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Friday, July 12th, 2024
the Week of Proper 9 / Ordinary 14
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Bible Commentaries
Genesis 13

Smith's Bible CommentarySmith's Commentary

Verses 1-18

Thirteenth chapter of the book of Genesis. In chapter twelve, we find that Abraham had gone down into Egypt because of the famine. And there as the result of a lack of faith and trust in God to take care of him, he had Sarai pass herself off as his sister. But God brought a plague upon the Egyptians because the Pharaoh had more or less taken her into his harem and he rebuked Abraham for the deception and ordered his men to allow Abraham to travel freely. And so now Abraham is returning from Egypt in chapter thirteen.

He went up out of Egypt, he, and his wife, and all that he had, and Lot with him, into the south ( Genesis 13:1 ).

That would be into the south part of the land of Canaan into the area of Beersheba, Kadesh, Barnea, Hebron there in the southern part.

And Abram was very rich in cattle, in silver, and in gold ( Genesis 13:2 ).

So God had blessed Abraham in a material way, "rich in cattle, silver, gold."

And he went on his journeys from the south even to Bethel, unto the place where his tent had been at the beginning, between Bethel and Hai ( Genesis 13:3 );

So when Abraham first came into the land, his first stop was at Shechem, and then he came back towards the Jordan River at a high point. This is the highest point in the Jerusalem range of mountains, which begins actually in the area of Samaria and goes almost to Beersheba. Just before you get to Beersheba, you, the Jerusalem mountains sort of fade out. But this is the highest point and there is this mountain between the city of Bethel and Hai, the mountain in which he had just a tremendous view of the entire land. Abraham, when he first came there, was able to see the entire land, and there he built an altar unto the Lord and worshipped the Lord, and now he returned again to this spot of Bethel.

The place is actually sort of a significant place. It was near Bethel there that Jacob was fleeing from the wrath of his brother Esau, and he used a pillow of a rock, and he had a dream and the awareness of the presence of God. And there God made the covenant with Jacob, and said, "I am going to be with you whithersoever you go. I'm going to bless you. I'm going to prosper you and I'm going to bring you back into this land". And Jacob sort of made his deal with God and said, "If You'll be with me, if You'll bless me and prosper me, I'll give you a tenth of everything I get".

And so Jacob made his deal with God and he left from the place of Bethel. Later on in Jacob's career, God said to him, "I am the God of Bethel" ( Genesis 31:13 ). And the Lord commanded him to return to Bethel. It was at Bethel that Jacob first became conscious of God, and God then challenged him to return to that place, really, of your first consciousness; more or less as Jesus called upon the church of Ephesus to return to their first love, that place where you first met God or you first became conscious of God.

And it seems that God seeks to call us back to that place of our beginning, the beginning of our faith, the beginning of our devotion, the beginning of that excitement of knowing God and walking with God. Sometimes we begin to take things for granted. Our Christian experience begins to sort of just become a prosaic kind of a thing. I just, you know, go along with it and I lose the excitement.

God said to Israel at one time where is the excitement of the espousal? You know, when I first called you out and upon all the people with holiness unto the Lord. In other words, the consciousness of the people was a God-consciousness. They were so aware of the presence of God and they were so excited in the things of God. And God is saying, where is the excitement of that espousal when I first drew you out of Egypt and all of you were aware and conscious of Me?

And we see movements of God's spirit such as we are experiencing here. And it's so exciting just the work of the Lord and the excitement of everyone just being, you know, turned on for Jesus and just, you know, we realize His presence, His power. We see His work. And there is that beauty of the excitement of God's work in our midst. It's always a sad and tragic day when that excitement begins to wane a bit and we begin to take for granted those things that at one time were so special and important and exciting to us. God help us that we will never take for granted His goodness, His grace and the blessings that we've experienced. I pray that that excitement shall never diminish. But each day we'll be excited with the presence of God and with the work and the power of His Spirit within our lives. That we'll never lose that just overawed kind of an experience that God is working in our midst. God is demonstrating His love and His power. That we'll always have that fresh relationship with Jesus Christ.

And so Abraham returned to Bethel, the place where he had built an altar and offered a sacrifice unto God and God had first promised to him the whole land that was before him.

And Lot also, which went with Abram, had his flocks, and his herds, and his tents. And the land was not able to bear them, that they might dwell together: for the substance was great, so that they could not dwell together. And there developed a strife between the herdsmen of Abram's cattle and the herdsmen of Lot's cattle: the Canaanite and the Perizzite dwelled in the land ( Genesis 13:5-7 ).

And so here there began to be a division between Lot and Abraham. Lot was Abraham's nephew but Lot's father Haran died very early. And Lot was left as an orphan. And so Abraham more or less adopted, inasmuch as he did not have any children of his own up to this point. He had more or less adopted Lot and raised Lot. So Lot was really like a son to Abraham and journeyed with him. But now they had both become very prosperous, the hand of the Lord's blessing upon their lives.

And you remember Abraham had about three hundred menservants that he could arm for battle, gives you a size idea of the size of the multitude that was going with Abraham and Lot was probably just about in the equal position. And so because the land just wasn't big enough to-for all of them to graze their cattle and sheep together, and strife began to rise up between the servants of Lot and the servants of Abraham.

Abraham called Lot.

And he said unto him, Let there be no strife, I pray thee, between me and thee, and between my herdsmen and thy herdsmen; for we are brothers. Is not the whole land before thee? separate thyself, I pray thee, from me: and if you will take the left hand, I will go to the right; if you'll depart to the right hand, then I will go to the left. And Lot lifted up his eyes, and beheld all the plain of Jordan, that it was well watered every where, before the LORD destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah, it was even as the garden of the LORD, like the land of Egypt, as thou comest to Zoar ( Genesis 13:8-10 ).

So at that time, of course, it was not too long after the flood. The great African rift was probably somehow related to the flood. As we mentioned, there was a whole change in the geographical surface of the earth at the time of the flood. And in the beginning, the Dead Sea was formed actually, because there was no outlet for the Jordan River. And in the beginning there would not have been the high salt content which has been leached out of the soil through the years. And because there is no outlet for the Dead Sea, all of the mineral salt content has just continued to build up over the millennia so that today, of course, there is not possible that anything can live in the Dead Sea. But at that time, there was probably not the high concentration of salts that we have today. And before Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed, it was all well watered and it was a place of really lush vegetation.

Of course, you're in a deep depression, twelve hundred feet below sea level, almost thirteen hundred feet below sea level there at the surface of the Dead Sea and the weather is tropical-type weather; gets very hot in the summertime and stays quite mild in the wintertime. Usually in the wintertime it's in the seventies, high seventies, low eighties, can get up into the nineties even during the wintertime down there. And so it's great for growing tropical kind of foods-papaya, mango, and of the tropical types of foods. And of course, all kinds of vegetation, citrus fruits and so forth grow very profusely down there around Jericho today, where they have a good water supply, fresh water supply.

So it is interesting because you're in such a deep rift, so low that there are springs that just come out of the mountains and flow then on into the valley. And before the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, much more it was like the garden of the Lord. It was like the Garden of Eden. So Lot looked down at that lush tropical area and he chose to move down in that direction.

And Lot chose all of the plain of Jordan; and Lot journeyed east: and they separated themselves one from the other. And Abram dwelled in the land of Canaan, and Lot dwelled in the cities of the plain, and he pitched his tent toward Sodom ( Genesis 13:11-12 ).

This was, you might say, sort of the beginning of the backsliding of Lot. First of all, his choice was a fleshly choice. He really didn't consider Abraham and Abraham's needs. But looking to himself first, he chose the plain of Jordan and then he pitched his tent toward Sodom. And next time we find him, he is sitting in the gates of Sodom, or actually he's living in Sodom because he's captured as he lives in Sodom. So the beginning, pitching toward Sodom, attracted somehow by this wicked city.

But the men of Sodom were wicked and sinners before the LORD exceedingly ( Genesis 13:13 ).

It's a very wicked place and yet Lot seemed to be somehow attracted by it. There does seem to be a certain type of an attraction to sin. Satan does make it look very attracting. "There is a way that seemeth right unto man, but the end thereof are the ways of death" ( Proverbs 14:12 ). You want to look down the road and find out where it leads to. Sin can be very exciting. Sin can be very thrilling. It would be wrong to say that it isn't. It can be very pleasurable, but it eventuates in death. The wise man will look down and see where is the road leading. It might be a fun road to travel. It might be filled with allurement, excitement, but where is the path leading me?

My ambition is to someday ride the rapids either in the Grand Canyon or up in Idaho. I just would love to get on a raft and go down the rapids. I think it would be a-I'm just looking forward to someday doing that, either now or in the millennium but someday I'm going to ride the rapids. But there are rapids that I have no desire to ride and those are the rapids above Niagara Falls. Now I don't doubt, but what they're just as exciting as the Grand Canyon or any other rapids you might ride, but I don't like where it is. So you go down; wee, fun, exciting, thrill, thrill. But man, the roar of the falls is getting louder. You're heading for destruction. And so the person in the path of sin, excitement, thrilling, but you're heading towards destruction. "The end thereof are the ways of death."

Lot was attracted. He pitched his tent toward Sodom; this exceedingly wicked and sinful city even before Lot ever got there. "And Abram dwelled in the land of Canaan, Lot dwelled in the cities of the plain, he pitched his tent."

And then the LORD said unto Abram, after that Lot was separated from him ( Genesis 13:14 ),

It was probably a difficult experience. Lot had become like a son to Abraham. He was close. He loved him and parting is never an easy experience. You see Lot taking off, and it's always harder to be the one that's left. It's always easier, I think, to go than to be the one that's left behind. And to see them going always gives you sort of an empty, sinking feeling as they sort of disappear over the hill, you know. And I can imagine for Abraham it was a-here he'd been traveling for years together now, for probably something like fifty years they've been together, close. And now, he sees Lot taking off and there has to be an ache in the heart, a lump in the throat. And so the LORD comes to comfort Abraham. "And the LORD said unto Abraham after that Lot was departed from him."

Lift up now thine eyes, and look from the place where thou art northward, southward, eastward, westward: For all the land which you see, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed for ever ( Genesis 13:14-15 ).

God's promise to Abraham; from the area there at between Bethel and Hai, this mountain peak, looking towards the north you see the area of Samaria. You can look clear on up and see Mount Hermon on a clear day. And he wasn't bothered with smog in those days. Looking towards the east, you see the mountains of Moab. Looking towards the south, you see the area of Jerusalem, the southern ranges of Jerusalem, mountains clear on down to the area of Beersheba. Looking towards the west you see the Sharon plains and the Mediterranean. And so God said just look to the north, the south, the east, the west. Just as far as you can see, Abraham, I'm going to give you this land to you and to your seed. And God was going to give it to him forever.

But Jimmy Carter's going to take away part of it from him. What's that make him? I get in trouble with these remarks. I'll get a dozen letters tomorrow, but they just come out. I'd have to apologize to people. I guess I'm too open. I just say what's in my mind. But anyhow

And I will make thy seed as the dust of the earth: so that if a man can number the dust of the earth, then shall thy seed also be numbered ( Genesis 13:16 ).

Now God promised, Hey, I'm going to multiply your seed like the dust of the earth. Now later on, we will get to it this evening a little later on. God said to Abraham in chapter fifteen, "Look up into the heavens and I am going to make your seed like the stars of the sky innumerable" ( Genesis 15:5 ). Hey, that's an interesting, interesting thing because modern science in that day thought that there were six thousand one hundred and twenty-six stars. They didn't think they were innumerable. Many of the ancient people had counted the stars. And up until the time of Galileo, we didn't realize that there were so many stars out there in the universe.

But now, they estimate the number of stars to be just so vast that you really can't count them all. There are billions of galaxies like our Milky Way galaxy, and there are billions of stars in our Milky Way galaxy. Someone has estimated that there might be as many as ten to the twenty-fifth power stars. But it's also interesting they've estimated that if you would take the amount of sand in a cubic inch, and take the volume of the earth, there's probably ten to the twenty-fifth grains of sand that make up the earth.

So when God's saying I'm going to make your seed as the sands of the sea or as the dust of the earth, and then as the stars of heaven, they're probably sort of an equal number here. But the interesting thing is God said the whole idea is that they'll be innumerable. You won't be able to count them.

Now God's promise was that you can't count them and David's sin was what? He tried to count them. He took a census. God didn't want a census taken of His people because God's promise is they're going to be innumerable as the sands of the sea. You're not going to be able to count them. David's sin was in taking a census and counting the people and it brought God's judgment against Israel because of David's sin in counting the people. So since then, they didn't take census in Israel, but everyone had to put a shekel into the temple treasury and then they'd count the shekels.

But the Orthodox Jew to the present day will not count off in a group. If you're in a group and you're playing party games, you've got a number in the group; an Orthodox Jew will not be numbered. And so they'll say, "You're not one, not two, not three, not four, not five". You can always figure out ways to get around things, you know. So we're not really not numbering because you're not one and you're not two. But the promise of God is the dust of the earth cannot be counted or numbered, so the descendants that I am going to give unto thee.

Now the Lord said

Arise, and walk through the land through the length and the breadth of it; for I will give it unto thee. Then Abram removed his tent, and came and dwelt in the plain of Mamre, which is in Hebron, and built there an altar unto the LORD ( Genesis 13:17-18 ).

So Abraham moved from the place about twenty miles north of Jerusalem or twelve, fifteen miles north of Jerusalem actually to a place approximately twenty-two miles south of Jerusalem, still on the Jerusalem hills or the mountains of Jerusalem they call them, down now south of the valley of Eshcol. Now Eshcol was a place with a beautiful stream and well-watered and the grapes in the area of Eshcol were just phenomenal. They still are today. Some of the most delicious grapes ever had in our life came from the valley of Eshcol and right near of course is adjacent to the area of Hebron.

When Joshua and Caleb came spying out the land some four hundred years later in order to prove to the people that the land was a very fertile land, they picked a cluster of grapes that was so big that they had to carry it in a staff between them. And they took back this huge cluster of grapes to show the people, hey, this land is really fertile. This is great.

So Abraham moved south, plains of Mamre which are near Hebron some twenty miles or so south from Jerusalem.


Bibliographical Information
Smith, Charles Ward. "Commentary on Genesis 13". "Smith's Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/csc/genesis-13.html. 2014.
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