Justifiable Rape? The Story of Lot’s Daughters (Genesis 19:30-38)

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Lot and his Daughters (Artemisia Gentileschi)

Is it ever possible to justify rape? The issue arises in a bizarre story found in Genesis 19.

Immediately after the city of Sodom is sulfur-ified for wickedness and Lot’s wife is salt-ified for rubber-necking, Lot and his remaining family, his two unnamed daughters settle in the hills outside of Zoar (Gen. 19:30).

In order to give offspring to their aging father, the two daughters come up with a creative plan. Get dad drunk and then sleep with him on consecutive nights (Gen. 19:31-32).   Their plan works and each daughter conceives and eventually gives birth to sons, Moab and Ben-Ammi, the ancestors of the Moabites and the Ammonites (Gen. 19:33-38).

When someone is deprived of their ability to give consent to sex, we would call it rape.  In this case alcohol was depriving Lot of his ability to give consent, so one could argue Lot was raped by his daughters. Also, sex between a father and a daughter is a particularly heinous form of incest.

But one can make an argument that this incestuous rape was perhaps justified.

The heading of my NRSV Bible titles this section, “The Shameful Origin of Moab and Ammon” so we know what the NRSV editors think about the morality of this story.

But what do you think?  Should we condemn or defend the actions of Lot’s daughters?  

One should only ever broach the sensitive subject of rape with the utmost caution, and personally, I’d rather avoid it because I don’t feel qualified, but I teach the Old Testament and the Bible doesn’t avoid it (Gen. 34; Lev. 19; 2 Sam. 13), so I think we need to discuss it.

I discuss this story in Prostitutes and Polygamists (pages 150-152), but I’ve had a few more thoughts since I wrote it.  I’ll share more thoughts in my next post.

 

4 comments

  1. Don’t you think they raped their father because their father gave them to the neighbors when they were virgins so they could get gang-raped?

    1. It would be only fair, I suppose, if such events and such people actually existed. Honestly if God dropped a WMD on an entire city because he was unhappy with how much each of them enjoyed “sodomy”- we have bigger fish to fry. Granted, it wasn’t like that one time he almost killed each and every human alive because he was upset at everybody’s wickedness, including 1-day old babies, or the time he created Hell in order to punish those who didn’t believe in him for an infinite number of years with torture. We are fortunate that God is all love. I mean, think of what the guy would be like if he was actually part hate!

  2. So Lot’s daughters wanted to screw their old man to become single moms? And to continue their family bloodline they would then have to both conceive sons and screw their adult sons (Moab and Ammon) before they succumbed to menopause. Show me any teenage girl who thinks that arrangement is cool and who would be happy to go down on their old man to become single mothers. And where did the intoxicating beverage come from — were they carrying a box wine when they hastily fled S&G? (enough wine to get drunk is always my choice provision when fleeing fire and brimstone) The whole Lot story involving angels, offers of gang-rape, a pillar of salt, plus family values incestuous-rape is both fantastical and nonsensical. It didn’t happen.

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