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Take My Daughters, Please!—The Righteous Offering of Lot’s Daughters

Angry MobYes, you read that title correctly, but don’t throw stones, yet. There are things to be discovered in this event that our modern gender issues, word meanings and culture may have concealed from us. Let me explain and you might even be sorry you thought to punish me. I know boys are stupid, but please don’t throw rocks at them.

Let me begin by saying that ancient testimony frequently attributes righteousness not merely to Lot in general, but to his offering of his daughters in particular, because it was done in defense of his guests.[1] This includes 2 Peter 2:7-8.

Our modern feminist instincts will typically cause even this discovery to blanche in terror before our generation’s firm conviction that anything older than 50 years is hopelessly lost in a shark infested sea of gender inequity created by nothing more than the godless might is right good ol’boy’s club that kept the world in darkness until The Feminine Mystique could light our way… Oh, yeah, and they oppressed us all with pronouns too. In this new light, Lot’s actions are nothing less than the most rank hatred of women, evidence that even a father’s supposed love for his daughters is nothing before the comradery of gender affinity. Two Beloved Daughters—0 Two Complete Strangers, Male —1.

Unfortunately, biblical theology does require us to lay aside even our most preciously held biases when attempting to hear the message of Scripture. The Phenomenological method demands that we listen to the text as believers even if we doubt. So let’s consider 6 things about the story that just might alter our perceptions.

  1. Never underestimate the importance of hospitality rites. Hospitality is one of the great virtues in the biblical world.
    • This makes sense economically. We recognize even today that dangerous conditions for travel limit those who travel, limiting the economic gains to be had through it.
    • Hospitality was more. It is the first known expression of sacred bond. The Host eats a covenantal meal with the guest, an oath of trust & safety, saturated with notions of the Holy, who enforce such bonds through blessing & punishment.
    • Violation of Hospitality rites is frequently listed in ancient texts as an expression of depravity, being the immediate cause of the Great Flood in Greek mythology in both Metamorphosis & De Syria Dea.
    • Hospitality rites, which are covenantal meals, as are temple sacrifices, are vital elements in dozens of texts. Consider just a few: Gen 18:1ff, Gen 19:1ff, Gen 24:1ff, Gen 43:1ff; Matt 9:1ff; Luke 19:1ff, Luke 22:1ff; I Cor 10:1ff, 11:1ff; Rom 12:13; I Tim 3:2, I Tim 5:10; Tit 1:7; Heb 13:2; 1 Peter 4:9.
  2. The Guest-Host bond is not merely between men, but also between households. Lot’s wife and daughter’s had an equally powerful obligation to protect their guests as Lot did.
  3. If Lot actually intended to give over his daughters, which I doubt, its sense would be found in the meeting of a seemingly impossible situation by choosing a lesser evil. The family would be acting as one to spare their guests without committing homosexual acts or adultery. No matter how we view the situation from where we sit in our culture, Lot had to make brutal & instantaneous real life choices within his. One ancient rabbi compared the offer of the daughters with Moses’ offering up his own life to save Israel in Ex 32:32.[2]
  4. The shift of languages and culture in the recounting of this tale make it difficult to discern the paralanguage involved. We are unable to hear how Lot offered. Sarcasm, indignation, disappointment, incredulousness and the like are usually dependent on tone and inflection which are difficult to express in writing… especially ancient writing which had no punctuation.
  5. The biblical world is hyperbolic culturally. They speak in extremes but act sensibly. Consider Abraham’s and Lot’s invitation to these strangers, bowing, calling them Lord and themselves Servants. Consider Abraham’s purchase of Sarah’s burial plot; they begin with free but end with Abraham getting ripped off in his grief.[3]
  6. Consider the context.
    • The Sodomites are not merely out for a good time. They want these strangers.
    • Lot’s household, as part of the community, is of no interest.
    • Even when they  threaten, they merely seek to push past him.
    • Their interpretation of Lot’s “offer” is, “He has become the judge!”
    • If these daughters are betrothed to the son’s-in-laws, spoken of in 19:14, then the crowd’s actions would have been a double offense within the community and not merely an act of violence against strangers to whom they themselves have not extended hospitality, having no covenantal obligations.

Given all this, I believe that Lot’s offer was framed to shame the men of Sodom… more of a sermon than a willing exchange. For, indeed, given the sacred bond of Guest-Host, it would be more righteous to do the unthinkable with his daughters than to stand by while his guests are abused & perhaps killed. I don’t believe he intends to do either.



[1] Pirke de Rabbi Eliezer XXV; Wisdom of Solomon 10:6; I Clement 11:1.

[2] Rabbi Eliezer, http://archive.org/stream/pirkderabbieli00frieuoft/pirkderabbieli00frieuoft_djvu.txt

[3] Walke notes that we can’t know land values at the time in that place with certainty, but David buys the entire temple mount, which is prime real-estate for 50 shekels.

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