By Clinton D. Hamilton
Revealed over a period of almost 1,500 years by about 40 different human scribes, the Bible is a unit which should be interpreted textually, contextually, and consistently. What is said on any subject needs to be studied in its context and no interpretation should be adopted that is violative of text, context, and corroborative passages. The question to be considered in this particular column falls within this framework.
Question: Why was Lot called “righteous” (2 Pet. 2:7) in light of his character described in Genesis 13, 14, and 19?
Reply: In the King James Version, diakaios, the adjective modifying Lot, is translated just, but in the American Standard, righteous. Originally the term was used of persons who were “observant of dike, custom, rule, right, especially in the fulfilment of duties towards gods and men, and of things that were in accordance with right” (Vine). However, in the New Testament, the term means “righteous, a state of being right, or right conduct, judged whether by the Divine standard or according to human standards, of what is right” (Vine). In Peter’s use, the meaning is according to the Divine standard.
The argument in which this passage occurs concerns the righteousness of God in punishing the wicked and delivering the righteous. God is fair, just, and equal in treatment of those whom he judges. There is no prejudice or partiality in the judgment of God. He is just or fair. God spared not the angels that sinned, the sinful ancient world of Noah’s day, the iniquitous world of Sodom and Gomorrah (2 Pet. 2:4-6). They were set forth by him as examples of how God deals with men who intend to live ungodly (v 6b). Contrasted with what he did in these cases is the deliverance of Lot (v.7).
Lot is described as vexing his soul or being sore distressed by the lascivious life of the wicked. These lawless individuals wore him out as he toiled against their licentiousness. Alford in his Greek Testament suggests that he was oppressed or harassed beyond bearing by their wicked behavior. The men of Sodom in their homosexuality were beyond and without the law or rule of God. They were defiant of his will, hence lawless. Aselgeia is the Greek term from which filthy is translated in the King James Version and lascivious is translated in the American Standard. The term denotes excess, absence of restraint, indecency, or wantonness (Vine). Their behavior in wearing themselves out to find the door at Lot’s house after they were miraculously blinded shows their wanton abandon. Wicked is translated from athesmos which means lawless or being without the approval of law, custom (Vine). It occurs in 2 Peter 3:17 when it is used to exhort God’s people not to be led away by the error of the wicked or lawless.
Like Noah before him (Gen. 6:9), Lot was a righteous man. This means that he conducted himself within the law of God generally. His conduct was consistently lawful. When this is the case, one is called righteous (1 Jn. 3:7). This does not mean that one may not in a moment of weakness fall into sin as did both Noah and Lot. Both became drunk. Lot in his drunkenness committed incest with his daughter. However, when he was delivered from the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, he is said to have been righteous. This statement was authored by God and is, therefore, a correct assessment of his character at the time the statement applies.
The question really affirms that Genesis 13 and 14 also show wickedness in the life of Lot. In chapter 13, Lot and Abram separated. The ultimate cause was that their substance was so great that the land could not supply both their needs. The immediate cause of separation was strife between their herdsmen. Abram gave the choice of direction to Lot. Seeing the Plain of the Jordan as being well watered, Lot chose it and journeyed east and went as far as Sodom, whose men were wicked exceedingly. We know Lot did not partake of their deeds from 2 Peter 2:7. Lot is maligned on the basis of Genesis 13 without foundation of textual support in the Scriptures. Genesis 14 does not reveal any misbehavior of Lot. He was taken captive and delivered by Abram and the league of kings with him.
Genesis 19 describes some behavior of Lot after his deliverance from the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. The passage in 2 Peter 2:7 described or defined Lot’s character while he was in Sodom. At this point, his behavior was said by God to be righteous and it was.
Guardian of Truth XXXIV: 22, p. 677
November 15, 1990