Don Isaac Abravanel (1437-1508) was a preeminent Jewish thinker, scholar, and prolific Biblical
commentator. In Genesis Chapter 19, we read about Sodom and Gomorrah’s destruction. Only Lot and
his unwed daughters survived. However, the Bible makes clear that their own merits had nothing to do
“And Lot went out unto them to the door, and shut the door after him.
And he said: I pray you, my brethren, do not so wickedly. Behold now, I
have two daughters that have not known man. Let me, I pray you, bring
them out unto you and do you to them as is good in your eyes….”
Lot’s daughters are mentioned twice in Chapter 19. In this blog, we focus on Lot’s dilemma with the
townspeople, and his gambit – at his daughter’s expense – to protect his otherworldly visitors.
As the verses above teach, Lot offered the lustful neighbors his two virgin daughters, if only Sodomites
would go away and leave his guests alone. Putting aside the moral messiness of the scheme, Abravanel
poses the following query: What was Lot thinking?
Earlier in Genesis, Abravanel theorizes as to the main, ethical issue plaguing Sodom and Gomorrah. Hint:
it wasn’t about sexual immorality. Rather, Abravanel posits that the numero uno shortcoming, and a
huge one it was, had to do with their clenched-fist policy when it came to sharing financial success with
the less fortunate. Sodom and Gomorrah’s fields and farms grew crops prodigiously, year after year. The
citizens were loaded, flush with cash.
Sodomites took their miserliness seriously, going so far as to legislate rules & regulations regarding poor
folk: They were not to trespass. If a beggar, Abravanel continues, came looking for handouts, they would
be sexually assaulted and humiliated, before being run out of town. Charity didn’t exist, an anathema to
Given that background, Abravanel asks: If Sodomites sought to keep the indigent away, what purpose
would it serve for Lot to offer his daughters to the local sickos? As stated, sex wasn’t the main driver.
Irate Sodomites presumed that Lot was harboring strangers in their land, men who had NO business
being there. The crowd’s intention had been to manhandle Lot’s guests, and thereby create a deterrent
whereby such things would never occur again. Abravanel stresses that the neighbors didn’t have a beef
with the newcomers. Perhaps they were unaware of Sodom’s laws. However, they did hold Lot
responsible. He should have known better than to host guests.
Abravanel suggests that Lot came up with the following gambit, and thus pleaded with the Sodomite
mob to take his daughters. Lot surveyed the rowdies surrounding his house, banging on the door. He
assumed that among the frenzied masses were his own sons-in-laws, Sodomites married to Lot’s
daughters. Lot figured that when he pushed his virgin daughters out the door, the girls’ sisters would put
up a fuss, demanding their husbands keep their fingers off the girls. Once that happened, Lot hoped, a
new dynamic would emerge, creating chaos. In the ensuing confusion, Lot would sneak his guests out of
town. Thus, Abravanel explains Lot’s gamble.