Summary: The stories in Genesis present Lot in a very negative light, but Peter and Abraham thought he was righteous. It is a time for adjusting our interpretation.
Lot – The struggle of righteousness
This is a classic passage because it depicts something that we somehow know we should not do, bargaining with God. Abraham, out of concern for his nephew Lot, in an episode that sounds like an auction, begs God to be merciful.
Five times, Abraham presents a new limit to God, generally going down in ten person increments, asking God to spare the city for the sake of a few.
We actually know more about Lot than we do about Isaac, and it is mostly questionable at best and criminally reprehensible at worst. Here are the stories about Lot
• When offered his choice of land by Abraham, he chose the best pasture land
• He was kidnaped by warring kings and rescued by Abraham
• He lived in Sodom where the people were notoriously evil, without having, it seemed, any righteous effect on it at all
• Abraham bargained for his rescue when God chose to destroy the city
• When angels were in his house, in danger of being attacked by the violent homosexual citizens, He offered his daughters instead, though they were rejected
• When he ran from the city, his own wife looked back, against the instructions of the angels. She was instantly killed
• Out of fear he went to live in a cave with his two daughters with whom he became drunk, had incestuous relations, and fathered sons
This is not a good resume’. And yet the Bible gives us two opinions that we should consider before passing final judgement on Lot.
One is the passage we read today, in which Abraham bargains for Lot’s safety as a righteous man. And yet, what we read in Genesis does not describe him as a righteous man at all. So what gives?
The argument Abraham uses is one that we tend to see as instinctively fair:
Far be it from you to do such a thing--to kill the righteous with the wicked, treating the righteous and the wicked alike.
Just a few days ago I heard a man speak of his friend who was experiencing all kinds of calamity and it seemed so out of place, because he was not a bad man. In our estimation, a loving, just, and merciful God does not treat wicked people and righteous people the same. He punishes the wicked and rewards the good.
In Abraham’s thinking, clearly there must be 10 people worth saving in the city. In his thinking, Lot was a righteous man worth saving. If, as is the case many times, near one righteous person you find others, there might be:
• His wife
• His 2 daughters
• And his daughters’ fiances
So he was starting with a potential 8 people. If Lot, as a righteous man could influence his own family and just two others, the city would be saved.
But it was not the city Abraham was concerned about. He was concerned about his nephew getting trapped in a wicked place while it was going up in smoke. And he thought is nephew did not deserve that end.
The other opinion is given to us by the Apostle Peter. From his perspective, there was some justification for Abraham’s opinion.
... and if he rescued Lot, a righteous man, who was distressed by the depraved conduct of the lawless (for that righteous man, living among them day after day, was tormented in his righteous soul by the lawless deeds he saw and heard) if this is so, then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials and to hold the unrighteous for punishment on the day of judgment.
(2 Peter 2:7-9 TNIV)
According to Peter, Lot was actually a righteous man, whose spirit was distressed and tormented by the wickedness he saw around him. When we look at this picture, we see a different side of Lot than we see in Genesis. We see someone who lived in a horrible place, for whatever reason, constantly resisting and crying out to God about the horrible things he saw. Just like Abraham, Peter saw a righteous man being rescued from the fate of the wicked.
• Abraham bargained for the rescue of a righteous man
• Peter called Lot a righteous man
So, what can we conclude? Genesis shows us a guy who makes bad, even horrible decisions. Two highly respected sources argue that there is more than meets the eye.
I would say that in light of Abraham’s and Peter’s words, we should carefully interpret Lot:
He took the fine pasture land when Abraham offered it. That might make him selfish. But the Bible does not say it was the best land. It does say that Abraham offered freely for Lot to take what he wanted. In his thinking, the whole land was his to choose what he wanted.