Beckett: Pastor’s Thoughts – The Incest of Lot’s Daughters (Genesis 19:30-38)

“Now Lot went up out of Zoar and lived in the hills with his two daughters, for he was afraid to live in Zoar. So, he lived in a cave with his two daughters. And the firstborn said to the younger, ‘Our father is old, and there is not a man on earth to come in to us after the manner of all the earth. Come, let us make our father drink wine, and we will lie with him, that we may preserve offspring from our father.’ So, they made their father drink wine that night. And the firstborn went in and lay with her father. He did not know when she lay down or when she arose.

“The next day, the firstborn said to the younger, ‘Behold, I lay last night with my father. Let us make him drink wine tonight also. Then you go in and lie with him, that we may preserve offspring from our father.’ So, they made their father drink wine that night also. And the younger arose and lay with him, and he did not know when she lay down or when she arose. Thus, both the daughters of Lot became pregnant by their father. The firstborn bore a son and called his name Moab. He is the father of the Moabites to this day. The younger also bore a son and called his name Ben-ammi. He is the father of the Ammonites to this day” (Genesis 19:30-38).

What happens in this account is disgusting. Lot’s two daughters essentially raped him because they got him so drunk that he had know idea what was going on (“He did not know when she lay down or when she arose,” vv. 33, 35). This is interesting because much attention is given to the rape of Dinah in Genesis 34, and for good reason, but the first rape recorded in the Bible is the rape of Lot.

It is stories like these that a sharp distinction needs to be made: prescription vs. description. Prescription is when God prescribes, or commands, something to be done or not be done, such as the Law and the Ten Commandments. Description is simply the description of events that are happening, such as what we have here. The key thing to remember as we’re reading historical accounts like this is that description does not equal prescription. Just because the Scriptures describe something does not mean they’re also prescribing it; that would be a dishonest reading of the text. We wouldn’t read any other history book and say the events it’s describing are also prescribing norms for behaviour. This rule doesn’t suddenly fly out the window when we’re reading Scripture (the only reason why such logic flies out the window for some is because of their contempt for God’s Word).

Even though Lot’s daughters get pregnant and give birth to sons who preserve their line, the rest of God’s Story shows us what He thinks of this occasion. Note that the firstborn daughter named her son Moab, who is the father of the Moabites; and the other daughter named her son Ben-ammi, who is the father of the Ammonites (vv. 37-38). What do we know of the Moabites and Ammonites? They became enemies with Israel, which is the clearest indication that God did not favour this incestuous occasion since (A) He did not bless these nations’ forefathers (Moab & Ben-ammi), and (B) God later destroys Moab (Jeremiah 48) and Ammon (2 Chronicles 20:1-25; Zephaniah 2:8-3:20). (The clearest indication is actually in Leviticus 18:1-18 where God expressly forbids incest.) Thus, this incestuous “union” that took place due to premeditated rape was not blessed by God. Rather, He saw to it that their entire line would be destroyed. Ironically, then, Lot’s two daughters did not get what they wanted.

Theology Terms Used

  • Description: the mere description of events that are happening.
  • Prescription: when God prescribes, or commands, something to be done or not be done.

Bibliography

Featured Image: Lot and his Daughters Leaving Sodom by Guido Reni (1640). The National Gallery.

Categories Pastoral Thoughts, SeriesTags , , , , , , , , , , ,

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