Abraham and Lot Separate (Genesis 13:5-18)
After failing to trust God to provide for him in famine and a disastrous trip to Egypt, Abraham returns to the land of promise and worships God again. Back in Canaan, he now faces a new test.
Faith preserves peace and follows God.
Prosperous circumstances as well as difficult ones can test our faith. In Proverbs 30:8-9 for example, Agur prays, “give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with the food that is needful for me, lest I be full and deny you and say, ‘Who is the LORD?’ or lest I be poor and steal and profane the name of my God.” And Paul’s famous declaration that he “can do all things through him who strengthens me” refers to his being content in “plenty and hunger, abundance and need” (Philippians 4:11-13).
After the trial of scarcity that led Abraham to flee to Egypt (12:10-20), in chapter 13 he is tested by abundance. In verses 2-7, we read that Abraham and Lot had both become so wealthy that the land was no longer able to meet the needs of both households, “and there was strife between the herdsmen of Abram’s livestock and the herdsmen of Lot’s livestock.”
In response, Abraham lets Lot choose whichever area of the land of Canaan he wants to live in: “Is not the whole land before you? Separate yourself from me. If you take the left hand, then I will go to the right, or if you take the right hand, then I will go to the left.” (v.8) This is remarkable for a couple of reasons. First, as Lot’s uncle, Abraham was his social superior, and he could have made demands and just told him where to go. By offering him a choice, Abraham demonstrated incredible kindness and humility toward his nephew. He was more concerned about preserving peace with his nephew than he was about maintaining his “rights”.
But secondly, Abraham’s action here again demonstrates his faith in God’s promise. He knew that God had promised him this land and would fulfill that promise in his own way and time, and this prevented him from trying to greedily grasp every bit of land that he could. Secure in God’s promise, Abraham was free to be generous with it.
Lot’s choice (vv. 10-13) is described with an ominous tone. The language of him lifting his eyes and seeing the beautiful Jordan Valley recalls Eve seeing that the tree forbidden by God in Eden “was a delight to the eyes” (3:6-7) as well as “the sons of God” seeing “that the daughters of man were attractive” and taking “as their wives any they chose.” (6:2) The text even compares this land to Eden (“the garden of the LORD”). By describing the land’s beauty against the backdrop of its wickedness and future destruction, we learn that Lot chose what is beautiful but deadly.
Additionally, this land lay outside Canaan. In the previous section (12:10-13:4), geography served as a metaphor of Abraham’s spiritual condition. When his faith faltered, he went “down” to Egypt and came back “up” to Canaan and worshipped God again. And so here, when Abraham offered him land within Canaan, Lot, instead of walking by faith and staying in the land God had promised to Abraham, walked instead by sight and left. “Lot journeyed east” (v. 11) is as much a description of his spiritual departure as it is his physical departure.
Abraham, however, didn’t pursue the “greener pastures” near Sodom. He stayed put in Canaan, trusting in God’s promises. God reiterating his promise to Abraham (vv. 14-18) reminds us that Abraham made the right choice in doing so. Despite the Canaanites still living in the land and Sarah still barren, he is exactly where he needs to be.
- In what ways can prosperity negatively impact our walk with the Lord and others? How have you seen this to be true in your life?
- By choosing beautiful land “like the garden of the LORD” outside of the land of promise, Lot could be described as choosing the pleasures of God’s world over God himself. When are you tempted to love God’s gifts more than God himself?
- How does Abraham demonstrate a peaceful attitude toward Lot? What was he willing to give up? What lessons on reconciliation does this provide us today?
- Would you say that you are generous with your possessions? Why or why not?
Psalm 73:25 – “Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you.”