Saturday, May 3, 2014

Abraham's Intercession for Lot

Alice C. Linsley

Is the account of Abraham's intercession for Lot and Sodom simply about intercessory prayer? It is often supposed that Lot was among the wicked, having become involved in the politics of the city, but Abraham did not think so. He said, "Wilt thou also destroy the righteous with the wicked?" Lot, as with many people of Faith, was living in the midst of moral decadence and paying the consequences.

Lot was Abraham's nephew, the son of his older brother Harran. Lot was a righteous man to whom Abraham deferred, as was fitting for a kinsman who had taken a younger fatherless kinsman under his protection. Lot's choice to move his flocks to the plain was motivated by his desire for greener pastures, but it would have been regarded as breaking with the pattern of his Horite ancestors who inhabited the higher terrain, called the "hill country."

Along with the other residents of Sodom, Lot apparently was unaware for the imminent danger. The destruction of his city and his future sons-in-law follow the angelic announcement of the "blessed event" that was to come to Abraham and Sarah within the year. Having feasted with Abraham and delivered this announcement, the angels turn toward Sodom saying: "We are to go over and check out Sodom to see if all that we have heard is true."

Angelic beings visited with Abraham in the heat of the day. This image signals divine judgment. Consider the contrast between this and the communion in the Garden where God came in the "cool of the day" (Gen.3:8). Cool encounters speak of fellowship and hot encounters speak of divine wrath, not a popular concept these days.

The angelic announcement foreshadows Jesus' birth. The shepherds would have known the story of the angels coming to Abraham and their announcement of the birth of a son. The angelic beings appeared in the "heat of the day" this visit being a hot encounter with God because the angels were on their way to a city under divine judgment. The chiastic structure of the Sodom narrative places the destruction of Sodom between the promise of a son for Abraham and the birth of two sons to Lot. The theme of the birth of God's Son can be found even in the story of Sodom's destruction.

Abraham was interceding for his kinsman. God shared His plans with Abraham: "The sins of Sodom have come up to my nostrils and I am going to see if everything I have heard is true. If it is, I am going to destroy the city! (Gen. 18:16-33)

Why did God not inform Lot directly about His plans? The answer is not that Lot was far from the Lord, living in disobedience, as is often stated in commentaries on this passage. The text does not tell us all the details of Lot's life because the focus has shifted from Abraham's Horite ancestors to Abraham himself. He is the great patriarch who had been Lot's protector, patron and who delivered him when he was taken captive (Gen. 14). The rescue took Abraham from Hebron, where Sarah resided, to Dan, the lion's whelp (Deut. 33:22).

Lot's Story

“Then he said, “Let not the Lord be angry, and I will speak but once more: Suppose ten should be found there?” And He said, “I will not destroy it for the sake of ten.” So the Lord went His way as soon as He had finished speaking with Abraham; and Abraham returned to his place.” (Gen. 18:32-33)

Reading this, some suppose that there were not even ten righteous in the city. We do not know about the survivors of the destruction of the cities of the Plain. Clearly, Lot survived and he became established as a great chief with familial connections to other powerful rulers.

Lot's sister married Nahor and gave birth to eight sons (Gen. 22:20). The most notable of Milcah's sons was Kemuel, the father of Aram the Younger. Aram the Elder was one of Shem's sons (Gen. 10:22) and he had a son named Uz. The name Kemuel is found in Numbers 34:24 where a descendent of Kemuel is named as a leader for the Ephraimites. I Chronicles 27:17 tells us that the Ephraimite Kemuel had a son named Hashabiah who was a Levite chief. In I Chronicles 26:30, this same Hashabiah is called a "Hebronite" and is put "in charge of Israel west of Jordan in everything pertaining to Yahweh and to the service of the king."

Lot's Ammonite and Moabite descendants were relatives of the Arameans and at least one of them was a Levite. In Patriarchal times the rulers among these peoples would have intermarried. In his commentary on Genesis, E.A. Speiser recognizes this. He believes that the “parallel treatment of the histories of Abraham and Lot is added proof that interrelationship was particularly intimate and important in early times.” (Anchor Bible Commentary, p. 146)

Likely, the original meaning of the names pertains to the Horite practice of clan endogamy. Moab means "by father" and Ben-Ammi means "son of kin" - and the people of Israel were to treat them as such. "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" (Deut. 2:9). "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." (Deut. 2:19).

Whether Moab and Ben-Ammi were Lot’s first-born sons by two wives or his grandchildren, he is presented in Genesis as a great chief with the same familial pattern as Terah, Abraham and Jacob. The pattern involves two first-born sons by different women. The first wife is the half-sister (as was Sarah to Abraham) and the second wife is a patrilineal cousin or niece (as was Keturah to Abraham). Keturah resided in Beersheba.

Related reading: Lot's Daughters; Two Passovers and Two Drunken Fathers; A Cautionary Note About Collins' Sodom; Abraham's Habiru Ancestors; Abraham and Job: Horite Rulers


DDeden said...

I wonder if the Levant Moabites are kin to No. Afr. Mozabites berbers, wiki indicates Mozabites have middle East and Congo genes:
"recent studies have discovered a close mitochondrial link between Berbers and the Saami of Scandinavia which confirms that the Franco-Cantabrian refuge area of southwestern Europe was the source of late-glacial expansions of hunter-gatherers that repopulated northern Europe after the Last Glacial Maximum and reveals a direct maternal link between those European hunter-gatherer populations and the Berbers.[17][18] With regard to Mozabite Berbers, one-third of Mozabite Berber mtDNAs have a Near Eastern ancestry, probably having arrived in North Africa ∼50,000 years ago, and one-eighth have an origin in sub-Saharan Africa. Europe appears to be the source of many of the remaining sequences, with the rest having arisen either in Europe or in the Near East."[19]

DMA said...

his Horite ancestors who inhabited the higher terrain, called the "hill country."

Didn't his ancestors live in Ur?

Alice C. Linsley said...

His father was Terah (meaning priest) and Terah had two wives, as was the practice for Horite ruler-priests. One wife resided in Ur and the other in Haran, where Terah died. Terah's father was Nahor the Elder. Nahor, Terah and Abraham were living in the Tigris-Euphrates valley because that is where their ancestor Nimrod, son of Kush (Gen. 10) established his kingdom. The Kushites were great kingdom builders who moved out of the Nile Valley. Among the Kushites were Beja, red Nubians, black Nubians, Nilo-Saharans, and Ainu. Abraham's ancestors were Nilo-Saharans and Saharo-Nubians, and that is also the point of origin of Messianic expectation. See these posts:

DMA said...

I'm trying to understand where is the "hill country" you mentioned as the homeland of Lott's ancestors?

Alice C. Linsley said...

"Hill country" is a formulaic term in the Old Testament. It does not specify one single place, but rather a way of life. Abraham lived in the hill country, as did the Horites of Edom (Gen. 36).