The Incest of Lot & his Daughters: Culture as a Schoolmaster

Genesis chapter 19 is simply astounding.  In one brief chapter, you have angles—in human form—interacting with people; an entire village of men threatening to sodomize the angles; sulfur and fire raining down from heaven; a woman turning into a pillar of salt; and two girls impregnated through an incestuous encounter with their father. And some argue that the Bible is boring!

But how can a Book that perfectly reflects the nature of the human heart be “boring?” Human depravity is anything but dull. Russell Moore states in his book, Tempted and Tried, “the canon of scripture shows us tracks of blood from the very edge of Eden outward. The biblical story immediately veers from paradise to depictions of murder, drunkenness, incest, gang rape, polygamy, and on and on, right down to whatever is going on with you.[1] The effects of the fall, articulated by Scripture, are daily revealed in us.

And so our study today arrives at Genesis 19:30-38—to the incest of Lot and his daughters. You will note that Lot departs for Sodom in Genesis 13 and lives for years with his wife and two daughters in that city. And what a city it was! Only consider this scene: men--both young and old--exhaust themselves blindly groping for a door in order to sexually molest two visiting strangers (Genesis 19:4-11). Sodom was a city overtaken by sin.

Yet the culture was faithful in one respect; perhaps it served well as a schoolmaster, capturing and keeping the attention of Sodom’s children. I’ve heard it said that children are great observers of reality but horrible interpreters. Lot’s daughters were witnesses to great wickedness. Was Lot diligent in redirecting their gaze to the promises of Abraham’s God (Genesis 12:1-3)? Did they know that God was making a great nation to bless all the nations of the world?

If they knew, they certainly did not believe it. For after the destruction of Sodom, the annihilation of their mother, and Lot’s retreat into the hills, the girls reason that their father is the only man left in the world. And they decide to take matters into their own hands. They would intoxicate him, sleep with him, and so secure offspring for the earth through him. And thus the daughters of Lot became pregnant by their father, giving birth to two sons: Moab (father of the Moabites) and Ben-ammi (father of the Ammonites) (Genesis 19:30-37).

There is a subtle voice in our culture that tells parents not to press children too hard in any one belief system. “It’s best that they choose for themselves,” this worldview says. The advice is given while culture itself remains busy in the "evangelization" of young hearts and minds.

Scripture strongly affirms our innate fallenness (Romans 3:10-12). Children are not born with the wisdom and righteousness to inherently understand and trust what is true (Proverbs 22:15; Psalm 51:5). Thus, Christian parents are instructed to impress the truth on their children. We are called to love the LORD with our full heart, soul and might – such that the beauties of the gospel are naturally, easily and consistently on our lips as we share in the everydayness of family life (Deuteronomy 6:5-7).

We are to teach our children, not with a totalitarian, self-righteous spirit; but recognizing that the grace they need in order to please God is the very one that saves and preserves us, we teach them humbly in the authority God has given to us and we love them as our dearest and closest neighbors (Matthew 22:37-39). May the God who saves be our help as parents and may He be the savior of our children!

Certainly this God is a merciful and mighty Redeemer! No sin is beyond His grace. Moab, Lot’s son by incest, the father of the Moabites, will one day have Ruth in his linage. Ruth leaves the gods of her father's to rest under the shelter of God's wings (Ruth 1:16). In so doing, she becomes the great grandmother of King David and is listed in Matthew 1:5 as an ancestor of Jesus Christ. A Moabite is listed in the genealogy of the Lord. Now who would have seen that coming? What a Savior! No sin is beyond His grace indeed. Now how can anyone say that the Bible is boring!

*Thanks for reading! This post is part of my Mothers in the Bible Series; we are looking for glimpses of the gospel in the lives of biblical women--from Eve to Mary, the mother of Christ. Click here to see other writings. And please let me know your thoughts!


[1] Russell D. Moore, Tempted and Tried: Temptation and the Triumph of Christ (Wheaton, IL, Crossway Publishers, 2011) 18.