Genesis 13:3-18 – Abram and Lot Go Their Separate Ways, and a Third Altar is Built

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).

land-of-canaan

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.

 

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Genesis 12:8-13:2 – an Altar Builder Travels through the Promised Land and Seeks Refuge in Egypt

My family in Christ, shalom.

Welcome, and thanks for joining me once again on my journey through the Bible. Last time we left Abram on top of a hill in Shechem, surveying the land that the LORD had promised to his descendants. At this point, Abram constructs his first altar to the LORD (Genesis 12:7). Shechem was just below Canaan’s northern border, and now Abram and his caravan journey further south. Between Bethel and Ai Abram builds a further altar to the LORD (v. 8c). From here the caravan moves slowly southwards (v. 9).

abrahams-journey_arrows

It seems that the further Abram, Sarai, Lot and all the people and animals with them journeyed into Canaan, the more they were unable to find an area of land large enough for all of them to settle on. I also think that as they travelled onwards they saw and experienced food and water shortages. So when they finally reached the Negeb desert they faced a stark choice: should they turn back and risk starvation in Canaan or brave the desert and hope to receive nourishment in Egypt.

Here I  will pause and include a rather lengthy video in which the Bible scholar Bruce Gore gives a fascinating overview of the religion and culture of the Egyptians. Maybe some of you will question why I have included this. If so, please jump to 31mins and 4secs and you will hear something more relevant.

It is interesting to think that ancient Mesopotamian societies viewed Egypt as being able to withstand famine better than anywhere else in that part of the world. Indeed, I would not have thought of Egypt as being “the breadbasket of the ancient world” prior to the captivity and employment of Joseph (chs. 39-41). It is also good to think that a culture with such a perverse view of the spiritual realm could be used by the LORD to offer refuge for the physically weak (although we could say that there was an ulterior motive for doing so which Abram seems to be all too aware of).

Gore (assuming he’s right, of course) says that pharaohs often had a weakness for exotic foreign women. Abram somehow knew about this, and as it was not unusual for foreign husbands to be killed in order for their wives to be unencumbered in coming to the Egyptian monarch, Abram asks Sarai if she will tell anyone who enquires that she is his sister (vv. 12-13) Her response is not recorded. It is conceivable that after being in Egypt for some time Sarai was moved into a harem from which Pharaoh would choose different women to be with and / or him on different occasions. Seeing Sarai and wishing to marry her, Pharaoh thus pays the bride price to her ‘brother’ (v. 16b).

In my last post in this series I also suggested something which now seems to be even more plausible. That is, as well as it always having been God’s plan that the Jewish race should be able to trace its ancestral line back to Abram, the same also applies to Sarai his wife. [1] (For although it is an impatient Sarai in ch. 19 who first suggests that Abram sleeps with Hagar, the latter and her resultant son Ishmael are not conducive to this.) So, God revealed to Pharaoh that Sarai is actually Abram’s wife, and that the plagues which had befallen his realm had brrn sent to show His displeasure in this matter (12:17).

Pharaoh is thus very angry with Abram, and the former orders the later to gather his extended caravan together and go. Pharaoh appears not to have asked for the bride price to be returned, and so Abram leaves with his wealth greatly increased (13:1-2). Dr John Stevenson points out that on many occasions the LORD talks about bringing a person or people special to Him out of Egypt (just as He brought the first Patriarch out of Chaldean society). For Moses would lead the Hebrew nation out of Egypt, just as a young Jesus would be brought out by His mother and foster father.

That’s all for this time, folks. I do hope that in some small way these little insights are helping you. I neglected to read the Old Testament for so many years, and now I am absolutely astounded at what these scriptures can reveal about the Triune God and His relationship to us. I am really looking forward to finding out what happens next when Abram and his caravan return to Canaan, and I hope you feel encouraged to join me again soon.

Shalom and God bless you.

Endnote

[1] It’s a sort of positive reflection of the negativity brought upon humanity by both Adam and Eve. That is, in Gen. 3 nothing happens after Eve bits into apple, whereas it does once Adam – the second half of the first couple – does likewise.