Question: How could Peter call Lot a “righteous man” when Genesis 19 presents him as anything but righteous?
Turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah into ashes, [God] condemned them with an overthrow, having made an example out of them to those that are about to be living ungodly; And delivered righteous Lot, vexed with the filthy conversation of the wicked: (For that righteous man dwelling among them, in seeing and hearing, vexed his righteous soul from day to day with their unlawful deeds;) –2 Peter 2:6-8
Three times in this passage, Peter—by inspiration—calls Lot “righteous.” This is not the impression one gets when reading Genesis 19. In that chapter, Lot was willing to give up his two virgin daughters to a crowd of angry men wanting to fulfill their sexual urges. He did not leave Sodom willingly: the angels of God had to grab him and his family and basically drag them out of the city. He was commanded to go to the mountains to be safe, but he said that he’d be killed if he went in the mountains, showing an incredible lack of faith. He got so drunk, he didn’t even realize his daughters had sexual relations with him.
But God calls him “righteous” three times.
Some have said that Lot was only righteous by comparison. While Lot comes out looking good when you compare the two, I don’t think that is what we are to get out of this passage, because Peter goes on to explain Lot’s righteousness as something that existed before the events of Genesis 19 (from day to day).
Lot’s offering of his daughters is, to the modern reader, inexcusable. Many have said that it was a cultural thing, where daughters were viewed less as family and more as property. Some of the same people emphasize the idea of hospitality—that taking someone into your house meant that you would do anything to protect them. Those may be the case, though I personally cannot wrap my mind around offering up my own daughters to a crowd of men.
But perhaps what we are to learn from God using the word “righteous” three times to describe Lot is that even righteous people stumble and fall sometimes, but God knows the hearts. How would you react if you were told to hurry up and run out of the city? Would you hesitate? How would you react if you were told to run to the mountain—a place perhaps known as being unsafe? Would you be scared? How would you react if your wife, your sons, some of your daughters, and your home were all destroyed? Do you think you might be tempted to drink away your sorrows?
God said Lot was a righteous man, and even righteous men can have their moments of weakness. I think that is part of the lesson to be learned here.
Lot was called “righteous” because the sins of the people around him troubled him greatly. He hated seeing the sinfulness, the debauchery, the unbridled wickedness that the city was known for. For us to be righteous, we must also be troubled by sin. It’s when we get so used to sin that it doesn’t bother us anymore that we are in trouble.