Thank you for listening today as we continue our study verse by verse through the book of Genesis. I am your host Randy Duncan, and today we are going to take a quick look at chapter 13.
In the last episode, we wrapped up chapter 12 and our discussion of Abraham going down to Egypt, Sarah being taken by Pharaoh, and then God’s subsequent intervention. Chapter 12 ended with Pharaoh giving orders to send Abraham away with Sarah and all that he had. Which brings us now to chapter 13.
And chapter 13 is going to be one of those shorter chapters that is a bit more relaxed. It is fairly straightforward, and so simply doesn’t require a lot of additional commentary.
1So Abram went up from Egypt, he and his wife and all that he had, and Lot with him, into the Negeb. 2 Now Abram was very rich in livestock, in silver, and in gold. 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,(eye) 4 to the place where he had made an altar at the first. And there Abram called upon the name of the Lord.
So Abraham leaves Egypt for the Negev. Now the Negev is simply a region in southern Israel
It says that Abraham was “very rich”. The Hebrew word(kabed) translated here as “rich”, is translated elsewhere as “severe”, and so this is a description of Abraham’s significant wealth. Ironically, God has blessed Abraham so much that it will soon become an issue for him and his nephew Lot, who will have to separate. In the previous chapter we saw that what drove the actions of Abraham was the severe famine in the land. Now, what will drive his actions is the severe prosperity he has enjoyed.
Don’t ever be fooled into thinking that God only tests you through suffering or hard times. Many people have stumbled when they feel like they have made it, when they have more than they need. Trust me, there are plenty of miserable and broken, and lost rich people.
Proverbs 30:8-9 says “… give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with the food that is needful for me, lest I be full and deny you and say, “Who is the Lord?” or lest I be poor and steal and profane the name of my God.
In short, what Proverbs is teaching us is to give us what we need, to not bless us with so much that we feel like we don’t need God, but not so little that we are so poor that we then steal and sin against God.
Another point I would have you be sensitive to, is the similarity, the foreshadowing, of how Abraham went into Egypt during a famine, and exited Egypt blessed. It is a foreshadowing of sorts of the Hebrews who would be slaves in Egypt, but would exit taking much with them under the leadership of Moses and blessings of God.
So Abraham heads toward the Negev, towards Bethel, to the place where he had made an altar at the first, and there he called on the name of the Lord. Interesting, it says that Abraham returned to where he was earlier. He is returning to the physical location where he was earlier. But perhaps more importantly, he is also returning to the point of his spiritual beginning. Back to where he took his first steps of faith. And so the picture is one of Abraham returning to his position of faith.
I am sure, tucked away in there somewhere, there is probably some good insight and things we could learn. And a lesson that maybe we should also be reminded to remember why we first took our initial steps of faith, and to perhaps return to that place spiritually. If you are a Christian, do you remember when you first accepted Jesus as your Lord and Savior? Do you remember how you felt? Do you remember how you burned inside to learn more about him, and to grow in your relationship with him? How do you feel now? Do you still have a passion and a desire to learn and to grow your relationship with Christ? If not, what happened?
It is very easy to slowly slide into a routine and a place where we spend less and less time on our relationship with God. We’re all busy. Most of us have lives whose days are filled with activities from the time we wake up until we hit the bed each night. And it doesn’t matter whether it is long work hours, all the lessons and practices and activities your children have, the TV shows that you can’t miss and just have to watch, or the countless hours spent scrolling on Facebook so you can see the same people posting the same things day after day. The point is that we have become so busy that we have allowed some of the supposed urgent things in our lives to interrupt the important things. We are so busy that we don’t seem to have time for God. We can scroll on Facebook for 20 minutes five times a day, but can’t squeeze in 20 minutes a day to pray or read our Bible. Be honest with yourself, and just compare the time you spend on social media with the time you spend on reading God’s word or in prayer. Compare the amount of time you spend absorbing and eating a steady diet of the propoganda fed to you on Fox and CNN to the time you spend reading God’s word. Sadly, many people act as though what Tucker Carlson or Anderson Cooper says is more important than what God has to teach us. The reality is that we will spend time doing what is most important to us. We can always seem to find time to do the things we really want to do. Maybe we should all spend a little less time on Facebook, and a little more time in the Holy book.
Jesus said in Matt 6:21 that “ where your treasure is, there your heart will be also”. And I would argue that the same thing applies to where we spend our time. The most precious resource any of us have in this life is time. I think you can often look at how a person spends their time and determine what is important in their life. Here we find Abraham going back to the place of his physical and spiritual beginning in his walk with God. Perhaps many of us should consider doing the same.
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, 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.
As I mentioned earlier, the problem now is not the famine. The problem now is the severity and abundance of their blessing. So much so that the land could not support both Abraham and Lot. Their competing needs could not be met by the available resources of the area, which leads to conflict with the herdsmen.
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.”
So Abraham, even though he is the elder, in a socially superior position, humbles himself. He is the one who puts the peace of the family before his own aspirations and individual prosperity. Abraham is the one who initiates a way to peace. They were living in an ideal environment. But the ideal environment was not bringing peace. We have seen this before. Cain and Abel were raised in the ideal environment, but it did not bring peace. Creating the ideal environment alone, creating the wished-for utopia, will not bring about peace on its own. Some people would argue that the United States of America is the greatest nation to ever exist in the history of the world. It is the ideal environment, relatively speaking. And although we have peace in legal terms, what is your sense for how much peace we have right now in our country? And you may say, “we have peace in America”. And I would agree, relatively speaking. But how many people have true peace? I mean true peace. Because despite outward appearances, there are an awful lot of hurting people in the world
You see, creating ideal environments alone cannot bring about peace in that sense. Sin originated in the ideal environment. True and lasting peace comes only through surrendering your heart to God. Jesus said in John 14:27 “ Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.” And Paul writes in Phillipians 4:6-7 “ do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus”. My suggestion, if you are truly searching for peace, turn to Jesus.
So, Abraham offers Lot the first choice of land, and then he will take whatever Lot does not choose. Pretty generous offer! So what does Lot do? What does he choose?
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. 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.
So Lot looks out and he sees. And he sees what he perceives to be the best of the land, watered everywhere like the garden of God, which I am assuming is a reference to the Garden of Eden.
We sort of have to infer here that Lot chooses selfishly. He chose what he thought was the best land for himself, and left the other land for Abraham. It seems like the right thing to do would have been to look out, assess the land, and out of respect for Abraham, tell him which land looked the best, and tell Abraham that as the patriarch, he should take that land for himself. Out of reverence. Out of respect. Abraham didn’t have to give him anything. But that’s not what Lot does.
One interesting observation here. Notice the recurrence of “towards the east” in Genesis. Each time we see people moving away from God, it has been associated with the east. When Adam and Eve are expelled from the Garden, which direction did they go? When the people settled in Shinar, where the episode with the Tower of Babel occurred, which direction? East. And again, here, which way does Lot journey? East. Maybe there is nothing to it, but perhaps, as Armstrong notes, “the easterly direction had come to symbolize distance and exile from the divine presence, and without the sacred there could be no blessing”
Abraham settles in Canaan. Lot settles among the cities of the valley, and moved his tent where?….as far as Sodom. Yikes!
And why do I say that? V13 gives us a hint. 13 Now the men of Sodom were wicked, great sinners against the Lord.
Verses 12 &13 contrast the two places where each man settles. Abraham settles in Bethel, where he built an altar. Lot’s camp points to the infamous and evil city of Sodom. I have to think that Lot knew of Sodom, he had heard of Sodom and the people there. And yet, he chooses to move there.
It makes you wonder why people make some of the decisions they make. Perhaps Lot thought, “hey, I am pretty well off. I have been blessed. I have material wealth. I can take this better land, increase my wealth, and also enjoy the city life and all that it offers”. Now don’t misunderstand me. I don’t have anything against cities. I enjoy traveling to cities all over the country. I love much of what they afford and enjoy experiencing the different things they offer. I live in the downtown part of my city. It’s not the city that’s the issue. It’s the mindset and attitude that’s the issue
But what was it that really enticed Lot? Did he choose the land because he thought it would make him even more wealthy, and in doing so, simply ignore the fact that the people who lived there were completely immoral? What was it that he was truly seeking?
I am reminded of James 1:14-15, which tells us 14 each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. 15 Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.
Lot is unfortunately going to find this out over the next few chapters, culminating with the destruction of Sodom and Gomorah, but even trouble in the next chapter
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. 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. 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.
Just like Lot lifted up his eyes and looked, now God instructs Abraham to lift up his eyes and look. This word “look”, means not only to look, but to “see”. There is a difference.
God has Abraham look in each direction, sort of a panoramic view, and once again promises to give all the land to Abraham and his descendents. God also once again tells Abraham that his descendents will be many, like the dust of the earth. And although it is not recorded in scripture, I have to wonder if Abraham was still confused about this part of the promise since Sarah was unable to have children.
God tells Abraham to get up and walk the land. To walk the length and breadth of it. That is interesting because back in the day, Kings asserted their right to rule a territory by symbolically tracing out its boundaries. Or they would have processions around the walls of a city to stake their new claim or assert their kingship. Sarna, notes that “Early Jewish exegesis understood this traversing of the length and breadth of the land to be a symbolic act constituting a mode of legal acquisition…”
So Abraham settles in Mamre, in Hebron. This is actually the place where Abraham is buried, as are Sarah, Isaac and Rebekah, and Jacob and Leah.
And once Abraham settled there, what does he do? He builds an altar to God. As Waltke says, “it is a proper response to God’s renewed promise, and an appropriate conclusion to this scene”. And I agree.
I will leave you once again reflecting upon Abraham’s returning to the place of his spiritual beginning. And encourage you to consider doing the same. God will be there, is there, waiting for you. Hebrews 13:5 tells us “I will never leave you nor forsake you”. And Romans 8:38-39 tell us that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
As always, thank you for listening. I hope you will join me again in the next episode, where we will discuss Abraham’s rescue of Lot. Until then, God bless.