Lot's daughters made some truly astonishing choices. They believed God's warning, they left the condemned city of Sodom, they relied on angelic protection and they turned their backs on their betrothed. And they did not look back!
Most people are familiar with the story of Lot's wife. "Why, she's the one God turned into a pillar of salt!" you might quickly say. Your talk may then shift to whether it was a literal pillar of salt or just a figure of speech. You might mention that various tourists reported sighting pillars of salt in the area in the early centuries A.D. You could express skepticism as to whether anyone of them was, after 19 centuries, the actual remains of Lot's wife. But you would be missing the important points in the story of Lot's escape from Sodom before that city's destruction. True, we are to remember Lot's wife, but it is vital to read the whole story (Gen. 19) and remember also the example of those who did not look back.
A chance to escape
Lot's wife had a chance to leave wicked Sodom under the protection of angels and in the company of a righteous husband. Yet, upon reaching the village of Zoar, she turned and looked back (verse 26). It cost her her life. Lot's wife looked back to a city whose ways caused anguish, sorrow and crying that reached into the heavens. She apparently had left behind something of value — at least of value to her. Commentators suggest that she even hurried back — but only to be overwhelmed with a rain of fire, salt and sulfur. God's destruction snuffed out the crying of that city. But now consider the daughters of Lot. They, too, had to decide what was important to them. They were being given a chance to leave a city that may have been the place of their birth with a father who had, the evening before, offered them to a depraved mob (verse 8) and a mother who would soon turn back. But more. Verse 14 speaks of Lot's "sons in law." According to Josephus, Lot's daughters had been betrothed to two men, although they were probably not married yet (Antiquities, Book I, Chapter XI, Section 4). Lot's daughters were faced with a choice. They had to decide whether to trust the angels' message proclaimed by their father or remain with their chosen husbands, who preferred the company of the wicked. And, courageously, they made the right decision. "Oh, yes," you might say. "But these were awful girls who got their father drunk and then committed sexual sins with him. Why, they should have been left in Sodom with the rest of the wicked." But if this is your attitude, you are still missing the important points of the story.
Separate the wheat from the chaff
A once-a-year treat for wheat growers is to step out into fields nearly ready for harvesting and pluck a few ears of wheat. Quickly rubbing the wheat in your hands frees the husks from the kernels. These soft berries of wheat (or other grains) require no cooking; they can be eaten right in the field. Jesus and his disciples "went on the sabbath day through the corn [barley]; and his disciples were an hungered, and began to pluck the ears of corn, and to eat" (Matt. 12:1). They obtained some excellent food with a minimum of effort that in no way broke the intent of the Sabbath. But suppose you saw someone deliberately picking the chaff from the wheat in his hands — completely ignoring the wheat and examining each bit of chaff with the greatest of care? Then suppose you saw him toss away the wheat, trample it underfoot and keep the chaff? Wouldn't you question his taste? Likewise, you can question the judgment of those who pick at the character flaws of biblical heroes and heroines and miss out on the important examples placed in God's Word for our learning. Lot's daughters were among those biblical heroines.
Other daughters of Lot
The modern nation of Jordan is descended from Moab and Ammon, the two "sons" of Lot by his daughters. The capital of Jordan is even named Amman. Moab's descendants are compared in Jeremiah 48:11 to a bottle of wine that has been allowed to age without ever being disturbed, a bottle whose "lees" have settled to the bottom. The descendants of Moab and Ammon inherited the conservative nature of their father Lot. They were, so to speak, hesitant homebodies rather than adventuresome pioneers. They continue to this day in the land of their ancestors. But while most descendants of Lot exhibit this sedentary nature, note the contrast in the traits of Ruth and Rahab, also two later daughters of Lot. Ruth, a young Moabite widow, turned her back on her society and its god, Chemosh, whom the people placated with human sacrifices. Listen to Ruth's plea to Naomi, who taught her of Israel's God. "Entreat me not to leave thee, or to return... thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God... the Lord do so to me... if aught but death part thee and me" (Ruth 1:16-17). She chose Naomi's God and turned her back on a pagan deity. In the resurrection, Lot's daughters can look with pride at this distant daughter of theirs who joined them in choosing Abraham's God. One would suppose that the descendants of Moab and Ammon intermarried, and thus both girls might claim Ruth as a descendant. Lot's daughters can also hear and approve of Ruth's marriage to Boaz, the son of Salmon, and a girl from Jericho named Rahab. Rahab likewise turned her back on an evil city and its ways. She also chose to believe that Israel's God would forgive and protect those who turned to Him, and that He would just as surely destroy Jericho as he had Egypt, Sodom and Gomorrah. Yet to this day, people habitually think of this biblical heroine only as "Rahab the harlot." In reality Salmon, an Israelite perhaps born during the 40 years of wandering, chose a courageous woman for his wife. Their son, Boaz, decades later quickly recognized Ruth's unusual character traits. And these two provided Naomi with a son when she was too old to marry and replace her sons who died childless in Moab. Obed, Naomi's "son," was the father of Jesse, and Jesse was the father of King David (Ruth 4:14-22). Here were more outstanding women who walked away from evil and chose righteousness.
Noah's three sons and their wives repopulated the world in the post-Flood era. In the company of Noah and his wife, these six were spared from a watery demise that engulfed all else. And it was these six who carried out the command, "Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth" (Gen. 9:1). Centuries later, it was again six individuals who were given the opportunity to leave Sodom: Lot, his wife, their two daughters and their fiancÚs. "And Lot went out, and spake unto his sons in law, which married his daughters, and said, Up, get you out of this place... But he seemed as one that mocked unto his sons in law" (Gen. 19:14). The angels took the four who, however reluctantly, would come, and led them out of the city. Six had been selected for the escape, but only four participated and arrived at Zoar. Lot's wife looked back and then there were three. Count the generations from Adam through Shem and his brothers. Shem was the 11th generation. To those six survivors of the Flood was given the commission, "Be fruitful, and multiply," and a promise, "I will establish my covenant with you; neither shall all flesh be cut off any more by the waters of a flood" (Gen. 9:11). God told them not to fear living in the lowlands or building cities by the seashore. They were to leave Ararat, go down to the plain and begin the human race again. Continue to count generations from Shem to Lot's daughters; Lot's daughters were the 22nd generation. Was another worldwide devastation, but of a different type, about to occur to again end man's violence? Eleven generations had now passed since the Flood. In a fertile valley where life could have been pleasant with a minimum of hard labor, wickedness had once more permeated society. Lot and his family were offered a chance to escape. The rescue of these six from Sodom went awry, and three were left behind dead. Half were taken and half were left. The message of Sodom and Gomorrah is for the end-time generation. Entire cities could be destroyed without survivors if nuclear war breaks out (Isa. 6:9-12).
Now reread the account of Lot and his two daughters. Chosen to survive, they found themselves in a cave in the mountains above the poisonous sulphur fumes of the valley. They must have wondered whether the entire world had been destroyed. Were only the three of them left of all mankind? Or had only this area of the world — their own family — been involved? Look once more at the statement of the firstborn, "Our father is old, and there is not a man in the earth to come in unto us after the manner of all the earth" (Gen. 19:31). If the two girls believed all others on earth were dead, then they and their father alone remained. On the other hand, if only their area and their segment of the human family were involved in the disaster, then they were still left alone. Intermarriage with other branches of mankind was expressly forbidden and thwarted by God when he scattered humanity at the Tower of Babel. Had Uncle Abraham and Aunt Sarah also been wiped out? Lot's daughters must have seen Abraham waver in faith on occasion. Had God now given up on Abraham and turned instead to Lot? The girls knew their father was a righteous man. Angels specifically picked their father Lot and all who would go with him, just as 11 generations earlier Noah and his wife and their three sons were chosen from all others.
Life must go on
In view of these events, the elder of Lot's daughters said, in effect, to the younger: "We were chosen from an evil generation, spared from the destruction we see everywhere. Our husbands are dead and we have an obligation to raise up sons for them. Our father Lot is a righteous man and he is old. If our father should die, the human race could come to an end with our own deaths as widows. Or, even if other segments of the human race have survived, intermarriage with them is forbidden." It was in this context that Lot's daughters chose to preserve their father's line and raise up sons for their own dead husbands. Why judge the daughters of Lot so harshly? What they did was wrong, yet their lives to this point were a witness to their fiancÚs and to the surrounding community. Their intention was to carry on with the commission to refill the earth with obedient, God-fearing people. Their shortcomings and their names are covered.