Old Testament -
Smith's Bible Dictionary
Lot (veil or covering), the son of Haran, and therefore the nephew of Abraham. Genesis 11:27, 31; (B.C. before 1926-1898.) His sisters were Milcah the wife of Nahor, and Iscah, by some identified with Sarah. haran died before the emigration of Terah and his family from Ur of the Chaldees, ver. 28, and Lot was therefore born there. He removed with the rest of his kindred to Charran, and again subsequently with Abraham and Sarai to Canaan. ch. Genesis 12:4, 5; With them he took refuge in Egypt from a famine,a nd with them returned, first to the "south," ch. Genesis 13:1; and then to their original settlement between Bethel and Ai. vs. Genesis 13:3, 4; But the pastures of the hills of Bethel, which had with ease contained the two strangers on their first arrival, were not able any longer to bear them, so much had their possessions of sheep, goats and cattle increased. Accordingly they separated, Lot choosing the fertile plain of the Jordan, and advancing as far as Sodom. Genesis 13:10-14; The next occurrence in the life of Lot is his capture by the four kings of the east and his rescue by Abram. ch. Genesis 13:14; The last scene preserved to us in the history of Lot is too well known to need repetition. He was still living in Sodom, Genesis 19:1;... from which he was rescued by some angels on the day of its final overthrow. he fled first to Zoar, in which he found a temporary refuge during the destruction of the other cities of the plain. Where this place was situated is not known with certainty. [ZOAR] The end of Lot's wife is commonly treated as one of the difficulties of the Bible; but it surely need not be so. It cannot be necessary to create the details of the story where none are given. On these points the record is silent. The value and the significance of the story to us are contained in the allusion of Christ. Luke 17:32; Later ages have not been satisfied so to leave the matter, but have insisted on identifying the "pillar" with some one of the fleeting forms which the perishable rock of the south end of the Dead Sea is constantly assuming in its process of decomposition and liquefaction.
(Dictionary of the Bible, William Smith)
Question: Is it possible that Shem and
Melchizedek are the same person?
Alma E. Gygi
This question is frequently asked and is an interesting one. Let us examine first what we know about Shem. Although the Bible names Shem as the eldest son of Noah (Gen. 5:32), modern-day revelation places Japheth as the eldest (Moses 8:12). Both reports, however, are harmonious in naming Shem as the progenitor of Israel and in the fact that the priesthood descended through Shem to all the great patriarchs after Noah. (1 Chr. 1:24–27.) In this patriarchal order of priesthood, Shem stands next to Noah. He held the keys to the priesthood and was the great high priest of his day.*
Living contemporary with Shem was a man known as Melchizedek, who was also known as the great high priest.** The scriptures give us the details of Shem’s birth and ancestry but are silent as to his ministry and later life. Of Melchizedek, however, the opposite is true. Nothing is recorded about his birth or ancestry, even though the Book of Mormon states that he did have a father. (Alma 13:17–18.) Concerning his ministry and life we have several interesting and important facts. (Gen. 14:18–20; Heb. 7:1–4; Alma 13:17–18.)
All of this provokes some questions and calls for answers. Were there two high priests presiding at the same time? Why is the record silent concerning Shem’s ministry? Why is nothing known concerning Melchizedek’s ancestry?
Because of this state of knowledge on our part, many Saints and gospel scholars have wondered if these men were the same person. The truth is, we do not know the answer. But an examination of the scriptures is fascinating, because it seems to indicate that these men may have been one and the same. For example, here is the case for their oneness:
1. The inheritance given to Shem included the land of Salem. Melchizedek appears in scripture as the king of Salem, who reigns over this area.
2. Shem, according to later revelation, reigned in righteousness and the priesthood came through him. Melchizedek appears on the scene with a title that means “king of righteousness.”
3. Shem was the great high priest of his day. Abraham honored the high priest Melchizedek by seeking a blessing at his hands and paying him tithes.
4. Abraham stands next to Shem in the patriarchal order of the priesthood and would surely have received the priesthood from Shem; but D&C 84:5–17 says Abraham received the priesthood from Melchizedek.
5. Jewish tradition identifies Shem as Melchizedek.***
6. President Joseph F. Smith’s remarkable vision names Shem among the great patriarchs, but no mention is made of Melchizedek.
7. Times and Seasons (vol. 6, p. 746) speaks of “Shem, who was Melchizedek.”
On the other hand, there is a case for their being two distinct personalities. Many persons believe D&C 84:14 is proof that there are perhaps several generations between Melchizedek and Noah. The scripture says, “Which Abraham received the priesthood from Melchizedek, who received it through the lineage of his fathers, even till Noah.”
If it does turn out that Shem and Melchizedek are the same person, this scripture should prove no stumbling block, because it could be interpreted to mean that priesthood authority commenced with Adam and came through the fathers, even till Noah, and then to Shem.
* Joseph F. Smith, Gospel Doctrine (Deseret Book Co., 1919) p. 474.
** D&C 107:2; Heb. 7:4; Alma 13:17; Gen. 14:18–20.
*** When Abraham returned from the war, Shem, or, as he is sometimes called, Melchizedek, the king of righteousness, priest of the Most High God. …” (Ginsberg, Legends of the Jews, p. 233.) “Jewish tradition pronounces Melchizedek to be a survivor of the Deluge, the patriarch Shem.” (Smith’s Bible Dictionary, p. 393.) “And Adonizedek king of Jerusalem, the same was Shem. …” (Book of Jasher 16:11.)
("I Have a
Question," Ensign, November 1973)
Is there any evidence for the Biblical story of
Sodom and Gomorrah's destruction by fire and brimstone (sulfur)?
The ruins of Sodom
and Gomorrah have been discovered southeast of the Dead Sea. The modern names
are Bab edh-Dhra, thought to be Sodom, and Numeira, thought to be Gomorrah. Both
places were destroyed at the same time by an enormous conflagration. The
destruction debris was about three feet thick. What brought about this awful
calamity? Startling discoveries in the cemetery at Bab edh-Dhra revealed the
cause. Archaeologists found that buildings used to bury the dead were burned by
a fire that started on the roof.
What would cause every structure in the cemetery to be destroyed in this way? The answer to the mystery is found in the Bible. “Then the Lord rained down burning sulfur on Sodom and Gomorrah—from the Lord out of the heavens” (Genesis 19:24). The only conceivable explanation for this unique discovery in the annals of archaeology is that burning debris fell on the buildings from the air. But how could such a thing happen?
There is ample evidence of subterranean deposits of a petroleum-based substance called bitumen, similar to asphalt, in the region south of the Dead Sea. Such material normally contains a high percentage of sulfur. It has been postulated by geologist Frederick Clapp that pressure from an earthquake could have caused the bitumen deposits to be forced out of the earth through a fault line. As it gushed out of the earth it could have been ignited by a spark or surface fire. It would then fall to earth as a burning, fiery mass.
It was only after Clapp formulated this theory that Sodom and Gomorrah were found. It turns out that the sites are located exactly on a fault line along the eastern side of a plain south of the Dead Sea, so Clapp's theory is entirely plausible. There is some evidence for this scenario from the Bible itself. Abraham viewed the destruction from a vantage point west of the Dead Sea. The Bible records what Abraham saw: “He looked down toward Sodom and Gomorrah, toward all the land of the plain, and he saw dense smoke rising from the land, like smoke from a furnace” (Genesis 19:28). Dense smoke suggests smoke from a petroleum-based fire. Smoke rising like smoke from a furnace indicates a forced draft, such as would be expected from subterranean deposits being forced out of the ground under pressure.
The destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah became an example in the Bible of how God judges sin. “Now this was the sin of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy. They were haughty and did detestable things before Me. Therefore I did away with them as you have seen” (Ezekiel 16:49-50).
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