1910 The messengers put out their hand and brought Lot into the house with them and shut the door. 11 Those near the entrance of the house, from the smallest to the largest, were struck with blinding light and unable to find the entrance.
12 The men said to Lot, “Who’s still with you here—sons, daughters? Take anyone else you have in the city out of this place. 13 We are about to destroy this place because the cry to YHWH has been confirmed and we are sent to destroy it.”
14 Lot went out to speak to his sons-in-law who had married his daughters and said, “Rise; get out of this place, for YHWH is about to destroy this city.” But they saw this as a joke.
15 When dawn rose, the messengers urged Lot, “Rise, take your wife and your two daughters who remain with you, so you are not swept away in the punishment of this city.” 16 Lot lingered, and, with YHWH’s compassion, the men seized his hand, his wife’s hand, and the hands of his two daughters and took him out, and brought him outside the city.
17 When they brought them out, the men said, “Escape for your lives! Don’t look back! And don’t stop anywhere on the plain. Escape to the mountains so that you are not swept away.”
18 Lot said to them, “No, please, my lords. 19 I’ve found favor in your eyes and you have shown kindness in saving my life, but I can’t escape to the mountains in case the wickedness here might cling to me there, and I die. 20 That town is close enough to escape to, and it’s small. It’s small, right? Let me escape to that small place, and I will live.”
21 He said to Lot, “I’ll do this favor for you as well; I won’t overthrow the town you have described. 22 Hurry! Escape to it! I can’t do anything until you arrive there.” That is why the name of the city is Zoar/Small.
Modern military technology uses blinding light as a non-lethal weapon. Shock grenades are a local expression of disorienting the senses of sight and hearing, incapacitating opponents.
The particular mechanism used by the information-seeking travelers to produce a blinding light is not known. The result of a moment of defensive force is information sharing (we will report the cries heard are real and not addressable by any means other than destruction) and planning (take those close to you away, now!, lest you be caught in the destruction).
Apparently, Lot was given sunglasses so he could see in the blinding light and he went out to his sons-in-law in the gathered crowd (apparently Lot had other daughters than the two still at home), rather than to his daughters. This may be a question of time and distance or a recognition of patriarchal dominance—that wives are only an extension of and property of the man-of-the-house and they are not capable of independent choice.
With the rejection from his sons-in-law, Lot yet delayed his leaving. It took active intervention by his guests to move Lot and his un-named wife and daughters beyond the city gate. This is claimed to be an act of compassion toward Lot. Such passivity on Lot’s part is more worthy of pity than compassion and may have elements of concern left from Abraham’s bargaining on behalf of Sodom.
Lot has his own bargaining that limits the field of destruction. Rather than flee to the hills, into wilderness, which is discomforting for the city dweller he has become, Lot bargains for a “small” nearby town that shouldn’t take too much on YHWH’s part to exempt from a larger destruction. This small Zoar was last heard of as one of the sacked cities rescued by Abram.
This proposal was granted, and the four refugees headed for Zoar, some 20–40 miles hence. Their arrival there was to be a trigger for the destruction of the Valley of Jordan (including Sodom and Gomorrah) that once was seen as green and productive. Short-term profit can blind us to how it is gained—upon the cries of people.