1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Lot

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LOT, in the Bible, the legendary ancestor of the two Palestinian peoples, Moab and Ammon (Gen. xix. 30-38; cp. Ps. lxxxiii. 8); he appears to have been represented as a Horite or Edomite (cp. the name Lotan, Gen. xxxvi. 20, 22). As the son of Haran and grandson of Terah, he was Abraham’s nephew (Gen. xi. 31), and he accompanied his uncle in his migration from Haran to Canaan. Near Bethel[1] Lot separated from Abraham, owing to disputes between their shepherds, and being offered the first choice, chose the rich fields of the Jordan valley which were as fertile and well irrigated as the “garden of Yahweh” (i.e. Eden, Gen. xiii. 7 sqq.). It was in this district that the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah were situated. He was saved from their fate by two divine messengers who spent the night in his house, and next morning led Lot, his wife, and his two unmarried daughters out of the city. His wife looked back and was changed to a pillar of salt,[2] but Lot with his two daughters escaped first to Zoar and then to the mountains east of the Dead Sea, where the daughters planned and executed an incest by which they became the mothers of Moab and Ben-Ammi (i.e. Ammon; Gen. xix.). The account of Chedorlaomer’s invasion and of Lot’s rescue by Abraham belongs to an independent source (Gen. xiv.), the age and historical value of which has been much disputed. (See further Abraham; Melchizedek.) Lot’s character is made to stand in strong contrast with that of Abraham, notably in the representation of his selfishness (xiii. 5 sqq.), and reluctance to leave the sinful city (xix. 16 sqq.); relatively, however, he was superior to the rest (with the crude story of his insistence upon the inviolable rights of guests, xix. 5 sqq.; cf. Judges xix. 22 sqq.), and is regarded in 2 Pet. ii. 7 seq. as a type of righteousness.

Lot and his daughters passed into Arabic tradition from the Jews. The daughters are named Zahy and Ra’wa by Mas’ūdī ii. 139; but other Arabian writers give other forms. Paton (Syria and Palestine, pp. 43, 123) identifies Lot-Lotan with Ruten, one of the Egyptian names for Palestine; its true meaning is obscure. For traces of mythical elements in the story see Winckler, Altorient. Forsch. ii. 87 seq. See further, J. Skinner, Genesis, pp. 310 sqq.  (S. A. C.) 

  1. The district is thus regarded as the place where the Hebrews, on the one side, and the Moabites and Ammonites, on the other, commence their independent history. Whilst the latter settle across the Jordan, Abraham moves down south to Hebron.
  2. Tradition points to the Jebel Usdum (cp. the name Sodom) at the S.W. end of the Dead Sea. It consists almost entirely of pure crystallized salt with pillars and pinnacles such as might have given rise to the story (see Driver, Genesis, p. 201; and cf. also Palestine Explor. Fund, Quart. Statements, 1871, p. 16, 1885, p. 20; Conder, Syrian Stone-lore, p. 279 seq.). Jesus cites the story of Lot and his wife to illustrate the sudden coming of the Kingdom of God (Luke xvii. 28-32). The history of the interpretation of the legend by the early and medieval church down to the era of rational and scientific investigation will be found in A. D. White, Warfare of Science with Theology, ii. ch. xviii.