Painting by Jacob Jordaens
The Flight of Lot and His Family from Sodom (after Rubens), 1618-1620
Alice C. Linsley
Genesis 12:5 tells us that, "Abram took his wife, Sarai, and Lot, his brother's son, and all their wealth that they had amassed, and the souls they had made in Haran, and they left to go to the land of Canaan."
This departure was precipitated by the fact that Abraham's older brother, Nahor, had inherited the territory of their father, Terah. This was the ascendancy pattern of the Horite Hebrew (Habiru) ruler-priest caste to which Abraham belonged. The firstborn son of the sister-wife ascended to the throne of his biological father. So Isaac was Abraham's heir since Sarah was Abraham's half-sister. The firstborn son of the cousin/niece wife ascended to the throne of his maternal grandfather, after whom he was named. So Joktan (Yaqtan), Abraham's firstborn by Keturah, served as a high ranking official in the territory of his maternal grandfather, Joktan the Elder, after whom he was named. This marriage and ascendancy pattern involving two wives and two first born sons is unique to the ancient Horite Hebrew and continued to New Testament times.
Lot's relationship to Abraham is explained earlier in Genesis 11:27 where we are told that he is the son of Haran, Sarah's brother who died in Ur. Sarah was Lot's closest blood relative, other than his sister, Milcah who married Abraham's brother, Nahor. The Horite Hebrew ruler-priest lines intermarried exclusively because they believed that the promise made to their ancestors in Eden (Gen. 3:15) concerning the birth of Messiah (the Seed of God) would be fulfilled through their people.
Lots's Father and Great Ancestor
Lot's father was the first-born son of Terah's cousin bride, a daughter of Haran. Haran is also a place name designating a boundary of Haran's holdings. Haran the Elder was a contemporary of Terah's father, Nahor. The kinship pattern found here is exactly like that found in Genesis 4 and 5, with Kushite rulers marrying two wives. One was a half-sister and the other was a patrilineal cousin or niece. The cousin/niece brides named their firstborn sons after their fathers. This trait enables us to trace Jesus' ancestry back to Eden.
Lot's father was somewhat younger than Nahor, Terah's first-born son by his half-sister. This is discernable because cousin wives appear to have been second wives, taken shortly before the heir ascended to his father's office as chief. This suggests that Nahor married Milcah near to the time of Terah's death in Haran. Similarly, Genesis speaks of the urgency to acquire a cousin bride for Isaac before Abraham's death. Given the kinship pattern of Abraham's people, this means that Isaac already had a half-sister bride in Beersheba. She is the mother of Issac's apparent firstborn Yishbak.
After his father died, Lot traveled with his aunt Sarah and his grandfather Terah back to Haran, where Sarah and Haran, Lots' deceased father had family. There Terah died, leaving his throne to his oldest son, Nahor. It is at this point that Abraham receives his call to go to the land of Canaan where that God would esthablish him as a ruler. (Gen. 12:1) This is a turning point in Biblical history. The calling of Abraham to Canaan would change Mankind's destiny and Lot's story is an important sub-text in understanding that destiny.
Lot's name means veil, hidden or covering. It is the same as the name Lotan, a son of Seir the Horite (Gen. 36) and it is originally a Kushite name. One of Lot's royal kin was the Kushite ruler Nim-Lot. Min-Lot means the "waters of Lot." This refers to a 3-clan confederation of Ar, Arvd and Arkt. The last two clans are named in Genesis 10:15-17 and the clan of Ar is linked to Lot in Deuteronomy 2:9. This confederation appears to have had control of the entrance to the Mediterranean from the island kingdom at Arvad. It is an ancient confederation, dating to before Lot's time.
Analysis of the relationship between Abraham, Nahor and Lot indicates a pattern of marriage between patrilineal parallel cousins (clan endogamy) such as that found in Genesis 4 and 5 between the lies of Cain and Seth.
According to Genesis 22:20, Lot's sister married Nahor and gave birth to eight sons. The most notable of Milcah's sons was Kemuel the father of Aram.
Lot's regional identity was Aramean but he was ethnically Kushite. He and Abraham belonged to the Horite caste of ruler-priests who were devotees of Horus who was called "son of God." One of Lot's daughters apparently married Seir the Horite (Gen. 36) and named their first-born Lotan after her father.
Lot in Canaan
There was little opportunity for Lot in Padan-Aram, Nahor's territory. Like Abraham, he would seek his fortune to the west, in Canaan. It is likely that Lot's wife traveled with them, though she is not mentioned until we come to the story of the pillar of salt (Gen. 18). There she disappears and is replaced by 2 women, much more typical of the kinship pattern of Abraham's people.
In Canaan, both Abraham and Lot and their flocks prospered to the point that they found it necessary to separate (Gen. 13). Lot looked upon the whole plain of the Jordan which appeared "like the garden of the Lord" (Gen. 13:10) and chose to move eastward toward the cities of the Plain.
Lot's status in Canaan was that of a wealthy stranger, like Abraham. He had herds and men to tend the herds, but he lived in a fine house in Sodom. The Sodomites refer to Lot as a sojourner among them who plays the role of judge (Gen. 18:9). He spent time at the town gate, where the elders of the city deliberated on important matters and settled disputes. But, it is evident that Lot did not consider it wise to be out after dark because he urges the angelic visitors to stay with him and to come quickly into his house.
According to Genesis 19:24-25, Sodom (Hebrew: סְדוֹם) was destroyed by fire and brimstone which rained down from heaven. This event is said to have coincided with Lot’s hospitality to angels. Sodom was one of several towns destroyed, but it is Sodom from which we receive the term ‘sodomy’.
Geologist Frederick Clapp visited the area of the “cities of the plain” in 1929 and again in 1939. He believed that a seismic disturbance may have forced bitumen deposits out of the earth through fault lines along the east and west sides of the Dead Sea. Clapp's research revealed asphalt and petroleum accompanied by natural gas in this region. The bitumen would easily have been ignited, producing the effect of fire and brimstone falling from the sky.
The city of Sodom was located on a fault line along the eastern side of a plain south of the Dead Sea, so Clapp's theory is plausible. The Biblical account of the destruction comes from Abraham’s vantage point west of the Dead Sea. Genesis 19:28, tells us that Abraham “looked down toward Sodom and Gomorrah, toward all the land of the plain, and he saw dense smoke rising from the land, like smoke from a furnace”. Dense smoke suggests a petroleum-based fire. Smoke rising as from a furnace indicates a forced draft, such as would be expected from fault lines where underground oil and gas deposits were under pressure. Clearly there was an explosion which carried brimstone into the air above the cities. This is supported by discoveries of fires starting on the roofs. Zoar was not destroyed.
As Lot flees with his family from Sodom, his wife is turned to a pillar of salt because she looked back. One need not take this literally. Jesus refers to this, not as an historical event, but to teach a lesson about discipleship (Luke 17:28-32). If this woman was Abraham's niece, we understand something of the urgency of Abraham's intercession for Lot and his family.
Outside of Sodom, a very different and credible picture of Lot emerges. Lot has 2 first-born sons: Moab and Ben-Ammi, making him a chief, like his grandfather Terah. The mothers of these sons were probably wives, not daughters, and they are more real than Lot's wife. The casting of the Moabites and the Ammonites as the fruit of incest is a tribal tale told to scorn other peoples. This story is the work of the same writer who told us about Noah becoming drunk and exposing himself to his sons (Gen. 9:21-27). These stories of drunken fathers are used to bolster claims of one people over another by denigrating the ancestors. Whenever this happens, God overrules. According to Deuteronomy 23:3, no descendant of Moab was allowed in the assembly of Israel, yet David appeared in the assembly and he is a descendant of Moab by Ruth.
Lot is an interesting character, both the brunt of tribal scorn and the founder of great nations. Like Abraham, he was a wealthy sojourner in Canaan who God helped in the day of trouble. As with Abraham, God gave territory to Lot and intended that Lot's territory remain with his descendants. In Deuteronomy 2:9, we read "And the LORD said unto me, Distress not the Moabites, neither contend with them in battle: for I will not give thee of their land for a possession; because I have given Ar unto the children of Lot for a possession." Again in Deuteronomy 2:19, we read: "And when thou comest nigh over against the children of Ammon, distress them not, nor meddle with them: for I will not give thee of the land of the children of Ammon any possession; because I have given it unto the children of Lot for a possession."
Also like Abraham, Lot's house would be blessed through his descendants, one of whom was to be David, Israel's greatest king. David was the descendant of the Moabite Ruth.
Related reading: Lot's Daughters; Two Passovers and Two Drunken Fathers