17 And as they brought them out, one said, “Escape for your life. Do not look back or stop anywhere in the valley. Escape to the hills, lest you be swept away.” 18 And Lot said to them, “Oh, no, my lords. 19 Behold, your servant has found favor in your sight, and you have shown me great kindness in saving my life. But I cannot escape to the hills, lest the disaster overtake me and I die. 20 Behold, this 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!” 21 He said to him, “Behold, I grant you this favor also, that I will not overthrow the city of which you have spoken. 22 Escape there quickly, for I can do nothing till you arrive there.” Therefore the name of the city was called Zoar. 23 The sun had risen on the earth when Lot came to Zoar. 24 Then the Lord rained on Sodom and Gomorrah sulfur and fire from the Lord out of heaven. 25 And he overthrew those cities, and all the valley, and all the inhabitants of the cities, and what grew on the ground. 26 But Lot’s wife, behind him, looked back, and she became a pillar of salt. 27 And Abraham went early in the morning to the place where he had stood before the Lord. 28 And he looked down toward Sodom and Gomorrah and toward all the land of the valley, and he looked and, behold, the smoke of the land went up like the smoke of a furnace. 29 So it was that, when God destroyed the cities of the valley, God remembered Abraham and sent Lot out of the midst of the overthrow when he overthrew the cities in which Lot had lived. 
In his soliloquy of chapter 18:17-19, God told us he was informing Abraham of Sodom’s coming destruction because of Abraham’s place in salvation history as the one through whom blessings for all the nations would come. Abraham was the earthly locus for God’s covenant blessings. What does that mean? It means Lot and his family were saved from destruction not because they were righteous in themselves but only because of their association with God’s friend, Abraham.
That is why Moses includes the story of Lot in his narrative. He wants us to infer something from Lot’s increasing entanglement with the godless culture of the City of Man. Moses records Lot’s movement towards his life in this putrid city. First, he had “moved his tent as far as Sodom” (13:12). Next, he is said to be sojourning in Sodom (14:12). Now, in chapter 19, we find him “sitting in the gate of Sodom.” Lot had made it into the upper echelon of Sodom’s social and business circles to be worthy to sit in the gate of the city, even though he was a sojourner (v. 9). Lot has moved away from Abraham, the human source of God’s blessing, and into the cursed City of Man. And yet, Lot’s salvation is secure because of God’s covenant loyalty to Abraham.
Lot didn’t have to make the long journey from Ur with Abraham, but he must have been caught in Abram’s vision and enthusiasm. He prospered materially, and presumably spiritually, while he remained with his uncle. Lot is regarded everywhere in scripture as one who was righteous because he trusted into God’s covenant promise of Abraham’s Seed. Peter calls him, “righteous Lot, greatly distressed by the sensual conduct of the wicked 8 (for as that righteous man lived among them day after day, he was tormenting his righteous soul over their lawless deeds that he saw and heard).”
It’s likely that, even though he was deeply troubled by the culture around him, Lot married a pagan Canaanite woman. His daughters were betrothed to pagan Canaanites. Lot, like many of us much of the time, was a conflicted believer trying to live in the City of Man while maintaining loyalty to the City of God, which the Lord was building around the Promised Seed. Lot had been raised in a large, sophisticated, thriving city in Chaldee. He was not a “country” kind of guy. He loved the comfort, culture, and contacts of city living. At the same time, the moral vileness of Sodom tortured his soul. Like you and me, he struggled with trusting God in a Godless culture. It seems he feels more comfortable inside the city with the pagans than outside of it with God.
Lot was a real human being with real problems in the very real world that lies in the power of the evil one (1 Jn. 5:9). Like all believers in the world, he was to live like a ship on the water. He was to be IN the world, but not OF the world. When the water leaks into the ship, it starts to sink. Lot had been taking on water in Sodom for some time. His soul may have been tortured, but he chose to stay in a moral cesspool. He was in the city, with the city, and for the city. Now, with judgment falling on the cities of the Dead Sea plain, Lot begs to flee to another city of the plain which, he reasons, can’t be AS BAD as Sodom because it’s smaller. Lot’s life was one of mixed trust – trust into God’s saving covenant, and trust into his outdated sinful Adam 1.0 hardware. Lot remained alive because of, “the Lord being merciful to him” (19:16).
LOT WHINES, GOD CONDESCENDS (18-22)
Having dragged Lot and his family outside the city as the first hints of pink painted the eastern horizon, the angels shouted, “Escape for your life. Do not look back or stop anywhere in the valley. Escape to the hills, lest you be swept away.” To be swept away means to be caught up in judgment. Twice in chapter 18 Abraham used this verb when pleading Sodom’s defense before God (18:23-24; see also Num. 16:26). When God takes, or sweeps away, he is executing judgment. His people are left behind and the wicked are taken away.
The angels’ orders beg the question, “To which hills was Lot to escape?” Lot is standing in the Jordan River Valley on the plains of the Dead Sea. On one side are the hills of the Promised Land; on the other side are the hills will become known as Moabite territory. The most likely answer that accords with the biblical theology of Genesis is that Lot is being told to flee towards Abraham, back into the Promised Land and the hill country of Hebron. It would be the Patriarchal Period’s equivalent of being told to flee back to the church – back to fellowship with God and his people.
But Lot and his family are so addicted to the putrid culture of pagan Canaan, he cannot leave. “18 And Lot said to them, “Oh, no, my lords. 19 Behold, your servant has found favor in your sight, and you have shown me great kindness in saving my life. But I cannot escape to the hills, lest the disaster overtake me and I die. 20 Behold, this 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!”
Whatever our particular addictions may be, we always manage to supply a defense for the false hope that is in us. What was Lot’s defense? The God who had just rescued him from certain death in Sodom wasn’t trustworthy enough to protect him if he ran for the hills of the Promised Land. So self-focused was Lot, he couldn’t begin to comprehend the magnitude of his gracious deliverance. Worry and fear are two very strong thieves for most of us much of the time. We live far more like Lot than we want to admit. Lot desperately wanted to return to some kind of familiar life rather than trusting God in the wilderness.
“The verb the messenger uses for flee or ‘escape’ …is used five times in this section (vv. 17 [twice], 19, 20, 22). Perhaps it was selected because of the closeness in sound between ‘flee’ (mālaṭ) and ‘Lot’ (lôṭ).” Lot didn’t want to flee Sodom. Lot didn’t want to flee Canaanite culture. It’s easy to make Lot a whipping boy. Some preachers would say he was the Old Testament equivalent of a “carnal Christian” who is failing to live the “victorious Christian life.”
But all believers are “carnal.” We all struggle with the same basic conflict: do I trust my wants, needs, feelings; or, do I trust into God? Do I trust my observations or God’s revelation? We all run new software on outdated, corrupt hardware. We all have trust issues. As Derek Kidner notes, “Not even brimstone will make a pilgrim of him: he must have his little Sodom again if life is to be supportable (20c).”
Lot had the nerve to ask God to spare a “little” town for his escape. Wherever Zoar was, it was in the direction away from the Promised Land. “Let me have this one little town. It can’t be too sinful. It can’t be too bad for me.” God extends his mercy and grace to whom we are inclined to call the “giants” of the faith – like Noah and Abraham. But he also extends it to those of us with weak faith. He extends it to Lot, addict of Canaanite culture and urban living. Catastrophe is about to strike the cities and villages of the Dead Sea Plain and Lot is arguing about the escape route. Still, God is gracious. Divine grace, not human relative morality or human effort is the sole basis of salvation. The amount and quality of Lot’s faith does not save him and his family. The divine grace of the Creator Covenant God – who grants faith – saves the Family Lot.
Lot ran for the hamlet of Zoar which God spares for Lot’s sake. The sun came up as Lot and his daughters reach Zoar. Now, judgment can fall to sweep away Sodom, Gomorrah, and all their suburban villages in the Jordan Valley around the Dead Sea (excepting Zoar). Moses wrote, “24 Then the Lord rained on Sodom and Gomorrah sulfur and fire from the Lord out of heaven. 25 And he overthrew those cities, and all the valley, and all the inhabitants of the cities, and what grew on the ground.”
The Jordan Valley is part of the great Syrian-African rift that stretches from Syria, through Palestine, Arabia, the Red Sea, the Upper Nile Valley, the Rift Valley of Kenya, and on to lake Nyasa in eastern Africa. It is a major fault line subject to great earthquakes. An earthquake along that fault line in the Jordan Valley released gasses that ignited in the sulfur and petroleum deposits. A massive explosion, or series of explosions resulted in a cataclysmic fire storm. Burning debris fell on the cities and hamlets the Dead Sea Plain. That, as many scholars hold, is the naturalistic explanation for this God-decreed event.
Other scholars and archaeologists add the earthquake and resulting firestorm may have been triggered by a meteor exploding in the atmosphere above the plain, the concussion of which would have been enough to level the cities before the earthquake and firestorm began. As we learned in studying Revelation, God most often uses natural means to accomplish his supernatural judgments. What humans can observe as random disaster, God’s revelation reveals to be his judgment upon the City of Man, prefiguring the great final judgment to come at the end of the ages.
This judgment had its origin in God, was decided by God, and was executed by God regardless of its means. “Throughout chs. 18–19 Yahweh has been pictured as moving to and fro on the earth. He rests under a tree near Mamre and has a meal. He engages in conversation with Abraham. His angelic entourage are overnight guests of Lot. Now suddenly Yahweh, from his heavenly position, unleashes a catastrophe on Sodom.” It prefigures the judgment scenes in Revelation, which all flow from God’s heavenly throne room.
When the sun was fully risen over the great Jordan Valley, molten rain fell upon the area, consuming all plant and animal life. The Dead Sea Plain was a scorched graveyard of smoldering sulfurous rubble and smoldering flesh. Among the rubble was the body of Lot’s wife. “26 But Lot’s wife, behind him, looked back, and she became a pillar of salt.” You have to examine what Moses writes carefully. Otherwise, you might be inclined to think she was simply a slow runner who was overtaken by the great flood of hot gas and molten minerals. Mrs. Lot was likely a Canaanite. She was born and raised in the pagan culture. Perhaps she was a citizen of Sodom and not a sojourner like her husband.
Before you judge Mr. Lot too harshly for marrying outside his faith, think about the fact that his faith was shared only by his aunt and uncle. Who else COULD he have married but a Canaanite woman? What Lot may have taught her about the One True Creator God and his covenant of salvation through the Promised Seed we do not know. Moses’ story is silent on those details of Lot’s life. We can only suppose that Mrs. Lot was more deeply entangled with the City of Man than her husband because Lot and his daughters ran to Zoar while she lingered to observe for herself what God had revealed. She trusted her observation over God’s revelation and payed with her life. We act upon what we trust.
- Kent Hughes writes of Mrs. Lot:
Her backward look was far more than momentary because the destruction of the cities did not begin until Lot and his daughters were safe in Zoar. Evidently she refused all encouragements to leave and lingered far behind. There were no angels to grasp her unwilling hand as the deathly rain rushed toward her.
She lingered for the same reason most of us fail to obey God’s revelation. She was her own god. Her pleasure, treasure, and wealth rested in her own self-centered world of Sodom. Jesus warned his disciples to be prepared for God’s just and certain judgment:
31 On that day, let the one who is on the housetop, with his goods in the house, not come down to take them away, and likewise let the one who is in the field not turn back. 32 Remember Lot’s wife. 33 Whoever seeks to preserve his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life will keep it. 34 I tell you, in that night there will be two in one bed. One will be taken and the other left. 35 There will be two women grinding together. One will be taken and the other left.” 
St Author of Hebrews warned:
“Yet a little while, and the coming one will come and will not delay; 38 but my righteous one shall live by faith, and if he shrinks back, my soul has no pleasure in him.” 39 But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who have faith and preserve their souls. 
Those whom God declares to be righteous are left behind, placed safely on the high ground of Mt. Calvary. Those who refuse to believe his revelation are swept away in the flood of judgment that rushes over the plains of the City of Man. The overwhelming of Mrs. Lot by poisonous gasses and molten minerals is no more miraculous than the fate of all the other victims on the Dead Sea plain that horrible morning. But in the context of God’s judgment, her charred and mineralized body becomes a singular picture of all those who have experienced God’s common mercy yet rejected his gracious offer of salvation. She was a wife after Lot’s own heart but lacked Lot’s participation in God’s saving covenant with Abraham.
She was no stranger to God’s common mercies. She had been dragged out of the city by angels. She had experienced the saving angelic power that protected her household from the lascivious mob intent on home invasion and rape. Likely, she was among those whom Abraham and his army had rescued out of slavery to the conquering kings of Mesopotamia. Though dragged away from the City of Man, she returned in her heart. She was unable to let go of her house, her stuff, and her status. That is our struggle.
What holds you back from trusting into the perfect life and sacrificial death of the resurrected and ascended Promised Seed, Messiah Jesus? Only in his death can we truly die to our corrupt hardware. Only in his life can we live in our new Jesus 2.0 software. Only in his church can you download the updates. Many of us are held back by our stuff, our status, our reputation, our particular besetting sins in which we seek temporal comfort. To all, Jesus warns, “Remember Lot’s wife. Whoever seeks to preserve his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life will keep it.”
The rumble and roar of God’s molten flood of judgment ends with a scene change. The camera pans away from Mrs. Lot’s charred and mineralized remains. It pans across the desolate Dead Sea Plain, past the shaken-but-still-standing village of Zoar, and up toward the hills of the Promised Land. There, in Hebron, stands God’s friend Abraham on a hilltop overlooking the plains far below. Like Noah before him once stood upon the mountains of Ararat, he can see a land swept clean.
Moses wrote, “27 And Abraham went early in the morning to the place where he had stood before the Lord. 28 And he looked down toward Sodom and Gomorrah and toward all the land of the valley, and he looked and, behold, the smoke of the land went up like the smoke of a furnace.” Moses doesn’t tell us what Abraham thought as he took in the view. It is a scene of both salvation and judgment. One little village has survived judgment for the sake of Lot. Lot and his daughters have survived for the sake of Abraham.
This little picture of the entire City of Man, this foretaste of the final judgment to come contains a picture the apostle John will use to describe the final overthrow of the devil’s kingdom he calls Babylon the great, the seductress of lost mankind:
After this I heard what seemed to be the loud voice of a great multitude in heaven, crying out, “Hallelujah! Salvation and glory and power belong to our God, 2 for his judgments are true and just; for he has judged the great prostitute who corrupted the earth with her immorality, and has avenged on her the blood of his servants.” 3 Once more they cried out, “Hallelujah! The smoke from her goes up forever and ever.” 
Less than 24 hours before Abraham stood observing the aftermath of Sodom’s judgment, he had stood at this same vantage point speaking to YHWH in the form of a human being and proclaimed, “Shall not the Judge of all the earth do what is just?” Now, Abraham observes the devastating consequence of God’s justice. The narrator supplies the answer to Abraham’s unspoken question: “29 So it was that, when God destroyed the cities of the valley, God remembered Abraham and sent Lot out of the midst of the overthrow when he overthrew the cities in which Lot had lived.”
With the sunrise, both salvation and judgment had come in Canaan’s land. There was not a single righteous soul to be found in the City of Man upon the Dead Sea Plain. Not even Lot was righteous by nature. He was just as married to the City of Man as his wife and all the other doomed citizens. But, for the sake of God’s saving covenant with and through Abraham and his Seed, Lot was stamped with God’s sign and seal of righteousness to come through the Promised Seed. The prophet Malachi proclaimed:
For behold, the day is coming, burning like an oven, when all the arrogant and all evildoers will be stubble. The day that is coming shall set them ablaze, says the Lord of hosts, so that it will leave them neither root nor branch. 2 But for you who fear my name, the sun of righteousness shall rise with healing in its wings.
All mankind must endure the sweeping flood of God’s righteous light of judgment because the judge of all the earth must and shall do what is right. All born into Adam’s sin must and shall drink the bitter foaming cup of the wine of the wrath of God. As foul as the great barbeque of the Dead Sea Plains was (imagine the smell of burnt flesh and sulfur!), the suffering of the Promised Seed was more horrible and infinite as he paid for the sins of his people on Mt. Calvary and drank the bitter cup of judgmental wine to the dregs (Jn. 19:28-30).
You may endure the flood of judgment by standing safely on Mt. Calvary where the Promised Seed suffered in the place of his covenant people. Or, you will certainly be swept up, without warning, into the sure and certain and just wrath of God to come down upon the plain of the City of Man. Give ear to the call of the Promised Seed:
The Spirit and the Bride say, “Come.” And let the one who hears say, “Come.” And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price. 
 The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Ge 19:17–29.
 The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), 2 Pe 2:7–8.
 Hamilton, vol.2, 43.
 Hamilton, op. cit.
 Kidner, 145–146.
 Hughes, 274-275. Kindle Edition.
 Hamilton, 46–47.
 Hughes, 275. Kindle Edition.
 The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Lk 17:31–35.
 The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Heb 10:37–39.
 The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Re 19:1–3.
 The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Ge 18:25.
 The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Ge 19:29.
 The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Mal 4:1–2.
 The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Re 22:17.