Stories from the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament)
The incestuous relations
between Lot & his daughters
Genesis 19 contains three fascinating stories, two of which involve serious
sexual transgressions, by both biblical and modern-day secular standards of
||Attempted rape of angels in Sodom: In verses 1 to 29, the first
story apparently concerns all of the men in the city of Sodom
attempting to rape two angels who were visiting their city. God sent fire and brimstone
down upon the city in a kind of mini-genocide,
killing essentially all of its inhabitants: men, women, children and
infants. Only Lot, his wife, and two daughters escaped the conflagration.
||Conservative Jews and Christians generally group the first part
of Genesis 19 with about a half-dozen other "clobber
passages" which they believe condemns all forms of
same-gender sexual activity, both in biblical times and now.
||Liberal Jews and Christians generally consider the story to be
mythical in nature. Its basic message is the importance of treating
strangers with kindness. They view the chapter as condemning rape -- an
action that is unrelated to consensual sexual activity within a loving
and committed same-sex relationships.
||Apparent violation of an agreement: Embedded in the first story
is an interesting sub-plot, in verses 17 to 26. Religious liberals generally
regard verses 17 to 22 to be a fragment of writing inserted later into the
main story. The angels told Lot to take his wife and two daughters, to flee
from Sodom, and to not look back until they reached the mountains.
Apparently fearing demons or some other danger in the mountains, Lot asked
God for permission to go only as far as the city of Zoar. God granted his
wish, and the family successfully arrived at their destination after sunrise. But when
Lot's wife looked back at Sodom from this place of safety, God turned her
into a pillar of salt. Later, Lot also looked back at Sodom, but suffered no
||Father-daughter incest near the town of Tzo'ar: In verses 30 to
38, the second story describes how Lot's two daughters got their father
drunk on wine, engaged in sexual intercourse with him on two successive nights,
became pregnant, and eventually gave birth to two sons Moab and Benammi. Their sons are
described as founding the Moabite and Ammonite nations. The rest of this
essay will deal with this story of incest. 1
The biblical account of drug rape and incest:
Drug rape or date rape are terms which describe the use of medication to
render a person helpless, or at least uninhibited, so that they can be forced to
engage in sexual behavior against their will. In the vast majority of cases, it
is a male who supplies the drug to a female. Genesis 19:30-38 describes the
reverse situation: two females used wine to get their father drunk so that they
could rape him.
||In verse 30, Lot took his two daughters into a cave in the mountains
because he was afraid to stay in Zoar. This conflicts with verses 19 and 20
in which Lot feared the mountains and asked for permission to go only as far
as Zoar. Perhaps some event happened in the city which made him feel unsafe
||In verse 31, Lot's elder daughter suggested to the younger daughter that
they engage in sexual intercourse with their father in order to procreate.
Their motivation for such an unusual act was their belief that every man on earth except for their
father had been killed. If they did not commit incest, then their family
line would die out.
||Verses 32 to 36 describe how the women got their father drunk with wine
on two successive nights, and how they became pregnant without their father
being aware that they had committed incest.
||The last two chapters in Genesis 19 relate how the older daughter gave
birth to a son who she named Moab. The younger daughter had a son called
Benammi. These two sons founded the nations of Moab and Ammon who became
continuous enemies of Israel.
A religious prohibition that may be linked to Lot's incestuous
The first five verses in Deuteronomy 23 describe three types of individuals
who were allowed to live in the land of Israel but who were forbidden to
participate "in the gathering of the nation for religious purposes...:"
||A disabled male whose testicles were damaged or whose penis was
cut off. This would seem to apply to an inter-sexual male born with a
congenital malformation of the genitals. It would also apply to eunuchs,
whether made so intentionally or as a result of an accident.
||An illegitimate male, and his descendents even as far as the
||An Ammonite or Moabite, or a person who is even ten generations
removed from either group. 2
Deuteronomy 23:4 gives as a reason for the
exclusion of the Ammonites and Moabites. The verse states that when the ancient
Hebrews escaped from Egypt, these two tribes did not help them with food and
water. Further, they hired "...Balaam the son of Beor of Pethor of
Mesopotamia, to curse..." the Hebrews. However, some theologians have
suggested that either:
||The ban in Deuteronomy was linked to the
illegitimacy of Moab and Benammi who were believed to have founded
the nations of Moab and Ammon, or
||The incest story in Genesis is religious propaganda -- a myth intended
to defame the Moabites and Ammonites, whom the ancient Hebrews considered to
Interpretation of Genesis 19 and Deuteronomy 23 by religious conservatives:
Jewish and Christian religious conservatives generally consider the authors
of the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament) to have been inspired by God to write text free of error. In
the case of Genesis and Deuteronomy, they believe that the author was Moses, writing circa 1450 BCE while the Hebrews were wandering through the desert.
They believe that Genesis 19 contains precise descriptions of real events, which occurred
circa 1898 BCE. It is to be interpreted literally. Lot's two daughters did
believe that their father was the last male on Earth. They did engage in sexual
intercourse with him. They subsequently gave birth to two sons from whom all the Moab and Ammon peoples descended.
Interpretation of Genesis 19 and Deuteronomy 23 by liberal theologians:
Liberal theologians generally accept the Documentary
Hypothesis -- that Genesis was written by three anonymous authors or groups
of authors referred to as J, E, and P. They wrote book of Genesis between 922 and 622 BCE. Many believe that
Lot, his daughters, Moses and other heroes in the Hebrew Scriptures were
mythical beings whose life stories are a mixture of legends imported from nearby
Pagan cultures, happenings in the life of fictional Hebrew heroes, creative fiction, and isolated events
from the lives of real people.
The stories in Genesis 19 are not of actual events. However, elements of
these stories may have happened. For example:
||Part of the Sodom story might have come from an incident in which
townspeople wanted to humiliate strangers by engaging in "an act of sexual degradation and
male rape...These are acts of violence that are committed by parties seeking
to show their hatred for those they are degrading. It is not an act of love
or of caring" 3
||The destruction of Sodom might have been based
on ancient memories of a town burning when nearby deposits of bitumen caught
||There are deposits in the form of pillars of
salt along the shore of the Dead Sea. The story of Lot's wife might have
been created in order to explain a particularly life-like deposit. 4
Author Ilan Kutz wrote:
"The Israelite monotheistic biblical writers were concerned with the
threat from the idol-worshipping neighbors, the Moabites and Ammonites, who
were the Israelites' closest kin by
intermarriage and language. I suggest that these writers incorporated the
myth of Lot into the Biblical text to discredit the idol worshippers. Through this carefully
crafted plot, the biblical narrators confirmed the ethnic proximity of these
nations to the people of Israel but at the same time cast an ancient blot of
shame on their origins." 5
Who raped whom according to one liberal
Kutz suggests that the account of the conception of Lot's
grandchildren/children might have been reversed and that Lot may have frequently
perpetrated acts of incest with his daughters.
He points out that:
||The daughters could not have believed that there were no men in the
world. They had just come from Tzo'ar where there would have been plenty of
men. Abraham, their great-uncle was situated about a day's walk away.
||If Lot had often committed incest with his daughters then they would
have known just how we would behave after drinking wine and be able to predict
||The chances of two conceptions by two women on successive nights is very slim. Kutx
writes: "So it's much more likely that these pregnancies were the result
of repeated incestuous activity." The chances of pregnancy resulting
from a single random sexual act by a fertile couple is on the order of one in 50. One might conclude
that the chances of both daughters becoming pregnant on successive nights
would be one in 2,500. Further, the chances of both producing a boy would be about
one in 10,000. However, women who live in the same household often find that
their menstrual cycles are synchronized. So, the chances would be much more
than 1 in ten thousand, but would still be a very unusual happening.
||In Genesis 19:8, Lot offered his two daughters to be gang-raped by the
men of Sodom. That could be an indication of Lot's sexually degenerative
||Lot's wife turning to salt could be interpreted as "...a metaphor for
a mother who is frozen in her salty tears. Her older daughters have just
perished in the disaster, while her younger ones are left exposed to the
ongoing abuse of their drunkard of a father."
He concludes that Lot himself was the incest perpetrator; his daughters were
The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above
essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.
- Based on the King James Version of the Bible.
- Charles Laymon, Ed., "The Interpreter's one-volume commentary on the Bible," Abingdon Press, (1991), Page 114.
- Reb Gershon Caudill, "A Heterosexual Jewish Rebbe's View on the (Supposedly) Homosexual Texts in the Hebrew Bible," at: http://www.affirmation.org/ecokosher.htm
- Op Cit., Laymon, Page 17.
- Ilan Kutz, "Revisiting the lot of the first incestuous family: the biblical origins of shifting the blame on to female family
members," British Medical Journal, 2005-DEC-24; 331, Pages 1507 to 1508. Online at: http://bmj.bmjjournals.com/
Copyright © 2005 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally posted: 2005-DEC-24
Latest update: 2013-JUL-08
Author: B.A. Robinson