Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges
Ch. 13. The Separation of Abram and Lot. (J; P, Genesis 13:6; Genesis 13:11 b, Genesis 13:12 a.)
And Abram went up out of Egypt, he, and his wife, and all that he had, and Lot with him, into the south.1. went up out of Egypt] Cf. Genesis 12:10, “went down into Egypt.” Egypt is always regarded as the low-lying country; and Palestine as the high ground.
Lot with him] Lot was not mentioned in the previous chapter, but it is here implied that Lot had been with Abram in Egypt.
into the South] i.e. into the Negeb: see note on Genesis 12:9. This is a good illustration of the meaning of Negeb. Abram’s journey from Egypt into the Negeb was by a route leading N.E. The English reader, not understanding the technical meaning of “the South,” might suppose that Abram’s journey from Egypt into “the South” would have led in the direction of the Soudan.
And Abram was very rich in cattle, in silver, and in gold.2. cattle … silver … gold] Abram’s wealth described in an ascending scale of value. Cf. Genesis 12:16, Genesis 24:35.
on his journeys] i.e. by successive encampments.
the place … his tent] See Genesis 12:8; to which passage also the phrases “at the beginning,” and “at the first” (Genesis 13:3-4) refer.
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;
Unto the place of the altar, which he had made there at the first: and there Abram called on the name of the LORD.
And Lot also, which went with Abram, had flocks, and herds, and tents.5. And Lot also] This verse, describing the wealth of Lot, is intended, with Genesis 13:2, to prepare for the account of the separation of Abram from Lot. Lot’s wealth consists only of flocks and herds and tents.
And the land was not able to bear them, that they might dwell together: for their substance was great, so that they could not dwell together.6. And the land, &c.] The account, according to P, of the reason for Lot’s separation. The flocks and herds of the two chieftains when combined were so numerous, that there was not pasturage enough to feed them. Cf. a similar reason, in P’s narrative, for the separation of Jacob and Esau, Genesis 36:7. The word “substance” is characteristic of P. Cf. Genesis 12:5.
And there was a strife between the herdmen of Abram's cattle and the herdmen of Lot's cattle: and the Canaanite and the Perizzite dwelled then in the land.7. And there was a strife] The account according to J of the reason for the separation. Disputes were constantly arising between the herdsmen of the two caravans. For other examples of such causes of friction among shepherds and herdsmen, see Genesis 21:24-32, Genesis 26:15-33.
and the Canaanite and the Perizzite] Cf. Genesis 12:6. The introduction of this clause is probably intended to emphasize the danger of dissensions between the Hebrew camps at a time when the native inhabitants, jealous of the wealth of the strangers, might be glad of a pretext for attacking them singly. “The Canaanite” is the indigenous inhabitant (Genesis 10:15; Genesis 10:19, Genesis 12:6) in J.
The Perizzite is mentioned with the Canaanite in Genesis 34:30, Jdg 1:4-5, and in the lists of the nations, e.g. Genesis 15:20-21. In Joshua 17:15 the Perizzites are named with the Rephaim; and in Joshua 24:11 with the Amorites. There is no means of determining where they dwelt. Some have supposed that the Perizzites meant the peasantry, or dwellers in villages and unwalled towns, as distinct from the Canaanites who dwelt in walled cities: and that the name is connected with the word perazi, used in Deuteronomy 3:5 and 1 Samuel 6:18.
And Abram said unto Lot, Let there be no strife, I pray thee, between me and thee, and between my herdmen and thy herdmen; for we be brethren.8. for we are brethren] i.e. kinsmen; Abram being Lot’s uncle. Cf. Genesis 14:14, “and when Abram heard that his brother (i.e. Lot) was taken captive.”
Abram, as the elder, takes the lead in the conference: his proposal is made with generosity and dignity. Lot, though the younger, is to have his choice.
Is not the whole land before thee? separate thyself, I pray thee, from me: if thou wilt take the left hand, then I will go to the right; or if thou depart to the right hand, then I will go to the left.9. the whole land, &c.] Abram’s offer is made with the elaborate profuseness and courtesy characteristic of an Oriental bargain: cf. Genesis 23:11-16; 2 Samuel 24:21-24.
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, even as the garden of the LORD, like the land of Egypt, as thou comest unto Zoar.10. And Lot lifted up his eyes] The spot near Bethel, from which the view described in this verse can be obtained, is easily identified. Travellers speak in glowing terms of the scene commanded by this piece of high ground.
all the Plain (R.V. marg. Circle) of Jordan] The word kikkar, a “round,” or “circle” (Skinner renders “Oval”), was applied by the Israelites to the broader portion of the level country on either side of the river Jordan, extending northwards as far as the river Jabbok, and southwards, originally, according to the tradition, to the supposed site of the submerged cities of the Plain at the lower end of the Dead Sea. Cf. Genesis 19:24-29; 2 Samuel 18:23; 1 Kings 7:46. The kikkar is specially mentioned in connexion with Jericho in Deuteronomy 34:3; Nehemiah 3:22; Nehemiah 12:28. The present passage suggests, that the narrative emanated from a source, according to which the formation of the Dead Sea was subsequent to the destruction of the cities of the Plain (19), and that its bed had previously been a fertile agricultural region.
well watered] The basin of the Jordan is famous for its fertility. The climate is tropical, and the soil is watered by the Jordan and its tributaries.
before the Lord destroyed, &c.] The writer pictures this scene of fertility extending itself to the southern extremity of the Dead Sea, before the catastrophe described in Genesis 19:24-29.
like the garden of the Lord] “The garden of Jehovah” is the garden of Eden (chap. 2; cf. Isaiah 51:3), the ideal of beauty and fertility. “Like the land of Egypt”; the writer adds a second simile. “The land of Egypt” was well known for the richness of its soil and for the abundance of its irrigation. The two similes, following in succession, have been thought to overload the sentence, but are not, on that account, to be regarded as glosses.
as thou goest unto Zoar] Zoar, a town situated probably in the S. E. of the Dead Sea (cf. Genesis 19:22): and hence this clause, as it stands, must be connected with “the Plain of Jordan, that it was well watered every where,” the intervening clauses being parenthetical.
Another reading, “Zoan,” found in the Syriac Peshitto, would connect the clause with the mention of Egypt, by specifying the fertile district of the famous city of Tanis on the east of the Nile Delta.
Then Lot chose him all the plain of Jordan; and Lot journeyed east: and they separated themselves the one from the other.11. So Lot chose] This verse points onward both to the catastrophe in 19 and to the dwelling-place of the Moabites and Ammonites. Lot’s selection (a) disregarded the rights of Abram his senior; (b) was based on the material attractions of the country; (c) ignored the characteristics of the people of the land (Genesis 13:13). Its importance lay in its symbolical resignation of any claim upon the land of Palestine by the Moabites and Ammonites.
and Lot journeyed east] This is the account according to J. The next two clauses are from P: they repeat the same thought and interrupt the sentence. The words in Genesis 13:12 “and moved his tent as far as Sodom” continue the sentence “journeyed east,” and follow very awkwardly after the words “dwelled in the cities of the Plain.” This is a rare instance of unskilful combination of the two strata of tradition.
13 (J). the men of Sodom] The mention of the wickedness of the people is here emphasized in reference to (a) the selfish choice of Lot (Genesis 13:11); (b) the coming story of the overthrow of the cities of the Plain (19); (c) the immediate assurance to Abram of Jehovah’s blessing outweighing all earthly privileges.
sinners against the Lord] i.e. by immorality, not idolatry. Jehovah’s supremacy over the heathen world is here implied, as in Genesis 12:10-20 in connexion with Egypt, and in Genesis 10:10 in the mention of Nimrod.
14–17 (J). The promise of the land to Abram and his seed (Genesis 12:7) is renewed with more minute description, (a) as to the extent of the country (Genesis 13:14-15); (b) as to the infinite number of his descendants (Genesis 13:16).
Abram dwelled in the land of Canaan, and Lot dwelled in the cities of the plain, and pitched his tent toward Sodom.
But the men of Sodom were wicked and sinners before the LORD exceedingly.
And the LORD said unto Abram, after that Lot was separated from him, Lift up now thine eyes, and look from the place where thou art northward, and southward, and eastward, and westward:14. northward and southward, &c.] The promise here includes, in the future possession of Israel, the land which Lot had chosen for himself.
For all the land which thou seest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed for ever.15. to thee will I give it, and to thy seed for ever] The gift to Abram is one of promise and prediction. The gift to his “seed” was to be fulfilled in history. If the words “for ever” are to have their fullest meaning, the land is a pledge symbolic of God’s mercy and goodness towards the people. Their expansion and discipline will be in Palestine. The land and the people will be identified.
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.16. as the dust of the earth] For this simile cf. Genesis 28:14, which is also from J. Abram’s descendants are elsewhere compared in number to the stars, Genesis 15:5, Genesis 22:17, Genesis 26:4; and to the sand which is upon the seashore, Genesis 22:17, Genesis 32:12.
Arise, walk through the land in the length of it and in the breadth of it; for I will give it unto thee.17. Arise, walk] Abram is told to go up and down in the land of promise, and thus to view by faith the possession which his descendants will connect with the promise made to him.
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.18. the oaks of Mamre] Better, as R.V. marg., terebinths. Cf. Genesis 14:13, Genesis 18:1. Probably the sacred trees of the Canaanite sanctuary at Hebron. Josephus (Ant. i. x. § 4 and B.J. iv. ix. § 7) mentions the oak tree (δρύς) of Hebron. The so-called oak of Abraham, 3 miles N.W. of Hebron, was shattered by a storm in the winter of 1888–9. The tree was said to be six or seven hundred years old. In Genesis 14:24 Mamre is the name of a local chieftain allied with Abram. Here, and in Genesis 23:17; Genesis 23:19, Genesis 25:9, Genesis 49:30, Genesis 50:13, it is the name of a place near Hebron.
in Hebron] The famous city of Judah; cf. Genesis 23:2. From its connexion with Abram it derives its modern name El Ḥalil, “the friend,” an abbreviation of Ḥalil er-raḥman, “the friend of the Merciful One, i.e. God,” the designation of Abram. Cf. Isaiah 41:8; James 2:23. It stands 3000 ft. above the sea, at the junction of the main roads, from Gaza in the W., from Egypt in the S.W., from the Red Sea on the S.E., and from Jerusalem, 19 miles away, on the N.