Struck with blindness

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"Struck with blindness" is how most modern English translations interpret Genesis 19:11 , when angels made it impossible for evildoers in Sodom to find the doorknob on Lot's home. They wore themselves out trying. (The King James Version uses the phrase "smote ... with blindness.")[1]

But blindness does not make it impossible for people at a doorstep to find and open a door, or wear themselves out trying. Lot and his family could hardly go to sleep in peace if it was merely blindness that temporarily prevented the wrongdoers from grasping the doorknob of their door. Moreover, the Hebrew term used is a rare one and its translation as "blindness" is merely inferred.

A more precise translation benefiting from modern quantum mechanics would be that the Sodom evildoers were deprived of their awareness, their full consciousness needed to eliminate quantum uncertainty about the location of the doorknob. They can try forever but without being able to collapse the "wave function" of the door it never has a certain location for them.

Suggested translations

Translations possibly more precise than "struck with blindness" are:

  • "deprived of awareness"
  • "deprived of their perception"
  • "rendered unable to perceive"

Hebrew term

The Hebrew term is סַּנְוֵרִ֔ים (bas-san-wê-rîm), which is used in only one other verse in the entire Old Testament, and which is not used in other references for blindness in the Bible. It appears to be unknown outside of the two verses in the Old Testament, such as Hebrew literature. Thus its meaning needs to be inferred from its context in Genesis 19:11. That context is an inability to discern the location of the doorknob on Lot's door, not a general blindness.

The context of the Sodom residents wearing themselves out groping for the door implies that they could see images of its doorknob, but its location repeatedly eluded them as they tried to grasp it.

When the Bible refers to a general affliction of blindness, it uses the different Hebrew term of וּבְעִוָּר֑וֹן (ū-ḇə-‘iw-wā-rō-wn), as in Deuteronomy 28:28.[2]

Similarity to lack of perception in New Testament

Similarities exist between this deprivation of perception of Lot's doorknob and incidents described in the Gospels concerning a lack of perception of Jesus, both on the Road to Emmaus and in the encounter with an angel at the tomb. In all situations there issue is not blindness, but perception.