LOT (laht) A personal name meaning “concealed.” Lot was the son of Haran and nephew of Abraham (Genesis 11:27). Lot, whose father died in Ur (Genesis 11:28), traveled with his grandfather to Haran (Genesis 11:31). Terah had intended to travel to Canaan, but stayed in Haran instead (Genesis 11:31). When Abraham left Haran for Canaan, he was accompanied by Lot and Lot's household (Genesis 12:5).
After traveling throughout Canaan and into Egypt, Abraham and Lot finally settled between Bethel and Ai, about ten miles north of Jerusalem (Genesis 13:3). Abraham and Lot acquired herds and flocks so large that the land was unable to support both (Genesis 13:2,Genesis 13:5). In addition, the herdsmen of Abraham and Lot did not get along (Genesis 13:7). Thus, to secure ample pasturelands for their flocks and to avoid any further trouble, Abraham suggested they separate. Abraham allowed Lot to take his choice of the land. Lot took advantage of Abraham's generosity and chose the well-watered Jordan Valley where the city of Sodom was located (Genesis 13:8-12).
Some interesting details of the split between Abraham and Lot remind the reader of earlier events in Genesis. For example, the Jordan Valley is described as being well watered “like the garden of the Lord” (Genesis 13:10) reminding one of the story of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. One wonders if Lot would be more successful in this garden spot than Adam and Eve had been. The prospect of success was thrown in doubt by the way Lot's journey is described—he journeyed east, a description that recalls Adam's and Eve's journey after their expulsion from the garden (Genesis 3:24).
The Jordan Valley is also described as being fertile like Egypt (Genesis 13:10). This detail not only recalls Abraham's nearly disastrous journey to Egypt to avoid the famine in Canaan (Genesis 12:10-20) but also foreshadows the journey that Jacob and his family would later make (Genesis 42-50)—a journey that did have disastrous consequences (Exodus 1:8-14).
The mention of the cities of the Jordan Valley also carries negative connotations. One is reminded of the story of the tower of Babel where the people had gathered in one place (they had migrated from the east) to build themselves a city and make a name for themselves, so that they would not be scattered over the face of the earth and live like sojourners (Genesis 11:1-4). One is also reminded that Terah gave up his pilgrimage to Canaan to settle in the city of Haran (Genesis 11:31). To add to the negative connotations that cities have in the stories of Genesis, we are told that the people of Sodom were great sinners against the Lord (Genesis 13:13).
All in all, things did not look as good for Lot as they might at first glance appear when he chose to live in the well-watered Jordan Valley. We begin to see this unfold in Genesis 14:1. Not only was the Jordan Valley attractive to herdsmen like Lot, but the riches of this valley were also attractive to foreign kings. Prominent among them was Chedorlaomer who, along with three other kings, captured and sacked Sodom, taking Lot as prisoner (Genesis 14:1-12). Abraham, upon hearing of Lot's fate, gathered an army and rescued his nephew (Genesis 14:13-16).
Lot is not mentioned again until Genesis 19:1 when two angels visited him. God had already told Abraham that He intended to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 18:20). Abraham interceded on behalf of Sodom, that if ten righteous men were found in Sodom that God would not destroy the city (Genesis 18:32). The two angels were apparently going to Sodom to inspect it. When the angels arrived, Lot received them with hospitality. When the townsmen heard that two strangers were staying with Lot, they wanted to have sexual relations with them. Lot protected his guests and offered them his daughters instead. The townsmen refused this offer and tried unsuccessfully to get the two strangers. For Lot's help, the angels revealed God's desire to destroy Sodom and urged Lot to take his family to the hills to safety. They warned Lot and his family not to look on Sodom. Lot, instead of going to the hills for safety, decided to live in another city (Zohar). In their flight from Sodom, Lot's nameless wife looked at the destruction and turned to a pillar of salt (Genesis 19:1-29). Abraham had rescued Lot, again, (Genesis 19:29; compare Genesis 12:4).
As it turned out, Lot feared to live in the city of Zohar and decided to live in the surrounding caves instead. His daughters, fearing that they would never have offspring, decided to deceive their father into having intercourse with them. They got their father drunk; both conceived a son by him. The son of the eldest daughter was called Moab and became the father of the Moabites. The son of the youngest daughter was named Ben-ammi and became the father of the Ammonites (Genesis 19:30-38). Later in Israel's history, God desired to ensure the place of the Moabites and Ammonites in Palestine (Deuteronomy 2:9). The Moabites and Ammonites betrayed their relationship, however, by joining with Assyria at a later period (Psalms 83:5-8).
In the New Testament, the day of the Son of man is compared to the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah (Luke 17:28-29). The followers of Jesus are warned not to desire their former lives, like Lot's wife, but to be willing instead to lose their lives. Losing one's life is the only way to gain life (Luke 17:32). The story of Lot is also used to show the faithfulness of God to rescue his people (2 Peter 2:7).
These dictionary topics are from the Holman Bible Dictionary, published by Broadman & Holman, 1991. All rights reserved. Used by permission of Broadman & Holman.