Sodom and Gomorrah #8 (Genesis 19:1)
We have now finished with the trial of Sodom and Gomorrah, and we already know that God condemned the cities to imminent destruction. We move from the scene of the trial to Sodom itself, where Lot, Abraham’s brother’s son, has made his home. This is where he met the angels. But is it what they were?
Sodom is a town near the Dead Sea in the middle of the desert. It is the lowest city in the world, and one of the hottest. In summer temperatures can rise above 45oC (113oF). In winter it can be in the mid 30soC (90oF). With such temperatures you do not leave your home during the day. But when evening falls, everyone goes out to breath the fresh air, do their errands, meet other people, and socialise. The gates of the city, where merchants and visitors enter before the night, is where all action happens. It is where the hotels and the markets are. This is where Lot is spending his evening, maybe for pleasure, maybe waiting for new potential customers or suppliers to enter the city. The Bible does not tell us the reason he is there.
The gate of Sodom is where Lot meets the two messengers. We do not know who they are. Many suggest that they are two of the three that visited Abraham in Genesis 18. But we do not know for sure. The Bible does not tell us.
Are they angels, that is celestial beings, as many translations suggest?
We do not know that either. The Hebrew word used here is מַּלְאָכִים. This word can be translated either as angels, or, more often, as messengers. As we can see, for example, in Genesis 32:4.
But even if they were Angels, did Lot know they were?
The next portion of the verse וַיַּרְא–לוֹט is commonly translated as and Lot saw. If you believe that this translation is correct then we have no indication whether Lot recognised the messengers as anything other than normal people.
However, there is another way to translate the word וַיַּרְא and this is To become afraid or fearful.
These are two different translations, each gives a different meaning to Lots following action. In the first, he bows down with his face to the ground. If he did that without knowing who they were, we learn of Lot as a respectful, welcoming person, a person who cares about other people, whoever they might be. On the other hand, if he recognised them as more than human, we learn nothing about his personality, and how he views other people. After all, there is no righteousness in doing the right thing out of fear.
But whether or not Lot recognised who they is also important, as we will see later in the chapter, to understanding the people of Sodom and their sins. So lets keep this point in mind, when we continue reading the rest of the chapter.
The Bible does not tell us which of the two interpretation is the right one. Do you have any clue that makes you prefer one interpretation over the other?