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Bible Commentaries

Charles Simeon's Horae Homileticae

Genesis 13

 

 

Verses 8-11

DISCOURSE: 21

SEPARATION OF ABRAM AND LOT

Genesis 13:8-11. And 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. Is 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. 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 Gomorrha, 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.

WEALTH is almost universally considered as a source of happiness, and in that view is most eagerly desired. That it may conduce to our happiness in some respects, especially when it is improved for the relief of our fellow-creatures, we admit: but it is much oftener a source of trouble and vexation than of satisfaction and comfort. “If goods increase, (says Solomon,) they are increased that eat them [Note: Ecclesiastes 5:11.].” A multitude of servants augments our care. Their disagreements among themselves, or disputes with the servants of others, frequently become an occasion of disquietude to ourselves. The envy also and jealousy that are excited in the breasts of others, operate yet further to the disturbance of our peace. In how many families have contentions arisen from this source! How many who have spent years together in love and harmony, have been distracted by feuds and animosities as soon as ever they were called to share the property that has been bequeathed them! Even piety itself cannot always prevent that discord, which the pride or covetousness of others is forward to excite. Abram and Lot had lived together in perfect amity, while their circumstances were such as to preclude any jarring of interests; but when their opulence increased, occasions of jealousy arose; their servants, espousing too warmly their respective interests, quarrelled among themselves; and it became expedient at last, on account of the difficulty of finding pasturage for such numerous flocks and herds, and for the sake of preventing more serious disputes, that a separation should take place between them. The manner in which this separation was effected will afford us much instruction, while we consider,

I. The proposal of Abram—

His conduct on this occasion was indeed such as became his exalted character. It was,

1. Conciliatory—

[Abram well knew the value and blessedness of peace. He knew that “the beginning of strife is as when one letteth out water;” the breach, however small at first, being quickly widened by the stream that rushes through it, and speedily defying all the efforts of man to prevent an inundation. He had learned that valuable lesson, “To leave off contention before it be meddled with [Note: Proverbs 17:14.] ;” knowing that when it is once begun, no man can tell when or how it shall terminate. Hence he was desirous of promoting peace between the herdmen, and more especially between himself and Lot. The consideration of the relation subsisting between himself and Lot, rendered the idea of contention still more hateful in his eyes; “Let there be no strife, I pray thee, between me and thee, and between my herdmen and thy herdmen; for we be brethren.” How amiable was this spirit, how engaging was this address! and how happy would the world be, if all were thus studious to prevent contention, and to “keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace!”]

2. Condescending—

[Abram, as standing in the superior relation of an Uncle, and as being the person peculiarly called of God, while Lot was only a Nephew and an attendant, might well have claimed the deference and submission that were due to him. But, instead of arrogating to himself any authority or asserting his own rights, he was ready to act the part of an inferior; rightly

Judging, that condescension is the truest honour, and that to e the servant of all is to imitate most nearly the character of our blessed Lord [Note: Matthew 20:26-28.]. Accordingly the proposal came from him, that, since circumstances imperiously required a separation, they should separate in a manner that became their holy profession. How many angry disputes, and bitter quarrels, and bloody wars might be avoided, if the contending parties, instead of proudly requiring the first advances from each other, would strive who should be foremost in making proposals for peace!]

3. Generous—

[Common justice required that the partition of land should be such as to secure to Abram equal advantages with Lot. But Abram waved his rights, and cheerfully conceded to his Nephew whatever portion he chose to take. Though he could not but know that there was a great difference between the lands on either side of him, the one being far more fertile and better watered than the other, he desired Lot to occupy whichever he preferred, and to leave the other to him. What a noble, disinterested, generous mind did this manifest! Would to God that such an indifference about carnal interests were more prevalent in the world, and especially among the professors of religion! This would shew a becoming deadness to the world: it would give an evidence, that our hearts were set on things above, and not on things below: it would illustrate, more strongly and convincingly than ten thousand words, the efficacy of faith, and the excellence of true religion.]

Admirable as was the example of Abram, we observe a perfect contrast to it in,

II. The choice of Lot—

Whether Lot was at that time a converted man, we cannot say: it is certain that twenty years after this he was a truly righteous man, and a most distinguished favourite of Heaven [Note: 2 Peter 2:7-8.]: and it is not improbable that the change of heart which he experienced, arose from the troubles which his present choice entailed upon him. But without determining his general character, it is very plain that his conduct in the present instance argued,

1. Too great a concern about his temporal interests—

[As far as the history informs us, we have no reason to think that Lot felt any reluctance in parting with Abram. He had now an opportunity of gratifying his covetous desires; and he seems to have embraced it with greediness and joy. If he had not been blinded by selfishness, he would have returned the compliment to Abram, and given him his choice: or, if he had accepted Abram’s offer, he would at least have endeavoured to make an equitable division of the lands, so that each might have his proper portion of the more fertile country. But instead of this, he surveyed with pleasure the well-watered plains of Jordan, which were beautiful and fruitful like Eden of old, and took the whole of them for himself; regardless what difficulties his Uncle might experience; and intent only on his own interests. Who does not see the meanness and illiberality of this conduct? Who does not see that worldliness and covetousness were the governing principles of his heart? If the man who requested our Lord to interpose in order to obtain for him his proper share of his father’s inheritance, needed that caution, “Take heed and beware of covetousness,” much more did the choice of Lot betray a very undue concern about his temporal interests, and a selfishness that was deeply reprehensible.]

2. Too little regard to the interests of his soul—

[Lot could not but know the character of the people of Sodom; for they declared their sin before all, and without the least reserve: and he ought to have considered what a tendency there is in “evil communications to corrupt good manners.” But as he left Abram without regret, so he went to dwell in Sodom without fear. What benefits he was losing, and what dangers he was about to rush into, he little thought of: his earthly prosperity was all that occupied his mind: and whether the welfare of his soul were forwarded or impeded, he did not care. This conduct every one must blame: yet how many are there who pursue the same heedless and pernicious course! How many for the sake of temporal advantage will leave the places where their souls are nourished with the bread of life, and take up their abode where there is an incessant “famine of the word!” How many will form their connexions even for life upon no better principle than this! Well will it be for them, if the troubles which they bring upon themselves, operate, as they did on Lot, to bring them to repentance.]

Let us learn from hence,

1. To guard against the love of this world—

[It is not without reason that St. John says, “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world: if any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him [Note: 1 John 2:15-16.].” We see in the instance before us what unhappy dispositions the love of this world generated, and what unworthy conduct it produced. Indeed the folly as well as sinfulness of this disposition is strongly illustrated in the present case: for Lot had enjoyed his portion but a little time before he was plundered of all that he possessed, and himself and family were carried into captivity [Note: Genesis 14:12.]: and, after his restoration to liberty and opulence, he at last was forced to flee for his life, and to leave all his property, and part also of his family, to be destroyed by fire from heaven [Note: Genesis 19:14; Genesis 19:17; Genesis 19:25-26.]. Thus shall a love of this world be recompensed to all. If God have designs of mercy towards them, he will either take away from them the objects of their idolatrous regard, or embitter to them the possessions in which they have sought delight. Let us then be on our guard against that “love of money which is the root of all evil; which while some have coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows: for they that would be rich, fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition [Note: 1 Timothy 6:9-10.].”]

2. To cultivate an affectionate and self-denying spirit—

[If we look no further than this present life, the exercise of love and self-denial has greatly the advantage of selfishness, even when it is most successful. Let us compare the feelings of Abram and of Lot on this occasion: how refined, how enviable were those of Abram in comparison of Lot’s! Give to Lot all the joy of successful covetousness, and conceive him_to be filled with exultation at the portion he had gained, and at his prospects of increasing opulence: suppose, on the other hand, Abram impressed with thankfulness to God for having enabled him to sacrifice his own interests rather than contend about them, and for having disposed his mind to generosity and love: which of these two had the more solid happiness? No man who has any just notions of happiness, can entertain a doubt. What then we admire in another, let us cultivate in ourselves: and what we cannot but acknowledge to be highly virtuous and laudable, let us labour to attain, let us endeavour to preserve in constant exercise. “Let us be kindly affectioned one to another in brotherly love, in honour preferring one another [Note: Romans 12:10.].” Let us “look not on our own things only, but rather and principally on the things of others [Note: Philippians 2:4-5.].” Thus “walking in the steps of our father Abraham,” we shall approve ourselves his children; yea, we shall resemble that greatest of all patterns, the Lord Jesus Christ, who “came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many [Note: Matthew 20:26-28.].” And as Abram was immediately visited by God, and refreshed with more assured prospects of the promised land [Note: 4–17.], so shall every one who denies himself for God, be recompensed with present consolations, and eternal joys [Note: Luke 14:14.].]

 


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Bibliography Information
Simeon, Charles. "Commentary on Genesis 13:4". Charles Simeon's Horae Homileticae. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/shh/genesis-13.html. 1832.

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