Jan. 6 Reading: Genesis 19-21 Commentary

Below is our Genesis 19-21 commentary from our Beginning to End Bible reading program. You can find an email link at the end of this page to share your thoughts or comments with us.

Key Verse(s):

“And the Lord visited Sarah as He had said, and the Lord did for Sarah as He had spoken. For Sarah conceived and bore Abraham a son in his old age, at the set time of which God had spoken to him. And Abraham called the name of his son who was born to him – whom Sarah bore to him – Isaac.” (Gen. 21:1-3)

Genesis 19 – Sodom’s Profound Wickedness

commentaryAfter Abraham pleaded with God to not destroy Sodom if ten righteous people could be found (Gen. 18:16-33), the two angels that Abraham had previously hosted traveled in human form to Sodom to investigate the wickedness of the city. Upon arrival, they happen to meet Abraham’s nephew Lot sitting at the front gate. The fact that Lot was sitting at the gate implies he was a leader or an elder of some kind in the city. Lot generously invites them to spend the night at his house instead of on the streets.

So how wicked had the city of Sodom become? Well the angels were about to find out. While they are dining in Lot’s home, men of the city surrounded the house and call out to Lot saying, “Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us that we may know them carnally” (v. 5).

It’s a devastating blow to Lot. These men have come under his protection and he feels responsible for them. He pleads with the men at his door not to do this thing. He even offers his two virgin daughters to them instead. But the men refuse and press against the door of the home trying to break it down.

At that moment the angels intervene. They pull Lot back into the house and strike the men outside with blindness.

Sodom and Gomorrah Wiped Away

At this point the angels have seen enough. In the morning, they instruct Lot to take his family and leave the city because it will surely be destroyed. Lot goes to find his sons-in-law who had married some of his other daughters. They think Lot is joking about what is going to happen and refuse to leave.

Oddly enough in the face of this warning, Lot is reluctant to leave. Maybe he’s concerned about his family. Or perhaps he simply doesn’t want to leave the only life he’s known. So the angels have to physically take hold of Lot, his wife and the two daughters that still live with them and take them outside the city (v. 16).

The angels instruct Lot to flee to the mountains, a journey that Lot is unsure he can make. So he asks to instead go to a smaller town (Zoar) nearby. The angels grant this request and ask him to go with haste. Their only other instruction was to not look back as they escape.

What they must have heard behind them we can only imagine. The wrath of God on the wickedness of these people was great. We read “…the Lord rained brimstone and fire on Sodom and Gomorrah, from the Lord out of the heavens. So He overthrew those cities, all the plain, all the inhabitants of the cities, and what grew on the ground” (vv. 24-25). It was a complete destruction of an entire area.

Lot and his daughters followed the angel’s instructions and arrived safely at Zoar. Lot’s wife, for whatever reason, disobeyed the angel’s instructions, looked back and became a pillar of salt (v. 26).

Lot’s Descendants

One of the arguments for the authenticity of the Bible is that it does not shy away from events or people problems that are cringe-worthy. The whole incident with the men at Lot’s house and what happens next with Lot’s daughters are two such events. They are awkward, embarrassing and uncomfortable at some level to think about.

But these stories highlight an essential truth of the Bible – God’s ability to work out His plan and in all cases, use fallen and broken people as instruments to accomplish His plan. He never condones sin and there are always consequences for it. But, even as sinful people, we can still be used by God.

Lot feels uncomfortable in Zoar, even though he asked to go there. So he flees into the mountains, the very place the angels told him to go in the first place. There he dwells with his daughters in a cave.

We’ve seen before how important it was in the culture of the time for a woman to have a son to carry on the family line. In this instance, Lot’s daughters sense the desperation of the moment, as there are no prospects for a husband in sight. They concoct a plan to get their father drunk with wine and sleep with him so that they can conceive. This happens on back to back nights in the cave, with each girl taking her turn. And we are told that evidently Lot was so drunk that he didn’t even know what was going on (vv. 34-35).

Both daughters conceive from their father. To one is born a son named Moab and to the other a son named Ben-Ammi. The descendants of both (the Moabites and Ammonites) would be nations who would bring great trouble against Israel in the future.

Genesis 20 – Abraham’s Deception with Abimelech

It’s the Egypt story all over again (see Gen. 12) with Abraham saying Sarah is his sister. This time it’s with King Abimelech of Gerar, a region where Abraham moved to live in.

It unfolds exactly the same way as before with the king taking Sarah into his harem, God intervening and warning the king not to touch her and then the king confronting Abraham about the deception. In this case, we get a little more information from Abraham about the “she’s my sister” storyline. We read Abraham told the king that “…she is truly my sister. She is the daughter of my father, but not the daughter of my mother…” (v. 12). So technically he was correct. But it’s still a lie because Abraham left out the most important part of the story – that he’d married her!

Abimelech returns Sarah to Abraham, gives him animals and male and female servants, all to try and stay the hand of the Lord upon him. He also allows Abraham to have the best of the land in which to dwell (v. 14-15).

Genesis 21

At long last, the faith of Abraham and his wife Sarah is rewarded with the birth of Isaac, their promised son. It’s been 25 years since God first spoke the promise of this birth to them (see Gen. 15). That’s a long time to wait for anything, but especially a child you’ve been promised. Both are overjoyed and you can almost see Sarah smiling from ear to ear (vv. 6-7). Who would have thought that a woman of 90 years old would be able to conceive, give birth and then nurse a child. It all points to the miraculous hand of God. 

The big takeaway for us in the Abraham and Sarah Baby Saga is to trust in God’s timing. Our world today functions like a microwave society, where we want everything in an instant. But God and his timing functions more like a crock pot. More often than not, there is a delay between a promise and its fulfillment or between a prayer request and its answer. We should trust in His timing and not try to manipulate circumstances to “answer prayers” in our own way. 

The End of the Road for Hagar and Ishmael

With the birth of Isaac, there is simply no way for Sarah’s maidservant and her son Ishmael (whom Abraham bore with Hagar in Gen. 16) to remain with the family. Isaac is now the rightful and legal heir and all of Abraham’s rights as family leader and possessions would go to him. So, after God’s assurance, Abraham sends them away with only bread and water for provisions.

But God provides for Hagar and Ishmael in the wilderness so that neither of them die. And He again reiterates to Hagar that the descendants of Ishmael will become a great nation. The last words about their fate are that Ishmael dwells in the Wilderness of Paran, becomes an archer and marries an Egyptian woman.

Questions and Thoughts to Consider from Genesis 19-21:

Why do we take matters into our own hands instead of relying on God to see things through?

What makes it difficult to trust God?

When have you been so overwhelmed by the goodness of God that you couldn’t help but lift your hands in praise to Him? 

What other points would you want to know about in our Genesis 19-21 commentary? Email us here with questions or comments.