Lot (Heb. id., לוֹט, a covering, as in Isa 25:7; Sept. and N.T. Λώτ, Josephus Αῶτος; occurs Ge 11:27,31; Ge 12:4-5; Ge 13:1-14; Ge 14:12,16; Ge 19:1-15,18,23,29-30,36; De 2:9,19; Ps 83:8; Lu 17:28-29,32; 2Pe 2:7), the son of Haran and nephew of Abraham (Ge 11:27). His sisters were Milcah, the wife of Nahor, and Iscah, by some identified with Sarah. [In our treatment of the history, we freely avail ourselves of the articles in Kitto and Smith.] The following genealogy exhibits the family relations:
By the early death of his father (Ge 11:28), he was left in charge of his grandfather Terah, with whom he migrated to Haran, B.C. 2089 (Ge 11:31), and the latter dying there, he had already come into possession of his property when he accompanied Abraham into the land of Canaan, B.C. 2088 (Ge 12:5), and thence into Egypt, B.C. 2087
(Ge 12:10), and back again, by the way of the Philistines, B.C. 2086 (Ge 20:1), to the southern part of Canaan again, B.C. 2085 (Ge 13:1). Their united substance, consisting chiefly in cattle, was not then too large to prevent them from living together in one encampment. Eventually, however, their possessions were so greatly increased that they were obliged to separate, and Abraham, with rare generosity, conceded the choice of pasture-grounds to his nephew. Lot availed himself of this liberality of his uncle, as he deemed most for his own advantage, by fixing his abode at Sodom, that his flocks might pasture in and around that fertile and well-watered neighborhood (Ge 13:5-13). He had soon very great reason to regret this choice; for although his flocks fed well, his soul was starved in that vile place, the inhabitants of which were sinners before the Lord exceedingly. There "he vexed his righteous soul from day to day with the filthy conversation of the wicked" (2Pe 2:7).
Not many years after his separation from Abraham (B.C. 2080), Lot was carried away prisoner by Chedorlaomer, along with the other inhabitants of Sodom, and was rescued and brought back by Abraham (Genesis 14), as related under other heads. SEE ABRAHAM; SEE CHEDORLAOMER. This exploit procured for Abraham much celebrity in Canaan; and it ought to have procured for Lot respect and gratitude from the people of Sodom, who had been delivered from hard slavery and restored to their homes on his account. But this does not appear to have been the result.
At length (B.C. 2064) the guilt of "the cities of the plain" brought down the signal judgments of heaven (Ge 19:1-29). Lot is still living in Sodom (Genesis 19), a well-known resident, with wife, sons, and daughters — married and marriageable. The rabbinical tradition is that he was actually "judge" of Sodom, and sat in the gate in that capacity. (See quotations in Otho, Lex. Rabbini. s.v. Loth and Sodomah.) But in the midst of the licentious corruption of Sodom — the eating and drinking, the buying and selling, the planting and building (Lu 17:28), and of the darker evils exposed in the ancient narrative — he still preserves some of the delightful characteristics of his wandering life, his fervent and chivalrous hospitality (Lu 19:2,8), the unleavened bread of the tent of the wilderness (verse 3), the water for the feet of the wayfarers (verse 2), affording his guests a reception identical with that which they had experienced that very morning in Abraham's tent on the heights of Hebron (Ge 18:3,6). It is this hospitality which receives the commendation of the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews in words that have passed into a familiar proverb, "Be not forgetful to entertain strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares" (Heb 13:2). On the other hand, it is his deliverance from the guilty and condemned city — the one just man in that mob of sensual, lawless wretches — which points the allusion of St. Peter, to "the godly delivered out of temptations, the unjust reserved unto the day of judgment to be punished, an ensample to those that after should live ungodly" (2Pe 2:6-9). The avenging angels, after having been entertained by Abraham, repaired to Sodom, where they were received and entertained by Lot who was sitting in the gate of the town when they arrived. While they were at supper the house was beset by a number of men, who demanded that the strangers should be given up to them, for the unnatural purposes which have given a name of infamy to Sodom in all generations. Lot resisted this demand, and was loaded with abuse by the vile fellows outside on that account. They had nearly forced the door, when the angels, thus awfully by their own experience convinced of the righteousness of the doom they came to execute, smote them with instant blindness, by which their attempts were rendered abortive, and they were constrained to disperse. Towards morning the angels apprised Lot of the doom which hung over the place, and urged him to hasten thence with his family. He was allowed to extend the benefit of this deliverance to the families of his daughters who had married in Sodom; but the warning was received by those families with incredulity and insult, and he therefore left Sodom accompanied only by his wife and two daughters. As they went, being hastened by the angels, the wife, anxious for those who had been left behind, or reluctant to remove from the place which had long been her home, and where much valuable property was necessarily left behind, lingered behind the rest, and was suddenly involved in the destruction by which — smothered and stiffened as she stood by saline incrustations — she became "a pillar of salt" (Ge 19:1-26). This narrative has often been regarded as one of the "difficulties" of the Bible. But it surely need not be so. Even under the above extreme view of the suddenness of the event, the circumstances appear to be all sufficiently accounted for. In the sacred record the words are simply these: "His wife looked back from behitnd him, and became a pillar of salt;" words which neither in themselves nor in their position in the narrative afford any serious difficulty, even without the supposition of a miracle. It is true that, when taken with want has gone before, they seem to imply (verses 22, 23) that the work of destruction by fire (did not commence till after Lot had entered Zoar. The storm, however, may have overtaken her in consequence of her delay. Later ages have not been satisfied to leave the matter, but have insisted on identifying the "Pillar" with some one of the fleeting forms which the perishable rock of the south end of the Dead Sea is constantly assuming in its process of decomposition and liquefaction (Anderson's Off. Narr. page 180). The first allusion of this kind is perhaps that in Wisd. 10:7, where "a standing pillar of salt, the monument (μνημεῖον) of an unbelieving soul," is mentioned with the "waste land that smoketh," and the "plants bearing fruit that never come to ripeness," as remaining to that day, a testimony to the wickedness of Sodom. This notion was regarded by the Roman Catholics as scriptural authority that might not be disputed. See the quotations from the fathers and others in Hofmann's Lexikon (s.v. Lot), and in Mislin, Lieux Saints (3:224). Josephus also (Ant. 1:11, 4) says that he had seen it, and that it was then remaining. So, too, do Clemens Romanus (Epist. 1:11) and Irenaeus (4:51, 64). So does Benjamin of Tudela, whose account is more than usually circumstantial (ed. Asher, 1:72). Rabbi Petachia, on the other hand, looked for it, but "did not see it; it no longer exists" (ed. Benisch, page 61). The same statement is to be found in travelers of every age, certainly of our own times (see Maundrell, March 30). The origin of these traditions relative to this pillar has lately been satisfactorily explained by the discovery by the American party under Lieut. Lynch of an actual column still standing on the south-western shore of the Dead Sea, at, a place retaining the traces of the name of Sodom in the form of Usdum, of which he gives a pictorial sketch, describing it as a round pillar, about forty feet high, on a lofty pedestal, standing detached from the general mass of the mountain, of solid salt, slightly decreasing in size upwards, and capped with carbonate of lime; but, although himself a Catholic, he admits, with scientific candor, that it is merely the result of the action of the winter rains upon the rock-salt hills, which the cap of limestone has here protected, leaving the surrounding parts to wash aways till a columnn has thus gradually been carved out (Narrative of Expedition, pages 307,308). Prof. Palmer also visited this singular object, called by the Arabs Bint Sheik Lot, or "Lot's [daughter] wife." He describes and gives a view of it as "a tall isolated needle of rock, which really does bear a curious resemblance to an Arab woman with a child upon her shoulder. The Arab legend of Lot's wife differs from the Bible account only in the addition of a few frivolous details. They say that there were seven cities of the plain, and that they were all miraculously overwhelmed by the Dead Sea as a punishment for their crimes. The prophet Lot and his family alone escaped the general destruction. He was divinely warned to take all that he had and flee eastward, a strict injunction being given that they should not look behind them. Lot's wife, who had on previous occasions ridiculed her husband's prophetic office, disobeyed the command, and, turning to gaze upon the scene of the disaster, was changed into this pillar of rock" (Desert of the Exodus [Harper's], page 396 sq.). The expression of our Lord, "Remember Lot's wife" (Lu 17:32), appears from the context to be solely intended as an illustration of the danger of going back or delaying in the day of God's judgments. From this text, indeed, it would appear as if Lot's wife had gone back or had tarried so long behind in the desire of saving some of their property. Then, as it would seem, she was struck dead, and became a stiffened corpse, fixed for the time to the soil by saline or bituminous incrustations. The particle of similitude must here, as in many other passages of Scripture, be understood, "like a pillar of salt." See Nagel, De culpa uxoris Loti (Altdorf; 1755); Distel, De salute uxoris Lothi (Altd. 1721); Waller, Diss. de statua sal. uxoris Loti (Lipsia, 1764); Wolle, De facto et fato uxoris Loti (Lips. 1730); Schwollmann, Comm. qua de uxore L. in statuam sal. conversa dubitatur (Hamburg, 1749); Milom, Sendschr. u. d. Salzsaule in die L.'s Weib vervandelt worden (Hamb. 1767); Clerici, Diss. de statua salina, in his Comment. in Gen.; Tieroff, De statua salis (Jen. 1657); Muller, idem (Helmstadt, 1764); Oedmann, Samml. 3:145; Bauer, Hebr. Geschichte, 1:131; Maii Observat. sacr. 1:168 sq.; H.v.d. Hardt, Ephem. philol. Page 67 sq.; Jenisch, Eriorter zweier wichtig. Schriftstellen (Hamb. 1761); Michaelis and Rosenmüller on Ge 19:26; Gesenius, Thesaur. Heb. page 72.
Lot and his daughters meanwhile had hastened on to Zoar (q.v.), the smallest of the five cities of the plain, which had been spared on purpose to afford him a refuge; but, being fearful, after what had passed, to remain among a people so corrupted, he soon retired to a cavern in the neighboring mountains. and there abode (Ge 19:30). After some stay in this place, the daughters of Lot became apprehensive lest the family of their father should be lost for want of descendants, than which no greater calamity was known or apprehended in those times; and in the belief that, after what had passed in Sodom, there was no hope of their obtaining suitable husbands, they, by a contrivance which has in it the taint of Sodom, in which they were brought up, made their father drunk with wine, and in that state seduced him into an act which, as they well knew, would in soberness have been most abhorrent to him. They thus became the mothers, and he the father, of two sons, named Moab and Ammon, from whom sprung the Moabites and Ammonites, so often mentioned in the Hebrew history (Ge 19:31-38). With respect to Lot's daughters, Whiston and others are unable to see any wicked intention in them. He admits that the incest was a horrid crime, except under the unavoidable necessity which apparently rendered it the only means of preserving the human race; and this justifying necessity he holds to have existed in their minds, as they appear to have believed that all the inhabitants of the land had been destroyed except their father and themselves. But it is incredible that they could have entertained any such belief. The city of Zoar had been spared, and they had been there. The wine also with which they made their father drunk must have been procured from men, as we cannot suppose they had brought it with them from Sodom. The fact would therefore seem to be that, after the fate of their sisters, who had married men of Sodom and perished with them, they became alive to the danger and impropriety of marrying with the natives of the lad, and of the importance of preserving the family connection. The force of this consideration was afterwards seen in Abraham's sending to the seat of his family in Mesopotamia for a wife to Isaac. But Lot's daughters could not go there to seek husbands; and the only branch of their own family within many hundred miles was that of Abraham, whose only son, Ishmael, was then a child. This, therefore, must have appeared to them the only practicable mode in which the house of their father could be preserved. Their making their father drunk, and their solicitous concealment of what they did from him, show that they despaired of persuading him to an act which, under any circumstances, and with every possible extenuation, must have been very distressing to so good a man. That he was a good man is evinced by his deliverance from among the guilty, and is affirmed by an apostle (2Pe 2:7); his preservation is alluded to by our Savior (Lu 17:18, etc.); and in De 2:9,19, and Ps 83:9, his name is honorably used to designate the Moabites and Ammonites, his descendants. This account of the origin of the nations of Moab and Ammon has often been treated as if it were a Hebrew legend which owed its origin to the bitter hatred existing from the earliest to the latest times between the "children of Lot" and the children of Israel. The horrible nature of the transaction — not the result of impulse or passion, but a plan calculated and carried out, and that not once, but twice, would prompt the wish that the legendary theory were true. But even the most destructive critics (as, for instance, Tuch) allow that the narrative is a continuation without a break of that which precedes it, while they fail to point out any marks of later date in the language of this portion; and it cannot be questioned that the writer records it as a historical fact. Even if the legendary theory were admissible, there is no doubt of the fact that Ammon and Moab sprang from Lot. It is affirmed in the statements of De 2:9,19, as well as in the later document of Ps 33:8, which Ewald ascribes to the time when Nehemiah and his newly- returned colony were suffering from the attacks and obstructions of ''Obiah the Ammonite and Sanballat the Horonite (Ewald, Dichter, Psalm 83).
This circumstance is the last which the Scripture records of the history of Lot, and the time and place of his death are unknown. A traditional respect has been shown to his memory (also that of his wife, who is called Edith, עידיה [one of his daughters being called Plutith, פלוטית, in the tract Pirke Elieser, chapter 25) by the Talmudists (see Otho's Lex. Rabb. page 389) and Arabs (see Herbelot, Biblioth. Orient. 2:495); and the Mohammedans still point out his grave in the village of Beni-Nain, east of Hebron (Robinson, Researches, 2:187). For the pretty legend of the repentance of Lot, and of the tree that he planted, which, being cut down for use in the building of the Temple, was afterwards employed for the cross, see Fabricius, Cod. Pseudep. V.T. pages 428-431. The Mohammedan traditions of Lot are contained in the Koran, chiefly in chapter 7 and 11; others are given by D'Herbelot (s.v. Loth). According to these statements, he was sent to the inhabitants of the five cities as a preacher, to warn them against the unnatural and horrible sins which they practiced — sins which Mohammed is continually denouncing, but with less success than that of drunkenness, since the former is perhaps the most common, the latter the rarest vice of Eastern cities. From Lot's connection with the inhabitants of Sodom, his name is now given not only to the vice in question (Freytag, Lexicon, 4:136 a), but also to the people of the five cities themselves — the Lothi, or Kaum Loth. The local name of the Dead Sea is Bahr Lut-Sea of Lot. See Niemeyer, Charakt. 2:185 sq.; Blaufurs, Le Loti hospitalitate (Jena, 1751); Korner, De indole genesrorum Lothi (Weissenf. 1755); Seidenstruicker, in the Schleswig Journal, 1792, volume 6, and in Hencke's Magaz. 3:67 sq.; Bauer, Mythol. d. Hebr. 1:238 sq.; Kitto's Daily Bible Illust. ad loc.