Over the centuries, the common view of Lot was that he was a pious and honorable man, deserving of our utmost respect.
But questions often pop up about his character, especially when we encounter him before and after the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. While angels of God visit Lot and are guests in his house, the people of Sodom surround the house and demand he turn them over. Lot refuses, according to Genesis 19:8: Behold now, he says, I have two daughters which have not known man; let me, I pray you, bring them out unto you, and do ye to them as is good in your eyes: only unto these men do nothing; for therefore came they under the shadow of my roof.
This may seem, by modern standards, to be extremely shocking behavior. For a man to offer up his two virgin daughters to a mob, that they might be violated and abused? This doesn’t seem to be, on the face of it, the mark of a very good character, and he might be bound for hell. And, indeed, there is nothing in the text of the bible that indicates God was in support of his doing this.
But many will argue that he was indeed a righteous man, and that he had faith that God would protect his daughters from harm, even if he offered them up to a mob like this. And in the end, Lot confessed his sins and was forgiven by God – a lesson for others to come clean and let go of their past, no matter what evil deeds they may have committed.
Or, perhaps Lot calculated that this would surprise the mob and make them think twice.
In any event, Lot’s situation becomes worse just a few verses later, after the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. While completely drunk on wine in their new dwelling, a cave, Lot’s own daughters copulate with him – first the older, then the younger. This seems utterly repulsive to us now, as it should, and even though Lot was inebriated at the time and seems to be unaccountable for his actions, it is hard to sweep his culpability completely under the rug. After all, in order to participate in an act like that, one does have to have control of some of their functions. So the blame can’t lie completely on his daughters (who, in their defense, probably thought that they were the last living people on earth).
It can be said that these figures of the bible were not edited to seem a certain way for the modern audience. These people were revealed as they are, “warts and all”, so to speak, so that we could see them for who they were and draw better lessons from their behavior.
Perhaps, in the end, the Lot held onto a positive historical reputation because he was not condemned by God, which would indicate that God saw what we cannot and allowed him into heaven. Like the man who would eventually become Saint Paul, who participated in the murder of a man according to Acts 7:58, and who reviled Christians in Galatians 1:13, and Philippians 3:6, and like David, an extremely sinful man who would become king and commit adultery, when it comes to humans, we all have one thing in common – there’s always room for improvement.