This article is part of a series of articles that resulted from my time preaching through the book of Genesis. The commentary on the passage is my own, resulting from hours of research and exegetical study. It is my intent to draw a biblical theology chapter by chapter through the book of Genesis that places the events of the narratives into the broad picture of the entire Bible, demonstrating the progressiveness of theology and the sufficiency of every Word of Scripture. It is my prayer that these articles are helpful to those seeking a better understanding of the book of Genesis and of the Bible as a whole. The sermon series and other resources can be found at www.fbcroxana.com.
God called Abram to leave his home and promised to give the land of Canaan to his descendants for an eternal possession. Through Abram, God promised to bless the nations, pouring out blessings upon those who bless Abram and his descendants and cursing those who curse him. However, at this point, Abram did not own a single portion of the land, nor did he have a descendant to leave it to.
Abram obeyed God, and journeyed to the land of Canaan. He camped in the land of Canaan, building altars to worship God wherever he stayed. A famine caused him to leave the land of Canaan to go to Egypt, but in his fear, he allowed Sarai, his wife, to be taken into Pharaoh’s harem. God, in His lovingkindness, intervened and rescued Sarai, who was to become the mother of the promised child. Pharaoh sent Abram out of the land of Egypt.
1 So Abram went up from Egypt to the Negev, he and his wife and all that belonged to him, and Lot with him. 2 Now Abram was very rich in livestock, in silver and in gold. 3 He went on his journeys from the Negev as far as Bethel, to the place where his tent had been at the beginning, between Bethel and Ai, 4 to the place of the altar which he had made there formerly; and there Abram called on the name of the LORD.
Abram, having been made much richer by Pharaoh, journeyed north into the Promised Land, and stayed in the place where he had camped previously. He continued his worship of the LORD. Though he had temporarily given into fear and tried to make it on his own, he was again trusting the LORD and worshipping Him. Though he still had a long way to go, he was learning how to walk by faith.
5 Now Lot, who went with Abram, also had flocks and herds and tents. 6 And the land could not sustain them while dwelling together, for their possessions were so great that they were not able to remain together. 7 And there was strife between the herdsmen of Abram’s livestock and the herdsmen of Lot’s livestock.
Abram and Lot, his nephew, were no longer able to dwell together on account of their flocks, herds, and tents.
Now the Canaanite and the Perizzite were dwelling then in the land.
This is a reminder that there were peoples and nations dwelling in the Promised Land. Abram and Lot were foreigners and sojourners in the land. And wherever they went, there would be some contact with the nations.
Abram sought to resolve the conflict to restore peace to the family:
8 So Abram said to Lot, “Please let there be no strife between you and me, nor between my herdsmen and your herdsmen, for we are brothers. 9 Is not the whole land before you? Please separate from me; if to the left, then I will go to the right; or if to the right, then I will go to the left.”
Abram graciously deferred to Lot to make the decision. If Lot decided to go east, Abram would go west; and if Lot chose to settle to the west, then Abram would go east.
10 Lot lifted up his eyes and saw all the valley of the Jordan, that it was well watered everywhere—this was before the LORD destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah—like the garden of the LORD, like the land of Egypt as you go to Zoar. 11 So Lot chose for himself all the valley of the Jordan, and Lot journeyed eastward.
Lot chose to live toward Sodom and Gomorrah, for he saw that it was beautiful and fertile. The valley of the Jordan was comparable to the Garden of Eden and to the Nile-watered land of Egypt. Moses adds the note that this incident predates the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah by the LORD (cf. Gen 19).
Thus they separated from each other. 12 Abram settled in the land of Canaan, while Lot settled in the cities of the valley, and moved his tents as far as Sodom. 13 Now the men of Sodom were wicked exceedingly and sinners against the LORD.
Lot did not just settle his household in the direction of Sodom. He went as far as Sodom, and would soon be living there (Gen 14; 19). We are given a hint of what was to come, for we are told that the people of Sodom were “wicked exceedingly and sinners against the LORD.” Each word of that description is a multiplier to add to our understanding of the depraved nature of these people. This was not a place to move towards, but a place to flee from!
14 The LORD said to Abram, after Lot had separated from him, “Now lift up your eyes and look from the place where you are, northward and southward and eastward and westward; 15 for all the land which you see, I will give it to you and to your descendants forever. 16 I will make your descendants as the dust of the earth, so that if anyone can number the dust of the earth, then your descendants can also be numbered. 17 Arise, walk about the land through its length and breadth; for I will give it to you.”
God reaffirmed His promise to Abram that all the land (not just the land to the west, which Lot did not choose) would be given to him and to his descendants forever. Though he still had no children of his own, God promised to make his descendants innumerable as the dust on the earth. This meant that God must provide Abram with a child.
Abram obeyed God’s command to move throughout the land:
18 Then Abram moved his tent and came and dwelt by the oaks of Mamre, which are in Hebron, and there he built an altar to the LORD.
Having moved to a new place, he built an altar to worship the LORD. Wherever he moved, he worshipped God openly.
God continued to reassure Abram of His intention to give him the land of Canaan along with descendants to inhabit it forever. God also promised that kings would come from him. In short, God promised a kingdom to Abram. This kingdom would come through a son that came from his own loins, not through Lot or any other close relative.
In the right time, God gave Abram a son, Isaac, who himself would go on to father Jacob and the nation of Israel. Several generations later, God would give the land of Canaan to the people of Israel through conquest, so that they would live in the land. Through them, the nations were to come to a knowledge of the LORD, but Israel turned away from God, and rejected Him.
Through Israel, also, came the Messiah, the Seed of the woman who, as God promised in Genesis 3, would break the curse of sin and restore the creation to its perfect state. In the fullness of time, God sent the Messiah, Jesus His Son, born of a virgin from the people of Israel. However, due their blindness and unbelief, the people of Israel rejected Him and crucified Him. This was according to the foreknowledge and predetermination of God, who imputed the sins of the world to Christ and poured out His wrath for that sin upon Him. God’s purpose in that was to justify all those who believe God and trust in His Son (past, present, and future).
Jesus did not remain dead, but was raised by God. He ascended to the right hand of God until the time when He will come as the conquering King of Righteousness. He will establish the Kingdom of Israel, and will reign over the world from Jerusalem. At that time, the promises to Abraham will finally be fulfilled in their totality. Whoever believes in Him, trusting His sacrifice on the cross to be completely sufficient for the forgiveness of sin, will be raised to a new life in Him and given a share in the inheritance of the saints in glory.
We must to trust God’s promises, just as Abram did, and look forward to the day that those promises are fulfilled. We have the benefit of having more revelation than Abram did, but we are still called to the same kind of faith and obedience that God expected from Abram. Abram looked forward to the Messiah, but we look back upon the First Coming of the Messiah wherein He died for sins. We also look forward to the Second Coming when Jesus will conquer the world and reign upon the throne forever.