Genesis 13:10
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 you come to Zoar.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(10) The plain of Jordan.—This word, Ciccar, literally means the circuit, or, as it is translated in St. Matthew 3:5, “the region round about Jordan,” and, according to Mr. Conder (Tent Work, ii., p. 14), is the proper name of the Jordan valley, and especially of the plain of Jericho. It is now called the Gnor, or depression, and is one of the most remarkable districts in the world, being a deep crack or fissure, with chalk rocks upon the western and sandstone on the eastern side, over which lies limestone, geologically of the age of our green-sand formation. It is thus what is technically called by miners a fault, the formations on the two sides having been displaced by some tremendous convulsion of nature. Most of the valley lies below the level of the Mediterranean, the Sea of Galilee being, by Mr. Conder’s observations, about 682 feet below it, and the Dead Sea no less than 1,292 feet. As the watershed to the south rises to a level of 200 feet above the Mediterranean, al) egress for the waters is thereby cut off, and there are numerous proofs that at some distant period the whole valley, about 150 miles in length, was a succession of large lakes. But even in Abram’s days the Jordan poured down a far larger volume of water than at present; for by the loss of its forests the climate of Palestine has become much more dry than of old, and regions once fertile are now barren. And as the supply of water has become less than that lost by evaporation, the Dead Sea has gradually receded, and left around it arid wastes covered over with incrustations of salt.

As the garden of the Lord.—Mr. Palmer (Desert of the Exodus. p. 465) describes the fertility of the Jordan valley as follows:—“Although the immediate vicinity of the Dead Sea is barren enough, the Ghor, or deep depression at the northern and southern extremities, teems with life and vegetation; and even where the cliffs rise sheer up from the water’s edge, streams of fresh water dash down the ravines, and bring the verdure with them almost to the Salt Sea’s brink.” The same writer (p. 480) has also shown conclusively, with Mr. Grove, Dr. Tristram, and others, that Sodom and Gomorrha were at the northern end of the lake, and not, as was previously supposed, at the southern. For the Ciccar is strictly the part of the Ghor near Jericho, and as the Dead Sea is forty-six miles in length, its southern extremity was far away out of sight. Moreover, Lot was standing some miles away to the north-west, on the high ground between Beth-el and Ai, whence “the northern end of the Dead Sea, and the barren tract which extends from the oasis of Jericho to it and the Jordan, are distinctly visible” (Dr. Tristram, Sunday at Home, 1872, p. 215). This “barren tract” was once the Ciccar, and the traces of ancient irrigation and aqueducts attest its former fertility. It was upon this district, “well watered everywhere,” that Lot gazed so covetously, and its richness is indicated by a double comparison: for, first, it was like Jehovah’s garden in Eden, watered by its four rivers; and next, it was like Egypt, rendered fertile by artificial means.

As thou comest unto Zoar.—This makes no sense whatsoever. No person on the route to Egypt could possibly take Zoar in his way; and of the five cities of the plain this was the least like Paradise. The Syriac has preserved the right reading, namely, Zoan. This city, however, was called Zor, or Zar, by the Egyptians (Records of the Past, viii. 147), and was situated on the eastern side of the Tanaitic branch of the Nile, at the head of a fertile plain, called “the field of Zoan” in Psalm 78:12. Through this rich and well-watered region Lot had lately travelled in Abram’s company, and the luxuriant vegetation there made it not unworthy to be compared with Paradise.

Genesis 13:10. Lot beheld all the plain of Jordan, that it was well watered — Lot seems to have had nothing in view but his temporal convenience and advantage. His flocks and herds were already too numerous, and his substance too great; and yet he wishes them to be still more enlarged, and therefore makes choice of this fertile and pleasant spot. He does not inquire into the character of the inhabitants, nor consider what sort of society he should find there; nor does he appear to express any reluctance at leaving Abram’s family, and losing the benefit of his conversation, counsel, and instructions. God, however, in the course of his providence, disappointed his views and expectations, and he soon had cause to repent of his choice.13:10-13 Abram having offered Lot the choice, he at once accepted it. Passion and selfishness make men rude. Lot looked to the goodness of the land; therefore he doubted not that in such a fruitful soil he should certainly thrive. But what came of it? Those who, in choosing relations, callings, dwellings, or settlements, are guided and governed by the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye, or the pride of life, cannot expect God's presence or blessing. They are commonly disappointed even in that which they principally aim at. In all our choices this principle should rule, That is best for us, which is best for our souls. Lot little considered the badness of the inhabitants. The men of Sodom were impudent, daring sinners. This was the iniquity of Sodom, pride, fulness of bread, and abundance of idleness, Eze 16:49. God often gives great plenty to great sinners. It has often been the vexatious lot of good men to live among wicked neighbours; and it must be the more grievous, if, as Lot here, they have brought it upon themselves by a wrong choice.Lot accepts the offer of his noble-hearted kinsman. He cannot do otherwise, as he is the companion, while his uncle is the principal. He willingly concedes to Abram his present position, and, after a lingering attendance on his kinsman, retires to take the ground of self-dependence. Outward and earthly motives prevail with him in the selection of his new abode. He is charmed by the well-watered lowlands bordering on the Jordan and its affluents. He is here less liable to a periodical famine, and he roams with his serfs and herds in the direction of Sodom. This town and Amorah (Gomorrah), were still flourishing at the time of Lot's arrival. The country in which they stood was of extraordinary beauty and fertility. The River Jordan, one of the sources of which is at Panium, after flowing through the waters of Merom, or the lake Semechonitis (Huleh), falls into the Sea of Galilee or Kinnereth, which is six hundred and fifty-three feet below the level of the Mediterranean, and thence descends into the basin of the Salt Sea, which is now thirteen hundred and sixteen feet beneath the same level, by a winding course of about two hundred miles, over twenty-seven threatening rapids.

This river may well be called the Descender. We do not know on what part of the border of Jordan Lot looked down from the heights about Shekem or Ai, as the country underwent a great change at a later period. But its appearance was then so attractive as to bear comparison with the garden of the Lord and the land of Egypt. The garden of Eden still dwelt in the recollections of men. The fertility of Egypt had been recently witnessed by the two kinsmen. It was a valley fertilized by the overflowing of the Nile, as this valley was by the Jordan and its tributary streams. "As thou goest unto Zoar." The origin of this name is given in Genesis 19:20-22. It lay probably to the south of the Salt Sea, in the wady Kerak. "And Lot journeyed east" מקדם mı̂qedem. From the hill-country of Shekem or Ai the Jordan lay to the east.

10. Lot lifted up his eyes—Travellers say that from the top of this hill, a little "to the east of Beth-el" [Ge 12:8], they can see the Jordan, the broad meadows on either bank, and the waving line of verdure which marks the course of the stream. The plain of Jordan, a great plain so called, because there the pleasant river Jordan divided itself into divers little streams or rivulets, which having no visible outlet into the sea, by degrees, and in several places, insinuated themselves into the earth, which made it very fruitful and excellent for Lot’s purpose. But this lovely plain was afterwards transformed by Divine vengeance into a filthy lake or dead sea, Genesis 19:24.

Even as the garden of the Lord; i.e. either,

1. Like that famous garden of Eden which God himself planted, Genesis 2:8. The like comparison we meet with Isaiah 51:3 Ezekiel 28:13 Ezekiel 31:8. Or,

2. Like some excellent garden; for excellent things are thus expressed, as, the host of God, 1 Chronicles 12:22, i.e. a great host; cedars of God, Psalm 80:10.

Like the land of Egypt, a land of eminent fertility by the influence of that great river Nilus, anciently celebrated as the granary of other countries. See Ezekiel 31:1-18.

Unto Zoar, i.e. to Bela, Genesis 14:2, afterwards called Zoar, Genesis 19:22, and here so called by a prolepsis. But these words are not to be joined with the words immediately going before, as if Egypt was commended for its fertility in that part of it from which men go to Zoar, but with the more remote words, and the sense is, as the words of the text are transplaced and rendered by some, that the plain of Jordan was (before the Lord destroyed it and its cities Sodom and Gomorrah) watered every where, even to Zoar; or, even until thou comest, i.e. till a man come, to Zoar, i.e. all the way which leads from the place where Abram then was to Zoar. And such transpositions are not unusual, as we shall see hereafter. And Lot lifted up his eyes,.... He immediately fell in with Abram's proposal, but had not the ingenuity to return back the choice to Abram which he gave him, but took the advantage of it; nor did he show any uneasiness or unwillingness to part from Abram, though so near a relation, and so wise and good a man, and by whose means greatly he had obtained his riches; but without giving himself any concern about this, he at once cast about in his mind where to make his choice; he considered within himself which was the best part of the country, and most convenient for his flocks and herds, and where he was most likely to increase his substance; for this phrase chiefly has respect to the eyes of the understanding, he made use of, consulted with himself with his rational powers what was fittest to be done; unless we can suppose him situated on some considerable eminence, from whence he could have a view of the whole country he made choice of, as follows:

and beheld all the plain of Jordan, that it was well watered every where; a large plain, full of rich pasturage, which had its name from the river Jordan, which by various windings and turnings ran through it, and which at harvest time overflowed its banks, and greatly contributed to the richness of the soil:

before the Lord destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah: as he afterwards did by fire from heaven, and then that part of the plain on which those cities stood was turned into a sulphurous lake:

even as the garden of the Lord, like the land of Egypt; as any most excellent garden that is full of plants and trees, well watered, and well cultivated, and taken care of; as things most excellent are sometimes expressed by having the name of God, or the Lord, added to them, as the "cedars of God", &c. or as the garden of Eden, which was planted by the Lord, abounding with all kind of trees, and was well watered by a river running through it: and some think that the plain of Jordan, and the parts thereabout, were the real garden of Eden; wherefore one learned (w) man takes the "as" here not to be a note of similitude, but of reality, and not merely comparative but causal, giving a reason why it was so watered, being the garden God; so that the plain was not like unto, but really was the garden of Eden: and another observes (x), that the words should be rendered, "so was the garden of the Lord, as the land of Egypt", and that the repetition of the similitude only makes one comparison, and not two; not that the plain of Jordan is first compared with the garden of the Lord, and then with the land of Egypt; but the plain of Jordan, or garden of the Lord, is only compared with the land of Egypt; and with that undoubtedly it is compared, it being once a year overflowed by the river Jordan, as the land of Egypt was with the Nile, and was a most delightful and fruitful spot like that:

as thou comest unto Zoar; which is not to be connected with the land of Egypt, for Zoar was at a great distance from Egypt, but with the plain of Jordan, well watered everywhere till you come to Zoar, at the skirts of it, and which is by an anticipation called Zoar; for at this time, when Abram and Lot parted, it was called Bela, and afterwards, on another account, had the name of Zoar; see Genesis 14:2.

(w) Nic. Abram. Pharus Ver. Test. p. 59. (x) Texelii Phoenix, l. 3. c. 7. p. 262.

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 {g} garden of the LORD, like the land of Egypt, as thou comest unto Zoar.

(g) Which was in Eden, Ge 2:10.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
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.Verse 10. - And Lot lifted up his eyes. Circumspexit; with a look of eager, lustful greed (cf. Genesis 3:6). The same expression is afterwards used of Abram (ver. 14), where perhaps also the element of satisfaction, though in a good sense, is designed to be included. And beheld all the plain. Literally, all the circle, or surrounding region (כִּכָּר, from כָּרַר, to move in a circle; cf. arrondissement, Fr.; kreis or bezirk, Ger.); ΠΑΡΙ´ΞΩΡΟΣ (LXX., Matthew 3:5); now called El Ghor, the low country (Gesenius). Of Jordan. Compounded of Jordan, the names of the two river sources (Josephus, Jerome); but, according to modern etymologists, derived from יָרַד, to go down, and signifying the Descender, like the German Rhine, from tin-hen, to run. The largest river of Palestine, rising at the foot of Antilibanus, and passing, in its course of 200 miles, over twenty-seven rapids, it pours its waters first into the lake of Merom, and then into the sea of Galilee, 653 feet, and finally into the Lacus Asphaltites, 1316 feet below the level of the Mediterranean (cf. Stanley's 'Sinai and Palestine,' Genesis 7. p. 282). It is now called Esh-Sheri'ah, i.e. the ford, as having been of old crossed by the Israelites (Gesenius). That it was well-watered everywhere. Not by canals and trenches, as old interpreters imagined, but by copious streams along its course, descending chiefly from the mountains of Moab. Before the Lord destroyed - the same word is used for the destruction of all flesh in what is styled the Elohistic account of the Deluge (Genesis 6:13, 17; Genesis 9:11, 15; cf. ' Quarry on Genesis,' p. 423) - Sodom and Gomorrha (vide Genesis 14:2). Even as the garden of the Lord. Paradise in Eden, with its four streams (Genesis if. 10; Calvin, Lange, Keil); though by some this is deemed unsatisfactory (Quarry), and the phrase taken as - hortus amae-nissimus (Rosenmüller), and in particular Mesopotamia, which was a land of rare re. cundity (Grotius, Junius). Like the land of Egypt - which was irrigated by the Nile and by canals from it as well as by machines (Deuteronomy 11:10, 11) - as thou comest unto Zoar - at the south-east corner of the Dead Sea (vide Genesis 14:3). Abram, having returned from Egypt to the south of Canaan with his wife and property uninjured, through the gracious protection of God, proceeded with Lot למסּעיו "according to his journeys" (lit., with the repeated breaking up of his camp, required by a nomad life; on נסע to break up a tent, to remove, see Exodus 12:37) into the neighbourhood of Bethel and Ai, where he had previously encamped and built an altar (Genesis 12:8), that he might there call upon the name of the Lord again. That ויּקרא (Genesis 13:4) is not a continuation of the relative clause, but a resumption of the main sentence, and therefore corresponds with ויּלך (Genesis 13:3), "he went...and called upon the name of the Lord there," has been correctly concluded by Delitzsch from the repetition of the subject Abram.
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