Summary: Abraham’s faith is proven through his treatment of Lot and leads Abraham to worship.
Abraham returns from Egypt to the place he had settled earlier between Bethel and Ai. He’s fairly wealthy and has lots of livestock, but he’s not alone:
And Lot also, which went with Abram, had flocks, and herds, and tents. 6And the land was not able to bear them, that they might dwell together: for their substance was great, so that they could not dwell together. 7And 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.
So, both of them have these huge flocks which require plenty of pasture and water. I imagine that one day Abraham’s men saw a nice spot off in the distance and started off in that direction while Lot’s men were doing just the same. Well, they’re not going to walk all that way for nothing, so each side tells the other to get lost because “we saw it first.”
Well, the other side didn’t walk all that way for nothing either, so one thing leads to another and then the staffs and slings come out. They’ve literally found a hill worth dying on.
And this brings the possession of the land into question. Who will get it? Will Abraham take it by force? Will he use his right as an elder or as God’s called one? Or will he prefer Lot’s desires over his own and watch God take care of it?
8And Abram said unto Lot, Let there be no strife, I pray thee, between me and thee, and between my herdmen and thy herdmen; for we be brethren. 9Is not the whole land before thee? separate thyself, I pray thee, from me: if thou wilt take the left hand, then I will go to the right; or if thou depart to the right hand, then I will go to the left.
He says, “We’re brothers. We don’t need problems between us. You tell me which direction you want to go, and we’ll do it. If you go this way, I’ll go that. Just pick what you want, so there’s no more fighting.” (Heb. 12:11)
10And 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. 11Then Lot chose him all the plain of Jordan; and Lot journeyed east: and they separated themselves the one from the other. 12Abram dwelled in the land of Canaan, and Lot dwelled in the cities of the plain, and pitched his tent toward Sodom. 13But the men of Sodom were wicked and sinners before the LORD exceedingly.
The plain of Jordan is the area of land all along the Jordan River. Lot sees he’ll prosper most there because the area is well-watered and fertile. The only set-back is that he’ll have to live close to the men of Sodom who were exceedingly wicked, but it’s a small price to pay to enjoy benefits of good land.
But we know that he ultimately pays a much higher price: first, his conscience was tormented by all the wickedness around him (II Pt. 2:8) and then he had to flee from God’s wrath and lost everything. He ends up living in a cave with only his two daughters (19:30) after his wife was turned into a pillar of salt.
On the other hand, Abram might have seemed to get the short end of the stick, but that won’t be the case:
14And the LORD said unto Abram, after that Lot was separated from him, Lift up now thine eyes, and look from the place where thou art northward, and southward, and eastward, and westward: 15For all the land which thou seest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed for ever. 16And I will make thy seed as the dust of the earth: so that if a man can number the dust of the earth, then shall thy seed also be numbered. 17Arise, walk through the land in the length of it and in the breadth of it; for I will give it unto thee.
The only thing that really matters in this whole episode is that “the Lord said.” It’s interesting that Lot “lifted up his eyes” in deciding what land to take, but God commands Abraham him to lift up his. This isn’t the logic of man; this is the promise of God. The land goes as far as he can see and it goes to all his descendants forever.
Now, we can’t forget what’s being shown here: By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out, not knowing whither he went. 9By faith he sojourned in the land of promise, as in a strange country, dwelling in tabernacles with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise: 10For he looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God (Heb. 11:8-10).