumulated from materials entrapped beneath the valley floor during the Flood. These were ignited by a simultaneous electrical storm, so that it appeared to Abraham, watching from afar, that “the smoke of the country went up as the smoke of a furnace” (Genesis 19:28).
19:26 pillar of salt. This remarkable happening is stated matter-of-factly, with no suggestion that it was a special miracle or divine judgment. Lot’s wife “looked back” (the phrase might even be rendered “returned back” or “lagged back”) seeking to cling to her luxurious life in Sodom (note Christ’s reference to this in Luke 17:32-33), and was destroyed in the “overthrow” (Genesis 19:25,29) of the city. There are many great deposits of rock salt in the region, formed probably by massive precipitation from thermal brines upwelling from the earth’s deep mantle during the great Flood. Possibly the overthrow buried her in a shower of these salt deposits blown skyward by the explosions. There is also the possibility that she was buried in a shower of volcanic ash, with her body gradually being converted into “salt” over the years following through the process of petrifaction, in a manner similar to that experienced by the inhabitants of Pompeii and Herculaneum in the famous eruption of Mount Vesuvius.
19:30 dwelt in a cave. There have been “cave-dwellers” all through history, not primitive ape-men, but true cultured humans, forced by circumstances into such habitations. This home was quite a comedown for a family accustomed to material luxuries. The caves of the Dead Sea region have been inhabited by many people over the centuries. In fact, the famous Dead Sea Scrolls were found in such caves, left by communities of the Essene sect. Note also Job 30:3-6.
19:36 child by their father. This case of incest is not specifically condemned in Scripture, presumably because the Mosaic laws against incest had not yet been given. Lot’s daughters knew, for example, that their great uncle, Nahor, had married his niece, their own Aunt Milcah (Genesis 11:27-29), and that Abraham’s wife Sarah was his half-sister (Genesis 20:12). Nevertheless, their particular act was unnatural, to say the least, and they knew their father would not consent to it if he were sober. To their credit, they had remained virgins up to this time (Genesis 19:8), even in a licentious city like Sodom and were not motivated by physical lust, but by their concern that their family not be left without descendants. They should have merely trusted God concerning this need, however. The people descended from them, the Moabites and Ammonites, were perpetual enemies of the Israelites.