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Lot (Hebrew: לוֹט, Modern Lot Tiberian Lôṭ ; "veil" or "covering") is a person mentioned in the biblical Book of Genesis chapters 11–14 and 19. Notable episodes in his life include his travels with his uncle Abram (Abraham), his flight from the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, during which Lot's wife became a pillar of salt, and the seduction by his daughters so that they could bear children.
Christians and Muslims revere Lot as a righteous man of God. According to the Bible, Jesus is a descendant of Lot through David's great-grandmother Ruth, who is descended from Moab, Lot's son through one of his daughters. There are no stories of drunkenness and incest attributed to Lot in the Qur'an, where he is regarded as one of the Prophets of Islam.
|Generation||Genealogy of Terah and Lot (Genesis 11:26–32; 19:37–38)|
|4th Gen||1st Daughter||2nd Daughter|
|5th Gen||Moab||Ben-Ammi (Ammon)|
|See also Haran#Family tree chart|
Lot and his father Haran were born and raised in Ur of the Chaldees (Genesis 11:28,31) in the region of Sumeria on the Euphrates River of lower Mesopotamia, roughly four thousand years ago. Haran died in that land before his father Terah. (Genesis 11:28)
Genesis 11:26-32 gives the "generations of Terah", Lot's grandfather, who arranged for their large family to set a course for Canaan where they could reestablish a new home. Among the family members that Lot travelled with was his uncle Abram, (later called Abraham), one of the three patriarchs of Israel.
En route to Canaan, the family stopped in the Paddan Aram region, about halfway along the Fertile Crescent between Mesopotamia and the Mediterranean. They settled at the site called Haran where Lot's grandfather, Terah, lived the rest of his days. He was 205 years old when he died. (Genesis 11:32)
Genesis 12 reveals Abram's obedience to the LORD at the age of 75, in continuing his journey to the land of promise. Though Abram's father, Terah, stayed behind, his nephew Lot went with him.[v.1-4] There is no mention of Lot having a wife yet. They went southwestward into the land of Canaan, to the place of Sichem,[v.5-6] the present day West Bank of Nablus. Later they travelled south to the hills between Bethel and Hai,[v.8] before journeying further toward the south of Canaan.[v.9]
After dwelling in the land of Canaan for a little while, there was a famine, and they journeyed further south into Egypt.[v.10-20] After having dwelt in Egypt for some time, they acquired vast amounts of wealth and livestock, and returned to the Bethel area.[Gen.13:1-5]
Genesis 13 discusses Abram and Lot's return to Canaan after the famine had passed and the lands became fertile again. They traveled back through the Negev to the hills of Bethel.[v.1,3] With their sizeable numbers of livestock and always on the move, both families occupying the same pastures became problematic for the herdsmen who were assigned to each family's herd.[v.6,7] The conflicts between herdsmen had become so troublesome that Abram lovingly recommended to Lot that they should part ways, lest there be conflict amongst "brethren".[v.8,9]
Although Abram gave Lot the choice of going north (the left hand), in which case he would go south (the right hand), or if Lot chose south, Abram would go north, Lot instead looked before him beyond Jordan and saw a well watered plain, and chose that land, for it was like "the garden of the LORD", before the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah and the formation of the salt sea. (Genesis 13:9-11) Abram then headed south to Hebron, staying within the land of Canaan. (Genesis 13:12,18)
Lot had encamped on the green Jordan plain among the cities of the plain and initially pitched his tent toward Sodom. About eight years before he moved there, the kings of the five cities had become vassal states of an eastern alliance of four kingdoms under the leadership of Chedorlaomer king of Elam, whom they served for twelve years, but "the thirteenth year they rebelled." (Genesis 14:1–4) The following year the four armies with Chedorlaomer returned and at the Battle of the Vale of Siddim, the kings of Sodom and Gomorrah fell in defeat.[v.5–10] Chedorlaomer spoiled the cities and took captives as he departed, including Lot, who by then "dwelt" in Sodom.[v.11,12]
When Abram heard what had happened to his "brother" Lot, he armed a rescue force of three hundred and eighteen of his trained servants and pursued and caught up to the armies of the four kings in the area of Dan.[v.13,14] He divided his forces and attacked at night from more than one direction, and the kings fled northeast. The pursuit continued and the "slaughter of Chedorlaomer", and the other kings was completed at Hobah north of Damascus. Abram brought back "his brother Lot" and all the people and their goods. (v.15–24)
Twenty four years after Abram and Lot began their sojourning, the LORD changed Abram's name to Abraham, and gave him the covenant of circumcision.[Genesis 17] Not long afterward, "the LORD appeared" to Abraham, for "three men" came to visit and have a meal with him, and after two left to go to Sodom, "Abraham stood yet before the LORD."[Gen.18:1-22] Abraham boldly pleaded on behalf of the people of Sodom, where Lot dwelt, and obtained assurance the city would not be destroyed if fifty righteous were found there. He continued inquiring, reducing the number to forty five, forty, thirty, twenty, and finally if there were ten righteous in the city, it would be spared.[18:23-33]
Genesis 19:1 ¶ And there came two angels to Sodom at even; and Lot sat in the gate of Sodom: and Lot seeing them rose up to meet them; and he bowed himself with his face toward the ground;
2 And he said, Behold now, my lords, turn in, I pray you, into your servant's house, and tarry all night, and wash your feet, and ye shall rise up early, and go on your ways. And they said, Nay; but we will abide in the street all night.
3 And he pressed upon them greatly; and they turned in unto him, and entered into his house; and he made them a feast, and did bake unleavened bread, and they did eat.
After supper that night before bedtime, the men of the city, young and old, gathered around Lot's house demanding he bring his two guests out that they might "know" them. Lot went out and closed the door behind him and prayed that they not do such wicked things, and offered them his virgin daughters, that had not "known" man, that they might know them instead, and do with as they pleased. His response infuriated the men of Sodom who accused him of being judgmental and they threatened to do worse to him than they would have done to the men.[Gen.19:4–9]
Before they could harm Lot and break into the house, the "men" pulled Lot back in and struck the intruders with blindness, and revealed to Lot that they were angels sent to destroy the place. This allowed a window of opportunity for Lot to make preparations for him and his family to leave. When he went out to his sons in law that married his daughters, to warn them to flee, they treated him as one that mocked.[Gen.19:10–14]
As the day began to dawn, the angels urged him to hasten and leave, and when he yet lingered, the angels took hold of the hands of Lot, his wife and two daughters and transported them beyond the city and set them down, and the angel told Lot: "Escape for thy life; look not behind thee, neither stay thou in all the plain; escape to the mountain, lest thou be consumed."[Gen.19:15–17] Lot argued that if he went to the mountain some evil would cause his death, and he requested to be allowed to flee instead to the "little" city which was closer. (The city of Bela was later called Zoar because it was little.) His request was accepted, and they headed for Zoar instead.[Gen.19:18–22]
Genesis 19:23 ¶ The sun was risen upon the earth when Lot entered into Zoar.
24 Then the LORD rained upon Sodom and upon Gomorrah brimstone and fire from the LORD out of heaven;
25 And he overthrew those cities, and all the plain, and all the inhabitants of the cities, and that which grew upon the ground.
26 But his wife looked back from behind him, and she became a pillar of salt.
From where Abraham was that morning, in an elevated region, he could see the dense smoke billowing up into the heavens from the ruined cities.[v.27,28]
Instead of both brimstone and fire, Josephus has only lightning as the cause of the fire that destroyed Sodom: "God then cast a thunderbolt upon the city, and set it on fire, with its inhabitants; and laid waste the country with the like burning, as I formerly said when I wrote the Jewish War."
An account of Lot and his daughters in Genesis 19:30-38
Genesis 19:30 And Lot went up out of Zoar, and dwelt in the mountain, and his two daughters with him; for he feared to dwell in Zoar: and he dwelt in a cave, he and his two daughters.
31 And the firstborn said unto the younger, Our father is old, and there is not a man in the earth to come in unto us after the manner of all the earth:
32 Come, let us make our father drink wine, and we will lie with him, that we may preserve seed of our father.
33 And they made their father drink wine that night: and the firstborn went in, and lay with her father; and he perceived not when she lay down, nor when she arose.
34 And it came to pass on the morrow, that the firstborn said unto the younger, Behold, I lay yesternight with my father: let us make him drink wine this night also; and go thou in, and lie with him, that we may preserve seed of our father.
35 And they made their father drink wine that night also: and the younger arose, and lay with him; and he perceived not when she lay down, nor when she arose.
36 Thus were both the daughters of Lot with child by their father.
The older daughter conceived Moab (Hebrew, lit., "from the father" [meh-Av]), father of the Moabites;[v.37] the younger conceived Ben-Ammi (Hebrew, lit., "Son of my people"), father of the Ammonites.[v.38]
The presumptive incest between Lot and his daughters has raised many questions, debates, and theories as to what the real motives were, who really was at fault, and the level of bias the author of Genesis Chapter 19 had. However, such biblical scholars as Jacob Milgrom, Victor P. Hamilton, and Calum Carmichael postulate that the Levitical laws could not have been developed the way they were, without controversial issues surrounding the patriarchs of Israel, especially regarding incest. Carmichael even attributes the entire formulation of the Levitical laws to the lives of the founding fathers of the nation, including the "righteous" Lot (together with Abraham, Jacob, Judah, Moses, and David), who were outstanding figures in Israelite tradition.
According to the scholars mentioned above, the patriarchs of Israel are the key to understanding how the priestly laws concerning incest developed. Incest amongst the patriarchs includes Abraham's marriage to his half-sister Sarai;[Gen.20:11,12] the marriage of Abraham's brother, Nahor, to their niece Milcah;[Gen.11:27–29] Isaac's marriage to Rebekah, his first cousin once removed;[Gen.27:42–43;29:10] Jacob's marriages with two sisters who are his first cousins;[Gen.29:10,Ch.29] and, in the instance of Moses's parents, a marriage between nephew and aunt (father's sister).[Exod.6:20] Therefore, it surely mattered to the lawgiver how the issues of incest pertained to these patriarchs and they are the basis for the laws of the Book of Leviticus, chapters 18 and 20.
Other scholars also state that the Levitical laws against incest were created to separate the lifestyle of the Israelite from the sinful lifestyle of the cursed people of Canaan,[Gen.9:22–28] despite any incestual involvements the patriarchs had had in the past. The Levitical laws were needed for a developing nation who needed to be seen as different from the world, cleansed and blameless: The first step starting with circumcision.[Gen.17:1,10;Ch.17] So nothing could be held against the patriarchs for incestuous behavior because this was part of progressive development, from the ways of the world (coming out of Chaldea) to becoming blameless before their God.[Gen.17:1]
Some feminists have argued that Lot's behavior in offering of his daughters to the men of Sodom in Genesis 19:8 constitutes sexual abuse of his daughters, which created a confusion of kinship roles that was ultimately played out through the incestuous acts in Genesis 19:30–38.
In the Bereshith of the Torah, Lot is first mentioned at the end of the weekly reading portion, Parashat Noach. The weekly reading portions that follow, concerning all of the accounts of Lot's life, are read in the Parashat Lekh Lekha and Parashat Vayera. In the Midrash, a number of additional stories concerning Lot are present, not found in the Tanakh, as follows:
Despite Lot's flaws, Christians view him as a righteous man and draw upon New Testament scriptures that make direct references to his day, such as:
In Islamic tradition, Lut lived in Ur and was a nephew of Ibrahim (Abraham). He migrated with Ibrahim to Canaan and was commissioned as a prophet to the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. His story is used as a reference by Muslims to demonstrate Islam's strong disapproval of homosexuality. He was commanded by Allah to go to the land of Sodom and Gomorrah to preach monotheism and to stop them from their lustful and violent acts. Lut's messages were ignored by the inhabitants, prompting Sodom and Gomorrah's destruction. Though Lut left the city, his wife stayed behind and was destroyed.
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