His Daughters (and Lot) (Genesis 19:30-38)

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.
    1. Read Deuteronomy 2:9, 18-19.  What is God’s attitude towards the nations that came from the daughters of Lot?
    2. 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? 
    3. 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:

בראשית לד,ב

ב וַיַּרְא אֹתָהּ שְׁכֶם בֶּן-חֲמוֹר הַחִוִּי נְשִׂיא הָאָרֶץ וַיִּקַּח אֹתָהּ וַיִּשְׁכַּב אֹתָהּ וַיְעַנֶּהָ.

שמואל ביג, יד

יד וְלֹא אָבָה לִשְׁמֹעַ בְּקוֹלָהּ וַיֶּחֱזַק מִמֶּנָּה וַיְעַנֶּהָ וַיִּשְׁכַּב אֹתָהּ.

‘To lay’ followed by an object:

Genesis 34:2

2 And Shechem the son of Hamor the Hivite, the prince of the land, saw her; and he took her, and lay her, and oppressed her.

Samuel II 13:14

But he would not hearken to her voice; and being stronger than she, he oppressed her, and lay her.

לשכב עם:

שמואל ביג, יא

וַתַּגֵּשׁ אֵלָיו לֶאֱכֹל וַיַּחֲזֶק-בָּהּ וַיֹּאמֶר לָהּ בּוֹאִי שִׁכְבִי עִמִּי אֲחוֹתִי.

בראשית ל טוטז

וַתֹּאמֶר לָהּ: הַמְעַט קַחְתֵּךְ אֶת-אִישִׁי, וְלָקַחַת גַּם אֶת-דּוּדָאֵי בְּנִי?! וַתֹּאמֶר רָחֵל: לָכֵן יִשְׁכַּב עִמָּךְ הַלַּיְלָה, תַּחַת דּוּדָאֵי בְנֵךְ.  טז וַיָּבֹא יַעֲקֹב מִן-הַשָּׂדֶה בָּעֶרֶב, וַתֵּצֵא לֵאָה לִקְרָאתוֹ וַתֹּאמֶר: אֵלַי תָּבוֹא! כִּי שָׂכֹר שְׂכַרְתִּיךָ בְּדוּדָאֵי בְּנִי. וַיִּשְׁכַּב עִמָּהּ בַּלַּיְלָה הוּא.

‘To lay with’

II Samuel 13:11

11 And when she had brought them near to him to eat, he took hold of her, and said to her: ‘Come lie with me, my sister.’

Genesis 30:15-16

15 And she said to her: ‘Is it a small matter that you have taken away my husband? and you will take away my son’s mandrakes also?!’ And Rachel said: ‘Therefore he shall lie with you tonight for your son’s mandrakes.’ 16 And Jacob came from the field in the evening, and Leah went out to meet him, and said: To me you shall come! since I have hired you with my son’s mandrakes.’ And he lay with her that night.

Part 3: Rabbinic and Medieval commentators:

Q) Why did the daughters do what they did?

1)  בראשית רבה (תיאודור-אלבק) פרשה נאMidrash Bereshit Rabba 51  

(לא) ותאמר הבכירה אל הצעירה אבינו זקן ואיש אין בארץ וגו’ שהיו סבורות שנתכלה העולם כדור המבול.

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.


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

2)  רד”ק בראשית יט לא R. David Kimchi (Radak – Medieval commentator) Gen. 19:31

רוב המפרשים פרשו כי חשבו כי כל הארץ כסדום ועמרה שלא נשאר איש ואישה.  וזה רחוק, שהרי יצאו הם מצוער שלא נהפכה, וכן יש להם לחשוב כי שאר הארץ גם כן לא נהפכה.  גם שמעו מאביהן כי סדום ובנותיה – מרעת יושבי בה נהפכה. וטוב הוא מה ששמעתי בשם ר’ יוסף קרא, כי אמרה הבכירה “לא נמצא בארץ שירצה לקחת אותנו לנשים, כי יאמרו: מאנשי ההפכה הן אלו, אין ראוי להתחבר להן.”

Most commentators explained that they thought that all the land was like Sodom and Gomorra, that there was no man or woman left.  But this is far fetched, for they left Tzoar which was not over- turned, so they should have realized that also the rest of the land was not overturned.  Also, they heard from their father that Sodom and its environs were overturned because of the evil of their inhabitants.  And what I heard in the name of R. Joseph Kara is good: The Elder said: ‘There is no one on Earth that will want to take us as wives, for they will say:  They are of the people of the Over-turn, it is inappropriate to connect to them.”

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

Q) 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…


Q) Was Lot merely a victim or perhaps a bit of a villain as well?

3)  רש”י בראשית פרק יט,לג Rashi Genesis 19:33  

ובקומה – של בכירה נקוד, לומר הרי הוא כאילו לא נכתב, לומר שבקומה ידע, ואף על פי כן לא נשמר ליל שני מלשתות.

When she rose – [When this word appears] with the Elder daughter, it has a dot* over it, as if it should not have been written, to tell that when she rose he did know.  None the less, he was not careful not to drink on the second night.

*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.

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

Q) How did the Rabbis view the proactive behavior of Lot’s daughters?

4)  בראשית רבה (תיאודור-אלבק) פרשה נא Midrash Bereshit Rabba 51

(לב) לכה נשקה את אבינו יין וגו’: ר’ תנחומא משום שמואל: ‘ונחיה מאבינו בן’ אין כתיב, אלא “זרע” –  אותו זרע שהוא בא ממקום אחר. ואי זה? זה מלך המשיח.

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.

Q) 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 descendent of David


5)  תלמוד בבלי מסכת נזיר דף כג עמוד ב- כד עמוד א

אמר ר’ חייא בר אבין, אמר ר’ יהושע בן קרחה: לעולם יקדים אדם לדבר מצוה, שבשכר לילה

אחת שקדמתה בכירה לצעירה – זכתה וקדמה ארבעה דורות בישראל למלכות.

Said R. Hiya son of Abin said R. Joshua son of Karha:  A person shoul always be early for [performing] a commandment/good deed.  For as a reward for the one night that the Older daughter was ahead of the Younger, she merited being 4 generations before her to the royalty in Israel.

Q) 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.)

I Kings 14:21

מלכים א יד כא 

כא וּרְחַבְעָם בֶּן-שְׁלֹמֹה מָלַךְ בִּיהוּדָה ….וְשֵׁם אִמּוֹ נַעֲמָה הָעַמֹּנִית.

21 And Rehoboam the son of Solomon reigned in Judah…. and his mother’s name was Naamah the Amonite.

Q) 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?


Go to Next Class – Esau or Jacob?