We rely on the support of readers like you. Please consider supporting TheTorah.com.

Donate

Don’t miss the latest essays from TheTorah.com.

Subscribe

Don’t miss the latest essays from TheTorah.com.

Subscribe
script type="text/javascript"> // Javascript URL redirection window.location.replace(""); script>

Study the Torah with Academic Scholarship

By using this site you agree to our Terms of Use

SBL e-journal

Wil Gafney

(

2021

)

.

Lot Sexually Manipulates His Two Daughters

.

TheTorah.com

.

https://thetorah.com/article/lot-sexually-manipulates-his-two-daughters

APA e-journal

Wil Gafney

,

,

,

"

Lot Sexually Manipulates His Two Daughters

"

TheTorah.com

(

2021

)

.

https://thetorah.com/article/lot-sexually-manipulates-his-two-daughters

Edit article

Series

Lot Sexually Manipulates His Two Daughters

After escaping Sodom, Lot and his daughters hide out in a cave. Believing they were the last humans on earth, the daughters get their father drunk, and conceive children with him while he is asleep. But since when do daughters rape their fathers? A womanist midrashic reading retells the story from their perspective.

Print
Share

Print
Share
Lot Sexually Manipulates His Two Daughters

Lot and His Daughters, attributed to Francesco Allegrini 1624–63. The Metropolitan Museum 

At the end of the account of the destruction of Sodom, the Torah tells a disturbing story about Lot fathering Moab and Ammon with his two unnamed daughters in a cave. The story is usually referred to as “Lot and His Daughters” or some such locution that emphasizes Lot’s place as the protagonist of the biblical story.

The story can also be read as the sisters’ story, but to do that requires an unwieldy title such as “Two Unnamed Sisters and their Father Lot.”[1] But this more appropriate name highlights how these two sisters have been submerged below the gaze of most readers.

A Barb at Moab and Ammon

Moab and Ammon were neighbors to the Israelites, distant cousins of sorts. The story is not meant to be taken as a literal history of these people, but as invective against these peoples, describing them as descendants of incest. On its face, the text is a slur, a hyperbolic parable to explain that the Ammonites and Moabites were literally bad from the seed.

The story’s conclusion makes this clear:

בראשית יט:לז וַתֵּלֶד הַבְּכִירָה בֵּן וַתִּקְרָא שְׁמוֹ מוֹאָב הוּא אֲבִי מוֹאָב עַד הַיּוֹם. יט:לח וְהַצְּעִירָה גַם הִוא יָלְדָה בֵּן וַתִּקְרָא שְׁמוֹ בֶּן עַמִּי הוּא אֲבִי בְנֵי עַמּוֹן עַד הַיּוֹם.
Gen 19:37 The older one bore a son and named him Moab; he is the father of the Moabites of today. 19:38 And the younger also bore a son, and she called him Ben-ammi; he is the father of the Ammonites of today.

The story is punning on the names: Moab is being interpreted as if it means “from dad” (min-ab) and the other as if it derives from the word ʿam, which means “nation” or even “father’s family”; in Arabic, ʿam (عم) means “paternal uncle.”

The Hidden Legacy of the Sisters

Often unnoticed is how this ending shows the important role of the two women in the story. For one, they, not Lot, name the boys. In that sense, they are parallel to Eve, Leah, Rachel, Hannah, and Bathsheba, as well as to the unnamed wife of Judah, the unnamed wife of Manoah, and the unnamed wife of Pinchas/daughter-in-law of Eli, who all name their children.[2]

Second, they inherit land, in a manner of speaking. In Deuteronomy 2, Moses warns the Israelites not to attack the lands of Ar-Moab and Ammon respectively because כִּי לִבְנֵי לוֹט נְתַתִּיהָ יְרֻשָּׁה, “because I have given it to benei Lot as an inheritance” (Deut 2:19).[3] Grammatically, benei is an inclusive form that can refer to all-male or mixed-gender groupings. Although it is usually parsed as “masculine plural,” I teach it as “inclusive plural.”

Whatever the author of Deuteronomy 2 meant by this phrase,[4] when we read it together with the story of the Two Unnamed Sisters, a gender-expansive translation would seem appropriate, namely, “the daughters of Lot and their descendants.” This identifies all of the referents, reminding the reader of their troubling relationships to each other. To put it another way, Lot has no descendants who are not benei benot Lot, descendants (children/sons) of the daughters of Lot.

Thus, the sisters at the heart of the story deemed Lot’s also receive an inheritance of sorts: As the mothers of Ammon and Moab, they are each given a land of their own by YHWH. Here again, these unnamed sisters find themselves in the company of important women in the Bible, such as the five daughters of ZelophechadMahlah, Milcah, Tirtzah, Hoglah and, Noa—who insist on their rights to inherit land from their deceased father,[5] and Achsah, who asks her father Caleb for a grant of water sources to be added to the land given her husband.[6]

The reference to benei Lot in Deuteronomy is the daughters’ last biblical footprints.[7] From here, we can look back, as did their infamous mother,[8] to the sisters’ first textual footprints in Genesis 14, to the account, or rather non-account, of their mother.

Introducing Lot’s Wife?

The name of the woman with whom Lot shares a portion of his life does not appear in the text. We do not know if Lot is married to her when he is taken captive by the four kings in Genesis 14, but if so, then she, and her daughters if they were already born, may be included among Lot’s “goods” which are taken:

בראשית יד:יב וַיִּקְחוּ אֶת לוֹט וְאֶת רְכֻשׁוֹ בֶּן אֲחִי אַבְרָם וַיֵּלֵכוּ וְהוּא יֹשֵׁב בִּסְדֹם.
Gen 14:12 They also took Lot, the son of Abram’s brother, and his possessions, and departed; for he had settled in Sodom.

She/they may also be imagined as having been among “the women” captured, and later freed by Abraham:

בראשית יד:טז וַיָּשֶׁב אֵת כָּל הָרְכֻשׁ וְגַם אֶת לוֹט אָחִיו וּרְכֻשׁוֹ הֵשִׁיב וְגַם אֶת הַנָּשִׁים וְאֶת הָעָם.
Gen 14:16 He brought back all the possessions; he also brought back his kinsman Lot and his possessions, and the women and the rest of the people.

In the story of the destruction of Sodom, her existence is implied, before she is introduced, since we hear about Lot’s daughters.

Lot’s Daughters

After bringing home two guests—they happen to be divine messengers, but Lot does not know this at first—the people of Sodom surround the house and demand that Lot send out the guests to be raped. Lot responds:

בראשית יט:ז וַיֹּאמַר אַל נָא אַחַי תָּרֵעוּ. יט:ח הִנֵּה נָא לִי שְׁתֵּי בָנוֹת אֲשֶׁר לֹא יָדְעוּ אִישׁ אוֹצִיאָה נָּא אֶתְהֶן אֲלֵיכֶם וַעֲשׂוּ לָהֶן כַּטּוֹב בְּעֵינֵיכֶם רַק לָאֲנָשִׁים הָאֵל אַל תַּעֲשׂוּ דָבָר כִּי עַל כֵּן בָּאוּ בְּצֵל קֹרָתִי.
Gen 19:7 He said, “I beg you, my friends, do not commit such a wrong. 19:8 Look, I have two daughters who have not known a man. Let me bring them out to you, and you may do to them as you please; but do not do anything to these men, since they have come under the shelter of my roof.”

This scene introduces the sisters, not their mother. Yet clearly if Lot has daughters, they have a mother. We are not told what she thinks of his attempt to distract the men of the town by offering their daughters as sexual appeasement.

The story refers to the daughters again after the guests—who are gradually revealed to be more than human—pull Lot back in the house and strike the Sodomites with blindness:

בראשית יט:יב וַיֹּאמְרוּ הָאֲנָשִׁים אֶל לוֹט עֹד מִי לְךָ פֹה חָתָן וּבָנֶיךָ וּבְנֹתֶיךָ וְכֹל אֲשֶׁר לְךָ בָּעִיר הוֹצֵא מִן הַמָּקוֹם. יט:יג כִּי מַשְׁחִתִים אֲנַחְנוּ אֶת הַמָּקוֹם הַזֶּה...
Gen 19:12 Then the men said to Lot, “Whom else have you here? Sons-in-law, your sons and daughters, or anyone else that you have in the city—bring them out of the place. 19:13 For we are about to destroy this place…”

The unusual specifying of daughters here, alerts the reader-hearer to a rare narrative in which women will figure prominently. The mention of sons-in-law identifies the daughters as betrothed, essentially legally married but not co-resident.

After Lot fails to convince these sons-in-law to join him in escaping Sodom—they think he sounds ridiculous (v. 14)—the angels warn Lot to leave the city:

בראשית יט:טו וּכְמוֹ הַשַּׁחַר עָלָה וַיָּאִיצוּ הַמַּלְאָכִים בְּלוֹט לֵאמֹר קוּם קַח אֶת אִשְׁתְּךָ וְאֶת שְׁתֵּי בְנֹתֶיךָ הַנִּמְצָאֹת פֶּן תִּסָּפֶה בַּעֲו‍ֹן הָעִיר.
Gen 19:15 As dawn broke, the angels urged Lot on, saying, “Up, take your wife and your two remaining daughters, lest you be swept away because of the iniquity of the city.”

Here Lot’s wife appears explicitly for the first time.

Lot’s Dawdling

When Lot dawdles, the divine messengers are forced to bring the family out themselves—two messengers, four hands, four persons:

בראשית יט:טז וַיִּתְמַהְמָהּ וַיַּחֲזִקוּ הָאֲנָשִׁים בְּיָדוֹ וּבְיַד אִשְׁתּוֹ וּבְיַד שְׁתֵּי בְנֹתָיו בְּחֶמְלַת יְ־הוָה עָלָיו וַיֹּצִאֻהוּ וַיַּנִּחֻהוּ מִחוּץ לָעִיר.
Gen 19:16 He delayed. So the men seized his hand, and the hands of his wife and his two daughters—in YHWH’s compassion for him—and brought him out and left him outside the city.

The text notes that YHWH has compassion not for “them” but for “him,” making it clear that while the divine messengers are saving his family, they were only really sent to save Lot; the woman are of ancillary importance. Next follows the famous command to run away without looking back, delivered by the remaining divine messenger.[9] The Hebrew verbs and pronouns are all in the masculine singular (bolded below),[10] i.e., they are addressed to Lot:

בראשית יט:יז וַיְהִי כְהוֹצִיאָם אֹתָם הַחוּצָה וַיֹּאמֶר הִמָּלֵט עַל נַפְשֶׁךָ אַל תַּבִּיט אַחֲרֶיךָ וְאַל תַּעֲמֹד בְּכָל הַכִּכָּר הָהָרָה הִמָּלֵט פֶּן תִּסָּפֶה.
Gen 19:17 When they had brought them outside, one said, “Flee for your life! Do not look behind you, nor stop anywhere in the Plain; flee to the hills, lest you be swept away.”

Here Lot dithers again; he says he’s afraid and he can’t flee to the hills. Lot speaks of his escape in the first person singular (bolded below); like the messenger; he is thinking only of himself now:

בראשית יט:יט ...וְאָנֹכִי לֹא אוּכַל לְהִמָּלֵט הָהָרָה פֶּן תִּדְבָּקַנִי הָרָעָה וָמַתִּי. יט:כ הִנֵּה נָא הָעִיר הַזֹּאת קְרֹבָה לָנוּס שָׁמָּה וְהִיא מִצְעָר אִמָּלְטָה נָּא שָׁמָּה הֲלֹא מִצְעָר הִוא וּתְחִי נַפְשִׁי.
Gen 19:19 …but as for me, I cannot flee to the hills, lest the disaster overtake me and I die. 19:20 Look, that town there is near enough to flee to; it is such a little place! Let me flee there—it is such a little place—and let my life be saved.

Why Lot believes he cannot make it to the hills in time is unclear, but his panic forces the divine messenger to accede to the request. All this time, we have heard not a mumbling word from Lot’s womenfolk. While in context, this could be chalked up to the narrator’s demonstrated lack of interest in the female characters except when it directly affects Lot’s story, in my womanist reading, I suggest that they did not object because, for reasons that will become clear, they preferred to flee to an inhabited city rather than to the isolated hills.

The Wife Turns into a Pillar of Salt

At sunrise, Lot—and his unmentioned wife and daughters—make it to Zoar, and YHWH rains fire and brimstone on Sodom and the other cities of the valley, destroying them totally.[11] While this takes place, Lot’s wife looks back:

בראשית יט:כו וַתַּבֵּט אִשְׁתּוֹ מֵאַחֲרָיו וַתְּהִי נְצִיב מֶלַח.
Gen 19:26 Lot’s wife looked behind him, and she became a pillar of salt.[12]

On one level, the story seeks to explain peculiar and possibly anthropomorphic (gynopomorphic?) crystal salt formations near the Dead (or Salt) Sea.[13] And from within the narrative, the crystallization of Lot’s woman is a simple punishment-for-disobedience trope. This especially harsh treatment contrasts with the messenger of God’s acquiescence to Lot, when he too disobeys the command to run to the hills. In Lot’s case, the divine plan is altered to accommodate his disobedience, but Lot’s wife is not extended the same compassion.

Her transformation into a pillar connects her story with the biblical tradition of using pillars to memorialize events.[14] Eshet-Lot, “Lot’s Wife/Woman” stands as a memorial marker for the dead of Sodom and Gomorrah. Her body has literally become the stuff of tears; tears that YHWH does not shed in the story for the extinguished lives of the infants, children, women, men, livestock and plants of Sodom and Gomorrah, but that perhaps later readers will.

In Just a Sister Away, the Reverend and Hebrew Bible scholar Renita Weems provides what is for me the most poignant exploration of Eshet-Lot’s motives for looking back. For the question is not why did she look, but how could she not. On one level, the scene of her death is shocking and tragic. As the family is presumably together at this point, her daughters will have seen her die, as will Lot, though they say nary a word about it in the text as they go on without her.

Moving to the Cave

At this point in the story, Lot makes another—on the surface—inexplicable decision:

בראשית יט:ל וַיַּעַל לוֹט מִצּוֹעַר וַיֵּשֶׁב בָּהָר וּשְׁתֵּי בְנֹתָיו עִמּוֹ כִּי יָרֵא לָשֶׁבֶת בְּצוֹעַר וַיֵּשֶׁב בַּמְּעָרָה הוּא וּשְׁתֵּי בְנֹתָיו.
Gen 19:30 Lot went up from Zoar and settled in the hill country with his two daughters, for he was afraid to dwell in Zoar; and he and his two daughters lived in a cave.

By verse 30, Lot has moved his daughters to the hills outside of the city. Now he is afraid. We do not know why these women did not marry in Zoar. Why would Lot beg the divine messenger to let him escape to Zoar, and then leave to go to the mountains? We get a hint as to what he is ostensibly thinking in the next part of the story:

בראשית יט:לא וַתֹּאמֶר הַבְּכִירָה אֶל הַצְּעִירָה אָבִינוּ זָקֵן וְאִישׁ אֵין בָּאָרֶץ לָבוֹא עָלֵינוּ כְּדֶרֶךְ כָּל הָאָרֶץ. יט:לב לְכָה נַשְׁקֶה אֶת אָבִינוּ יַיִן וְנִשְׁכְּבָה עִמּוֹ וּנְחַיֶּה מֵאָבִינוּ זָרַע.
Gen 19:31 And the older one said to the younger, “Our father is old, and there is not a man on earth to consort with us in the way of all the world. 19:32 Come, let us make our father drink wine, and let us lie with him, that we may maintain life through our father.”

According to this, the sisters are under the impression that they and their father are the only living human beings left on earth. Why would they think this? Apparently, Lot told them that even Zoar, where they had escaped to, was going to be, or had been, destroyed, but what about the rest of the earth? Are we to imagine that they extrapolated from the traumatic destruction of Sodom that all the world was destroyed except their righteous father? Or perhaps, Lot said this to them as well. But why?

The story continues with the daughters essentially raping their father, by getting him blackout drunk, so they could ensure the future of humanity:

בראשית יט:לג וַתַּשְׁקֶיןָ אֶת אֲבִיהֶן יַיִן בַּלַּיְלָה הוּא וַתָּבֹא הַבְּכִירָה וַתִּשְׁכַּב אֶת אָבִיהָ וְלֹא יָדַע בְּשִׁכְבָהּ וּבְקוּמָהּ. יט:לד וַיְהִי מִמָּחֳרָת וַתֹּאמֶר הַבְּכִירָה אֶל הַצְּעִירָה הֵן שָׁכַבְתִּי אֶמֶשׁ אֶת אָבִי נַשְׁקֶנּוּ יַיִן גַּם הַלַּיְלָה וּבֹאִי שִׁכְבִי עִמּוֹ וּנְחַיֶּה מֵאָבִינוּ זָרַע. יט:לה וַתַּשְׁקֶיןָ גַּם בַּלַּיְלָה הַהוּא אֶת אֲבִיהֶן יָיִן וַתָּקָם הַצְּעִירָה וַתִּשְׁכַּב עִמּוֹ וְלֹא יָדַע בְּשִׁכְבָהּ וּבְקֻמָהּ. יט:לו וַתַּהֲרֶיןָ שְׁתֵּי בְנוֹת לוֹט מֵאֲבִיהֶן.
Gen 19:33 That night they made their father drink wine, and the older one went in and lay with her father; he did not know when she lay down or when she rose. 19:34 The next day the older one said to the younger, “See, I lay with Father last night; let us make him drink wine tonight also, and you go and lie with him, that we may maintain life through our father.” 19:35 That night also they made their father drink wine, and the younger one went and lay with him; he did not know when she lay down or when she rose. 19:36 Thus the two daughters of Lot came to be with child by their father.[15]

Why do the daughters feel the need to get Lot drunk if this is a noble cause? And why is Lot’s response to what they all believed was the end of the human race to get drunk night after night?[16]

The reader/hearer must also imagine Lot is not so drunk as to impede his ability to have sex, but at the same time, so intoxicated that he does not notice his own daughters having sex with him.

The rabbis express suspicion about this last point (Genesis Rabbah 51:8), explaining that the puncta extraordinaria (a dot) over the word “when she got up” in v. 53 implies that the Masoretes believed that he really did know.[17] Indeed, Genesis Rabbah 51:9 quotes a sage named Rabbi Elijah Ene, who claims that really the sex was Lot’s idea:

אין אנו יודעים אם לוט נתאוה לבנותיו אם בנותיו נתאוו לו מן מה דכתיב לתאוה יבקש נפרד הוי לוט נתאוה לבנותיו ובנותיו לא נתאוו לו.
[At first,] we would not know whether Lot lusted for his daughters or his daughters lusted for him, but on the basis of what is written [in Proverbs 18:1]: “He who separates himself seeks desire,” it is clear that Lot lusted after his daughters, and his daughters did not lust after him.

In this reading, Lot’s running away with his daughters to a cave instead of staying in Zoar is evidence that he is attracted to them and wants to get them alone.

A Womanist Reading of the Two Sisters

As noted above, the story is meant as a burlesque against Moabites and Ammonites, to poke fun at their names by painting their origins as incestuous. But the crafting of the story as a case of daughters as the initiators of incest is problematic, as, in the real world, the reverse would be the case.

Thus, I would like to offer a reading of the text that is womanist—I use the term as defined and elucidated by Alice Walker.[18] Broadly, a womanist is “a black feminist or feminist of color.” Womanism is my feminism; it is not oppositional to feminism writ large.[19] It is a signifier that the feminist work is black feminist work which will align with some white and other feminist work but will stand in strong distinction to the strands of white feminism that do not meaningfully address white supremacy, class, or other intersecting layers.

My particular reading of the Two Sisters story is inspired by Ilona Rashkow’s “Daddy-Dearest and the ‘Invisible Spirit of Wine’: Theme and Variation,” (Taboo or Not Taboo).[20] Rashkow notes that several details of the story have commonalities with reports of incest:

  • An absent mother figure (emotionally or physically),
  • Use of alcohol or drugs,
  • Blame placement on younger persons in the relationship,
  • Isolation of the victims and controlling their access to other people.

While all these details are explained in the text as being for unique reasons, they connect to the problems noted above:

The sisters have no access to other men because they incorrectly believed that no other men were still alive—but why did they think that? Their husbands did not come with them because when Lot presented what YHWH was going to do to Sodom, he sounded ridiculous—but did he have to sound ridiculous? Could he have made a more convincing presentation or asked them just to come along anyway?

Why does Lot decide to leave Zoar, when he has no reason to think it would be destroyed? And why does he allow himself to get wildly drunk just because his daughters keep pouring wine in his juglet? Why does Lot prefer letting his daughters be raped rather than his guests? If his guests are so important, why doesn’t he just offer himself?

In my retelling of the story in womanist midrash, Lot’s wife and daughters—all matriarchs—will be named. I will call the sisters Zeqenah (Elder-Woman) and Qetanah (Younger-Woman), and their mother, Nitzavah (She-Who-Stood).[21] I will be using the bare bones of the biblical narrative reinterpreted, giving these women’s story its own voice:

Somewhere between Ur of the Chaldees and the land of Canaan, Lot found and married a woman who cared for more than hearth and home. Nitzavah stood beside Lot in times of prosperity and times of scarcity. She stood beside him when he was taken captive and when he was rescued. She stood beside him among their flocks and herds, shepherding, shearing, spinning, weaving, sewing, patching, culling, butchering, skinning, cooking, storing, planning, birthing, nursing, carrying her daughter Zeqenah on her back and then on her hip, repeating the cycle of pregnancy, birth and nursing for Qetanah, nurturing and teaching her daughters, making a home and a life for them all in whatever circumstances they found themselves.

Zeqenah and Qetanah learned how to do all they needed to survive as women in the Middle Bronze Age. They were desirable not just because of their parents’ wealth of flocks and herds, but because they were their mother Nitzavah’s daughters; their suitors knew that Zeqenah and Qetanah could be counted on to stand by them through life’s ups and downs just as Nitzavah stood by Lot as their fortunes rose and fell. Perhaps their would-be husbands hoped to be blessed with daughters as competent, capable, and desirable as Zeqenah and Qetanah.

As Lot watched his daughters grow into women, he found himself uncomfortably attracted to them. When the men of Sodom came for his guests, Lot offered to save them with the innocent bodies of his daughters and rid himself of their temptation once and for all; or perhaps, he wanted to make them unmarriageable, for reasons of his own. But the messengers of The All-Seeing God Whom Hagar Saw[22] intervened, saving Zeqenah and Qetanah from their father’s scheme. Nitzavah was stunned and speechless when she saw this, unable to comprehend how her husband could offer up their daughters as sexual chattel.

As the messengers prepared Lot, Nitzavah, Zeqenah, Qetanah and their espoused husbands for the end of life as they knew it, a desperate plan began to take shape in Lot’s mind. He went alone to his sons-in-law, and presented their leaving Sodom in such a way as to ensure that they would not accompany his family on their flight to safety. Thus, he succeeded in dissolving the marriages of Zeqenah and Qetanah without their knowledge, and reported back so as to make the young men sound like the guilty party. Nitzavah alone was suspicious, but what could she say?

As they made their escape, Lot’s cowardice got the better of his attraction, and he begged to be allowed to flee to the city of Zoar. And yet, on their way to the city, everything changed. Lot and the sisters made it, but Nitzavah, overcome by what she saw Lot do the night before, and terrified of what was to come if her suspicions about Lot were correct, turned back to Sodom and was destroyed along with it. When Zeqenah and Qetanah asked where their mother was, Lot told them that God had killed their mother for her disobedience, and she was now a pillar of salt.

Once Sodom was destroyed, Lot’s panic was over, and with his wife gone, he decided that he did not want to live in Zoar any longer; there were too many eyes in the city for what he had planned. So Lot told his daughters that Zoar was only allowed to remain standing as a resting place for them. Soon YHWH would destroy it too, as he destroyed all other humans but them, and they must run to the hills to survive. He told them that after Zoar is destroyed, there would be no one else in the world but them. As happened in the time of Noah, YHWH had destroyed the world again, this time by fire.

Lot indoctrinated Zeqenah and Qetanah with this belief, and would often say, as if thinking out loud, that it is terrible how humanity will end with them since there is no one left to populate the world. He would tell them stories about the first human family, Adam and Eve, Cain, Abel, and Seth, and ask questions like, “I wonder how they had children?” Zeqenah answered “they must have had sisters,”[23] and Qetanah said “I guess they were allowed to have sex with their sisters, because the world needed people,” and Lot knew that he had them. It was only a matter of time.

On the night when Zeqenah gave him the cup of wine, Lot understood that this was the night, so he drank a bit more than he was used to and feigned drunkenness. The girls were young and innocent; they wouldn’t know the difference anyway. The same thing happened the next night, with Qetanah.

At first, Zeqenah and Qetanah believed that their father really didn’t know what happened, but when they told him about it, they could see he wasn’t surprised. As days passed, they began to notice their father leering at them, and the truth dawned on them; the whole thing was the old man’s plan.

As their bodies swelled with the children he tricked them into conceiving, they stood up for themselves in their mother Nitzavah’s name. They did not yet understand the extent of his perfidy, still believing the world to be empty, but when they ran away, they quickly found that Zoar still stood, and the world was dotted with villages and cities as it always had been. They began to wander, to make sure their father couldn’t find them.

In one village, they met a Prophetess, and when they confessed what they had done, she told them it was not their fault and not to worry. YHWH would bless the fruits of their union; each would inherit part of the land upon which they lived. The daughters gave their sons names which reflected the harsh reality of their origins, understanding that Lot had lost the goodwill of The All-Seeing God Whom Hagar Saw, and that it had now passed on to them.

No one knows what happened to Lot, though it is said that his shame and guilt caused him to stay in the cave, and that he drank himself into oblivion. In any event, he never met his sons. The boys grew up knowing what Lot did to their mothers, and the knowledge was passed on generation after generation, to their sons and daughters.

It is said that many centuries later, when Ruth the Moabite became part of the Israelite people, it was she who added the mysterious dot over u-ve-qumah, one of the words in the Torah that claims that Lot didn’t know what his daughters had done. The dot is there to remind us that he knew, he had to have known, because he planned it.

Published

October 19, 2021

|

Last Updated

January 21, 2022

Footnotes

View Footnotes

Prof. Rev. Wil Gafney is The Right. Rev. Sam B. Hulsey Professor of Hebrew Bible at Brite Divinity School, Fort Worth, Texas. She holds a Ph.D. in Hebrew Bible from Duke University and is an ordained Episcopal priest. Gafney is a womanist Bible scholar, and the author of A Women's Lectionary for the Whole Church (vols. A and W, 2021); Womanist Midrash: A Reintroduction to the Women of the Torah and of the Throne, (Westminster/John Knox, 2017); Nahum, Habakkuk and, Zephaniah (Wisdom Commentary, 2017) and Daughters of Miriam: Women Prophets in Ancient Israel (Fortress Press, 2007). For more on Gafney and her work, see her website, wilgafney.com.