Like the land of Egypt, as thou comest unto Zoar - There is an obscurity in this verse which Houbigant has removed by the following translation: Ea autem, priusquam Sodomam Gornorrhamque Do minus delerit, erat, qua itur Segor, tota irrigua, quasi hortus Domini, et quasi terra Aegypti. "But before the Lord had destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah, it was, as thou goest to Zoar, well watered, like the garden of the Lord, and like the land of Egypt." As paradise was watered by the four neighboring streams, and as Egypt was watered by the annual overflowing of the Nile; so were the plains of the Jordan, and all the land on the way to Zoar, well watered and fertilized by the overflowing of the Jordan.
- Abram and Lot Separate
7. פרזי perı̂zı̂y Perizzi, “descendant of Paraz.” פרז pārāz “leader,” or inhabitant of the plain or open country.
10. ככר kı̂kar “circle, border, vale, cake, talent;” related: “bow, bend, go round, dance.” ירדן yardēn Jardan, “descending.” Usually with the article in prose. צער tso‛ar Tso‹ar, “smallness.”
18. ממרא mamrē' Mamre, “fat, strong, ruler.” חברון chebrôn Chebron, “conjunction, confederacy.”
Lot has been hitherto kept in association with Abram by the ties of kinmanship. But it becomes gradually manifest that he has an independent interest, and is no longer disposed to follow the fortunes of the chosen of God. In the natural course of things, this under-feeling comes to the surface. Their serfs come into collision; and as Abram makes no claim of authority over Lot, he offers him the choice of a dwelling-place in the land. This issues in a peaceable separation, in which Abram appears to great advantage. The chosen of the Lord is now in the course of providence isolated from all associations of kindred. He stands alone, in a strange land. He again obeys the summons to survey the land promised to him and his seed in perpetuity.
Went up out of Mizraim. - Egypt is a low-lying valley, out of which the traveler ascends into Arabia Petraea and the hill-country of Kenaan. Abram returns, a wiser and a better man. When called to leave his native land, he had immediately obeyed. Such obedience evinced the existence of the new power of godliness in his breast. But he gets beyond the land of promise into a land of carnality, and out of the way of truth into a way of deceit. Such a course betrays the struggle between moral good and evil which has begun within him. This discovery humbles and vexes him. Self-condemnation and repentance are at work within him. We do not know that all these feelings rise into consciousness, but we have no doubt that their result, in a subdued, sobered, chastened spirit, is here, and will soon manifest itself.
And Lot with him. - Lot accompanied him into Egypt, because he comes with him out of it. The south is so called in respect, not to Egypt, but to the land of promise. It acquired this title before the times of the patriarch, among the Hebrew-speaking tribes inhabiting it. The great riches of Abram consist in cattle and the precious metals. The former is the chief form of wealth in the East. Abram‘s flocks are mentioned in preparation for the following occurrence. He advances north to the place between Bethel and Ai, and perhaps still further, according to Genesis 13:4, to the place of Shekem, where he built the first altar in the land. He now calls on the name of the Lord. The process of contrition in a new heart, has come to its right issue in confession and supplication. The sense of acceptance with God, which he had before experienced in these places of meeting with God, he has now recovered. The spirit of adoption, therefore, speaks within him.
The collision. Lot now also abounded in the wealth of the East. The two opulent sheiks (elders, heads of houses) cannot dwell together anymore. Their serfs come to strife. The carnal temper comes out among their dependents. Such disputes were unavoidable in the circumstances. Neither party had any title to the land. Landed property was not yet clearly defined or secured by law. The land therefore was in common - wherever anybody availed himself of the best spot for grazing that he could find unoccupied. We can easily understand what facilities and temptations this would offer for the strong to overbear the weak. We meet with many incidental notices of such oppression Genesis 21:25; Genesis 26:15-22; Exodus 2:16-19. The folly and impropriety of quarreling among kinsmen about pasture grounds on the present occasion is enhanced by the circumstance that Abram and Lot are mere strangers among the Kenaanites and the Perizzites, the settled occupants of the country.
Custom had no doubt already given the possessor a prior claim. Abram and Lot were there merely on sufferance, because the country was thinly populated, and many fertile spots were still unoccupied. The Perizzite is generally associated with, and invariably distinguished from, the Kenaanite Genesis 15:20; Genesis 34:30; Exodus 3:8, Exodus 3:17. This tribe is not found among the descendants of Kenaan in the table of nations. They stand side by side with them, and seem therefore not to be a subject, but an independent race. They may have been a Shemite clan, roaming over the land before the arrival of the Hamites. They seem to have been by name and custom rather wanderers or nomads than dwellers in the plain or in the villages. They dwelt in the mountains of Judah and Ephraim Judges 1:4; Joshua 17:15. They are noticed even so late as in the time of Ezra Ezra 9:1. The presence of two powerful tribes, independent of each other, was favorable to the quiet and peaceful residence of Abram and Lot, but not certainly to their living at feud with each other.
The strife among the underlings does not alienate their masters. Abram appeals to the obligations of brotherhood. He proposes to obviate any further difference by yielding to Lot the choice of all the land. The heavenly principle of forbearance evidently holds the supremacy in Abram‘s breast. He walks in the moral atmosphere of the sermon on the mount Matthew 5:28-42.
Lot accepts the offer of his noble-hearted kinsman. He cannot do otherwise, as he is the companion, while his uncle is the principal. He willingly concedes to Abram his present position, and, after a lingering attendance on his kinsman, retires to take the ground of self-dependence. Outward and earthly motives prevail with him in the selection of his new abode. He is charmed by the well-watered lowlands bordering on the Jordan and its affluents. He is here less liable to a periodical famine, and he roams with his serfs and herds in the direction of Sodom. This town and Amorah (Gomorrah), were still flourishing at the time of Lot‘s arrival. The country in which they stood was of extraordinary beauty and fertility. The River Jordan, one of the sources of which is at Panium, after flowing through the waters of Merom, or the lake Semechonitis (Huleh), falls into the Sea of Galilee or Kinnereth, which is six hundred and fifty-three feet below the level of the Mediterranean, and thence descends into the basin of the Salt Sea, which is now thirteen hundred and sixteen feet beneath the same level, by a winding course of about two hundred miles, over twenty-seven threatening rapids.
This river may well be called the Descender. We do not know on what part of the border of Jordan Lot looked down from the heights about Shekem or Ai, as the country underwent a great change at a later period. But its appearance was then so attractive as to bear comparison with the garden of the Lord and the land of Egypt. The garden of Eden still dwelt in the recollections of men. The fertility of Egypt had been recently witnessed by the two kinsmen. It was a valley fertilized by the overflowing of the Nile, as this valley was by the Jordan and its tributary streams. “As thou goest unto Zoar.” The origin of this name is given in Genesis 19:20-22. It lay probably to the south of the Salt Sea, in the wady Kerak. “And Lot journeyed east” מקדם mı̂qedem From the hill-country of Shekem or Ai the Jordan lay to the east.
The men of Sodom were wicked. - The higher blessing of good society, then, was missing in the choice of Lot. It is probable he was a single man when he parted from Abram, and therefore that he married a woman of Sodom. He has in that case fallen into the snare of matching, or, at all events, mingling with the ungodly. This was the damning sin of the antediluvians Genesis 6:1-7. “Sinners before the Lord exceedingly.” Their country was as the garden of the Lord. But the beauty of the landscape and the superabundance of the luxuries it afforded, did not abate the sinful disposition of the inhabitants. Their moral corruption only broke forth into greater vileness of lust, and more daring defiance of heaven. They sinned “exceedingly and before the Lord.” Lot had fallen into the very vortex of vice and blasphemy.
The man chosen of God now stands alone. He has evinced an humble and self-renouncing spirit. This presents a suitable occasion for the Lord to draw near and speak to His servant. His works are re-assuring. The Lord was not yet done with showing him the land. He therefore calls upon him to look northward and southward and eastward and westward. He then promises again to give all the land which he saw, as far as his eye could reach, to him and to his seed forever. Abram is here regarded as the head of a chosen seed, and hence, the bestowment of this fair territory on the race is an actual grant of it to the head of the race. The term “forever,” for a perpetual possession, means as long as the order of things to which it belongs lasts. The holder of a promise has his duties to perform, and the neglect of these really cancels the obligation to perpetuate the covenant. This is a plain point of equity between parties to a covenant, and regulates all that depends on the personal acts of the covenanter. Thirdly, He announces that He will make his seed “as the dust of the earth.” This multitude of seed, even when we take the ordinary sense which the form of expression bears in popular use, far transcends the productive powers of the promised land in its utmost extent. Yet to Abram, who was accustomed to the petty tribes that then roved over the pastures of Mesopotamia and Palestine, this disproportion would not be apparent. A people who should fill the land of Canaan, would seem to him innumerable. But we see that the promise begins already to enlarge itself beyond the bounds of the natural seed of Abram. He is again enjoined to walk over his inheritance, and contemplate it in all its length and breadth, with the reiterated assurance that it will be his.
Abram obeys the voice of heaven. He moves his tent from the northern station, where he had parted with Lot, and encamps by the oaks of Mamre, an Amorite sheik. He loves the open country, as he is a stranger, and deals in flocks and herds. The oaks, otherwise rendered by Onkelos and the Vulgate “plains of Mamre,” are said to be in Hebron, a place and town about twenty miles south of Jerusalem, on the way to Beersheba. It is a town of great antiquity, having been built seven years before Zoan (Tanis) in Egypt Numbers 13:22. It was sometimes called Mamre in Abram‘s time, from his confederate of that name. It was also named Kiriath Arba, the city of Arba, a great man among the Anakim Joshua 15:13-14. But upon being taken by Kaleb it recovered the name of Hebron. It is now el-Khulil (the friend, that is, of God; a designation of Abram). The variety of name indicates variety of masters; first, a Shemite it may be, then the Amorites, then the Hittites Genesis 23, then the Anakim, then Judah, and lastly the Muslims.
A third altar is here built by Abram. His wandering course requires a varying place of worship. It is the Omnipresent One whom he adores. The previous visits of the Lord had completed the restoration of his inward peace, security, and liberty of access to God, which had been disturbed by his descent to Egypt, and the temptation that had overcome him there. He feels himself again at peace with God, and his fortitude is renewed. He grows in spiritual knowledge and practice under the great Teacher.
These are the very sins which corrupted Sodom. Their evil practices did not come all at once. First one man and woman stupefied themselves by unholy, polluted habits. Then as inhabitants settled in Sodom, they did as you are doing, educating others in a line that is forbidden of God. And so as the inhabitants continued to multiply, these ministers of sin continued in educating them in their own defiling practices until if any person came into their midst their first thoughts were to educate them in their evil work, until Sodom became renowned for its pollutions. Their sins reached unto heaven, and the Lord would bear with them no longer. He destroyed them and all that was beautiful, that made it as a second Eden, for the earth was defiled under the inhabitants thereof. TSB 126.2Read in context »
Fairest among the cities of the Jordan Valley was Sodom, set in a plain which was “as the garden of the Lord” in its fertility and beauty. Here the luxuriant vegetation of the tropics flourished. Here was the home of the palm tree, the olive, and the vine; and flowers shed their fragrance throughout the year. Rich harvests clothed the fields, and flocks and herds covered the encircling hills. Art and commerce contributed to enrich the proud city of the plain. The treasures of the East adorned her palaces, and the caravans of the desert brought their stores of precious things to supply her marts of trade. With little thought or labor, every want of life could be supplied, and the whole year seemed one round of festivity. PP 156.1
The profusion reigning everywhere gave birth to luxury and pride. Idleness and riches make the heart hard that has never been oppressed by want or burdened by sorrow. The love of pleasure was fostered by wealth and leisure, and the people gave themselves up to sensual indulgence. “Behold,” says the prophet, “this was the iniquity of thy sister Sodom, pride, fullness of bread, and abundance of idleness was in her and in her daughters, neither did she strengthen the hand of the poor and needy. And they were haughty, and committed abomination before Me: therefore I took them away as I saw good.” Ezekiel 16:49, 50. There is nothing more desired among men than riches and leisure, and yet these gave birth to the sins that brought destruction upon the cities of the plain. Their useless, idle life made them a prey to Satan's temptations, and they defaced the image of God, and became satanic rather than divine. Idleness is the greatest curse that can fall upon man, for vice and crime follow in its train. It enfeebles the mind, perverts the understanding, and debases the soul. Satan lies in ambush, ready to destroy those who are unguarded, whose leisure gives him opportunity to insinuate himself under some attractive disguise. He is never more successful than when he comes to men in their idle hours. PP 156.2Read in context »
Abraham's early teachings had not been without effect upon Ishmael, but the influence of his wives resulted in establishing idolatry in his family. Separated from his father, and embittered by the strife and contention of a home destitute of the love and fear of God, Ishmael was driven to choose the wild, marauding life of the desert chief, “his hand” “against every man, and every man's hand against him.” Genesis 16:12. In his latter days he repented of his evil ways and returned to his father's God, but the stamp of character given to his posterity remained. The powerful nation descended from him were a turbulent, heathen people, who were ever an annoyance and affliction to the descendants of Isaac. PP 174.1
The wife of Lot was a selfish, irreligious woman, and her influence was exerted to separate her husband from Abraham. But for her, Lot would not have remained in Sodom, deprived of the counsel of the wise, God-fearing patriarch. The influence of his wife and the associations of that wicked city would have led him to apostatize from God had it not been for the faithful instruction he had early received from Abraham. The marriage of Lot and his choice of Sodom for a home were the first links in a chain of events fraught with evil to the world for many generations. PP 174.2
No one who fears God can without danger connect himself with one who fears Him not. “Can two walk together, except they be agreed?” Amos 3:3. The happiness and prosperity of the marriage relation depends upon the unity of the parties; but between the believer and the unbeliever there is a radical difference of tastes, inclinations, and purposes. They are serving two masters, between whom there can be no concord. However pure and correct one's principles may be, the influence of an unbelieving companion will have a tendency to lead away from God. PP 174.3Read in context »
Although Lot owed his prosperity to his connection with Abraham, he manifested no gratitude to his benefactor. Courtesy would have dictated that he yield the choice to Abraham, but instead of this he selfishly endeavored to grasp all its advantages. He “lifted up his eyes, and beheld all the plain of Jordan, that it was well watered everywhere, ... even as the garden of the Lord, like the land of Egypt, as thou comest unto Zoar.” The most fertile region in all Palestine was the Jordan Valley, reminding the beholders of the lost Paradise and equaling the beauty and productiveness of the Nile-enriched plains they had so lately left. There were cities also, wealthy and beautiful, inviting to profitable traffic in their crowded marts. Dazzled with visions of worldly gain, Lot overlooked the moral and spiritual evils that would be encountered there. The inhabitants of the plain were “sinners before the Lord exceedingly;” but of this he was ignorant, or, knowing, gave it but little weight. He “chose him all the plain of Jordan,” and “pitched his tent toward Sodom.” How little did he foresee the terrible results of that selfish choice! PP 133.1
After the separation from Lot, Abraham again received from the Lord a promise of the whole country. Soon after this he removed to Hebron, pitching his tent under the oaks of Mamre and erecting beside it an altar to the Lord. In the free air of those upland plains, with their olive groves and vineyards, their fields of waving grain, and the wide pasture grounds of the encircling hills, he dwelt, well content with his simple, patriarchal life, and leaving to Lot the perilous luxury of the vale of Sodom. PP 133.2
Abraham was honored by the surrounding nations as a mighty prince and a wise and able chief. He did not shut away his influence from his neighbors. His life and character, in their marked contrast with those of the worshipers of idols, exerted a telling influence in favor of the true faith. His allegiance to God was unswerving, while his affability and benevolence inspired confidence and friendship and his unaffected greatness commanded respect and honor. PP 133.3Read in context »