The first incident involving Lot’s daughters appears in Genesis 19:1–11. Two men who were really angels appeared in Sodom where Lot lived with his family. The wicked men of the city surrounded Lot’s house seeking to have homosexual relations with the angels. Lot begged the men of the city not to do this evil thing, and he offered up his two virgin daughters to them instead.
The second incident (Genesis 19:30–38) occurs after Lot and his daughters had fled Sodom just before its destruction. Lot’s wife was destroyed for her disobedience during the journey, and Lot and his two daughters fled to live in a cave in a mountain. Afraid they would never have husbands or children in their hideout, Lot’s daughters plotted to make their father drunk so they could sleep with him and thereby assure that they would have children.
To our modern sensibilities, it’s hard to understand why God would allow these two terrible incidents to occur. We are told in 1 Corinthians 10:11 that the record of the Old Testament is meant as an “example” to us. In other words, God gives us the whole truth about biblical characters, their sin, their failures, their victories and good deeds, and we are to learn from their example, what to do and what not to do. In fact, this is one of the ways God teaches us what we need to know in order to make good choices as believers. We can learn the easy way by knowing and obeying God’s Word, we can learn the hard way by suffering the consequences of our mistakes, or we can learn by watching others and “taking heed” from their experiences.
Scripture does not reveal Lot’s reasoning for offering up his daughters. Whatever his thought process was, it was wrong and indefensible. Based on what is revealed about Lot’s life, one might wonder if he was righteous. However, there is no doubt that God had declared him to be positionally righteous, even during his time in Sodom. “And if God rescued righteous Lot, oppressed by the sensual conduct of unprincipled men (for by what he saw and heard that righteous man, while living among them, felt his righteous soul tormented day after day with their lawless deeds)” (2 Peter 2:7–8). At some point Lot had believed in the coming Messiah, and that faith resulted in a righteous standing before God. It is likely that Lot’s uncle, Abraham, had passed this truth down to him.
What we have in the story of Lot is an illustration of a man who once lived close to his godly relatives and had backslidden and was living according to his sin nature. Lot had moved to Sodom, even though he knew what it was, and he “sat in the gate” (Genesis 19:1). That sounds quite simple, but, in fact, sitting in the gate meant that Lot had so entered into the society of Sodom that he was a judge there (Genesis 19:9). In spite of his position, the men of Sodom had no respect for him because they knew he was a hypocrite.
We may sit in judgment of the culture of that day, but protecting one’s guests required great sacrifice. Was Lot right to offer his own daughters in place of the men the Sodomites wanted? No. We can see in the story that the Lord’s messengers protected Lot and his daughters in spite of Lot’s lack of character and worldly viewpoint. Lot meant to appease the men of Sodom so that the hospitality of his house would not be damaged, but he makes the wrong choice in offering his own daughters, and God’s messengers overruled him.
Genesis 19:31–32 tells us that Lot’s daughters believed there would be no man for them and no children. This may be because they saw the destruction of Sodom and believed they were the only people left on earth. They were trying to preserve the family line. Why did Lot have sex with his own daughters? He got drunk. Yes, his daughters conspired to get him drunk, but Lot willingly drank and, when he was drunk, he lost what little control and common sense he had (Genesis 19:30–38), and this is the final step in Lot’s backsliding. The lesson we can learn from this is, when a person has too much to drink, he does not make good choices and loses control of his morals and operates out of the sinful, carnal nature. As a result of the incest, two children were born, and those two children are the fathers of two nations that have been at odds with and the source of much suffering to Israel down through history.
Why did God allow Lot to offer his daughters, and why did He allow them to commit incest? Sometimes God gives us His reasons for doing something but not very often. The more we get to know God, the more we understand Him and His reasons for doing things. But, again, this doesn’t always happen. We must be very careful when we ask why God does something and be sure we are not calling into question God Himself, His judgment, His character, and His very nature.
The psalmist tells us, “As for God, His way is perfect” (Psalm 18:30). If God’s ways are “perfect,” then we can trust that whatever He does—and the reason for whatever He allows—is also perfect. This may not seem possible to us, but our minds are not God’s mind. It is true that we can’t expect to understand His mind perfectly, as He reminds us, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, says the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:8–9). Nevertheless, our responsibility to God is to obey Him, to trust Him, and to submit to His will, whether we understand it or not.
Lot did the things he did because he chose to live in his old sin nature and do what was easy, and he made choices to flirt with evil instead of living to honor God. As a result, there was suffering for Lot, his wife and daughters, and, by association, the nation of Israel for years to come. The lesson for us is that we need to make choices that do not conform to the world and to submit to the Word of God, which will guide us into living lives that are pleasing to God.