When God decided to wipe the city of Sodom off the map for its sins, he sent a couple of angels down to make sure that Lot was safely out of it first. Therefore he must have had something going for him. On the other hand, it's hard to see just what.

There was the way he conducted himself the day the angels arrived at his house, for instance. The first thing to happen was that some local weirdos started pounding on the front door demanding that he send the angels out to them for purposes that, though never spelled out, Lot seems to have understood well enough since, to save his guests, he immediately suggested that maybe they'd just as soon have his two unmarried daughters instead. The angels evidently thought this was carrying the laws of hospitality too far since, before Lot had a chance to make good on his offer, they struck the door-pounders blind and sent them groping their way back to wherever they'd come from.

The next thing was that Lot went to the two young men who were engaged to his daughters, told them what the angels said was about to happen to Sodom, and advised them to pack their bags in a hurry. The two young men refused to take him seriously. "They thought he was jesting," Genesis says (19:14) and you can hardly blame them.

When the next morning arrived, Lot himself still hadn't gotten out of town, and the angels were in a snit. God had already started the countdown, and there wasn't a moment to lose. Lot refused to budge an inch, however, so finally in desperation the angels "seized him and his wife and his two daughters by the hand, the Lord being merciful to him, and they brought him forth and set him outside the city" (19:16). Then they told him to flee to the hills before it was too late.

Lot's response must be read to be believed. "Oh no, my lords," he said. "Behold, your servant has found favor in your sight, and you have shown me great kindness in saving my life; but I cannot flee to the hills lest the disaster overtake me and I die. Behold, yonder city is near enough to flee to, and it is a little one. Let me escape there-is it not a little one?-and my life will be saved" (19:18-20).

All of Lot is somehow in that speech. To begin with, not so much as a passing thought is given to the imminent liquidation of all his fellow citizens. Beyond that, he knows perfectly well that he'll be safe in the hills or the angels would never have told him to go there, but wilderness camping isn't for him. He had already made it clear that he would rather be blown sky-high than leave and have to do without indoor plumbing, the morning paper delivered to the door, the restaurants. But he had a hunch the angels mightn't think all that highly of cities after their recent experience in one, so he tried to wheedle them as tactfully and unobtrusively as he could. Wouldn't it be all right if he fled just as far as that little city over there-that tiny little bit of a one you'd hardly even notice if you weren't looking straight at it? Just to get him moving, the angels gave him the nod, and by the time they'd finished giving it, he was already halfway there.

His wife disobeyed the angels' instructions by looking back longingly at what they were leaving behind and was turned into apillar of salt because of it. It was a dismal fate to be sure, but when you consider all the years of marriage to Lot that would probably have been in store for her otherwise, she may not have done all that badly at that.

Genesis 19:1-29

~originally published in Peculiar Treasures and later in Beyond Words

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