07 August 2011

Righteous Lot

Lot (Hebrew: לוֹט, Modern Lot Tiberian Lôṭ ; "veil"; "hidden, covered") is a person from the Book of Genesis chapters 11-14 and 19, in the Hebrew Bible. Notable episodes in his life include his travels with his uncle Abram (Abraham, the Patriarch of Israel); his flight from the Kingdom of Sodom, in the course of which Lot's wife looked back and turned into a pillar of salt; and the seduction by his daughters so that they could bear children.

Both Christians and Muslims revere Lot as a righteous man of God. The Biblical stories of drunkenness and incest attributed to Lot are absent in the Qur'an, being rejected by Muslims – Lot is venerated as a Prophet of Islam.

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. 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, who would later be known as 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 plains on the outskirts of the Kingdom of Sodom. He and his family were settled there for about eight years until Genesis 14:1-10 speaks of the rebellion against Elam that broke out. At that time, the king of Sodom, king Bera, was under subjection to the nation of Elam for twelve years, ruled by king Chedorlaomer. A year later, king Bera aligned with neighboring kings to rebel against Chedorlaomer's rule. The next year the two major alliances were joined in battles that involved at least nine kings. One of the battles took place in the vale of Siddim. King Bera of Sodom and king Birsha of Gomorrah, who were allies, took heavy losses and fled, leaving behind their kingdoms for the taking.

All of the foods and goods of Sodom and Gomorrah were seized. Even Lot was taken captive and all of his possessions confiscated, since he was living in the district.[v.11,12] When Abram received news of what had happened to his nephew, he assembled three hundred and eighteen trained servants and went in pursuit to the north to Dan, and then as far as Hobah north of Damascus. Abram and his men caught up with King Chedorlaomer of Elam and defeated him, freeing Lot and recovering all of the possessions that were taken, even the goods and captives from Sodom. Abram returned everything to Sodom and even met King Bera who was much obliged by what he was able to retrieve.[v.13-17] However, Abram's actions were only on behalf of his nephew, and for the vindication of his Lord.[v.14,22] Thus, Abram refused any reward from the King of Sodom, other than the share his three allies were entitled to.[v.21-24]

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.
That night, after supper, just before bedtime, the men of the city rallied up around Lot’s house demanding to "know" their guests which means to have same-sex intercourse. Lot objected, by offering up his virgin daughters to them to do with as they pleased even though they were already matrimonially spoken for. His response infuriated the inhabitants because they didn’t want an alien resident judging them accordingly. Meaning that they refused to have sex with his daughters because they wanted the men who were in Lot's home. Then before they could break into the house, the angels struck the intruders with blindness. This allowed a small window of opportunity for Lot to make preparations for him and his loved ones to leave. (Genesis 19:3-14)

Before dawn arrives, ready or not, they had to leave. Lot tries to convince his daughters betrothed to leave with them but they think he's joking. Lot expressed some hesitancy about leaving, but the angels grabbed the hands of Lot, his wife and two daughters, and brought them out of the city limits giving the orders: "Flee for your lives! Don't look back, and don't stop anywhere in the plain! Flee to the mountains or you will be swept away!" (Genesis 19:16,17)

Initially, Lot was opposed to fleeing to the mountains, so he adamantly requested to take refuge in the small town of Zoar, just beyond Sodom's city limits. Granted his request, while they were en route, in the middle of the night, Lot's wife turned looking back at Sodom disregarding the angel's order and thus was turned into a pillar of salt.(Genesis 19:18-26)

As soon as Lot and his daughters made it to Zoar, at daybreak, the heavens opened up raining down fire and sulfur upon the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah until they were completely and utterly destroyed, including all surrounding properties.[v.23-25] Even from where Abraham was, in an elevated region, he could see the dense smoke billowing up into the heavens from the ruined cities.[v.27,28]

Lot became very much afraid by the destruction of Sodom and felt that his safety in Zoar was just as much in jeopardy. With the loss of his wife on the back of his mind, he decided that it would be best to retreat to the mountains as was originally asked of him by the angels of deliverance. There, they found a suitable cave to dwell in.[v.30]

Here was a family who at one time had everything. They had livestock, wealth from Egypt, and a large family. With the destruction of their city came huge losses: their home and all of their possessions, each of the girl’s fiancés,[Gen.19:14] and most notably the loss of a wife who was mother. Now, they are nothing but three cave dwellers.

They spent a long time in seclusion and they were aging. The oldest daughter had become concerned about preserving their family line and suggested to her younger sister that since there are no men around, they ought to take advantage of their father.[v.31,32]

Thus, the daughters got their father so drunk they were able to have intercourse with him on two consecutive nights, the oldest daughter having her way with him the first night, followed by the youngest daughter on the following night.[v.31-35] Interestingly, the text says that Lot was so drunk “he was not aware of it when she lay down or when she got up.”[v.33,35] This text suggests a justification for an action that was not considered normal.

In their age, it was not unusual for interfamily members to marry. In fact, it was customary amongst nieces and nephews[Gen.11:27,29] in order to keep pure bloodlines, even such as Abraham who had married his half-sister.[Gen.20:11,12] However, in the case of Lot and his daughters, it was obviously not a favorable option for what the girls had done, based on the justification of Gen.19:33,35. Subsequently, considering the circumstances of their plight and surviving the bloodlines, the girls felt that there was no other choice.[v.31] As a result, a child was born to each of them.[v.36] To the oldest daughter, she conceived Moab (Hebrew, lit., "from the father" [meh-Av]), father of the Moabites.[v.37] To the youngest daughter she conceived, Ben-Ammi (Hebrew, lit., "Son of my people"), father of the Ammonites.[v.38]

The incest that occurred 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, biblical scholars such as Jacob Milgrom, Victor P. Hamilton, and Cakum Carmichael, postulate that the Levitical Laws could not have been developed the way they were, without controversial issues surrounding the Patriarchs of Israel, especially in regards to incest. Carmichael even attributes the entire formulation of the Levitical laws on the lives of the founding fathers of the nation, such as: Abraham, Jacob, Judah, Moses and David who were outstanding figures in Israelite tradition, including the righteous Lot.

According to the above mentioned scholars, the Patriarchs of Israel are the key to understanding how the Priestly laws concerning incest has developed. Incest amongst the patriarchs are as follows: Abraham marries his half-sister; Sarai[Gen.20:11,12] Abraham's brother, Nahor, marries their niece; Milcah [Gen.11:27-29] Isaac marries Rebekah his first cousin, once removed;[Gen.27:42,43;29:10] Jacob marries two sisters who are his first cousins [Gen.29:10,Ch.29] and Moses's parents are 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.

There are other scholars who 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 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]

In the Bereshit 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:

Abraham took care of Lot after Haran was burned in a gigantic fire in which Nimrod, King of Babylon, tried to kill Abraham.

While in Egypt, the Midrash gives Lot much credit because, despite his desire for wealth, he did not inform Pharaoh of Sarah's secret, that she was Abraham's wife.

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 Luke 17:20-32, the Pharisees asked Jesus when the Kingdom of God would come. This triggered a topic that Jesus addressed his disciples about, concerning "the days of the Son of Man". In his discourse, he likened this time to the days of Lot and reminded his followers about what happened to this man's wife.

Simon Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, reminded the Early Christians about Sodom and Gomorrah and spoke of Lot as being a righteous man amongst the wicked...
"and turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah into ashes, condemned them to destruction, making them an example to those who afterward would live ungodly; and delivered righteous Lot, who was oppressed by the filthy conduct of the wicked (for that righteous man, dwelling among them, tormented his righteous soul from day to day by seeing and hearing their lawless deeds)"
- 2 Peter 2:6-8 (NKJV)
Lut or Lot (Arabic: لوط‎) (circa 1900 BC?), is the Islamic version of the Hebrew Bible's Lot. He is considered to be a messenger of Islam and an Islamic prophet in the Qur'an.

According to Islamic tradition, Lut lived in Ur and was a nephew of Ibrahim (Abraham). He migrated with Abraham to Canaan in Palestine. He 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 God to go to the land of Sodom and Gomorrah to preach to his people on monotheism and to stop them from their lustful and violent acts. Lot's messages were ignored by the inhabitants, thus, Sodom and Gomorrah were subsequently destroyed.

Some major differences between the story of Lot in the Qur'an and the story of Lot in the Bible is that the Hebrew version of Lot's wife leaves Sodom with her husband, looks back, and is turned into a pillar of salt. In the Qur'an, Lot's wife stays behind in the city and is destroyed.

The Hebrew text also includes the subsequent story of Lot being induced to incestuous relations with his own daughters. The Qur'an says that Lot is a prophet, and holds that all prophets were examples of moral and spiritual rectitude. Though clear in the Hebrew story that Lot did not consent to this action, in Islam these stories of incest are considered to be false.

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