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Lot, the “Righteous” Man

lot fleeing sodom

And [God] delivered just Lot, vexed with the filthy conversation of the wicked: (For that righteous man dwelling among them [Sodom and Gomorrah], in seeing and hearing, vexed his righteous soul from day to day with their unlawful deeds;) (2 Peter 2:7,8)

The story of Lot begins with him traveling with his uncle, Abram, to the land of Canaan. Both Lot and Abram had sizable herds of livestock, and this led to conflict between the two. The contention reached a level that Abram said to his nephew:

. . . Let there be no strife, I pray thee, between me and thee, and between my herdmen and thy herdmen; for we be brethren. Is not the whole land before thee? separate thyself, I pray thee, from me: if thou wilt take the left hand, then I will go to the right; or if thou depart to the right hand, then I will go to the left. (Genesis 13:8,9)

Lot, whom the Bible calls a “righteous” man:

. . . lifted up his eyes, and beheld all the plain of Jordan, that it was well watered every where, before the Lord destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah, even as the garden of the Lord, like the land of Egypt, as thou comest unto Zoar. Then Lot chose him all the plain of Jordan; and Lot journeyed east: and they separated themselves the one from the other. (Genesis 13:10,11)

We see right away that Lot had a covetous eye. When given a choice, Lot chose the well-watered plains near Sodom and Gomorrah. Abram and Lot lived in a patriarchal culture, one where the elder Abram should have taken the best land. Instead, for whatever reason, Abram deferred to Lot, and his nephew took advantage of him.

Lot likely knew about Sodom and Gomorrah’s reputation, yet he chose to “pitch his tent toward Sodom.” Why is that? Lot was married and had several married and unmarried daughters. Why would be willingly move his family to Sodom? Perhaps covetousness caused him to turn a blind eye to what was best for family. Yet, the Bible calls Lot a “righteous” man.

In Genesis 19, we have a story that reveals a good bit about “righteous” Lot:

And there came two angels to Sodom at even; and Lot sat in the gate of Sodom: and Lot seeing them rose up to meet them; and he bowed himself with his face toward the ground; And he said, Behold now, my lords, turn in, I pray you, into your servant’s house, and tarry all night, and wash your feet, and ye shall rise up early, and go on your ways. And they said, Nay; but we will abide in the street all night. And he pressed upon them greatly; and they turned in unto him, and entered into his house; and he made them a feast, and did bake unleavened bread, and they did eat. But before they lay down, the men of the city, even the men of Sodom, compassed the house round, both old and young, all the people from every quarter: And they called unto Lot, and said unto him, Where are the men which came in to thee this night? bring them out unto us, that we may know them. And Lot went out at the door unto them, and shut the door after him, And said, I pray you, brethren, do not so wickedly. Behold now, I have two daughters which have not known man; let me, I pray you, bring them out unto you, and do ye to them as is good in your eyes: only unto these men do nothing; for therefore came they under the shadow of my roof. And they said, Stand back. And they said again, This one fellow came in to sojourn, and he will needs be a judge: now will we deal worse with thee, than with them. And they pressed sore upon the man, even Lot, and came near to break the door. But the men put forth their hand, and pulled Lot into the house to them, and shut to the door.

By the time two angels arrive in Sodom to see Lot, he had become quite comfortable with his status and place in Sodom. As the angels arrived at the city gate, Lot arose from his seat and welcomed them. Knowing the sexual proclivities of the men of Sodom, Lot encouraged the angels to come to his home and spend the night with him. At first, the angels said they would spend the night on the streets. Lot, knowing what would happen to them if they did, pleaded with the angels to take him up on his offer. Finally, they relented.

Later that night, the younger and older men of the city surrounded Lot’s home and demanded that he give the angels to them so they could have sex with them. Lot said to the crowd, “I pray you, brethren, do not so wickedly.” Okay, good so far, right? Just what you would expect a Jesus-loving “righteous” man to do. However, Lot didn’t stop there. Here’s what he said next:

Behold now, I have two daughters which have not known man; let me, I pray you, bring them out unto you, and do ye to them as is good in your eyes: only unto these men do nothing; for therefore came they under the shadow of my roof. (Genesis 19:8)

Instead of standing his ground against the boys and men at his door, “righteous” Lot attempted to appease them by offering his two virgin daughters to the men. Lot said, “do ye to them as is good in your eyes.” What kind of man and father was Lot? What kind of man offers up his young daughters for sexual gratification? How can Lot be considered a “righteous” man? The men at Lot’s door refused his offer and demanded that he turn over the angels to them. Instead, the angels smote the men with blindness.

In Genesis 19, the Bible tells us that the pro-life God finally had enough with Sodom and Gomorrah and the other cities of the plain, and decided to destroy them — men, women, children, animals, and unborn fetuses. The angels told Lot that it was time for him to gather up his family and leave the city. Lot’s married children refused to leave. The angels grabbed ahold of Lot, his wife, and his two virgin daughters and led them outside of the city. The Lord said to Lot: “Escape for thy life; look not behind thee, neither stay thou in all the plain; escape to the mountain, lest thou be consumed.” (Genesis 19:17)

Righteous Lot didn’t want to leave, so he made a deal with God:

Oh, not so, my Lord: Behold now, thy servant hath found grace in thy sight, and thou hast magnified thy mercy, which thou hast shewed unto me in saving my life; and I cannot escape to the mountain, lest some evil take me, and I die: Behold now, this city is near to flee unto, and it is a little one: Oh, let me escape thither, (is it not a little one?) and my soul shall live. (Genesis 19: 8-20)

Lot and his family fled Sodom and headed for Zoar. God promised that they would be safe in Zoar. Unfortunately, Lot’s wife wasn’t paying attention when the Lord told them not to look behind them as they left. Lot’s wife turned her head to longingly look back at her home, and God smote her dead by turning her into a pillar of salt. In the New Testament, the writer of the gospel of Luke tells readers in 17:32, “Remember Lot’s wife.” Why did the author want readers to remember Lot’s wife? Based on the context found in chapter 17, Lot’s wife was an example of someone who sought to save her life; a person who put self above God.

After “righteous” Lot and his daughters arrived in Zoar, God rained fire and brimstone down on Sodom, Gomorrah, and other cities, killing every living thing. Zoar, “righteous” Lot’s safe haven, was spared punishment, but it was not long before Lot feared for his life and left the city. “Righteous” Lot moved to a mountain cave with his two daughters. One night, righteous Lot’s daughters decided that they wanted to have babies, so they got their father drunk and had sex with him. Both of them were ovulating, and both got pregnant the first time they had incestuous sex with “righteous” Lot. (Genesis 19:31-38)

I ask you, dear readers, what in this story says to you that Lot was a “righteous” man? What I see is a covetous man who valued property and place over family; a man who put his family in harm’s way; a man who violated his daughters, impregnating both of them. Does anyone really believe that Lot was so drunk that he didn’t know he was fucking his daughters? If Lot truly was that drunk, it is unlikely he could even have sex. I suspect the author of Genesis wanted to protect “righteous” Lot’s reputation, so, as men have been doing from time immemorial, he put the blame on the women.

A righteous man is moral and just, yet it is evident from the Bible that Lot was anything but. Why, then, does the Apostle Peter call Lot a “righteous” man? Evangelicals explain away Lot’s profane life by saying that Lot was “righteous” because of the righteousness of Jesus, and not anything good that he had done. This same argument is used to defend adulterous, murderous King David, whom the Bible calls a “man after God’s own heart.” (Acts 13:22)

If religious faith does not result in moral and ethical transformation, what good is it? James seemed to understand this when he said that “faith without works is dead.” What were the works James was talking about? In James 2, the Apostle spoke of doing right by the poor and disadvantaged; that doing so was a sign of true faith. Consider these words:

What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? can faith save him? If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, And one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit? Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone. Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works.

Compare these words to the behavior of Trump-loving Evangelicals. Are these lovers of Jesus righteous? Not according to the Bible. In Matthew 25, Jesus purportedly told people what were the marks of being a True Christian®:

  • Feeding the hungry
  • Giving drink to the thirsty
  • Taking in strangers (immigrants?)
  • Clothing the naked
  • Visiting people in prison

Notice that Jesus said nothing about beliefs. True Christianity® is measured by good works, not doctrinal fidelity.

Based on this standard, how many Americans are truly Christians? From my seat in the atheist pew, what I see is a form of Christianity that focuses on right beliefs; that Lot and David are considered “righteous,” not because of their behavior, but because of what they believed. All that matters is having beliefs deemed orthodox. Is this the kind of Christianity Jesus envisioned?

Did you ever hear sermons about Lot? How did your pastors explain the Bible calling Lot a “righteous” man? Please share your thoughts in the comment section.

About Bruce Gerencser

Bruce Gerencser, 62, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 41 years. He and his wife have six grown children and twelve grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

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20 Comments

  1. Avatar
    Becky Wiren

    Lot’s wife was punished for being human, for missing whatever was good in her life in Sodom. At least now I know all these stories are myths told by ancient man, from a viewpoint that makes ZERO sense to modern, enlightened people. And yet we’re supposed to follow this shit? NO.

  2. Avatar
    Matilda

    In 50yrs of listening to sermons, I don’t recall any about Lot…but I now realise how sanitised sermons were on bible references to cruelty and genocide etc. Noah is the obvious example, how could I have happily sung a song with the line ‘and only 8 were saved’ and not thought about the many others wilfully drowned? Ironically, having to tell the story of Daniel to a school assembly was one of the final things that ended my faith. I began to prepare, and found I couldn’t do it. I consulted my vicar who had 3 boisterous boys and said they watched far worse on TV most days. She didn’t take the point that I was supposed to be proclaiming an all-loving god, not a cruel, spiteful, brutal, vindictive one.

  3. Avatar
    ObstacleChick

    Excuses our church was taught about Lot:

    1) Lot wasn’t that great but was better than the rest of Sodom and Gomorrah and his uncle (being a pet favorite of God) interceded on his behalf. Gotta take care of family.

    2) Lot knew his daughters wouldn’t be gang raped by the evil perverted homosexuals of Sodom and Gomorrah, he just offered them up as a sign of hospitality to his guests. So no big deal.

    3) Lot’s wife was pining over her “good life” of luxury in the city and put that before God, so she deserved to be turned into a pillar of salt. Don’t live in luxury in cities.

    4) Lot’s daughters wanted a kid and there was no one else around so…you know….handwaving it away but it was their fault, not Lot’s. Don’t drink alcohol!!! Next question?

  4. Avatar
    Neil

    It puzzles me that angels have anuses. I mean, they must have if it was possible for the entire population of Sodom, which was, to a man, rampantly homosexual, to rape them.

    Sorry to be crude, but this deeply unpleasant story is so sordid and vile. It truly merits its place in ‘God’s holy word’.

  5. Avatar
    Brian Vanderlip

    This story was told without excuse in the Baptist church of my childhood and youth in the 50’s and 60’s, in order to show how evil same-sex desire is and to further impose de-humanizing, stupid obedience to the boss because the bully creep is truly heartless. Obey, no matter what, is the message and poor Lot’s wife was selfish, you know. Remember her when you shake the salt.
    This viral, sick story deeply frightened me as a youngster and made me believe that ‘homos’ were dangerous, demented criminals.
    Christianity across this continent still enforces that bottom line: Obey, or else.
    There ain’t no cure for God’s ‘love’.

    • Avatar
      Hugh D. Young

      Good comment. Yeah, ‘Christians’ really try to peddle godz’ ‘love’ to get us into the fold in the first place, ya know, when we’re all out there ‘partying like rock starz’, and headed for a permanent vacation in a very warm place…….Then, for those of us who initially took god up on his offer…….We fairly quickly learn that this is EXACTLY the mess(age) we get…….OBEY, OR ELSE! I always found it interesting that a god who is so ‘loving’, ‘all knowing’, and ‘all powerfull’, has to resort to THREATS as his ultimate Ace in the Hole to try and ‘persuade’ people to do/ not do what he wants!

  6. Avatar
    Jen

    The main teaching I remember was about Lot’s soul being vexed daily: Do you grieve over sin or have you become hardened to it? (Also used as a reason to keep away from TV, non-Christians, etc.)

    I think the story of Lot’s wife and the one about Ananias and Sapphira traumatized me most when I was young. You could be struck down for sinful thoughts or actions because it’s all a heart issue—God sees them as one and the same.

  7. Avatar
    Kris

    So god punished Lot’s wife by turning her into a condiment. What can I say she goes well with grilled steaks 🙂

    Is that cannibalism??

  8. Avatar
    Sally

    This story and that of Job were in the top 10 things in my Catholic upbringing that made me say “this is a bunch of crap, and if it isn’t, this God character is a jerk and an asshole and I’ll take my chances with The Other Side.” If Hell was being in a state without the grace of God, maybe that wasn’t such a bad thing, you know?

  9. Avatar
    Sally

    This story and that of Job were in the top 10 things in my Catholic upbringing that made me say “this is a bunch of crap, and if it isn’t, this God character is a jerk and an asshole and I’ll take my chances with The Other Side.” If Hell was being in a state without the grace of God, maybe that wasn’t such a bad thing, you know?

  10. Avatar
    charles pasquerillo

    Well put…to a point…but fail fail fail to truly know anything significant…’Vexed’ would place Lot in the mind set to do his daughters….Yeshua is the focus…righteousness from Abraham on became ‘imputed’…not as if one was righteous on their own merit. ‘He that hangs to The Faith to the end…will be salvaged…you blew it with the fleshly mind

    • Avatar
      Bruce Gerencser

      I am an atheist, so I have no need to play Bible gymnastics or the theology semantics game to get the text to fit my peculiar theological system. I just read the Bible and let it speak. Isn’t that what Christians are supposed to do? Lot was an awful man, and what he tried to do with his daughters would land him in prison today. And then, to make matters worse, he committed incest. Nice guy, right? If he is a “rightous” man . . .

      Thanks for commenting.

      Bruce

  11. Avatar
    greg humphreys

    bottom line is we all are going to die so make a decision heaven hell or no where. heaven and hell are places that we as people will go so if no where is a place who wants to go no where. therefore put your trust in jesus its to long to be wrong choose heaven you wont be sorry because God is in charge and there is nothing you can do about it when GOD SAYS ITS YOUR TIME TO DIE DONT BE A FOOL

    • Avatar
      Bruce Gerencser

      Jesus, Greg, did you skip English in elementary school?

      What did you expect to accomplish by your comment? Did you think your little rant would lead anyone to “Jesus?” Are you really that delusional? Or is this more about you, a masturbatory moment of “feel good?”

  12. Avatar
    Diane zRead

    First of all, noone mentioned Lots daughters came to him because they wanted a baby. They then proceeded to get him very drunk, making him lose his inhibitions. Everyone knows you are less inhibited under influence of
    alcohol. I’ll bet he didnt even remember the incidences the next day. No he wasn’t perfect but he was vexed everyday in that evil city. Wicked men dont get vexed because of evil. Yes. God does expect us to obey. The Old Testament is filled throughout with the Israelites disobedience, worshipping false idols and resulting in God’s anger and punishment.. Why because He is God. He only does things out of love for our good. You better believe you would hang onto angels’ every word if they visited you. Example Mary’s annunciation. .

    God is a God of Love as evidenced in becoming a man, Jesus God in the flesh and suffering the horrible death by crucifixion and taking our sins upon Himself, then the first fruit of the resurrection, so those that believe in Him may have eternal life. Take an example from Lot’s disobedient wife and rebellious Israel. Your eternal life hangs in the balance.

    • Avatar
      John Arthur

      So you think that Lot was a just (righteous) person. Does a just person offer his daughters to be gang raped by a bunch of guys who are banging on his door to rape two male strangers? What kind of justice is that?

      You do realize that the story of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah is Hebrew mythology. Lot’s wife is supposed to have become a pillar of salt by simply looking back, after coming out of the town of Sodom. How likely is that and why didn’t Lot become a pillar of salt? Hebrew mythology is not meant to be interpreted literally. Otherwise you run into absurdities.

      “Your eternal life hangs in the balance.” You mean that you are threatening us with eternal torment in hell. How can a God of love (if he/she or it exists) ever burn anyone. This speaks more of a God of brutality than a God of love. Perhaps you need to rethink your ideas of God because he seems like a moral monster and no better than that other fictitious character called the devil.

    • Avatar
      Astreja

      Diane, I’m not particularly interested in living forever.

      I also reject the concept of someone else dying for something that I allegedly did. I pay my own debts.

      Finally, if your god sends anyone at all to a place of eternal torment, or declines to use its powers to rescue anyone who ends up there, that automatically negates the “god of love” nonsense. If your god actually did exist, it would be the most evil being in the universe, and its followers cowards for accepting the “sacrifice” of Jesus.

    • Avatar
      ... Zoe ~

      Isn’t it good that the Bible is full of women messing up and being included in the Bible for our consideration? It certainly wouldn’t be near as interesting without them.

      Gen. 19:26

      – Lot’s wife looks back and turns into a pillar of salt
      – she doesn’t even get a chance to negotiate like Lot did; ‘Oh no, my lord!’
      – Lot gets to dilly dally around, take his sweet time putting the angels off with the escape plan when they are trying to save his life; tells the angels ‘no’ after receiving their instructions; apparently, in the presence of the saving angels sent by God no less, still fears for his life and he’s still breathing?
      – guess God and the angels had more patience with Lot then Lot’s wife
      – she looked back, being in Zoar, what could she see, maybe smoke rising?
      – maybe she could hear the sound of the destruction, maybe it was her reflexes, ever hear a big boom and not jump and turn to look in the direction of the sound?
      – God-given, God-created responses, imagine being on the streets during 9/11 and not looking up when you heard the jets, the impact…try and avoid those instinctive reflexes
      – maybe she turned back to mourn the loss of her family, friends, the lost souls?
      – if she was mourning, it seemed more then the mourning of Lot and his two daughters for her, we don’t hear of their reaction; the story just moves on to show how God remembered Abraham and remembered Lot

      by the way, is there another pillar of salt out there we don’t know about?
      who turned around to see that Lot’s wife turned around?

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