DAYR 'AYN 'ABATA
God sent all the Prophets to their people with one message, to worship God alone and not to associate anything or anyone with Him. However, God sent Prophet Muhammad to all of humankind. Although his message was the same, he came with a new law, one to cover all people, in all places, at all times, even into a distant future continuing to the Day of Judgement.
The revelation of different chapters of Quran was often in response to a particular event or experiences of the Prophet and his followers. The stories in the Quran teach lessons, provide the historical background of humankind, and demonstrate the nature of God. The story of Prophet Lot is one that is particularly pertinent in the 21stcentury.
In many cities across the world, it is unsafe to walk down the streets, even in daylight. Murder is rife, identities stolen, and drugs abound. Nowadays most children in high school have already encountered drug users and sellers. Alcohol is freely available at corner stores, even though it is responsible for the break up of families, domestic violence and the corrosion of society. Paedophilia is rampant, as is child pornography and human trafficking. Degenerate lifestyles are accepted and even thought of as normal. This description paints a picture of a scary, out of control world, but is it really so different from the time of Prophet Lot?
The people of Lot lived in a society very similar to our own. It was corrupt, the people had no shame, criminals and criminal activity abounded, and those passing through the town of Sodom risked robbery and physical abuse. The overall atmosphere of the town was not one of a cohesive society. The people of Lot were without morals, without standards and without shame. The homosexuality that abounded did not exist in a vacuum, it was part of a lifestyle that not only allowed, but also encouraged vice and corruption. It was to this town that God sent Prophet Lot; his message was to worship God alone. However, embedded in worship are the desire and the willingness to obey God’s commandments? The people of Sodom were content with their corrupt ways and had no desire to curb them. Lot became an annoyance and his words were ignored.
Prophet Lot called the people to give up their criminal activities and indecent behaviour but they refused to listen. Lot confronted his people and admonished them. He pointed out their corruption, their criminal activities and their unnatural sexual behaviour.
“Will you not fear God and obey Him? Verily! I am a trustworthy Messenger to you. So fear God and obey me. No reward do I ask of you for it (my Message) my reward is only from the Lord of all that exists.” (Quran 26:161-164) In the last 20 or 30 years, it has become common to talk of homosexuality as a natural way of life, however according to God’s law and in all three heavenly religions, (Judaism, Christianity and Islam) this is not acceptable. The new idea that homosexuality is somehow genetically determined is also rejected by Islam. Quran clearly states that the people of Sodom were the first to practice this sexual aberration. “Do you commit such immorality as no one has preceded you with from among the worlds [i.e., peoples]? Indeed, you approach men with desire, instead of women. Rather, you are a transgressing people." The people of Sodom had reached such a level of degradation they no longer had any shame. They would commit their unnatural acts in public or in private. Satan was amongst them, and as is his way, he made their actions appear fair and wholesome. When Lot insisted they change their evil ways, they wanted to drive him out of town, as if by calling to purity, he was the one committing a great sin. The people of Sodom said to Lot,“If you cease not, O Lot! Verily, you will be one of those who are driven out!” (Quran 26:167) Lot openly expressed his anger and fury at the evil deeds and unnatural acts and called on God to save him and his family from the evil of the people of Sodom.
In another part of the world, Prophet Abraham, the uncle of Prophet Lot, received three guests. Known for his generosity, Prophet Abraham roasted a calf but to his dismay, the guests refused to eat. This was very unusual. Travellers are usually hungry and the fact that these guests refused his generosity made Prophet Abraham very uneasy. The guests saw his uneasiness and tried to put his fears to rest. They said,“Do not be afraid!” (Quran 15:53)His fears allayed, Prophet Abraham asked his guests what business had bought them to his town. They replied,“We have been sent to a people who are criminals, disbelievers, polytheists, sinners”. (Quran 15:58)
The people of Sodom had become corrupt, believing their evil ways were acceptable. Unfortunately, in the 21stcentury we have become so accustomed to evil and ignorance we are no longer able to respond in the correct manner. We make excuses and try to justify evil behaviour but the fact is, when people continuously, and openly disrespect and disobey God we should be outraged. The angels took their leave from Prophet Abraham and made their way to the city of Sodom, in search of Prophet Lot and his family.
Prophet Lot continued to suffer due to the wicked ways and unnatural behaviour of the people around him, yet he patiently continued to deliver his message. He called the people to give up their wicked ways and obey the One God, worshipping Him alone. However, the townspeople continued to mock and belittle Lot, and even taunted him by challenging him to bring God’s torment upon them.
“Bring God’s torment upon us if you are one of the truthful.” (Quran 29:29)
Lot was overwhelmed with despair and beseeched God to grant him victory over these people, who committed great crimes and behaved unnaturally.
At the time of Lot’s invocation, the messengers (angels) were with Prophet Abraham so they informed him of their mission to Lot and his people. They said,
“And when Our messengers [i.e., angels] came to Abraham with the good tidings, they said, “Indeed, we will destroy the people of that [i.e., Lot’s] city. Indeed, its people have been wrongdoers.” (Quran 29:31)
Abraham was afraid, his nephew Lot was in the town of Sodom and it was about to be destroyed. He said to the angels“but Lot is there!” They replied,
“We know better who is there, we will verily save him (Lot) and his family, except his wife, she will be of those who remain behind (i.e. she will be destroyed).” (Quran 29: 32)
Renowned Islamic scholar, Imam Ibn Katheer narrates that, as the messengers approached the towns of Sodom they met Lot’s daughter at the nearby river. She was astounded at their beauty and feared for them. She advised them to wait at the river for Prophet Lot, rather than enter the town without his protection. When Lot heard of the strangers, he felt distressed and wondered how he could convince them to bypass the towns of Sodom and continue on their travels. He tried to make them understand the nature of the townspeople but only succeeded in convincing the messengers to wait for nightfall before entering the town.
Prophet Lot managed to escort the messengers to the safety of his home; however, Lot’s wife slipped out the back door and quickly told the people that two beautiful men were guests in Lot’s home. The word quickly spread and soon people were outside Lot’s house, knocking on his door, demanding to see the guests. Lot became even more distressed when he realised his wife was responsible for the crowd at his door and he pleaded with the mob to disband and to fear the punishment of God. He repeatedly appealed to them to seek sexual gratification in a lawful way.
“O my people! Here are my daughters (i.e. the daughters of my nation); they are purer for you (if you marry them lawfully). So fear God and degrade me not as regards my guests! Is there not among you a single right-minded man?” (Quran 11:78)
The story of Lot, in both the Bible and the Quran hold remarkable similarities. However, Islam completely rejects the notion that Prophet Lot would offer his own daughters to the town’s people. The scholars of Islam explain that when Lot used the word “daughters” he meant the women of Sodom. He was demanding that the men of Sodom seek sexual fulfilment in lawful marriages.
In his bookStories of the Prophets, Ibn Katheer states that the town’s people broke down the door and rushed inside Lot’s house, surrounding the messengers. Lot was powerless before them yet he continued to plead and remind them of the evil of their ways. The town’s people jeered and mocked him saying,“Surely you know that we have neither any desire nor in need of your daughters, and indeed you know well what we want!” (Quran 11:79). The messengers reassured Lot by saying “surely we are messengers from your Lord.” (Quran 11:81) On hearing these words the towns people were afraid and started to disperse, leaving Lot and his family alone with the messengers (angels).
The messengers allayed the fears of Prophet Lot and instructed him to gather his family and leave the town of Sodom that night. Lot walked at the rear of his family to assure no one looked back on the towns of Sodom. Lot’s wife remained behind and was afflicted by the punishment along with the wrong doers and wicked townspeople. The Quran describes the punishment as an awful cry that turned the town upside down and rained stones of baked clay. (Quran 15:73-74)
The punishment came at sunrise, and God said,
“So We saved him and his family, all,except an old woman (his wife) among those who remained behind. Then afterward We destroyed the others. And We rained on them a rain (of torment). And how evil was the rain of those who had been warned. Verily, in this is indeed a sign, yet most of them are not believers.” (Quran 26:170-174)
Thus, the pages were closed on the people of Lot. Their names were erased from historical memory. The punishment that God promised, and Prophet Lot warned about, happened, for surely God keeps His promises. He promises severe punishment for the wrongdoers and Paradise is the reward of the righteous. Lot and his family walked into the sunrise and Quran mentions them no more.
Madaba Mosaic Map
The Madaba Mosaic Map places a church in the hills at the southeastern end of the Dead Sea. The inscription accompanying the structure reads "the (place) of Saint Lot" (Alliata 1999: 58, 61). It is located north of Zoar, also on the map. The site is identified with Dayr 'Ayn 'Abata, the archaeological name given to the site at the time of its discovery (MacDonald and Politis 1988; MacDonald et al. 1992: 104). The archaeological name indicates that the site is a monastery located at a spring called the "spring of the Abbot." As archaeological investigations have proven, both designations have turned out to be correct.
There appears to be no doubt that the Byzantine craftsmen who designed the Madaba Mosaic Map knew of the existence of a church along the eastern side of the Dead Sea that was called "Saint Lot." They show it as being not far from Zoar.
Life of Saint Stephen the Sabaite
The Life of Saint Stephen the Sabaite mentions that the monks who walked around the Dead Sea during Lent in the mid-eighth century stopped at the caves of Saint Lot:
He was living with them) in the caves of the Arnon, or of Saint Lot, or of Saint Aaron, or beyond the Dead Sea (Vita S. Stephani Sabaitae 17:3).
The Abbot Daniel visited "Sigor" in the early years of the 12th century. About Lot and his cave he writes: Lot's sepulchre and that of his two daughters are to be seen there; they are two separate sepulchres. In this mountain there is a large cavern, in which Lot took refuge with his daughters (Pilgrimage of the Russian Abbot Daniel in the Holy Land 56; Wilson 1895: 47). In the area of Sigor, that is, Zoar, Abbot Daniel claims to have visited Lot's cave and the two tombs in which Lot and his two daughters were interred. The cave is said to be located in mountainous terrain. Abbot Daniel goes on to say that towards the south there is a stone column that is Lot's wife. His visit reflects a tradition of venerating Lot in this area well into medieval times.
DAYR 'AYN 'ABATA - THE ARCHAEOLOGY
Since "the (place) of Saint Lot" is depicted on the Madaba Mosaic Map, researchers have attempted for centuries to locate it along the eastern shores of the Dead Sea. Beginning in the 1930S, some identified the church of Saint Lot with that of a small hermitage in the north cliffs at the mouth of the Wadi al-Hasa gorge. However, during the course of an archaeological survey that I conducted in the Southern Ghors and Northeast Arabah in 1986, survey team members discovered and reported the structures that Politis later excavated as Dayr 'Ayn Abata, or Lot's Cave. What caught our attention on the first day we visited the site was the discovery of a large pottery sherd, possibly a part of a communion paten, which had a cross engraved on it. Under the arms of the cross were the Greek letters Alpha (A) and Omega (0), the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet (MacDonald and Politis 1988; MacDonald et al. 1992: 103). Christians use these two symbols to indicate that Christ is "the first and the last, the beginning and the end" (Revelation 22.13).' This was our first clue that we were dealing with an ecclesiastical structure.
The site (UTM coordinates: 0738877E/3437658N; elev. -253 m) is located on a steep mountain slope overlooking what was once the southern end of the Dead Sea. Today, due to the shrinking of the Dead Sea, the site overlooks agricultural fields as well as the spring from which it takes its name. It is located immediately to the northeast of the modern town of as-Safi. From the site, one gets a wonderful view to the south, west, and north of the lowest land surface on the face of the earth·
There is material evidence for a fifth-sixth-century church and monastery at the site. However, no in situ structures from this period were uncovered.
Excavations of a later monastic complex at the site includes the reservoir, the church and its adjoining cave, and the living quarters for monks and a hostel for pilgrims (fig. 10.5). The latter structures are located at the northern segment of the site, still next to the cave.
The first segment of the site that the excavators worked on was the reservoir, which is located at the site's southern extremity, next to a Wadi (dry river bed). It was 6 m deep and covered with arches. In antiquity, aqueducts brought water from farther up the Wadi to provide the needs of the monastery's inhabitants. In addition, water would have been available from the spring at the foot of the mountain below the site.
Work in the area of the reservoir resulted in the discovery of remnants of a mosaic with a 12-line inscription dated to AD 574. The inscription named the mosaicist Kosmas. It is the largest of all the mosaics found at the site and may have been located at the monastery's entrance.
The triple-apsed basilica church, located immediately north of the reservoir and built directly into the hillside, is particularly well-preserved. It was paved with four mosaics, three of which had Greek inscriptions.
A mosaic within the front of the church, which contained the altar, is decorated with typical early Byzantine motifs such as birds, a lamb, and a peacock, all surrounded by vines. An inscription reads telos kalon, that is, "good end." Another mosaic is located in the nave of the church. It has a Greek inscription of six lines and names the country bishop and presbyter as Christoforos, the presbyter and steward as Zenon, the governor as Ioannis, son of Rabibos, and describes the site as a holy place and the church as a basilica. The construction of the mosaic is dated to May AD 691. The entire inscription is enclosed in a rectangle that has an additional diagonal inscription naming an Iannis, son of Sabinaou, who presumably was the mosaicist.
This inscription is of particular importance. Describing the church as a basilica means that it was large enough to accommodate pilgrims, since a small monastic community would only require a chapel. As indicated above, the inscription specifically calls the basilica a "holy place," which infers an association with a biblical episode. It also attests to the existence of a local Christian community whose members have Semitic names like Rabibos and Sabinaou. Since part of this mosaic was damaged and in danger of sliding down the slope, the excavators removed it. To their surprise, they discovered another mosaic floor, belonging to AD 605, an earlier phase of the church, underneath.
A four-line inscription, in a tabula ansata at the eastern end of the northern aisle and just at the entrance to the cave bears the names of Bishop Jacobus and the Abbot Sozomenos. It provides a date of AD 606 (Piccirillo 1992: 336).
At the northeastern end of the nave, the excavators discovered a part of the pulpit. Once it was removed, they found traces of the pulpit that belonged to the earlier phase of the church.
From the above it is evident that the church was renovated in AD 691. The date is important, since it is well into the Umayyad period (AD 661-750), the time of the first Islamic dynasty. This indicates that there was religious tolerance and collaboration between Christians and Moslems well into the beginning of Islam. The excavators concluded that the church was peacefully abandoned.
Among the debris of columns and other architectural elements strewn around the site, the excavators uncovered a reused block with a red-painted inscription invoking Saint Lot.
The cave, the entrance to which is actually the north aisle of the church (fig. 10.8), appears to have been central to the complex's existence. It is a natural one in the slope of the site. Its entrance is preserved to its original height. The sandstone pilaster capitals that constitute the frames of the entrance are carved with eight-cornered (Maltese-type) crosses bearing remnants of red paint; the lintel had a similarly engraved cross in the center. This cross is flanked by two rosettes, also with traces of paint. One graffiti on the plastered wall on the south side of the entrance gave the name, in Greek, of a local Christian woman called Nestasia Zenobia. Another, in Kufic Arabic script, is an Islamic invocation.
A room, measuring 2 x 2.5 m, is within the cave. It was paved with fine white marble slabs. This could indeed be the place where early Christians believed that Lot and his two daughters took refuge after their flight from Zoar.
Finds within the cave indicate that it has a long history of occupation. The most recent materials recovered date to the early ninth century AD, probably the final habitation of the cave. Under the cave's floor, which is dated to the Byzantine-Abbasid period (fourth-eighth centuries), the excavators found ceramic and glass oil lamps dating to the early Byzantine period, ca. fourth-sixth centuries AD. Beneath this, they uncovered Late Hellenistic-Nabataean vessels from the first century BC to the first century AD. Still farther down, evidence of Early Bronze and Middle Bronze "habitation" within the cave was unearthed; it consists of a fine ceramic chalice and a copper duck-bill axe-head, belonging to the Middle Bronze Age II period (ca. 1900-1550 BC). Digging deeper, the excavators found multiple burials surrounded by a stone wall and over a dozen pottery juglets and cups dating from the Early Bronze Age I (ca. 3300-3000 BC). The ceramics were in association with many burials. Flint tools, a complete jug, a dipper, and drinking cups characteristic of this period attest to an occupational phase to the west in front of the wall. Overall, the archaeological evidence indicates that the cave could have been used as a place of shelter for around five thousand years.
One inscribed architectural block located just in front of the cave bears an inscription in Greek. It asks Saint Lot to bless Sozomenou, Ulpious, and a third person whose name cannot be deciphered. Politis, the excavator, thinks that these people were probably pilgrims or monks who lived in the monastery.
The domestic quarters of the site consist of several different features. There is a communal dining room or refectory, complete with long benches, a pilgrims' hostel, and a communal burial chamber in what had once been a cistern. The chamber contained twenty-eight adult males, one adult female, and three infants. It is possible that this segment of the site also served as a hospital or infirmary for the monks and pilgrims.
The entire complex - consisting of reservoir, church, cave, and domestic quarters - dates from the Byzantine to early Abbasid period (fifth-eighth centuries). An early ninth-century Arabic inscription at the site may attest to a Muslim interest in Lot, whom the Koran describes as a prophet (Qur'an 37= 133-36).
Work at Dayr 'Ayn 'Abata revealed terracing down the slope immediately to the west of the site. This could have been one of the places where the monks planted crops; the excavations have revealed. Through analysis of bones and seeds, the plants and animals consumed at the monastery in the sixth-eighth centuries. A great deal of the produce and meat the monks, and most likely the pilgrims, ate would have come from of the local area; some of this food may have come from planting and harvesting or raising and eventually slaughtering at the site itself.
Zoar is one of the cities of the Plain (Gen 14.2). It was to here that Lot, his wife, and his two daughters fled at the time of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. The Bible describes it as a "small place," since the word Zoar means "little" (Gen 19.20-22).
The site of Bala / Sigor / Soora / Zoar / Zogora / Zoora is of importance to Eusebius and Jerome. Both have multiple entries for it, under various names. It was a town that would have existed in their times.
Bala (Gen. 14:2). This is Sigor, now called loora, the only one of the cities of the Sodomites to be saved. Even now it is still inhabited, lying beside the Dead Sea, and there is a garrison of soldiers there. And balsam and date-palms grow there, evidence of the ancient prosperity of the places (42); and Bala, that is, Segor. Now it is called loar, the only one of the five cities saved by the prayers of Lot. It is close to the Dead Sea, and a garrison of Roman soldiers is stationed there, manned by its own inhabitants. Balsam and dates are grown there, a proof of ancient fruitfulness. But nothing suggests that Segor is called by the same name as loara, when the same name is of one smaller or lesser; but it is called Segor in Hebrew, and loara in Syriac. Baja means swallowed up; but we have spoken at length about this in the Books of Hebrew Questions (43) (Taylor et al. 2003: 31).
Zogera (Jer. 48:34). In Jeremiah. A city of Moab. The same is now called loora, or Sigor, one of the five cities of the Sodomites (94); and Zogora. In Jeremiah, a city of the Moabites. This is what is now called loara or Segor, one of the five cities of the Sodomites (95) (Taylor et al. 2003: 54).
Eusebius and Jerome provide a great deal of information. Both locate the site beside the Dead Sea. It was the site of a garrison of (Roman) soldiers and, Jerome adds, manned by the inhabitants of the town. Moreover, it was a prosperous place, growing both balsam and date palms. The Notitia Dignitatum (34.26), dated to the end of the fourth and beginning of the fifth century AD, also indicated the presence of a Roman garrison at Zoar.
Madaba Mosaic Map
The Madaba Mosaic Map depicts the town of Zoar as a large walled building with an arched entrance and three towers. The town is surrounded by six date palm trees, indicating a well-watered area. It is located to the south of "The (place) of Saint Lot" on the same map. The accompanying inscription reads:
Balak also Segor, now Zoara.
Alliata identifies the "Balak also Segor, now Zoara" of the Madaba Mosaic Map with Ghor as-Saf (1999: 58).
The Abbot Daniel visited "Sigor" in the early years of the 12th century but did not go farther south, because he feared the people of the area (Pilgrimage of the Russian Abbot Daniel in the Holy Land 56; Wilson 1895: 47). A number of explorers have searched for the remains of Zoar in the vicinity of the modern town of as-Safi. As a result, most locate it at Khirbat Sheikh 'Isa, on the present south bank of Wadi al-Hasa, and the modern town of as-Safi. Early Bronze, Roman, Nabataean, Byzantine, and Islamic period sherds have been collected at the site (MacDonald et al. 1992). There seems to be little doubt that Khirbat Sheikh 'Isa was Byzantine Early Islamic Zoar/Zughar/Sughar. Recent surveys and excavations at Khirbat Sheikh 'Isa revealed part of a large structure, which could be the one depicted on the Madaba Mosaic Map. Nearby, 700 inscribed funerary stelae have been found; most have come from illicit digging. More than 400 of these stelae have been recorded (Meimaris and Kritikakou-Nikolaropoulou 2005) and date to the fourth-sixth centuries AD. Around 9° percent are in Greek, while the remainder are in Jewish-Aramaic. This find provides more evidence for the presence of a Byzantine settlement at Zoar. A hermitage is located just north of Khirbat Sheikh 'Isa, at the mouth of the Wadi al-Hasa gorge and on its north bank. A Greek inscription scratched on a wall of the hermitage reads: "O Lord God of this holy place, come to the help of your servant" (Saller and Bagatti 1949: 195). This hermitage was at one time identified with "The (place) of Saint Lot" of the Madaba Mosaic Map. However, with the 1986 discovery of the site of Saint Lot at Dayr 'Ayn 'Abara, the place is now regarded as a hermitage that could have been associated with Lot's Cave. There are other hermitages and church/monastery sites in the area, for example, those on the Lisan Peninsula to the northwest of Lot's Cave (Holmgren and Kaliff 1997; 2005).
THE CHURCH OF SAINTS LOT AND PROCOPIUS AT KHIRBAT AL-MUKHAYYAT
The site of Khirbat al-Mukhayyat, the most probable candidate for the identification of the biblical site of the village of Nebo, is located on a ridge ca. 3 km to the southeast of the Memorial of Moses (see Chapter 6) at Ras al-Siyagha (MacDonald 2000: 86-87). It is related to the veneration of Saint Lot, since one of its churches is dedicated to the "Saints Lot and Procopius" and an inscription within the church is an intercessory prayer to Saint Lot. Nebo is the name of both a geographical feature called Mount Nebo (Deut 32·49; 34·1) and a village/town. The village is depicted in the Bible as a city of Moab. Eusebius describes it as a "deserted village" in the fourth century AD that is located eight Roman miles from Esbus (Heshbon) (Onomasticon 136-37; Taylor et al. 2003: 75). John Rufus, the biographer of Peter the Iberian, knew a village by that name on the mountain of Nebo, which was inhabited by Christians; the shepherd who had a vision of the dead Moses in a cave probably came from this village. Moreover, it was probably the inhabitants of the village of Nebo who built the church over the alleged tomb of Moses at Ras alSiyagha. Archaeologists have extensively surveyed the area of Khirbat al-Mukhayyat and have found evidence of thousands of years of occupation. The Franciscan Archaeological Institute has excavated the site itself The results include the uncovering of three churches and a monastery, along with evidence of a Byzantine settlement at the tell and nearby. One of the churches is of interest here because of its dedication to Saint Lot. The Church of Saints Lot and Procopius (UTM coordinates: 0760023E/3516141N; elev. 767 m) is at the high point of the site and measures only 16.25 x 8.65 m. It was completely paved with mosaics. A dedicatory inscription in its nave dates its construction to AD 557, during the time of Bishop John of Madaba. The inscription reads: At the time of the most holy and most saintly bishop John, Your holy place was built and finished by its priest and sacristan Barichas in the month of November of the time of the sixth indication. O God of Saint Lot and of Saint Procopius, receive the offering and the present of the brothers Stephen and Elias, the children of Cometissa. O God of the holy martyrs, receive the present of Sergius and Procopius his son. For the welfare of Rabata (the daughter) of Anastasia and for the repose of John [the son] of Anastasius and for those who contributed; the Lord knows their names (Saller and Bagatti 1949:184; Piccirillo 1992: 164)· The mosaic is divided into two separate panels: the eastern panel is decorated with hunting, pastoral, and wine-making scenes, while the western one is decorated with four fruit-laden trees placed in the four corners and meeting in the center. Pairs of animals facing each other are placed among the trees. Among the animals are two bulls facing an altar. The inscription below them reads, "Then they shall offer calves upon Your altar. Lord has mercy on the lowly Epiphania." The first part of the inscription is from Psalm 51.21. Another inscription, at the eastern end of the southern aisle of the church, reads: "O Saint Lot, receive the prayer of Rome and Porphyria and Mary, your servants" (Saller and Bagatti 1949: 192; Piccirillo 1992: 165)· On the basis of the inscriptions uncovered at Lot's Cave/Dayr 'Ayn 'Abata, those within the Church of Saints Lot and Procopius at Khirbat al-Mukhayyat, and the inscription and depiction of a church dedicated to Saint Lot on the Madaba Mosaic Map, there is no doubt that the Christians of the Byzantine period believed that Lot was a saint and that he actually enjoyed a special veneration. The saintly position of Lot is supported by Wisdom which states:” Wisdom rescued a righteous man when the ungodly were perishing; he escaped the fires that descended on the Five Cities" (see also Wisdom 19.17). Moreover, 2 Peter 2.7-8 reads: "and if he rescued Lot, a righteous man greatly distressed by the licentiousness of the lawless (for that righteous man, living among them day after day, was tormented in his righteous soul by their lawless deeds that he saw and heard)." In this latter text, Lot is held up as a model for Christians. As Lot remained faithful in the midst of lawlessness, so ought they.
SUGGESTIONS FOR GETTING TO THE SITES
To get to Lot's Cave / Dayr 'Ayn 'Abata, follow the Airport Road/Desert Highway south of Amman until you reach the signs for the Dead Sea. Turn right and follow the signs for the Dead Sea. Lot's Cave is located around two hours southwest of Amman, just to the north of the town of As-Safi, Ancient Zoar is located near As-Safi; however, there is nothing to see there of the remains of the ancient site. A visit to the pilgrimage site and As-Saf takes about a half day. There is a rest house and museum associated with Lot's Cave. The Church of Saints Lot and Procopius is located at Khirbat Al-Mukhayyat. It may be visited at the same time as a visit to either Madaba and/or the Memorial of Moses at Mount Nebo, since it is located between those two sites. The visit can be short, unless you have an interest in the other churches at the site. It may be best to visit the Memorial of Moses first, since the ticket to that site also provides admission to Khirbat Al-Mukhayyat.