The actions of Abram in Egypt suggest one should be cautious when one enters a different environment (vv. 1-4). Abram and Lot, living as Bedouins, were thrust into the advanced culture of Egypt. In a crucial decision, Abram pronounced Sarai, his wife, to be his sister, fearing that Pharaoh might kill him and force her into his harem (12:12). There was an element of truth in the story because she was his half-sister (20:12), a subterfuge he also told King Abimelech (20:2). Nevertheless, a half-truth is a whole lie, even when told by one of God’s choice servants.
We can only guess about the negative impact of Egyptian culture on the two families, but two bits of evidence offer clues. First, Lot chose to live in Sodom, a city noted for its immoral practices, when he and Abram decided to go separate ways. Second, Abram became “very rich in cattle, in silver, and gold” (v. 3). Gold is mentioned in Genesis 2:11, 12 in connection with Havilah, but silver is listed here, the first time in the Bible. In this regard, we can infer that Abram had been introduced to a different way of assessing one’s wealth, that is, silver and gold coming out of Egypt.
When Abram and Lot returned to Canaan, the two groups soon found themselves involved in intense competitions (vv. 5-7). In the quaint language of the biblical account, “the land was not able to bear.” The need for grass and water for the large number of animals soon developed into open strife between the two groups of herdsmen. Abram and Lot had learned the hard lesson that great wealth brought its own set of problems. Their problem was made worse by the presence of the land’s native inhabitants. The Canaanites, descendents of Ham (9:18; 12:6). The Canaanites, dwellers in the low lands, became notorious for the worship of heathen fertility beings, such as Baal, meaning “master” or “lord,” and Asheroth. The remnant of a Canaanite altar still exists at Megiddo in present-day Israel. The Perizzites probably lived in the open country, whereas Canaanites built cities. The depth of depravity of the tribes is indicated by the immorality which brought about Sodom’s destruction.
Abram, ever the diplomat, made an attempt at arbitration (vv. 8-9). Fifty-fifty business deals rarely work out in decision-making and no side has the leverage which path to choose; gridlock occurs. In Abram’s case, he placed two options before Lot. No matter which course Lot chose, Abram would take the other. In a humorous aside, someone opinioned this deal proved they were Baptist, namely, you go your way and I’ll go mine. Separation was inevitable.
While Abram stood down in his dedication to God, Lot made a fatal choice (vv. 10-13). He dwelt temporarily in “the cities of the plain.” We ought not picture the area as desolate. There were Shinar, Ellasar, Elam, and a King Tidd who warred against kings of Sodom, Gommorah, Admak, Ze boim, and Zoar (14:1-2). The battle between these city-states eventually resulted in the capture of Lot (14:12) whom Abram freed after organizing and training an army (14:14).
After Lot left, God renewed his covenant (vv. 14-18). God told him to look up into the night to count the uncountable number of stars. Thus would Abram’s descendants multiply. As for the land, God gave it to Abram and his seed forever.
His descendants to this day cite the covenant with Abram, now known as Abraham, as their legacy.
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