The A.B.C. of Scattering
Part 3:  From Shinar to Zoar

John Plunkett

January 23, 2016

Today, we are going to move on from Shinar and the incomplete Tower of Babel, and we are going to continue our journey with Abram and Lot. 

We finished going through the Babel account last time in verse 9 of Genesis 11.  The subsequent verses go through seven or eight generations of Noah’s son, Shem:

Genesis 11: 
10:  These are the generations of Shem: Shem was an hundred years old, and begat Arphaxad two years after the flood:
11:  And Shem lived after he begat Arphaxad five hundred years, and begat sons and daughters.

There was lots more begetting going on there!  But let's jump forward to verse 22 where we now come to the time of the next significant players in our series:

22:  And Serug lived thirty years, and begat Nahor:

There were actually two Nahors – Nahor I and Nahor II.  Or Nahor Senior and Nahor Junior.

23:  And Serug lived after he begat Nahor two hundred years, and begat sons and daughters.
24:  And Nahor lived nine and twenty years, and begat Terah:
25:  And Nahor lived after he begat Terah an hundred and nineteen years, and begat sons and daughters.
26:  And Terah lived seventy years, and begat Abram, Nahor
(Junior!}, and Haran.

The Genesis author ends the genealogy right there; but he repeats this last section – perhaps for emphasis – because the folks we are going to be reading about here – especially Abram, Sarai and Lot – figure greatly in the important events of the next fourteen chapters.

27:  Now these are the generations of Terah: Terah begat Abram, Nahor, and Haran; and Haran begat Lot.

Just to show how far the Shemites had strayed from God’s ways over the past years, many of them, possibly even including Abram's father, Terah, had become idol worshippers.  Many years later, the LORD told the Israelites, through Joshua:

Joshua 24:2:
And Joshua said unto all the people, "Thus saith the LORD God of Israel, 'Your fathers dwelt on the other side of the flood in old time, even Terah, the father of Abraham, and the father of Nachor: and they served other gods.'"

Yes.  They really had strayed away from the true God’s and His way of life.  So, not only were they called out of Ur; but they were also called out of idolatry.

Genesis 11:28:
And Haran died before his father Terah in the land of his nativity, in Ur of the Chaldees.

By the time we are reading of here, the Babel episode was behind them and their scattering across the face of the earth had continued – at least to some extent. 

Here, for the very first time, we read of this place called "Ur of the Chaldees."  When Genesis says that this was "the land of his nativity," we ask, "Who was he talking about?  Who was born in Ur of the Chaldees?  Was it Haran or was it Terah?  Or both of them."  We are not really sure because it doesn’t say.  But that's okay because the important thing for us to note here is that this group of Shemites had come to another halt at Ur of the Chaldees.

If Ur was, in fact, the birthplace of Terah, who was the father and the family patriarch at the time, that would mean that they had been living there much longer than if it was only his son, Haran, who had been born there. 

Either way, history seems to have been repeating itself here.  Just like the Babel group that we read about last time, maybe these Shemites, knowing that God wanted them to scatter across the face of the earth, perhaps reasoned to themselves in their minds that, "Surely it must be acceptable to Him that various groups would eventually arrive at their final dwelling places!  And if so, is this it?  Is this our final dwelling place?  At Ur?"

On the other hand, if this extended halt at Ur of the Chaldees did displease the LORD, then perhaps the death of Haran was another "slap on the wrist" for failing to learn the lessons of the Shinar/Babel episode.

We do not have all of the details.  We have so little information; so we really have to read what the verses say and we must dig into the narrative.

Genesis 11:31a:
And Terah took Abram his son, and Lot the son of Haran his son’s son, and Sarai his daughter in law, his son Abram’s wife; and they went forth with them from Ur of the Chaldees, to go into the land of Canaan…

Did Terah just wake up one morning with this thought in his mind: "Hey guys!  Let's head down to the land of Canaan!  I've heard that it's pretty nice down that way!"?

Obviously not.  If you think about it, the flood had changed so much of the geography of the earth.  From what we know, there were few people who had dared to venture into that area of Canaan; perhaps only the extended family of Canaan – the son of Ham.

So who caused Terah to head back on the road again, and to move his extended family toward the land of Canaan?

We find the answer in two scriptures: 

Genesis 15:7:
And He said unto him {Abram}, "I am the LORD that brought thee out of Ur of the Chaldees, to give thee this land to inherit it."

"This land"?  Which land?  We are not sure exactly where Abram was at the time of Genesis 15; but it was probably somewhere near Sodom, which is the last geographical mention before that verse.  But it is obvious from the LORD's words here that, wherever Abram was at that time, he was in a part of the Promised Land of Canaan.  This was repeated many years later by Nehemiah:

Nehemiah 9:7:
You are the LORD God, who chose Abram, and brought him out of Ur of the Chaldeans, and gave him the name Abraham;

So, here is the answer once again.  It was the LORD God who caused Terah, Abram, and their families to leave Ur.  From what we will learn as we go along, it likely came to pass through the LORD's influence on Abram and Abram's influence on Terah. 

There is a possibility that the LORD had a frown of displeasure on His face at the unauthorized lengthy halt at Ur of the Chaldees; and it was He who made it evident to them that Ur was not their final destination; and it was He who set them back "on the road again" towards the land of Canaan – and beyond.

During our Abrahamic Covenant studies, we looked into Ur a little, and found that it grew from quite a lowly little town to a very important sea-port at the south end of Mesopotamia on the Persian Gulf coast; and evidently a very comfortable place to live. 

But the LORD somehow made it evident to the family that Ur was not their final destination, and that their period of scattering and wandering was not yet over – not by a long way!  

Back to Genesis 11:

31b: … and they came unto Haran, and dwelt there.

What did Terah and his group do?  They did exactly the same as the Shinar Babel group had done.  They did exactly the same as Cain and his family had done.  They "dwelt there"!  They dwelt at Haran (which, by the way, was possibly – even probably – named after Abram’s dead brother) and they did not continue on towards the land of Canaan as they were commanded. 

The very same Hebrew word for dwelt is used here as was used in the Cain and Shinar/Babel accounts. The Hebrew word is yashab.  This Shemite/Terahite group intended to abide, remain, continue and stay at Haran, their new halting place.  They were there for good.  Or at least, they thought they were!  It is true that they did stay there – not permanently; but for quite a while:

32:  And the days of Terah were two hundred and five years: and Terah died in Haran.

So he was only a young fellow when he died at 205!  By our modern standards, 205 is a very long life.  But if we compare Terah’s lifespan with the majority of his forefathers before him, he actually died very, very young – actually the youngest of them all, except for his own father, Nahor (Senior) who only lived for 148 years. 

We have to wonder about these things.  Again, we don’t have all of the details; but perhaps, similar to Terah’s son, Haran and perhaps also similar to his father Nahor, we can ask the question: Did God perhaps cut Terah’s life short as kind of a slap on the wrist and another warning to the Shemite group for making unauthorized, lengthy halts?  I am not being dogmatic by any means.  Just a possibility.

Genesis 12:1:
Now the LORD had said unto Abram, "Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house, unto a land that I will show thee:"

"The LORD had said"?  The translators’ insertion of the word “had” here gives a false impression that this verse is taking us out of the time sequence, back in time, and that this command from the LORD came to Abram when he was still living in Ur.  It gives the false impression that when He says “thy country" and "thy fathers house," that they both refer to Ur and not to Haran.  But verse 4 quickly disproves these erroneous notions:

4:  So Abram departed, as the LORD had spoken unto him; and Lot went with him {N.B.}: and Abram was seventy and five years old when he departed out of Haran.

Out of Haran!  Not Ur!  This was the second "get-up-and-go" command that the LORD gave them here.  The first one was from Ur and the second one was from Haran.

Certainly the Word of the LORD did come to Terah’s family back at Ur telling them to "get up and go."  But, when this particular Word of the LORD came to Abram, he was in Haran and not Ur.

5a:  And Abram took Sarai his wife, and Lot his brother’s son {N.B.}, and all their substance that they had gathered, and the souls that they had gotten in Haran… 

When we read through this account quickly, we might think that they just went into Haran and came out again quite quickly afterwards.  But this verse gives us even more evidence that they must have spent more than just a few years in Haran.  By the time that they left Haran, they had gathered much "substance" and they gotten many "souls."  The grammar here gives us a clear impression that, at Haran, they had gathered to themselves lots of "stuff" and lots of souls.  And all that takes time!

Where did they get all of those "souls"?  Had they been begetting again?  Quite likely, I would think!  As we all know, it takes some time to bring begotten babies into the world – nine months at least.  And that is only if they were all begotten at the same time – which is very unlikely. 

These Shemites had no problem obeying God’s commands about being fruitful and multiplying; but they appeared o have had big problems with His commands about scattering across the face of the earth.  They might have thought or said, "We like this part of it; but we don’t like that part of it!" 

Although Abram certainly would have more dubious halts in his nomadic life, at this time he seems to have got the point that God wanted him and his family to keep on going forth – to keep on wandering and scattering.

5b: … and they went forth to go into the land of Canaan; and into the land of Canaan they came.

Their next stops were brief ones, actually in a couple of places in Canaan, the land that the LORD had told Abram that one day all of it would belong to him – or more accurately, to his descendants; but that Abram personally was not allowed to stop there permanently.  Just like Rick Steves, at the end of his television programs, the LORD told Abram to "Keep on travellin"!

6:  And Abram passed through the land unto the place of Sichem, unto the plain of Moreh.  And the Canaanite was then in the land.
7:  And the LORD appeared unto Abram, and said, "Unto thy seed will I give this land": and there builded he an altar unto the LORD, who appeared unto him.

If you look at your Bible map, you'll see that this puts Abram’s group travelling southwards now, between Sichem (which we believe was later renamed "Shechem") and the plain of Moreh.  If you look at that on a later map, you can pinpoint that place right in the middle of what would later become the western area of the Promised Land that would eventually belong to the Israelite tribe of Manasseh.  This was likely quite a lush land at that time, so it must have been very tempting for Abram to call a halt there, and to take it right then.  But they obediently went on and continued southward.

8:  And he removed from thence unto a mountain on the east of Bethel, and pitched his tent, having Bethel on the west, and Hai on the east: and there he builded an altar unto the LORD, and called upon the name of the LORD.

I believe that this is somewhat north of Jerusalem. 

9:  And Abram journeyed, going on still towards the south.

Again, we don’t know all of the timing; but it appeared to be a very quick journey through the land of Canaan. They came in at the top, and they went out at the bottom – into Egypt:

10:  And there was a famine in the land: and Abram went down into Egypt to sojourn there; for the famine was grievous in the land.

Temporary stops like this one may have been acceptable to the LORD, especially in an emergency like this grievous famine in the Land of Canaan.  But if Abram and his family tried to stay any longer than was absolutely necessary, then the LORD was certainly having none of that! 

We read here in verse 10 that they intended to sojourn – not to dwell – there in Egypt.  There is a big difference between the two words.  The English word sojourn is here translated from the Hebrew verb guwr (Strong’s 1481) which, in the King James Version is translated as stranger, to gather together, or to assemble.  Its extended Hebrew meanings are to dwell for a time, to temporarily dwell, and another very interesting and very significant one in this case, to seek hospitality. This is basically what Abram's party were doing down in Egypt.

But there is also another set of seemingly unrelated, more negative translations of the word ‘guwr.’ Namely to stir up strife, and to quarrel.  And that is exactly what happened!  We are not told the exact timing; but it seems that Abram did try to stay longer than necessary and, possibly as a result, a guwr quarrel blew up between Abram and Pharaoh over "Sarah the Beautiful."  We won’t go into all of the details of it today; but it was possibly caused by the LORD who was preserving Sarah’s reproductive system for a very special offspring.  Nobody else was to touch her!

20:  And Pharaoh commanded his men concerning him: and they sent him away, and his wife, and all that he had.

We're concentrating on the movement of the people and the fact that it was God’s will for them to keep on moving.

God sometimes uses human beings to act on His behalf; and here He seems to have used Pharaoh and Pharaoh’s spokesmen to tell Abram and his party to "hit the road"!  So, as a result, Abram was "on the road again"!

Genesis 13:1:
And Abram went up out of Egypt, he, and his wife, and all that he had, and Lot with him
{N.B.}, into the south.

Please don’t be confused.  They didn’t go south out of Egypt.  They went north out of Egypt and into the south of the Land of Canaan. 

3:  And he went on his journeys from the south even to Bethel, unto the place where his tent had been at the beginning, between Bethel and Hai;
4:  Unto the place of the altar, which he had made there at the first: and there Abram called on the name of the LORD.
5:  And Lot also
{N.B.}, which went with Abram, had flocks, and herds, and tents.

They continued to be on the move, as commanded.  However, they had not really scattered, as commanded.  Lot’s family group was still firmly attached to Abram’s family group.  It appears that God may have planned and caused what followed in order to correct this:

6:  And the land was not able to bear them, that they might dwell together: for their substance was great, so that they could not dwell together.

As their groups' populations grew larger, familiarity began to breed contempt (as it so commonly does).  And as a result, we see another example of scattering.  A scattering that was intended to be beneficial for them all.

In verse 9, when we read of Abram talking to his nephew Lot, I believe what he said here was inspired by the LORD:

9:  "Is not the whole land before thee?  Separate thyself, I pray thee, from me: if thou wilt take the left hand, then I will go to the right; or if thou depart to the right hand, then I will go to the left."

This was a very wise suggestion for moving the two groups apart.  For separation.  For scattering.

We know that Lot was the younger of the two, and that he was more selfish than Abram, who had been learning to live God’s "way of give."  Lot was evidently a pretty selfish guy, and he took advantage of the generosity of Abram's offering, and chose what he thought was "the best bit":

10:  And Lot lifted up his eyes, and beheld all the plain of Jordan, that it was well watered everywhere, before the LORD destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah, even as the garden of the LORD, like the land of Egypt, as thou comest unto Zoar.

If you look the satellite view on Google Maps of where Sodom and Gomorrah used to be (right around the Dead Sea), you will notice how barren it really is, especially compared with the Nile Valley, which is very green.

11:  Then Lot chose him all the plain of Jordan; and Lot journeyed east: and they separated themselves the one from the other.

So again, more scattering and more travel.  Even though it arose from a negative incident between the sheepherders, it was potentially for very good, positive purposes, based in love, and based on the "way of give", and for the mutual benefit of both Abram’s group and Lot’s.

Can we, in God’s church, apply the same principle to the scattering of God’s church today?  I believe that we can!  I believe that we must!  We will cover much more on this as we go along.

And as they moved along, it is clear that Abram still cared about Lot, his family, and their welfare, even though Lot appears to have been selfish, and even though the two found it necessary to separate.  We will shortly go into these accounts in some more detail; but Abram went to the rescue when Lot was captured by the five kings.  He also pleaded to the LORD for Lot and his family when He was about to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah.

Again, this is another good example for God’s people today.  Despite the the ongoing scattering, we must continue to have love and respect for our brethren in other Church of God groups than “our own.”  They are not our sheep!  We must continue to have love and respect for our brethren, despite our separation and despite our differences.  We must get away from the continuous rounds of fault-finding and unrighteous judging that we see within the church.

12:  Abram dwelled {yashab'd} in the land of Canaan, and Lot dwelled {yashab'd} in the cities of the plain, and pitched his tent toward Sodom.

It appears that, at this point in time, Lot and his people were still living in tents; i.e. that they did not move into real houses as soon as they arrived in the area. 

As for Abram, when we go through later verses and chapters, we'll see that, even though this verse says that he dwelled (yashab'd) in the land of Canaan, it appears that he was not stationary within that land; but that, with a couple of exceptions to that rule, for the most part, he and his group kept moving. 

Lot, on the other hand, came to a full stop and "yashab'd" in the cities of the plain.  I believe that there were five or six "cities of the plain" – Sodom, Gomorrah, little Zoar and another two or three as well.  The verse specifically says "towards Sodom" which means close to Sodom; but not yet in the city.

It also says that he "pitched his tent there."  That sounds like an acceptably temporary stop.  However, we later learn that, after he was freed from his captivity (which was possibly another punishment for stopping), Lot and his family lived in a more permanent residence – a house with lockable doors that was right inside the City of Sodom, the city that, from what we can learn from biblical history, was evidently more evil and disreputable than modern San Francisco, New York City and Las Vegas, all rolled into one!

14:  And the LORD said unto Abram, after that Lot was separated from him, "Lift up now thine eyes, and look from the place where thou art northward, and southward, and eastward, and westward:
15:  For all the land which thou seest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed for ever...

Perhaps, as the LORD was making these promises to him, Abram might have been thinking, "Great!  Maybe now is the time for us to settle down."  Alas, please notice in these verses all the "wills" and "shalls" which show that God’s promises were all future tense.

16:  And I will make thy seed as the dust of the earth: so that if a man can number the dust of the earth, then shall thy seed also be numbered.
17:  Arise, walk through the land in the length of it and in the breadth of it; for I will give it unto thee."

It is like the LORD was saying to Abram, "Check it out Abram!  Wander back and forth through it!  See what you're going to get.  But not yet!"

Did Abram keep moving?  Yes, he did:

18:  Then Abram removed his tent, and came and dwelt in the plain of Mamre, which is in Hebron, and built there an altar unto the LORD.

They struck camp at their previous site and relocated to the Plain of Mamre where they "yashab'd."  Modern Mamre is a suburb of Hebron.  It is located about 23 miles south of Jerusalem by road, and about 18 miles (as the crow flies) west of the Dead Sea.

So Abram and his group yashab'd on the Plain of Mamre!  Did they intend to stay there permanently?  Probably not.  He was still living in his tent and, although he did build "an altar unto the LORD," he did not build a house. 

Shortly after arriving at the Plain of Mamre, Abram had to go away again, on another journey.  God sent him away on this side-trip to rescue his nephew, Lot, who had been kidnapped by an army of five kings.  This must have been quite a trip!

Genesis 14:
14:  And when Abram heard that his brother
{actually, his nephew; the Hebrew "ach" can mean "kinsman"} was taken captive, he armed his trained servants, born in his own house, three hundred and eighteen, and pursued them unto Dan.

To Dan!  Was this the same Dan as the scriptures mention later?  The same place as modern Dan, in Israel’s far north, near the border with Lebanon?  If so, this truly was quite a long way – about 200 miles – from Mamre (which was about 20 miles south of Jerusalem).  That must have been quite a trip back then with three hundred servants.  But the was even more to this road trip:

15:  And he divided himself against them, he and his servants, by night, and smote them, and pursued them unto Hobah, which is on the left hand of Damascus.

Damascus is another 40 miles north of Dan, and Hobah is even further north than that.  So there is a strong possibility that the journey from Mamre to Hobah was about 300 miles. Then doing what you have to do and then turning around and coming all of the way back again.  The round-trip was about 600 miles.  That was a long way!

16:  And he brought back all the goods, and also brought again his brother {ach: nephew} Lot, and his goods, and the women also, and the people.
17:  And the king of Sodom went out to meet him after his return from the slaughter of Chedorlaomer, and of the kings that were with him, at the valley of Shaveh, which is the king’s dale.

So, they returned all the way back, possibly via Salem, to the southern part of Canaan. 

What I am repeatedly trying to get across is the frequent mentions of Abram’s constant travels, including those within the land of Canaan.

Moving on to chapter 15 and repeating verse 7, which we read earlier:

Genesis 15:7:
And He said unto him, "I am the LORD that brought thee out of Ur of the Chaldees, to give thee this land to inherit it."

He was saying, "I brought you all of the way down here, more than a thousand miles from Ur, to give you this land to inherit it."  

What land?  Where were they?  Quite likely, they were back at Mamre near Hebron.  But definitely in the land of Canaan.  The LORD then gives Abram the approximate south and north coordinates of what He called "this land":

18:  In the same day the LORD made a covenant with Abram, saying, "Unto thy seed have I given this land, from the river of Egypt unto the great river, the river Euphrates:

Just as a reminder that Abram was to stay on the move, the LORD specified who would receive "this land."  He said, "Unto thy seed" or "unto your descendants."

Please notice the tense in verse 18.  The LORD said, "Unto thy seed have I given this land."  That's past tense!  It was a done deal!  God gave Abram a rock-solid guarantee.  Nevertheless, it would not be the human Abram who would receive it personally.  Not in this age anyway!  Rather it would be his descendants’ would get it.  Still, I'm sure that, in the First Resurrection, Abram will receive it all.  And much, much more!

Genesis 16: 3:
And Sarai Abram’s wife took Hagar her maid the Egyptian, after Abram had dwelt ten years in the land of Canaan, and gave her to her husband Abram to be his wife.

Had Abram not learned his lesson from the LORD’s warnings?  Again, we don’t have all the details.  Did these ten years include Abram’s wanderings in and out of the Land of Canaan and to and from the various parts of it. 

As we read through this, Abram definitely seems to have liked the Mamre area and seems to have spent quite a bit of time there. Yes, he had been on the move – but frequently – certainly not 100% continuously.  Yes, he had been wandering.  And he had been scattering too.  His father's, his brothers' and his nephew's groups had split off from his.  Even Hagar and her son Ishmael were split off and removed from Abram’s group.  Twice!

So was the LORD upset with Abram for this ten-year "yashab" in the Land of Canaan?  Did it bear any negative fruits?  Did the LORD administer another "slap on the wrist"?  Again, I don’t have the authority to speak for the LORD; but just maybe that big, history-changing trial with Hagar
(it was a big trial for Sarai too!) was part of the negative result. 

Whatever the case, and perhaps because Abram and Sarai’s faith needed bolstering, the LORD appeared to Abram again:

Genesis 17:1:
And when Abram was ninety years old and nine, the LORD appeared to Abram, and said unto him, "I am the Almighty God; walk before me, and be thou perfect."

It might be a small point, but the LORD did not say, "Stand before me."  He said, "Walk before me."

Abram and Sarai did as they were told and they walked, and they walked, and they walked!  They kept on walking – before the LORD.  They kept walking and they kept becoming more perfect (Matthew 5:48).  They kept growing in grace, and in knowledge (II Peter 3:18), and in faith. This was when the LORD changed Abram’s name to Abraham, and Sarai’s name to Sarah.

Let’s just pause, go back to the beginning again and repeat the LORD’s original commands to Adam and Eve:

Genesis 2:24:
Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.

Genesis 1:28:
And God blessed them, and God said unto them, "Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth."

Later, He said to Noah and his extended family:

Genesis 8:16:
Go forth of the ark, thou, and thy wife, and thy sons, and thy sons’ wives with thee.

Genesis 9:7:
And you, be ye fruitful, and multiply; bring forth abundantly in the earth, and multiply therein.

Abraham and Sarah did lots of going forth; but try as they might, they could not manage the bringing forth part of it.  Poor Sarah was barren.  But her barrenness was for the LORD’s own purposes.

But (back in chapter 17) He came to them yet again, bolstered their faith, and told them that it really would happen!

Genesis 17:2:
And I will make my covenant between me and thee, and will multiply thee exceedingly.

Notice the future tense again.

4:  As for me, behold, my covenant is with thee, and thou shalt be a father of many nations.
5:  Neither shall thy name any more be called Abram, but thy name shall be Abraham; for a father of many nations have I made thee.

The past tense here shows that, even though its fulfillment was in the future, it was already "a done deal" with a rock-solid guarantee!

6:  And I will make thee exceeding fruitful, and I will make nations of thee, and kings shall come out of thee...
7:  And I will establish my covenant between me and thee and thy seed after thee in their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be a God unto thee, and to thy seed after thee.
8:  And I will give unto thee, and to thy seed after thee, the land wherein thou art a stranger, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession; and I will be their God.

That last phrase, "I will be their God" is so very important, because this is where we find out that the LORD wanted the peoples' worship of Himself to be inseparable from their multiplying, scattering and resettling. 

And it had not been!  So many of them had turned to idolatry and other abominations.  We know that the idolatry of many of the people was so horrible when we read what happened in Sodom and Gomorrah. 

Since the day that the LORD first sent them out on the road, Abram (now Abraham) and Sarai (now Sarah) had never owned their own house.  It is a lovely thing for a person to be blessed to the point of owning his/her own house.  But Abraham and Sarah were the equivalents of a king and a queen. They left great riches behind them, both in Ur and Haran.  During their travels they rubbed shoulders with kings and Pharaohs.  Can you imagine Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip being commanded to get up, to leave their luxuriously comfortable homes in Buckingham Palace and Windsor Castle, and to wander around Europe for the rest of their lives, camping like Bedouins or Gypsies?  Even when the LORD came back to visit Abraham and Sarah again, they were still living in a tent:

Genesis 18:1:
And the LORD appeared unto him in the plains of Mamre: and he sat in the tent door in the heat of the day;

We are going to jump ahead a little into the chapter 19 account of Lot’s rescue from Sodom and Gomorrah.  We know that the LORD rescued Lot; but I believe that He did so, more for His love for Abraham than for the benefit of Lot, who was selfish and argumentative.  The LORD mercifully chased Lot and his family out of Sodom and He set them back "on the road again":

Genesis 19:
17:  And it came to pass, when they
{two angels} had brought them {Lot and his family} forth abroad, that he {one of the two angels} said, "Escape for thy life; look not behind thee, neither stay thou in all the plain; escape to the mountain, lest thou be consumed.

What did Lot do?  He argued with the angels!  They had given him a "place of safety" in the mountains.  And he argued with them!  After a little while the angels reluctantly okayed Lot’s alternate location, which was Zoar:

22:  Haste thee, escape thither; for I cannot do any thing till thou be come thither.  Therefore the name of the city was called Zoar.

This last phrase is interesting.  "Zoar" (Strong’s 6820) means insignificant and insignificance.  It stems from the verb tsar (Strong’s 6819) which means brought low, little ones, to be small, to grow small or to be insignificant.  

This is firstly in regards to when Lot was trying to coerce the angels to let him go to Zoar instead of to the mountains, and he repeated to them that Zoar was only a little (Hebrew mitsar) city.  Lot and his family had evidently developed a very unhealthy preference for city life. 

Secondarily, this insignificance might also refer to the angels' limitations – possibly in reference to the relatively limited power of the angels in comparison with God’s unlimited power.  The angel said that he could not do anything until Lot came to Zoar.

23:  The sun was risen upon the earth when Lot entered into Zoar.
24:  Then the LORD rained upon Sodom and upon Gomorrah brimstone and fire from the LORD out of heaven;
25:  And he overthrew those cities, and all the plain, and all the inhabitants of the cities, and that which grew upon the ground.

The whole area was destroyed and burned up.  Again, if you look on Google Maps on its satellite view of where Sodom and Gomorrah are believed to have been, once it was one of the lushest places on the planet; but now it is a barren, burnt wilderness.

In verse 25, the word "inhabitants" is interesting.  It is translated from the Hebrew word "yashab" and here it means the dwellers of those cities.  This made me think that, as all of these people descended from those who came out of the ark, just maybe, if these inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah had not yashab'd there, but had kept moving, as commanded by the LORD, they would not have become so dreadfully depraved and sinful.  And they would have survived and flourished.  Even today, city life can do that to people.  Without going into all the details, city life – especially big city life – can contribute to depravity. 

After Lot's wife had been turned into a pillar of salt:

29a:  And it came to pass, when God destroyed the cities of the plain, that God remembered Abraham,

He then recaps what He had just done.

29b: ... and sent Lot out of the midst of the overthrow, when He overthrew the cities in the which Lot dwelt.

But what happened?  Fickle, selfish Lot changed his mind!  He moved out of Zoar – which he had insisted upon! – and he relocated.  Where to?

30:  And Lot went up out of Zoar, and dwelt in the mountain {!!!}, and his two daughters with him; for he feared to dwell in Zoar: and he dwelt in a cave, he and his two daughters.

He went into the mountains – the exact place of safety that was originally planned for them; but which Lot had argued so vociferously against and resisted! 

If they had gone to the mountains right away, when they were first instructed by the angels, instead of arguing, maybe Lot’s wife would not have looked back, and just maybe she would have survived with her family.  The implication is that, as well as looking back disobediently, she also perhaps looked back longingly towards Sodom and Gomorrah. 

Did you notice the four yashabs in verses 29 and 30?  I wonder if they could be significant.  So far, in the series, it seems that yashabs so often led to problems – to "slaps on the wrists" – some minor – some major; but all of them for the benefit of these early post-deluge peoples who should have been "on the road."  This was no exception, as we'll soon see.

I am not sure why Lot was afraid to remain in Zoar.  Perhaps because of his rebellious, argumentative and evidently unappreciative attitude toward the LORD and His great mercy.

Lot had been rescued twice, once from the ill-fated Sodom and once from his kidnap by the five kings.  As the LORD had done to the Noahites and Abraham, perhaps He also put some situations and conditions in place which made life in Zoar not as comfortable as Lot’s family had hoped or expected.  Perhaps they had hoped that little Zoar might have been similar in some ways to the larger cities of Sodom and Gomorrah.  This might be like comparing Lake Tahoe with Las Vegas!  We don’t know this for sure.  The scriptures don’t say so; but why on earth did they want to go to another city? 

Lot and his daughters dwelt (yashab'd) in a mountain cave.  The Genesis account does not tell us how long they stayed in Zoar; nor does it tell us how long they stayed in the mountain cave.  However, if we think back and consider the similarities between this case and Noah’s, their stay must have been long enough for them either to make or to procure some wine.  

And because of that wine, a gross sin took place and great curse was brought down on Lot’s family.  Again, this was in some ways reminiscent – and even similar – to the gross sin and curse that befell Noah’s family.  Perhaps for similar reasons.

Next time, in Part 4, we are going to go back "on the road again" with Abraham, Sarah and their group of happy wanderers.