(Some) Villains of Tanakh: His Daughters (and Lot) By Vered Hollander-Goldfarb

Background reading: Gen 19:1-29

Some points to think about:

1. What kind of a person is Lot (especially if a person’s true colors might come out in a crisis?)

2. How does he think about his family?

3. What is the role of the wife?

4. As we get to our story, what have Lot and his 2 daughters witnessed over the last 24 hours?

Part 1: Close reading of the text: Genesis 19:30-38.

Reading the text in Hebrew will add to your appreciation of it, but regardless of the language you study in, part 2 will study some of the important words in the Hebrew in this narrative.

Read through the story once. As you read, jot down questions and thoughts that come to your mind. When you finish reading: What is your reaction? As you work through it slowly, check to see if the narrator shares your view.

1. To your understanding, what was the concern of the daughters that caused them to choose this course of action? Base your answer on your reading of the biblical text. Come back to this question after reading part 3.

2. Compare the behavior of the Elder and the Younger daughters. Is there any difference in the narration of the 2 events? Start on your own. Part 2 focuses on some significant words in the Hebrew text (that unfortunately gets lost in most translations) that might make this narrative very interesting.

3. Was Lot an unaware victim throughout this story, or did he, at some point, begin to have a clue as to what was going on? This question should be revisited as you study parts 2 and 3. Right now, what is your gut reaction? (If you can prove it from the text, it would be great!)

4. Pay attention to the names of the sons that are born: Mo’av and Ben Ami. In Hebrew names have meanings: Mo’av = me’av = from father. Ben Ami = child of my nation. How do the names differ in their messages?

5. As in many narratives in Bereshit (Genesis), this too is the foundation story of a nation (or two) told from an Israelite perspective.

a) Read Deuteronomy 2:9, 18-19. What is God’s attitude towards the nations that came from the daughters of Lot?

b) Now read Deuteronomy 23:4-7. How does the Torah wish the Israelites to relate to the nations that came from the daughters of Lot in the long run?

c) How can we explain the difference in attitude? (Is it different?)

Part 2: The fine shades of Hebrew:

Two similar, but not identical, terms are used to describe sexual relations in this section: לשכב את (‘to lay’ followed by an object) and לשכב עם (to lay with.) To learn what the difference means, let’s examine other places in Tanakh where these terms are used.

After studying this on your own, you might find the video segment for this session helpful.

לשכב את: "To Lay" followed by an object:

(ב) וַיַּ֨רְא אֹתָ֜הּ שְׁכֶ֧ם בֶּן־חֲמ֛וֹר הַֽחִוִּ֖י נְשִׂ֣יא הָאָ֑רֶץ וַיִּקַּ֥ח אֹתָ֛הּ וַיִּשְׁכַּ֥ב אֹתָ֖הּ וַיְעַנֶּֽהָ׃

(2) Shechem son of Hamor the Hivite, chief of the country, saw her, and took her and lay with her by force.

(יד) וְלֹ֥א אָבָ֖ה לִשְׁמֹ֣עַ בְּקוֹלָ֑הּ וַיֶּחֱזַ֤ק מִמֶּ֙נָּה֙ וַיְעַנֶּ֔הָ וַיִּשְׁכַּ֖ב אֹתָֽהּ׃

(14) But he would not listen to her; he overpowered her and lay with her by force.

לשכב עם: ‘To lay with’:

(יא) וַתַּגֵּ֥שׁ אֵלָ֖יו לֶֽאֱכֹ֑ל וַיַּֽחֲזֶק־בָּהּ֙ וַיֹּ֣אמֶר לָ֔הּ בּ֛וֹאִי שִׁכְבִ֥י עִמִּ֖י אֲחוֹתִֽי׃

(11) But when she served them to him, he caught hold of her and said to her, “Come lie with me, sister.”

(טו) וַתֹּ֣אמֶר לָ֗הּ הַמְעַט֙ קַחְתֵּ֣ךְ אֶת־אִישִׁ֔י וְלָקַ֕חַת גַּ֥ם אֶת־דּוּדָאֵ֖י בְּנִ֑י וַתֹּ֣אמֶר רָחֵ֗ל לָכֵן֙ יִשְׁכַּ֤ב עִמָּךְ֙ הַלַּ֔יְלָה תַּ֖חַת דּוּדָאֵ֥י בְנֵֽךְ׃ (טז) וַיָּבֹ֨א יַעֲקֹ֣ב מִן־הַשָּׂדֶה֮ בָּעֶרֶב֒ וַתֵּצֵ֨א לֵאָ֜ה לִקְרָאת֗וֹ וַתֹּ֙אמֶר֙ אֵלַ֣י תָּב֔וֹא כִּ֚י שָׂכֹ֣ר שְׂכַרְתִּ֔יךָ בְּדוּדָאֵ֖י בְּנִ֑י וַיִּשְׁכַּ֥ב עִמָּ֖הּ בַּלַּ֥יְלָה הֽוּא׃

(15) But she said to her, “Was it not enough for you to take away my husband, that you would also take my son’s mandrakes?” Rachel replied, “I promise, he shall lie with you tonight, in return for your son’s mandrakes.” (16) When Jacob came home from the field in the evening, Leah went out to meet him and said, “You are to sleep with me, for I have hired you with my son’s mandrakes.” And he lay with her that night.

Part 3: Rabbinic and Medieval commentators:

1. Why did the daughters do what they did?

(ח) וַתֹּאמֶר הַבְּכִירָה אֶל הַצְּעִירָה אָבִינוּ זָקֵן וגו' (בראשית יט, לא), שֶׁהָיוּ סְבוּרוֹת שֶׁנִּתְכַּלָּה הָעוֹלָם כְּדוֹר הַמַּבּוּל.

And the Elder said to the Younger: Our father is old and there is no man in the land…” – For they thought that the world became extinct like in the generation of the flood.

2. According to this Midrash (from early centuries CE,) what was the concern of the daughters?

(ב) כי ואיש אין בארץ לבוא עלינו, רוב המפרשים פירשו, כי חשבו כי כל הארץ כסדום ועמורה שלא נשאר איש ואשה בארץ וזהו רחוק שהרי יצאו הם מצוער שלא נהפכה וכן יש להם לחשוב כי שאר הארץ גם כן לא נהפכה, גם שמעו מאביהן כי סדום ועמורה מרעת יושביה נהפכה; וטוב הוא מה ששמעתי בשם יוסף קרא כי אמרה הבכירה לא נמצא באדם שירצה לקחת אותנו לנשים כי יאמרו מאנשי ההפכה הן ואין ראוי להתחבר עמהן.

(2) איש אין בארץ לבא עלינו. Most interpreters assume that these daughters thought that that just as there was no survivor left from the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, so there were none in the rest of the world. It is very difficult to accept such an interpretation, seeing that they had just left Tzoar which had not been destroyed, so that they had every reason to believe that other regions of the earth had also not been affected. Not only that, but their father had told them that the reason why Sodom and Gomorrah had been destroyed was due to their inhabitants’ wickedness. I therefore prefer an explanation which I have heard in the name of Rabbi Yoseph Karo (the elder) that the elder sister told her younger sister that none of the remaining men of the world would want to marry them, seeing they had lived in the wicked city of Sodom. People would not want to associate with anyone who had only narrowly escaped the fate of the Sodomites.

3. Do you agree with Radak’s criticism of the view presented by the Midrash? Why?

4. Is the comment brought in the name of R. Joseph Kara reasonable?

  • It is an interesting idea, especially in light of Deut. 23:4-7…

5. Was Lot merely a victim or perhaps a bit of a villain as well?

(Note: In 10 places in the Torah dots, that have nothing to do with the trop (the music and punctuation,) appear over words. These dots indicate some doubts as to whether or not these letters/words should indeed have been written.)

(ג) ובקומה שֶׁל בְּכִירָה נָקוּד, לוֹמַר, שֶׁבְּקוּמָהּ יָדַע, וְאַעַפּ"כֵ לּא נִשְׁמַר לַיִל שֵׁנִי מִלִּשְׁתּוֹת אָמַר רַבִּי לֵוִי כָּל מִי שֶׁהוּא לָהוּט אַחַר בּוּלְמוּס שֶׁל עֲרָיוֹת לְסוֹף מַאֲכִילִים אוֹתוֹ מִבְּשָׂרוֹ:

(3) ובקומה NOR WHEN SHE AROSE — This word where it occurs with reference to the elder sister (Genesis 19:33) has dots above it (as though it is not written at all), implying that when she arose, he (Lot) was aware of it, and yet he did not take care on the second night to abstain from wine. (Horayot 10b.)

6. Did the Rashi, and the Midrash that he based his comment on, have to rely solely on the dot to come to their conclusion?

7. How did the Rabbis view the proactive behavior of Lot’s daughters?

(לב): וּנְחַיֶּה מֵאָבִינוּ זָרַע, וּנְחַיֶּה מֵאָבִינוּ בֵּן אֵין כְּתִיב כָּאן אֶלָּא וּנְחַיֶּה מֵאָבִינוּ זָרַע, אוֹתוֹ זֶרַע שֶׁהוּא בָּא מִמָּקוֹם אַחֵר, וְאֵי זֶה זֶה מֶלֶךְ הַמָּשִׁיחַ.

Let us go and cause our father to drink wine…” R. Tanhuma [said] in the name of Shmuel: It does not say ‘and we shall keep a child alive from our father’ but rather “seed” – a seed that comes from a different place. And which is that? The Messiah king.

8. How is the Messiah connected to the daughters of Lot?

  • Remember the story of Ruth? She was a Moabite who married Boaz from Bethlehem. (See Ruth chapter 4). Their great grandson was David. The Messiah will be a descendant of David.

א"ר חייא בר אבין א"ר יהושע בן קרחה לעולם יקדים אדם לדבר מצוה שבשכר לילה אחת שקדמתה בכירה לצעירה זכתה וקדמה ארבעה דורות בישראל למלכות.

Rabbi Ḥiyya bar Avin said that Rabbi Yehoshua ben Korḥa said: A person should always come first with regard to a matter of a mitzva, as in reward of the one night that the elder daughter of Lot preceded the younger for the sake of a mitzva, she merited to precede the younger daughter by four generations to the monarchy of the Jewish people.

9. Which women from these nations are connected to the royal house of Israel?

  • In the previous Midrash we saw Ruth. She was from Moab – the son of the Elder daughter. Here is the Amonite queen of Judah: (Amon/Ben Ami was the son of the younger daughter.)
(כא) וּרְחַבְעָם֙ בֶּן־שְׁלֹמֹ֔ה מָלַ֖ךְ בִּֽיהוּדָ֑ה בֶּן־אַרְבָּעִ֣ים וְאַחַ֣ת שָׁנָה֩ רְחַבְעָ֨ם בְּמָלְכ֜וֹ וּֽשֲׁבַ֨ע עֶשְׂרֵ֥ה שָׁנָ֣ה ׀ מָלַ֣ךְ בִּירוּשָׁלִַ֗ם הָ֠עִיר אֲשֶׁר־בָּחַ֨ר יְהוָ֜ה לָשׂ֨וּם אֶת־שְׁמ֥וֹ שָׁם֙ מִכֹּל֙ שִׁבְטֵ֣י יִשְׂרָאֵ֔ל וְשֵׁ֣ם אִמּ֔וֹ נַעֲמָ֖ה הָעַמֹּנִֽית׃

(21) Meanwhile, Rehoboam son of Solomon had become king in Judah. Rehoboam was forty-one years old when he became king, and he reigned seventeen years in Jerusalem—the city the LORD had chosen out of all the tribes of Israel to establish His name there. His mother’s name was Naamah the Ammonitess.

10. So, how did the rabbis view the proactive approach and acts of the daughters of Lot?

  • Taking this one step farther: Remember the prohibitions against allowing these nations to enter the community of the Israelites? How does that sit with the rabbinic writings above?