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(Isaiah 2:3)

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Please read the Introductory Notes to this commentary.

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The summary of the entire Torah is as simple as this:
Love what HaShem loves; hate what HaShem hates. All else is commentary.

בְּרֵאשִׁ֖ית • B'resheet
(“In Beginning” or “At First”)
The First Book of Moses,
Commonly Called


~ 19 ~

Parashah 4: Vayera (continued)
(“He Appeared,” Gen. 18:1-22:24)
(Small Roman numerals in the text indicate each 'aliyah.)

[Sodom [MAP] 1868 BCE*]

3. Lot’s Hospitality Toward Angels (19:1-3)

(iii) 1The two angels[1a] entered S'domSodom, “burning” in the evening, and Lot was sitting in the gateway of the city.[1b] When Lot saw them, he got up to meet them, bowed with his face to the ground, 2and said, “My lords, please come to your servant’s house, wash your feet, and stay the night. Then you can rise early and be on your way.”

“No,” they answered, “we will spend the night in the town square.”

3But Lot insisted so strongly that they followed him home. He prepared a feast for them, and baked matzotunleavened bread, and they ate.

4. Sodomites Demand Angels (19:4-11)

 4Before they had gone to bed, all the men of the city of S'dom, both young and old, surrounded the house. 5They called out to Lot, “Where are the men who came to you tonight? Send them out to us so we can have sex with them!”

6Lot went outside to meet them and shut the door behind him. 7He said, “Please, my brothers, don’t act so wickedly. 8Hinneh,[GN] I have two daughters who have never slept with a man. Let me bring them out to you, and you may do to them whatever you want. Just don’t do anything to these men, because they have come under the protection of my roof.”[8]

9“Get out of our way!” they replied. Then they said [about Lot], “This fellow came here as a foreigner, and he is already acting like a judge. Now we will treat you worse than them!” They pressed in on Lot, and moved in to break down the door. 10But the men inside reached out, pulled Lot into the house with them, and shut the door. 11They struck the men who were at the door of the house with blindness, both young and old, so they wore themselves out trying to find the door.

5. Lot Warned of Destruction (19:12-14)

12The men said to Lot, “Do you have anybody else here? A sons-in-law, sons, daughters, or anyone else in the city who belongs to you? Get them out of here: 13because we are about to destroy this place! The outcry to יְהוָה֒ [GN] [YeHoVaH] against them has grown so great that He has sent us to destroy it.”

14So Lot went out, and spoke to the sons-in-law who were pledged to marry his daughters.[14] “Get up! Get out of this place,“ he said, “for יְהוָה֒ is about to destroy the city!”

But his sons-in-law thought he was joking.

6. Lot Led from Sodom (19:15-17)

 15At dawn the angels hurried Lot along, saying, “Get up! Take your wife and your two daughters who are here, or you will be destroyed in the punishment of the city.” 16But when Lot hesitated, the men grabbed his hand and the hands of his wife and his two daughters. And they led them safely out of the city, because of יְהוָה֒’s compassion for them. 17As soon as the men had brought them out, one of them said, “Run for your lives! Don’t look back, and don’t stop anywhere on the plain! Flee to the mountains or you will be destroyed!”

7. Lot Seeks Refuge in Zoar [MAP] (19:18-23)

18But Lot replied, “No, my lords, please! 19Your servant has indeed found favor in your sight, and you have shown me great kindness by sparing my life. But I can’t run to the mountains; the disaster will overtake me, and I will die. 20Hinneh,[GN] this town is near enough for me to flee to it, and it is a small place. Please let me escape there — isn’t it a small place? Then my life will be saved.”

(iv) 21Hinneh,”[GN] he answered, “I will grant your this as welll, and will not demolish the town you indicate. 22Hurry! Run there quickly, for I can’t do anything until you get there.” That is why the town was called Tzo'ar“insignificance”.

23By the time the sun had risen over the land, Lot had arrived at Tzo'ar.

8. Sodom Destroyed (19:24-26)

 24Then יְהוָה֒ rained brimstone and fire onto S'dom and 'AmoraGomorrah, “submersion” — from יְהוָה֒ out of the heavens. 25He destroyed these cities and the entire plain, including all the inhabitants of the cities and everything that grew on the ground. 26But Lot’s wife looked back, and she became a pillar of salt.[26]

9. Abraham Views the Destruction (19:27-28)

27Early the next morning, Avraham got up and returned to the place where he had stood before יְהוָה֒. 28He looked down toward S'dom and 'Amora and all the land of the plain, and he saw the smoke rising up from the land like smoke from a furnace.

29So when Elohim[GN] destroyed the cities of the plain, Elohim remembered Avraham, and He brought Lot out from the middle of the catastrophe that destroyed the cities where Lot had lived.

[The Mountains above Tzo'ar, ca 1867 BCE]

C. The Scheme of Lot’s Daughters (19:30-38)

1. Lot Settles in a Cave (19:30)

30Lot and his two daughters left Tzo'ar and settled in the mountains — he was afraid to stay in Tzo'ar — where he lived in a cave with his two daughters.

2. Daughters’ Incest (19:31-38)

 31One day the firstborn daughter said to the younger, “Our father is old, and there is not a man on the earth to come in to us as is the custom all over the earth.[31] 32Come, let’s make our father drunk with wine,[32a] so that we can lie with him and preserve our father’s family line.”[32b] 33So that night they got their father drunk with wine, and the firstborn went in and had relations with her father; he was not aware when she lay down or when she got up.

34The next day, that the elder said to the younger, “Look, I lay with my father last night. Let’s get him drunk with wine again tonight so you can go in and lie with him, so that we may preserve our father’s family line.” 35So again that night they got their father drunk with wine, and the younger went and lay with him: he wasn’t aware when she lay down or when she got up.

36Thus both of Lot’s daughters became pregnant by their father. 37The firstborn bore a son and named him Moab“of his father”. He is the father of the Moabites of today. 38The younger also bore a son, and named him Ben-Ammi“son of my people”. He is the father of the Ammonites of today.

Chapter 20


1a. I find it interesting that up to this point in the narrative, the two visitors have been identified only as “men,” but here the designation changes to “angels.” [RETURN]

1b. The phrase “sitting in the gateway of the city” indicates that Lot was a public official. This where city business was conducted. [RETURN]

 8. “Lot’s proposal, so atrocious in our ears, may have been deemed meritorious in an Eastern country, where no sacrifice was considered too great to maintain inviolate the safety of a stranger who had been received in hospitality. That Lot should have thought of imperilling the honour of his family, and not have rather hazarded his own life, is due not so much to the weakness of the man as to the terribly low estimate of womanhood which prevailed at that time. A parallel is afforded by the story in Jdg 1:19. The three regulations of modern Arab law as to the protection of the stranger are recorded by Robertson Smith in his Kinship, p. 259, ‘(1) the man whose tent rope has touched thine is thy stranger; (2) so also is he who journeys with thee by day and sleeps by thy side at night; (3) the guest who eats with thee is under thy protection, until he has eaten with another.’” (Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges, accessed 08/22/20) [RETURN]

14. In ancient times a betrothal (engagement) was as binding as a marriage and could only be annulled by a legal act of divorce. That they were not yet married is clear because the daughters were living with their father instead of with their husbands, and Lot said that they had not yet had relations with a man. [[RETURN]

26. Science has yet to produce an explanation of this phenomenon that I find satisfying. Some have said that this was a nuclear detonation (really?) and Mrs. Lot was turned to ash. Regardless of any possible scientific explanation, why were the rest of the family standing next to her unaffected? [RETURN]

31. We are not told how long they lived in Tzo'ar or how long it had been since they left Tzo'ar and had been living in the cave, but it was long enough for the daughters to come to believe that Lot was the only man left alive on Earth. [RETURN]

32a. As was the case with Noah (Gen 9:21, note), it takes three years or longer for newly-planted grapevines to produce, and they certainly would not have carried a quantity of wine out of Sodom when they fled, so this event was certainly at least three years after they fled to the cave, but probably considerably longer, since by this time Lot was an old man. [RETURN]

32b. Be careful to not judge their actions by modern morality. The Torah was not yet given, and according to Rav Sha'ul, “… where there is no law, there also is no violation” (Rom 4:15). If there were no men on earth for them to marry, this was the only way they could obey HaShem’s command to “be fruitful and multiply.” [RETURN]

Originally posted on Wednesday, 26 August 2020
Added dates, map references, and a few comments on Tuesday, 20 July 2021

Page last updated on Sunday, 05 June 2022 10:30 AM
(Updates are generally minor formatting or editorial changes.
Major content changes are identified as "Revisions”)

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