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When Abraham and Lot separate in Genesis 13, Abraham tells Lot:

הֲלֹא כָל-הָאָרֶץ לְפָנֶיךָ, הִפָּרֶד נָא מֵעָלָי: אִם-הַשְּׂמֹאל וְאֵימִנָה, וְאִם-הַיָּמִין וְאַשְׂמְאִילָה.
"Is the whole land not before you? Now separate from me. If to the left, I will go right; if to the right, I will go left."

Targum Unkelos, the Authorized Translation of Chumash according to the Talmud renders 13:9 as

הֲלָא כָּל אַרְעָא קֳדָמָךְ, אִתְפָּרַשׁ כְּעַן מִלְּוָתִי: אִם אַתְּ לְצִפּוּנָא אֲנָא לְדָרוֹמָא, וְאִם אַתְּ לְדָרוֹמָא וְאַצְפְּנָךְ.
Is the whole land not before you? Now separate from me. If to the north, I will go south; if to the right, I will go north.

If north is on their left, and south is on their right, that means that Abraham and Lot were heading east, or towards the Mediterranean coast from (what was later to be) Ammon and Moab, and not north from Egypt as is implied.
With that introduction, my question is: do we have any sources for why they took the long way up from Egypt, and what happened between them leaving Egypt and separating somewhere near Sodom (somewhere near the present day dead sea according to Medrash)?

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    Actually, east is away from the coast (Mediterranean is in the west of Israel). Given the geography, I'd say they just went up the main trade route along the coast, then headed into the mountains (toward Hebron?) when they split. – Nic Oct 28 '14 at 12:59
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as @Nic said, the orientation of that time (note that the word comes from "east" [orient]) was to face the east as the base direction, unlike our modern maps which face north.

This places the Mediterranean at their backs, the Negev (and Chevron) to their right, the Galilee to their left, and the Jordan river straight ahead.

The reason that Shomron and Yehudah are now called "the west bank" is because they are on the west side of the Jordan river. The country of Jordan is on the east side of the river.

Since they were facing east towards the Jordan river, they was facing S'dom and the (then) fertile "valley of the Jordan". Instead of turning right or left Lot went straight ahead, leaving the entire country to Avraham.

  • Note the similarity between תימן and ימין. – Double AA Oct 28 '14 at 22:06

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