Adam Clarke Commentary
Abram and his family return out of Egypt to Canaan, Genesis 13:1, Genesis 13:2. He revisits Beth-el, and there invokes the Lord, Genesis 13:3, Genesis 13:4. In consequence of the great increase in the flocks of Abram and Lot, their herdsmen disagree; which obliges the patriarch and his nephew to separate, Genesis 13:5-9. Lot being permitted to make his choice of the land, chooses the plains of Jordan, Genesis 13:10, Genesis 13:11, and pitches his tent near to Sodom, while Abram abides in Canaan, Genesis 13:12. Bad character of the people of Sodom, Genesis 13:13. The Lord renews his promise to Abram, Genesis 13:14-17. Abram removes to the plains of Mamre, near Hebron, and builds an altar to the Lord, Genesis 13:18.
Abram went up out of Egypt - into the south - Probably the south of Canaan, as In leaving Egypt he is said to come from the south, Genesis 13:3, for the southern part of the promised land lay north-east of Egypt.
Abram was very rich - The property of these patriarchal times did not consist in flocks only, but also in silver and gold; and in all these respects Abram was דבד מאד (cabed meod), exceeding rich. Josephus says that a part of this property was acquired by teaching the Egyptians arts and sciences. Thus did God fulfill his promises to him, by protecting and giving him a great profusion of temporal blessings, which were to him signs and pledges of spiritual things.
Beth-el - See Genesis 8.
Their substance was great - As their families increased, it was necessary their flocks should increase also, as from those flocks they derived their clothing, food, and drink. Many also were offered in sacrifice to God.
They could not dwell together - 1. Because their flocks were great. 2. Because the Canaanites and the Perizzites had already occupied a considerable part of the land. 3. Because there appears to have been envy between the herdsmen of Abram and Lot. To prevent disputes among them, that might have ultimately disturbed the peace of the two families, it was necessary that a separation should take place.
The Canaanite and the Perizzite dwelled then in the land - That is, they were there at the time Abram and Lot came to fix their tents in the land. See the note on Genesis 12:6.
For we be brethren - We are of the same family, worship the same God in the same way, have the same promises, and look for the same end. Why then should there be strife? If it appear to be unavoidable from our present situation, let that situation be instantly changed, for no secular advantages can counterbalance the loss of peace.
Is not the whole land before thee - As the patriarch or head of the family, Abram, by prescriptive right, might have chosen his own portion first, and appointed Lot his; but intent upon peace, and feeling pure and parental affection for his nephew, he permitted him to make his choice first.
Like the land of Egypt, as thou comest unto Zoar - There is an obscurity in this verse which Houbigant has removed by the following translation: Ea autem, priusquam Sodomam Gornorrhamque Do minus delerit, erat, qua itur Segor, tota irrigua, quasi hortus Domini, et quasi terra Aegypti. “But before the Lord had destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah, it was, as thou goest to Zoar, well watered, like the garden of the Lord, and like the land of Egypt.” As paradise was watered by the four neighboring streams, and as Egypt was watered by the annual overflowing of the Nile; so were the plains of the Jordan, and all the land on the way to Zoar, well watered and fertilized by the overflowing of the Jordan.
Then Lot chose him all the plain - A little civility or good breeding is of great importance in the concerns of life. Lot either had none, or did not profit by it. He certainly should have left the choice to the patriarch, and should have been guided by his counsel; but he took his own way, trusting to his own judgment, and guided only by the sight of his eyes: he beheld all the plain of Jordan, that it was well watered, etc.; so he chose the land, without considering the character of the inhabitants, or what advantages or disadvantages it might afford him in spiritual things. This choice, as we shall see in the sequel, had nearly proved the ruin of his body, soul, and family.
The men of Sodom were wicked - רעים (raim), from רע, (ra ), to break in pieces, destroy, and afflict; meaning persons who broke the established order of things, destroyed and confounded the distinctions between right and wrong, and who afflicted and tormented both themselves and others. And sinners, חטאים (chattaim), from חטא (chata), to miss the mark, to step wrong, to miscarry; the same as ἁμαρτανω in Greek, from a, negative, and μαρπτω to hit a mark; so a sinner is one who is ever aiming at happiness and constantly missing his mark; because, being wicked - radically evil within, every affection and passion depraved and out of order, he seeks for happiness where it never can be found, in worldly honors and possessions, and in sensual gratifications, the end of which is disappointment, affliction, vexation, and ruin. Such were the companions Lot must have in the fruitful land he had chosen. This, however, amounts to no more than the common character of sinful man; but the people of Sodom were exceedingly sinful and wicked before, or against, the Lord - they were sinners of no common character; they excelled in unrighteousness, and soon filled up the measure of their iniquities. See Genesis 19.
The Lord said unto Abram - It is very likely that the angel of the covenant appeared to Abram in open day, when he could take a distinct view of the length and the breadth of this good land. The revelation made Genesis 15:5, was evidently made in the night; for then he was called to number the stars, which could not be seen but in the night season: here he is called on to number the dust of the earth, Genesis 13:16, which could not be seen but in the day-light.
To thee will I give it, and to thy seed for ever - This land was given to Abram, that it might lineally and legally descend to his posterity; and though Abram himself cannot be said to have possessed it, Acts 7:5, yet it was the gift of God to him in behalf of his seed; and this was always the design of God, not that Abram himself should possess it, but that his posterity should, till the manifestation of Christ in the flesh. And this is chiefly what is to be understood by the words for ever, אד עולם (ad olam), to the end of the present dispensation, and the commencement of the new. עולם (olam) means either Eternity, which implies the termination of all time or duration, such as is measured by the celestial luminaries: or a hidden, unknown period, such as includes a completion or final termination of a particular era, dispensation, etc.; therefore the first is its proper meaning, the latter its accommodated meaning. See the note on Genesis 17:7. See the note on Genesis 21:33.
Abram removed his tent - Continued to travel and pitch in different places, till at last he fixed his tent in the plain, or by the oak, of Mamre, see Genesis 12:6, which is in Hebron; i.e., the district in which Mamre was situated was called Hebron. Mamre was an Amorite then living, with whom Abram made a league, Genesis 14:13; and the oak probably went by his name, because he was the possessor of the ground. Hebron is called Kirjath-arba, Genesis 23:2; but it is very likely that Hebron was its primitive name, and that it had the above appellation from being the residence of four gigantic or powerful Anakim, for Kirjath-arba literally signifies the city of the four; See note on Genesis 23:2.
Built there an altar unto the Lord - On which he offered sacrifice, as the word מזבח (mizbach), from זבח (zabach), to slay, imports.
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