“blindness.” This is a kind of mental blindness. Mental blindness manifests itself in different ways. A bribe “blinds” the mind of a judge so he cannot think clearly (Exod. 23:8; Deut. 16:19). Similarly, a person bent on following false doctrine is “blind” to the truth. He cannot see it (Isa. 6:10; 43:8; Matt. 15:14). There are two cases in the Word of God where the blindness is not physical, it is mental, but it is a different quality of mental blindness than simply being blind to the truth of something.
Here in Genesis 19:11, and in 2 Kings 6:18, people were struck with a kind of blindness that blinded them to their physical surroundings. The blindness was not physical, for in that case in both Genesis and 2 Kings the people would have been so debilitated that they would have discontinued what they were doing. Instead, the blindness was a kind of mental confusion such that they continued what they were attempting to do, but completely without success or any real awareness of what they were actually doing.
The blindness of these men of Sodom here in Genesis, and the Aramean soldiers in 2 Kings, is somewhat similar to what is referred to as “highway hypnosis.” Highway hypnosis occurs when a person is so stupefied by driving for a long time without a break, or so mentally distracted, that he drives right past the place he wanted to go and never “saw” it. Usually in the case of highway hypnosis, after a while, the person “wakes up” mentally and notices that something is wrong, and then has to figure out where he is and what has happened. Although the Bible never specifically says the men of Sodom came out of their stupor before being consumed in the fire, the Aramean soldiers “woke up” and realized they were actually in the city of Samaria.