Sodom and Gomorrah #15 (Genesis 19:9)
The people of Sodom refuse to accept Lot’s daughters instead of the angels. Why? Because justice (by the rule of Sodom) is what they are after, and Lot is breaking the law. They want the angels and will do anything to get them.
The people of Sodom demanding justice
The people of Sodom demand justice. They are not a simple mob motivated by their lust. They could have taken the girls if that was their objective (and then continue to the others). They are angry because their rules have been broken. They are angry with Lot, a newcomer to the city ( הָאֶחָד בָּא-לָגוּר ), who despite his newcomer status, does not follow their way of life (וַיִּשְׁפֹּט שָׁפוֹט).
From their point of view, they do the right thing. They law is on their side, and they are exercising justice. They are merciful in their own eyes and offer Lot a way out – to give them the angels and get away without a punishment. But as Lot refuses, they have no choice – justice needs to be held. They threaten him that if he does not comply, they will punish him harsher than the punishment they were planning for his guests (נָרַע לְךָ מֵהֶם).
Most of us live by rules, laws, and habits. What may look wrong to an outsider, may be the norm for the insider. And just like everyone else, the people of Sodom live by their rules and laws. These laws may be horrible, may be cruel, in our time might have put them in front of the international court of justice, but they live by the code of their city. Lot does not.
Are we sure that we, on a personal level, would have behaved differently than the people of Sodom? When there are unjust laws that hurt or abuse people, how often do we fight against them, criticise them, or even think about them? Can you imagine such laws you are subject to?
Too often we do not think about such rules because they are part of our environment, part of us. We are blind to them and take them for granted. Isn’t that what the people of Sodom are doing? They do not judge the morality of their own rules; they are happy to judge those who break them.
As an example, I wish to share some of my personal history. I used to work for large, legitimate financial institutions. Great deal of their profit came from hard working pensioners. That is, money never stopped flowing from those who do not have to those who have too much. Isn’t that a practice of Sodom? And yet, how many of us, just like the people of Sodom, stay at such a job and follow the rule without even giving it a second thought? Are you familiar with any such rules, laws or customs you live by? Do you follow them?
This verse of the Bible, like many others gives us an opportunity to stop, take a breath, think, and evaluate if we judge others for things that we ourselves are guilty of.
When I read “You are a newcomer and you judge our laws,” I could not stop but think about our attitude to immigrants. Lot was an immigrant, Abraham was, Joseph and the people of Israel were, Moses was, and so are many others, including myself. And yet from the beginning of time, being an immigrant has a negative stigma attached to it.
The people of Sodom accepted Lot to their city, as long as he does not question their rules. If he does he is a ‘good newcomer,’ otherwise he should go back where he came from.
How often, even today, do newcomers hear: “if you do not like it (referring to a specific issue) go back to where you came from?” It is asked as though they live in a perfect place that immigrants should be so thankful for that they must never criticise a thing. What can we learn from the people of Sodom on what our attitude towards newcomers should be? How would you have treated Lot if we were in the place of the people of Sodom?