[b-hebrew] When Did Lot Get to Zoar?

Bill Rea bill.rea at canterbury.ac.nz
Tue Oct 21 18:36:38 EDT 2008

Jim wrote:-

> In context here, sunrise has long passed.  Lot started to get ready to
> leave Sodom at sunrise.  Lot dawdled.  Lot was whisked to the outskirts of
> Sodom 
> (still in harm?s way).  Lot talks/argues with the angels.  Then Lot and his
> family walk to Zoar, which likely was a distance of 5 miles.  Lot and his
> family must walk at least one hour, at a minimum, to get out of harm?s way.
> Thus 
> sunrise is long past when Lot and his family finally arrive at Zoar.

Let's look at what the text says. Here's my translation for ease of reading
rather than typing in all of the Hebrew transliteration. I start at V15.

15As the dawn broke the angels urged Lot saying, ``Get up! Take your wife
and your two daughters who are here or else you will be blown away in the
punishment of the city. 16But he delayed, so they grabbed him by his hand
and the hand of his wife and the hands of him two daughters (YHWH being
merciful to him) and brought him out and set him outside the city. 17When
they had brought them to the outskirts one said, ``Save your own life. Don't
look back with longing and do not stop anywhere on the plain. Escape to the
hills, otherwise you will be blown away.'' 18But Lot pleaded with them,
``Please, no, my lord. 19Please, as you have been gracious to your servant
and you extended your kindness to me by which you saved my life, but I will
not be able to escape to the hill country, lest the disaster overtake me and
I die. 20See, this town is close enough to run to, and it is very tiny. Let
me escape there, is it not very tiny, that my life may be saved.'' 21Then
one said to him, ``Yes, I will also grant this request. I will not overthrow
the town of which you speak. 22Hurry! Escape to there, for I am unable to do
anything until you arrive there.'' Thus the name of the city came to be
called Zoar.

23The sun rose upon the earth when Lot arrived at Zoar. 24Then YHWH rained
sulphurous fire upon Sodom and Gomorrah, from YHWH, from the sky.

Your interpretation of events seems to hinge about what the words in V15
mean. To me dawn is not sunrise. First light is what I consider dawn to be.
Depending on where you are in the world it is not uncommon for first light
to be up to 90 minutes before sunrise. If we grant your assumption that Zoar
is 5 miles away from Sodom (8 kilometers for those of us who use sensible
units ;-) that distance could be covered easily in the hour and a half
between first light and sunrise. At fast walking speed 8 kilometers could
easily be covered in an hour.

> Your proposed English translation is therefore very misleading.  To someone
> who does not know the Hebrew language?s lack of tense, your translation makes
> it sound as if the text mandates that Lot got to Zoar at sunrise.  That is not
> the case.

I disagree. I don't think my translation or the text ``mandates'' Lot got to
Zoar at sunrise. It is an admissible translation and a reasonable
understanding of the text based on what we understand of the language.
Nothing more. 

>3.  Your defense of the age-old view that the Patriarchs? ?Hebron? is the
>city of Hebron boils down to this:

Huh? I am not engaging with your speculation of where Hebron may have been.
I was dealing with issues of how we understand the text, particularly issues
of translation which is what I'm interested in. Because there are big
differences between Hebrew and English there almost always a range of
admissible translations. What the other translations have done are different
to what I've done, but I think both are quite acceptable English renderings
of the underlying Hebrew. I see nothing in the text which rules out Lot
arriving at Zoar about sunrise.

Contrary to Karl's view I consider translations to be works of scholarship
which are well worth consulting when studying the Hebrew text.

Bill Rea Ph.D., ICT Services, University of Canterbury \_
E-Mail bill.rea at canterbury.ac.nz                       </   New
Phone 64-3-364-2331, Fax  64-3-364-2332               /)  Zealand
Unix Systems Administrator                           (/'


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