The Life of Abraham: Abram and Lot Separate
Abram has forsaken the land of his family in obedience to God, fled to Egypt during a famine in the land of Canaan, and has now been kicked out of Egypt for deceiving the Pharaoh. Even in his sinning, however, God has shown him mercy, grace, and has greatly blessed in both spiritual and financial growth.
Abram is now traveling in the wilderness seeking God and a promise.
Now Abram was very rich in livestock, in silver and in gold. (Genesis 12:2)
As we discussed last week, Abram had been given great wealth while they were in Egypt. They were escorted out of Egypt but allowed to keep what they had gained from the Egyptians. This was a great mercy shown them by God through the Pharaoh.
Abram was likely already a wealthy man before going to Egypt but now he was “very rich”. The word “very” used here means “exceedingly much.” The word for “rich” means “heavy” or “burdensome.”
“He was very heavy, so the Hebrew word signifies; for riches are a burden, and those that will be rich do but load themselves with thick clay, Hab. 2:6. There is a burden of care in getting them, fear in keeping them, temptation in using them, guilt in abusing them, sorrow in losing them, and a burden of account, at last, to be given up concerning them. Great possessions do but make men heavy and unwieldy.” ~ Matthew Henry2
If you are reading this on your own device (computer, phone, tablet), you should be aware that, while you may not always feel like it, you are one of the richest people on earth, and in all of history. We are overly blessed with prosperity today, especially in Europe and America.
When you really take survey of your life, you realize how much “stuff” you have collected. I’m not sure if you are like me, but my husband and I have discussed how we feel that we have become slaves of “stuff.” We always desire the newest gadget, we have bookshelves overflowing with books and board games we have not read or played, we have cooking appliances we hardly ever use, we have a closet full of clothes but “nothing to wear,” etc… Yet, we are constantly tempted to purchase another book, game, gadget, service, outfit, etc.
At one time, we considered pursuing long-term mission work. (This is not out of the realm of possibilities for us but just has not happened yet.) We realized that if we got the call to pick-up and move to another country, we would be greatly burdened by all the “stuff” we would have to let go of or pay to be stored. We realized how “heavy” our lives had become.
This is one reason I think the minimalist movement has picked up so much steam in recent years. Things become a great burden and, as Matthew Henry pointed out, make us “heavy and unwieldy.
I am not recommending that we all embrace the minimalist lifestyle. What I am saying is that we have been wonderfully blessed in what God has allowed us to have. We must use these gifts for His glory and not to just “build up our storehouses.”
“…as piety is a friend to outward prosperity (1 Tim. 4:8), so outward prosperity, if well-managed, is an ornament to piety, and furnishes an opportunity of doing so much the more good.” ~ Matthew Henry2
He went on his journeys from the Negev as far as Bethel, to the place where his tent had been at the beginning, between Bethel and Ai, to the place of the altar which he had made there formerly; and there Abram called on the name of the Lord. (Genesis 13:3-4)
Abram “went on his journeys.” He continued to travel. He did not stake out a plot of land and call it home. He knew that God had promised his descendants land and this was not it. So, he returned to the place where he had first built an altar to the Lord.
Abram’s altar was no longer there but that didn’t stop him from calling on the name of the Lord. Abram had been driven out of Egypt back into the wilderness. Although he was even richer now, he was without a home, among hostile people, and unknown conditions. This will often result in people abandoning their previously held beliefs. However, Abram was a great man of faith, a fallen and sinful man, but a man whom God had given the gift of faith. Abram held onto God and called out to him.
Sometimes riches lead to us forgetting our dependence on God but this was not the case for Abram. Although he was rich, he knew who those riches ultimately belonged to.
“When we cannot do what we would we must make conscience of doing what we can in the acts of devotion. When we want an altar, let us not be wanting in prayer, but, wherever we are, call on the name of the Lord.” ~ Matthew Henry2
There was not altar but Abram still worshiped God. There are times in our lives where we may not have the perfect setting to worship God how we would desire, but there is no place or situation we can be in that God will not hear our prayers.
There are places in this world where churches are outlawed. It is punishable by death to be a Christian and even more so to fellowship with other Christians. This fact has been more the rule throughout history than the exception. Although, these Christians do not have access to a nice building, skilled musicians and singers, nice PowerPoint presentations, air conditioning/heating, etc…they still call on the name of the Lord.
Let us remember, there is never an improper time or place to call on the name of the Lord.
Now Lot, who went with Abram, also had flocks and herds and tents. And the land could not sustain them while dwelling together, for their possessions were so great that they were not able to remain together. And there was strife between the herdsmen of Abram’s livestock and the herdsmen of Lot’s livestock. Now the Canaanite and the Perizzite were dwelling then in the land. (Genesis 13:5-7)
Lot was still continuing to follow Abram in obedience to God. This is such an encouraging thing. What Abram was doing must have seemed nuts to so many others in Abram’s family. But Lot followed him. He didn’t need to stay with Abram, he was wealthy in his own right, yet, he chose to remain with Abram and pursue Abram’s God.
“We read (Gen. 13:2) how rich Abram was; now here we are told (Gen. 13:5) that Lot, who went with Abram, was rich too; and therefore God blessed him with riches because he went with Abram. Note, 1. It is good being in good company, and going with those with whom God is, Zech. 8:23. 2. Those that are partners with God’s people in their obedience and sufferings shall be sharers with them in their joys and comforts, Isa. 66:10. ” ~ Matthew Henry2
Unfortunately, wealth often destroys relationships. There are so many stories of people who win the lottery or some great amount of money and the relationships with their families and friends suffer. It is not unusual for wealth to cause undue burden on people and their relationships.
“Riches are often an occasion of strife and contention among relations and neighbours. This is one of those foolish and hurtful lusts which those that will be rich fall into, 1 Tim. 6:9. Riches not only afford matter for contention, and are the things most commonly striven about, but they also stir up a spirit of contention, by making people proud and covetous.” ~ Matthew Henry2
This was a massive area of land but the land had not be given over to Abram yet, so they were continuing to be visitors in this land. They were only being allowed to live in this land based on the patience and mercy of the Canaanites.
Now, however, strife had erupted between Abram’s herdsmen and Lot’s. While this was a great amount of land, it seems that the famine may have taken its toll on the land leaving only limited areas with good grazing and water.
The Canaanites and Perizzites were in this land and no doubt witnessing this situation.
It is estimated that Abram had about three hundred men in his household at this time, not to mention a number of women and likely children. It is also estimated that Lot likely had close to the same amount or at least a decent size household. This was not a mere two small families. It may have looked almost like an army of men coming into this land.
The Canaanites and Perizzites had to be paying attention to this massive group. I’m sure they were a bit nervous and likely preparing themselves for any possible action.
This tense situation between Abram and Lot could have turned very bad. If war broke out between Abram and Lot, the Canaanites and Perizzites may have taken the opportunity to destroy both families since disunity causes fractures and exposes weakness. Or, they may have to choose a side in a war. Either way, if this dispute between Abram and Lot went bad, they would likely be drawn into some sort of military action themselves.
Another, and possibly more detrimental risk, was that these idol worshipers were watching how these two God-worshipers were going to handle a disagreement. If Abram and Lot could not work out their differences, they would have harmed the reputation of their religion and their testimony.
This is a very common situation with us today. We come into a familial relationship with other sinners when we become part of the family of Christ. We attend church with different people with different personalities and different struggles. These are likely not people we would choose to be friends with if it were not for being in the body of Christ. As such, we often have disagreements in how we interpret the Bible, worship styles, personalities, etc… Sometimes, these disagreements can escalate to a point where “war” seems eminent.
The world is watching us. The idol worshipers are watching us to see how the God-worshipers are going to respond to one another. We can respond in anger, selfishness, elitism, demanding that we have certain rights. All common responses with the world and ones that you will be praised for and supported by the world. Or, we can respond with grace, mercy, patience, gentleness, and love for one another. This is a response that shocks and confounds the world.
“The quarrels of professors are the reproach of profession, and give occasion, as much as any thing, to the enemies of the Lord to blaspheme.” ~ Matthew Henry2
This is the situation Abram found himself and one that we find ourselves more often than we would like to admit.
So Abram said to Lot, “Please let there be no strife between you and me, nor between my herdsmen and your herdsmen, for we are brothers. Is not the whole land before you? Please separate from me; if to the left, then I will go to the right; or if to the right, then I will go to the left.” (Genesis 13:8-9)
Abram humbled himself and showed great mercy, love, patience, and grace to Lot.
“The making up of this quarrel was very happy. It is best to preserve the peace, that it be not broken; but the next best is, if differences do happen, with all speed to accommodate them, and quench the fire that has broken out. The motion for staying this strife was made by Abram, though he was the senior and superior relation, Gen. 13:8.” ~ Matthew Henry2
What an amazing man Abram was! Oh, to one day be like him.
Abram was the elder and had the right to demand what part of the land he would take. Abram, even more importantly, was the one to whom God had promised the land, not Lot.
Rather than making the demands and claiming the part he wanted, Abram showed great humility and allowed Lot to choose. He saw his relationship with Lot and his reputation with the rest of the world to be a much more precious thing to pursue than the best part of the land and his rightful standing in the family.
“Abram for the sake of appeasing strifes voluntarily sacrifices his own right.” ~ John Calvin1
Meekness has been defined as “strength under control.” This is a beautiful descriptor for Abram in this situation. He kept a calm, cool, and peaceable spirit about him. He desired to be a peacemaker (Matthew 5:9, Romans 12:18) in this situation. Even if he was in the right, he was willing to set that aside for peace and unity.
“The people of God should always approve themselves a peaceable people; whatever others are for, they must be for peace.” ~ Matthew Henry2
Abram’s humility and wisdom in this situation are attributes we should all desire. They are not natural to us and are typically fruits that grow from many years of mistakes and pain to reach to this level of maturity. This should be a daily prayer that God would grow us to be more humble, wise, meek, and peace-seeking with those whom we disagree or feel wronged by.
“The consideration of our relation to each other, as brethren, should always prevail to moderate our passions, and either to prevent or put an end to our contentions. Brethren should love as brethren.” ~ Matthew Henry2
On a side note, we should seek peace and unity with others as far as it does not lead us to sin or compromise. We should seek peaceful resolutions and set aside our desires for one another but never at the cost of the Gospel. Even in cases where truth is being compromised, however, there are ways we can address this with others that is in the spirit of meekness and peace. When we are in disagreement, we must remember to address the other person in a spirit of humility, gentleness, and with long-suffering just as God does with us on a hourly basis.
Lot lifted up his eyes and saw all the valley of the Jordan, that it was well watered everywhere—this was before the Lord destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah—like the garden of the Lord, like the land of Egypt as you go to Zoar. So Lot chose for himself all the valley of the Jordan, and Lot journeyed eastward. Thus they separated from each other. (Genesis 13:10-11)
Lot saw that one part of the land was very fertile and good, so he chose that land. This seems not only self-serving but rude. Rather than thanking his uncle for the offer but turning it back to Abram, Lot takes the choice land. Matthew Henry2 , writing on this passage says, “Passion and selfishness make men rude.”
“There can be no doubt that this injustice would pierce the mind of Abram; but he silently bore it, lest by any means, he should give occasion of new offense. And thus ought we entirely to act, whenever we perceive those with whom we are connected, to be not sufficiently mindful of their duty: otherwise there will be no end of tumults.” ~ John Calvin1
As Calvin said above, this had to hurt Abram. Lot seemed to show little respect for this uncle who was his elder, his spiritual leader, and who had been a sort of adoptive father to him. The separation had to hurt but I’m sure the disrespect hurt even more. But, Abram accepted Lot’s choice and did not criticize him, rebuke him, or berate him for his actions. He sought peace with Lot and tolerated this insult in love.
Abram, in this instance, is the perfect illustration to point to when we are thinking of Philippians 2:4 which says, “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves.” Abram was self-sacrificing, humble, and showed greater respect for Lot than Lot did for him.
Abram settled in the land of Canaan, while Lot settled in the cities of the valley, and moved his tents as far as Sodom. Now the men of Sodom were wicked exceedingly and sinners against the Lord. (Genesis 13:12-13)
The men of Sodom weren’t just wicked, they were exceedingly so. The word for “exceedingly” means “vehemently,” “wholly,” “diligently,” especially,” or “utterly.” It was almost like a sport to them to see who could be the most corrupt. Even to this day, we think of Sodom as being one of the most wicked civilizations in history.
They were sinners “against the Lord.” They were not just sinning to be sinning but doing so with the purpose of “spitting in God’s face.” All our sins are ultimately against the Lord but this particular verse makes a point of pointing this out about their sin.
“That some sinners are the worse for living in a good land. So the Sodomites were: for this was the iniquity of Sodom, pride, fulness of bread, and abundance of idleness; and all these were supported by the great plenty their country afforded, Ezek. 16:49. Thus the prosperity of fools destroys them.” ~ Matthew Henry2
They lived in a fertile part of the land. During the famine, the city likely grew with people moving into the area and, as such, even grew in greater wealth. This growth in wealth and luxury has throughout history shown to led to people becoming more and more sinful.
Sodom sounds so much like America today, and probably the rest of the what the world refers to as “the West.” We live in such prosperity, abundance, and luxury that it has lead to our sins growing, especially those of pride, gluttony, and sloth.
This also points out to a fact of life that is often difficult for us to understand. Here, the exceedingly evil men, the God haters, live in a fertile and comfortable land. While, pious and righteous Abram is forced to meek out survival in a barren land.
This is true in our situations today as well. I have friends who struggle with infertility and have had several miscarriages. They see abusive families having more and more children and then look into their empty arms and wonder “why?”.
This is a difficult and often impossible truth to fully understand God’s purpose in these situations. While there are many reasons that God may choose to do this, there are two that we can focus on when it feels as though we are suffering more than we should and that the evil of this world are being blessed beyond what they deserve.
First, this is a reminder that we find our contentment, peace, and joy not in our circumstances but in Christ alone. We may know this intellectually but when “the rubber meets the road” we truly learn to rest in God’s sovereignty.
The second is thing that seeing evil people prosper while the righteous suffer reminds us that our justification is not a result of our works. Our God is not the god of prosperity theology. God does not bless us with prosperity in finances, health, and relationships because we do what is right. God blesses us through sanctification, and this often comes through difficult times. This reminds us that we are saved by grace and not of our works and this truth should be of great joy to us.
Since we cannot do enough good works to obtain God’s blessings in temporal luxuries, we can rejoice that we cannot do enough good works to obtain salvation either. We rejoice because the righteousness we need to obtain salvation does not come from us but from the finished work of Christ. His righteousness is given to us not because we earned it or He saw some great potential in us but because, “while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).
“God sends preachers, before he sends destroyers; for he is not willing that any should perish,” ~ Matthew Henry2
While Lot’s choice may have been foolish and selfish, he is still credited as being a righteous man. Even though the way he made it to Sodom may have been laced in sin, God used it to His glory and sent Sodom a missionary to Sodom.
This story between Abram and Lot is one of sadness but also one of admiration. It is sad that wealth caused a rift to form between uncle and nephew. However, we have a wonderful example of how we should react to brothers and sisters in Christ when we encounter disagreements, hurt, and disrespect.
This story reminds me of a passage in James. Here we can see the godly wisdom being exemplified in Abram and the worldly wisdom being demonstrated by Lot.
Who among you is wise and understanding? Let him show by his good behavior his deeds in the gentleness of wisdom. But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your heart, do not be arrogant and so lie against the truth. This wisdom is not that which comes down from above, but is earthly, natural, demonic. For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every evil thing. But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without hypocrisy. And the seed whose fruit is righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace. (James 3:13-18)
Let us pray that God will give us wisdom, meekness, a gentle spirit, and a desire to seek peace in all our relationships.
1. Calvin, John. 2017. “Genesis 13 – John Calvin’S Bible Commentary – Bible Commentary”. Christianity.Com. Accessed October 27. http://www.christianity.com/bible/commentary.php?com=clvn&b=1&c=13.
2. Henry, Matthew. 2017. “Chapter 13 – Matthew Henry’s Commentary – Bible Gateway”. Biblegateway.Com. Accessed October 27. https://www.biblegateway.com/resources/matthew-henry/Gen.13.1-Gen.13.18.