Who Was Lot in the Bible?

Lot is an important figure in the Bible. For thousands of years, readers have been learning lessons from his life on topics like God, family, faith, and selfishness. Lot’s family, especially his uncle, wife, and daughters, are notable characters in his narrative. The decisions Lot makes sometimes affect them negatively and significantly.

Lot was the son of Haran, though he is mainly known for being the nephew of the patriarch, Abraham. The most well-known narrative in which he plays a key role is the story of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah in the book of Genesis. Additionally, the New Testament calls Lot righteous.

How did Lot become part of Abraham’s family? Why did the family go to Canaan, Egypt, then back to Canaan? What happened that disconnected the family? Why did Lot choose to live near Sodom? What terrible decisions did he make? Why does 2 Peter call him righteous? Keep reading to learn the answers to these questions and others.

Also, see Who Was Asaph in the Bible? to learn more.

Lot in the Bible
What happened after Lot returned from Egypt? See below

The deaths of Lot’s father and grandfather

The Bible introduces Lot in Terah’s genealogical record (Gen. 11:27-32). “Now these are the generations of Terah. Terah fathered Abram, Nahor, and Haran; and Haran fathered Lot” (v. 27, ESV). After Haran died, the Bible says Lot’s grandfather, Terah, took him and Abraham to the land of Canaan. However, Terah died before his family reached Canaan leaving behind his son, Abraham, and his grandson, Lot.

Abraham and Lot go to Canaan

As Genesis 12:4-5 reveal, Abraham and Lot completed the journey. “So Abram went, as the Lord had told him, and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he departed from Haran. And Abram took Sarai his wife, and Lot his brother’s son, and all their possessions that they had gathered, and the people that they had acquired in Haran, and they set out to go to the land of Canaan.”

Abraham and Lot go to Egypt

Canaan may have been the “promised” land, but it was far from perfect. Sometime after the family arrived, a shortage of food caused them to leave Canaan temporarily. Genesis 12:10 explains where they went: “Now there was a famine in the land. So Abram went down to Egypt to sojourn there, for the famine was severe in the land.” Yet, the family encountered hardships in Egypt, too.

Abraham and Lot go back to Canaan

Egypt had food, but the family encountered other problems resulting from Abraham’s lies about his wife. These problems caused them to leave Egypt and return north to Canaan. Genesis 13:1 reads, “So Abram went up from Egypt, he and his wife and all that he had, and Lot with him, into the Negeb.” However, once the family returns to Canaan, new obstacles arise.

Also, see Who Was Aaron in the Bible? to learn more.

Book of Genesis
Who kidnapped Lot? See below

Lot decided to settle near Sodom

When Abraham and Lot returned to Canaan, there was a conflict between their herders because they had too many possessions to settle in the same land (Gen. 13:1-7). Abraham suggested that since there was so much land, they split up, giving ample room for both of their herds (v. 8-9). He gave Lot the choice of where to settle, and he would choose a different place (v. 10-11).

Lot decided to settle in the Jordan Valley; then, Abraham decided to settle in Canaan. The narrative adds that Lot resided close to Sodom (v. 12). Even in the ancient world, Sodom already had a reputation for great sin. Verse 13 reads, “Now the men of Sodom were wicked, great sinners against the Lord.” Meanwhile, God spoke to Abraham, promising him land and offspring (v. 14-17).

Invaders kidnap Lot

After Lot settled in his chosen land, kings from the east invaded and looted his territory. Genesis 14:11 reads, “So the enemy took all the possessions of Sodom and Gomorrah, and all their provisions, and went their way.” The invaders also took Lot, “who was dwelling in Sodom, and his possessions, and went their way” (v. 12).

When Abraham learned that Lot was kidnapped, he formed an army to rescue him: “He led forth his trained men, born in his house, 318 of them, and went in pursuit as far as Dan” (v. 14). Abraham divided his fighters, attacked at night, and defeated the invaders (v. 15). He brought back his possessions and “his kinsman Lot with his possessions” (v. 16).

Also, see Who Was Ezra in the Bible? to learn more.

Lot in Genesis
Why does the New Testament call Lot righteous? See below

Lot in Sodom

Lot not only chooses to settle near Sodom but also to participate in its way of life. He willingly chooses to put his family members in jeopardy for selfish reasons.

  • Lot was willing to sacrifice the chastity of his daughters (19:8)
  • His sons-in-law didn’t take him seriously or heed his warning (19:14)
  • He failed to respond to the angels’ urgent instructions (19:15-16)
  • He was reluctant to flee Sodom (19:17-22)

Lot escaped to the nearby town of Zoar just as God destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah (19:23-24). Lot’s wife, who is unnamed in the text, experienced a different outcome. “But Lot’s wife, behind him, looked back, and she became a pillar of salt” (v. 26).

Lot didn’t stay in Zoar after Sodom was destroyed but moved to some caves with his daughters. “Now Lot went up out of Zoar and lived in the hills with his two daughters, for he was afraid to live in Zoar. So he lived in a cave with his two daughters” (v. 30).

In the cave, Lot’s two daughters scheme to get him drunk so he would unknowingly impregnate them. Unfortunately, their plan worked (v. 31-36).

Why does the New Testament call Lot righteous?

2 Peter 2:7-8 refer to Lot as a righteous man. “If [God] 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).”

The Greek word translated as “righteous” (e.g., ESV, NIV, NASB, KJV) comes from the word dikaios (δίκαιος), meaning correct or just. Therefore, many readers want to know how Lot is righteous.

2 Peter scholar Gene Green writes, “The claim that Lot was righteous may be attributed to Abraham’s dialogue with the messengers, in which he seeks deliverance for the city if there are a sufficient number of righteous residents (18:22-33). While not enough righteous were found to spare Sodom, Lot himself was delivered, implying that at least he was righteous.” [1]

The fact that Lot is called righteous in the New Testament doesn’t mean that all of his choices in Genesis are morally justified. Like Moses, David, Peter, and others, the Bible records its most prominent figures’ successes and failures. According to Scripture, the only person without sin is Jesus (e.g., Heb. 4:15).

Also, see Who Was Judah in the Bible? to learn more.

[1] Jude and 2 Peter by Gene L. Green. BECNT. p. 258.
[2] “Lot” in The New International Dictionary of the Bible. p. 602.

Daniel Isaiah Joseph

Daniel's seminary degree is in Exegetical Theology. He was a pastor for 10 years. As a professor, he has taught Bible and theology courses at two Christian universities. Please see his About page for details.

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