February 8, 2014

Commentary on the Book of Genesis

By: Tom Lowe                      

 

Lesson II.B.1: Separation from Lot. Genesis 13:5-13.                                                                               


Genesis 13:5-13 (KJV)

 

5 And Lot also, which went with Abram, had flocks, and herds, and tents.

6 And the land was not able to bear them, that they might dwell together: for their substance was great, so that they could not dwell together.

7 And there was a strife between the herdmen of Abram's cattle and the herdmen of Lot's cattle: and the Canaanite and the Perizzite dwelled then in the land.

8 And Abram said unto Lot, Let there be no strife, I pray thee, between me and thee, and between my herdmen and thy herdmen; for we be brethren.

9 Is not the whole land before thee? separate thyself, I pray thee, from me: if thou wilt take the left hand, then I will go to the right; or if thou depart to the right hand, then I will go to the left.

10 And Lot lifted up his eyes, and beheld all the plain of Jordan, that it was well watered everywhere, before the LORD destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah, even as the garden of the LORD, like the land of Egypt, as thou comest unto Zoar.

11 Then Lot chose him all the plain of Jordan; and Lot journeyed east: and they separated themselves the one from the other.

12Abram dwelled in the land of Canaan, and Lot dwelled in the cities of the plain, and pitched his tent toward Sodom.

13 But the men of Sodom were wicked and sinners before the LORD exceedingly.

 

Commentary

 

5 And Lot also, which went with Abram, had flocks, and herds, and tents.

Lot and Abram were related. Lot was his brother’s son; but aside from the family relationship they were bound together by long shared experience.

Wealth in the ancient world was not measured by the amount of land a man owned, but by the size of his herds and the value of gold, silver, and jewels he possessed. In verse 2 of Chapter 13 we read, And Abram was very rich in cattle, in silver, and in gold.”

Riches not only provoke strife, they are the things striven for; but they frequently stir up a spirit of contention, by making people proud and covetous. Poverty and labor, wants and wanderings could not separate Abram and lot, but riches did. Friends are soon lost; but God is a friend from whose love neither the height of prosperity nor the depth of adversity can separate us.

When believers quarrel, it is a reproach to religion, and it gives the enemies of the Lord an opportunity to blaspheme the Lord.

Those who are guided and governed by the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye, or the pride of life, cannot expect God’s presence or blessing. They are commonly disappointed even in that which they aim to obtain.

 

6 And the land was not able to bear them, that they might dwell together: for their substance was great, so that they could not dwell together.

7 And there was a strife between the herdmen of Abram's cattle and the herdmen of Lot's cattle: and the Canaanite and the Perizzite dwelled then in the land.

There were at least two immediate disadvantages to the Bethel area: in the first place it was a fairly hilly region, with limited pasture lands; and secondly, earlier occupants were by no means absent from this part of Palestine, and they held the best parts of it. As for the Perizzite, little is known of them; but, perhaps they were only found in this particular part of Palestine. It may well have been that the quarrel between Abram’s clan-group and that of Lot was due to an attempt to avoid a clash with their Canaanite neighbors; but there is an even better reason. It should not be unexpected that conflicts developed between Abraham’s herdsmen and Lot’s herdsmen over access to the grass needed for grazing their large herds of cattle, sheep, camels, and goats. Both uncle and nephew had greatly added to their wealth during their slow journey from Ur to Haran, to Egypt, and to the Bethel/Ai region where they were now living together. There was not enough grazing space available there to sustain the huge herds of both men.

8 And Abram said unto Lot, Let there be no strife, I pray thee, between me and thee, and between my herdmen and thy herdmen; for we be brethren.

It was bad enough that this dispute was between brethren, but what made it even worse was that the heathen people of the region were watching and listening.

9 Is not the whole land before thee? separate thyself, I pray thee, from me: if thou wilt take the left hand, then I will go to the right; or if thou depart to the right hand, then I will go to the left.

Abram may have failed the first two tests, but he passed the third with flying colors. The test was not an easy one since it involved land and wealth; but Abram is the example of what every believer should do when there are disputes about material things.

Now here is irony, because one might expect Abram to cling to what was promised him and tell Lot to go find his own place; but instead, Abram gladly suggested that Lot select for himself the land he desired for his household and herds. After Lot made his choice, Abraham would accept what was left for himself. Perhaps this act of generosity went a long way toward restoring, in the eyes of the servants, Abrams integrity and reputation, which he had tarnished by his act of deception in the land of Egypt (see Gen. 12:12-20).

While in Egypt Abram thought first about himself (see Gen. 12:12-13); but when he returned to his alter in Canaan, he put God first and others next. As the “elder statesman” of the camp, Abram had every right to decide the issue and tell Lot what to do; but he gave Lot first choice. “Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honour preferring one another” (Rom. 12:10). The spiritual Christian doesn’t insist on his or her own rights but gladly yields to others.

The heart of every problem is the problem in the heart. Lot’s heart was centered on wealth and worldly achievement, while Abram wanted only to please the Lord. “Can two walk together, except they be agreed? (Amos 3:3).

10 And Lot lifted up his eyes, and beheld all the plain of Jordan, that it was well watered everywhere, before the LORD destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah, even as the garden of the LORD, like the land of Egypt, as thou comest unto Zoar.

Instead of lifting up his eyes to heaven, Lot lifted up his eyes to the plain of the Jordan and stopped there. The eyes see what the heart loves. Abram had taken Lot out of Egypt but he couldn’t take Egypt out of Lot. First Lot looked toward Sodom (v. 10), then he moved toward Sodom (vv. 11-12), and finally, he moved into Sodom (Gen. 14:12). Instead of being a pilgrim who made progress, Lot regressed into the world and away from God’s blessing (Ps. 1:1). The people of Sodom may not have appeared wicked to Lot, but they were wicked as far as God was concerned; and His evaluation is all that matters.

Moses wrote this passage seven hundred years after Abram came to Canaan and after “the LORD destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah.” The devastation to that area had occurred long before by divinely initiated catastrophe (see Gen. 19:23-29), completely obliterating any evidence of its agricultural richness. Moses provides this two-fold appraisal of the Jordan valley, with its meadows on both sides of the river, to which Lot was so strongly attracted; it was “even as the garden of the LORD, like the land of Egypt.” The valley of the Jordan was large enough and sufficiently fertile to guarantee prosperity and plenty for all the days ahead; it was so fertile at this early date that Moses likened it to the Garden of Eden. Moses may have read this very passage to the Jews who were about to enter Canaan, and by likening it to the Garden of Eden, he referred hearer and reader to God’s revelatory description of it (see Gen. 2:8-15). And he also likened it to an obviously well-known and well-watered region of Egypt, a place the Jews may have been familiar with during their long sojourn in Egypt.

Zoar was a small town located at the south end of the Dead Sea, whose name means “small place.” Haste thee, escape thither; for I cannot do any thing till thou be come thither. Therefore the name of the city was called Zoar” (Gen. 19:22). Lot and his family would flee there after the destruction of Sodom (Gen. 19:18-22).

11 Then Lot chose him all the plain of Jordan; and Lot journeyed east: and they separated themselves the one from the other.

Lot made an excellent choice from a worldly point of view, but it proved disastrous spiritually because it drew him into Sodom. He set the example that has been followed by countless people since his time who have reached out for what they thought was easy gain, but what they got was disaster. The story of Lot is more fascinating because it might have turned out very different. He appears to be optimistic and a fairly good man. Lot had the type of associations that would tend to keep him a good man. He was Abram’s nephew, and Abram’s friend, and even when he didn’t deserve it Abram stood by him and never let him down. If he would have stayed with Abram, he would have stayed out of trouble, but when their interests split he thought he saw a chance to get the better of a deal, and he went to live in Sodom, even though a sensible man would have known Sodom was a place to be avoided like the plague. Once Lot got to Sodom, he soon became unhappy with the place and his conscience was burdened by what he observed of the people who lived there; he did not like the corrupt things that went on there but his dislike was never virile enough to make him want to get up and leave. Instead, he stayed in Sodom, complaining but also compromising (see Genesis 19) until the wickedness of Sodom led to its destruction and he lost all his possessions and barely got away with his life.

12 Abram dwelled in the land of Canaan, and Lot dwelled in the cities of the plain, and pitched his tent toward Sodom.

“Pitched his tent toward Sodom” seems to imply that Lot at this time did not take up residence in Sodom but continued to live as a nomad or semi nomad on the plain outside the city.

According to 1 Corinthians 2:14-3:3, there are only three kinds of people in the world: the natural (unsaved), the carnal (saved but living for the world and the flesh), and the spiritual (devoted to God). You find all three in Genesis 13: the natural (verse 13), the carnal (Lot), and the spiritual (Abram). Lot was a righteous man—“And delivered just Lot, vexed with the filthy conversation of the wicked: (For that righteous man dwelling among them, in seeing and hearing, vexed his righteous soul from day to day with their unlawful deeds;) (2 Peter 2:7-8)—but not devoted to the Lord. He could not walk with Abram because Abram was a friend of God—“Art not thou our God, who didst drive out the inhabitants of this land before thy people Israel, and gavest it to the seed of Abraham thy friend for ever?” (2 Chron. 20:7)—and Lot was a friend of the world—Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God” (James 4:4).

No matter what lot did, Abram was not worried about his future, because he knew everything was in the hands of the Lord. He had met God at the alter and he knew everything was under control. When God is first in your life, it makes no difference who is second or last.

No man falls suddenly. It always takes place over a period of time; you lift the flap of your tent and gaze at Sodom, and then you pitch your tent toward Sodom—and that’s the beginning. Lot lifted up his eyes, he saw the plain, and he headed in that direction. That is the biggest mistake he ever made in his life.

13 But the men of Sodom were wicked and sinners before the LORD exceedingly.

Lot’s decision put him dangerously near Sodom and Gomorrah, cities whose names have become synonymous with perversion and unbridled wickedness. Their evil is the theme of Chapter 19. Lot should have considered the badness of the men of Sodom, for they were impudent, daring sinners. This was the iniquity of Sodom, pride, fullness of bread, and abundance of idleness—“Behold, this was the iniquity of thy sister Sodom, pride, fulness of bread, and abundance of idleness was in her and in her daughters, neither did she strengthen the hand of the poor and needy” (Eze. 16:49).

Lot appears to be a good man, but he was influenced too much by a covetous and selfish spirit; and how many today fail to gain salvation or lose their reward for the hope of obtaining worldly advantage.  

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