Religious Tolerance logo

Stories from the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament)

The incestuous relations
between Lot & his daughters

horizontal rule

Sponsored link.

horizontal rule


Genesis 19 contains three fascinating stories, two of which involve serious sexual transgressions, by both biblical and modern-day secular standards of behavior:

bulletAttempted 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.

bullet 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.

bullet 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.
bullet 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 ill effects.

bullet 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

horizontal rule

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.

bullet 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 there.

bullet 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.

bullet 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.

bullet 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.

horizontal rule

A religious prohibition that may be linked to Lot's incestuous relationship:

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...:"

bullet 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.

bullet An illegitimate male, and his descendents even as far as the eleventh generation.

bullet 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:

bullet 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

bullet The incest story in Genesis is religious propaganda -- a myth intended to defame the Moabites and Ammonites, whom the ancient Hebrews considered to be enemies.

horizontal rule

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.

horizontal rule

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:

bullet 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

bullet The destruction of Sodom might have been based on ancient memories of a town burning when nearby deposits of bitumen caught fire.

bullet 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

horizontal rule

Sponsored link:

horizontal rule

Who raped whom according to one liberal commentator?

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:

bullet 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.

bullet 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 consequences.

bullet 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.

bullet 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 practices.
bullet 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 victims.

horizontal rule

References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. Based on the King James Version of the Bible.
  2. Charles Laymon, Ed., "The Interpreter's one-volume commentary on the Bible," Abingdon Press, (1991), Page 114.
  3. Reb Gershon Caudill, "A Heterosexual Jewish Rebbe's View on the (Supposedly) Homosexual Texts in the Hebrew Bible," at:
  4. Op Cit., Laymon, Page 17.
  5. 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:

horizontal rule
Site navigation:

Home > Christianity > Bible > Stories > here

or Home > Christianity > Bible > Hebrew Scriptures > Stories > here

horizontal rule

Copyright © 2005 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally posted: 2005-DEC-24
Latest update: 2013-JUL-08
Author: B.A. Robinson
line.gif (538 bytes)
Sponsored link

Go to the previous page, or to the "Stories from the Hebrew Scriptures" menu, or  choose:


Go to home page  We would really appreciate your help

E-mail us about errors, etc.  Purchase a CD of this web site

FreeFind search, lists of new essays...  Having problems printing our essays?

Twitter link

Facebook icon

GooglePage Translator:

This page translator works on Firefox,
Opera, Chrome, and Safari browsers only

After translating, click on the "show
original" button at the top of this
page to restore page to English.

Sponsored links

Popular Pages

More Info

Twitter icon

Facebook icon

About this site
About us
Our beliefs
Is this your first visit?
Contact us
External links

Recommended books

Visitors' essays
Our forum
New essays
Other features
Buy a CD of this site
Vital notes

World religions
Christian def'n
 Shared beliefs
 Handling change
 Bible topics
 Bible inerrancy
 Bible harmony
Interpret the Bible
 Beliefs & creeds
 Da Vinci code
 Revelation 666
Other religions
Cults and NRMs
Comparing Religions

Non-theistic beliefs

About all religions
Main topics
Basic information
Gods & Goddesses
Handling change
Doubt & security
Confusing terms
End of the World?
True religion?
Seasonal events
Science vs. Religion
More information

Morality & ethics
Absolute truth

Attaining peace
Religious tolerance
Religious freedom
Religious hatred
Religious conflict
Religious violence

"Hot" topics
Very hot topics
Ten Commandments
Abortion access
Assisted suicide
Death penalty

Same-sex marriage

Human rights
Gays in the military
Sex & gender
Stem cells
Other topics

Laws and news
Religious laws
Religious news