Have you ever been shocked by Lot’s suggestion to the mob at Sodom in Genesis 19? Have you ever been puzzled by why he would ever do such a thing? Well, it’s because the narrative has such a magnificent twist that even our modern translators have been fooled by it. All is not as it seems, folks!
In Genesis 19, Lot tries to stave off the predatory mob of Sodom by offering his daughters for pack rape. Scholars treat this ‘shocking offer’ in various ways, but a common thread is an appeal to ancient Near Eastern codes of hospitality. This article examines some of these treatments of Lot’s proposal, both positive and negative. It then puts forward the case for a new understanding of the narrative on the basis of ‘unknown detail omission’, in which the narrator deliberately withholds information from the reader, only to reveal it at a later point in the narrative. The narrator of Genesis 19 exploits ambiguities in the narrative and a reaction of disgust at rape to fool the reader into viewing Lot’s words and actions a particular way. However, when the narrator reveals a key detail later in the narrative, the reader is surprised and forced to re-evaluate the entire episode. This then frames Lot’s shocking offer in a new light, and the reader comes to a new conclusion about Lot’s character.
Those of us who study the history of ancient Israel and Judah know just how thorny the question of Jerusalem‘s material remains are. The biblical texts have a firmly Jerusalem-centric view, and yet there is a paucity of material remains from the Iron Age (1200–586 BC). An article has just been published by some very prominent archaeologists—Israel Finkelstein, Ido Koch, and Oded Lipschits—addressing the problem. They suggest that the ‘problem’ of Jerusalem’s scant artefactual remains might be due to the city being limited to the area on the Temple Mount. Here is an extract of their article:
The original mound of Jerusalem—that is, the acropolis and the settlement—which had been located on the Temple Mount, was boxed-in under the Herodian platform in the late first century B.C.E. … This mound on the Temple Mount was the sole location of the town in the Middle Bronze, Late Bronze, Iron I, Iron IIA, Persian and early Hellenistic periods. In all these periods activity in the City of David was meager and restricted to the central part of the ridge, mainly its eastern side near the Gihon spring.
In other words, Finkelstein, Koch, and Lipschits still suggest that Jerusalem was a small town throughout the Iron Age (and subsequent ages), but that the scant remains of Jerusalem might be attributed to the fact that the city itself was located almost totally on the Temple Mount. This is the area that Herod the Great cleared, flattened, and built over in the first century BC, eradicating any real archaeological ‘footprint’ that might have been there from previous eras.
You can access the entire article here at Journal of Hebrew Scriptures.