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:
לשכב עם: ‘To lay with’:
Part 3: Rabbinic and Medieval commentators:
1. Why did the daughters do what they did?
2. According to this Midrash (from early centuries CE,) what was the concern of the daughters?
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.)
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?
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.
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.)
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?