Lot and his daughters survived Sodom, but their life was so invested in Sodom that they lost everything. He was driven by wealth (13:10-11), and now it’s all gone. All that remains is regret for the wasted years. The little town they fled to holds nothing for them. They seek refuge underground, in the darkness and isolation of a cave (19:30).
How different things would be if he had stayed with Abraham, looking forward to the hope of YHWH restoring his reign through the Abrahamic family. Lot survived, but he has nothing to live for. He lost his wife. His daughters lost their fiancés. His family will still die out. He has no hope, no future.
How do you escape that kind of loss, the numbness of depression, the pointlessness of daily existence? Lot turns to wine. Noah did too, after losing so much in the flood (Genesis 9:21). But a drug can’t resolve anything. It messed up Noah’s family relationships. It does the same for Lot.
Lot’s daughters are desperate to rescue their father from this senseless troglodyte existence. Any kind of future looks better than what they have. Their hair-brained scheme is to sleep with their father and have his children, so their family will survive. Lot will never agree to it, so they get him wasted (19:31-33). To us this seems like an absurd solution; to these powerless women, it feels like the only option they have. Like their father, they’re willing to do evil for a good cause.
As a result of this incest, Lot ended up fathering two nations: the Moabites and the Ammonites. In the centuries ahead, these nations had wildly varying relationships with Israel: enemies at worst; embarrassing relatives at best. Neither nation contributed anything of value to the story of YHWH re-establishing his reign on earth. In fact, these nations become a hindrance to Israel, introducing horrific practices like sacrificing their children (e.g. 1 Kings 11:7; 2 Kings 3:26–27).
So, was Lot worth rescuing? No doubt he was trying to influence Sodom in a positive way as he sat in the city gates and tried to protect unwary travellers (19:1). But the reason Lot was rescued was not so much that he deserved it as the prayers of his uncle and the mercy of his sovereign (19:16).
When we realize our sovereign is saving us from the meaningless existence of a world crushed by evil, we can’t just sit in a cave ruing what was. As he rescues us, we become his trophies—living examples of his mission to rescue his realm from evil into his amazing care and management. Now, that’s worth living for!
Ephesians 2:8-10 (paraphrased)
It’s by our sovereign’s generosity that we’ve have been rescued, the result of his faithfulness and not our own. The life we now have is a gift from our heavenly ruler: it’s not something we’ve earned as if we could boast about being better than others. We are trophies displaying what God does. As we find our place in King Jesus, he forms us into his masterpiece—a living representation of what he intended human society to be, the world working the way he always planned.
What others are saying
John H. Walton, Genesis, NIV Application Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2001), 485:
Lot is spared because the Lord remembers Abraham by acting favorably toward him (19:29). The Moabites and Ammonites only receive the chance to exist because the Lord has remembered Abraham. In this case the narrator’s main point is not that the Moabites and Ammonites owe their existence to incestuous acts but that they owe their existence to Abraham.
Nahum M. Sarna, Genesis, JPS Torah Commentary (Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, 1989), 139:
Moabite and Ammonite inscriptions confirm that they both spoke kindred Semitic languages that were much closer to Hebrew than to Aramaic. According to our narrative, the two peoples appear on the scene of history rather late, as indicated by their absence from the Table of Nations in chapter 10. Archaeological surveys have determined that around 1900 b.c.e. Transjordanian civilization was extinguished. Sedentary life in the area did not resume on a firm basis until about the end of the fourteenth century b.c.e. A century later, when Israelites were just settling in Canaan, Moab and Ammon were already organized as monarchies in Transjordan. This is in harmony with the inference from our story that Israel is younger than these two.
Read Genesis 19:30-37.
(Map adapted from Logos Bible Software)