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Deeper Commentary

13:1 Abram went up out of Egypt: he, his wife, all that he had, and Lot with him, into the South- As noted on chapter 12, the record stresses that Sarah was "his wife", despite the fact God viewed marriage to a half sister as "abomination". We note that Abram left Egypt not because the famine had finished, but because the Pharaoh had rebuked him. This confirms our suggestion on chapter 12, that Abram didn't need to go into Egypt; he went because the famine would've meant a diminution of his wealth if his cattle died. He placed himself in the way of temptation because of a desire to cling on to the material "blessings" of wealth. He was "very rich" (:2), but the desire to maintain wealth levels is as tempting as the desire to attain them in the first place.

13:2 Abram was very rich in livestock, in silver, and in gold- Abraham tells Sarah to say she is his sister, not his wife, and (by implication) let the Egyptians sleep with her rather than kill him.  And straight after this, God blesses Abraham with riches (Gen. 12:11 - 13:2). This happened also with Isaac; God's blessing materially isn't always related to our righteousness. By contrast, Pharaoh was attracted to her, and took her into his house. But he didn't sleep with her, and was willing to allow a period of time to elapse before marrying her, in order not to insult her dignity (cp. Dt. 21:13). God's grace shines through again and again. Abraham went down into Egypt because of how "grievous" or 'heavy' the famine was; and comes up out of Egypt, thanks to betraying his wife, "heavy" [same Hebrew word] with riches (Gen. 12:10; 13:2). Everything he did was blessed, despite his weakness. Perhaps this was to elicit within him the understanding that "blessing" was not commensurate to spirituality, whilst we understand "blessing" in material terms. The "blessing" he really needed was something else...

13:3 He went on his journeys from the South even to Bethel, to the place where his tent had been at the beginning, between Bethel and Ai- The reference to Abram pitching his tent between Bethel [‘the house of God’] and Hai [‘the house of ruin’] could imply that he was caught between the two- his faith was not firmly decided (Gen. 13:3).

The repeated references to the “journeys” of the people in the wilderness had as their basis the description of Abraham taking his journey through the desert to the promised land (Gen. 13:3); the very same two Hebrew words recur in the command to Israel to now ‘take their journey’ (Dt. 10:11), following in the steps of their father Abraham. See on Gen. 17:1.

13:4 To the place of the altar, which he had made there at the first. There Abram called on the name of Yahweh- This is the first we hear of Abram relating to God as Yahweh. Whatever his 'calling on the name' involved beyond sacrifice, he clearly made a special commitment to Yahweh at that time and place. And it was in response to grace; for he realized he had done wrong in going into Egypt to preserve his wealth, in lying about his wife... and out of it all, he had not been punished, rather both God and Pharaoh had blessed him with wealth. And it was that which led him now to offer his animal wealth to God, and to devote himself further to Him. If God had punished him, the same response would not have been forthcoming.

 13:5 Lot also, who went with Abram, had flocks, and herds, and tents- It is stressed in the record that "Lot went with him" out of Haran (Gen. 12:4), and that in Abram's subsequent passing through the land of Canaan, "Lot... went with Abram" (Gen.13:5; 13:1). But Abram had been asked to leave his relatives. Abraham didn’t separate from Lot of his own volition- he invites Lot to separate himself from him, rather than Abraham telling Lot that he was separating from him (Gen. 13:9). Abraham’s subsequent concern for Lot, rescuing him from captivity and then begging God to save Lot from Sodom, show how Abraham certainly considered Lot his beloved family member.  “We be brethren” was his position. “Lot separated from him” (Gen. 13:14) rather than Abraham separating from Lot, as was required by God’s command to Abraham. As soon as Lot separates from Abraham, God repeats the promise to Abraham- that “thy seed”, you singular, will inherit the land. To receive a new land and a new family, Abraham had to separate from his natural, earthly land and family. The fulfilment of the promises was conditional upon Abraham’s individuation from his family, his separation from them and unto God- and God worked to enable this precondition to be fulfilled despite Abraham’s weakness in separating from his own land and family. It was God who brought Abraham out of Ur (Gen. 15:7; Neh. 9:7)- not Abraham’s obedience to the call to leave Ur. We see a similar grace in how Lot was told to leave Sodom, but he dithered in doing so; God “sent Lot out of Sodom” (Gen. 19:29), and eventually took his hand and dragged him out of the city, “the Lord being merciful to him” (Gen. 19:16).

13:6 The land was not able to bear them, that they might live together: for their substance was great, so that they could not live together- Wealth nearly always leads to division. The same words and situation recur when we read that Jacob and Esau could not live together because of their wealth (Gen. 36:7). The ideal is that brethren dwell together [same Hebrew words] in unity (Ps. 133:1). But that is only possible with the presence of the Spirit. The extent of their wealth is emphasized. The multiplication of their flocks is the more remarkable when we realize that there had been a major famine in the land (Gen. 12:10). And the more they needed pastureland, the more conflict there would be with the local inhabitants.


13:7 There was a strife between the herdsmen of Abram’s livestock and the herdsmen of Lot’s livestock- Immediately Terah died, Abram may have felt he had truly left his "kindred" and eagerly moved on towards the promised land of Canaan (so Gen. 11:32-12:4 implies). It is likely that many of Abram's "kindred" would have come along with Terah, responding themselves to the call of Abram. Presumably they settled in Haran after Terah's death. It is even possible that the family were from this city originally, seeing that Abraham's brother was called Haran. We saw on Gen. 12:1 that just before leaving Haran, Abram was further told to separate from his "father's house" too, i.e. all of his father's household. This must have included Lot.  Abram could understand separation from his idolatrous father and the rest of the family retinue; yet Lot was "a righteous man"; Abram evidently rated Lot's spirituality (Gen. 18:23,32). Again, Abram was in a quandary. He had left all but one of his father's house in Haran. Was he really intended to separate from his father's house to the extent of leaving Lot too?  It is likely that Abram often agonized about Lot. There he was in Canaan, knowing that his seed would inherit this land, which was then full of Canaanites (the record twice emphasizes, in Gen. 12:6 and 13:7). But Lot, part of his kindred and father's house, was still with him. We saw that the Hebrew for "kindred" implies one born in ones’ own country. A closely related word is found in Gen. 11:28, describing how Haran, Lot's father, "died in the land of his nativity, in Ur". If Lot's father lived and died in Ur, it is fair to assume that Lot was born in Ur. So Abram knew he must separate from Lot, his "kindred" - but how? What reason could he give Lot? Yet he had faith in what God had told him; therefore he wanted to leave Lot, but just found it hard to do. And so God made a way.  

Because the promises were to be made to Abram and not Lot, this separation was indeed necessary (although nothing should be inferred from this regarding Lot's spirituality or standing with God). It is stressed in the record that "Lot went with him" out of Haran (Gen. 12:4), and that in Abram's subsequent passing through the land of Canaan, "Lot... went with Abram" (Gen. 13:5; 13:1). Having been through so much together (they were together in the Egypt crisis, Gen. 13:1), it is unlikely that they would suffer from a personality clash. Yet the great wealth of them both resulted in "strife between the herdmen of Abram's cattle, and the herdmen of Lot's cattle" (Gen. 13:7). Abram reasoned that it would be a shame to let this incident between their employees drive a wedge between them personally; "for we be brethren" (note Abram's intense awareness that they were of the same household), and close spiritual friends too, it may be inferred (Gen. 19:8). Abram's subsequent concern for Lot indicates that they did not fall out personally over the problem. 

And the Canaanite and the Perizzite lived in the land at that time- Moses’ books were helping the wilderness generation to see where they were coming from historically. Passages like this and Gen. 12:6 now take on special relevance: "The Canaanites were then in the land". Moses was saying this as his people were about to enter a Canaan likewise occupied by Canaanites; the idea would have been 'Then the Canaanites were there, just as they are now, and God shall be with us Abram's seed likewise'. He was bidding the people see their connection with their father Abraham, who then lived with Canaanites also in the same land. See on Gen. 13:3. We wonder why the Perizzites are mentioned specifically. It could be that they lived in the highlands and the "Canaanites" in the lowlands; or perhaps there were Perizzites in the particular locality where Abram was, and "Canaanite" was a more generic term.

13:8 Abram said to Lot, Please, let there be no strife between me and you, and between my herdsmen and your herdsmen; for we are relatives- Abram must surely have recalled how he had been called to separate from his relatives, and had not done so. God had seen Abram's devotion to Him at the time of :4, and responded by empowering him to be the more obedient- by making Lot separate from him. "For we are relatives" or "brethren" (AV) is a fundamental truth- brethren should not have "strife" between them, because of their relationship within the family of God. There may have to be separation, of a kind, between them. But their essential brotherhood should never lead to strife. In Gen. 26:20-22 we read of how there was "strife" between Isaac and the local Canaanites; and each time, Isaac moved on, rather than engage in strife. When Jacob entered into "strife" with Laban regarding the stolen idols, he was only saved from it by Divine grace (Gen. 31:36 s.w.).

13:9 Isn’t the whole land before you? Please separate yourself from me- Abram would have noticed Lot's desire to settle down in the cities of the plain. Now he saw that providence was giving him the means he needed to separate from his father's house completely. He knew that if Lot chose, of his own volition, to separate from him, then there would no longer be the emotional agony of him separating from Lot. Yet a third time the record emphasizes their separation, and implies that as soon as this occurred, the full Abrahamic land covenant was made, featuring Abram's eternal inheritance of the land: "The Lord said unto Abram, after that Lot was separated from him... all the land which thou seest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed for ever" (Gen. 13:14,15 AV). Again we see God's patience in the development of Abram's faith, and God's incremental response at each point of that development.

Abraham gives Lot the choice as to what land he would like to live in. Lot was the orphaned nephew of Abraham- such magnanimity would've been unheard of in those societies, for the elder to give the junior dependent such a choice. The elder in the relationship would've chosen the best for himself, and that was that. It seems to me that Abraham's unusual attitude in this matter was a direct outcome of his faith in the promise that the whole land really would one day be given to him. If we have the faith of Abraham... we won't fight for our corner in this world. It'll be so much easier to 'let go' as Abraham did, and take an attitude to material wealth and possessions which is radically counter-cultural in our societies. The way that Lot lifted up his eyes and looked around the land is matched by the way in which God then bids Abraham to likewise lift up his eyes and view the very same territory which Lot had just chosen (Gen. 13:10,14)- and was told that the land which Lot had chosen, along with all other land, would be Abraham's eternally.

If you go to the left hand, then I will go to the right. Or if you go to the right hand, then I will go to the left- We think of the Lord's depiction of the final judgment as a separation between right and left. It was as if Lot had the choice to decide, through his decisions about material things in this life. Although he failed, placing himself on the left hand side, as it were; he still repented and will be saved. Just as Peter denied the Lord and was condemned, in a preview of judgment day; and yet repented and was saved.


13:10 Lot lifted up his eyes- The Hebrew phrase "to lift up the eyes" is used very extensively about the Abraham family. Most Bible characters have the term used at most once or twice about them; but the Genesis record emphasizes this characteristic of this family. It's as if we're being bidden to really visualize them as a family, and to enable this we're even given an insight into their body language. Consider the emphasis on the way this family had of lifting up their eyes:
Lot lifted up his eyes (Gen. 13:10)
Abraham lifted up his eyes (Gen. 13:14)
Abraham lifted up his eyes and noticed the Angels (Gen. 18:2)
Abraham lifted up his eyes and saw the place of sacrifice (Gen. 22:4)
Abraham lifted up his eyes and saw the ram caught (Gen. 22:13)
Isaac lifted up his eyes and saw camels coming on which Rebekah was riding (Gen. 24:63)
Rebekah, as part of a marriage made in Heaven, lifted up her eyes and saw Isaac at the same moment (Gen. 24:64)
Jacob lifted up his eyes and saw the vision of the speckled cattle (twice recorded- Gen. 31:10,12)
Jacob lifted up his eyes and saw Esau coming (Gen. 33:1)
Esau lifted up his eyes and saw Jacob's family (Gen. 33:5)
Jacob's sons lifted up their eyes and saw the traders coming (Gen. 37:25)
Joseph lifted up his eyes and saw Benjamin (Gen. 43:29)
Of course the classic epitome of this feature is when Abraham lifts up his eyes to Heaven and is asked to count the stars, and there and then believes God's word of promise that "so shall thy seed be". Yet we , as Abraham's family, his children by faith, are likewise asked [with the same Hebrew words] to lift up our eyes to Heaven and consider the stars, and take strength from the fact that their creator is our God (Is. 40:26; 51:6; 60:4).

And saw all the plain of the Jordan, that it was well-watered everywhere- During the famine, when the land was not well-watered, Abram and Lot had made the mistake of going down into Egypt (Gen. 12:11). They returned from Egypt not because the famine lifted, but because they repented for Abram's materialism and dishonesty. But Lot had failed to learn the lesson; well-watered areas attracted him, and he noted that the land looked like Egypt.

Before Yahweh destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah, like the garden of Yahweh- Sarah murmured that it was impossible for her to have "pleasure" in childbearing (Gen. 18:12). She uses the word ednah, related to the word Eden. Yet in the events of Gen. 19, she sees how the land around Sodom that was once "like the garden of Eden" (Gen. 13:10) is made barren and sowed with salt so that nothing could grow there (Gen. 19:25; Dt. 29:23). She was being taught that God can give and take away fertility on a huge scale, just as that land had only recently been dry in the famine (Gen. 12:11), but was at this time well watered.

Like the land of Egypt, as you go to Zoar- We suffer from the 'little of both' syndrome. Like Lot, we perceive that what we want is both like the garden of God (Eden) and also like Egypt; there is a tremendous dualism in our spiritual vision.

13:11 So Lot chose the Plain of the Jordan for himself. Lot travelled east, and they separated themselves the one from the other- "For himself" surely hints at selfishness. His travelling east connects with the descendants of Noah travelling east from Ararat and building Babel (Gen. 11:2), as well as the rejected Cain and Adam travelling east away from the sanctuary in Eden (Gen. 3:24; 4:16). As with Abram, we find the record emphasizing his weakness; but he is declared "righteous" ultimately (2 Pet. 2:7). That surely was an example of righteousness being imputed, just as it was to Abraham.

13:12 Abram lived in the land of Canaan, and Lot lived in the cities of the plain, and moved his tent as far as Sodom- We can trace Lot's slide towards the world. He began seeking better pastureland in the valley; he then "lived in the cities of the plain", then camped in his tent near Sodom; and finally moved into Sodom, put his tent in the loft, and became a judge within the city (Gen. 19:9). Whereas our pattern is to be Abram, who remained on the less fertile areas, and received the promise of eternal inheritance.

13:13 Now the men of Sodom were exceedingly wicked and sinners against Yahweh- Sodom being a type of latter day events, it is not surprising that Scripture provides a wealth of detail concerning Sodom. "Before the Lord" (AV) recalls the earth being "corrupt before God" prior to the flood (Gen. 6:11), another clear type of the last days. Indeed their sin being "before the Lord" may hint that Lot (or Abraham?) had preached God's requirements to them, and therefore they were consciously disobeying Him. Thus Rom. 3:19 speaks of the world becoming "guilty before God" by reason of their having the opportunity to know God's word (cp. Rom. 2:12,13). And yet sin is still sin, whether or not there is knowledge of God's word.

13:14 Yahweh said to Abram, after Lot was separated from him- This separation had been required when God first entered relationship with Abram. Now Abram had been led to obedience to it, the promises were enlarged. This suggests that there are certain waymarks of spiritual attainment which the Father sets, and then increments His relationship with us once we reach them.

Now, lift up your eyes- See on :10.

And look from the place where you are, northward and southward and eastward and westward- He would have looked out over the areas just chosen by Lot; not only those areas, but wherever he surveyed, was to be given to him eternally. "The place" where Abram was could refer to an altar built there; it was in response to his devotion to Yahweh that he was given the promise.

13:15 For all the land which you see, I will give to you, and to your offspring forever- This was alluding to what He had initially told Abram back in Ur: "Get thee out... unto a land that I will shew (s.w. "see" in 13:15) you" (Gen. 12:1). It was as if God was saying: 'Well Abraham, this is it. This is the land I told you about'- and yet the best of it has now been given to Lot! The whole thing could have seemed some kind of cruel, just as many of our life experiences do. Abraham had given up all, made a long and dangerous journey, to receive a land from God- and when he arrives there, the best of it is given to his younger relative. But God's purpose was to focus Abraham's faith upon the fact that he would eternally inherit this land. And so it is with many of the twists and turns of our lives which can appear nothing but cruel fate to the unbelieving observer.

The "offspring" or "seed" (AV) was singular (Gal. 3:16). Sarah was still barren, and so this would have been enigmatic for Abram; it was perhaps through the enigmatic nature of the promise that Abram was led toward some conception of the Messiah, the same individual promised to Eve. Abram had children by concubines, according to Gen. 25; and Lot may have been counted as his adopted son. He would have wondered whether the promise referred to any of those options.

"Forever" introduces the idea of personal immortality. But it was promised here to only two persons- Abram and his "seed". This is how Gal. 3:16 reasons; and it is only by association with that "seed" through baptism into Him that these promises become true for us (Gal. 3:27-29).

 

13:16  I will make your offspring as the dust of the earth, so that if a man can number the dust of the earth, then your seed may also be numbered- This had an initial fulfilment in Solomon being "King over a people like the dust of the earth" (2 Chron.1:9; 1 Kings 4:20).  But the "offspring" was singular and not plural (Gal. 3:16). That individual was to be "made" innumerable. And that 'making' is through God's calling of individuals worldwide to be part of the offspring, who is Christ. The innumerable seed must be compared with the other strand of Biblical evidence that "few are chosen". Relative to the wonder of salvation, and Abram standing there as just one man, indeed they are "many", but "few" compared to the global population.

13:17 Arise, walk through the land in its length and in its breadth; for I will give it to you- God never let go of Abraham, even when Abraham didn't readily obey what God required of him. But Abraham didn't willingly "walk through the land"- because perhaps he doubted that he would be given it, or feared the local tribes. It's like saying to a child: 'Come and look at this! I am going to give it to you!', and the child doesn't even want to look. In this context we read of how Abraham "dwelt in the plain of Mamre"- that's stressed twice (Gen. 13:18; 14:13). Instead of travelling around in his land to see it, he tried to settle down. But God brought circumstances into his life which made him travel around the length and breadth of Canaan- thus Abraham had to pursue Lot's captors "unto Hobah, which is on the left hand of Damascus" before he recovered Lot (Gen. 14:15). Hobah is in the far north east of Canaan- Abraham had to go all the way there from Mamre in the centre of Canaan. For unknown reasons, Abraham also lived in Beersheba for a while (Gen. 22:19); he had a meeting with the local rulers at Shaveh, near Jerusalem (Gen. 14:17); and at the time of Gen. 16:14 Abraham was near Kadesh Barnea, in the very South of Canaan on the Egyptian border. One wonders whether the attraction of Egypt had led him there once more- in which case it was his own weakness which was used by God to ensure that he travelled to the very south of Canaan. Maybe the record includes all these geographical markers in order to demonstrate how Abraham did indeed travel around Canaan through providentially arranged circumstances, although not it seems as an act of direct obedience to the Divine command to do so.

The hope of a literal bodily reward has been understood by God’s people from earliest times. Abraham was promised that he, personally, would inherit the land of Canaan forever, as surely as he had walked up and down in it. His faith in those promises would have necessitated his belief that his body would somehow, at a future date, be revived and made immortal, so that this would be possible.

Abraham was progressively set up by God so that his spiritual growth would be an upward spiral. Initially, he was told to walk / go to a land which God would shew him (Gen. 12:1); when he got there, he was told to "arise", and "walk" through that land of Canaan (Gen. 13:17). And Abraham, albeit in a faltering kind of way, did just this. But this was to prepare him for the test of Gen. 22:3 in the command to offer Isaac. His obedience this time isn't at all faltering. He "arises" and 'goes' [s.w. "walk"] "unto the place of which God had told him" to offer Isaac (Gen. 22:3). This is exactly what he had been called to do right back in Ur- to arise and walk / go to a land / place which God would show him (Gen. 12:1). And so our obedience in one challenge of God leads us to obedience in others. One experience is designed to lead us to another. Nothing- absolutely nothing- in our lives is senseless chance. All- and this takes some believing- is part of a higher plan for our spiritual good, in our latter end. Time and again we see this in Abraham's life.

13:18 Abram moved his tent, and came and lived by the oaks of Mamre, which are in Hebron, and built an altar there to Yahweh- This was Abram's response to the command to walk up and down in the land. And it was negative. He tried to set up camp in one place, in fact in a centre of pagan worship ("the oaks"). But more positively, he built an altar to Yahweh there, a public statement of his faith. And that altar and his own "tent" are well contrasted. Just as the early church resisted the command to go out and spread the Gospel, and the descendants of Noah wanted to build Babel lest they have to obey the command to go out into the eretz and subdue it... so Abram tried to remain sedentary. And this is human nature; to prefer the fixed, the old and familiar, rather than the leadership of the Spirit.