A Verse by Verse Study of Genesis 13:1-18
Abram left the promised land on a short detour through Egypt, but now he is back in the land that God promised. Abram and Lot got rich along the way, and they brought all their riches with them. Abram returned to the place he first pitched his tent, right where he began. Essentially his time in Egypt was a complete waste of time.
Conflict developed between Lot’s men and Abram’s men, because the land could not support both of their flocks and herds living so close together. This conflict led Abram and Lot to separate. If you recall, God commanded Abram to leave his family behind. God was at work, bringing Abram back to the place he was called.
Significance of Building an Altar to the Lord
Abram’s lack of faith led him away from God’s plan and away from his place of worship. But Genesis 13:3-4 tells us that rather than wallowing in self pity, Abram travelled back to where he was at the beginning, where he first pitched his tent between Bethel and Ai, where he had built an altar to the Lord.
Bethel means house of God. Bethel is a place of sacrifice and commitment for Abram, and he went back there. It was a place to remember his commitment and the promises made.
Satan often deceives us into thinking that we cannot return to God. Our shame and guilt hold us back. But God wants us to return to our first love and our first works (Revelation 2:4-5).
Abram simply did what he needed to do. He came back to the beginning and worshipped God at the altar.
Abram and Lot’s Conflict
Genesis 13:5-7 tells us that conflict arose between Abram and Lot’s herdsman because the land could not support both of their families with all their flocks and herds so close together.
There were two problems with this conflict. First was that this was a family conflict. Lot was Abram’s nephew and Abram had taken Lot into his family after his father, Haran, died.
The second problem is hinted at in verse 7: the Canaanites and Perizzites were also living in the land. Conflict and fighting among Abram’s family would make Abram vulnerable to attack and being wealthy would have drawn attention from those around him.
Also, Abram was called to stand out – to be a blessing to all nations and represent the true God and his ways. If the Canaanites and Perizzites saw the men of Abram and Lot fighting, it would ruin their testimony as people belonging to the true God.
Abram is Put to the Test Again
In Genesis 12, Abram’s faith was put to the test in the face of a famine. Now God is testing Abram again in Genesis 13. Lot and Abram had become wealthy. Money and wealth can sometimes be a blessing, but it can also be a test. Would Abram allow possessions to cause conflict, and would Abram choose to follow God over doing what seemed best for his family and business.
In Genesis 13:8-9 Abram responded to the conflict. Abram showed great wisdom and humility. He realized that family was more important than the fight. He decided that they should separate, and he let Lot have first choice of the land.
Abram’s Faith Grew
Abram was the eldest, and God promised this land to Abram not to Lot. It was pure generosity that caused Abram to make this offer to Lot. But as you’ll read about in later chapters, Abram was able to fight when it was necessary. He did not yield to Lot out of weakness, but rather out of love and trust in God.
Philippians 2:3-4 says, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourself, not looking for your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.” (NIV).This was Abram’s mindset, and he passed the test.
In Egypt, Abram thought he had to take his fate into his own hands. But now, Abram knew that whatever Lot decided, God would still make sure he prospered. Right or left, it didn’t matter because God would be with Abram.
Lot Chooses First
In Genesis 13:10-11, Lot chose for himself all the Jordan valley. “Lot chose for himself” is the key phrase. Lot was considered a righteous man, but he wasn’t really following God. He was following Abram. He was leading his family and doing well in the world, but he cared more for material abundance rather considering how where they lived might impact his family spiritually.
2 Corinthians 5:7 tells us that we should walk by faith not by sight. Abram walked by faith, while Lot walked by sight.
So, Abram and Lot parted ways.
Why Did Lot Choose to Live Near Sodom?
Genesis 13:12-13, it tells us that Lot chose to live among the cities, and he pitched his tent near Sodom. The text adds that the people of Sodom were very wicked and sinful against God.
Lot lived in Egypt with Abram for an unknown period. He and his family probably grew accustomed to the amenities and lavish lifestyle. Although he left Egypt with Abram, a worldly life was still in his heart. He missed it.
Lot didn’t walk away from God; he just walked a little too closely to the world. His love, or admiration, of the world was a stronger force in his life. Lot hadn’t moved into Sodom (at least not yet), but he moved right next to it.
Consequences of Lot’s Choice
In the coming chapters, we will find out the consequences of Lot’s unwise choices.
Lot might have even thought that he could serve God in the city as well as anywhere. He might have even though he could be a witness for God to the pagans. But he was deceiving himself.
2 Timothy 2:22 commands us “to flee the evil desires of youth and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart.”
This passage tells us that, not only should we flee from evil temptations and desires, we should seek out other likeminded people who also call on the Lord. We need encouragement from others who follow Christ, rather than the discouragement and temptations of the world.
Lot should have gotten as far away from Sodom as possible, rather than live right next to it and among people uninterested in righteousness. We often think we can pull others up, but more often we get pulled down.
God Speaks to Abram
In Genesis 13:14-17, God finally speaks to Abram. Notice how God waited until Abram resolve his conflict with Lot. It says, “After Lot had gone, the Lord said…”. (NLT).
Abram had returned to the place God had called him. Once he doubted God, but now he was recommitted to God by returning to the altar at Bethel.
Yet God did not speak to him until he was in the right circumstances – alone with God. Unhindered by his nephew who lived on the “fence” spiritually.
We may sometimes wonder why we aren’t hearing from God. We may be living out our lives in faith and obedience to God’s Word, but we may find that God is not answering our prayers or giving us clear guidance. Like Abram, who returned to the place God called him – probably wondering what he should do next – we too must wait on God’s timing. He will answer and guide us at just the right time.
God’s Promise to Abram
I love how the New King James Version (NKJV) words the passage this way: “Lot lifted his eyes and saw all the plain of the Jordan” and how this contrasts with how God told Abram to “lift your eyes how and look from the place where you are – northward, southward, eastward, and westward”. (Genesis 13:10 & 14).
Lot chose for himself, but Abram allowed God to choose for him and what God chooses is always best!
In Genesis 13:15-16, God reminds Abram of the promises he made him: a promised land and from him a great nation.
God reminded Abram that, even though Abram had been generous in giving Lot the land of his choice, all the land that Abram saw belonged to him and his descendants.
God also promised Abram, a childless man in his seventies or eighties, that he would have a child and descendants as numerous as the dust of the earth.
God’s Command to Abram
God gives a command to Abram, in Genesis 13:17, to “Go and walk through the land” which God was giving him. Though this land was not yet his, God wanted Abram to receive it by faith and walk through it as though he already possessed it.
And Abram obeyed. This was a true walk of faith. In Genesis 13:18, Abram began his walk through the land and settled near the trees of Mamre at Hebron. Here he built another altar to the Lord.
The name Mamre means “vision”, and the name Hebron means “communion”. Abram walked in God’s vision for him and in communion with God.
The Bible tells us that we have a royal inheritance, that we are now called sons and daughters of the King of Kings. Though this world is not God’s kingdom, we must walk in faith of the promise of God’s future kingdom.
God is Not Far Off
When we are far away from God, or are in a place of doubt, it is not God who is far off. Like Abram, all we need to do is turn back to our first love and our first works (Revelations 2:4-5). We need to return to the altar and remember the One who remains faithful, even when we are not.
God’s ways and choices for our lives are best. We can trust and have faith that every outcome will result in good and God’s glory!
Abram’s walk of faith is not always an easy one, but as we continue in our study of Genesis, we will see that trusting in God is both wise and good for us. God wants to bless us with his best plan for our lives.
Altar Ego by Craig Groeschel. We are not who we say we are. We need to take the idea of who we think we are and lay it down at the altar. Give it to God. We are who God says we are and until we can sacrifice our own concept of our identity, we cannot become who we were truly meant to be. This book reveals who God says we are, and then calls us to live up to it.
Thank you. This was very good and encouraging.