Map of life expectancy at birth from Global Education Project.

Sunday, June 24, 2018

Sunday Sermonette: Family Values

First let me note that, as with most of Genesis history (as it were) archaeologists have not been able to find any evidence of actual events corresponding to this story, or even of the existence of the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. Obviously there are no volcanoes in the area so there isn't any obvious natural explanation for the raining of sulfur from the sky. It is conceivable that accounts of Mt. Vesuvius had reached the area, inspiring the story. Vesuvius erupted in about 2,800 BC, destroying several bronze age settlements; and continued to be active for centuries after that. Phoenicians could have brought tales to the region. (This is purely my own speculation.)

15 With the coming of dawn, the angels urged Lot, saying, “Hurry! Take your wife and your two daughters who are here, or you will be swept away when the city is punished.”
16 When he hesitated, the men grasped his hand and the hands of his wife and of his two daughters and led them safely out of the city, for the Lord was merciful to them. 17 As soon as they had brought them out, one of them said, “Flee for your lives! Don’t look back, and don’t stop anywhere in the plain! Flee to the mountains or you will be swept away!”
18 But Lot said to them, “No, my lords, please! 19 Your servant has found favor in your eyes, and you have shown great kindness to me in sparing my life. But I can’t flee to the mountains; this disaster will overtake me, and I’ll die. 20 Look, here is a town near enough to run to, and it is small. Let me flee to it—it is very small, isn’t it? Then my life will be spared.”
21 He said to him, “Very well, I will grant this request too; I will not overthrow the town you speak of. 22 But flee there quickly, because I cannot do anything until you reach it.” (That is why the town was called Zoar.)
So the angels aren't smart enough to figure out that Lot can't run to the mountains fast enough to escape whatever is happening, but Lot can. He  has to set them straight. Regarding the final parenthetical statement, apparently Zoar means "small," and evidently the idea is that in order to spare it, they will have to make only a minimal compromise with the plan of total extermination. Note that this includes the infants and children.
23 By the time Lot reached Zoar, the sun had risen over the land. 24 Then the Lord rained down burning sulfur on Sodom and Gomorrah—from the Lord out of the heavens. 25 Thus he overthrew those cities and the entire plain, destroying all those living in the cities—and also the vegetation in the land. 26 But Lot’s wife looked back, and she became a pillar of salt.
Okay, so Lot's unnamed wife glances back at her home as it is destroyed, and God, or perhaps one of the angels acting independently, kills her in a bizarre manner because, uhm, well, just because. As it happens there is a mountain in the area today called Mt. Sodom -- not because of any historical association with a city or place of that name, but because it consists largely of salt. Uplift from plate tetonics has pushed what was an underground salt deposit upward -- it's still growing, BTW -- and erosion has produced some pillars, one of which is called Lot's wife. So this formation may have inspired the tale.
27 Early the next morning Abraham got up and returned to the place where he had stood before the Lord. 28 He looked down toward Sodom and Gomorrah, toward all the land of the plain, and he saw dense smoke rising from the land, like smoke from a furnace.
29 So when God destroyed the cities of the plain, he remembered Abraham, and he brought Lot out of the catastrophe that overthrew the cities where Lot had lived.30 Lot and his two daughters left Zoar and settled in the mountains, for he was afraid to stay in Zoar. He and his two daughters lived in a cave. 31 One day the older daughter said to the younger, “Our father is old, and there is no man around here to give us children—as is the custom all over the earth. 32 Let’s get our father to drink wine and then sleep with him and preserve our family line through our father.”
 Sounds like a plan!
33 That night they got their father to drink wine, and the older daughter went in and slept with him. He was not aware of it when she lay down or when she got up.
34 The next day the older daughter said to the younger, “Last night I slept with my father. Let’s get him to drink wine again tonight, and you go in and sleep with him so we can preserve our family line through our father.” 35 So they got their father to drink wine that night also, and the younger daughter went in and slept with him. Again he was not aware of it when she lay down or when she got up.
36 So both of Lot’s daughters became pregnant by their father. 37 The older daughter had a son, and she named him Moab; he is the father of the Moabites of today. 38 The younger daughter also had a son, and she named him Ben-Ammi; he is the father of the Ammonites of today.
Okaaay. So this is the just and righteous family who God chose to save from among all the victims of his latest mass murder. Incest is rewarded since the two products thereof go on to be the patriarchs of substantial societies. Of course incest is not new. Remember that Abraham and Sarah have the same father. Later, the mother and father of Moses and Aaron will be full siblings. And while Lot's daughters are rewarded for actually having sex with their father, remember that Ham's son Canaan was cursed because Ham accidentally saw his drunken father Noah naked. It must be fun to live with the Bible as your guide to morality.

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