And they struck the men who were at the doorway of the house with blindness, both small and great,
so that they became weary trying to find the door.
In today’s sermon text, two angels strike with blindness the mob of people trying to force
themselves into Lot’s house. Then the mob is described as searching for the door to the
point of exhaustion. Critics charge that this is unrealistic, in that either supernaturally-
blinded people would in fear forget about Lot and run away, or that they would eventually
find the door without too much trouble. What is going on here? While often those
criticizing the Scriptures do so out of an anti-God bias which does not desire not accept
the truth, it is still good for us to show that their criticisms do not hold water, both for
ourselves and for others who may still be open to it, and not to mention for the glory of
God! Here, their criticism completely falls flat.
For one thing, the word translated “blindness” is not the ordinary word for simply being
blind, but a word used only one other time in the Bible, when Elisha strikes the Syrian army
with blindness in 2 Kings 6. In that passage, after he blinds the Syrians we read: “Now Elisha
said to them, ‘This is not the way, nor is this the city. Follow me, and I will bring you to the
man whom you seek.’ But he led them to Samaria. So it was, when they had come to
Samaria, that Elisha said, ‘LORD, open the eyes of these men, that they may see.’ And the
LORD opened their eyes, and they saw; and there they were, inside Samaria!” 2 Kin. 6:19-20.
The context of this account is when the Syrian army was sent to Dothan in order to capture
Elisha. They surround the city. Then when they come to Elisha he strikes them blind, at
which point the above dialogue and action occurs. Thus, the men who knew they were in
Dothan and before Elisha, suddenly do not know where they are and to whom they are
before. Moreover, their blindness somehow does not hinder them from being led several
miles from Dothan to Samaria. How do we explain the unusual behavior of the blinded
people in these two accounts?
As noted above, in both of these passages the word “blindness” is abnormal. It comes from
a Hebrew word, the root of which usually means light, lamp, or even fire. Accordingly, at
least five different English versions translate the word as “blinding light” in English, so that
the Gen. 19 passage reads “And they struck the men at the door of the house with blinding
light” (TNK, see also CSB, NAB, NABO, NJB). In other words, the men were not literally
made sightless, but they were bedazzled by an angelic power.
The Scriptures speak of at least three different kinds of blindness. Physical blindness of the
body, moral blindness of the self-righteous, such as when Jesus repeatedly rebukes the
Scribes and Pharisees in Mat. 23 as “blind,” and finally the mental blindness we see here,
wherein God keeps the mind from understanding, so that that person is not able to
discern his course. We see this last kind of blindness when God causes Saul to fall down
naked “prophesying” all night long, or in Daniel 4 when Nebuchadnezzar is made to act
like an animal for a number of years. Thus, God warned Israel that one of the judgments
that would come upon them if they hardened themselves in sin was that “The LORD will
strike you with madness and blindness and confusion of heart” Deut. 28:28. Clearly, this
kind of blindness refers to some type of mental confusion.
To apply all of this to our text, we should conclude that it was not so much that the
Sodomites could not physically see or feel the door, but that their minds could not process
whatever their eyes were seeing and their hands were feeling, because God held them in a
state of confusion. Many commentaries agree: “We are not to understand that they were
deprived of eyesight but that their vision was rendered so dull they could distinguish
nothing” (John Calvin). “‘Blindness’ here and in 2Ki. 6:18 refers to mental blindness, in which
the eye sees, but does not see the right object, as a punishment for their utter moral
blindness” (Keil and Delitzsch). “If their minds had not been blinded as well as their bodies,
they would have said, as the magicians, This is the finger of God, and would have
submitted” (Matthew Henry). So by using this unusual word the Bible shows us why the
blind Sodomites and the Blind Syrians did not act like merely physically blind people,
because they were not merely physically blind.