Sodom and Gomorrah #19 (Genesis 19:14)
How many children did Lot and Lot’s wife have in Sodom? This humane question, although critical to understanding of the story, is mostly ignored by the many who judge Lot’s wife harshly, those who believe she deserved to die. Verse 14, however, reveals the most intriguing fact – Lot’s wife also had married daughters that did not live with them.
I have discussed many times why she had to die. It seems that many of those who, from the comfort of their sofa, judge how a woman escaping for her life should behave, do not even know how many children she had, and how many children she is about to leave in Sodom to die.
But why is this verse hidden when they tell us the story?
Why is this verse kept secret?
Those who follow me regularly know that in the past few months I have been obsessed with Lot’s wife and why she had to die. I have written about it in a previous blog post, discussed it in a video, and yet I have no good answer.
I have discussed this question with many students and Bible followers. Many seem to have clear answers to why she had to die: “She disobeyed God,” they say. “She could not let go of the past”. And the harshest one: “She was missing the sinful pleasures that Sodom offered.”
Then I ask, “What would you have done in her place?”
The answer is nearly always said in great confidence: “I would have followed God’s word!”
Unfortunately, I know, firsthand, how impossible it is to know how you would behave when facing real danger, panic, distress, combined with physical exhaustion. I also know that most people need far less than losing their entire city and everyone they know to forgo their commitment to a righteous life. Sometimes, missing a meal or losing some money is enough to throw a person off the path of God.
But I hardly ever argue it.
Instead, I ask, “And if you left your children behind, what would you do then?”
It seems that most people are not aware that Lot’s wife also had married daughters, daughters who did not live with her, daughters she is about to leave behind to perish in Sodom.
I can’t help but ask myself why they don’t know? After all, verse 14 is there for everyone to read together with the rest of the story.
The answer is obvious, most people never delve into the text of the Bible by themselves. They mostly know the Bible second-hand. They mostly know only what those who tell them the Bible want them to know.
But why do theses Bible teachers and leaders do not mention this verse and this fact to us when they tell the rest of the story? What else do they hide from us?
The Human und Humane sides of the Bible
Here I can only guess. And my guess is that telling such details would raise the awareness of how complex the Bible is, and the subtle human existence it describes. It would also highlight the complex decisions we have to make, the pains and suffering that real people undergo. That is, they do not want us to be exposed to the human and humane sides of the Bible.
The people in the Bible are real people, with real feelings, thoughts, ideas and emotions. But when was the last time you tried to think how Abraham felt when he stood in front of God, arguing to save Sodom? Every story of the Bible is about real people, and therefore carries subtle complexities.
This is what many of our religious teachers want us to forget. The Bible is not black and white. It is complex, just the way we, human, are.
So make it a habit to read the Bible carefully by yourself. Put yourself in the mind of the people of the Bible. See what they see, feel what they feel. Only then will you start to understand the true beauty of the Bible and why it is a holy text. It is not because someone told you so.