Confidence in the Midst of Conflict
Genesis 13:5–11, 14–18
Conflict happens even in the best relationships. (5-8)
Abram and Lot return from Egypt richer than ever. The passage doesn’t explicitly state from where they received fortunes, but some of it obviously came out of Abram’s deception with his wife in Egypt.
Lot’s riches consisted of cattle, sheep and tents, all of which indicate a nomadic lifestyle for Lot’s clan. Verse 2 mentions that Abram also had cattle, but a noticeable part of his fortune was in silver and gold, implying that Abram was not only the richer of the two but that he may have had the flexibility to limit his nomadic journeys.
No matter the source of the fortunes, possessions require maintenance. Owning a nice car today means oil changes, taxes, repairs, tires and in urban areas, a garage space. The livestock and the household members of Lot’s and Abram’s families need food, water and temporary dwellings.
Possessions also lead to possessiveness and quarrels broke out the two clans. The word “quarrels” could mean anything from arguments to fights to formal lawsuits. More than likely, regular arguments and fistfights broke out over access to water and livestock moving into the same grazing areas. This was complicated by the presence of the Canaanites and Perizzites.
Between the fights and the presence of other people groups, Abram could have easily begun to doubt God’s promise of giving Abram the land. As the patriarch of the family, the richer of the two and the recipient of God’s promise, Abram had every right to carve out his own parcel and force Lot to fend for himself elsewhere.
Place others’ needs before your own. (9-11)
Abram is beginning to exhibit a very different persona than he had in Egypt where he was willing to sacrifice Sarai’s dignity and purity to protect himself. Abram puts Lot’s interests first and offers him the first choice of the land.
Lot chose the land to the east. This may be symbolic since in Genesis the east is often associated with departure from God’s will. Adam and Eve journeyed eastward after being expelled from the garden (Gen. 3:24). Cain went to the east after killing Abel (Gen. 4:16). The people of Babel traveled eastward to build their infamous tower (Gen. 11:2).
Trust God to remain faithful to keep His promises. (14-18)
God’s response to Abram’s generosity and gracious deference to Lot was to remind Abram of His promise regarding the land.
2 Corinthians 5:7, “For we walk by faith, not by sight,” illustrates the difference between how Lot and Abram “saw” the land. The literal translation of verse 10 is that “Lot lifted up his eyes.” Lot surveyed the land with his physical eyes and determined that the land to the east looked the best, so that was his choice. While Abram also used his physical eyes to survey the land, he also saw the land with eyes of faith in God. Abram saw not only the physical resources of the land. He saw God’s promise.
From the place of his separation from Lot, Abram settled near Hebron which became his base of operation. Hebron continued to be central to Israel’s development as a nation. It was the place that God awarded to His faithful servant Caleb. It was where David ruled during his first 7 years as king.
As was typical of Abram, as soon as he set up his tents, he built an altar to the Lord. Abram did not see the separation from Lot and a diminishment of God’s promise. In the midst of the Canaanite people, Abram renewed his commitment to the God who had promised the land to him.
By Daryl Watts
Watts is a church consultant in Fresno, California.