191 The two messengers entered Sodom at sunset, while Lot was sitting at the gate of Sodom. Lot saw them, rose to greet them, and bowed low, brow to the ground. 2 He said, “Please, my lords, turn aside and come to your servant’s house to spend the night and bathe your feet. Then, you can get up early and continue on your way.”
The two said, “No, we will spend the night in the city square.” 3 Lot pressed them hard, until they turned aside and entered his house. He prepared a meal-with-drink and baked unleavened bread. They ate.
YHWH has left the Terebinths of Mamre. Two messengers, who had earlier left the Terebinths, have arrived in Sodom. It is evening after a geographically long journey. Lot is sitting in the public space at Sodom’s gate.
The public space is a place to gather for news of the city, including gossip, the doing of business, and application of justice. Lot began his time outside of Sodom with substantial substance, flocks and household. When he and it were taken as a spoil of war, Abraham rescued Lot and his property. News and trade are sufficient reasons to be present in this public space, and it doesn’t hurt to have the honor of being the nephew of a war hero who returned Sodom’s fortunes to it.
Lot rises, like Abraham, to come forward and greet these two travelers. No mirage here—two.
Lot also acts hospitably, inviting these two to stay with him—to spend the night and be refreshed before continuing on their way.
For whatever reason, a humble response that triggers increased invitation or a desire to see Sodom at its darkest, the messengers declined Lot’s offer. He importuned the two into coming with him. The two turned aside from their first response and had a meal with unleavened bread. Lot’s feast seems meager compared with Abraham’s. There is no mention here of a fatted calf (it is the city, after all—not as easy to get fresh food in the evening, after the market stalls were bare from the day’s trading). In a comparison of bread, Lot’s everyday fare comes up short of Sarah’s fresh bread of the finest flour. Sodom is not quite as hospitable as Abraham’s tent. As a test of the quality of life in Sodom, the two messengers might well have an initial positive response. Their notes could indicate a generous welcome, above and beyond what strangers might expect in a city from which had arisen cries of injustice and hostility. There is no reason to suspect that a minyan of ten righteous folks is not present, that Sodom is not guilty of causing an outcry.