Wednesday, May 31st, 2023
the Week of Proper 3 / Ordinary 8
the Week of Proper 3 / Ordinary 8
Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible Coke's Commentary
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These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Genesis 19". Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://studylight.org/
commentaries/ eng/ tcc/ genesis-19.html. 1801-1803.
Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Genesis 19". Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://studylight.org/
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Lot entertains two angels, who conduct him, with his wife and two daughters, out of the city which was about to be destroyed. Brimstone and fire fall from heaven upon Sodom and Gomorrah. Lot's wife becomes a pillar of salt. Lot flies from Zoar to the mountains, and has an incestuous commerce with his daughters.
Genesis 19:1. And there came, &c.— This perhaps might be rendered more properly, And the two angels [who had been with Abraham at noon] came to Sodom at even. And Lot sat at the gate of the city, according to the custom of those times, when the elders used to sit at the gates of cities to transact either public or private business. See ch. Genesis 34:20. Deuteronomy 21:19. Ruth 4:1. It is, however, probable, that Lot took his station at the gate for the purposes of hospitality, knowing the general corruption of the people, and the ill-treatment strangers might expect among them. And accordingly we find he invited these strangers to his house with the same respectful civility as Abraham had shewed to them before. And this seems the more probable, as the rites of hospitality were so sacred, and the virtue deemed so important in the first ages; when, there being no public inns (as is the case in the eastern countries in general at this day), unless a stranger came among hospitable people, he must have lodged in the street all night. See Judges 19:15. Among the Greeks and Romans also nothing was more sacred than the rites of hospitality, by means of which many friendships were contracted. AElian records a law of the ancient Lucanians, that if a stranger came to them after sun-set, and wanted to take shelter under any one's roof, and was not received, the master of the house was to be fined, and branded with the infamous name of an inhospitable. The angels, Jdg 19:2 refuse Lot's invitation, in order to give him an opportunity to display his hospitality, asserting that "they would not be troublesome to him, but would abide in the street, continue in the open air all night," which in those hot countries was not unusual, especially in summer.
REFLECTIONS.—We have, here, the angels' arrival at Sodom, and Lot's kind reception of them.
1. The two angels came to Sodom at even. The Lord sends his executioners of vengeance; and who shall stand before these ministers of flame?
2. Lot meets and presses them into his house. Singular in his piety, he is selected from the general ruin. He is earnest to solicit their company, and happy to entertain them liberally. He had seen no such visitants at Sodom for a long time. Note; Good men deserve a hearty welcome. We cannot be too pressing on such to favour us with their company.
3. The angels at first seem courteously to excuse themselves, but at last yield to his solicitations. Note; (1.) Every invitation which is given us must not be hastily complied with, lest we should seem to run, where we should wait to be drawn. (2.) Those who are hearty solicitors, however they may fail with men, shall prevail with God.
Genesis 19:4-5. The men of the city, both old and young, &c.— The men of this abandoned city, being informed of the arrival of these strangers (who probably were of a very beautiful appearance) flocked from all quarters of the town, numbers of every age, with the most infamous purpose, shocking to relate or think of. Their crime, though exquisitely horrid in itself, became, if it were possible, still more so, by being attempted upon the persons of strangers, to violate whom has been accounted a sacrilege in all nations. What an idea does this give us of the total depravation and corruption of this people! One end of Infinite Wisdom, says Dr. Delaney, in recording this history of the destruction of Sodom, was to give us a true idea of that guilt which drew down the Divine vengeance upon this devoted people, and to convey this knowledge to us in a way worthy of infinite wisdom and goodness. Here was a habit of guilt, the most monstrous and unnatural that can be imagined; a crime not to be named among men, and much less to be explained or described: and yet there was a necessity that it should be known, that it should be seen in all its aggravation, in all its horror, in order to vindicate the justice of God in so dreadful a chastisement of it; and that this chastisement should be a terror to all succeeding generations, to guard them against a sin so shameful and so detestable. Now all this is clearly and completely effected in the simplicity of a plain natural account of God's sending two angels to execute the purposes of his justice upon that abandoned people, and of the violence which that abandoned people unanimously agreed to offer to these blessed Beings in human form. The text says, The men of Sodom compassed the house round, both old and young, all the people from every quarter. Now this combination in so detestable a purpose shews them all depraved beyond imagination. When the youth of any place have lost all reverence of the aged, and fear not to expose their guilt to their eyes, from whom, of all others, they should hide it; it is a sure sign that corruption has made a great progress among them; and that those people are hastening to destruction. But when the aged have lost all reverence for themselves, when (as the prophet Isaiah expresses it) they declare their guilt like Sodom, they hide it not, when they fear not to publish their shame to their sons, then is guilt in its last gradation! That people is utterly abandoned! is ripe for perdition! And that this was the condition of that devoted city, when God destroyed it, is sufficiently clear from Moses's account of that destruction; in which every common eye sees the heinousness of the guilt, and the justice of the punishment, without the least offensive mention of the crime which deserved it. The guilt is exposed in all its horror, and the reader is eager for Divine vengeance upon it; and yet the purest ear is not offended with any word in the whole relation.
Genesis 19:8. Behold now, I have two daughters, &c.— See Judges 19:23-24. Nothing can afford us a stronger proof of the sacredness of hospitality, than this proposal of Lot's, to which that in Judges is similar. Yet at the same time it must be allowed, that the proposal was highly blameable, as it is an eternal maxim in morals, that we are not to do evil, that good may come. Some justification, however, of the good man's conduct may fairly be drawn from his zeal, and the peculiar circumstances of the case: while it has been urged, that he made this offer upon a certainty that they durst not accept it, as his daughters were betrothed to two of the citizens, probably two of the leaders; but this is only conjecture at best. We may, I conceive, fairly grant, that Lot's zeal for his guest led him to speak unadvisedly, in the hurry and perturbation of mind, which such a brutal insult must have occasioned.
Genesis 19:9. And he will needs be a judge— He will needs pretend to give us laws, to be a censor or corrector of our manners. This seems to imply, as if Lot had heretofore given good advice to the Sodomites, which indeed is confirmed by what St. Peter says of Lot, 2 Ephesians 2:8.
Genesis 19:11. And they smote, &c.— Lot being in great danger, the angels, by their superior power, rescued him from the mad multitude without, whom they smote with blindness, that is, with such a dimness and confusion of sight, or temporary loss of it, as disenabled them from finding Lot's door, which they wearied themselves in vain to find. See 2 Kings 6:18.
REFLECTIONS.—We have here, 1. Lot's interposition. Observe, (1.) His advice; a humble entreaty. A wise reprover will ever cloak reproof with the garment of love. (2.) His hasty proposal. We must not commit sin, to avert sin. (3.) His earnest pleading of the laws of hospitality. When we treat with men, we should endeavour to convince them by argument.
2. Their insolent rejection of his advice, with intimidating threats against himself. Learn, (1.) Ill language is the common lot of those who set their faces against men's sins. (2.) Friendly admonition is often thus rejected as insolent intrusion. (3.) They who would rebuke wicked men, must put their life in their hand. (4.) The last effort to save is then finished, when sinners thrust out from them the preaching of the Gospel.
3. The angels' interposition to save Lot, and chastise these sinners against the Lord. Note; (1.) God has a hand to pull us in at the door of safety, when our case seems almost desperate. (2.) Those who can trust him with their life, are sure of a safe retreat at last, where the wicked cease from troubling.
Genesis 19:14. Sons-in-law, which married his daughters— These must either have been daughters of Lot, different from those mentioned in Gen 19:8 or we must understand the Hebrew, as many versions have done, as expressing only a future marriage, a betrothing; sons-in-law, who were to have married [were betrothed to] his daughters. The Hebrew is indeterminate, לקחי locchi, taking, sons-in-law taking his daughters. I should rather imagine, that this latter is the sense of the passage, who were taking, or about to take his daughters in marriage, as no other daughters of Lot are mentioned in Scripture than the two spoken of, Genesis 19:8; Genesis 19:30. and as we can hardly imagine, that any of his children were consumed in the destruction of Sodom.
Observe in the foregoing verses, 1. The command given Lot, to bring out all he could persuade of his relations from the ruin. Note; Those who are themselves awakened to a sense of their danger, must use their utmost efforts to persuade others to fly with themselves from the wrath to come.
2. Lot's haste to inform his sons-in-law. Up, get you out. Abrupt and urgent; bespeaking his solicitude, their danger, and the necessity of immediate compliance. Note; (1.) Ministers cannot be too warm and urgent in their addresses to sinners' consciences. (2.) They who are in jeopardy every hour, have not a moment to trifle with.
3. Their reception of him. They thought him mad or melancholy, and laughed at his fears. Note; (1.) Many now laugh at hell, who will shortly wail there, and that eternally. (2.) To mock at God's warnings, is the way to hasten his judgments. Such mockers still are found. (3.) It is no uncommon thing for despisers of the Gospel to treat the ministers of it as enthusiasts or melancholic.
Genesis 19:16. And while he lingered— Alarmed at the apprehension of so terrible an event, shocked for the destruction of his relations and friends, and the inhabitants of this devoted city, Lot stood benumbed, as it were, and unable to move, when the angels led him and his family by the hand from the accursed city, and advised him to fly with all speed from the plain, which was destined to ruin, to the mountains, where he would be safe; exhorting him, as a test of his obedience and faith, not to delay at all by looking back, either for the indulgence of a vain curiosity, or with a regretful anxiety for the overthrow of a country, which so justly merited its severe fate. See Luke 9:62.
Genesis 19:18. And Lot said unto them—my Lord— In Gen 19:17 it is said, that when they (the angels) had brought Lot forth, he, i.e.. one of them, said, &c. And so here Lot applying to both, (who evidently acted by one commission,) immediately addressed one only, and him, most probably, who had said, Escape for thy life, &c. But it appears very clearly, I think, that neither of these was the Jehovah, who spoke with such authority in the former chapter. In Gen 19:13 they say positively, Jehovah hath sent us to destroy it; and therefore, when one of them speaks in Gen 19:21 authoritatively, it is easy to observe that they do so only with reference to their grand commission of saving Lot and destroying Sodom; on which account I cannot agree with those expositors, who think the person that speaks in Gen 19:21 the same with the LORD, who talked with Abraham in the preceding chapter. And perhaps the Hebrew (which, let us remark, is not יהוה Jehovah, but אדני adonai) might properly be rendered, my Lords.
Genesis 19:19. I cannot escape, lest, &c.— Lot betrayed the weakness of his faith, as if he saw a better way of security for himself than God pointed out, or, as if he doubted the sufficiency of the Divine protection. He urges two motives for permission to go to the city of Zoar; 1st, Because it was near, not so far off as the mountains; and 2nd, Because it was a little one, with fewer inhabitants, and so probably less depraved than the others.
Genesis 19:21. See, I have accepted thee, &c.— I have granted thee this request also. The Hebrew is, I have lifted up thy face, which some of the versions follow: and the metaphor, most probably, is taken from the Oriental custom of prostrating the body, and laying the face to the ground, when soliciting favours; when the order, to lift up the face, was generally deemed a presage, of good success. We have here, in what the angel says, Genesis 19:21-22. a fresh instance of the Divine clemency, which in the midst of wrath remembered mercy.
Genesis 19:22. Therefore—called Zoar— It was before called Bela. See ch. Genesis 14:2. and being saved at Lot's intercession, because it was a little one, it was thence called Zoar, or little. It stood on the utmost skirt of the plain of Jordan, and was one of the five cities in that region where Sodom stood.
REFLECTIONS.—We have here Lot's flight and rescue from the burnings of Sodom. Though ten righteous were not found to save the whole, one righteous man is found, and he shall save himself and family. Observe,
1. Lot's lingering in Sodom. How loth to part from his house, his goods, his sons-in-law; but go he must, or perish in the flames! Learn, (1.) Worldly things are a great snare to the heart. (2.) These cause many an awakened soul to linger, through fear of loss or hope of gain, instead of coming out of the world, and being separate.
2. The Angels haste to get him away. They laid hold on him and his wife and daughters, and brought them out, and then urge their flight to the mountain, without so much as stopping by the way, or casting a look on the devoted cities. Note; (1.) They who would fly from sin to Christ Jesus must never think of seeking rest anywhere but in him. (2.) To look back with regret on the pleasures of sin, is the way to be again entangled thereby. (3.) Until death, we must hasten our flight faster and faster from the world which lieth in wickedness.
3. Lot's request. What a mixture of unbelief! Why could not he who called him out, help him on his way? Alas! how often does unbelief assault us! But here is also a mixture of charity. If Bela was his refuge, his safety would be also that of the inhabitants. God mingles his mercy in the midst of judgment.
4. The request is granted. Though there was much infirmity in Lot's pretending to choose the place of his safety, the more mercy is manifested in God's yielding to his request. Effectual fervent prayer availeth much. Note; A righteous man saved the city; how valuable such men! yet usually they are thought the troublers.
Genesis 19:24-25. The Lord rained—from the Lord— Houbigant asserts, and Calmet also is of the same opinion, that the Jehovah here repeated refers to the Father and the Son: and so, says he, almost all the ancient fathers have understood it, as they doubted not that the Son of God appeared to Abraham in a human form.
Rained upon Sodom and Gomorrah— Which are only mentioned as being the principal cities, though all the rest were consumed. Strabo, the historian, says, that there were no less than thirteen of these cities, upon which this fire and brimstone, these sulphureous flames descended, like floods of rain from heaven; or, as Salvian glosses it, God rained hell from heaven upon an impious people. "A most hideous shower, or rather storm of nitre, mingled with fire, (says Bishop Patrick,) fell upon this country, and, as the tradition was among the heathen, accompanied with a dreadful earthquake, which made an irruption of those bituminous waters, whereby the country was turned into the Salt, or Dead-sea; so Strabo, Genesis 50:16 : in his description of that lake. But Tacitus, (another great historian,) who was better informed, says these cities were burnt by the stroke of thunderbolts from heaven, fulminum jactu arsisse; and a little after were set on fire and consumed by lightning, igni coelesti flagrasse." To have the best idea of this dreadful event, let it be observed, 1st, That all the vale of Siddim, where Sodom and the other cities stood, was originally a very bituminous soil. 2nd, That by the brimstone and fire which rained from heaven, we may understand, according to the language of Scripture, brimstone inflamed, which in the Hebrew style signifies lightning. 3rdly, That, therefore, this fire from the Lord may describe the lightning and thunderbolts: so that, in agreement with Mr. Le Clerc, we may apprehend, that the lightning and thunderbolts falling in immense abundance upon the pits of bitumen, the veins of that combustible matter took fire immediately; and as the fire penetrated into the lowest bowels of the bituminous soil, these wicked cities were subverted by a dreadful earthquake, which was followed with a subsiding of the ground: and as soon as the earth was sunk, it would unavoidably happen, that the waters running to this place in great abundance, and so mixing with the bitumen, which they found in great plenty, would make a lake of what was a vale before, and a lake of the same quality, with what the Scripture calls the Salt or Dead-sea. The memory of this fearful catastrophe has been preserved by many ancient writers of the first note. Not only Strabo and Tacitus, but Diodorus Siculus, Solinus, and several others, attest the truth. But be that as it will, we have an everlasting monument of this destruction in the Salt-sea into which that country was turned; the quality of which, and of the soil about it, is so contrary to the nature of all other seas and inland lakes, that no philosopher can give us an account of it, like that which Moses has given. And the matter of the soil is so inflammable, that, from probable accounts, it continued burning, in a degree, till after the Apostles' times, and was burning in Philo Judaeus's time. Nor will this appear so extraordinary to those who consider that the earth affords many such phoenomena of perpetual fires, as Vesuvius, AEtna, and other mountains; though, doubtless, in the present case, the whole must be deemed miraculous; for, while we endeavour to account for this awful event in a natural way, it is nevertheless certain that God was the proper author of this effect, not only because the constitution of nature is the original work of his power and skill, but because the sacred historian gives us fully to understand, that this event would not have happened at least at that conjuncture, nor with all the circumstances here related, without the extraordinary interposition of the Lord; while it should be remembered, that particular events, like this, are not the less miraculous, because God effects them by the intervention of second or natural causes. Those who would see more on this interesting point, will be much gratified by reading Le Clerc's dissertation on the subject; who observes, that the celebrated story among the heathens, of Baucis and Philemon, Ovid. Met. lib. 8: was (doubtless) drawn from this event. They were supposed to have been preserved by flying to the mountains, for their hospitality, by two gods, who visited them, and saved them from the destruction brought on a wicked country, which, like the vale of Siddim, was turned into a lake or sea.
I cannot here withhold from my readers Mr. Maundrell's account of this wonderful lake.—"On our approaching that sea, we passed through a kind of coppice of bushes and reeds; and on our arrival at it, found that it is inclosed on the east and west by very high mountains. On the north it is bounded by the plain of Jericho, on which side it receives the water of Jordan; and on the south it extends farther than the eye can reach. This lake is said to be twenty-four leagues in length, and six or seven in breadth. On the shore of this sea or lake we found a black sort of pebbles, that burn on being held in the flame of a candle, yielding a smoke of an intolerable stench; but though they lose their weight in burning, they do not at all decrease in bulk. The neighbouring hills abound with these sulphureous stones; and I saw pieces of them at the convent of St. John in the wilderness, which were two feet square, carved in basso-relievo, and polished to as great a lustre as black marble is capable of. These were designed for the ornaments of a new church and convent. It is a common tradition, that all the birds which attempt to fly over this lake drop down dead into it, and that no fish or any other animal can support life within these deadly waters; but I actually saw several birds flying about and over this lake, without any visible injury. I also observed among the pebbles on the shore two or three shells of fish resembling those of oysters cast up by the waves. The water I found to be very limpid, and not only salt, but also extremely bitter and nauseous; and being willing to make an experiment of its strength, I went into it, and found that it bore me up in swimming with uncommon force: but as to what is said by some authors, that persons wading in it were buoyed up to the top as soon as the water reached the navel, I found it false by experience. As for the bitumen, for which this lake has been long famous, there was none at the place where we were, though it is gathered near the mountains on both sides in great plenty. I had several lumps of it brought me to Jerusalem, and found that it exactly resembled pitch, from which I could no otherwise distinguish it than by its sulphureous taste and smell.
Being desirous of seeing if there were any remains of the cities anciently situated in this place, and made the dreadful example of the Divine displeasure, I carefully surveyed the waters as far as my eye could reach, but could not see any heaps of ruins, nor any of that smoke ascending above the surface, which is usually mentioned in the writings of geographers. I was told, however, by the Father Guardian, and the procurator of Jerusalem, both of whom were men in years, and to appearance neither destitute of sense nor probity, that once they actually saw some of these ruins, which were so near the shore, and the water at that time so shallow, that they, with some Frenchmen, went to them, and found several pillars and other fragments of buildings; but they were now probably concealed by the height of the water. On the west side of the lake is a small promontory, near which our guide told us is the monument of Lot's wife metamorphosed into a pillar of salt; but we did not give credit enough to the report, to take the trouble of going to seek for it. As to the apples of Sodom, of which so much has been said, I neither saw nor heard of any about this place; nor was there any tree to be seen near the lake, from which any such kind of fruit might be expected." See Maundrell's Travels through the Holy Land.
REFLECTIONS.—Bright was the sun which rose upon devoted Sodom. Safe in their foolish confidence, Lot's flight afforded matter of fresh ridicule; and now they can welcome the returning day. But see, when sinners are in the height of their security, how destruction overtakes them. The sun is covered, the storm arises, the lightnings glare, the heavens are on fire, the flames descend, the smoking cities send up their dying cries. Too late to call for mercy, it is the time of judgment. Mark the end of the vain confidence of sinners.
Learn, 1. If judgments are upon the earth, it is the Lord's work. The Lord Jesus is not only the Saviour of those who believe in him, like Lot; but he is the Judge and destroyer of those who, like Sodom, reject his salvation. 2. They who go after strange flesh, may expect to be punished with strange judgments. 3. What a fearful thing it is to fall into the hands of the Living God. Fools now make a mock of sin; but they will find it a bitter thing, when they shall feel, with Sodom, the vengeance of eternal fire. Jude 1:7.
Genesis 19:26. But his wife looked back, &c.— The angels, Gen 19:17 commanded Lot, and consequently those with him, not to look back, which, I apprehend, cannot be understood to mean, a mere turning of the eyes only, but a delay in the plain about to be destroyed, from a love of the things left behind, which delay might be attended with imminent danger. Lot's wife, disregardful of the angel's charge, or disbelieving his threatenings, looked back, and not only so, but delayed and loitered, to see what would become of her city and kindred, for very probably she was of that city. Her mind was towards Sodom, which she left not but with regret. Shuckford is of opinion, that after the departure of the angel, she returned some part of the way, in order to have saved some of her goods, and that in returning she was overtaken with a storm of thunder and lightning: and he grounds this opinion upon what our Saviour says in foretelling, the destruction of Jerusalem, Luke 17:0. for after admonishing his disciples not to return back, Luk 17:31 he adds, remember Lot's wife, thereby intimating, that she had returned back. But perhaps it may be sufficient to understand, that she turned back in mind and inclination only. She was not thankful to Providence for her own deliverance, and hankered after the wicked city, so justly doomed to perdition. Henry says, that her sin consisted, 1st, in a disobedience to an express command: 2nd, in unbelief; she doubted whether Sodom would be destroyed according to the declaration of the angels: 3rdly, in a greater regard to such sinners as the Sodomites, than was due to a people so justly abominable: 4thly, in a worldly attachment to her house and goods, which she was loth to leave, to which Christ refers, Luke 17:31-32: 5thly, in an inclination to go back; and therefore our Saviour uses it as a warning against apostacy.
And she became a pillar of salt— As she looked back, or delayed, the storm overtook her; the lightning struck her dead, and stiffened her in the place where she stood (no uncommon effect of lightning); while the nitro-sulphureous matter, which descended, wrapt her body so thick around, as to candy it into a substance hard as stone, and left it like a pillar, or statue of metallic salt, which some affirm they have seen between Mount-Engedi and the Dead-sea. This seems an easy solution of the matter, and, I humbly think, far more consentaneous to the letter of the Sacred History, than that of others, who would understand by a pillar of salt, "a lasting monument," as a perpetual covenant is called "a covenant of salt," Num 18:19 in allusion to the quality of salt, which preserves from corruption. But if we understand it, she looked back, and became a lasting, or perpetual monument, it may reasonably be asked, how did she become so? and is there not, on this supposition, a manifest deficiency in the historian, who omits to inform us, in what respect, or by what manner, she thus became a lasting monument? Whereas all is clear, if we take him as his words seem plainly to imply, (and in my judgment the plainest interpretation of Scripture words is always the best,) she looked back, disobedient and unbelieving, and, struck with the sulphureous fire from heaven, was killed, and became a pillar of salt; and thus, indeed, a lasting memorial to many generations. For this pillar, as Dr. Delaney has observed, subsisted in the time of that author who wrote the Wisdom of Solomon, see Wisd. ch. 10: Numbers 18:7. And Josephus (who himself saw it) and later writers, attest the same thing of their times. Maundrell's guides told him, that some remains of the monument were still extant. I am sensible that this is a point upon which the learned men are much divided: but thus much, I think, is clear and evident, that the inspired Writer's account of this matter is true, not figuratively, (as some understand it,) but according to the very letter of the text; that Lot's wife became a real statue, and that this statue lasted many ages; lasted at least, till a new revelation from heaven, the revelation of Jesus Christ, made this monument less necessary. And as to the difficulty of salt's continuing undissolved in the open air so long, it is well known to naturalists, that rocks of salt are as lasting as any other rocks, nay more so; and that houses are built of them. Now there is reason to believe, from Deu 29:23 that much salt as well as sulphur fell down from heaven upon that devoted region: nor perhaps is the great saltness of the sea of Sodom, beyond that of any other sea in the known world, without the least change from the perpetual influx of fresh water (of water remarkably sweet, as Diodorus Siculus observes) into it, a small presumptive proof of this. And as lightning stiffens all animals, which it strikes, in one instant, and leaves them dead in the same posture in which it found them alive, there is no sort of difficulty in conceiving how this unhappy woman's body, being prepared by heat, and penetrated and incrusted with salt, might long continue as a statue of salt, in the very posture in which this judgment from heaven found her. Nor are we without examples of such changes in other writers* and historians of undoubted credit. Give me leave again to observe, that this change of Lot's wife was not occasioned barely by her looking back, but by her loitering unseasonably behind her husband: for it is clear enough, from Deu 29:22 that this vengeance from heaven did not begin till Lot was entered into Zoar: consequently his wife could not have been affected by it, had she not both looked back and stayed unseasonably in the plain, contrary to the express command given by the angel. And as this unseasonable delay of Lot's wife was in part occasioned, probably by her solicitude for her children left behind, (her sons-in-law, &c.) the celebrated story among the heathens, of Niobe weeping for her children, and being stiffened into stone with grief, is most likely founded upon this history. Probably too the fable of Orpheus's being permitted to redeem his wife from hell, and losing her afterwards by looking unseasonably back, contrary to the express command given him, and then, through grief, deserting the society of mankind, and dwelling in desarts, might be also derived from some obscure tradition of this history. Sodom was now the liveliest emblem of hell that can be imagined: it was granted to Lot, by a peculiar privilege, to deliver his wife therefrom: he was expressly commanded, Look not behind thee: his wife was lost: after which he quits the city, and dwells in a cave on the mountains. Here are all the main circumstances of the fable, and the poets had nothing to do but to vary and embellish, as they liked best. So well hath Infinite Wisdom provided, that the sacred truths of Divine revelation shall not only be supported by the attestation of enemies, but likewise preserved in the vanity and extravagance of fables.
* See particularly Aventinus Boian Annuals, seventh book, Basil edit.
REFLECTIONS.—But four came out of Sodom, and one was lost by the way. Behold, and tremble. Remember Lot's wife.
1. Her sin: looking back. Disobedient to the command, and distrustful of the threatening, with unsubdued affection to her worldly enjoyments, she was drawn out by violence, but her heart was behind. Note; (1.) They who make profession of religion, out of complaisance to their friends, or by mere constraint, will soon make shipwreck of it to their shame. (2.) If we think of leaving our sin, we must make no reserve, either in practice or affection: once on the way to heaven, we must persevere: to look back, is to return unto perdition. Let us fear then, lest we fall.
2. Her punishment: a pillar of salt; a lasting memorial to warn succeeding ages. Note; (1.) Many a saint of God goes to heaven, and leaves his wife, through her perverseness, on the plain: and the wife, I believe, full as often leaves her husband behind her. (2.) No inducement must tempt us to stay, or look back on them: if they will not go with us, we must leave them to their ruin.
Genesis 19:27. And Abraham gat up early, &c.— Impatient to know the efficacy of his intercession with the Lord, and trembling for the fate of the unhappy sinners, Abraham rose early, and came to the place where he had stood before, or interceded with the Lord on the former day; when he beheld the dreadful catastrophe, and saw the whole plain, late like another Eden, now one continued scene of smoke, and fire, and ruin. No doubt he was, by some means, soon informed of Lot's rescue, whom the Lord remembered for Abraham's sake, and in conformity to his petition, that "the Judge of all the earth would not destroy the righteous with the wicked."
Genesis 19:29. Cities in which Lot dwelt— That is, in one of which Lot dwelt. So ch. Genesis 8:4. the ark rested on the mountains, i.e.. one of the mountains of Ararat. See Judges 12:7. Matthew 26:8. His disciples (i.e. one of them, Judas) saw it and had indignation.
REFLECTIONS.—Abraham spent the night, no doubt, solicitous about the issue of his prayer; and, at early dawn, arises to see what God had determined. Here we have,
1. The awful sight before him; the desolate plain, and the smoking ruins of the cities. Satisfied in the merited vengeance, no doubt he justified God in his judgments.
2. The kind remembrance God had of Abraham, in the rescue of Lot. Note; (1.) When we are inquiring after the answer of our prayers, we shall certainly find their effect; if not in our own way, yet in such a way, as we have need to be thankful for. (2.) Connexions with true believers are great blessings: we often find the benefit of their prayers.
Genesis 19:30. For he feared to dwell in Zoar— We have here another proof (see Genesis 19:19.) of the weakness of Lot's faith. He seems to have been very timorous, and to have had but little of the fortitude of his uncle Abraham. God had lately preserved Zoar for his sake, and yet he is scarcely arrived there, before he thinks himself not in sufficient safety. Some suppose, to justify him, that he found the inhabitants of Zoar extremely wicked, and could not reform them; and, therefore, fearing the destruction of their city also, he fled from it.
Dwelt in a cave— That country, being very mountainous, abounded with large caves, which the people often used for dwellings, especially in times of danger: the Scripture and Jewish histories afford numberless examples. In one of these caves Lot took up his abode with his daughters, terrified at the dire calamity which they had so marvellously escaped. It is most probable, that this cave was in that mountain to which the angel had directed him, Gen 19:17 which was one of a range of mountains that lay in the country beyond the Dead-sea, and which was afterwards called Moab, from one of the children begotten here.
Note; Lot's plenty, which the land could not hold, is now gone, and a hole in a mountain contains his little all. Remember, those who for secular advantage leave God's people, will smart for it usually in grievous disappointments.
Genesis 19:31. The first-born said, &c.— There can be no doubt, I suppose, that the principal reason why the sacred writer recorded this event, was to point out to the Israelites the incestuous and hateful origin of the Moabites and Ammonites, their enemies, as before he mentioned the sin of Canaan for the same reason. Other useful and instructive lessons against vice may indeed be derived from this history, which the inspired historian cannot be supposed to approve or commend by barely relating it; and in this view his credit is no way concerned.
Genesis 19:37. And called his name Moab, the father of the Moabites— This addition, the father of the Moabites, and the same in the next verse, father of the children of Ammon, plainly points out the design of Moses referred to in the beginning of the last note. Moab signifies, from my father; plainly marking out the incestuous birth of the child. See Numbers 21:20. Ben Ammi signifies, the son of my people, or, one of my people, not of the stranger, one of my own race and kindred. See Numbers 21:13. After this we hear no more of Lot in this history; and it is remarkable that there never was, as we know of, any town or city which had in it any trace of his name.
REFLECTIONS.—How little safety is there for us from sin in any place, unless we watch unto prayer? He who was kept in Sodom, is overcome in a cave. We have here,
1. His daughters' wicked contrivance. What they could not effect when their father was sober, they endeavour to bring about by drunkenness, and thus one crime is aggravated with another. Note; No judgments can restrain those, who will not yield to the saving power of Divine Grace.
2. Lot's shameful and scandalous fall. Lord, What is man! Drunk and incestuous, and thus repeatedly too: let us read it with horror. Learn, (1.) No man this side heaven, is safe from presumptuous sins, or above praying to be kept from them. (2.) Drunkenness hath no end of evil: every crime without horror or shame is then easily committed.
General reflections on the causes of the speedy degeneracy of the world, on Abraham's intercession, and on Sodom's destruction.
Though we may be sure that our state of trial hath been, from the beginning of the world, perfectly well adjusted, as to the proper balance of means and temptations for all the purposes of Divine wisdom and goodness, yet it is certain, that the original depravity, united with the contagion of evil, so far spread in the earliest ages, as in process of time to threaten the total extinction of true religion, and of consequence all good morals. This is evident in the case of the whole world, where wickedness and impiety had at length, by degrees, gained complete dominion over the whole race of mankind, except Noah's single family. And in about four hundred and fifty years after the deluge, idolatry and wickedness had spread and corrupted the world so far, that a tremendous judgment, as we have seen, destroyed Sodom and the cities of the plain.
This spreading corruption, after the deluge, is not to be assigned to simple irreligion, but to religion directed to wrong objects and purposes. While men retained a speculative knowledge of the true God, they cared not to glorify him in the ways of holiness and true piety, nor were thankful for his benefits. Romans 1:21-22. And as these men, through pride and wantonness, indulging idle conceits and false reasoning, involved their own understanding and that of others in the thicker clouds of error and delusion, they represented the heavenly bodies as illustrious intelligences, who being so eminently exalted, must have the highest interest in the favour of God, the direction of human affairs, and the distribution of all temporal blessings: and therefore it would be sufficient to all the purposes of religion to secure their friendship, as mediators between God and them. Thus men were enticed, drawn in to worship them (Deuteronomy 4:19.) by such impious conceits as were invented by the folly and ignorance of the same sophisters, and adapted to the depraved minds of such as listened to them. Thus they were deceived into the practice of all manner of lewdness and vice: for the attributes of these supposed deities and benefactors of mankind, being feigned purely by human imagination, they would naturally be represented by men who had their own interests and lusts to serve, in such manner, as best suited the corrupt taste and inclination of those who were disposed to follow them. If this was not exactly the case at first, it may easily be conceived to have been so in process of time, by after-improvements upon the original scheme of idolatry. And by this method, shocking to reflect! men would be led to believe they might be religious, and gain at least every earthly blessing, not only without the practice of holiness, but positively by lewd and wicked practices: and thus religion would be turned (as was unhappily the case) into an encouragement of vice, and the principles of goodness and genuine piety would be wholly extinguished.
Whether men were seduced precisely after this manner or not, the fact is certain, that their abominable idolatries were attended with abominable lusts and intemperance. 1 Peter 4:3. Add to this, that cunning men, who knew how to make their own advantage of the weaknesses of mankind, introduced into their minds notions of Fate, Destiny, Fortune, Chance, Necessity, with many other delusions. Hence arose professors of the vilest arts, pretending to look into futurity, to gratify malicious desires, to secure good, and prevent bad luck to those who consulted them, Deu 18:10 and no doubt but the great original enemy of mankind was incessantly concerned in these infatuations. Nay, so far were men infatuated, that they made their sons and their daughters to pass through the fire, under the notion of sacrifices to their idols! Thus their hope and trust were diverted from that God who alone could help them, to vain idols and the vilest impostors, who were unable to do them the least good. How deplorable a degeneracy!
The neglect and abuse of understanding, and the indulged irregular inclinations of the heart, were doubtless the spring and principal cause of this defection. But it undoubtedly was forwarded in every stage, and completed by the suggestions and instigations of the devil and his angels, the prince of the power of the air, whom God permits to work in the children of disobedience, and to deceive the nations. For when men receive not the love of the truth, that they may be saved, God judicially sends them strong delusion, that they may believe a lie.
Thus we see how idolatry first began, and by what means it might, as it certainly did, spread in the world: and would have spread universally, as the remaining virtuous dropt off, and as men of understanding happened to be drawn in by various allurements;—against which, the heart even of a Solomon was not proof. To prevent, therefore, the universal prevalence of idolatry and vice, and to preserve among mankind the knowledge and worship of the true God, the all-wise and gracious Father was pleased to select a family, a nation peculiarly appropriated to his service. Abraham was chosen to be the head and father of this nation, a man of the most eminent piety and holiness, as appears from his whole life: but which were pleasingly manifested in his intercession with God for the devoted cities of the plain! The whole relation in ch. 18. sets forth, in the fairest light, his hospitality, his temperance, his humanity, his humility, his fortitude; and all these displayed with such power of grace, such light of reason, such integrity of heart, such simplicity of manners, and such beauty and skill of address, as enabled him to expostulate with his Maker, not only with a decency, but with a dignity, which cannot be described! For who can read his inimitable intercession, and not observe with how noble a fortitude in defence of innocence, and with how right a sense of the Divine justice and mercy, it is urged! And yet, at the same time, with what humility! with what strong impressions of the dignity of his Judge, and of the infinite deference due to him! He knew that justice was a claim of right which God allowed to all his creatures, and therefore he urged it with all the resolution and ingenuity allowable in a reasonable creature: but, at the same time, he knew the superiority of his Maker, and the submission due to him; and therefore he did it with all the distance and deference which became a dependent being. How pleasing is it to observe the workings of his benevolent and compassionate heart! And we may easily, I think, conceive the high satisfaction he felt on the close of his address; when dreading the danger of an unbecoming importunity, but more dreading to give up the cause of the righteous, with all becoming earnestness and lowliness of heart he cried, Oh, let not the Lord be angry, and I will speak yet but this once: peradventure ten shall be found there. When the Great Being, whom he petitioned, still patient and still complying, answers, with the utmost condescension, I will not destroy it for ten's sake!*
* See Dr. Delaney's Revelation examined.
How many improving reflections may the thinking mind derive from this event! Let it stimulate us however to copy the example of Abraham, in humble and zealous intercession for those with whom we are in any sort connected; as certified, that the prayer of the righteous will ever greatly avail before God. And while we reflect upon what terms the gracious Judge of the earth would have suspended the fate of these abandoned cities, O let us be anxious to be found among the number of those valuable righteous, who are the pillars of the state, and for whose sake often the continuance of a nation is permitted by the Eternal Ruler of the world. By the blessing of the upright the city is exalted. Proverbs 11:11. And let us adore the awful justice of his punishments, who let not loose the dread thunderbolts of his vengeance, till these cities had arrived at the highest, and an almost incredible, degree of wickedness.
Remember we also, that this fearful account is recorded for our admonition, that we should not lust after evil things as they also lusted; certified, that if God spared not the old world, but brought in a flood upon the ungodly, and, if, turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah into ashes, he has set forth the inhabitants thereof for an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire; Jud 1:7 being in all ages the same God of justice as well as mercy, he will not suffer iniquity ultimately to escape. For though he doth not lay bare his vindictive arm upon every occasion; though he is strong and patient, so that he seldom whetteth his sword, and prepareth the instruments of death; yet a few of these remarkable, these monumental instances of his severity against sin, are enough to convince us that he hath reserved the unjust (however they may escape now) unto the day of judgment to be punished! from which punishment we are clearly ascertained, by the example of Lot, that he will ever rescue those, who in the midst of an adulterous and corrupt generation, maintain their integrity, and defile not their garments, that they may walk with Him in white, for they are worthy. Revelation 3:4.