1 The two angels came to Sodom in the evening, and Lot was sitting in the gate of Sodom. When Lot saw them, he rose to meet them and bowed himself with his face to the earth 2 and said, “My lords, please turn aside to your servant’s house and spend the night and wash your feet. Then you may rise up early and go on your way.” They said, “No; we will spend the night in the town square.” 3 But he pressed them strongly; so they turned aside to him and entered his house. And he made them a feast and baked unleavened bread, and they ate.
4 But before they lay down, the men of the city, the men of Sodom, both young and old, all the people to the last man, surrounded the house. 5 And they called to Lot, “Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us, that we may know them.” 6 Lot went out to the men at the entrance, shut the door after him, 7 and said, “I beg you, my brothers, do not act so wickedly. 8 Behold, I have two daughters who have not known any man. Let me bring them out to you, and do to them as you please. Only do nothing to these men, for they have come under the shelter of my roof.” 9 But they said, “Stand back!” And they said, “This fellow came to sojourn, and he has become the judge! Now we will deal worse with you than with them.” Then they pressed hard against the man Lot, and drew near to break the door down. 10 But the men reached out their hands and brought Lot into the house with them and shut the door. 11 And they struck with blindness the men who were at the entrance of the house, both small and great, so that they wore themselves out groping for the door. – Genesis 19:1-11 ESV
Moses indicates that after Abraham had completed his rather strange conversation with God, “the Lord went his way” (Genesis 18:33 ESV), and Abraham returned to his tent near Hebron. But that very same evening, the two angels of the Lord arrived at Sodom and discovered Lot “sitting in the gate” (Genesis 19:1 ESV). This phrase will take on special importance as the story unfolds. Typically, it was used to refer to someone who served in the capacity of a municipal judge. The city gate was where the community conducted its business. Markets were located at the entrance to the city where vendors plied their wares. But it was also where disputes among the city’s residents were settled by the appointed judges.
Lot, who had initially “moved his tents to a place near Sodom” (Genesis 13:12 NLT), had eventually relocated his family to more permanent housing within the city’s walls. And, apparently, Lot had become an active member of the community, even managing to garner the coveted position of a judge. His title and job description would have exposed Lot to all the immoral and unethical behavior taking place within the city. He would have well aware of the ungodly lifestyles of his neighbors. Which would explain his rather determined insistence that the two visitors spend the night under his roof.
“My lords,” he said, “come to my home to wash your feet, and be my guests for the night. You may then get up early in the morning and be on your way again.” – Genesis 19:2 NLT
There is no indication that Lot was aware that these two men were actually angels or messengers from God. He simply discerned them to be strangers who appeared to be men of importance.
But when the two visitors turned down his gracious offer of hospitality and revealed that they were planning to spend the night in the town square, Lot became insistent. He knew that decision would not end well. So, at his extreme urging, the two men made their way to Lot’s home, where he had a meal prepared for them.
It’s at this point in the story that the plot takes a dark and perverted twist. As Lot and his guests feasted inside his home, the men of Sodom gathered outside the door. The rumors had quickly spread that there were two prominent and well-to-do visitors spending the night with Lot. Moses goes out of his way to reveal how the perversity within Sodom was all pervasive. He indicates that “all the men of Sodom, young and old, came from all over the city and surrounded the house” (Genesis 19:4 NLT). Every red-blooded male Sodomite had flocked to Lot’s doorstep with one thing in mind. And it was not to shower Lot’s guests with a display of civic hospitality.
Moses foreshadowed this scene when he earlier indicated the moral state of the men of Sodom.
…the men of Sodom were wicked, great sinners against the Lord. – Genesis 13:13 ESV
And the diverse makeup of the crowd reveals that the wickedness of Sodom spanned the generations and was evident within every strata of Sodomite society. From the young and the old to the rich and the poor, every single male had made their way to Lot’s house, each driven by the same immoral passion. And they quickly made their intentions known.
“Where are the men who came to spend the night with you? Bring them out to us so we can have sex with them!” – Genesis 19:5 NLT
This is not a case of hyperbole. Moses is not utilizing literary exaggeration to drive home a point. He is revealing the full extent of Sodom’s wickedness. It was all-pervasive and far beyond the scope of acceptable behavior for any society. And, sadly, none of this came as a surprise to Lot. His fervent efforts to house the two men in his home reveal his awareness of the dangers that lurked just outside the walls of his home. But despite all he knew about his adopted hometown, Lot had chosen to remain in Sodom, even becoming a prominent and well-respected city leader.
And, in his role as judge, Lot attempted to arbitrate a “cease fire” with his impassioned, hormone-driven neighbors. In an effort to prevent any harm coming to his guests, Lot even offered them a shocking compromise. He offered up his two virgin daughters as substitutes. As the story will reveal, both girls had both been betrothed Sodomite men, but they had not yet consummated their marriages. To the Middle Eastern mind, hospitality was a sacred responsibility. To fail to care for and protect someone taking shelter in your home was considered to be a crime. And Lot’s behavior, while shocking to our modern sensibilities, was in keeping with the relational protocols that ruled his day. These men were his guests, and he was personally responsible for their well-being.
But Lot’s negotiations proved fruitless. Driven by their uncontrollable sexual urges, the mob refused his offer and increased their efforts to gain access to the two visitors. And they revealed their disdain and dislike for Lot.
“This fellow came to sojourn, and he has become the judge! Now we will deal worse with you than with them.” – Genesis 19:9 ESV
This sentence says a lot about what they thought of Lot. They claim that Lot came to “sojourn.” The Hebrew word carries the idea that Lot had shown up in Sodom, intending to “dwell for a time.” He had planned on being a temporary resident but, instead, he had become a permanent fixture in the community. Not only that, he had “become the judge” or law-giver. They express their frustration with this outsider who had set himself up as the sole determiner of right and wrong. Who was he to decide what was acceptable behavior in Sodom?
Things were getting out of hand. Tempers were flaring. Hormones were raging. And Lot found himself in a difficult and potentially deadly predicament. But little did he know that his guests were angelic beings. As the angry crowd pushed in on Lot, threatening to do him bodily harm, a hand reached out and pulled him inside.
And then something incredible took place. The text simply states, “And they struck with blindness the men who were at the entrance of the house, both small and great…” (Genesis 19:11 ESV). But the wording in Hebrew is vital to understanding the miraculous nature of what took place. As soon as the angels drew Lot into the safety of his own home, they “struck with blindness” those outside the door. The way this sentence reads in Hebrew is that the angels struck the men and the result of blindness. Whatever happened left every member of the unruly crowd unable to see. They were left groping around in darkness. But notice that their altered state did not alter their desires.
…they wore themselves out groping for the door. – Genesis 19:11 ESV
They had arrived that night, under cover of darkness, with the intentions of doing something grievous. Their hearts darkened by sin, they were incapable of seeing the error of their ways. No amount of pleading or bargaining on Lot’s part was going to prevent them from fulfilling their perverse desires. But now they found themselves suffering from literal blindness. Now their physical state matched their spiritual state.
It was Jesus who said, “I entered this world to render judgment—to give sight to the blind and to show those who think they see that they are blind” (John 9:39 NLT). What the angels did to the spiritually blind men attempting to beat down Lot’s door was remove their capacity to fulfill their sinful desires. But the sinful desire remained. Their hearts were unchanged. And their pitiful groping for fulfillment and satisfaction would continue unabated.
So, how did the angels blind these men? While the passage does not answer this question, there will be clues provided as the story unfolds. This story brings to mind another encounter between a messenger of God and the ungodly. It is recorded in the book of Acts and involves a man named, Saul, who was a Pharisee and paid bounty hunter who made his living rounding up and arresting followers of “The Way.” In other words, he was a professional persecutor of Christians.
But one day, as he was making his way to the city of Damascus to arrest Christ-followers, he was suddenly exposed to a very bright light, in the middle of the day. As he later told the story: “…about noon a great light from heaven suddenly shone around me” (Acts 22:6 ESV). This unexpected encounter left Saul blind.
“I could not see because of the brightness of that light…” – Acts 22:11 ESV
This persecutor of the church was blinded by the light of Christ’s glory. He had encountered the resurrected Son of God, the very light of life (John 1:4) and the light of the world (John 8:12). In the midst of the darkness of his sin-controlled life, Saul encountered the light that shines in the darkness (John 1:5) and was changed forever. He walked away blind, but later lived with an enlightened awareness of God’s goodness and grace as revealed in His Son.
It could be that the very thing that left the men of Sodom blinded and groping for the door was the light of God’s glory. But unlike Saul, their encounter with “the light of the world” left them blinded but unenlightened and unchanged. They remained stubbornly persistent in their desire to live according to the desires of the flesh. And, as the story will reveal, their spiritual blindness would be the death of them.
English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.