Lot Character Bible Study – Background and Lessons From Genesis 19

Suggested Passages to Read: Genesis 11:27-31, 12:4-5, 13:1-14, 19, 2 Peter 2:7-8

Name: Lot

Meaning of name: Covering, veil

Ancestry and family life: Lot was a Semite. Terah was the father of Abram, Nahor, and Haran. And Haran was the father of Lot. Lot was the nephew of Abram and the cousin of Isaac.

When and where he lived: Lot lived in Mesopotamia. It is the land of modern day Syria, Iraq, and Turkey. Note that the Biblical text (Genesis 11:31) says that Terah’s family left “Ur of the Chaldeans.” The Chaldeans were a people group who eventually established the Babylonian Empire. There is evidence that the city Ur is modern day Tell el-Muqayyar, which is in Southern Iraq. Next Terah’s family skirted the desert and traveled Northwest to Haran, which is just north of the border between Syria and Turkey. After staying there for sometime Abram and Lot continued South to Canaan, what would later be referred to as the Promised Land.

(Image from: https://www.biblestudy.org/maps/journey-of-abraham-to-promised-land-and-egypt.html)

Mesopotamia was home to the earliest known civilizations. After the flood Babel became the center of human culture, and they congregated there to build a great city. When God confused their languages at the Tower of Babel, people groups began to scatter. They populated many settlements and cities throughout the regions. These city states each had their own king and operated as independent nations who often made regional alliances.

Archaeology shows us that the people of that time were very religious. City states had temples where shrines were built to honor local Sumerian patron deities such as Innana. Temples were built on the top of ziggurats to help them be seen by the whole city and get as close to heaven as possible.

There is debate about when exactly Lot and Abraham lived, but most of these estimates fall from about 2000-2300 BC.

Lot lived in the Biblical patriarchal time period. It was a time when the ancestors of Israel lived as nomadic people in tents throughout the land of Canaan.

Events surrounding birth: No info.

Training and occupation:

Genesis 13:2-7 – Now Abram was very rich in livestock, in silver, and in gold. And he journeyed on from the Negeb as far as Bethel to the place where his tent had been at the beginning, between Bethel and Ai, to the place where he had made an altar at the first. And there Abram called upon the name of the Lord. And Lot, who went with Abram, also had flocks and herds and tents, so that the land could not support both of them dwelling together; for their possessions were so great that they could not dwell together, and there was strife between the herdsmen of Abram’s livestock and the herdsmen of Lot’s livestock. At that time the Canaanites and the Perizzites were dwelling in the land.

Lot is identified as the owner of large flocks and herds. He was likely familiar with shepherding although at this point he was rich enough that he didn’t have to watch over the flocks himself. Instead his herdsmen looked over the animals on his behalf. He and Abram is described as very rich and Lot ‘s possessions were also so great that they could not dwell together. Abram and Lot were probably also merchants. As they traveled together in caravan from place to place, they traded goods and raised flocks.

In modern day terms, Lot was a successful self-employed entrepeneur, trader, and business owner.

Place in history:

Lot was the ancestor through incest of two famous Biblical nations, Ammon and Moab. These Palestinian nations proved to be arch-enemies of the House of Israel and many wars were fought between them through much of the Old Testament.

(Image from: https://www.britannica.com/place/Moab-kingdom-ancient-Palestine)

Special traits: None mentioned.

Weaknesses:

1. Selfish –

Genesis 13:8-11 – Then Abram said to Lot, “Let there be no strife between you and me, and between your herdsmen and my herdsmen, for we are kinsmen. Is not the whole land before you? Separate yourself from me. If you take the left hand, then I will go to the right, or if you take the right hand, then I will go to the left.” And Lot lifted up his eyes and saw that the Jordan Valley was well watered everywhere like the garden of the Lord, like the land of Egypt, in the direction of Zoar. (This was before the Lord destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah.) So Lot chose for himself all the Jordan Valley, and Lot journeyed east. Thus they separated from each other. 

Abram and Lot became very wealthy. Because of their great number of flocks, their was increasing tension and conflict between their herdsmen. Abram wisely took note of this and sought to keep the peace by putting some distance between them. As the head of the family, Abram was the authority. He could have told Lot what to do and because of the culture norms of the day Lot would have been obligated to obey. But Abram graciously gives his junior the first choice.

Reflect: How should Lot have responded to Abram?

Here are a couple of responses that would have been wise.

“Thank you for your great kindness. But far be it from me to take up this decision. Abram, my father, you choose which way to go and I will go the other way.”

“What counsel do you give me?”

“This is an important choice for our future. I must consider the impact it will make on my family, my wife, and my children. Please give me one week. I will seek direction from the Lord and respond to you.”

Any of these responses would have showed humility and discernment. But Lot did none of the above. Instead he made a decision purely on what looked good to him. He looked around, saw what he thought was best, and then took it for himself. Lot made the decision how most people make decisions, by leaning on his own understanding. He weighed the choices using a worldly scale of value.

Not only was Lot’s choice a selfish one, but it was highly impudent and prideful to presume upon Abram’s good graces in this way. And it was reckless to make this decision without prayer or counsel.

Proverbs 3:5-6 – Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.

Proverbs 11:14 – Where there is no guidance, a people falls, but in an abundance of counselors there is safety.

Lot made a hasty decision without consulting God or Abram and paid the price as his family was disastrously affected.

2. Influenced by culture –

2 Peter 2:7-8 –

And if he rescued righteous Lot, greatly distressed by the sensual conduct of the wicked (for as that righteous man lived among them day after day, he was tormenting his righteous soul over their lawless deeds that he saw and heard).

Lot is described in this verse as righteous, which will be discussed below. We see that he his righteous soul was tormented by what he saw. In other words, Lot had a conscience. And his conscience was working. In Sodom, it was in overdrive. Lot did not sell out to the culture. He didn’t support it. He didn’t agree with it. It bothered him.

But he did choose to dwell there. The lack of morals of the culture rubbed off on him and his family. He himself thought little of handing over his single daughters to be sexually assaulted. His wife grew attached to the evil place and left with reluctance, turning back against the angels’ command and was turned into a pillar of salt. And Lot’s daughters who left with him came up with a depraved plan to become impregnated by their father after making him drunk.

Where did they come up with such a wicked idea? They likely witnessed such kind of depravity in Sodom. There they were trained to think pragmatically rather than morally. It is the type of thing their peers were doing. Culture had negatively impacted the entire family.

Later God would command the Israelites not to live together with or intermarry the Canaanites because of this very reason (Deuteronomy 7:3).

3. Misplaced priorities –

Genesis 19:4-8 – But before they lay down, the men of the city, the men of Sodom, both young and old, all the people to the last man, surrounded the house. And they called to Lot, “Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us, that we may know them.” Lot went out to the men at the entrance, shut the door after him, and said, “I beg you, my brothers, do not act so wickedly. Behold, I have two daughters who have not known any man. Let me bring them out to you, and do to them as you please. Only do nothing to these men, for they have come under the shelter of my roof.”

Here Lot does one of the most incomprehensible things you can imagine. He offers to turn his two daughters over to a raging mob and allow them to be raped. Why would he ever even conceive of such a thing?

Lot clearly had a serious case of misplaced priorities. It is evident that he does this out of loyalty to a code. The cultural code he was following demanded that he protect the guests he was hosting at all costs. But the cultural code was just that, culture. And the culture in Sodom and Gomorrah was completely perverted. It should not have to be said, but we will say it anyway. A father should never under any circumstances allow his children, sons or daughters, to be abused by others. There is no justification ever for this.

Note that Lot says his daughters are virgins. In other words, he had protected their purity all of this time. It wasn’t that he didn’t care at all about his daughters. It was that he wrongly placed a higher priority on these guests.

Reflect: What should Lot have done?

Lot should have realized that it was not an either/or choice. In his house were powerful angels, messengers from God. These angels could have (and did) protect his family from any dangers. But once again, Lot did not pray and seek help from God. He looked at the situation with his own tainted perspective and came to a decision based on his own rationale. And clearly a lack of respect for women fed into this incorrect rationale.

Application: It is never necessary to sin. The situation appeared desperate, but Lot failed to seek the way out. He looked at the situation as a binary choice rather than seeking another option, help from God. In 1 Corinthians 10:13 God promises that He always provides a way of escape for temptation. Many people say, “I had to sin. There was no choice.” There is always a choice. You did not need to commit one sin in order to avoid a supposed greater sin. Instead of focusing on the problem from your own perspective, step back, pray, and throw yourself upon the mercy of God.

4. Slow to heed God’s warning –

Genesis 19:15-16 – As morning dawned, the angels urged Lot, saying, “Up! Take your wife and your two daughters who are here, lest you be swept away in the punishment of the city.” But he lingered. So the men seized him and his wife and his two daughters by the hand, the Lord being merciful to him, and they brought him out and set him outside the city.

The angels warned Lot that he and his family needed to quickly leave that city or they would perish in along with everyone else as God poured out his punishment. But Lot “lingered.” He was slow to take action.

Reflect: Why do you think he was slow to respond?

His mistake could have been fatal for him and his family. But here we see God’s mercy. God didn’t say “Forget it, I tried. Now the punishment is on his head.” Instead you say the angels physically drag his family away from the city. God knew what was coming and He had made up His mind to graciously save Lot’s family. It is a reminder that God is patient and full of grace. He gives us so many opportunities to repent and time and again He delays punishment.

6. Lack of self-control manifested through drunkenness and incest (Genesis 19:30-38) – The most depraved part of all of the depravity we have seen in this story is Lot’s incestuous relationship with his daughters. The text clearly describes his daughters as initiating this abominable act.

And yet Lot must take his fair share of the responsibility.

First, it was largely Lot’s fault his daughters even had such wicked ideas. He should have protected them and trained them better growing up.

Second, Lot allowed himself to become drunk. Drinking too much was his own choice. Nobody can force someone else to get drunk. When a person allows himself to get drunk, he cannot abdicate responsibility for all of the poor choices he makes while drunk. And here is a classic case why God commands His people to never get drunk (Ephesians 5:18.) When a person is drunk his ability to control himself is greatly diminished and he opens himself up to many temptations.

Third, even while drunk Lot likely had some sense of what was going on. The idea should have horrified him. But in his weakened state, he gave in to the temptation.

Fourth, Lot did not just commit this sin once, but twice. Surely he must have woken up the next day after the first time with a horrible sense of guilt and shame. And yet he allowed the same thing to happen again. It appears there was some part of him that was a willing participant in this scheme.

Strengths:

1. Hospitality –

Genesis 19:1-3 – The two angels arrived at Sodom in the evening, and Lot was sitting in the gateway of the city. When he saw them, he got up to meet them and bowed down with his face to the ground. “My lords,” he said, “please turn aside to your servant’s house. You can wash your feet and spend the night and then go on your way early in the morning.” “No,” they answered, “we will spend the night in the square.” But he insisted so strongly that they did go with him and entered his house. He prepared a meal for them, baking bread without yeast, and they ate.

Here we see something positive from Lot, finally! He shows hospitality to these strangers. Having lived in Sodom for some time, Lot knew the dangers these men faced spending a night out in the open. And Lot wanted to protect them from any harm. After they first reject his invitation, he continues insisting. Lot could have given up, but his conscience demanded that he do everything in his power to protect them.

Interestingly, this is a real life example of what is taught in Hebrews 13:2, “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by this some have entertained angels without knowing it.”

Thus we see that Lot did not sell out to the culture. He didn’t embrace it. And neither did he turn a blind eye or empower it. Instead we see in these verses that in his own way he is fighting against it.

The problem is that it is a losing battle for him. It is so hard for one person to stand against a tidal wave of peer pressure.

Activity: Assign one person in your Bible study group to stand on a chair. And another person is on the ground. The person on the chair must try to lift the person from the ground to the chair and the person on the ground must try to pull the one on the chair to the ground. What do you think will happen? The one on the ground has a big advantage, gravity. This is like the struggle between believers and unbelievers. It is much easier for a believer to be tempted and lower his standards than for an unbeliever to be “pulled up” out of his sin to a higher standard.

2. Heeded the warning and left Sodom – Lot finally did leave the city. He had to be practically dragged out, but he did go with the angels (Genesis 19:16-17). It is probably true that not a single other person in all of Sodom would have heeded the warning and left. But Lot did. He believed the angels.

3. Righteous –

2 Peter 2:7-8 – And if he rescued righteous Lot, greatly distressed by the sensual conduct of the wicked (for as that righteous man lived among them day after day, he was tormenting his righteous soul over their lawless deeds that he saw and heard).

We have read about Lot’s life. The culture of the city he lived in influenced him. When the angels were staying with him, he offered up his daughters to be sexually assaulted by the men in the city. Later he committed drunken incest with them. How can such a man be called righteous? This is not a man whom you will look at and think, “Wow, Lot was righteous.”

Clearly it was not a righteousness of his own. Lot is a reminder that no person has righteousness of themselves. Lot’s righteousness was imputed to him the same as Abraham’s and that is through faith.

Romans 4:3 – For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness.

Lot did believe God and because of his faith God did save him. He was not a perfect man or even close to it. His conduct was influenced by the people he lived with. But whereas they sold themselves out to pursuing and enjoying sin, Lot clearly had an internal struggle with it. Peter says that their deeds were “tormenting his righteous soul.” None of us can claim to be completely set apart from the society we live in. We too make foolish mistakes and commit terrible sins like Lot did.

But the fact that inspired Scripture calls him righteous is an important lesson to us about where righteousness comes from. In a similar manner, we too can be righteous before God, not because of our own deeds, but because He imputes it to us in His abundant grace and mercy.

Important acts and events: Ancestor of Moabites and Ammonites (Genesis 19:36-38).

How he died: No info.

Lessons from his life:

1. The companion of fools will suffer harm –

Proverbs 13:20 – Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm.

Lot is practically a case study of this very verse. He had the opportunity to choose where he would live and whom he would associate with. Lot could have chosen a place near Abraham. He could have maintained close ties with the father of faith and continued to learn from and follow the example of this giant of faith. Instead he chose to live among one of, if not the most, perverted societies in the history of the world. It is no surprise then that he and his family did suffer great harm.

Application: Choose your friends and the friends of your children wisely. It is important too surround yourself with wise companions. That means join a strong Bible believing church. Then take initiative to make close and godly friendships.

2. The sins of a father affects the whole family – Lot made the choice to move to Sodom, moving his entire family there. There is no evidence that he consulted his wife or children. But even if he did, the final responsibility rested with him. Think for a moment about the disastrous result for his family.

His married children were all killed in the judgement of Sodom and Gomorrah. And likely they are in hell today.

His wife has the distinction of being the only person in history turned into salt. She too was killed. And she is likely in hell today.

His single daughters were thoroughly corrupted and willfully engaged in incest. They likely lived their entire lives as single mothers, facing their sin and shame every day. And their sons became the ancestors of two wicked nations. Likely they are in hell today, although we certainly hope that at some point they repented.

All of these things could have been avoided if Lot made a wiser decision when Abraham asked him where he wanted to go. Lot was enticed with worldly riches. Although he still believed in God, his relationship with God was not a priority.

Nowadays we can see many fathers making similar mistakes. So many fathers choose work and career over family. Sometimes they move to far away cities for a better opportunity and leave their families behind. Other times they simply become absentee fathers as they dedicate themselves to work. More time is spent on overtime hours than at church. Devotions and Bible reading are skipped because of busyness. Where are the fathers? Why is their children’s eternal soul not considered when making decisions? Why is eternity traded away for fleeting riches?

Application: Fathers, are you doing everything you can to shepherd your family and train them up in the way of godliness? What can you do this week to get back on track?

3. Biblical narrative recording of sins does not equal condoning those sins – In the process of preparing this study, I saw a question. It was, “Does the story of Lot condone incest?” The answer is, “no.”

Many parts of the Bible are narrative. That means that the Biblical authors are describing things that happened. As they record real history, they do not always make comments on the right or wrong of what they are recording. The author of Genesis is simply reporting that these things happened. We need to use the rest of Scripture to make a conclusion about the ethics of what we are reading. And it is clear that what happened was sin. The Mosaic law forbids incest.

The fact that such stories like this are included in the Bible is actually evidence that it is credible. If Biblical authors were making things up, they would have wanted to make themselves and their families look better. Sins would have been glossed over, not highlighted. God made sure that humanity was described like it is because these sins show us again and again the need for a Savior.

4. God’s grace – The number one takeaway from this story is God’s grace. Lot and his family do nothing deserving of God’s mercy. And yet God gives it again and again. Abraham prayed that if only ten righteous people were found in the city, that God spare it (Genesis 18:16-33). And ten righteous were not found. But Lot was counted as righteous and his family was spared.

The fact that Lot is called righteous is an amazing example of God’s grace. Clearly the righteousness was not his own. Like Abraham, Lot’s righteousness was imputed on the basis of faith.

And thank God, He treats us the same way. It is easy to look on Lot’s life in judgment. But how often are we too influenced by culture? Sexual sins of adultery, pornography, and fornication are widespread even in the church. How many times have we chosen worldly riches over God?

We are not innocent. And we are not righteous. We are not more righteous than Lot. And yet God forgives. He shows us mercy just like He did to Lot. He imputes Christ’s righteousness to us, and we don’t deserve it.

Thus in the end, this is not a story about Lot’s sin and the results of it. It is a story of God’s grace toward sinners. And that is the same story we see repeated throughout the Bible and in our own lives today.

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