The Separation of Abram & Lot
Genesis 13
 
What Lot Represents. Lot is a picture of a believer who, walked from the very beginning in another’s faith, and not his own. For a time he maintained an outward path of separation, but did not have the personal conviction to continue in it. The separation broke down, and Lot settled in the world. If it weren’t for the New Testament (2 Peter 2), we wouldn’t know if Lot was a true child of God. He pictures one who, though ultimately their soul is saved, their life is a loss for Christ while passing through it. Lot’s life is given to us as a contrast to the life of Abraham; a believer walking by sight compared to one walking by faith. Lot is marked by uncertainty and restlessness, while Abraham was marked by purpose and peacefulness. Lot was apparently trying to influence the world, but in reality the world was influencing him. He did not enjoy nearness to God. His soul was “vexed” every day in the wicked city (2 Peter 2:8). He is an example of one whose life was an utter shipwreck, due to a lack of communion, wrong priorities, bad companions, and poor decisions. It is instructive to trace his path, and to learn the steps he took to end up in Sodom, and how he lost everything in the fire of God’s judgment.
 
 

Abram Leaves Egypt, Returns to the Tent and Altar (13:1-4)

CHAPTER 13
1 And Abram went up out of Egypt, he, and his wife, and all that he had, and Lot with him, towards the south. 2 And Abram was very rich in cattle, in silver, and in gold. vv.1-2 Abram Leaves Egypt. When Abram left Egypt, he travelled “towards the south”, that is, the southern part of Canaan. From a materialistic perspective, the time in Egypt appeared to be very profitable for Abram. He was “very rich in cattle, in silver, and in gold”, but all of that wealth was ill-gotten, gained through selling his wife to Pharaoh. The wealth that Abram got would also be a source of trouble to Abram, as we see in vv.5-6. Lot came with him out of Egypt, but Lot picked up some things in Egypt that would be a hindrance to him. It is important to realize that, it is one thing to remove a believer from the world, it is more difficult thing to remove the world from the believer. If there is one good thing that came from Abram’s time in Egypt, it would be that he seemed to learn a lesson about materialism. In ch.13 we find Abram willingly giving Lot the choice of the land, and in ch.14 he refuses to take the goods from the king of Sodom. Lot however, did not learn the lesson. 
 
3 And he went on his journeys from the south as far as Bethel; as far as the place where his tent had been at the beginning, between Bethel and Ai; 4 to the place of the altar that he had made there at the first. And there Abram called on the name of Jehovah. vv.3-4 Abram returns to his tent and altar. As we previously remarked, the tent speaks of our pilgrim character, and the altar speaks of communion. Abram had neither tent nor altar in Egypt, nor did he call on the name of Jehovah. Remember, God brought Israel up out of Egypt to worship Him. You cannot worship God in Egypt, typically speaking. In type, this speaks of the believer being restored to Lord after going off the path into the world. Where does he go? He had to return to the point of departure; “the place where his tent had been at the beginning”. The same is true for us today. If there is to be restoration, we must return – in a moral sense – to the point of departure. Once restored, Abram can be a worshiper again!
 
 

Abram and Lot Separate (13:5-13)

5 And Lot also who went with Abram had flocks, and herds, and tents. v.5 Lot’s wealth, but no altar. Lot was Abram’s nephew. We find that Lot has a tent (like Abram), but no altar. There was an outward testimony, but no inward communion with God. This gives us the secret of Lot’s failure: a lack of communion with God. He also came up out of Egypt with great wealth.
 
6 And the land could not support them, that they might dwell together, for their property was great; and they could not dwell together. 7 And there was strife between the herdsmen of Abram’s cattle and the herdsmen of Lot’s cattle. And the Canaanite and the Perizzite were dwelling then in the land. vv.6-7 Strife between herdsmen. The combined wealth of Abram and Lot was too much for the land. The overcrowded condition led to strife between the herdsmen. It might picture to us the difference of opinion that comes in between brethren that are living on different principles. A heavenly minded and earthly minded Christian cannot go on together long (Amos 3:3). Why does it mention that “the Canaanite and the Perizzite were dwelling then in the land”? The world was watching this strife. It would appear that Abram must have been exercised about it, based on his response in v.8. In 1 Cor. 6, Paul addresses the issue of believers prosecuting their disputes “before the unjust”. What shame is brought on the name of Christ by this display! We ought to be sensitive towards it. In Phil. 2:15 we are reminded of the importance of remaining “blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world”. There is nothing like strife between brethren to dim our light for the Lord.
 
8 And Abram said to Lot, I pray thee let there be no contention between me and thee, and between my herdsmen and thy herdsmen, for we are brethren. 9 Is not the whole land before thee? Separate thyself, I pray thee, from me: if to the left, then I will take the right; and if to the right, then I will take the left. vv.8-9 Abram gives Lot the choice. It is beautiful to see that Abram takes the lead, as the uncle, to resolve the conflict. He seems to have learned something from his time in Egypt, because he does not insist on his rights. The land was promised to Abram, yet Abram offers the choice to Lot. What a gracious spirit! Note that this is the preferred way to resolve difficulties between brethren; i.e. by one brother humbling himself, choosing not to insist on his own rights. “Why do ye not rather suffer wrong? why are ye not rather defrauded?” (1 Cor. 6:7). The expression Abram uses, “we are brethren”, it is the idea of friendly love or affection. Abram was sensitive to the conflict, and wanted to resolve it. How beautiful that Abram gives Lot the free choice of the right ot the left, without trying to channel him either way. In the end Lot chose the left (looking south from Bethel), and Abram was content with the right.
 
10 And Lot lifted up his eyes, and beheld all the plain of the Jordan that it was thoroughly watered, before Jehovah had destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah; as the garden of Jehovah, like the land of Egypt, as one goes to Zoar. 11 And Lot chose for himself all the plain of the Jordan; and Lot went toward the east. And they separated the one from the other: vv.10-11 Lot’s Choice. Lot lifted up his eyes, but his assessment was according to his own mind, shrewd as he was. Abram also lifts up his eyes (v.14), but he does so at the direction of the Lord. For Lot, lifting of his eyes was nothing more than turning to human wisdom. When we do not consult the Lord’s wisdom, we open ourselves up to being deceived by the world. He surveys the land, and sees the lowlands as the best part. He describes the plain of Jordan as “thoroughly watered… as the garden of Jehovah, like the land of Egypt”.  It was truly the better land for cattle. Lot was looking for financial prosperity. His priorities and objects were wrong. What about you? What are your motivations when deciding what to study, where to live, etc.? Notice to what Lot compares the land. What did the garden of the Lord have in common with the land of Egypt? Physically they were both lush and green, but morally they were opposites. In a certain sense, the world’s aim is to have Eden without God. Where did Lot learn about the land of Egypt? From his uncle. Abram had fed Lot a mixture of things, and now Lot is confused. His discernment is gone. He had tasted the things of the world, and now he sought a place like the world. He did not consider God’s view of the people of Sodom (v.13). The well watered plain eventually, going south, turned into slime pits (Gen. 14:10). The world lures us in with its attractions, but then it mires us down in sin and shame. But Lot was responsible for his own choice. You cannot go on forever walking in another’s faith. Eventually you have to stand on your own two feet, and the choices you make when that time comes will manifest your true spiritual condition. The conflict did not create the spiritual condition in Abram and Lot, but it manifested what was already in their hearts.
 
12 Abram dwelt in the land of Canaan; and Lot dwelt in the cities of the plain, and pitched tents as far as Sodom. v.12 Two Dwellings. Abram dwelled in the land of promise, but Lot dwelt in “the cities of the plain”, of which there were five; Sodom, Gomorrah, Admah, Zeboiim, and Zoar (Gen. 14:2). He didn’t seem to settle down in any one place, perhaps going in and out of each of the cities. But Lot steadily drew closer to Sodom, pitching his tent toward that place. Lot still had his tent, which speaks of a pilgrim character. In the same way, when we start down a bad path, we don’t always lose our pilgrim character immediately. But before long, Lot was living right in the city (Gen. 14:11), then his tent was exchanged for a house (Gen. 19:2), and finally he tried to make himself a judge in the city (Gen. 19:9).
 
13 And the people of Sodom were wicked, and great sinners before Jehovah. v.13 Jehovah’s Assessment. Lot’s choice placed him in a precarious position. Jehovah’s assessment of the people of Sodom was that they were “wicked, and great sinners” in the sight of Jehovah.
 

Abram receives the Call to Walk the Land (13:14-17)

14 And Jehovah said to Abram, after that Lot had separated himself from him, Lift up now thine eyes, and look from the place where thou art, northward and southward and eastward and westward; 15 for all the land that thou seest will I give to thee, and to thy seed for ever. vv.14-15 The Land Promised to Abram. As soon as the separation with Lot occurred, then the Lord speaks to Abram. It was the final step in the original call to leave his land, his father’s house, and his kindred. Perhaps Abram was sad about Lot departing, but then the Lord encourages him. Jehovah tells Abram to lift up his eyes from the place where he was (Bethel), and to look as far as he could in four directions. Everything he could see was to be given to him and his descendents “for ever”. From a material standpoint, this is the greatest gift that was ever given to a man. This was Abram’s reward for trusting the Lord as to the separation of Lot, and giving him the choice of the land.
 
16 And I will make thy seed as the dust of the earth, so that if any one can number the dust of the earth, thy seed also will be numbered. v.16 A Numerous Seed Promised to Abram. The promise continues, that Abram’s seed would be like the dust of the earth; i.e. it would be innumerable. All of this was promised to Abram when he had no children. It was something he had to enjoy by faith. Later this promise was expanded, saying that God would multiply Abram’s seed as the stars of the heaven”, and as the “sand which is upon the sea shore” (Gen. 22:17).
 
17 Arise, walk through the land according to the length of it and according to the breadth of it; for I will give it to thee. v.17 The Call to Walk the Land. Abram is then called to walk up and down in the land of promise. All this would be done without settling down, sojourning “as in a strange country, dwelling in tabernacles” (Heb. 11:9). The call to view the land (vv.14-15) and the call to walk the land (v.17) can be correlated to the two prayers of Ephesians. The prayer in Ephesians 1 is that we might know our portion, like Abram who was to look north, south, east, and west to see what God had given him. The prayer in Ephesians 3 is that we might enjoy our portion, like Abram who was to walk through the length and breadth of the land.1
 

Abram comes to Hebron, Pitches in the Plain of Mamre (13:18)

18 Then Abram moved his tents, and came and dwelt by the oaks of Mamre [‘fatness’], which are in Hebron [‘fellowship’]. And he built there an altar to Jehovah. v.18 Hebron, the Place of Communion. Abram moved to Hebron, and built an altar to Jehovah.

Hebron was a city just south of Jerusalem, in the portion of Judah. It was the burying place of Sarah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Rebekah, and Leah. It was conquered by Joshua, and given to Caleb as his inheritance. Hebron often pictures communion, as the name means 'communion', and Abram enjoyed many years of sweet fellowship with Jehovah, having his altar in that place. We read that the city was "built seven years before Zoan in Egypt" (Num. 13:22). Perhaps this pictures how communion existed before the world (Egypt) was made. There was communion between the Persons of the Godhead from a past eternity, long before the world was made! It is into that fellowship that the believer has been introduced by the Holy Ghost; "truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ" (1 John 1:3).

 

Footnotes

  1. Anstey, Bruce. Lessons from the Lives of Abraham and Lot. Christian Truth Publishing, 2002.
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