(This is a short study and could be combined but 12 and 14 are quite long!)
So far we have looked at the account of creation, Adam and Eve, Noah, the flood, God’s covenant, the Tower of Babel, how nations were formed and the move that would bring Abram from the mouth of the Euphrates, to Canaan, and his time in Egypt.
Read Genesis 13v1-18
We looked at verses 1-4 in our previous study (Genesis 12) so we will now turn to verses 5-9.
5 Now Lot, who was moving about with Abram, also had flocks and herds and tents.
Lot could well have been in his 40s and was well established with his own flocks, herds and people to look after them (‘tents’ V5). But with Abram’s animals and people, and the fact that the Canaanites and Perizzites were also living in the land at that time (v7), finding pasture land was becoming more and more of a problem, and led to quarrels (v7). Note v6 – their possessions were so great that they were not able to stay together.
Magnanimously, Abram suggests they separate, with Lot choosing where he would like to go (v8-11):
8 So Abram said to Lot, ‘Let’s not have any quarrelling between you and me, or between your herdsmen and mine, for we are close relatives. 9 Is not the whole land before you? Let’s part company. If you go to the left, I’ll go to the right; if you go to the right, I’ll go to the left.’
10 Lot looked around and saw that the whole plain of the Jordan towards Zoar was well watered, like the garden of the Lord, like the land of Egypt. (This was before the Lord destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah.) 11 So Lot chose for himself the whole plain of the Jordan and set out towards the east. The two men parted company:
We mentioned in our previous study that the climate in Israel has changed dramatically since Abram’s time. In his day, the area surrounding the river Jordan, all the way to south of the Dead Sea, was a rich fertile plain (v10).
It is possible that the Dead Sea itself was a freshwater sea (like the Sea of Galilee to the north. The present levels of contamination, with 25% Chloride and Bromide salts, may only have occurred after the violent events which caused the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. Hot sulphur springs still contribute to the mineral content to this day.
If you are at Bethel, on the crest of the North-South ridge, the choice is simple and obvious: either go west towards the lowland plains by the Mediterranean or go east to the Jordan valley.
11 So Lot chose for himself the whole plain of the Jordan and set out towards the east. The two men parted company: 12 Abram lived in the land of Canaan, while Lot lived among the cities of the plain and pitched his tents near Sodom. 13 Now the people of Sodom were wicked and were sinning greatly against the Lord.
What do you make of Lot’s decision?
We must be careful not to be too critical of Lot: look at 2 Peter 2:7-8
7 and if he rescued Lot, a righteous man, who was distressed by the filthy lives of lawless men 8 (for that righteous man, living among them day after day, was tormented in his righteous soul by the lawless deeds he saw and heard)
It was a poor choice perhaps, and not the choice for Abram – he would now be more careful where he went!
14 The Lord said to Abram after Lot had parted from him, ‘Look around from where you are, to the north and south, to the east and west. 15 All the land that you see I will give to you and your offspring for ever. 16 I will make your offspring like the dust of the earth, so that if anyone could count the dust, then your offspring could be counted. 17 Go, walk through the length and breadth of the land, for I am giving it to you.’
What an amazing thing for Almighty God to say to a man who makes mistakes! In what way should that encourage us?
18 So Abram went to live near the great trees of Mamre at Hebron, where he pitched his tents. There he built an altar to the Lord.
It is at the highest point on the main north/south Ridge Route and it is here that it branches – from the north, to the southeast and southwest. It had already become a trading centre and because it was the highest point (over 3000ft) its elevated position could be more easily defended (and you could see people approaching on the roads from a long way away).
It also meant that the rainfall was higher (currently around 40 inches a year) and the average temperature ranges from 8°C in winter to 23°C in summer so a significant variety of crops could be grown in the surrounding countryside.
There were of course people living there already, but Abram’s tribe by now numbered 318 trained fighting men (Genesis 14:14) and was a force to be reckoned with. Probably a deal was agreed with Mamre and his two brothers who appeared to be the tribal leaders living there (14:14), and they settled into a harmonious partnership.
(If people query the numbers of men in Abram’s household, Genesis 17:13 refers to men ‘born in your household or bought with your money.’ This appears to suggest that the purchase of slaves was commonplace, although they were more likely to have been treated as employees, or simply part of the extended family. See also Genesis 12:16)
Notice too that here Abram built an altar to the Lord. Obviously worship was already an important part of Abram’s life, but now –
Can someone describe how Abram felt after verses 14-17?!