Genesis 13 begins with Abraham moving from Egypt into the Negeb. Abraham’s nephew Lot was absent from the previous event in chapter 12 and as chapter 13 begins, even Abraham’s possessions are mentioned before Lot. In chapter 13, we will see a significant confrontation between the patriarch in his nephew.
So Abram went up from Egypt, he and his wife and all that he had, and Lot with him, into the Negeb.
In chapter 12, Abraham and his wife Sarah had traveled ot Egypt. It was there that Abraham became fearful for his life and concocted a misleading story where Sarah would tell Pharaoh that she was Abraham’s sister instead of his wife.
Pharaoh falls for the ruse. Perhaps unexpected by Abraham, but Pharaoh takes Sarah to be his own wife. Thinking that Abraham is Sarah’s brother, Pharaoh pays a bride price to him.
In Genesis 12:16, we see all that Pharaoh gave to Abraham:
for her sake he dealt well with Abram; and he had sheep, oxen, male donkeys, male servants, female servants, female donkeys, and camels.
So because of the deception, Abraham is enriched. The Bible doesn’t condone that fact, it’s just recording what happened. Later in chapter 12, Pharaoh learns that Sarah is actually Abraham’s wife and banishes them from Egypt.
Chapter 12 ends in verse 20:
And Pharaoh gave men orders concerning him, and they sent him away with his wife and all that he had.
Notice that it says that they were sent away with all that he had, meaning all that Pharaoh had given him. So he’s traveling heavy in Genesis 13.
Now Abram was very rich in livestock, in silver, and in gold.
Abraham returns to the Negeb and it’s an area with which he was familiar. The passage reminds us that this was the palace where he had been an altar to the Lord after God had made his covenant promises to Abraham at the beginning of chapter 12.
3 And he journeyed on from the Negeb as far as Bethel to the place where his tent had been at the beginning, between Bethel and Ai, 4 to the place where he had made an altar at the first. And there Abram called upon the name of the Lord.
Too much wealth
Abraham arrives back at Bethel much richer than he had been when he had left. And there’s a unique problem. Abraham and Lot each have so much wealth and such large flocks that the land where they’re staying isn’t big enough for the two of them.
5 And Lot, who went with Abram, also had flocks and herds and tents, 6 so that the land could not support both of them dwelling together; for their possessions were so great that they could not dwell together
We see this same challenge in other places in the Book of Genesis, such as between Jacob and Esau in Genesis 36:6-8:
6 Then Esau took his wives, his sons, his daughters, and all the members of his household, his livestock, all his beasts, and all his property that he had acquired in the land of Canaan. He went into a land away from his brother Jacob. 7 For their possessions were too great for them to dwell together. The land of their sojournings could not support them because of their livestock. 8 So Esau settled in the hill country of Seir. (Esau is Edom.)
We don’t see conflict specifically from Abraham and Lot but we do see conflicts between their herdsmen. Genesis 13:7:
7 and there was strife between the herdsmen of Abram’s livestock and the herdsmen of Lot’s livestock. At that time the Canaanites and the Perizzites were dwelling in the land.
Ironically, Abraham and Lot are able to dwell in the land of the Canaanites and the Perizzites peacefully but they can’t coexist amongst themselves. And they’re family!
A situation that could have potentially gotten very contentious gets smoothed over by Abraham.
8 Then Abram said to Lot, “Let there be no strife between you and me, and between your herdsmen and my herdsmen, for we are kinsmen. 9 Is not the whole land before you? Separate yourself from me. If you take the left hand, then I will go to the right, or if you take the right hand, then I will go to the left.”
This event in chapter 13 is a striking contrast from Abraham’s actions in chapter 12.
In chapter 12, we see Abraham act out in fear and show a lack of faith as he worries that his life is at risk for his marriage with Sarah.
Here in chapter 13, we see the faith of Abraham as he allows Lot to pick the land first. Being the elder in the family, Abraham should have had the greater influence but he freely gives that up to keep the peace. We also see tremendous faith in dealing with the land. In spite of the promises of God, Abraham was willing to allow Lot to choose his land first.
It’s speculation, but perhaps a part of the change is that Abraham has returned to the land where the Lord had made the promise and where Abraham had built an altar to the Lord. Abraham is in closer proximity to the sacred place of the Lord.
The unpromised land
10 And Lot lifted up his eyes and saw that the Jordan Valley was well watered everywhere like the garden of the Lord, like the land of Egypt, in the direction of Zoar. (This was before the Lord destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah.) 11 So Lot chose for himself all the Jordan Valley, and Lot journeyed east. Thus they separated from each other.
It’s hard to fault Lot too much. He was given first pick and so he picks the land that looks good to him. It makes sense. Ultimately, we will see that he did not pick the best land. Sometimes what appears to us to be good, isn’t what we thought it was.
Verse 10 talks of Lot seeing the land. It’s the same Hebrew word that gets used when Eve looks on the forbidden fruit in the garden. This verse also compares the land to a garden of the Lord. It’s using Edenic language. Lot has picked the land that looks like paradise, but the verse ends by foreshadowing Sodom and Gomorrah.
Sodom will be mentioned again in verses 12-13. This is an initial indicator that the land which Lot has chosen might not be so great.
12 Abram settled in the land of Canaan, while Lot settled among the cities of the valley and moved his tent as far as Sodom. 13 Now the men of Sodom were wicked, great sinners against the Lord.
In verses 14-15, we see that the Lord has not forgotten Abraham.
14 The Lord said to Abram, after Lot had separated from him, “Lift up your eyes and look from the place where you are, northward and southward and eastward and westward, 15 for all the land that you see I will give to you and to your offspring forever.
Abraham is standing in the land that God will give to him and his offspring. As Christians, we know the rest of the story. But try to think about it from Abraham’s perspective. He’s been told something incredible, and still just has the promise of God to believe in. During his lifetime, Abraham will only own a small piece of land in the Promised Land. But it’s not just about Abraham. It’s about the people who would inherit the land and the God who would fulfill that promise.
The Lord reiterates the promises that he had made to Abraham. Land but also offspring. Verse 16:
16 I will make your offspring as the dust of the earth, so that if one can count the dust of the earth, your offspring also can be counted.
As the passage concludes, Abraham is moving about in the land the Lord has promised.
17 Arise, walk through the length and the breadth of the land, for I will give it to you.” 18 So Abram moved his tent and came and settled by the oaks of Mamre, which are at Hebron, and there he built an altar to the Lord.
What looked like it had the potential to be a significant crisis ends up being a display of God’s amazing grace and blessings.
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