GENESIS - CHAPTER 13
A Bible Study - Commentary by Jim Melough
Copyright 2000 James Melough
13:1. “And Abram went up out of Egypt, he, and his wife, and all that he had, and Lot with him, into the south.”
Having learned the folly of turning to Egypt (the world), Abram returned to Canaan (the sphere of faith). This is the picture of the restoration of a backslidden believer. He “went up out of Egypt.” The first step must be to turn from the world.
“He, and his wife....” God continues to emphasize the relationship that existed between Abram and Sarai. In Pharaoh’s house she was only “the woman,” but in Abram’s house she was his wife. Faith and grace were together again because there can be neither happiness nor blessing when they are apart.
“...and all that he had.” The separation between the believer and the world must be complete. We can’t have part of our lives subject to God’s standards and part subject to the standards of the world. The divine standards apply to the business and social life as well as to the “religious.”
”... and Lot with him.” The carnal believer, whom Lot represents, having no strong conviction of his own, is always easily influenced by others. When Abram went into Egypt Lot went also, and when Abram returned to Canaan Lot followed. No man lives unto himself. Practically everything we do influences others: hence the need to “walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil” (Eph 5:15-16). In this connection Romans chapter 14 should be studied for Divine guidance in regard to our responsibility not to stumble others.
The language chosen by the Holy Spirit to describe Abram’s return is significant. He came “into the south,” and in Scripture the south is always connected with faith. Faith is the realm from which the believer departs at his peril. Abram’s experience in Egypt should warn us against allowing anything to tempt us to look toward the world for help in time of famine, whether the famine be temporal or spiritual.
13:2. “And Abram was very rich in cattle, in silver, and in gold.”
As in all of Scripture, the spiritual transcends the literal. Abram, the man of faith, was very rich, not only in cattle, and silver and gold, but also in what these things represent spiritually.
We have already learned that God’s lists are designed to teach us truth, not only in their content, but also in their order, and this one is no exception. Had we been making the list we would probably have reversed the order, placing the gold first. God, however, doesn’t prepare His lists carelessly or capriciously. Cattle rightly head the list of the things that constituted Abram’s wealth, and the reason becomes clear when we stop to consider what cattle represent.
The word “cattle” includes sheep and goats, as well as oxen, but the emphasis is upon the latter; and in the matter of the sacrificial offerings, the bullock was the most valuable animal that could be offered. Every animal offered in sacrifice, however, was a type of Christ, and in this present age of grace the believer’s worship is the spiritual counterpart of Israel’s literal animal sacrifices. In Israel the offering was indicative of the offerer’s state: the poor could afford only turtle doves or pigeons, while the rich could afford bullocks. But the present-day counterpart of Israel’s literal poverty or wealth is the believer’s spiritual poverty or wealth; and as it was in Israel, so is it in the Church. It is not the extent of his service, the liberality of his giving, the hospitality of his home, etc., that measure a man’s spiritual state: it is his worship that reveals whether he is spiritually rich or poor; and worship is the presentation to God of our evaluation of Christ. With many, that evaluation is so small that it corresponds to the turtle dove or pigeon. He is spiritually rich whose evaluation of Christ corresponds to the bullock.
In God’s placing cattle at the head of the list of Abram’s wealth, He is telling us symbolically that this great man of faith was spiritually rich. What represents worship headed the list of his possessions; but inasmuch as a man could offer nothing more valuable than a bullock, God is showing us in symbol that no one could surpass Abram in the matter of worship. Remembering, however, that the highest form of worship is obedience, “Hath the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams” (1 Sa 15:22), the lesson we learn is that with Abram, obedience came first. May the equivalent of the “cattle” head the list of our possessions.
It should perhaps be explained here that worship is not what commonly passes today in Christendom for worship. The true meaning of worship is found in the practice of the early Church, and of some small companies of believers even today. It centers around the Lord’s supper which is observed Scripturally on the first day of the week, (Ac 20:7). The order consists of believers, and only believers, meeting around the table, at which the risen Lord presides, and upon which rest the loaf and the cup, the divinely appointed symbols of His body given for us, and of His blood poured out to make atonement for our sin. Since the Lord Himself presides at that feast, conducting every activity through His Holy Spirit, human leadership is both unnecessary and unscriptural. Every believer, man as well as woman, is there in the capacity of a “royal priest” (1 Pe 2:9), to present his worship. The humanly structured liturgy which passes for worship in many churches today, is arrogation of the Holy Spirit’s prerogative, and an advertisement of lack of spiritual discernment on the part of those responsible.
It is God the Father, the One to Whom the worship is to be directed, (Jn 4:23), Who commands the woman to have a covering (other than her hair) upon her head, (1 Co 11:13-16), and to offer her worship silently, (1 Co 14:34). It is the same One Who permits the man to worship audibly, but only when so directed by the Holy Spirit. Apart from that leading he also is to present his worship silently.
Prayers, spiritual songs, and portions of Scripture are used to express the collective worship of the assembled company, but since it is the Lord’s death which is being remembered, spiritual intelligence teaches that the prayers, songs and Scriptures should all be appropriate to the commemoration of an event so solemn. Gay music is no more appropriate at the Lord’s supper than it would be at a funeral; and equally inappropriate are such things as teaching, presentation of prayer requests, sharing of personal experiences, exhortation of believers, etc. Worship is the presentation to the Father of what is produced by our occupation with the perfections of Christ. At the Lord’s supper believers enjoy the unique privilege, not of receiving, but of giving to God, what is given being the expression of their love and appreciation for the Lord Jesus Christ and His death which has cleansed their sin and given them eternal life.
OT worship was the expression of the offerer’s love for God in anticipation of the Lord’s death, and NT worship is the expression of the believer’s love in remembrance of the Lord’s death. The OT worshipper’s sacrifices were literal, each symbolically displaying the perfections of Christ. The NT believer’s sacrifices are spiritual, see Heb 13:15, but they too, are to express the worshipper’s appreciation of the perfections of the Lord Jesus Christ. We will be increasingly aware of those perfections, and able to express our appreciation of them, only as we are increasingly occupied with Him, hence the statement that a man’s worship is the true barometer of his spiritual state. The worship of the spiritual believer is always richer than that of the carnal, the difference between the two being represented symbolically in the OT offerings: the turtle dove or pigeon represents that of the believer who is spiritually poor; the bullock, that of the believer who is spiritually rich. Abram was very rich, spiritually as well as temporally: he could offer bullocks.
Had we been making the list we would probably have reversed the order of the metals, placing gold first; but as has been noted in other studies, God doesn’t make His lists carelessly or capriciously. Silver is the Biblical symbol of redemption; gold, of divine glory, and redemption comes before glory, for it must be obtained here on earth, but for the glory, we must wait till we are in heaven.
13:3. “And he went on his journeys from the south even to Bethel, unto the place where his tent had been at the beginning, between Bethel and Hai.”
His return journey took him from the south to Bethel, and again the literal is but the pattern of the spiritual: the walk that begins in the “south,” symbolic of the realm of faith, always ends in “Bethel” - God’s house, which speaks of communion with Him.
”... unto the place where his tent had been at the beginning.” In chapter 12:8 Bethel was the last place mentioned before his departure into Egypt, so that his return to Bethel would teach us that time spent in the world is time wasted. Restoration begins only when we return to the place where the departure began. In nothing is this principle more clearly demonstrated than in the redemption procured by the death of the Lord Jesus Christ. It was in a garden that the first Adam broke man’s communion with God, and it was to a garden that the last Adam had to return to receive the penalty of the first Adam’s disobedience, giving His life before communion could be restored, “Now in the place where He was crucified there was a garden....” (Jn 19:41).
The mention of his tent reminds us that a necessary part of spiritual recovery is the resumption of the pilgrim lifestyle.
Since the spiritual significance of Bethel and Hai (Ai) has already been discussed in our study of chapter 12, there is no need to repeat it here.
13:4. “Unto the place of the altar, which he had made there at the first: and there Abram called on the name of the Lord.”
Returned to the place where he had had his altar, he called again upon the name of the Lord, i.e., he worshiped, something not recorded of him while in Egypt. The spirit of worship quickly withers in the poisonous atmosphere of “Egypt” (the world).
13:5. “And Lot also, which went with Abram, had flocks, and herds, and tents.”
The significance of the meaning of Lot’s name has already been discussed in our study of chapter 11, so there is no need to repeat it here; nor does there seem to be any need to dwell further on the significance of his going with Abram, except to emphasize, that like the carnal believer whom he typifies, he had no personal desire to walk closely with God, but was motivated by expediency rather than conviction.
Heading the list of his possessions is “flocks,” and as has been noted already, it was from the flocks that the offerings of lesser value than the bullock were taken. (It is necessary to emphasize that the thought of inferiority relates to the offerer, not to the Christ represented by the offering. Each offering, the turtle dove no less than the bullock, sets forth some attribute of the Lord Jesus Christ, but in relation to the offerer, the turtle dove speaks of spiritual poverty; the bullock, of spiritual wealth; the one, of carnality, or immaturity; the other, of spirituality).
The silences of God are no less instructive than His pronouncements, and we may learn from the omissions of Scripture as well as from its direct statements. Lot also had cattle, verse 7, but the omission of cattle from the God-breathed list of Lot’s wealth is designed to teach us the truth that the carnal believer has less to offer in worship than does the spiritual
It is obvious that in listing the possessions of both men the Holy Spirit has been deliberately selective. In each case three items have been chosen. Three is the number of resurrection: both men stood spiritually on resurrection ground; but Abram, type of the spiritual believer, is said to have had cattle, silver, and gold; whereas Lot, type of the carnal believer, has been credited simply with the possession of flocks, herds, and tents. There is no question that Lot also had silver and gold, but in omitting mention of them, God would teach us that the spiritual things they represent (redemption and divine glory) had little value in Lot’s eyes.
Lot also had cattle, for that is the meaning of the word that has been translated “herds,” but it is significant that God has chosen to employ two different Hebrew words. In Abram’s case the word for cattle is miqneh which means “a possession: thing purchased”; but in Lot’s case the word for herd is baqar, which means “oxen: herd: cattle.” Miqneh includes the thought of purchase. There is no such thought connected with baqar. The man who would be spiritually rich must be willing to “purchase” those riches, i.e., he must be willing to give up the world. Lot wasn’t willing to pay that price, nor is the carnal believer whom he represents.
Lot’s possessions also included tents. His pilgrim character hadn’t yet been given up, but clearly it was more form than reality, and it wasn’t long until even the form was abandoned, and the tent exchanged for a house in Sodom.
13:6. “And the land was not able to bear them, that they might dwell together: for their substance was great, so that they could not dwell together.”
It is emphasized that it was their substance that made their separation necessary, but since the substance is the symbol of what each possessed spiritually, and since Lot’s spiritual possessions were less than those of Abram, we see here the OT picture of that which produces separation between believers today. In Amos 3:3 the question is asked, “Can two walk together, except they be agreed?” and the answer is, No. It must not be forgotten that the separation between Abram and Lot pictures, not the separation of believer from unbeliever, but the separation of believers - the separation of the spiritual believer from the carnal. And it is significant that it was the godly Abram who advocated the separation, “Separate thyself, I pray thee, from me....” verse 9.
There is an attitude abroad today, contrary to Scripture, that would throw the cloak of love over everything, including sin, as well as wrong doctrine, and departure from Scriptural order; and that would silence every protest by the accusation, “You are not acting in a spirit of love.” In regard to this, Broadbent has well written, “... worse than sectarian strife is uniformity maintained at the cost of liberty, or reunion made possible by indifference.”
There are those today who point back to what they wrongly call, “the beginning of the brethren movement,” (since the Apostolic age there has never been a time when there haven’t been such companies of believers). These advocates of peace at any price focus on only one aspect (a very short-lived one) of what happened about a hundred and fifty years ago when some believers separated themselves from dead religious orthodoxy and formed fellowships where denominational differences were put aside, and they sat down together to eat the Lord’s supper, to pray and study the Scriptures according to the Scriptural pattern. That period (of very brief duration) is now being pointed to as the Scriptural ideal, when, in fact, it is not. This is a glaring example of the truth that a little knowledge is a dangerous thing. It wasn’t long until the euphoria of ignorance was shattered by the discovery that there was such a thing as Scriptural order, with the inevitable result that then as now and always, separations came. The problem is that those advocating a return to the practice of that brief period, fail to realize that it is not the pattern for the Church. That pattern is found in the Scriptures, and it is never divorced from sound doctrine and the application of Scriptural principles. Two (believers though they may be) cannot walk together, except they be agreed.
How, for example, can there be harmony in a company made up of those who see from the Scriptures, and those who disagree, that believers should be baptized before being received into fellowship; that there is no place for unbelievers at the Lord’s supper; that sisters should be silent and have their heads covered in the meetings of the church, etc.? Harmony in such circumstances is impossible. Those who insist that such matters are minor, are reminded that nothing is minor in regard to which God has revealed His will. It is to be noted also that the opposition comes frequently from those who acknowledge their own uncertainty regarding such matters. The Scriptural response to uncertainty, however, is not to relegate the matter to the realm of unimportance, but to give God the benefit of the doubt. Is there a doubt as to whether a believer should be baptized before being received into the fellowship of a local church? Since it is generally admitted that believers should be baptized sometime, then why not give God the benefit of the doubt and require the applicant to be baptized before being received into fellowship, rather than risk offending some believers already in that fellowship, and, what is worse, risk offending God? Nothing will ever be lost by giving God the benefit of the doubt, for not only does it remove the risk of offending Him, it does much to resolve differences among believers. Where there is unwillingness to adopt such a policy, separation is not only the better course, but it proves eventually to be inevitable.
It is to be noted again that it was the godly Abram who advanced the suggestion that there be a separation between him and Lot. Nowhere in Scripture do we find anything to support the principle of peace at any price. Compromise is the expedient of the world. It has no place in the spiritual realm. God deals in absolutes.
13:7. “And there was a strife between the herdmen of Abram’s cattle and the herdmen of Lot’s cattle: and the Canaanite and the Perizzite dwelled then in the land.”
In verse 6 it is emphasized that it was their substance that made it impossible for them to dwell together; but here in verse 7 the Holy Spirit would focus attention upon the fact that the strife was not between Abram and Lot, but between their herdmen. The herdmen, being only servants, would seem to represent the believer’s bodily members. “Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body ... neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God ... and your members as instruments of righteousness ... as ye have yielded your members servants to uncleanness ... now yield your members servants to righteousness” (Ro 6:12-19).
The herdmen of Abram appear to represent the bodily members of the spiritual believer; and those of Lot, the bodily members of the carnal Christian. How could there be anything except strife between them? The one represents bodily members producing works of righteousness; the other, the members producing unrighteousness. The lives of the spiritual and the carnal believer are but the extensions of the two natures dwelling within each - the one is obeying the voice of the new nature; the other, the voice of the old. Since there is strife between those two natures in the same body, can there be anything but strife between them even when they are in different bodies? “What fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteous-ness?” (2 Co 6:14).
In declaring the strife to be between the herdmen rather than the masters, God would teach us that there can be no strife between believers as new creatures in Christ: it is the work of the old nature opposing the new that produces strife. As God loves the sinner while hating his sin, so are we to love our brethren though we may have to disapprove of some of their works, and they of ours.
The reference to the presence of the Canaanite and the Perizzite in this particular context may seem perhaps of little consequence; but there is nothing in Scripture of little consequence.
The significance of the Canaanite has already been examined in an earlier study: he represents the natural man trafficking in spiritual things. The name Periz-zite means rustic: squatter. Rustic is a disparaging term used to describe one who is rude, boorish, uncouth; while a squatter is one who settles on land to which he has neither right nor title.
The Perizzite therefore represents the natural man without any knowledge of spiritual truth, “squatting” not only upon this earth, which by Divine title, belongs to the saints; but more specifically he and the Canaanite represent the unconverted professor, “squatting” and “trafficking” in “the land.” (In Scripture, “the earth” appears to represent the sphere of genuine faith, while “the land” represents the much wider sphere of profession, true as well as false; while “the ground” represents the indifference of the man who has no interest in spiritual things). As the Canaanite and the Perizzite witnessed the strife between the herdmen of Abram and Lot, so do their spiritual counterparts today witness similar strife. The religious “trafficker” and the “rustic squatter” are all too often the delighted witnesses of strife among those who are brethren, and who, instead of quarreling, should be fulfilling the Lords’ command, “... love one another ... by this shall all men know that ye are my disciples” (Jn 13:34-35). Unity however, as already noted, is not to be achieved by unscriptural compromise.
13:8. “And Abram said unto Lot, Let there be no strife, I pray thee, between me and thee, and between my herdmen and thy herdmen; for we be brethren.”
It was Abram the spiritual man who deplored the strife, and who emphasized that they are brethren; and as it was then, so is it now: the spiritual man will have his eye on the things that the saints have in common, and who will, as far as lies within his power, attempt to maintain unity. But Abram clearly recognized that the differences were irreconcilable, that the strife between the herdmen would eventually produce strife between the masters.
From the character of the two men, and from the fact that Abram represents the spiritual; and Lot, the carnal, we may be justified in deducing perhaps that Lot did nothing to stop the strife: he may in fact have been the instigator of it. The members of the body, the “herdmen,” don’t act without the master’s permission, and Lot’s selfish choice of the best part of the land would seem to indicate that the same greedy spirit may have made his herdmen simply his obedient agents.
13:9. “Is not the whole land before thee? separate thyself, I pray thee, from me: if thou wilt take the left hand, then I will go to the right; or if thou depart to the right hand, then I will go to the left.”
Abram was the one whom God had called into the land; it was he who had received the promise, “Unto thy seed will I give this land.” He was the virtual owner, yet such was his gracious spirit that he was willing to take the low place, relinquishing not only his claim, but even his right to first choice if the land was to be divided. He was displaying that same spirit which God desires to see in every believer, the same spirit Paul besought the Corinthians to display when he wrote, “Why do ye not rather take wrong? why do ye not rather suffer yourselves to be defrauded?” (1 Co 6:7). It is to be noted, however, that this principle applies only to the things of this world. When carnality or unbelief would seize the spiritual things which God has given to faith, there is to be a very different spirit: the possession is not to be given up, but rather defended though it cost the defender his life - consider, for example, Naboth’s refusal to relinquish his vineyard to Ahab, 1 Kings 21.
The man of faith, with his eye on God’s promises, could afford to let Lot take what his heart desired. Lot, judging only by earthly standards, could see value only in earthly things, but Abram, judging by heavenly standards, saw the worthlessness of earthly things. Lot, his vision blurred by the darkness of earth, saw only the things given; Abram’s eye was upon the Giver rather than the gifts. Lot saw everything from the perspective of time; Abram, from, the perspective of eternity.
Faith and carnality walk two different paths, seeing things from different viewpoints, and they make their choices accordingly.
Abram was the one who said, “Separate thyself,” and as it was then, so is it still. When carnality will not forsake its disobedience, and faith will not compromise God’s standards, there must be separation. When the immoral man in Corinth refused to forsake his sin, Paul commanded the godly, “Put away from among yourselves that wicked person” (1 Co 5:13). Every effort is to be made to lead the carnal back into an obedient walk, but not to the point of condoning his sin, and walking with him in disobedience. God’s glory must be first, and sometimes separation is the only way to maintain that glory. The strife between the herdmen was dishonoring to God, and no matter what the cost to himself, Abram would not have God dishonored. He counted God’s glory worth more than anything else on earth, and so should we.
13:10. “And Lot lifted up his eyes, and beheld all the plain of Jordan, that it was well watered everywhere, before the Lord destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah, even as the garden of the Lord, like the land of Egypt, as thou comest unto Zoar.”
The Jordan represents death, and the plain of Jordan is simply a picture of this world. Many streams water the plain of earth: wealth, pleasure, fame, to name but a few, but all are tributaries of the mighty river of death. As Jordan watered the plain that seemed so fair to Lot’s eyes, so does the great river of death water every part of this world that seems to fair to the natural man.
The fertility of the plain of Jordan, however, was not to endure for ever, nor are the things of this world. Those lush pastures existed only “before the Lord destroyed Sodom....” That same word “before” relates also to earth, for just as there was for the plain of Jordan an “after the Lord destroyed,” so will there be for this world also an “after....” Nothing could alter the fact that in spite of its richness it was still “the plain of Jordan.” It was the plain of death, and so is this world.
How different Lot’s choice would have been had he lifted up his eyes to God and prayed, “Show me Thy way.” Had he been able to look beyond that day when the well-watered plain delighted his eye, to see that same plain as it was soon to be, it would have been the last place on earth he would have chosen. That once-fertile plain has lain for centuries a desolation that evokes the astonishment of the beholder, and should be a warning not only that a holy God will punish sin, but that it is folly to set any value on the things of a world destined for destruction.
God’s warnings however, are heeded by only a few. Hundreds of thousands visit Palestine every year, and confess that they are appalled by the utter desolation that was once the plain of Jordan, but few are induced to change their lives when told that it was sin that had brought such judgment, a judgment which is itself but the figure of the far more terrible eternal punishment to be meted out to those who die without having trusted in Christ as Savior.
One thing is clear from Scripture: God executes judgment only when warning has been ignored, and in Genesis chapter 14 Lot was given a warning which he refused to heed. But even before that warning, he had received others, more subtle, less dramatic perhaps, but warnings just the same. Several of them are to be found in this present chapter.
Sodom and Gomorrah stood on the plain of Jordan, and “the men of Sodom were wicked and sinners before the Lord exceedingly.” Shouldn’t this alone have warned Lot that the plain was a place of danger? Had he no hint that sooner or later judgment must fall and destroy the wicked? Yes, he had. Remember that Noah was a contemporary of Abram for over fifty years, and it is unlikely that he would have failed to pass on his personal knowledge of the flood and of the wickedness that had caused God to send it.
And there were more immediate warnings. Are we to suppose that the meanings of the places and people of Scripture have instruction only for the reader of those histories, but none for those whose histories are recorded? It is most unlikely. The Lord Himself, for example, was to be called Jesus because of what Jesus means, He shall save. Hagar was instructed to call her son Ishmael, God will hear, because the Lord had heard her, Ge 16:11. Bethlehem, meaning place of bread was chosen to be the birthplace of Him Who is the “true Bread.” Examples could be multiplied.
Sodom means fettered; and Gomorrah, bondage. Had Lot been less concerned about his seeming prospects in Sodom, and more concerned about pleasing God, he might have discerned the warning in the name, as well as in the fact that the men of Sodom were wicked. He might also have detected a warning in the meaning of the little city of Zoar which means bringing low. But the carnal believer - and Lot was carnal - like the outright unbeliever, is too busy with the things of earth to give much heed either to divine promises or warnings. The rich, carnal Lot who ignored the warning in the meaning of Zoar’s name, found himself at the end “brought low” indeed, for it was as one now become bankrupt in temporal things, as he had been in spiritual, that he finally fled into Zoar, and from there to a cave in the mountain.
Lot’s folly has been recorded as a warning to others. As the riches of the plain of Jordan were connected with the cities which mean fettered, and bondage, and bringing low, so are the riches and pleasures of earth. He who pursues them must pay a higher price than they are worth. With them he must also receive the fetters and bondage; and when the tale of life is told, he must discover, too late, that they have brought him low, down to the depths of hell.
Lot saw that plain also “as the garden of the Lord.” Many make the same mistake of equating temporal riches with divine blessing. We have already discussed the fact that earthly riches and spiritual blessing are neither synonymous nor mutually exclusive. It is how they are used that makes them bane or blessing.
He saw it also to be “like the land of Egypt.” He would never have known of Egypt’s attractions had he not gone down into Egypt, and he might perhaps never have gone there had Abram not led the way. “None of us liveth to himself” (Ro 14:7). Since we influence others for good or ill, we should be careful how we live before men. “Let us not therefore judge one another any more; but judge this rather, that no man put a stumbling block or an occasion to fall in his brother’s way” (Ro 14:13).
13:11. “Then Lot chose him all the plain of Jordan; and Lot journeyed east: and they separated themselves the one from the other.”
Many another has made an equally foolish and short-sighted choice: choosing the earthly “plain of Jordan” as his portion instead of fixing his eyes on the eternal city where the inheritance is not only beyond loss, but also beyond the rust and corruption of earth. A greater fool than Lot is he, who having read Lot’s history, chooses also “the plain of Jordan.”
“... and Lot journeyed east.” This is another example of the truth already discussed, that the east is always connected Scripturally with sin and departure from God.
13:12. “Abram dwelled in the land of Canaan, and Lot dwelled in the cities of the plain, and pitched his tent toward Sodom.”
Abram dwelled in the land of Canaan, but he would not become involved in its affairs. He was satisfied to walk through it as a pilgrim and stranger, waiting for the day when God would give it to his “seed.” With the man of faith, there was no impatient seeking to possess before God’s time, and the result of his patient waiting is that he will inherit in resurrection, and for ever. Lot, seeking to seize before God’s time, lost not only for time, but for eternity as well - not his soul (he was a believer), but his reward.
Connected with Abram’s history are the wells he dug. They represent the water of the Word, and it is instructive to note that we never read of Lot in connection with a well, but rather with the Jordan. The spiritual lesson is that the man of faith is watered from the springs of the Word, whereas the unbeliever, and the carnal Christian alike, are watered from the “Jordan,” the river of death. It is significant that the very city in which Lot dwelt, lies today, as it has for centuries, under the waters of the Dead Sea. Bitter waters cover the place where he sought to glorify and enrich himself instead of leaving his promotion and enrichment to God.
“... and pitched his tent toward Sodom.” Lot didn’t move into Sodom immediately: it was a gradual process that began with his separation from Abram, and continued with his pitching his tent toward Sodom. A distaste for the company of Christians is one of the signs of a backslidden condition, and it may lead to an end as disastrous as Lot’s.
13:13. “But the men of Sodom were wicked and sinners before the Lord exceedingly.”
We have already examined part of the lesson of this verse, but it contains another warning. From the days of Lot to the present, Sodom has been synonymous with a particularly vile form of immorality, and it is surely not just by chance that God has linked the conditions in Sodom during the time of Lot, with His warning concerning the end of this present age, “... as it was in the days of Lot ... even thus shall it be in the day when the Son of man is revealed” (Lk 17:28-30). The very sin that characterized the plain of Jordan in the days of Lot is spreading like wildfire over the earth today, and is being foisted upon society as a normal lifestyle. It is not only Lot’s life, however, that has been recorded for our warning: Sodom’s wickedness has been singled out for special mention, and in the present-day revival of Sodom’s perversion of nature, the world is being warned of coming judgment, but, like Lot, it has neither eye nor ear for the warning.
13:14. “And the Lord said unto Abram, after that Lot was separated from him, Lift up now thine eyes, and look from the place where thou art northward, and southward, and eastward, and westward:”
This is the first time we read of God’s speaking to Abram since his return from Egypt, and the reason surely is obvious. In keeping Lot with him, Abram was disobeying God’s command to separate, “from thy kindred.”
God is as patient with the saint as He is with the sinner, but disobedience bars the one from receiving divine life, as it does also the other from enjoying communion with God. Lot’s separation, however, fulfilled God’s requirement for Abram’s blessing, and God could now draw near to enlarge upon the promise given in verse 12. There the promise had been, “unto thy seed will I give this land,” but now the promise is, “For all the land which thou seest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed for ever,” and we shouldn’t miss the emphasis laid upon the fact that this was “after that Lot was separated from him.”
Incomplete obedience bars every believer from fullness of blessing just as surely as it did Abram.
Lot had lifted up his eyes without having been bidden by God, and the result was that he looked only eastward, and saw only the plain of Jordan; but the man of faith was bidden to look in all directions, and he received the promise, “all the land ... to thee will I give it.”
Before examining what Abram saw, we might take time to examine something else. God had bidden him to look “from the place where thou art....” Where was that place? We find the answer in verse three. Upon returning from Egypt, “he went ... to Bethel.” It was the place where he had built an altar and called on the name of the Lord.
In all of these things God would teach us truth concerning the ground of blessing. We are in the place where He can bless when we are “on the mountain,” separated from the world, having our faces turned “westward” (direction of approach to God) towards God’s house, and our backs “eastward,” (direction of departure from God) having behind us “Ai” the heap of ruins, symbol of this doomed world.
It was also “the place of the altar,” which speaks of sacrifice. We become heirs of heavenly blessings when we are willing to place upon the altar, not only the things of this world, but also our very lives, as Paul writes, “I beseech you therefore, brethren ... that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice....” (Ro 12:1).
First on the list of directions in which he was bidden to look is the north, the direction that speaks of reason or intellect. “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” (Pr 9:10). Until the wisdom of the world is exchanged for the wisdom of heaven there can be no blessing.
The south is the second direction mentioned, and it is the direction that speaks of faith. It might seem that it should have been placed first, but God makes no mistakes in preparing His lists. Abram’s faith was beyond question: it needed no emphasizing. What does require to be emphasized is that while faith is the first requirement for blessing, it proves, immediately it is exercised, to be a most reasonable intelligent thing. When it is a matter that concerns a sinner, it is faith, not intellect, that is required; but when it is a matter concerning a saint, God takes pains to show him that spiritual intelligence is to work with faith to produce an obedient life, apart from which there can be no blessing.
The third direction is east, and it speaks of sin and departure from God. What has been misappropriated by earth’s rebels will yet be taken from them and given also to Abram and his seed for their enjoyment.
The fourth direction is westward, the direction that speaks of the end of earthly life, and which, for the saint, is simply approach to God in heaven, the end of earthly life ushering him into the fullness of eternal blessing.
13:15. “For all the land which thou seest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed for ever.”
Having left his choice with God, Abram received the assurance, that not just the part, but all of the land, would be his and his children’s, and not just for the days of earthly life, but for ever. The eternal duration of the blessing implied the eternal life of the one to whom the promise was given, and this in turn implied resurrection. It is in resurrection that every saint will enjoy eternal blessing.
Failure to grasp this truth robs many believers of happiness. They are looking for temporal blessings - more money, better health, improved family relationships, etc., instead of realizing that God’s promises to us are the same as to Abram. The only part of Canaan he owned during his life was the field of Macpelah, a burying place. “He looked for a (the) city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God” (He 11:10).
When we do inherit in resurrection it will be an inheritance infinitely better than anything that a cursed earth could ever furnish. The believer can well afford to wait, for “Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things that God hath prepared for them that love Him” (1 Co 2:9).
13:16. “And I will make thy seed as the dust of the earth: so that if a man can number the dust of the earth, then shall thy seed also be numbered.”
It isn’t until chapter fifteen that a progeny as numerous as the stars is promised. Under the figure of dust, God is pointing to the physical posterity of Abram; while in the stars He is pointing to his spiritual children. Abram is the father of an innumerable multitude of both. Who can begin to reckon the number of Jews and Arabs who have lived upon the earth? Equally impossible would be the attempt to number his spiritual children.
13:17. “Arise, walk through the land in the length of it and in the breadth of it; for I will give it unto thee.”
Though possession was not to be his during his earthly life, his enjoyment of the inheritance was not delayed. Prior to possession he was to walk through its length and breadth, enjoying its goodness, having God’s assurance, “To thee will I give it.”
God would have us also “walk through the length and breadth” of our inheritance, that good land spread before us on the pages of Scripture, enjoying it here on earth before we enter into the literal enjoyment of those blessings in heaven. Most of us, however, render a less complete obedience than did Abram, for we are satisfied to “walk through” a few favorite passages or chapters, leaving unexplored, unenjoyed, the greater part of the Bible.
We should note here that there is nothing in Scripture to indicate that any resurrected individual will ever return to earth. All of them will enjoy their blessings in heaven, ruling with us, over the whole millennial earth from the heavenly Jerusalem. Those enjoying the blessings of the millennial earth will be those believers who will have physically survived the Tribulation judgments, together with the children who will be born to them after the Millennium begins.
13:18. “Then Abram removed his tent, and came and dwelled in the plain of Mamre, which is in Hebron, and built there an altar unto the Lord.”
While Lot abandoned his tent, and went to dwell in the plain of Jordan (death), ceasing to be a pilgrim, Abram removed his tent to Mamre which means causing fatness. The one, grasping for an immediate inheritance on earth, dwelt where his treasure was, in the plain of death. The other, waiting for a heavenly portion, pitched his tent in the place that speaks of spiritual and therefore eternal prosperity. It is instructive to note that Mamre is linked with Hebron, lying in fact about two miles north of it. Hebron means communion. As might be expected, the spiritual man dwelt in the place where there was none of Sodom’s wickedness to mar his communion with God. The enjoyment of that communion made his soul fat, while the passing days brought him closer to the time when he would receive his eternal inheritance.
Those same passing days brought Lot closer to the time when the earthly inheritance he had chosen would be snatched away. The one rested on God’s promises, enjoying peace, and prosperity of soul, while the other, having left God out of his plans, and having thereby deprived himself of both blessing and promise, spent the time without the enjoyment of even his earthly possessions, for we read that, “Lot ... dwelling among them (the Sodomites), in seeing and hearing, vexed his righteous soul from day to day with their unlawful deeds” (2 Pe 2:7-8).
He is indeed a fool who ignores the warning of Lot’s sorry history, and chooses to blunder along the same path of folly.
“... and built there an altar unto the Lord.” Abram never failed to return God thanks for His blessings, even when those blessings were but promises still awaiting complete fulfillment in resurrection.