[b-hebrew] M$QH at Genesis 13: 10: Where Did Lot Go?

JimStinehart at aol.com JimStinehart at aol.com
Thu Oct 2 10:06:00 EDT 2008

Yigal Levin:
1.  You wrote:  “Jim, Lot was not looking for "city life", he was looking for 
good grazing.”
Au contraire, that is not what the text says.
“Abram dwelt in the land of Canaan, and Lot dwelt in the cities of the 
[KKR/valley/]Plain, and moved his tent as far as Sodom.”  Genesis 13: 12
Already at Genesis 13: 12 we are told that “Lot dwelt in the cities of the 
[KKR/valley/]Plain”.  Lot was  n-o-t  “looking for good grazing”.  No, Lot had 
already had trouble handling his new, large, time-consuming flock of sheep and 
goats.  Genesis 13: 6-8  So Lot (unlike Abraham) was already thinking of 
selling off his flock and living the soft, city life.  As you yourself put it so 
very well
“The whole point of the story is to contrast Abraham's righteousness with 
 wrong choices….”
Lot initially pitches his tent a short distance from Sodom, but quite 
quickly, Lot sells his flock and moves into the city of Sodom.  By the time we get to 
chapter 19 of Genesis, Lot owns a house with a wooden roof beam over his 
head, Lot has married off his two oldest daughters to men of Sodom, and Lot is a 
full-fledged townie in all regards, enjoying the soft, city life.
2.  You wrote:  “The Jezreel Valley is NOT used primarily for grazing, since 
the fields are sown and planted with grain.”
I agree with that 100%.  In fact, I myself stressed that very point in my own 
post, where I specifically stated:
“The Jezreel Valley was world-famous for growing grain (some of which was 
shipped to Egypt) and for rich cities, not for tent-dwelling herders of sheep and 
goats like Abraham.”
But your real point, which is a valid point, is that the definition of M$QH 
that I initially proposed is deficient.  M$QH means good land that is 
well-watered.  M$QH does not exclude land that is used for growing grain.  So let’s try 
the following, much-improved definition of M$QH:  “luxuriant, well-watered 
3.  You wrote:  “Most grazing by semi-pastoralists such as the Patriarchs was 
done on the desert fringe, including the Judean Desert.”
First, Lot was  n-o-t  “looking for good grazing”.  Rather, Lot had already 
resolved to live the soft city life, as we know from Genesis 13: 12 quoted 
Second, your assertion that “[m]ost grazing by semi-pastoralists such as the 
Patriarchs was done on the desert fringe” does not hold true, at least not in 
the mid-14th century BCE.  We’ve got umpteen references to tent-dwelling “
habiru” all over Canaan in the Amarna Letters.  If those semi-pastoralist habiru 
had minded their own business and kept to the “desert fringe”, then the 
Amarna Letters would not be replete with princeling after city-dwelling princeling 
complaining to no end about the blessed habiru.  Even if the word “habiru” is 
not connected to the word “Hebrew”, the plain fact of the matter is that the 
historical habiru were tent-dwelling “semi-pastoralists” who in the Late 
Bronze Age refused to confine themselves to the “desert fringe”, and instead 
were a constant source of angst to the city-dwelling princelings all over Canaan 
who wrote the Amarna Letters.
Third, your reference to “the desert fringe” is irrelevant here in any 
event, as to the question of where Lot went.  Genesis 13: 10 explicitly tells us 
that Lot resolved to go to M$QH, which is luxuriant, well-watered land, not “the 
desert fringe”.
4.  You wrote:  “AND - the area of the Kikar, along the southern edge of the 
Dead Sea is even today a lush area, watered by several large springs.  Most 
tourists don't get to see this part of the Dead Sea shore because it's so close 
to the Jordanian border, but I've done some military service there, and the 
soldiers call it "Vietnam", because it reminds them of movie scenes of 
patrolling through the jungles of southeast Asia.”
Although there are many oases along the southern edge of the Dead Sea, amidst 
the otherwise desolate eastern Negev Desert, that area is not M$QH.  Much 
more importantly, though, the area south of the Dead Sea is entirely irrelevant 
here in any event, because from a mountain east of Beth-el, absolutely nothing 
south of the northern tip of the Dead Sea can be seen.  That mountain east of 
Beth-el affords, rather, a gorgeous, panoramic view to the northeast, 
featuring the beautiful Jordan River north of the Dead Sea and, far in the distance, 
magnificent Mt. Hermon.  Nothing about that wondrous northeast view from 
Beth-el would incline Lot to go anywhere near “the southern edge of the Dead Sea”, 
a part of the world as to which Lot knew absolutely nothing.
Lot knew nothing whatseover about the “Vietnam”-like oases “along the 
southern edge of the Dead Sea”.  Lot had just come from the far northeast, from 
Harran.  So Lot knew the M$QH on the eastern edge of the Jezreel Valley, including 
the rich cities that were there in that fertile valley, and Lot knew the 
entire Jordan River Valley north of the Dead Sea.
The text specifically tells us what happened:
“And Lot lifted up his eyes, and beheld all the valley of the Jordan, that it 
was luxuriant, well watered land [M$QH] every where…as thou goest unto Zoar.”
  Genesis 13: 10
The M$QH cannot be desert oases “along the southern edge of the Dead Sea”, 
because Lot knew nothing about any such thing.  What Lot knew, rather, having 
come from the far northeast, was that there were numerous rich cities like 
Biblical Zoar/historical S-R/Afula the Small in the luxuriant eastern Jezreel 
Valley.  The Biblical M$QH referred to there is the historical M$QH in the eastern 
Jezreel Valley.  The “valley of the Jordan”, broadly construed, includes the 
eastern half of the Jezreel Valley, because the water at Afula the Small and 
points east (such as Beth Shan) drains east into the Jordan River Valley.
I don’t see how the text could be more specific, or more historically 
accurate, or more geographically accurate than it is.  The text is telling us that 
Lot chose the soft city life among the well-known rich cities he knew about in 
the M$QH of the fertile eastern Jezreel Valley.  There’s no way that Lot would 
have incongruously decided to rough it, and take his large flock on a long, 
risky trek “along the southern edge of the Dead Sea” on “the desert fringe”, a 
part of the world as to which Lot had absolutely no knowledge whatsoever.
Genesis 13: 10 tells us where Lot went.  Lot went toward Zoar, which is 
S-R/historical Afula the Small, in the M$QH/luxuriant, well-watered land that 
characterizes the eastern Jezreel Valley.  Lot knew well that wondrous M$QH, which 
was the breadbasket of ancient Canaan, and Lot knew the many rich cities in 
that fertile valley, Lot having passed by that way in coming into Canaan from 
the far northeast.  Genesis 13: 12 then confirms that Lot quickly began living 
the soft city life among “the cities of the KKR/valley/‘Plain’”.  In an 
historical context, the only place in Canaan that had numerous cities in luxuriant 
M$QH was, precisely, the Jezreel Valley.  Such cities did not exist “along the 
southern edge of the Dead Sea”, or “on the desert fringe”, nor did Lot have 
any knowledge whatsoever of “the southern edge of the Dead Sea”.  Rather, Lot 
had made up his mind as to where he was going when Lot looked northeast, in 
that spectacular view from a mountain just east of Beth-el.  Lot was bound and 
determined to seek the good life, the soft city life, among the rich cities in 
the M$QH of the fertile Jezreel Valley.
Jim Stinehart
Evanston, Illinois

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