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Bible Commentaries

Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible

Genesis 13

CHAP. XIII.

Abram returns out of Egypt. A contention arising between the shepherds of Abram and Lot, they separate: Lot pitches his tent in the plain of Jordan;

Abram continues in Canaan: God promises him an innumerable offspring.

Verse 1

Genesis 13:1. Into the south Into the south of Canaan.

Verse 2

Genesis 13:2. Very rich Thus one part of the divine promise was amply fulfilled. Observe,

1. His riches, which made him not forget God: so that a rich man may be a good man. It is a blessed prosperity, which is employed in promoting of God's cause, and advancing his glory.
2. The place of his abode between Beth-el and Hai, where his former altar stood. Note; the very spot where we have enjoyed sweet communion with God, will be resorted to with pleasure, and bring to remembrance the obligations we are under to so gracious a benefactor.

3. His prayer to God. He had much to thank him for of past favours, much to ask of present blessings on his return. Note; (1.) Prayer is the breath of a faithful soul: wherever he is, you will hear this of him, Behold, he prayeth. (2.) Every return from journeying in safety, calls for new acknowledgments to our merciful God.

Verse 6

Genesis 13:6. The land, &c.— See ch. Genesis 36:7. there was not sufficient pasturage for their cattle; insomuch that the shepherds and servants of each master began to quarrel and contend about it. A matter, which might have had bad effects, and therefore required immediate attention; for part of the land being then occupied by the Canaanite and the Perizzite, (nations, or people, so called, see Joshua 11:3; Joshua 17:15-16.) they might have improved this animosity and division into an occasion of destroying both Abram and Lot. Besides, as these people then possessed the country, this gives an additional reason why it was not able to afford a sufficient supply for the increasing herds and flocks of Abram and of Lot.

Observe here; Lot had got well by Abram's company: he had his blessing also. Those who suffer with God's people, shall share their joys as well as sorrows. But worldly riches are often the cause of much uneasiness, as was the care here. For,

1. There was not room for both, and they must divide or incommode one another. Thus every comfort has its cross.
2. Their numerous flocks proved a cause of dispute between their servants, too jealous perhaps for their masters' interest. How dangerous are riches! To them we may ascribe most of our disputes: for these, brother goeth to law against brother.
3. The danger, and, probably, offence incurred hereby. Danger, by their division: it is this, which usually ruins kingdoms, families, and, above all, churches. Offence: when professors of religion quarrel, they will assuredly make the ways of truth to be evil spoken of.

Verse 8

Genesis 13:8. We be brethren The Hebrews call near relations, as kinsmen, &c. brethren. Indeed all men are brethren, as having One Father; and consequently can hardly urge a more prevailing argument for unanimity and concord, than this common relationship. See Acts 17:26. Abram's behaviour here is extremely amiable; it shews the good and the wise man; who, ever anxious to prevent animosities, is always most ready to yield, most forward to condescend, as being a constant friend to peace, and a foe to all strife and contention. Observe particularly;

1. Abram's desire to accommodate the matter peaceably. Let there be no strife, I pray thee, between me and thee: it ill becomes us as near relations, and worse, as servants of God. Learn, (1.) It is our wisdom in all contests to leave off betimes. (2.) It needs both address and gentleness, to bring those who are in the wrong, to consent to an accommodation. (3.) Christians, especially, should consider their relation to each other. They are brethren; let them love as brethren, and then all disputes will be at an end. (4.) They who have God's glory at heart, will have a greater concern lest that suffer, than for their own interests.

2. His proposal. Separate thyself peaceably, and choose the right or left, I am content with the refusal. (1.) Observe Abram's kindness: since we must part, let us part friends separate thyself, I pray thee. Oh! if Christians would be content to unite in love, and think and let think in unessential matters, how much perverse disputing would be prevented! (2.) His self-denial. He had certainly most authority to command, and most right to claim the land, especially after the promise, to which Lot could be no stranger: but he is ready to forego both. Learn hence, that, even though we might command, it is more Christan-like to intreat: and again, that it behoves us often rather to suffer loss, than to seek a litigious redress.

Verse 10

Genesis 13:10. And Lot lifted up, &c.— This verse has much perplexed the Commentators, especially as it stands in our version: where the words as thou comest unto Zoar are joined to the land AEgypt, when the first inspection of a map will shew, that they cannot refer to the land of AEgypt.

Houbigant therefore translates it thus: Then Lot lifted up his eyes, and beheld all the plain of Jordan: but before the Lord had destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah, it was all, as thou goest to Zoar, well watered, even as the garden of the Lord, and as the land of AEgypt. Le Clerc gives a very similar translation; But Lot lifting up his eyes, beheld all the plain of Jordan, when the Lord had not yet destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah, as thou goest to Zoar, and saw it all to be well watered like the paradise of Jehovah, or the land of AEgypt. The whole difficulty vanishes, if you only unite the last clause, as thou comest unto Zoar, with well watered, &c. and read, before the Lord, &c. in a parenthesis: he beheld the plain "that it was well watered every where from the entrance [or beginning of the plain] at Zoar, (before the Lord destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah,) even as well watered as the garden of Eden, or the land of AEgypt, fertilized as it was by the Nile."

Verse 11

Genesis 13:11. Lot chose him all the plain of Jordan Struck as he was with the beauty of the country, without any regard to the manners of the inhabitants; which became afterwards, as we shall see, a source of much discontent and uneasiness to him; The plain of Jordan comprehends, according to Dr. Wells, the greatest part of the flat country, through which the river Jordan runs, from its coming out of the sea of 1 Kings 7:1; 1 Kings 7:11 Kings 7:1 Kings 7. , to its falling into the Dead-sea: and (from 1 Kings 7:46.) it extends northward as far as Succoth, which stood not far from the sea of Galilee. This river was so called, most probably, from its rapidity, ירדן iarden, or Jordan, signifying a torrent, a stream, rapid by its deep descent. When Mr. Maundrell saw this river, the water was too rapid to be swam against. In summertime its water is very shallow; but about the time of barley-harvest, or the feast of the Passover, it constantly overflows its banks, and greatly fructifies the plain, as the Nile, by its overflowing, fructifies Egypt; for which reason, it is most likely, the comparison is here made with AEgypt.

Verse 12

Genesis 13:12. Abram dwelled in the land of Canaan That is, of the Canaanites, peculiarly so called, see Gen 12:6 for if Canaan be taken in its extensive sense, then Lot dwelt in Canaan also: or, perhaps, the sacred historian may mean to inform us, that Abram continued to dwell in the LAND, i.e.. in the country, and in tents; while Lot removed towards, and took up his habitation in, the CITIES, where we afterwards find him; ch. 19: The Vulgate renders it: "But Lot continued in the towns which were about Jordan, and dwelt in Sodom."

Verse 13

Genesis 13:13. Men of Sodom—sinners before the Lord i.e.. Very great sinners in his sight, who cannot be deceived, see ch. Genesis 10:9. The Chaldee paraphrase renders it: "They put their riches to an iniquitous use, and their bodies to the worst vices before the Lord." This verse seems inserted to prepare us for the horrid catastrophe related in the subsequent chapters.

REFLECTIONS.—We have here Lot's choice; in which not only some symptoms appear of selfishness in securing the best land, but of unkindness and ingratitude in parting thus readily from his kind benefactor. How hard is it even for good men to divest themselves of self-interest. Observe,

1. The place. All the plain of Jordan: and a delicious spot it was, like Eden, for beauty and fertility. Here he resolves to fix his abode, without farther consideration, or weighing the inconveniences to which he exposed himself from the people who dwelt there. We are too apt to be guided by the eye; but sense is a bad director: in such cases, we usually rue the choice we make, whether of company, or of dwelling under their influence. Would we succeed well, we should always first consider what is best for our souls.
2. The people. Vile and wicked exceedingly. All were bad, but some much worse than others, and the worse for the blessings they enjoyed; nothing so much contributing to fill up a man's iniquities, as abused mercies. To be placed among such a people, though his dwelling and conversation among them was a gracious warning and call from God to them, it was a heavy affliction and trouble to himself. Note; (1.) God marks every man's sins according to their aggravations: great sinners will have great punishments. (2.) God's ministers must remember, wherever they are, their business is to appear for God, though they be only sojourners. (3.) It is often the heavy lot of good men, to live among bad neighbours. (4.) It is a sad reflection, when they have brought themselves into these circumstances.

Verse 14

Genesis 13:14. And the Lord, &c.— No sooner was Lot separated from Abram, than the Lord appears again to him, both to console him, to renew his promise with him, and to assure him that his posterity should certainly inherit this country: accordingly, he commands him to look every way, from the place where he was, that is, most probably from the mountain, where he pitched his tent before he went into AEgypt, ch. Genesis 12:8. and to which he returned from thence, see Genesis 12:3-4. and from which mountain he might command an extensive prospect of the country; all of which the Lord promises to give to him and to his seed for ever, Genesis 12:15. But how was it given to Abram; when, as St. Stephen informs us, Acts 7:5. He (God) gave him none inheritance in it, no, not so much as to set his foot on?—But St. Stephen adds, yet he promised that he would give it to him for a possession, and to his seed after him. How then was this promise fulfilled? We reply, 1st, that this promise gave to Abram an authentic right to all the land of Canaan; 2nd, that God himself explains, how it should be literally fulfilled, namely, in the posterity of Abram, to thee and to thy seed; that is to say, to thee, even to thy seed. The copulative particle has often this signification in the Hebrew. And it is explained ch. Genesis 15:18. where it runs, Unto thy seed have I given, &c. But it is farther asked, how was it given to Abram and his seed for ever? To which we answer, 1st, that the phrase for ever עדאּעולם ad-oulam, is frequently used in the Old Testament only for a long duration, not for eternity strictly so called. 2nd, That the divine promise implies a tacit condition, that the posterity of Abram should continue to possess the land for ever, if they persevered in faith and obedience to God, Leviticus 26:28. Deuteronomy 4:25-26. Isaiah 48:18; Isa 19:3 rdly, While it is always to be remembered, that, under the temporal promises, the spiritual ones are immediately referred to: so that, when God promises Abram and his seed that they should possess that land for ever, the principal design is to make known, that all those children of his, who imitate his faith and holiness, shall, by the efficacy of the blessed Seed, even Christ, be introduced into the everlasting possession of the heavenly Canaan.

Verse 17

Genesis 13:17. Arise, walk through the land, &c.— That is, not only to take an exact survey of the gift: but also thus to vest himself, as it were, in that property, to which God had given him the right of inheritance.

Verse 18

Genesis 13:18. Then Abram removed his tent And continued to do so, till he had travelled through and surveyed the whole land of Palestine, according to the divine admonition; which done, he settled in the plain, or rather at the oak of Mamre. See ch. Genesis 12:6.* Mamre was so called from the name of the proprietor, Mamre the Amorite. See ch. Genesis 14:24. It lay near two miles south of Hebron; and therefore that clause would be more properly rendered, which is by or near Hebron. Hebron, or Chebron, was accounted one of the most ancient cities in the world, having been built seven years before Tanis, the capital of Lower AEgypt. It was situated upon an eminence, twenty miles southward from Jerusalem, and twenty north from Beersheba, and had its name very probably from the word chaber חבר, to couple or join, because three married couples, Abram and Sarah, Isaac and Rebecca, Jacob and Leah, were buried there. See Calmet, and Univ. Hist.

* The Arabic version has it here, "Abram therefore fixed his tent in different stations, till he came and dwelt in," &c.

REFLECTIONS.—Lot is now gone; but Abram has a better friend left: God visits him; and communion with him makes us ample amends for every loss. And he comes at a season when Lot's choice might have affected Abram, to comfort him with the assurance, that though for a moment he might feel the loss, yet in the end the land must be all his own. Observe,

1. God's promise. Lot looked, and chose the best; but it was a precarious and unhappy abode to him. Abram shall look on every side, and inherit the whole, and his seed after him. These repeated assurances convey increasing consolations.
2. The command—to go through and view the premises; for they were his own, and he might look upon them as such, yea, in possession, as soon as he should have a seed capable of occupying them.
3. The assurance, that God would raise up a seed to him, and, though childless now, make him a numberless multitude. Learn, (1.) The more at God's command we look forward by faith to the heavenly Canaan, the more shall we be comforted. (2.) Though nothing appeared more unlikely than the fulfilment of the promise, Abram's faith staggered not; nor should ours in the darkest day of trial.
4. Abram's obedience. He went forth, and fixed again his abode in Mamre, near Hebron; took possession in God's name for his family, though himself no more than a sojourner in the land of promise; and, as was his custom, no sooner pitched his tent, than he built his altar. Note; It is our duty in every place to make profession of our religion, and to be neither ashamed nor afraid to be found in the worship of God.

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Bibliographical Information
Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Genesis 13". Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/tcc/genesis-13.html. 1801-1803.