Thursday 28th May – Lot and His Daughters
Genesis 19: 30-38
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. 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. Let’s get our father to drink wine and then sleep with him and preserve our family line through our father.” 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. 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.” 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. So both of Lot’s daughters became pregnant by their father. The older daughter had a son, and she named him Moab; he is the father of the Moabites of today. The younger daughter also had a son, and she named him Ben-Ammi; he is the father of the Ammonites of today.
When you read Genesis end-to-end, rather than in the polite chunks the lectionary gives us to read in worship each week, you notice quite how much sex and deceit come into the story! This isn’t one of those polite chunks, and you can see why the lectionary compilers didn’t strive to include it – it’s a story of sexual assault and incest, and the writer offers no comment on the morality of Lot’s daughters’ actions, leaving us to puzzle through our reactions ourselves.
Some might argue that the daughters, who don’t even get the courtesy of names, are taking rational steps to protect themselves in a world where single women without relatives are the economic and sexual victims of others. Perhaps. But we are likely to be asking questions about the mental, social and physical health effects of such incestuous relationships – not to mention the impact of unconsensual sex. If this story was about members of our own family or circle of friends we would be horrified.
But perhaps this isn’t the focus the writer is hoping for. Rather, should we be noting the closing point? Here the babies become the fathers of the Moabites and Ammonites, two of the neighbouring peoples of the kingdoms of Israel and Judah, occupying northern and southern areas of the modern Kingdom of Jordan respectively, and with whom Israel and Judah fought frequently over territory. By pointing to a common ancestry, is the writer challenging those who hold prejudices or discriminate against those who are different to the intended audience of Genesis?
And, of course, had Moab and Judah not been able to have friendly relations later on, we wouldn’t have had the story of Ruth, the Moabite woman who is one of my favourite characters in the Hebrew scriptures.
When we are tempted to dismiss those who are different to us, or who hold different views, remind us we are all your children;
When we are tempted to take short-cuts to achieve our ambitions, keep us faithful and respectful of your word; and
When we are tempted to read the bible partially, and avoid challenges to our world view, open our hearts and minds to the power of your word.