My family in Christ, shalom.
Welcome to another edition of my journey through the Bible. Last time we saw the Holy Spirit leading Abram and his caravan southwards through Canaan and into Egypt. There God showed that He is indeed good by protecting Sarai’s virtue and increasing Abram’s wealth.
We rejoin the biblical account now as this group retrace their steps back to where Abram built his second altar. This was between Bethel (‘house of God’) and Ai (‘heap of ruin’) in northeast Canaan. Even before Egypt this group had found it hard to settle in Canaan as their herds and possessions were so great. Now that this wealth had been vastly increased in the land of the pharaohs, no single area could sustain them all. Arguments broke out between herdsmen (v. 7) and it seemed that it was finally time for this great family to go their separate ways.
From here (vv. 5ff.) Abram’s nephew Lot (‘covering,’ ‘veil’) becomes more involved in the narrative.
Pastor Bill Buffington talks about Abram being an “authority figure”. After all, it was he who speaks with God and testifies to it. Abram was the one who arranged for them all to leave Haran in the first place, and whose leadership under God had done them good so far. Thus it is Abram who suggests to Lot that he leave, and that whichever direction he goes in, Sarai and he will go in the opposite direction (v. 9).
Probably being away from his family for the first time in his life, a headstrong Lot now makes decisions for every man, woman, child and animal under his care, and take them all to where he chooses. Unfortunately, when making the decision about where to go he leaves God – the Decision Maker – out of the equation. What he does take into account, though (which may seem good from an earthly point of view), is his cattle and herds. His eye is captured by the lush and fertile land of the plain of Jordan. There are more than enough blades of grass to feed his animals, and an adequate water supply suggests that what is eaten will easily grow again (cf. v. 10 and 2:10-14). So Lot goes eastward. However, he pitches his tent near Sodom, and
“…the inhabitants of Sodom were very wicked sinners against the LORD”
(Genesis 13:13 JPS).
This unholy place is probably not somewhere that God would have brought someone with Lot’s spiritual mentality. Just like the animals, Lot and the people with him might also have satisfied their bellies in this land, but it was lacking in spiritual nourishment. (More will be said about Sodom when I examine chapter 14 in a future blog.)
We may assume that Abram was still at the altar between Bethel and Ai at this point. Now that the hindrance of another family attachment has been severed, the LORD goes into greater detail regarding His plans for Abram and Sarai:
“Raise your eyes and look out from where you are, to the north and south, to the east and west, for I give all the land that you see to you and your offspring forever. I will make your offspring as the dust of the earth, so that if one can count the dust of the earth, then your offspring too can be counted. Up, walk about the land, through its length and its breadth, for I give it to you”
(vv. 14b-17 JPS).
Abram and Sarai now move south, travelled through Hebron (‘alliance’) before coming to Mamre, a place named after an ancient cultic oak tree-shrine. As was his custom, Abram here builds his third altar to the LORD (v. 18).
Although short this time, I do hope you have enjoyed the insights here into Genesis 13. I must say that sometimes the sermons given in our local churches can seem a bit repetitive and dull (I mean no offence: this is definitely not the case all the time!). I am starting to lean how educational it can be to hear the sermons said in churches in which we may never get to physically visit. Furthermore, by doing so we also gain a greater awareness of our wider Church family. Hallelujah, thank you Jesus for making this possible! Amen.
Shalom, and God bless you.