Friday, August 5, 2011

Lot: A Slow Boiled Frog (Genesis 13:12)

Where did Abraham’s nephew, Lot, move after separating from his uncle? To Sodom.

When Abraham (then Abram) journeyed to the land that God would show him (Genesis 12:1), he took his late brother Haran’s son, Lot, along (Genesis 12:4). Both prospered and eventually the land was not big enough for the both of them (Genesis 13:6). Their hired hands began feuding (Genesis 13:7) and Abraham decided to resolve the conflict by dividing the land and allowing Lot to choose his portion (Genesis 13:8-9). Lot saw the fertility of the land to the east in the Jordan valley and selected it (Genesis 13:10-11). It seemed like a good idea at the time.

Each time Lot’s location is reported thereafter, his contiguity to the city gates of Sodom is closer. Lot begins in the vicinity of Sodom (Genesis 13:12), becomes a resident (Genesis 14:12) and eventually is seen sitting at the gate, a place of prominence (Genesis 19:1). From the outset, Sodom’s citizens are appraised as “exceedingly wicked” (Genesis 13:13 NASB) and Lot slowly became one of them.

How did you choose where you live? Were there any moral considerations?

It is said that if a frog were to be put into a cauldron of boiling water, it would instinctively leap to escape danger. Conversely, if placed in a pleasant kettle and gradually boiled, frogs would not relocate as their survival instincts are geared towards detecting sudden changes. The analogy of a slow boiling frog has become a widespread anecdote used to illustrate the need for awareness of slowly changing trends as well as the obvious sweeping changes.

The metaphor is based on study conducted by A. Heinzmann in 1872 which encompassed examining 27 frogs. Heinzmann planned to heat decapitated and brain damaged frogs with only one of their legs in the water. He progressed to an arrangement where the frog was seated on a cork floating in a cylinder of water. Heinzmann then elevated the temperature of the frog’s habitat from 21° (Celsius) to 37.5° over the course of 90 minutes. Eventually, Heinzmann advanced to working with undamaged frogs. In his twelfth trial, a healthy frog was boiled from 23° to 39° without any movement though the amphibian could have freely escaped throughout the experiment if it so chose. Heinzmann successfully replicated the results in two of his next three trials. He then reproduced the experiment with freezing temperatures. (Heinzmann [1872], “Ueber die Wirkung Sehr Allmäliger Aenderungen Thermischer Reize auf die Empfindungsnerven”, Archiv fur die Gesammte Physiologie, Bd. VI, 222-236)

Though Heinzmann’s findings were corroborated by C. Fratscher in 1875, today, modern scientists refute Heinzmann’s findings. Whether true or not, the analogy of the slow boiled frog conveys truth as evidenced by Lot’s story. Lot was “righteous” (II Peter 2:7) and yet his association with Sodom ruined his life. Through his residing in the doomed city, his wife died (Genesis 19:26) and when he is last seen in the Biblical text, he is involved in a drunken, incestuous relationship with his own daughters (Genesis 19:30-38). “Righteous” Lot’s downfall began by moving closer and closer to the “exceedingly wicked”.

Are you in danger of becoming a slow boiled frog in any aspect of your life?

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