Sodom and Gomorrah Thinking Part 1: The Story of Lot

For this first segment (there will be at least three parts) I am going to discuss the story of Lot and his escape from Sodom and Gomorrah. I understand that very often people quote other scripture about the horrible sins of these cities, sins such as lasciviousness and not taking care of the poor and needy. People particularly love to quote Ezekiel 16:48–50 in regards to Sodom and Gomorrah but there are several scriptures about those cities throughout the Bible (Isaiah, Lamentations, Amos, Jeremiah,  and several others including the New Testament).

But I am not going to discuss those scriptures. Googling “the sin of Sodom and Gomorrah” will get you a wealth of discourse on those scriptures. No, today, I am going to speak only to the evidence presented in the actual story preceding the destruction of Sodom where Lot lived.

At church (I go to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) we often think of Lot as a prophet of God, which is kinda funny considering we believe his brother Abraham to be a prophet of God. I’m not so sure that Lot was actually a prophet, but perhaps. If so, it is a story of a prophet who got screwed over.

Lot and Abraham (Abram at the time) separated ways because they had grown so wealthy  that if they stayed together there would not be enough for all their flocks to eat. So Abraham said, hey, let’s split up so no one dies, and you can choose which direction you want to go to and I’ll go in the other direction.  Lot agrees, chooses his direction. Their parting was amiable.

Lot settles over in Sodom and pitches his tent toward Sodom, meaning his tent opening faced the city which is symbolic of him accepting the culture of Sodom instead of pitching his tent toward God, at least this is how we discuss this at church, though he was probably trying to be the nice new neighbor in town. (This is in Genesis 13)

Then there’s some drama where Lot is essentially in the wrong place at the wrong time and gets caught by a bunch of kings fighting each other,  and Abram saves him. Abram and Sarai deal with infertility, etc. Then Abram, now called Abraham, gets a warning from three angels (or holy men) that Sodom and Gomorrah will be destroyed. Abraham pleads with the Lord not to destroy the cities for the sake of the righteous and the Lord agrees that if there were ten righteous people living in them, then the cities will be spared. Unfortunately for those cities there weren’t even ten decent human beings among them.  (Genesis 14-18)

Now we come to Lot (Chapter 19). He also has angels visit; holy men, we often call them at church, probably because people could see them with their naked eye. In the King James Version it says two, in the Joseph Smith translation it says three. Heck, maybe they’re the same ones who visited Abraham. Either way, Lot gets warned, but unfortunately some people in Sodom noticed that Lot had some visiters who were different from the standard fair. (I wonder if  they saw the shining goodness in those holy peeps and being evil people they wanted to do something awful to force the light to dim.)

These men of Sodom went to Lot’s home, pounded on the door until it almost broke, and  demanded that they be given Lot’s guests to rape them. Now, this verse is often used at church to talk about the evils of homosexuality.  However, there was nothing consensual about this interaction. These people thought it was okay to bang on someone’s door and demand to rape the people visiting. Whatever your feelings on homosexuality, this is not about homosexual sex, this is clearly a rape issue, and rape is all about power and control, the kind that does harm instead of good.

In the King James Version of the Bible we get Lot saying, no no, not these holy men, but here rape my daughters instead! Now, if this is the correct version, what does that say? It says Lot has been adversely affected by the evil culture of Sodom. No true prophet of God would ever offer up his daughters to such a heinous act. To do so is Sodom and Gomorrah thinking. To find justifications for Lot doing such an evil though is also Sodom and Gomorrah thinking.

However, in the Joseph Smith Translation, this is NOT what Lot does. In fact, when Lot says no way, I am not turning over my guests to you, the rapists at his door then said, fine, give us your daughters to rape instead and Lot begs them to not do such a thing trying to use his daughters’ virginity to leverage some measure of compassion and morality. That didn’t work. The angels of God then had to rescue Lot and thus Lot’s daughters from these insane people. The JST frequently gets skipped in Sunday School lessons. Instead I hear justifications for Lot offering up his daughters when in reality according to our own original Prophet that is not what actually happened. It’s a bit frustrating. (JST version)

Now we see heterosexual rape, so again, this story isn’t about homosexuality, it’s about a society so steeped in a culture of rape where they actually thought it was okay to come to someone’s home, demand to rape their guests, and then to demand to rape their daughters. Now, think about it. What kind of culture must they live in where they felt like they were in the right to be loud and obnoxious without fear of getting in trouble to demand these things? And do they even sound like the kind of people who would care about the poor and needy, or morality at all for that matter?

But this is not all. We Lot, his wife, and two unmarried daughters. They were warned to not look back and look at the city being rained down upon by fire as they fled. Mama does though, probably thinking of her other kids and grandchildren, and turns into a pillar of salt which is a whole other topic. And we are left only with Lot and his two virgin daughters. They end up living in a cave for a while near Zoar.

And then his daughters do something unspeakable. They get their father drunk, and have sex with him while he is so inebriated he can’t tell them no. Oh, wait. That’s rape. Lot’s daughters rape him, and they do so enough times to get pregnant. Now, at church I have heard that those girls believed they were the last people on Earth. Malarky. They knew about Uncle Abraham. They were just living up in a cave for far too long because their dad was afraid to live in Zoar. But they justify it by  saying we’ll preserve his seed.

So here we have two girls colluding together to rape their father and justifying it. They had been infected by the evil culture of Sodom. They had engaged in typical Sodom and Gomorrah thinking.  In the Joseph Smith Translation it makes it very clear that “they did wickedly”, but again, at church, we justify their actions by saying they didn’t believe there were any other humans on Earth. This is also Sodom and Gomorrah thinking.

Of course they would have at least known about Abraham, and all the different Kings that had clashed together that Lot accidentally got in the middle of. Back in Chapter 14 there were several kings mentioned, not just the ones of Gomorrah and of Sodom, there was the king of Zoar and of Admah, and of Elam, and of Shinar and several others, all clashing together. You think Lot didn’t at least tell of that capture and escape? Maybe he left out Abram when telling it to his kids to make himself look better, but he and his children likely knew of all these other kings.

So no. They knew there were other people. They simply were deeply affected by the very toxic evil culture of Sodom, where it was perfectly okay to pound on someone’s door and demand to rape their guests or daughters without fear of punishment. This is exactly the kind of culture that would be full of haughty, lascivious, selfish, uncaring, people; the kind who ignore the poor and needy, and engage in dehumanizing and exploiting others.

Perhaps Lot, according to the JST version, was the only decent human being left. If you don’t believe in the JST version, then the only reason Lot got to live at all was because the Lord remembered Abraham (Chapter 18), and went ahead and saved Lot, not because Lot was righteous, but because Abraham probably asked it of the Lord and the Lord said yes.

You might think, what of the children? Well, in that kind of culture, the children had probably learned to be horrible and were probably regularly sexually exploited. Maybe even the babies too. Growing up in a culture of sexual abuse, rape, and exploitation would have doomed them, so perhaps it was a kindness to those children and babies.

Think about it, Lot’s whole family came from righteousness and fell into such moral depravity after they moved in, so much so that two of the three survivors committed incestual rape. To grow up into that? It’s heartbreaking.

And I bet it was heartbreaking for Lot to find his daughters pregnant. He probably wept, devastated, unable to trust them, and perhaps hated himself for choosing to try to be such a good neighbor to the people of Sodom, for moving in in the first place, for staying up in the cave for so long. Perhaps he accepted the justification his daughters gave him so he could love the children they bore. Who knows. We can only speculate. We never even hear from him again. (Though we hear a little bit about the descendants, the people of Moab and the people of Ammon) Regardless, how horrible it must have been for him to know that his daughters had been so deeply affected by Sodom and Gomorrah thinking, and how troubling it would be to try to remove that stain from his line, to not pass it on.

Continue to part 2