What does Genesis 19:1 mean?In the previous chapter, the Lord revealed to Abraham that He was going to investigate the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. The outcry about their grave sins had reached Him. God, of course, was not literally "investigating" in order to find out something He did not know. Rather, this language and the conversation which followed were meant to show how justified God's wrath was against Sodom. The implication was that judgment was coming to these cities for their wickedness. Abraham had pushed back. His nephew Lot and his family lived in the city. The Lord assured Abraham that if as many as ten righteous people were to be found in Sodom, no judgment would fall.
Now the two angels who were with the Lord in the previous chapter arrive at Sodom. When last we saw them, they were walking away from the Lord and Abraham and toward the city. The distance from Abraham's home at Mamre, near Hebron, to Sodom was at least 20 miles. Either the angels were arriving on the following evening or, possibly, they had transported themselves to the city supernaturally.
They are still disguised in human form. As was the case when they appeared to Abraham, it is not clear when Lot realizes these two men are supernatural beings. In any case, the culture of the day required for good citizens to show great hospitality to travelers. Lot does so now, bowing low before them to welcome them to Sodom. Lot's actions on behalf of these visitors, here and in the next verses, reflect this cultural view of care for visitors.
The gate of a city is often where the elders and leaders of a town would gather to discuss the issues of the day and provide wisdom and guidance. Though Lot is an immigrant to this region, his seat in the city gate and his welcoming of these visitors shows that he clearly holds a place of importance in Sodom. This speaks volumes about Lot's relationship to the culture he chose to live in—those who openly challenged the sins of Sodom would not have been respected enough to sit at the city gate.