The life of Abraham's nephew Lot---and the record of Lot's descendants---is a subject especially relevant today. According to Jesus (as recorded in Luke's gospel) world conditions at the close of our present age would come to resemble "the days of Lot." What Jesus meant by that statement requires a little investigation and thought. Probably Jesus had several levels of meaning in mind. The Bible has a lot to say about Abraham's nephew and his place in the ancient world, but it is a profitable study with broad implications for the day in which we live.
First of all, was Lot a believer in Abraham's God? It is not at all obvious from the references in Genesis that Lot believed in and knew the God of Abraham, but the New Testament tells us that Lot was in fact a man made righteous by faith. The Apostle Peter tells us:
"For if God did not spare the angels when they sinned (at the time of the Flood), but cast them into Tartarus and committed them to nether gloom to be kept until the judgment; if he did not spare the ancient world, but preserved Noah, a herald of righteousness, with seven other persons, when he brought a flood upon the world of the ungodly; if by turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah to ashes he condemned them to extinction and made them an example to those who were to be ungodly; and if he rescued righteous Lot, greatly distressed by the licentiousness of the wicked (for by what that righteous man saw and heard as he lived among them, he was vexed in his righteous soul day after day with their lawless deeds), then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trial, and to keep the unrighteous under punishment until the day of judgment, and especially those who indulge in the lust of defiling passion and despise authority." (2 Peter 2:4-10)
Lot was not only a believer in the true and living God, the Holy Spirit records that he was distressed daily by the decadent, crumbling moral conditions around him.
Christians frequently study the life of Abraham, the man of faith, but pay little attention to the life of Lot. It's common for Christians to want to see themselves better off than they really are---and of course it is a good thing to identify with the heroes of faith rather than with those who are less well-spoken of. But it is clear that many believers today live lifestyles similar to that of Lot: Lot was a heterosexual, married man who sought to become a prominent citizen in Sodom---he was evidently not himself a sexually immoral person---yet he was not able to separate himself from the ungodly, decadent influences of the community he lived in. He wanted to raise a family and to prosper in the prevailing culture. The weakness of many Christians in our day is similar---worldly values and standards have come to govern and their thinking and conduct in many subtle ways. Modern Lots seem unable to grasp why their wives and families suffer so terribly from what was a basic compromise with the world at the start. Abraham and Lot are good illustrations of the two classes of believers, spiritual and carnal---Paul contrasts the two classes in detail in First Corinthians. Though Abraham must have exerted all godly influence he could upon Lot over the many years of their association, Lot finally chose the green pastures of the then lush Southern Jordan valley where Sodom was located.
"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 cattle and the herdsmen of Lot's cattle. At that time the Canaanites and the Perizzites dwelt in the land. 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 dwelt in the land of Canaan, while Lot dwelt among the cities of the valley and moved his tent as far as Sodom. Now the men of Sodom were wicked, great sinners against the LORD" (Genesis 13:5-13).
Abraham chose to remain on the path of faith (Heb. 11:8-11), walking as a "stranger and pilgrim in this present world"---with a tent and an altar as his emblems. Lot chose to seek fulfillment in the present world. Apparently he was not willing to believe that "bad company ruins good morals" (1 Cor. 15:33). The appeal of faith is always to invisible, permanent realities made known by God, while the man who walks by sight depends upon emotions, temporal riches, influence and the empty philosophies of the fallen, doomed civilization around him. When one sees the basic difference in walking by faith as opposed to "sight" (basing decisions on earthly goals and circumstances which surround us) it is easy to see that few believers today are actually modeling their lives after Abraham.
Thus in a series of moves after his initially unwise choice Lot finally became a good citizen of Sodom, participating in civic affairs, earning a living and raising a family---oblivious of God's firm intention to destroy the entire city and culture around him.
Lot was not to be dislodged easily from Sodom. After Abraham rescued him from northern marauding kings, who raided Sodom and the surrounding cities, Lot elected to return to Sodom. At this time he must again have had a choice to move to a better place and embark upon a life of faith and separation from the world. But, while Lot readily reestablished his home in Sodom, Abraham refused even to accept any gift or payment for his military action so as to not to be brought under any obligation to Sodom, and so as not to give the King of Sodom any cause to boast of his influence in the matter. Genesis 14 describes the territorial squabbling among certain kings from the East which eventually overflowed into the Canaanite territory of the Jordan Valley resulting in the subjugation of Sodom and environs, placing Lot in jeopardy:
"In the days of Amraphel king of Shinar (Babylon), Arioch king of Ellasar, Chedorlaomer king of Elam, and Tidal king of Goiim, these kings made war with Bera king of Sodom, Birsha king of Gomorrah, Shinab king of Admah, Shemeber king of Zeboiim, and the king of Bela (that is, Zoar). And all these joined forces in the Valley of Siddim (that is, the Salt Sea). Twelve years they had served Chedorlaomer, but in the thirteenth year they rebelled. In the fourteenth year Chedorlaomer and the kings who were with him came and subdued the Rephaim in Ashteroth-karnaim, the Zuzim in Ham, the Emim in Shaveh-kiriathaim, and the Horites in their Mount Seir as far as El-paran on the border of the wilderness; then they turned back and came to Enmishpat (that is, Kadesh), and subdued all the country of the Amalekites, and also the Amorites who dwelt in Haazon-tamar. Then the king of Sodom, the king of Gomorrah, the king of Admah, the king of Zeboiim, and the king of Bela (that is, Zoar) went out, and they joined battle in the Valley of Siddim with Chedorlaomer king of Elam, Tidal king of Goiim, Amraphel king of Shinar, and Arioch king of Ellasar, four kings against five. Now the Valley of Siddim was full of bitumen pits; and as the kings of Sodom and Gomorrah fled, some fell into them, and the rest fled to the mountain.
"So the enemy took all the goods of Sodom and Gomorrah, and all their provisions, and went their way; they also took Lot, the son of Abram's brother, who dwelt in Sodom, and his goods, and departed. Then one who had escaped came, and told Abram the Hebrew, who was living by the oaks of Mamre the Amorite, brother of Eshcol and of Aner; these were allies of Abram.
"When Abram heard that his kinsman had been taken captive, he led forth his trained men, born in his house, three hundred and eighteen of them, and went in pursuit as far as Dan. And he divided his forces against them by night, he and his servants, and routed them and pursued them to Hobah, north of Damascus. Then he brought back all the goods, and also brought back his kinsman Lot with his goods, and the women and the people.
"After his return from the defeat of Chedorlaomer and the kings who were with him, the king of Sodom went out to meet him at the Valley of Shaveh (that is, the King's Valley). And Melchizedek king of Salem (later, Jerusalem) brought out bread and wine; he was priest of God Most High. And he blessed him and said, 'Blessed be Abram by God Most High, maker of heaven and earth; and blessed be God Most High, who has delivered your enemies into your hand!' And Abram gave him a tenth of everything. And the king of Sodom said to Abram, 'Give me the persons, but take the goods for yourself.' But Abram said to the king of Sodom, 'I have sworn to the LORD God Most High, maker of heaven and earth, that I would not take a thread or a sandal---thong or anything that is yours, lest you should say, I have made Abram rich I will take nothing but what the young men have eaten, and the share of the men who went with me; let Aner, Eshcol, and Mamre take their share.'" (Genesis 14)
The record of the actual destruction of Sodom, Gomorrah, and the surrounding Canaanite cities is recorded in Genesis 19. The account begins in Chapter 18 at the camp of Abraham in the hills about the Dead Sea near Hebron. God does not undertake the long-delayed judgment of these cities without consulting with his servant Abraham:
"And the LORD [a theophany, God in human form] appeared to him [Abraham] by the oaks of Mamre, as he sat at the door of his tent in the heat of the day. He lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, three men [the LORD plus two angels] stood in front of him. When he saw them, he ran from the tent door to meet them, and bowed himself to the earth, and said, "My lord, if I have found favor in your sight, do not pass by your servant. Let a little water be brought, and wash your feet, and rest yourselves under the tree, while I fetch a morsel of bread, that you may refresh yourselves, and after that you may pass on---since you have come to your servant." So they said, "Do as you have said." And Abraham hastened into the tent to Sarah, and said, "Make ready quickly three measures of fine meal, knead it, and make cakes." And Abraham ran to the herd, and took a calf, tender and good, and gave it to the servant, who hastened to prepare it. Then he took curds, and milk, and the calf which he had prepared, and set it before them; and he stood by them under the tree while they ate. They said to him, "Where is Sarah your wife?" And he said, "She is in the tent." The LORD said, "I will surely return to you in the spring, and Sarah your wife shall have a son." And Sarah was listening at the tent door behind him. Now Abraham and Sarah were old, advanced in age; it had ceased to be with Sarah after the manner of women. So Sarah laughed to herself, saying, "After I have grown old, and my husband is old, shall I have pleasure?" The LORD said to Abraham, "Why did Sarah laugh, and say, `Shall I indeed bear a child, now that I am old?' Is anything too hard for the LORD? At the appointed time I will return to you, in the spring, and Sarah shall have a son." But Sarah denied, saying, "I did not laugh"; for she was afraid. He said, "No, but you did laugh."
"Then the men set out from there, and they looked toward Sodom; and Abraham went with them to set them on their way. The LORD said, "Shall I hide from Abraham what I am about to do, seeing that Abraham shall become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth shall bless themselves by him? No, for I have chosen him, that he may charge his children and his household after him to keep the way of the LORD by doing righteousness and justice; so that the LORD may bring to Abraham what he has promised him." Then the LORD said, "Because the outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is great and their sin is very grave, I will go down to see whether they have done altogether according to the outcry which has come to me; and if not, I will know." So the men turned from there, and went toward Sodom; but Abraham still stood before the LORD. Then Abraham drew near, and said, "Wilt thou indeed destroy the righteous with the wicked? Suppose there are fifty righteous within the city; wilt thou then destroy the place and not spare it for the fifty righteous who are in it? Far be it from thee to do such a thing, to slay the righteous with the wicked, so that the righteous fare as the wicked! Far be that from thee! Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?" And the LORD said, "If I find at Sodom fifty righteous in the city, I will spare the whole place for their sake." Abraham answered, "Behold, I have taken upon myself to speak to the Lord, I who am but dust and ashes. Suppose five of the fifty righteous are lacking? Wilt thou destroy the whole city for lack of five?" And he said, "I will not destroy it if I find forty-five there." Again he spoke to him, and said, "Suppose forty are found there." He answered, "For the sake of forty I will not do it." Then he said, "Oh let not the Lord be angry, and I will speak. Suppose thirty are found there." He answered, "I will not do it, if I find thirty there." He said, "Behold, I have taken upon myself to speak to the Lord. Suppose twenty are found there." He answered, "For the sake of twenty I will not destroy it." Then he said, "Oh let not the Lord be angry, and I will speak again but this once. Suppose ten are found there." He answered, "For the sake of ten I will not destroy it." And the LORD went his way, when he had finished speaking to Abraham; and Abraham returned to his place.
For a detailed commentary see Ray C. Stedman's online study of the life of Abraham, referenced at the end of this article. The main point in the story of Lot is that fewer than 10 righteous persons (believers) lived in the Cities of the Plain at the time God destroyed them---Lot's influence on the culture had been minimal, even after many years of living there and serving in community leadership and public affairs.
"The two angels came to Sodom in the evening; and Lot was sitting in the gate of Sodom. When Lot saw them, he rose to meet them, and bowed himself with his face to the earth, and said, 'My lords, turn aside, I pray you, to your servant's house and spend the night, and wash your feet; then you may rise up early and go on your way.' They said, 'No; we will spend the night in the street.' But he urged them strongly; so they turned aside to him and entered his house; and he made them a feast, and baked unleavened bread, and they ate. 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 of the door to the men, 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 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.' But they said, 'Stand back!' And they said, 'This fellow came to sojourn, and he would play the judge! Now we will deal worse with you than with them.' Then they pressed hard against the man Lot, and drew near to break the door. But the men put forth their hands and brought Lot into the house to them, and shut the door. And they struck with blindness the men who were at the door of the house, both small and great, so that they wearied themselves groping for the door. Then the men said to Lot, 'Have you any one else here? Sons-in-law, sons, daughters, or any one you have in the city, bring them out of the place; for we are about to destroy this place, because the outcry against its people has become great before the LORD, and the LORD has sent us to destroy it.'
"So Lot went out and said to his sons-in-law, who were to marry his daughters, 'Up, get out of this place; for the LORD is about to destroy the city.' But he seemed to his sons-in-law to be jesting. When morning dawned, the angels urged Lot, saying, 'Arise, take your wife and your two daughters who are here, lest you be consumed 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 forth and set him outside the city. And when they had brought them forth, they said, 'Flee for your life; do not look back or stop anywhere in the valley; flee to the hills, lest you be consumed.' And Lot said to them, 'Oh, no, my lords; behold, your servant has found favor in your sight, and you have shown me great kindness in saving my life; but I cannot flee to the hills, lest the disaster overtake me, and I die. Behold, yonder city is near enough to flee to, and it is a little one. Let me escape there---is it not a little one?---and my life will be saved!' He said to him, 'Behold, I grant you this favor also, that I will not overthrow the city of which you have spoken. Make haste, escape there; for I can do nothing till you arrive there.' Therefore the name of the city was called Zoar [Hebrew: little]. The sun had risen on the earth when Lot came to Zoar. Then the LORD rained on Sodom and Gomorrah brimstone and fire from the LORD out of heaven; and he overthrew those cities, and all the valley, and all the inhabitants of the cities, and what grew on the ground. But Lot's wife behind him looked back, and she became a pillar of salt. And Abraham went early in the morning to the place where he had stood before the LORD; and he looked down toward Sodom and Gomorrah and toward all the land of the valley, and beheld, and lo, the smoke of the land went up like the smoke of a furnace. So it was that, when God destroyed the cities of the valley, God remembered Abraham, and sent Lot out of the midst of the overthrow, when he overthrew the cities in which Lot dwelt." (Genesis 19:1-29)
It would appear that life in Sodom was very similar to that of San Francisco, Chicago, New Orleans, New York, or Houston today. Therefore many Christians live at least near to the equivalent of the "gates of Sodom" these days. Though there was a semblance of family life present in Sodom (so as to guarantee the continuation of these ancient cities beyond one generation), there was widespread homosexual activity and no doubt equally as much heterosexual fornication and adultery. Promiscuity amidst wealth and prosperity abounded. Lot was evidently heterosexual and if he himself committed adultery or was otherwise promiscuous, scripture says nothing about this.
Lot's lack of real witness and credibility in Sodom is evidenced by the fact that he and his wife and daughters had to be forcibly removed from the city by the two angels. His management of his household was one of spiritual compromise when it came to acting---or rather not acting---on behalf of his wife and daughters. None of Lot's neighbors who could have also been saved had they been willing to seek refuge in Lot's house, (19:12). Lot's daughters' husbands elected to stay behind as well. Rather than finally finding safe refuge in the same kind of faith of Abraham demonstrated year after year, Lot chose another small city, Zoar, to live in. Lot s wife, apparently not a believer, looked back and was encrusted with salt. Only Lot and his two daughters survived. One would have thought that a loving father and husband would have seen to the safety and welfare of his wife and daughters first before himself leaving Sodom, but Lot looked after only himself as all four of them fled from the fiery destruction. Abraham had hoped ten righteous persons would be found in Sodom and the surrounding four cities. Evidently in the final analysis there was only one---Lot.
Though Abraham had interceded for these cities, as far as we know only Lot was found to be righteous. Because he was pronounced righteous by his faith Lot will be found in heaven in the company of the redeemed, but with little to show for his life and his many missed opportunities. Lot can not take credit for sufficient faith to have enabled his escape from Sodom, he was rescued in spite of himself because of Abraham's faith (Gen. 19:29).
"Now Lot went up out of Zoar, and dwelt in the hills with his two daughters, for he was afraid to dwell in Zoar; so he dwelt in a cave with his two daughters. And the first-born said to the younger, 'Our father is old, and there is not a man on earth to come in to us after the manner of all the earth. Come, let us make our father drink wine, and we will lie with him, that we may preserve offspring through our father.' So they made their father drink wine that night; and the first-born went in, and lay with her father; he did not know when she lay down or when she arose. And on the next day, the first-born said to the younger, 'Behold, I lay last night with my father; let us make him drink wine tonight also; then you go in and lie with him, that we may preserve offspring through our father.' So they made their father drink wine that night also; and the younger arose, and lay with him; and he did not know when she lay down or when she arose. Thus both the daughters of Lot were with child by their father. The first-born bore a son, and called his name Moab; he is the father of the Moabites to this day. The younger also bore a son, and called his name Benammi; he is the father of the Ammonites to this day" (Genesis 19:30-38).
Where did Lot's daughters get their understanding of sexuality? Evidently they brought with them from Sodom the values of that culture rather than the morals of Abraham's family where incest would have been unthinkable. There is no need to dwell on this tragic story ending in drunkenness and incest and total degradation in Lot's masculine identity. Though Lot himself was saved, "yet as through fire," his sons grew up to dispossess the Rephaim, or Emim, a race of giants living in Jordan east of the Promised Land, (Deut. 2:10). Much subsequent human tragedy can be traced back to the children of Lot. They caused the people of Israel many troubles in their subsequent interrelationships.
Two demonic invasions into the human race are recorded in scripture (Gen. 6:4). The second of these invasions entered into the line of Canaan, son of Ham, after the flood of Noah, resulting in the thoroughly degraded pagan idolatry of the Canaanites as well producing certain genetic defects leading to a second group of giants who lived in and around the land granted by God to Abraham the Shemite.
The descendants of Esau, known as Edomites, were another group of people dwelling in southern Jordan in strength by the time of Moses. A third group was the Amorites, an ancient paganized group who were Shemites (the Canaanites were Hamites) living in the land of Bashan which is the present day Golan Heights region of Israel. By the time of Moses the Amorites had partially dispossessed the Moabites living to the south of them. Also to be found in the area were Midianites, who were descendants of Abraham by his wife Keturah. [God told Moses to leave both the Ammonites and the Moabites alone, as well as the Midianites, on their journey up the Eastern side of Jordan prior to the crossing into the Promised Land near Jericho].
The Ammonites added to the pagan Baal worship of the Canaanites service to the demon Molech, or Milcom, [from the root, M*L*K*M, 1 Kings 11:7]. The Moabites served Chemosh. The service of these terrible demons involved human sacrifice, (2 Kings 3:27). The counterpart today of this kind of idolatry is to be found in widespread abortion in the western world and the human and animal sacrifices practiced by Satanist cults in America, Europe and elsewhere. Of course many modern parents have found socially acceptable ways to deliver their children into the hands of Molech, or through ignorance of God have prevented their sons and daughters from knowing wholeness of life in Christ the Lord. Tolerance and even endorsement of sexual immorality among young people by community and schools alike is but one example.
The ancient languages of Ammon and Moab were similar to Hebrew so it seems possible that these peoples might have preserved a tradition concerning Yahweh which figures into the account of the meeting of the Israelites with Balak, King of Moab described in Numbers 21-25. It is in this account that we meet the false prophet Balaam, a man of such lasting evil influence that he is mentioned three times in the New Testament. In 2 Peter 2:15-16 he is associated with false teachers in the church,
"Accursed children! Forsaking the right way they have gone astray; they have followed the way of Balaam, the son of Beor, who loved gain from wrongdoing, but was rebuked for his own transgression; a dumb donkey spoke with human voice and restrained the prophet's madness."
In Jude, verse 11, false teachers are described as walking in the way of Cain and "abandoning themselves for the sake of gain to Balaam s error, and as perishing in Korah s rebellion." The letter to the Church of Thyatira, Revelation 2:4, contains a reference to members of that congregation who held to the "teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to put a stumbling block before the sons of Israel, that they might eat food sacrificed to idols and practice immorality." Balaam is a central figure in the line of apostasy beginning with the Babylonian Mystery Religion and ending with the last state of apostate Christianity which will prevail on earth at the time of Christ's second coming.
Balaam's teaching and prophecies appear eloquent and full of truth in the account given in Numbers, but what Scripture criticizes most about this man's life was his lifestyle, or walk, which was said to be "perverse before the Lord." Balaam lived to the east of Ammon near the Euphrates and may have known Yahweh in a personal way. However he supplemented his prayer life with divination---with the result that he was largely self-deceived until God finally opened his eyes. Balaam was a prophet available for hire, so he "fell into a snare of the devil" in serving Balak. Though it is hard to find fault in what Balaam said publicly, Revelation 2:4 records that he privately gave Balak what the latter needed to ensnare the people of Israel. The end result was that Israel then came under the power of Baal-Peor through Balak with loss of 24,000 persons in a plague arising from sexual immorality with the daughters of Moab.
It is likely that this plague came in the form of a virulent venereal disease endemic among the Moabites because of their decadent, promiscuous life styles.
"While Israel dwelt in Shittim the people began to play the harlot with the daughters of Moab. These invited the people to the sacrifices of their gods, and the people ate, and bowed down to their gods. So Israel yoked himself to Baal of Peor. And the anger of the LORD was kindled against Israel; and the LORD said to Moses, 'Take all the chiefs of the people, and hang them in the sun before the LORD, that the fierce anger of the LORD may turn away from Israel. 'And Moses said to the judges of Israel, 'Every one of you slay his men who have yoked themselves to Baal of Peor.' And behold, one of the people of Israel came and brought a Midianite woman to his family, in the sight of Moses and in the sight of the whole congregation of the people of Israel, while they were weeping at the door of the tent of meeting.
"When Phinehas the son of Eleazar, son of Aaron the priest, saw it, he rose and left the congregation, and took a spear in his hand and went after the man of Israel into the inner room, and pierced both of them, the man of Israel and the woman, through her body. Thus the plague was stayed from the people of Israel. Nevertheless those that died by the plague were twenty-four thousand. And the LORD said to Moses, 'Phinehas the son of Eleazar, son of Aaron the priest, has turned back my wrath from the people of Israel, in that he was jealous with my jealousy among them, so that I did not consume the people of Israel in my jealousy.' Therefore say, 'Behold, I give to him my covenant of peace; and it shall be to him, and to his descendants after him, the covenant of a perpetual priesthood, because he was jealous for his God, and made atonement for the people of Israel.'
"The name of the slain man of Israel, who was slain with the Midianite woman, was Zimri the son of Salu, head of a fathers' house belonging to the Simeonites. And the name of the Midianite woman who was slain was Cozbi the daughter of Zur, who was the head of the people of a fathers' house in Midian." (Numbers 25:1-15).
The New Testament admonition to Christians found in 1 Corinthians 10:7 is based on this tragic incident in the national life of Israel: "Do not be idolaters as some of them were; as it is written, 'The people sat down to eat and drink and rose up to dance.' We must not indulge in immorality as some of them did, and twenty-three thousand fell in a single day."
One does not have to look far today for the teaching of Balaam in the professing Christian church which has resulted in the widespread toleration of rape, child abuse, molestation, homosexuality, abortion on demand, adultery and unrestrained premarital sexual activity. This terrible scourge of AIDS in our day reflects one aspect of our fallen world's heritage from the children of Lot. False teachers often speak the truth but live a lie which makes them harder to detect, and all the more dangerous. It is interesting that the name "Balak" means "devastator," or one who lays waste. "Balaam" means "devourer," and his father was "Beor," which means "destroyer!"
Part of Balaam's prophecy concerns the coming of Israel's Messiah and the accompanying judgment of Moab and is found in Numbers 24:17,
"I see him, but not now; I behold him, but not nigh: a star shall come forth out of Jacob, and a scepter shall rise out of Israel; it (he) shall crush the forehead of Moab..."
This prophecy reflects the promise given by the LORD in the garden of Eden that the Messiah, the seed of the woman, would bruise the head of the serpent. Balak was a direct conduit for evil in his day, the instrument of the serpent seeking to destroy the people of God and to stop the birth of the Messiah. The fact that Balaam, a professing man of God, fell into Balak's power and was in fact an instrument of evil after speaking truth is where his judgment lies. The fact that he spoke the truth at all was a result of God's overriding his original intention and Balak's bribes. Balaam's violent end is recorded in Numbers 31:8. (See also Joshua 24:9).
In the time of the Judges following the death of Joshua, the people of Israel, now dwelling in the land, came under a number of oppressions sent by God. The oppression of Moab under King Eglon in league with the Ammonites lasted 18 years until the people of Israel cried out to God at which time the LORD delivered them by the brave and courageous action of a man named Ehud (Judges 3:12-30). The result was that "the land had rest for eighty years." In the time of Jephthah the people were also found to be following not only the Baals but also Molech and Chemosh (Judges 10:6). This resulted in a war with the Ammonites as a consequence, (Judges 11) which Jephthah fought successfully for Israel.
A little later in history the remarkable story which comprises the book of Ruth occurred. During a famine, Elimelech and his wife Naomi of Bethlehem moved to Moab with their sons Mahlon and Chilion. There the boys married Moabite women, Orpah and Ruth. After about ten years the three males had all died leaving Naomi, Orpah and Ruth. Orpah elected to remain in Moab, but Naomi and Ruth came back to the people of Israel where Ruth became the wife of Boaz, a direct ancestress of Jesus the Messiah.
Thus the tragic, usual immorality of the children of Lot was interrupted by the wonderful grace of God resulting in the redemption of Ruth the Moabitess. Here we can see an example of how God has graciously made provision for outsiders (gentiles) to be grafted in to the true olive tree of believing Israel. No matter one's background or previous idolatry the Holy One of Israel is able to make sinners into new persons, and to give high honor to those who were once outside the household of faith if they will but embrace Israel's true Messiah and take Abraham's God as their God. During the reign of Saul, Israel's first king, Nahash the Ammonite attacked and intimidated Israel, however Saul hastily mobilized an army and bravely cut down the Ammonites though outnumbered ten to one, (I Samuel 11).
David's terrible double sin of adultery and murder occurred during a war against the Ammonites (2 Samuel 10-11). At the very time David should have been on the front lines fighting the idolatrous enemies of Israel, he was defeated at home by the very same spiritual powers that the children of Ammon served.
Solomon's compromise with various pagan gods, including Chemosh and Molech is recorded in 1 Kings 11. Through this carelessness of their king the terrible root evils of the children of Lot were introduced into the national life of Israel.
The spread of evil into Judah through Solomon's son Rehoboam may be attributed to the latter's mother, Naamah, the Ammonitess (I Kings 14:21-24). [Note: Another parallel stream of evil entering Israel sprang from Jezebel and the ancient Phoenician Baal worship system].
At the death of Ahab, Moab rebelled against the northern tribes under Ahab's son Jehoram, to whom they had been forced to pay tribute. In league with Jehoshaphat, King of Judah, who teamed up with the King of Edom, and aided by the prophet Elisha, Israel defeated Moab, (2 Kings 3), but only by the grace of God, (See 2 Chronicles 20).
The sad end of King Joash of Judah is recorded in 2 Chronicles 24. The record concludes with a few details such as, "Those who conspired against him were Zabad the son of Shieath the Ammonitess, and Jehozabad the son of Shimrith the Moabitess" (v26)---these men were servants in his own household.
It was the Ammonites who were responsible for the murder of the appointed governor of Israel, Gedaliah, (2 Kings 25:22-26, Jeremiah 40:14).
Following the Babylonian captivity the rebuilding of Jerusalem was greatly hindered by a determined Ammonite, Tobiah, (Nehemiah 2:10, 19; 4:3, 13:1-9), in league with Sanballat a Moabite. Tobiah's entrenchment in a temple chamber illustrates the clever, treacherous nature of our fleshly enemies who hide themselves in the temple of God, that is, our bodies, where they are often only discovered and dislodged with difficulty.
Amos (2:1-20), and Zephaniah (2:8-9) address the judgments of God on Moab and Ammon. Isaiah 15-16 is devoted to a description of God's judgment on Moab. Jeremiah deals at length with Moab (Jer. 48) and Ammon (Jer. 49). (See also Jer. 9:26, 25:21). Ezekiel addresses the end of the historic nations of Ammon and Edom in Ezek. 21:28-32 and 25:1-11. Though God many times used nations more evil and corrupt than Israel to chasten Israel, it is always true that once the desired purpose of the LORD has been accomplished the ungodly nations employed thus were themselves brought into judgment. As historic peoples the blood descendants of Lot have largely disappeared from history, though their influences have not.
Deuteronomy 23:3-6 contains this warning to Israel,
"No Ammonite or Moabite shall enter the assembly of the LORD, even to the tenth generation none belonging to them shall enter the assembly of the LORD for ever; because they did not meet you with bread and water on the way, when you came forth out of Egypt, and because they hired against you Balaam the son of Beor from Pethor in Mesopotamia, to curse you. Nevertheless the LORD your God would not hearken to Balaam; but the LORD your God turned the curse into a blessing for you, because the LORD your God loved you. You shall not seek their peace or their prosperity all your days for ever."
One would think that Sodom and Gomorrah were the lowest of the low, the scum of all mankind, but in Ezekiel Chapter 16 God describes the spiritual harlotry of Jerusalem at the time of the Babylonian captivity as worse than that of "her sister Sodom..." Paradoxically the passage closes with a promise for the final restoration of Jerusalem and her "less lewd sisters" as well---at the end of the age we live in now:
"Again the word of the LORD came to me: "Son of man, make known to Jerusalem her abominations, and say, Thus says the Lord GOD to Jerusalem: Your origin and your birth are of the land of the Canaanites; your father was an Amorite, and your mother a Hittite. And as for your birth, on the day you were born your navel string was not cut, nor were you washed with water to cleanse you, nor rubbed with salt, nor swathed with bands. No eye pitied you, to do any of these things to you out of compassion for you; but you were cast out on the open field, for you were abhorred, on the day that you were born. "And when I passed by you, and saw you weltering in your blood, I said to you in your blood, `Live, and grow up like a plant of the field.' And you grew up and became tall and arrived at full maidenhood; your breasts were formed, and your hair had grown; yet you were naked and bare.
"When I passed by you again and looked upon you, behold, you were at the age for love; and I spread my skirt over you, and covered your nakedness: yea, I plighted my troth to you and entered into a covenant with you, says the Lord GOD, and you became mine. Then I bathed you with water and washed off your blood from you, and anointed you with oil. I clothed you also with embroidered cloth and shod you with leather, I swathed you in fine linen and covered you with silk. And I decked you with ornaments, and put bracelets on your arms, and a chain on your neck. And I put a ring on your nose, and earrings in your ears, and a beautiful crown upon your head. Thus you were decked with gold and silver; and your raiment was of fine linen, and silk, and embroidered cloth; you ate fine flour and honey and oil. You grew exceedingly beautiful, and came to regal estate. And your renown went forth among the nations because of your beauty, for it was perfect through the splendor which I had bestowed upon you, says the Lord GOD.
"But you trusted in your beauty, and played the harlot because of your renown, and lavished your harlotries on any passer-by. You took some of your garments, and made for yourself gaily decked shrines, and on them played the harlot; the like has never been, nor ever shall be. You also took your fair jewels of my gold and of my silver, which I had given you, and made for yourself images of men, and with them played the harlot; and you took your embroidered garments to cover them, and set my oil and my incense before them. Also my bread which I gave you --I fed you with fine flour and oil and honey --you set before them for a pleasing odor, says the Lord GOD. And you took your sons and your daughters, whom you had borne to me, and these you sacrificed to them to be devoured. Were your harlotries so small a matter that you slaughtered my children and delivered them up as an offering by fire to them? And in all your abominations and your harlotries you did not remember the days of your youth, when you were naked and bare, weltering in your blood.
"And after all your wickedness (woe, woe to you! says the Lord GOD), you built yourself a vaulted chamber, and made yourself a lofty place in every square; at the head of every street you built your lofty place and prostituted your beauty, offering yourself to any passer-by, and multiplying your harlotry. You also played the harlot with the Egyptians, your lustful neighbors, multiplying your harlotry, to provoke me to anger. Behold, therefore, I stretched out my hand against you, and diminished your allotted portion, and delivered you to the greed of your enemies, the daughters of the Philistines, who were ashamed of your lewd behavior. You played the harlot also with the Assyrians, because you were insatiable; yea, you played the harlot with them, and still you were not satisfied. You multiplied your harlotry also with the trading land of Chaldea; and even with this you were not satisfied. "How lovesick is your heart, says the Lord GOD, seeing you did all these things, the deeds of a brazen harlot; building your vaulted chamber at the head of every street, and making your lofty place in every square.
"Yet you were not like a harlot, because you scorned hire. Adulterous wife, who receives strangers instead of her husband! Men give gifts to all harlots; but you gave your gifts to all your lovers, bribing them to come to you from every side for your harlotries. So you were different from other women in your harlotries: none solicited you to play the harlot; and you gave hire, while no hire was given to you; therefore you were different. "Wherefore, O harlot, hear the word of the LORD: Thus says the Lord GOD, Because your shame was laid bare and your nakedness uncovered in your harlotries with your lovers, and because of all your idols, and because of the blood of your children that you gave to them, therefore, behold, I will gather all your lovers, with whom you took pleasure, all those you loved and all those you loathed; I will gather them against you from every side, and will uncover your nakedness to them, that they may see all your nakedness. And I will judge you as women who break wedlock and shed blood are judged, and bring upon you the blood of wrath and jealousy. And I will give you into the hand of your lovers, and they shall throw down your vaulted chamber and break down your lofty places; they shall strip you of your clothes and take your fair jewels, and leave you naked and bare. They shall bring up a host against you, and they shall stone you and cut you to pieces with their swords. And they shall burn your houses and execute judgments upon you in the sight of many women; I will make you stop playing the harlot, and you shall also give hire no more. So will I satisfy my fury on you, and my jealousy shall depart from you; I will be calm, and will no more be angry. Because you have not remembered the days of your youth, but have enraged me with all these things; therefore, behold, I will requite your deeds upon your head, says the Lord GOD. "Have you not committed lewdness in addition to all your abominations?
"Behold, every one who uses proverbs will use this proverb about you, `Like mother, like daughter.' You are the daughter of your mother, who loathed her husband and her children; and you are the sister of your sisters, who loathed their husbands and their children. Your mother was a Hittite and your father an Amorite. And your elder sister is Samaria, who lived with her daughters to the north of you; and your younger sister, who lived to the south of you, is Sodom with her daughters. Yet you were not content to walk in their ways, or do according to their abominations; within a very little time you were more corrupt than they in all your ways. As I live, says the Lord GOD, your sister Sodom and her daughters have not done as you and your daughters have done. Behold, this was the guilt of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters had pride, surfeit of food, and prosperous ease, but did not aid the poor and needy. They were haughty, and did abominable things before me; therefore I removed them, when I saw it. Samara has not committed half your sins; you have committed more abominations than they, and have made your sisters appear righteous by all the abominations which you have committed. Bear your disgrace, you also, for you have made judgment favorable to your sisters; because of your sins in which you acted more abominably than they, they are more in the right than you. So be ashamed, you also, and bear your disgrace, for you have made your sisters appear righteous.
"I will restore their fortunes, both the fortunes of Sodom and her daughters, and the fortunes of Samaria and her daughters, and I will restore your own fortunes in the midst of them, that you may bear your disgrace and be ashamed of all that you have done, becoming a consolation to them. As for your sisters, Sodom and her daughters shall return to their former estate, and Samaria and her daughters shall return to their former estate; and you and your daughters shall return to your former estate. Was not your sister Sodom a byword in your mouth in the day of your pride, before your wickedness was uncovered? Now you have become like her an object of reproach for the daughters of Edom and all her neighbors, and for the daughters of the Philistines, those round about who despise you. You bear the penalty of your lewdness and your abominations, says the LORD. "Yea, thus says the Lord GOD: I will deal with you as you have done, who have despised the oath in breaking the covenant, yet I will remember my covenant with you in the days of your youth, and I will establish with you an everlasting covenant. Then you will remember your ways, and be ashamed when I take your sisters, both your elder and your younger, and give them to you as daughters, but not on account of the covenant with you. I will establish my covenant with you, and you shall know that I am the LORD, that you may remember and be confounded, and never open your mouth again because of your shame, when I forgive you all that you have done, says the Lord GOD."
The children of Lot are associated in ancient times and in modern with incest, abortion, bestiality and all kinds of sexual perversions. As with all deep rooted idolatries, senseless violence, brutality, murder are also to be found among them. It is through the line of Lot's children that Sodom and Gomorrah have been recreated in our century, not this time as isolated cities in a small area at the Southern end of the Jordan River Valley of Israel. The decadent thoroughly-pagan moral values that characterized these ancient Canaanite cities are now widespread and universal in all the great cities of the world as our age draws to a close.
So it was that Jesus warned his followers:
"...as it was in the days of Lot---they ate, they drank, they bought, they sold, they planted, they built, but on the day when Lot went from Sodom fire and brimstone rained from heaven and destroyed them all---so will it be on the day when the Son of man is revealed. On that day, let him who is on the rooftop, with his goods in his house, not come down to take them away; and likewise let him who is in the field not turn back. Remember Lot's wife..." (Luke 17:28-32).
Notes and References
The sites of Sodom and Gomorrah and the other cities of the plain have been excavated in modern days. Looking down from the fortress of Masada to the East, the Cities of the Plain were located immediately along he edge of the mountains of Jordan adjacent to the shallow Southern end of the Dead Sea. Associates for Biblical Research has an excellent video tape and reports available on this work. The area of interest falls exactly along the Dead Sea Rift zone, one of the deepest earthquake fault areas on earth. Oil and gas bubble up in the area (Gen. 14:10), chunks of floating asphalt were found in the Dead Sea itself not too many decades ago. Natural salt deposits in huge quantities also occur in this area---enhancing the saltiness of the Dead Sea (which is approximately 25% salt). It has been suggested that the firestorm which destroyed these cities was caused by an earthquake releasing methane gas and sulfur which then ignited. This not to deny that God was the direct cause of the disaster.
Further details on the life of Abraham, as well as on Lot and the destruction of the cities of the plain will be found in,
For a discussion of related passages in the Bible concerning the culture of Sodom and Gomorrah and homosexuality in general see,
The Life of Phinehas the priest and his godly actions during the lapse of Israel into immorality among the Moabites are detailed in
December 21, 1986; Revised May 13, 1992. Updated July 20, 1996.