13 So Abram went up from Egypt to the Negev, with his wife and everything he had, and Lot went with him. 2 Abram had become very wealthy in livestock and in silver and gold.
3 From the Negev he went from place to place until he came to Bethel, to the place between Bethel and Ai where his tent had been earlier 4 and where he had first built an altar. There Abram called on the name of the Lord.
5 Now Lot, who was moving about with Abram, also had flocks and herds and tents. 6 But the land could not support them while they stayed together, for their possessions were so great that they were not able to stay together. 7 And quarreling arose between Abram’s herders and Lot’s. The Canaanites and Perizzites were also living in the land at that time.
8 So Abram said to Lot, “Let’s not have any quarreling between you and me, or between your herders and mine, for we are close relatives. 9 Is not the whole land before you? Let’s part company. If you go to the left, I’ll go to the right; if you go to the right, I’ll go to the left.”
10 Lot looked around and saw that the whole plain of the Jordan toward Zoar was well watered, like the garden of the Lord, like the land of Egypt. (This was before the Lord destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah.)11 So Lot chose for himself the whole plain of the Jordan and set out toward the east. The two men parted company: 12 Abram lived in the land of Canaan, while Lot lived among the cities of the plain and pitched his tents near Sodom. 13 Now the people of Sodom were wicked and were sinning greatly against the Lord.
14 The Lord said to Abram after Lot had parted from him, “Look around from where you are, to the north and south, to the east and west. 15 All the land that you see I will give to you and your offspring forever. 16 I will make your offspring like the dust of the earth, so that if anyone could count the dust, then your offspring could be counted. 17 Go, walk through the length and breadth of the land, for I am giving it to you.”
18 So Abram went to live near the great trees of Mamre at Hebron, where he pitched his tents. There he built an altar to the Lord.
(Genesis 13:1-18 NIV)
In Chapter 12, Abram launched out in faith, following the Lord to a new homeland for him and his eventual family. The Lord appeared to Abram and promised him the land on which he stood as his inheritance to him and his promised offspring.
We saw Abram’s faith quickly dissolve into fear and flight when a famine came across the land. Abram did not seek the Lord, but simply packed up and went to Egypt on his own accord. Abram’s fear then turned to foolishness as he made Sarai his wife lie to the Egyptians and say that she was his sister, not his wife. Abram was more concerned about his self-preservation and making a name for himself than protecting his wife and obeying the Lord. The Egyptian Pharoah, believing Abram and Sarai’s lie, gave gifts to Abram for her bride-price and took Sarai as his wife and slept with her.
When the Lord inflicted all kinds of diseases on the Pharaoh and his household, it didn’t take long for him to figure out what had happened. The Pharoah gave Abram a thorough tongue-lashing, then promptly kicked him and all of his entourage out of Egypt.
As we begin Chapter 13, we see Abram heading back to where he was before. Granted, Abram was wealthier leaving Egypt than when he had arrived, but at great cost to his integrity, his marriage, and his walk with the Lord.
When Abram arrived back at Bethel where he had previously built an altar to the Lord, he must have had a mini-revival in his relationship with the Lord, as Moses tells us that Abram called upon the name of the Lord again.
Abram’s nephew Lot had been with him this whole time, from Haran to Canaan to Bethel to Egypt to the Negev and back to Bethel. The famine was likely still going on, and Moses tells us that the land could not sustain the pressure from all the animals grazing it. Obviously, the flocks of Abram and Lot had increased; also, the extra burden of livestock that the Egyptian Pharoah gave Abram didn’t help matters. Finding grazing land for flocks of sheep and goats was relatively easy; finding grazing land for cattle was much harder, as they required so much more vegetation to feed them. The Pharoah might have gifted Abram with the animals, but Abram had to make sure they were fed and watered – not an easy task in a drought-stricken land with limited vegetation and water.
Moses tells us that there were four groups of people in the area trying to care for their livestock: The Canaanites, the Perizzites, Abram, and Lot. The Canaanites and Perizzites were on the land first, so they had first dibs. Any remaining grazing land and water were open to whoever claimed it first or was willing to share.
As the story unfolds, we see the true nature of Lot’s character unfold. In Abram’s and Lot’s culture, the accepted norm was for the elder relative (Abram) to have first rights and priority over the younger relative (Lot). Instead, Moses records that word came back to Abram and Lot that their herdsmen were fighting among themselves over grazing spots. Lot didn’t call off his herdsmen and tell them to move further out to find graxing land. In this, we see Lot’s selfishness and greed come out. Lot had gone along with Abram’s faith and relationship with the Lord but had never made that relationship with the Lord his own.
In contrast, we see Abram learn from his mistakes in Egypt and offer his nephew Lot grace as God had shown him grace. Abram tells Lot that he does not want to fight with him, and gives him first pick of grazing land. Whatever direction Lot picks, Abram will automatically pick the other direction. Abram likely remembered God’s promise to give all the land to him, and knew that God was sovereign and would work all this out in the long term.
Lot chose the plain of Jordan based on the lush vegetation – it looked like the fabled stories of the Garden of Eden – plenty of grass and water for all. There was only one problem – the people of that area were exceedingly wicked and sinned greatly against the Lord. Apparently, Lot ignored this major issue, putting material wealth ahead of his relationship with the Lord. So Lot moved his herds and herdsmen and family into the Jordan plain and settled near the city of Sodom, while Abram stayed out in the boonies of Canaan near Bethel.
After Lot moved out, the Lord promised Abram all the land that Abram could see, and told Abram to visit the land in its entirety. So Abram obeyed and walked throughout the land, settling near Hebron. Abram, remembering the Lord as his protector and provider and sustainer, built an altar to the Lord and worshipped Him there.
In this chapter, we saw Abram’s faith and character grow, while we saw Lot’s true nature of greed and selfishness and lack of relationship with the Lord surface.
May we be growing in grace and faith like Abram, and not shrinking in our relationship with the Lord like Lot.