Reprinted with permission from Who’s Who in the Hebrew Bible (The Jewish Publication Society).
Lot was the son of Haran, grandson of Terah, and nephew of Abraham. He was born in Ur of the Chaldeans, a Sumerian city in the Euphrates valley, near the head of the Persian Gulf. He was the eleventh generation from Noah, through the line of Shem.
After Haran died, Terah took his son Abram, his daughter-in-law Sarai, and his grandson Lot and traveled to the city of Haran, which lay between the Euphrates and Tigris Rivers in northern Aram, near the modern border between Syria and Turkey.
After the death of Terah at the age of 205, Abram, who was then 75 years old, took Sarai and Lot to the land of Canaan. Abraham became very wealthy and owned flocks, herds, and tents.
Years went by, and Lot also became a wealthy man, owning flocks, herds, and tents. He continued to live with his uncle Abram. Their proximity caused problems between their respective herdsmen, who started arguing and fighting over the limited grazing area that was available for their animals.
Abram, trying to find a solution to this problem, proposed that he and Lot should separate amicably and move to new territory. Abram gave Lot first choice, and he settled in the well-watered valley of the Jordan, near the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah.
Abram went to live in the plain of Mamre, near Hebron, and built there an altar to God, who renewed His promise to give all the land that Abram could see to him and his descendants.
Sodom and Gomorrah
Chedorlaomer, king of Elam, was the overlord of several kingdoms. Bera, king of Sodom, was one of his vassals. After serving him for 12 years, Bera and four other kings rebelled and formed an alliance.
Chedorlaomer and his allies–King Amraphel of Shinar, King Arioch of Ellasar, and King Tidal–fought against them in the valley of Sidim, in the region of the Dead Sea, and defeated them. The victors took a number of prisoners, including Lot, and returned to their own countries, loaded with all the goods from Sodom and Gomorrah that they could carry.
A man who managed to escape from Chedorlaomer came to Abram and told him that Lot had been captured and was being taken away. Abram armed 318 of his servants and–with his allies Aner, Eshkol, and Mamre–pursued the four kings, until he caught up with them near the city of Dan.
There, he divided his men in groups; attacked the enemy that night; and defeated them, chasing them back as far as Hobah, near Damascus. He succeeded in recovering all the stolen loot. He liberated Lot and brought him to Sodom with all his possessions; the women who had been captured and other prisoners were also recovered.
Sometime later, God told Abraham that the sins of Sodom and Gomorrah were very great and that He was going to destroy the cities. Abram–who was then called Abraham, a name given to him by God–argued and bargained with God, trying to convince Him not to destroy the city, because there may be a few innocent people there. God promised Abraham that He would not destroy the city if as few as ten innocent men could be found.
That evening, two angels came to Sodom. Lot, who was sitting in the gate of the city, rose to meet them and invited them to stay at his house. They, at first, refused the invitation but accepted after Lot insisted.
The visitors dined with Lot and his family, and they were getting ready to go to bed when the men of Sodom surrounded the house and demanded that Lot hand them the visitors, whom they intended to rape. Lot went out of the house, closing the door behind him and implored the men not to commit such a wicked act.
He offered to give them his two virgin daughters, to do with them what they wanted. The men of Sodom screamed that Lot was a foreigner, and had no right to tell them what to do. They pressed against him and tried to break down the door. The visitors pulled Lot inside the house and shut the door.
The men outside were stricken with blindness and could not find the entrance. The visitors told Lot to take all the members of his household out of the city, because God had sent them to destroy it. Lot went to his sons-in-law and told them to leave the city, because God was going to destroy it. The sons-in-law laughed and thought that Lot was joking.
Early next morning, the angels urged Lot to take his wife and his two daughters and flee the city. When he delayed needlessly, the angels seized his hand, and the hands of his wife and daughters, and brought them out of the city.
They told Lot and his family to escape to the hills, and warned them not to look back. Lot told them that he would not be able to get that far and to allow them to find refuge in a small nearby town. The angels agreed and told him that the little town, called Zoar, would not be destroyed.
The sun was rising when Lot entered Zoar, and God rained sulfurous fire on Sodom and Gomorrah, destroying both cities and annihilating their inhabitants. Lot’s wife looked back and was turned into a pillar of salt. Lot, afraid of staying in Zoar, left the town with his two daughters and went to the hills, where they lived in a cave.
The two daughters believed that no man had been left alive, but they were anxious to have children. They made their father drunk and laid with him. The eldest one gave birth to a son, whom she called Moab; he was the ancestor of the Moabites. The youngest one also had a son, and called him Ben-ammi, the ancestor of the Ammonites.