Genesis 13:7

“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.”

~ Genesis 13:7

In the time of our text, Abram had returned to Canaan from the land of Egypt, where he went with his household to escape the famine in the Promised Land. During their sojourn in Egypt, both Abram and Lot experienced an increase in their physical property. We read of Abram after he “went up out of Egypt” (Genesis 13:1), he “was very rich in cattle, in silver, and in gold” (Genesis 13:2). We read similarly of Lot that he “had flocks, and herds, and tents” (Genesis 13:5). Abram seemed to be blessed with many temporal blessings despite his marked departure from the word of God in leaving the land of Canaan.

However, the apparent blessings of Abram and Lot began to be a problem between their respective houses. According to the Divine account, “The land was not able to bear them, that they might dwell together: for their substance was great” (Genesis 13:6). Their increases were such that they began to crowd one another and “there was a strife between the herdmen of Abram’s cattle and the herdmen of Lot’s cattle.”

There began to be strife in the family over earthly possessions and wealth. This is an ancient story with mankind and continues to be repeated today in the lives of modern families. There is many a strife in households over land, houses, money, estates, heirlooms, and many more trivial things. So, at once, we can all identify with their plight and feel familiar and even sympathetic with their situation.

The familiarity we can have with the narrative is good reason to exercise caution in evaluating the text. Taken at mere face value, the verse seems to recount a typical and all too common contention among kinsmen. We might be hard pressed to find much deeper meaning in the verse if it was not for the last phrase of the text, “and the Canaanite and the Perizzite dwelled then in the land.”

Verse 7 is one whole sentence and the last phrase seems out of place in the verse and in the context. The inclusion of this phrase makes the verse stand out and suggests many questions to our minds. Is this an extraneous piece of information? Does this verse contain anything more than an account of the relational problems of Abram and Lot? What do the Canaanites and Perizzites have to do with the striving of these men’s herdsmen? Let us now “apply our hearts unto wisdom” (Psalm 90:12) and seek the blessing of the Spirit to our edification in understanding the verse before us.

Immediately, we note the similarity of this verse with the sixth verse of the twelfth chapter of Genesis. There we read, “And Abram passed through the land unto the place of Sichem, unto the plain of Moreh. And the Canaanite was then in the land.” Here, this last phrase does not seem joined with the verse in which it is found. Examining the circumstances, we realize that Abram had just entered the land of Canaan and “passed through the land,” and, in the next verse, “the LORD appeared unto Abram, and said, Unto thy seed will I give this land” (Genesis 12:7). So, Abram received revelation that this land was to be the possession of his seed after him, but “the Canaanite was then in the land.”

Similarly, in the thirteenth chapter, Abram has again entered the land of Canaan. After the situation with Lot was settled, “the LORD said unto Abram . . . Lift up now thine eyes, and look from the place where thou art northward, and southward, and eastward, and westward: For all the land which thou seest, to the will I give it, and to thy seed for ever” (Genesis 13:14-15). Then, Abram received revelation concerning the extents of the land promised to his seed for a possession, but “the Canaanite and the Perizzite dwelled then in the land.”

The meaning becomes more apparent when we consider the relation of Abram to the Canaanites. If we go back to the eleventh chapter of Genesis, we learn that Abram was a descendant of Shem; he was a Shemite, or Semite (Genesis 11:11-26). Shem was the blessed and favored son of Noah (Genesis 9:26-27). Through the lineage of Shem, the Messiah would be born into the world and the physically blessed descendants of Japheth would receive spiritual blessings by dwelling “in the tents of Shem” (Genesis 9:27).

However, Ham was the cursed son and his lineage, the cursed lineage. This curse was specially pronounced upon Ham’s son Canaan. So, in the time of our text, the occupants of the land of promise to Abram were the descendants of Canaan—Kenites, Kenizzites, Kadmonites, Hittites, Perizzites, Rephaims, Amorites, Canaanites, Girgashites, and Jebusites (Genesis 16:19-21). These all dwelt in the land that Abram’s seed was going to possess or overtake.

In chapter twelve, Abram had first entered the land and learned that his seed was to possess it. However, in opposition to this promise, Abram knew “the Canaanite was then in the land.” So, Genesis 12:6 is ominous of future conflict. The Canaanites were not going to vacate just because Abram passed through the land and it was going to be given to him. No, Abram’s seed was going to have to fight, waging war actively to take possession of the land of promise.

Likewise, the phrase pertaining to the Canaanites dwelling in the land has the same meaning in our text. The verse before us is ominous of the future conflict in the land of promise, but this is not all. In our verse, we have two conflicts mentioned and both of them are in prospect. The striving of the herdsmen is also ominous of future conflict, for strife between the servants will eventually lead to strife between the masters. Abram realized this potential problem with Lot and acted quickly to head off this conflict, as is evidenced by his words in verses 8, “Let there be no strife, I pray thee, between me and thee, and between my herdmen and thy herdmen; for we be brethren.”

Let us tarry now for a little while longer and go yet deeper into the meaning of this passage. Our text is ominous of conflict for Abraham and his seed. Abraham has the unique designation in Scripture of being the “father of all them that believe” (Romans 4:11). By faith, all who believe are the children, or seed, of Abraham: no matter whether they are Jew, Gentile, bond, or free. Paul instructed the Galatians, “And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise” (Galatians 3:29). So, Abraham is the father of the faithful and lived the life of faith. As such, the people of God can expect to some degree to enter into his experiences.

The two conflicts in our text speak to us of two great conflicts in the lives of the people of God—the physical conflict and the spiritual conflict. The impending conflict with Lot signifies a physical conflict and the Canaanites represent a spiritual conflict.

As soldiers of Christ, we may expect a physical conflict with the people of this world. This conflict may range from light ridicule even to fierce persecution or death, as many who have gone before have faced—“And others had trial of cruel mockings and scourgings, yea, moreover of bonds and imprisonment: They were stoned, they were sawn asunder, were tempted, were slain with the sword” (Hebrews 11:36-37). This should not surprise us considering that Christ declared of His people in His own prayer, “I have given them thy word; and the world hath hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world” (John 17:14).

Abram’s conflict with Lot was one in his own family. Sometimes, this may prove a tough challenge to the children of God. Christ stated, “I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law. And a man’s foes shall be they of his own household” (Matthew 10:35-36). We certainly have the responsibility to live peaceably with all men, as much as it is possible. However, our Lord often found that “there was a division among the people because of him” (John 7:43). Let us be prepared to stand up with Christ and endure the shame to go to Him without the camp.

Space fails for us to go on further into these thoughts, but let us have a word or two more concerning the ominous spiritual conflict for Abraham’s spiritual children. Paul instructed the Ephesians to “Put on the whole armour of God,” not to battle against father, mother, or neighbor, but “that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil” (Ephesians 6:11). He makes it plain that “we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places” (Ephesians 6:12). Herein lays our toughest battle. Satan has put his forces in array against God and His people. This warfare requires that we “Be sober, be vigilant” (1 Peter 5:8).

Should we cowardly seek to leave him unopposed? Shall we relent or retreat? Our orders are plain. We are to “Stand therefore,” and “Resist the devil.” Then let us also walk in the path of faith as Abraham did. The greatest testimony we have of him is that “Abraham believed God” (Romans 4:3). He had faith—walked by faith, and lived by faith. Oh that we might believe God and follow Peter’s words concerning our adversary, “Whom resist stedfast in the faith” (1 Peter 5:9).

There is reason for us to have hope in this great conflict, “because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world” (1 John 4:4). We may safely conclude that as it was for Abraham when “the Canaanite and the Perizzite dwelled then in the land,” so it is for us that we live in a land inhabited by a hostile enemy of God and truth.

Genesis 13:12

Abram dwelled in the land of Canaan,
and Lot dwelled in the cities of the plain,
and pitched his tent toward Sodom.

~ Genesis 13:12

Lot is a peculiar figure in scripture. The Bible is full of godly men with wonderful testimonies of faith. These men are not perfect, but they attained to a high degree of grace and holiness. We think of men like Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Samuel, Daniel, The Baptist, and Paul, to name only a few. Lot does not seem to fit in very well with these names. If it were not for God’s testimony that Lot was “just” and “righteous,” we could hardly believe he was even saved.

However, Lot fits in very well with the many of Christians today. Lots’ was not a victorious life. He did not die a triumphant death. I do not believe he had the rich abundant entrance into Heaven that Peter wrote about, “Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall: For so an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 1:10-11).

What happened to Lot? Our text marks an epoch in the life of Lot. From this point there is nothing good reported about Lot, except that he was scarcely saved. In the time of our text, Lot made a choice. This choice set the tone for the rest of his and his family’s life. This choice contributed to such a lowly state of grace that God’s Word tells us that when God was about to destroy the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, “he lingered” (Genesis 19:16). Let us think upon the life and choice of Lot. Let us treat this account as a solemn warning and trustworthy guide for us to avoid this danger.

Lot made a choice about where he and his family were going to live. We all have to make this decision and sometimes we will have to choose our place of residence several different times. Lot had been with his righteous uncle prior to this, but both of them had accumulated a great estate so that it was not possible for them to abide together. Abraham gave Lot first choice of where he wanted to live and told him that he would go the other way. Lot must make a decision that will have long-term implications on his life and the life of his family.

We cannot be certain about how much that Lot considered the spiritual implications, but we see from the account that he certainly considered the physical and temporal implications. “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. Then Lot chose him all the plain of Jordan; and Lot journeyed east: and they separated themselves the one from the other” (Genesis 13:10-11). Lot recognized that the plain of Jordan was a place where he could thrive. His flocks and herds would flourish in such a fertile environment and, after all, this was his livelihood, this was how he provided for his family, so it was very important that he choose a profitable environment for his business.

Moreover, Lot “pitched his tent toward Sodom” despite the fact that “the men of Sodom were wicked and sinners before the LORD exceedingly” (Genesis 13:13). He probably thought he could live close enough to reap the benefits and yet avoid defiling contact with the people of cities.

I am amazed that many Christians follow Lot’s course repeatedly today. People choose where they are going to live based on the economy of the place, laws that they like or dislike, taxes, the government school systems in the area, business associations, sports programs for the youth, property values, land, and other such factors. They give little or no consideration about whether there is a sound church in the location. They are more concerned about the raise or promotion that they will receive. They give little consideration to the wickedness of the place. They will expose themselves, and their families to all manner of ungodliness, rub elbows with the wicked and separate themselves from righteous company, all in order to earn more money.

I am even more amazed at the rationalizations and justifications made. People say, “We don’t approve of the wickedness in our area. In fact, we are a witness and a testimony in this place. We have family devotions, we pray, and we listen to preaching tapes. We are just as good as anybody else.” Consider Lot and do not be deceived. Lot did not approve of the wickedness of Sodom. He “vexed his righteous soul from day to day with their unlawful deeds” (2 Peter 2:8). The ungodly city had more effect on Lot than he ever had on them.

Our text tells us that he “pitched his tent toward Sodom” and the next time we find him, in the nineteenth chapter, he is dwelling in a house in the city. He was such a good witness and testimony that there was not found even one righteous person outside of his house. He had lost all good influence over his family and he was so weak spiritually that “he lingered” in the city, not able to let go, and had to be carried out by the angels.

Do not trade your birthright for a mess of worldly pottage. Do not let the physical things dictate the spiritual. Do not think that you can make a constant association with the wicked not be affected by them. Do not throw your wife and children into the company of the wicked. God says, “Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you” (2 Corinthians 6:17).

Move to a place where there is a sound and godly church, even if you have to suffer and sacrifice. Be like Moses, “Choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season; Esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt: for he had respect unto the recompence of the reward” (Hebrews 11:25-26).

J. C. Ryle called Lot a beacon for Christians of all ages. Let us heed the lesson in Lot’s life. May we sacrifice the physical in order to serve God and avoid the danger of the attraction of the world.