Genesis 13:1-18 “A Godly Separation” part 2

Posted on September 20, 2009. Filed under: Genesis: Answers to Life's Crucial Questions |

Redeemer Church Sunday School

Genesis Class 09-20-2009

Genesis 13:1-18 “A Godly Separation” part 2

Bryan E. Walker


Read Genesis 13:1-18



Review: Last time we began by looking at Genesis 13 and how it paralleled the later story of Joseph in Egypt with a famine that eventually led his father and brothers into Egypt, and then how God, hundreds of years later, used Moses to lead Israel out of Egypt and to Mt. Sinai to worship God and eventually to the Promised Land of Canaan. What we discovered in that story is that not only is Moses a genius in how he wrote the Pentateuch, and Genesis in particular, but God’s sovereign providence throughout history is truly amazing and marvelous as he works even the tiniest of details for his glory.


And not only is the larger story paralleled but within ch. 13 itself there is a beautiful structure so that Abram’s dealings with Lot are very similar with God’s dealing with Abram. And there is certainly character development in the story as this story is deliberately contrasted with the last half of ch.12 and Abram’s sojourn in Egypt where his faith did not seem strong and he seemed concerned more about himself than anyone else. But now we see Abram having faith, returning to worship the LORD, being generous without fear. And in Lot we now see someone who is perhaps more selfish and looking after his own self interest first and foremost. We see the forewarnings about the wickedness of Sodom that point to the later Lot episodes.


We discovered that the major theme is how God once again intervenes to protect his promise to Abram by not allowing the dissension caused by the riches of Lot and Abram to interfere with God’s will. Moses gives us a very high, dramatic point in the text with Lot, the father of the Ammonites and Moabites who are causing Moses’ people trouble in his day, Lot is given the choice of the land promised to Abram by God or the well watered, fertile Jordan River valley with the cities. The very plan of God seems to be hanging in the balance as Lot chooses…the well watered plain. As Moses is telling his people this story for the first time, I think I can hear the people gasp as Abram defers to Lot of all people, and says, “Choose!” The implications for Israel and for us are that our choices are very real with lasting and significant consequences, but also that the LORD is in control all the while. His will is not going to be frustrated.


Last week we left off in verse 7 so that is where we shall pick back up this morning.


  1. II.                Exposition
    1. A.      The Paradox of Wealth and Famine
      1. 7.       “And there was strife…” vs.7 This quarreling over resources is another foreshadowing of things to come. Isaac and Abimelech’s men would have a similar issue in ch. 26. There would be dissension between Sarah and Hagar, between Ishmael and Isaac, between Jacob and Esau, between Joseph and his brothers. And in Moses’ day don’t the Israelites quarrel non-stop with his leadership and with God? Ex. 17 and again Num.20 the people quarreled over water. Why include these stories about quarrels amongst the families of the patriarchs and why so many quarrels about water resources? The Bible records things the way they are, and even the patriarchs are sinful. Remember that the very first family fought over worship and it led to murder. These stories reveal that we are all sinners and they are a departure from some ancient “hero myths” that make the hero out to be perfect. I think they also reveal that in the Church we will also have disagreements and even splits over time.
      2. 8.       Calvin writes (p.370) “We are also warned, by the example before us , to beware lest Satan, by indirect methods, should lead us into contention. For when he cannot light up mutual enmities between us, he would involve us in other men’s quarrels. Lot and Abram were at concord with each other; but a contention raised between their shepherds carried them reluctantly away; so that they were compelled to separate…. Wherefore, it is nothing wonderful, if we see tumults often arising in churches…”
      3. 9.       Application: has the Church ever quarreled over Scripture? Doctrine? Practice? Other issues? We tend to see all the church splits through history as bad because it demonstrates before the world that we are not united. When you look at the Wars of Religion in Europe from the 1500’s and the Reformation through the 17th century it is disgusting. But are there any blessings at all from the quarrelling we have done? I think that the quarrels have made us, forced us, to go back to the Word time and time again. Christians, above all other religions, are students of language, history, philosophy, theology, and ethics. We argue and disagree and leave one church or denomination and go off and start a new one. All of that argumentation, though clearly most of it was probably done in sin, has advanced the Gospel in some ways. And so, God’s promises are kept and passed down to the next generation, and the next.
      4. 10.   Application: At the local church level, have brothers in Christ ever quarreled? I have been in more church fights than I care to remember and have seen the damage they cause spiritually, emotionally, practically within the church, and physically in those who must endure. One of the silliest church fights I ever participated in was over my decision to allow the paid church accompanist, to take home the $200 accompanist looseleaf edition of the Baptist Hymnal. One deacon was cussed out over the phone over his support of my decision, a woman who had come to Sunday School for years stopped coming, I was blamed for everything and the person who did all the damage got off scot free. The accompanist went on to complete her Masters of Music at SWBTS, earn a doctorate in a famous university back east and is now a professor at a big school in the Ivy League.
      5. 11.   Application: At the personal level we are all too familiar with dissension like what Abram and Lot’s herdsmen had.
      6. 12.   “At that time the Canaanites and Perizzites were dwelling in the land.” Here is another threat to the Promise of God. That Land that is Promised to Abram is occupied as noted in 12:6 “At that time the Canaanites were in the Land.” Perizzites are mentioned in 13:7 but not 12:6. What is a Perizzite? WE do not really know for sure what the difference is between Canaanites and Perizzites but since the word Perizzite is similar to the word for unwalled town or village, we tend to think the Perizzites were a particular social class of Canannites who were living in the villages, perhaps farmers, nomads even. But the idea of including this phrase for the second time in two chapters is to emphasize that the Land Promised to Abram was already occupied and that is the reason for the quarrel between Lot’s herdsmen and Abrams: the best land is already taken by these Perizzites, and the cities occupied by the Canaanites, therefore Abram and Lot had their flocks and herds on the drier, more marginal land. This, then, is another threat to the Promise of God. And if Lot and Abram quarrel in front of the Canannites and Perizzites, there is danger. The pagans might take the quarrel as a sign of weakness and attack.
      7. 13.   Application: so, too, when the church or Christians cannot get along and break into quarreling, the Great Commission gets lost, missions suffer, and the church is exposed to her enemies, weakened. Can you imagine if every denomination and every church in America was united on the core doctrines of the faith and was united in opposing abortion, homosexual marriage, feeding the hungry, proclaiming the Gospel.
      8. 14.   Calvin says, p.371, “Now, although we are not continually surrounded by Canaanites, we are yet in the midst of enemies, as long as we sojourn in the world. Wherefore, if we are influenced by any desire for the salvation of ourselves, and of our brethren, let us beware of contentions, which will deliver us over to Satan to be destroyed.”
    2. B.      Vss.8-12 Abram Solves the Issue By Separating from Lot
      1. 1.      vs.8 “Then Abram said to Lot…” Here Abram is not passive, he takes charge of the situation. This is a contrast to his passivity in Egypt and, later, with the issue between Sarah and Hagar. The man of faith leads in preventing a situation from getting out of control.
      2. 2.      Application: Men, how many times do we passively allow things to sit and fester, and grow from bad to worse as we procrastinate? We must exercise wisdom and discernment in knowing when to act, when to lead and when to leave well enough alone.
      3. 3.      “Let there be no strife between you and me, and between your herdsmen and my herdsmen, for we are kinsmen.” Notice that the strife was not between Abram and Lot, it was between the men who worked for them. But how often do we let ourselves get emotionally involved in a bad situation that does not directly impact us? Abram was here preventing a problem from growing up the ladder to the two kinsmen.
      4. 4.      Psalm 133:1 “Behold how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity.” (This verse ought to be read before every church business meeting.) Jesus said, Matt.5:9 “Blessed are the Peacemakers, for they shall be called Sons of God.”
      5. 5.      Vs.9 “Is not the whole land before you? Separate yourself from me. If you take the left hand, then I will go to the right, or if you take the right hand, then I will go to the left.” Here we see the graciousness and magnanimity of Abram as he defers to Lot’s choice. It is on the point of Abraham’s willingness to share that most children’s Sunday School Lessons will focus, and his generosity here is admirable, but that is not the main point of the story! The KEY WORD is “Separate” (Heb. parad) used here and vs. 11 and vs. 14. Gordon Wenhan, in WBC vol.1, p.299 says, “The central topic of this episode is the separation of Abram and Lot.” Sailhamer agrees and writes, (EBC, vol.2, p.118), “The narrative is governed by the theme of “struggle”, and shaped around the “separation”…that results from the struggle. Just as the first statement of the “promise” was preceded by Abram’s separation from among the nations (parad 10:32) and his father’s house (12:1), so the second statement of the ‘promise’ is put in the context of Abraham’s separation (parad) from his closest kin, Lot (13:14). It is not without purpose that the final statement of the “promise” to Abraham comes immediately after he has demonstrated his willingness to be separated from his only son and heir, Isaac (22:15-18).”
      6. 6.      This passage introduces one of the Grand Themes in all of Scripture: God requires his people to be Separate. Out of all the people and generations listed in 10-11, ONE man, ABRAM was chosen and called to LEAVE and GO TO. One man was given a unique promise through whom the rest of the world would be blessed. From this one man a nation would come to be and from that one small, insignificant nation a SAVIOUR would be born. And all along the way, God’s people would be called to be SEPARATED.
      7. 7.      The concept of Separation involves several different Hebrew and Greek words, so it is a rich and fertile ground for study. There is the Heb. word azab used in Gen. 2:24 that speaks of a man “leaving” his father and mother in order to hold fast or cleave to his wife. But in that sense the leaving is not a cutting off something that would hinder as it is more a natural and good thing, going from one good thing to another. But in 39:12-13 azab is used of Joseph “leaving” his coat in the hands of Potipher’s wife to flee the adulterous situation. He was leaving a temptation.
      8. 8.      Another Hebrew word is badal used in Num. 16:20-21 “And the LORD spoke to Moses and to Aaron, saying, ‘Separate yourselves from among this congregation that I may consume them in a moment.” This was during Korah’s rebellion and in a bit the LORD opened up the ground and swallowed Korah and his family. Earlier in the passage Moses, speaking to Korah, said, v.9 “is it too small a thing for you that the God of Israel has separated you from the congregation of Israel, to bring you near to himself, to do service in the Tabernacle of the Lord…” The Levites had been separated, singled out from amongst the other tribes, to be the Lord’s special servants.
      9. 9.      The Hebrew word for Holy means Separate, set apart, consecrated, dedicated qadosh. And in the New Testament the Greek word hagiasmos speaks of holiness as being set apart, separated.

10.  In the New Testament we see the idea of separation frequently as well. 2Cor.6:14-18 explains the concept very well as Paul quotes some OT passages, notably Isaiah 52:11 “Depart, depart, go out from there; touch no unclean thing; go out from the midst of her, purify yourselves you who bear the vessels of the LORD.” This passage is speaking of the return to Zion from captivity. Paul uses it in 2Cor to speak of not remaining in close relationships with unbelievers who will drag you down and tempt you and ruin your faith. This does not prohibit witnessing or even being friends with the lost, but cautions us against being unequally yoked so that our conduct and faith are adversely affected. We must come out from them, separate ourselves from them.

11.  The Application then: Abram was called of God to leave behind his country, his father’s house and his kindred. It was a gradual process leaving first his country, then from his father’s house in Haran after the death of Terah, and now, in ch. 13 finally leaving his kindred Lot. Eventually, in ch.22, he would be called to sacrifice his son Isaac. When you and I are called to follow Jesus, we are called not just to faith, but also to repentance. To follow Jesus is a positive and a negative. We exchange one master, sin, for a new master, Jesus. There is a constant leaving and cleaving, a constant separation from and a separation to, in the Christian life. We are not of this world, yes, we must live in this world and participate in life, but we are called to be not of this world. We are to be aliens, strangers, sojourners, this world is not our home. Yet all too often we in the church resemble the world, we become worldly, sinful, indistinguishable from the world. We must occasionally separate ourselves from things that are holding us back, dragging us down in our faith and holiness.

  1. C.      Lot Chooses for Himself vss.10-13
    1. 1.        Vs. 10 “And Lot lifted up his eyes and saw…”  Moses here uses some words that link Lot’s choice with Eve’s choice in the Garden and with the actions of the “Sons of God” in 6:2. “eyes” ‘ayin from 3:6-7; “saw” ra’a in 3:6 and 6:2; “watered” in 2:6,10; “destroyed” 6:13; “garden” 2:8; journeyed east points to 3:24 and 4:16. Moses is deliberately linking the story of Lot’s choosing with past stories that were sinful and brought about bad consequences. There is irony and contrast with the well watered Jordan Valley and the desolation that would occur in ch. 19. In 19:28 Abraham “saw” ra’a, the smoke rising up from the plain.
    2. 2.        “This was before the Lord destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah. So Lot chose for himself all the Jordan Valley, and Lot journeyed East. Thus they separated from each other…Lot settled among the cities of the valley and moved his tent as far as Sodom. Now the men of Sodom were wicked, great sinners against the Lord.

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