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Genesis 13: Separation Anxiety

Posted by Gary Labels: , ,

The Return 13:1-4
This chapter opens by repeating the end of chapter 12: Abram went up from Egypt with everything he had. This is extremely important. Verse two spells it out more clearly that he had become wealthy because of the time in Egypt. Most people who end up tricking and embarrassing a king, end up leaving the king’s throne room empty-handed and beheaded. Not just did Abram survive, but he actually prospered through this time in Egypt. Yes, he was exiled in shame, but he came out better for it.

It’s not that God condoned his trickery. God didn’t approve of Abram’s actions, and that goes without saying. God blessed Abram not as a nod of approval but because of God’s faithfulness. Abram realized this, so he went back to where he built an altar between Bethel and Ai and worshiped God in thanksgiving. It also allowed him to renew his commitment to the Lord and remember who he is.

The Separation 13:5-13
The herdsmen of Lot and the herdsmen of Abram get into some petty squabbles. Really, the plains were big enough for both of them, but because of greed, Lot and his herdsmen felt that there actually wasn’t enough space. Lot demanded an area for himself. Verse 6 shows how Lot perceived the situation: “there’s only room for one sheriff in this town.” Sadly, they break into an argument even though they are surrounded by not-so-friendly Canaanites and Perizzites. Being surrounded by enemies is a terrible time for people to fight among themselves, but that’s what’s going on here.

But because of the famine incident, Abram has renewed his faith in God’s ability to provide for him. Abram takes the initiative in settling the dispute. He comes to Lot and, surprisingly, gives Lot the first choice of which land to take. Since Abram his older, custom would allow him first choice, but he chose humility and peace-making over custom here. Lot, on the other hand, acted on greed. Seeing the fertile plain around the Jordan river, he took this area completely for himself. He didn’t take into account the wickedness of Sodom, and even pitched his tents near them. Here, Lot has clearly chosen wealth over family, honor, and virtue.

The Lord Appears 13:14-18
Abram acted in faith that God would provide for him, even if the more fertile places were chosen by Lot. Surely he even expected it. The Lord was watching, though, and He appeared to Abram because He was pleased with this act of faith. Whereas Lot looked at the land in selfish greed (v 10), Abram looked as God commanded and was blessed.

The Lord reaffirms the land promise (the third time He has said this) and even reaffirms the promise for innumerable descendants. This is noteworthy. Abram at this point probably thought that God was going to give Abram descendants through his adopted son, Lot. Remember, Lot’s father Haran died earlier. So, Abram is basically Lot’s godfather. And yet, Abram let Lot separate, which might put that promise of descendants (through Lot) in jeopardy. The Lord thus showed Abram that Lot’s separation will not threaten either of those promises. Finally, God tells Abram to move around and inspect all the land God is giving to him. So Abram goes to Mamre and builds an altar there, then calls on the Lord again in thanksgiving and praise.

As a geography side note, Mamre is a city named after Mamre the Amorite, whom Abram allies with (see 14:13). Hebron itself means “union,” so it’s fitting that Abram would move here and then make these allies. Hebron is also called Kiriath Arba, which means “town of Arba.” It’s named after Arba, who was a great leader of the tribe of Anakites (Joshua 14:15). However, this name is a pun because it also means “town of four,” and in Joshua 15:13-14 it says that Caleb drove out Anak and his three sons (total of four opponents). These two towns are clustered close together,and Abraham holds this place very dear to his heart. He builds an altar here, allies here with Mamre, Aner, and Eschol, and this is also where Sarah dies.

Let’s remember how Abram handled the dispute with Lot. Being surrounded by hostile foes makes a very poor time to fight among your own family, yet it’s what we Christians do. If we don’t present a united front as even a small group, then how are we going to stand? Christianity is a religion of togetherness. We either stand together, or we fall together. Just as the Lord is one (Deut 6:4), let us be one also.

The lessons in this chapter are wonderful: humility and initiative are important in settling disputes. Don’t let pride, greed, or your “rights” (like Abe’s right to first choice) get in your way of making peace with family. Trust that no matter what obstacles arise, God will still provide for you. And, once again, worship God and thank Him for His goodness!