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Genesis 13:12 (NKJV) Abram dwelt in the land of Canaan, and Lot dwelt in the cities of the plain and pitched his tent even as far as Sodom.

I've read two separate commentaries that indicate that this means he was looking or longing towards Sodom:

In the Enduring Word Commentary is says:

Lot was sitting in the gate of Sodom: There was a steady progression of compromise in Lot’s life. He went from looking toward Sodom (Genesis 13:10), to pitching his tent toward Sodom (Genesis 13:12), to living in Sodom (Genesis 14:12), and losing everything when Sodom was attacked. Now, back at the infamous city, Lot sat in the gate of Sodom, indicating he was a civic leader.

Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers says:

(12, 13) Lot dwelled in the cities of the plain.—Heb., of the Ciccar. Not as yet within their walls, but in their neighbourhood, and evidently with a longing “toward Sodom,”...

I'm curious if Lot was moving his tent slowly towards Sodom and if, "pitched his tent even as far as Sodom," indicates he pitched his tent facing towards Sodom or perhaps if this could even mean that He was already in Sodom?

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The phrase וַיֶּאֱהַל עַד־סְדֹם — “and he pitched tent unto Sedom” — indicates that Lot dwelt in Sodom. Perhaps for this reason the LXX translates the Hebrew as «καὶ ἐσκήνωσεν ἐν Σοδομοις» — “and he pitched tent in Sodom”.

It is curious that the Hebrew author does not use the preposition אֵל but עַד. Regarding these two, Gesenius wrote,1

Im Allgemeinen unterscheidet es sich von אֵל wohl so, dass אֵל mehr die Richtung nach dem Ziele, dieses aber das wirkliche Anlangen an demselben und Erreichen desselben bezeichnet

In general, [עַד] differs from אֵל in that אֵל more describes the direction towards the destination, while the latter [עַד] [describes] the actual arrival and attainment of the same.

Genesis 13:12 states that “Lot dwelt in the cities of the plain” (וְלוֹט יָשַׁב בְּעָרֵי הַכִּכָּר). Genesis 19:28–29 clearly includes Sodom and Gomorrah as cities of the plain.

28 Then he looked toward Sodom and Gomorrah, and toward all the land of the plain; and he saw, and behold, the smoke of the land which went up like the smoke of a furnace. 29 And it came to pass, when God destroyed the cities of the plain, that God remembered Abraham, and sent Lot out of the midst of the overthrow, when He overthrew the cities in which Lot had dwelt.

In summary, when the author writes that Lot pitched tent “unto Sodom”, that indicates that he was living in Sodom.


Footnotes
1 Gesenius, Vol. 2., p . 190
References
Gesenius, Heinrich Friedrich Wilhelm. Hebräisches und chaldäisches Handwörterbuch über das Alte Testament. 4th ed. Vol. 2. Leipzig: Vogel, 1834.
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  • I really appreciate the answer. Well thought out. Seems like there's perhaps different views on this.
    – Jason_
    Commented Jan 5 at 23:26
  • a problem for me with this answer is that shepherds pitch their tents outside the city walls. Also I don't see the cities of the plain as numbering only 2, although only two are named. Commented Jan 6 at 2:45
  • @DanFefferman—I highly doubt any locality (village, town, city) had walls during that time. Some historians suggest that Jericho was the first walled city (or proto-city). Commented Jan 6 at 3:55
  • @DerÜbermensch but Jericho's walls date back much earlier than Abraham's time. Thousands of years earlier, acc. to archaeologists. I do agree that we are talking about what we'd call towns today. More to the point Gen. 19.1 speaks of Lot sitting at the gate of Sodom. This implies that the city had walls. Commented Jan 6 at 17:00
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    Also... researching this further I found biblical evidence that Sodom and Gomorrah were not the only "cities of the plain" -- Dt. 29.22 ''....the catastrophe of Sodom and Gomorrah, Admah and Zeboiim, which the Lord overthrew in his furious wrath.'' Commented Jan 6 at 17:03
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enter image description here

Note: the above map shows a northern location for Sodom, which makes more sense than the southern alternative, in terms of Lot's course as a herder traveling along the plains of the Jordan.

The phrase "pitched his tent toward Sodom" means Lot eventually settled his main camp in the neighborhood of Sodom. Being a herder, he would have slowly followed the grasslands south along the the plains of the Jordan River Valley on his first journey. The direction of his tent would depend on the local topography and weather conditions along his route. Normally a tent would be placed with the entrance facing away from the prevailing wind.

Interpretations obviously differ, but the text does not say that Lot already lived in Sodom. A key issue is the word kikkar, literally meaning something round, but usually translated here as plain or valley. Shepherds typically move flocks seasonally rather than grazing in one location, since the animals deplete grasslands relatively quickly. The YLT provides a literal translation that implies he moved his flocks in a circuit with a more permanent camp in or near Sodom.

Abram hath dwelt in the land of Canaan, and Lot hath dwelt in the cities of the circuit, and tenteth unto Sodom...

Being a wealthy man with large flocks (13:7), he is described here as temporarily living in nearby towns while his herdsmen apparently kept watch over his property. He moved his flocks in a circuit with a permanent headquarters in or near Sodom. This fits well with the likely lifestyle of a wealthy herder during this period.

Conclusion: Being a herder, Lot certainly moved slowly toward Sodom at first, but the actual direction that his tent faced would depend on local conditions. He seems to have lived temporarily in several towns near the Jordan River, possibly moving his herds in a circuit. Eventually had a more permanent dwelling in the city of Sodom, probably with flocks outside its walls, tended by slaves or herdsmen in his employ.

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  • Thank you for the well thought answer. I really appreciate the image.
    – Jason_
    Commented Jan 5 at 23:24

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