Summary: Choices Have Implications.
Lot is first mentioned at the end of the 11th chapter of Genesis. It mentions that his grandfather Terah had taken him and his uncle Abram and aunt Sarai from the advanced civilization of Ur of the Chaldees to a less prestigious village of Haran which was several hundred miles inland and upriver. Second only to the civilization of Egypt, Ur was the place to be in the Ancient Near East. The bible gives no direct reason for the migration, but this was the beginning of a life of wandering for both Abram and Lot.
Lot’s father had already died, so Lot became heir of his father’s portion of his grandfather’s estate upon Terah, his grandfather’s death. It would have been a lesser inheritance than Abram’s as Abram was the oldest son who would receive a double portion. But at this point, Abram and Sarai were old and childless. Lot would have been heir of Abram’s estate as well as next of kin. So when Terah died, Lot would have inherited his father’s portion and stood to inherit the rest someday. We don’t know how much this might have been, but it seems likely that it was a fair sum.
Abram would then become the legal father of Lot. In Middle Eastern terms, this would mean he was in authority over Lot, even though he was an adult. He would have to be in subjection to Abram until Abram’s death, upon which decease, Lot would have control over all the estate. But for now, he was little more than a servant.
When the Lord broke in on Abram’s life and told him to move to an undisclosed location, Sarai and Lot who were in subjection to Abram had no choice but to follow. I have heard much speculation, especially among women, what Sarai thought of this arrangement. Lot would have been in the same predicament. All we know is that Abram heard the voice of the Lord and obeyed in belief and came to settle in the land of Canaan. As a shepherd, the only land available to them would have been the narrow strip of marginal land which was too dry to farm and still had enough moisture for the sparse grass. Finding water for the flocks and pasture was challenging even in the best of times. It hardly looked like a land of promise.
When drought soon came, the sparse pasture and supply of water was a crisis for the family. Abram took his family to Egypt to find sustenance. This was the first of many trips that Abram and his descendants would take from the land of promise to seek the help of man. The latter half of Chapter 12 gives an account of what would have been a disaster had the Lord not intervened. But intervene the Lord did, and Abram and his family returned to Canaan richer than ever, the first spoiling of the Egyptians and went back to their life as herdsmen at the edge of the desert in Canaan.
Chapter 13 begins by accounting that both Abram and Lot were both blessed greatly upon their return. In fact, in some ways their blessing became a curse. The large flocks were overgrazing the land and drinking up all the water. This precipitated a crisis, the account of which begins at verse 5. Lot’s servants who managed the goods he had inherited started to fight Abram’s servants over the available resources. The only hope for any of them to avoid catastrophe was for the two to separate.
Beginning with verse 8, Abram proposes that he and Lot separate. As being the senior in the deal, he offers Lot the choice. If he stayed, Abram would move off. Otherwise, Lot would move. If we understand the protocol of Near Eastern culture, Lot as inferior, although he was given the choice, was supposed to defer to Abram and choose the lesser choice. We see an example of this protocol whn Abram came to the sons of Heth to buy a buying field for Sarah. The greater in this transaction, the sons of Heth said to go and take it gratis. However protocol demanded that the lesser, Abraham, refuse this offer and ask for a fair price. Abraham was faithful to the protocol. Lot was not. From Lot’s eyes, we see that he immediately fastened upon the well watered plain near Sodom and Gomorrah. The richness of the plain reminded him of the good life in Egypt. Lot was probably accustomed to living the good life. This struggle of trying to make a living at the edge of the desert had no appeal. He broke the custom and chose what he thought was the better part, the far better part. His uncle could stay in this desert. He was going to Sodom. Surely God had blessed this place, and he wanted to be were the blessings were. Verse 13 clues us in on the poor decision Lot had made of his own free will. The text tells us that Sodom was an exceedingly wicked city. Lot thought he had chosen the better lot. But his lot in life was not to be the blessing he thought. The city of man he thought blessed was about to come under the utter curse of God for its wickedness.