another interpretation of Genesis 19

This interpretation comes from an article by Scott Morschauser entitled “‘Hospitality’, hostiles and hostages: on the legal background to Genesis 19.1-9” found in the June 2003 edition of the Journal for the Study of the Old Testament. Morschauser argues that what is occurring in this passage is juridical proceedings. “Lot was sitting in the gate of Sodom” (19:1) at the beginning of the passage, a juridical locale in ancient cities. “Those situated therein were often engaged in ‘decision-making’, acting as ‘judges’ for the community,” (464) thereby placing Lot as a man of influence and status. Also, as Sodom had recently been at war (cf. Gen. 14:1-12), the role of the man at the gate would have been to determine who could and could not come into the city, being suspicious of strangers playing a sinister role in infiltrating the city (cf. the Greek capture of Troy).

Therefore, according to Morschauser, Lot is fulfilling his duty by bringing the strangers into his home: he is keeping them from having unlimited access to the city, and making sure they are on their way as soon as possible in the morning (Gen. 19:2-3). The “men of Sodom, both young and old” (19:4) refers to the two common governing councils in an ancient city: a council of youths, and a council of older men. They want to “know” the visitors in the sense of interrogating them regarding their identity and plans, an often violent process in that time, and Lot, having taken them in, is duty bound to protect them. Hence he offers his daughters, not as sacrifice, but as hostages, to be taken and kept safe on good faith that Lot would fulfill his duties and send the strangers on their way first thing in the morning.

However, the men abandon lawful discourse and threaten Lot’s life. This abandonment of lawful proceedings for the sake of ease and expediting matters is, according to Morschauser, the sin of Sodom and Gomorrah the angels are investigating, and this incident proves the outcry against the cities are founded in fact.

While certainly an interesting interpretation which warrants more study, it does not hold the backing of tradition or later scripture reference.


One thought on “another interpretation of Genesis 19

  1. Pingback: [bible:365] Day 4 – Genesis 16-20 « A Radical Journey

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