Zoar means insignificant, and the meaning is given in Gen 19:20: “it is small, it is very small!” NIV. The city was one of the cities of the plain, and a town to which Lot would flee with his two daughters before ascending into the hill country east of the Jordan into the location of Horonaim. It was described as the limits of the well watered area of the southern kirkar or circuit of Jordan Gen 13:10 cf Deut 34:3 and was considered like the gardens of Egypt in their productivity. Zoar is repeatedly demonstrated as the end of the line. It was here that Lot fled after Sodom, Gen 19:32; it was given as a description of the end of Moab in a later invasion Isa 15:5. It is interesting to note the mention of a heifer of three years, the same peculiar animal offered for Abraham Gen 15:9, but rejected by Lot in his dismissal of the shared company of the patriarch Isa 15:5; Jer 48:34. The ascent of Luhtith to Horonaim mentioned within this verse is the path of Lot into the northern reaches of Wadi al Hasa or the biblical brook Zered.
Lot had sadly been affected by his time in Egypt. He did not select the lessons learnt by his uncle Abram, and leaving with his handmaids, servants and abundant flocks sought an existence where there was less reliance of deity. His name means veiled, and demonstrated the inability to see with faith the promised inheritance,. Both Moab and Ammon are national demonstrations of this ignorance extended in apostacy, and demonstrated individuals who were of uncertain fatherhood, (not seeing their father in heaven) and so were not permitted to worship in the tabernacle, Deut 23:1-4.
The position of men in the judgment of deity is manifestly demonstrated in this location. That men can reserve personal ability, possession or ambitions in the light of spiritual inheritance is clearly demonstrated in the judgments on Sodom and Lot. God had demonstrated that righteousness would come to Abraham in a time when the iniquity of the Amorites would be full, not personal or national merit established Gen 15:6. In respect to the judgment of Sodom, there was a protracted discussion about the rightness of execution before the event. Would not the Elohim, the judge of the eretz do right? 18:25. In the light to the effects of Lot’s righteousness there could be found 10 righteous! 18:-26-33. Elohim consuming the iniquity of the city 19:15. So when Lot ended at Zoar, the town represented his position. He was insignificant in the operation of God, and the gift of salvation from the inferno was a token of the generosity of his Lord.
This becomes a national principle as outlined by Moses: “Not for thy righteousness or for the uprightness of thine heart dost thou go to possess their land: but for the wickedness of these nations Yahweh thy Elohim doth drive them out from before thee, that he may perform the word which Yahweh sware unto thy fathers Abraham, Isaac and Jacob” Deut 9:5.
Zoar is also known as Bela Gen 14:2 a name incorporated into the princes of the land of Edom Gen 36;32 The location of Zoar is like the other cities of the plain difficult to pinpoint, but consider the following; The location of Zoar is demonstrated in the Madaba map as being in the southern area of the Dead sea. Josephus considered Zoar to be a place within the country of Arabia. (1) in roman times there was a town called Zoara south of the Dead sea. Ghor es safi is built around a significant oasis, with a good water supply. Archeological excavations including recent finds demonstrate a considerable cemetery indicating a sizable city in the area, with finds as far back as c30BC Although most inscriptions are in Greek, a number were found with Aramaic names. It may be the same as Suhru mentioned twice in the el Amarna letters (2) There are five ancient sites within a short distance of Ghor es Safi. One of these, a village with ancient fortifications called Numeira was found with an ash layer over 7 feet thick! possibly indicating that the conflagration of Sodom affected this far south (3) Note that Zoar is clearly within the land of Moab Isa 15;5. The silts from the streams in the past, including wadi al Hasa, appear to have provided enormous alluvial deposits and supported rich agricultural settlements.
However for the enormous debate over the location of these cities, the lesson of Zoar remains clear: God made Christ to be sin for us who knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God (who knew no righteousness) We then as workers together with him beseech you (periclesis) to not take the grace of God in vain 2 Cor 5:21; 6:1.
- Josephus: Wars iv.42 antiq i.204
- Avraham Negev: Archeological encyclopaedia of the holy land pg 554
- Randal Price: The stones cry out pg 11