August 10, 2007

From the Editor Emeritus / John F. Fink

Biblical women: Lot’s wife and daughters

John F. Fink(Second in a series of columns)

Lot was Abraham’s nephew. The two of them migrated together from Ur, in southern Mesopotamia, to the land of Canaan. Then they separated and Lot pitched his tents near Sodom.

He and his wife and daughters were the only good people in Sodom or the neighboring town of Gomorrah. When God determined to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah, he sent two angels, disguised as humans, to rescue Lot and his family.

Genesis 19 shows us how evil the residents of Sodom were. When they learned that two strangers were staying with Lot, they surrounded Lot’s house (he apparently was no longer living in a tent). They demanded that Lot “bring them out to us that we may have intimacies with them.”

Lot tried to placate the men in a way that we can only consider shocking. He offered to give them his two virgin daughters rather than let them violate the men to whom he had given hospitality. This didn’t placate the Sodomites, who tried to break down the door to the house. But the angels struck the men outside with a blinding light.

The angels then led Lot and his wife and daughters out of Sodom, into the hills, as God began to destroy the city with fire. They told them not to look back or stop. “But Lot’s wife looked back, and she was turned into a pillar of salt” (Gn 19:26).

Lot’s wife appears in the Book of Wisdom as “the tomb of a disbelieving soul, a standing pillar of salt” (Wis 10:7), and Jesus said, “Remember the wife of Lot” when telling people that, on the coming of the Kingdom of God, a person in the field must not return to what was left behind (Lk 17:32).

Lot and his two daughters were now safe, living in a cave. But it was a lonely existence for two young women. They had both been engaged, and Lot had tried to get their fiancés to leave Sodom with them, but the men didn’t believe him when he said that God was going to destroy the town.

Deprived of men their age, and wanting to have children, the two women decided to take matters into their own hands. Lot was the only man around. So they plied their father with wine until he fell asleep and then the older of his daughters slept with him. They did the same thing the next night, this time the younger daughter taking her turn. Somehow, they managed to do this without Lot’s knowledge even though he was able to perform.

Both women became pregnant. The older daughter gave birth to a boy they named Moab, who became the ancestor of the Moabites. The younger daughter gave birth to a boy they named Ammon, the ancestor of the Ammonites.

This Israelite story about the incestuous birth of Moab and Ammon was obviously included in their Scriptures to ridicule the Moabites and Ammonites, Israel’s rival nations on the east side of the Jordan River and the Dead Sea. †

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