Sometimes Lot did the right thing and sometimes he did not. Generally, he seems to have preferred the latter. Let’s examine his career and make some observations concerning the impact he and his descendants had on biblical history.
First of all, he was a nephew to Abram. Scripture specifies two brothers of Abram by name: Haran and Nahor. Further, it is specified that Lot was the son of Haran (Genesis 11:27-28). As the patriarchal narrative begins, we are informed that Haran died in the land of their nativity (Ur of the Chaldeans). We may infer two things about the relationship between Abram and Haran. First, Haran was almost definitely older than Abram in spite of the apparent birth order in the passage. Abram was surely born last, at the time Terah was about 165 years old. Hence, in the event Haran was oldest of the three brothers, he was 95 years older than Abram. In any event, he was probably considerably older than Abram anyway. From that, we may deduce that Lot could well have been as old as or older than his uncle Abram. This was probably not the case because he had minor daughters at the time of the final Sodom disaster, but it is possible.
Terah, at some point in time after the death of Haran, began a migration oriented toward Canaan (Genesis 11:31-32). He died along the way. By the way, the other brother, Nahor seems to have not made the journey from Ur of the Chaldeans. Sometime after the death of Terah, God spoke to Abram and, in so doing, began the patriarchal period in history (Genesis 12:1-3). It is outside our scope here to “prove” that God spoke to Abram after the death of Terah, but the argument is compelling that the events followed that order. Otherwise, God would violate Terah’s rights as a father.
Later, up to about five years let’s say, Abram began to follow the Lord’s instructions. It turns out that God had in mind the destination for which Terah had set out. Now, in the context of the instruction of God, Abram was continuing that journey. When Abram left the place of his father’s death, he was accompanied by his wife, Sarai, and his nephew, Lot. The three were accompanied by what appears to have been quite a company of servants who tended flocks and took care of the needs of the camp. It seems clear that Lot was accompanying his uncle and not the other way around. It must have been the case that the relationship between them was close enough to permit their being together as a single group of people in this way. At the same time, it also seems clear that ownership was not shared. Each had his own herds and servants. They might well have encamped, as they moved about, in such a way as to keep clear separations but provide for mutual welfare.
Lot moved down to Egypt with Abram during the famine. This must be so because Lot moved back to Canaan afterwards (Genesis 13:1). If the famine drove Abram to make that decision to go, and if the two typically shared locations, then Lot would have gone along to Egypt and back, because he would have the same economic motivations as Abram. Hence, after the Egyptian journey, they were both to be found in the vicinity of Bethel (Genesis 13:5).
As the camps of the two men grew, it became difficult for their camps to get along, and quarreling broke out between their servants regarding access to resources. Eventually, Abram saw they could not continue to maintain the two camps together where they were, and they would need to move the two camps away from one another or there would be too much trouble. Abram, as the more senior of the two of them, brought the issue to Lot, and they agreed on the manner of their separation. Abram clearly had the authority to decide the outcome, but he deferred to Lot as to the directions each would take (Genesis 3:8-11). The implication of scripture is that the wisdom of Abram had saved them from an unpleasant break, and they parted as close kinsmen on good terms. As we shall see, though, it was a permanent separation.
Lot saw what he saw. There is no need for us to judge his choice. The man of greater stature had offered him the choice of land holdings, and he had decided to take what he was most attracted to. There was no fault to be found in him for his choice. Even his motivations were not suspect, per-se. However, scripture hints that from that point a real separation grew up between the two men. There can be no doubt that they were able to maintain contact. There were no restrictions to travel that would preclude sending messages or even visiting one another from time to time. In scripture, though, there is no mention of any contact after the separation, other than at the time of Lot’s rescue by Abram.
There are three main features of this separation at the time it happened. First, Lot was exposed to the culture of the people of the plains and even moved near to Sodom, which appears to have been an epicenter of their corruption. Second, Abram was visited again by the Lord. Third, Abram moved to another locale as well. The locale near Sodom proved pivotal to Lot, and the locale of Hebron proved pivotal to Abram. In a spiritual sense, these two places mark the very different destinies of the two men.
Lot appears to become involved with the people of the plains fairly soon after his moving in their direction. By the time the Babylonian confederation made their raid into that region a few years later, Lot had made his residence in Sodom. It may be that he was still a man who earned his living with his herds and flocks, but his urban residence makes that very unlikely. More likely, he sold his herds and flocks and released his servants in his efforts to become one of the men of the plains. In Sodom, he would likely have been a fairly wealthy man, at least initially. However, he had lost his identity and heritage in the transition. So, when the fellows from around Babylon showed up, he was simply captured along with the other locals, and his wealth was taken from him in the process.
We know that Abram rescued Lot. The king of Sodom did not rescue Lot nor any of his other constituents. It was Abram who effected the rescue and returned the people and their property home to Sodom. During the journey back to the home of the captives, we can be sure Abram and Lot spent time together. Lot was the reason Abram became involved in the rescue to begin with. We know nothing, however, about their conversations or the state of their relationship by that time. Perhaps Abram was only rescuing a relative, not a beloved kinsman.
Later (maybe a few years), God visited Abram with the promise he would have a son to be his heir. If it had ever been true that Abram thought of Lot as a potential heir, the man he found in Sodom would have been a serious disappointment to him. Now, though, there was to be an actual son in the mix. Good news!
In the meantime, Lot was increasingly insinuated into life as a man of the city in the plains (Genesis 19:9). More than twenty years (perhaps almost thirty) passed after the two men had parted company, and Lot was no longer a man of the flocks and herds. The opportunity to reverse his course at the time of his rescue by Abram had passed. Lot’s course was set.
We all know the story of the coming of the messengers of God to the city to announce its destruction. The messengers instructed Lot to take his family and depart, and he complied. The men of the city had turned against him anyway, so there would be no place for him there even if destruction were not coming. The destruction came, and Lot and his family, except for his wife, escaped the doom. The conditions set by the angels (Genesis 19:17-22) were firm. Lot could not look back to the place that many years earlier had attracted his eye.
Lot had, he believed, saved the lives of the messengers of God. Of course, they had actually saved him at the very door of his house. His effort on their behalf, nonetheless, was a kind of salvation in itself, because in that effort he stood against wickedness. He was reckoned righteous by God (2 Peter 2:4-8), for this, if for no other reason. Abraham had reckoned that he was righteous as well (Genesis 18:16-21, by inference).
In another look at these lives, we will consider the birth of Lot’s sons and the future of their descendants as thorns in the lives of the descendants of Abraham. There is quite a bit more analysis of the lives of these relations of Abraham. For now, though, let’s be content that we have discovered Lot’s departure from what he knew when he left Bethel. This led him to a life of inner conflict between what he knew and what attracted his eye.
This was LOT’S LOT.