Genesis 13:5
Return to Bethel - to the altar. The circumstances of the patriarch were very different. He was very rich. Lot is with him, and the sojourn in Egypt had far more depraving effect upon his weaker character than upon that of his uncle. We should remember when we take the young into temptation that what may be comparatively harmless to us may be ruinous to them. The subsequent misery of Lot's career may be all traced to the sojourn in Egypt.

I. The root of it lay in WORLDLY WEALTH LEADING TO CONTENTION. "They could not dwell together."

II. THE DIVERGENCE OF CHARACTER IS BROUGHT OUT IN THE COMPLICATION OF EXTERNAL CIRCUMSTANCES. Lot is simply selfish, willful, regardless of consequences, utterly worldly. Abram is a lover of peace, a hater of strife, still cherishes the family feeling and reverences the bond of brotherhood, is ready to subordinate his own interests to the preservation of the Divine order, has faith to see that Canaan with the blessing of God is much to be preferred to the plain of Jordan with Divine judgments hanging over those who were wicked and sinners before the Lord exceedingly.

III. LESSONS OF PROVIDENCE ARE NOT LOST ON THOSE WHO WAIT UPON GOD, and can be learnt in spite of infirmities and errors. Abram could not forget what Egypt had taught him; rich as he was, he did not put riches first. He had seen that that which seems like a garden of the Lord in external beauty may be a cursed land after all. There are people of God who pitch their tents towards Sodom still, and they will reap evil fruits, as Lot did. It is a most terrible danger to separate ourselves from old religious associations. In doing so we cannot be too careful where we pitch our tent. - R.







There was a strife between the herdmen.
I. AS TO THE CAUSES OF IT.

1. Worldly prosperity.

2. The mean ambition of ignoble souls associated with us.

3. The want of the obliging nature.

II. AS TO THE EVILS OF IT.

1. It destroys the sacred feeling of kinship.

2. It exposes true religion to contempt.

3. It brings spiritual loss to individuals.

III. AS TO THE REMEDIES OF IT.

1. The recognition of the obligations of brotherhood.

2. The yielding temper.

3. Confidence in the promise of God, that we shall suffer no real loss by obedience to His command.

(T. H. Leale.)

I. THE CONTENTION.

1. Unseemly.

2. Untimely.

3. Unnecessary.

II. THE CONSOLATION.

1. Unbounded.

2. Undoubted.

3. Unearthly.

(W. Adamson.)

I. THE CHURLISHNESS OF THE HERDSMEN.

II. THE SELFISHNESS OF LOT.

III. THE UNSELFISHNESS OF ABRAM.

IV. THE GRACIOUSNESS OF GOD.

(W. Adamson.)

1. Wealth means —

(1)Strife.

(2)Sorrow.

(3)Separation.

2. Abram manifests —

(1)Faith.

(2)Forbearance.

(3)Forgetfulness of self.

3. Worldly love means —

(1)Stupidity.

(2)Suffering.

(3)Sinfulness.

4. God manifests to Abraham —

(1)Favour.

(2)Fulness.

(3)Faithfulness.

(W. Adamson.)

1. Walking with saints in their hardest ways usually brings God's outward blessings on them.

2. Great families and possessions God can give His saints in the land of their pilgrimage (ver. 5).

3. Great straits may befall the saints of God in their greatest abundance.

4. Much wealth may prove an occasion of dividing the very saints (ver. 6).

5. Great riches among the best may prove causes of great contentions.

6. Bad servants may be incendiaries to put good masters to strife.

7. The large territories of the wicked may straiten the godly in earthly places.

8. Wicked enemies of the Church are apt to watch all opportunities to destroy the saints by their own divisions (ver. 7).

(G. Hughes, B. D.)

1. Gracious hearts hasten to quench any flame of contention rising in the Church.

2. Grace will make the greater move to the less for avoiding strife among saints.

3. Grace will make men beg for peace and to abolish strife in the Churches.

4. Gracious masters are solicitous to avoid contentions raised by ungracious servants.

5. Grace will put masters upon healing their servants faults. So Abram.

6. Strife is unseemly between brethren in the flesh, in religion and condition (ver. 8).

7. Grace is willing to part with its own, and all too, in some cases, to brethren.

8. Grace will make God's servants part in place, to keep one in affection.

9. Grace is self-denying to remove strife from the family of God.

10. Grace is content with anything below, so it may honour God, and keep peace with the saints (ver. 9).

(G. Hughes, B. D.)

Thus early did wealth produce quarrelling among relatives. The men who had shared one another's fortunes while comparatively poor, no sooner become wealthy than they have to separate. Abram prevented quarrel by separation. "Let us," he says, "come to an understanding. And rather than be separate in heart, let us be separate in habitation." It is always a sorrowful time in family history when it comes to this, that those who have had a common purse and have not been careful to know what exactly is theirs and what belongs to the other members of the family, have at last to make a division and to be as precise and documentary as if dealing with strangers. It is always painful to be compelled to own that law can be more trusted than love, and that legal forms are a surer barrier against quarrelling than brotherly kindness. It is a confession we are sometimes compelled to make, but never without a mixture of regret and shame.

(M. Dods, D. D.)

In this story of the blessed life nothing can be more striking and instructive than the contrast which it presents between the career of Lot and that of Abraham. See at the outset how differently the two men come before us. "Now the Lord had said unto Abraham" — or, as Stephen declares: "The God of glory appeared unto Abraham." Thus God had come into this man's life, its centre and strength. "And Lot also, which went with Abram" — this is the man whose religion is second hand — he goes with the man who goes with God. Nothing is easier than for many of us to do as Lot did. The age is one in which respectability and social position rather like a little religion. Nothing can quench the fire of our selfishness but the clear shining of the Sun of Heaven upon our hearts. The God of glory appeared unto Abraham — that thrust the world back into its right place; that kindled the desires and ambitions of the man; that loosed him from the tyranny of the seen, the narrow prison of the present, and set him at liberty for God. The fadeless glory of that vision ennobled and elevated all the life. But Lot only went with Abraham. Never do you read that he built an altar unto the Lord that appeared to him. The religion of Lot is a religion without the vision of God. For us all the great question is this: What can we do to make the blessed life our own? This is the only answer: Tarry waiting upon God until there be a heart communion with Him. Let us follow the story. And Lot also, which went with Abram, had flocks, and herds, and tents. That sojourn in Egypt was damaging to Abraham; but it was fatal to Lot. He had seen a land that had kindled his greed; the possibility of his growing rich had seized him and mastered him. That which attracted him in Sodom was that it was like the land of Egypt, well-watered everywhere. The heathenism of Egypt had prepared him for the grosser wickedness of Sodom. His wife and daughters had seen the glitter and gaiety of a company that made the quiet of Abraham's encampment seem very dull. And worst of all, they had seen a good man without his altar and his God; why then need they be so particular? So when the opportunity came, Lot was quite prepared to avail himself of it. "And there was a strife between the herdmen of Abram's cattle and the herdmen of Lot's cattle." Lot saw what it pleased him to see. Let us see what the love of gain, which was the ruin of Lot, did for him.

1. It put out the eyes of his generosity. The love of money always does. Abraham gave Lot the choice, and he took it, of course. "Really uncle Abraham is so unworldly and easy going about these things that he does not think of them at all. Besides, he is so very well off that it cannot make any difference to him; but I am only beginning, and it is very important that I should have a good start." Generosity — is it not scouted from the market place? "Business is business, my dear sir; a bargain is a bargain, you know. Generosity is all very well in its place, of course; but this is not its place." Where then is its place? Does any man really believe that he can occasionally put out the eyes of his love — be hard, pitiless, grasping — and then put them in again? He is hardening his heart, toughening it, and narrowing it, and tying it with a double knot every day, like a Judas' leather purse.

2. Again, the love of gain blinded Lot to the very meaning of life. The greatness of Abraham lay in this one thing, that he suffered God to show him the path of life. Each had land, but by the very method of procuring it the one gave up that which abideth, and the other secured it. The one man set the land first, and lost all. The other found all in God. Lot came out of Sodom stripped of his goods, and the man himself more empty and blind than when he had gone into it. This is the great lesson of this Book — that whilst we think of making a living, God is thinking of what our living makes us. That the man is more than all gain. This is the idea of life which runs through the New Testament — it is faith, the service of God, the utter surrender of all to Him. This alone can make life worth living. Choose anything, everything else; live for it, grasp it — and what then but die? Surely we do not need to cry aloud to the Lord for the anointing that we may see aright.

3. And yet further: the god of this world blinded Lot to the true good, whilst it cheated him with the promise of goods. Lot lifted up his eyes and saw the land of Sodom. That bounded his vision. But Abraham lifted up his eyes and saw a promise that stretched through all the ages, and through all lands, a stream of blessing. To Abraham the words were: "To thee and to thy seed"; "I will bless thee;...thou shelf be a blessing." The faith of all those after years has found an inspiration and a triumph in the example of faithful Abraham. But, alas! how sharp, how dreadful is the contrast as we turn to Lot. He comes forth from Sodom without a soul having any faith in him. "He seemed as one that mocked unto his sons-in-law." The only good in life is doing good. That which alone makes life blessed is not what we get from others for ourselves, but in what others get from us. Lot thought he could make the best of both worlds, and he failed alike in each. For Abraham there were not two worlds, but one only: as for every man of God: that is where the will of God is done as it is done in heaven.

(M. G. Pearse.)

I. THE CAUSES OF THE SEPARATION. These were two classes: those which operated on man's part, and those which lay in the Divine plan of Abram's career.

1. On man's part. The narrative mentions the wealth of uncle and nephew as the ground of their parting (ver. 6).

2. On God's part. Lot might be detached from his uncle, and Abram might be set wholly free from family complications, and might stand forth as the sole inheritor of the promises (ver. 14).

II. TRAITS OF CHARACTER WHICH ABRAM DISPLAYED IN THE SEPARATION.

1. Great peaceableness (ver. 8). Abram, whatever he may have thought, restrained himself, and did not utter one single word of reproach. He is willing to lay a costly sacrifice on the altar of peace.

2. Large-hearted generosity (ver. 9).

3. Heavenly wisdom. Although Abram, by the Divine blessing, was "very rich," he had not come into the land of Canaan to be a prosperous flock master, and thus we find him acting here as one who knew that the Lord would provide, all the while that He was fulfilling His own purposes towards him. "Either hand for Abraham — either the right hand or the left: what cared the pilgrim of the Invisible for fertile lands or rugged sands?"

III. ABRAM'S REWARD IMMEDIATELY AFTER THE SEPARATION. It was a trial to the patriarch to be left alone; but God's voice came to him to comfort him for the loss of his nephew, and to reward him for his beautiful generosity (vers. 14-18). The promise of the seed which had been given him in Haran (Genesis 12:2, 3), and that of the land "which had been added at Shechem (ver. 7), are now confirmed and extended. LESSONS:

1. The changes of life, and especially such as are in the direction of increasing worldly prosperity, are a decisive test of character.

2. We need a faith and a piety which are practical, which are content to tread the common earth, and regulate the details of business and social life; and that is the kind of religion which God approves.

3. "If it be possible, as much as in you lieth, be at peace with all men" (Romans 12:18).

4. It is dangerous for a man to cut himself off from religious privileges, and, for the sake of material gain alone, to expose himself and his children to the risk of moral contamination.

5. A Christian may sometimes do wrong by insisting on his rights; but he will always profit, sooner or later, by every sacrifice which he makes for the sake of peace (Matthew 5:5; 1 Timothy 4:8).

(Charles Jordan, M. A., LL. B.)

Observe the causes which rendered necessary this separation.

I. PROSPERITY. The enlargement of a man's possessions is very often the contracting of his heart. We learn from this the great doctrine of compensation; for almost every blessing must be paid a certain price. If a man would be the champion of the truth, he must give up the friendship of the world. Be sure of this, there is no rich and prosperous man we look at who has not paid his price — it may be in loss of domestic peace, in anxiety, or in enfeebled health; be assured that every earthly blessing is bought dearly.

II. THE QUARRELLING AMONG THE SERVANTS; and this quarrel arose partly from disobligingness of disposition. Here we find the Christian community resembling the Jewish. There is a constant strife now among servants as to whose duty it is to do certain things, arising from the same indisposition to oblige one another. Then observe how by degrees Lot and Abram are drawn into the quarrel, and how again we find human nature the same in all ages. The bitterness between child and child, between husband and wife, are often to be referred back to the bitterness between domestic servants. Again, the scandal of this disagreement passed on through the land; the Canaanite and the Perizzite heard of it. Here is a lesson both for Christian masters and servants. Our very doors and walls are not sufficient to guard domestic secrecy; if there has been a scandal in a place, that scandal is sure to be heard.

(F. W. Robertson, M. A.)

1. Who was Lot? One of those men who take right steps, not because prompted by obedience to God, but because their friends are taking them. The Pliable of the earliest Pilgrim's Progress.

2. The necessity of separation. We must be prepared to die to the world with its censure or praise; to the flesh, with its ambitions and schemes; to the delights of a friendship which is insidiously lowering the temperature of the spirit; to the self-life, in all its myriad subtle and overt manifestations; and even, if it be God's will, to the joys and consolations of religion. All this is impossible to us of ourselves. But if we will surrender ourselves to God, willing that He should work in and for us that which we cannot do for ourselves, we shall find that He will gradually and effectually, and as tenderly as possible, begin to disentwine the clinging tendrils of the poisoning weed, and bring us into heart union with Himself.

3. How the separation was brought about. Quarrels between servants.

(1)Abraham's proposal was very wise.

(2)Very magnanimous.

(3)Based on faith.

(F. B. Meyer, B. A.)

Homilist.
I. THE DISPUTANTS.

1. They were related to each other.

2. They were professors of the same religious faith.

3. They differed in the relative amount of their power.

II. ABRAM'S CONDUCT.

1. It was just.

2. It was statesmanlike.

3. It was magnanimous.

(Homilist.)

I. THE CAUSE OF THE SEPARATION OF ABRAM AND LOT.

1. The indirect cause: an over-abundance of wealth.

2. The direct cause (vers. 6, 7).

(1)This strife must have been serious.

(2)This strife is not unexpected. (a) The Canaanites and Perizzites owned and occupied most of the land, and thus made the pasturage for the flocks of Abram and Lot comparatively very limited.

(3)This strife is a sample of an occurrence by no means infrequent, not only among herdsmen, but among those professing better things.

(4)The strife among the servants did not alienate the masters.

II. THE SPIRIT OF THE SEPARATION.

1. On the part of Abram this separation was one of generosity.

2. This separation was executed in the interests of peace.

III. THE RESULTS OF THIS SEPARATION.

1. To Lot seemingly advantageous to worldly prosperity, but spiritually a loss.

2. To Abram seemingly disadvantageous, but most blessed in its ultimate issues.Lessons:

1. The separation of friends is not an unmitigated evil; it may be an occasion of good.

2. Whether, when compelled to separate, or when permitted to have fellowship one with another, the grace of God should teach us to be generous, courteous, and consistent.

(D. C. Hughes, M. A.)

1. Effect of increase of substance. The keeping a cause of perplexity. Not room in the land. If poverty has its cares, so has wealth.

2. The herdsmen jealous for their respective masters. Such carefulness commendable. Not very common.

3. They would have done well to have seen their masters before they quarrelled. Prevention better than cure.

4. Their strife might have led to serious consequences. The Canaanite, etc., were in the land. They might have taken advantage of this strife. It might have extended to their masters, and resulted in a family disrupture.

(J. C. Gray.)

Things got mixed. The cattle ran together so that sometimes the herdmen could not tell which was which; the count was always wrong at night; and the noise got louder and louder as the herdmen became fretful and suspicious. It was a quarrel in the kitchen, as we should say nowadays. The masters seemed to get along fairly well with each other, but the servants were at open war. Small credit to the masters, perhaps! They had everything nice; the lentil soup and the smoking kid were punctually set before them, and mayhap the wine flagon was not wanting. But noise travels upward. It gets somehow from the kitchen into the parlour. It was so in this case. Abram heard of the vulgar quarrel and was the first to speak. He spake as became an elder and a millionaire: "Lot," said he, "you must see to it that my peace be not broken; you must lay the lash on the backs of these rough men of yours and keep them in cheek; I will not stand any noise; the lips that speak above a whisper shall be shut by a strong hand; you and your men must all mind what you are at, or I will scourge you all to within an inch of your lives." And when the lordly voice ceased there was great fear amongst those who had heard its solemn thunder! Now it so happens that the exact contrary of this is true. Abram was older than Lot, and richer than Lot, and yet he took no high airs upon him, but spoke with the meekness of great strength and ripe wisdom. His words would make a beautiful motto today for the kitchen, for the parlour, for the factory, for the Church.

(J. Parker, D. D.)

It was untimely contention when Monarchists and Republicans in France disputed with each other, while the German armies were hemming them in on all sides. It was untimely contention when Luther and Zwingle disputed together, while the Roman hosts were assailing the newly-erected structure of the Reformation. It was untimely contention when Liberals and Conservatives disputed amongst themselves, while the Russian hordes were advancing on Constantinople, and intriguing with Afghanistan. It was untimely contention between Judah and Israel, when the Syrian and Assyrian powers were watching for an opportunity of attack and conquest. It was untimely contention between French and English Canadians, when Indians were on the alert to lay waste homes and settlements with fire and sword. And so it was untimely contention between the servants of Lot and Abraham, when surrounded by heathen tribes.

(W. Adamson.)

To one who made the first overtures towards a successful reconciliation, his ante-opponent remarked, "I began the quarrel and you began the peace, therefore you are the nobler man."

The unseasonableness of the strife betwixt Abraham's herdsmen and Lot's is aggravated by the near neighbourhood of the heathens to them. "And there was a strife" (saith the text) "between Abram's herdmen and the herdmen of Lot's cattle; and the Canaanite and the Perizzite dwelled in the land." Now to fall out whilst these idolaters looked on, this would be town talk presently, and put themselves and their religion both to shame; and it may for our parts be very well asked, Who have been in our land all the while the people of God have been scuffling? Even those that have curiously observed every uncomely behaviour amongst us, and told all the world of it; such as have wit and malice enough to make use of it for their wicked purposes. They stand at tiptoes to be at work, only we are not yet quite laid up and disabled by the soreness of these our wounds, which we have given ourselves, from withstanding their fury. They hope it will come to that; and then they will cure us of our own wounds by giving one, if they can, that shall go deep enough to the heart of our life, gospel and all. Let us then consider where we are, and among whom. Are we not in our enemies' quarters? so that if we fall out, what do we else but kindle a fire for them to warm their hands by? It is an ill time for mariners to be fighting, when an enemy is boring a hole in the bottom of the ship: the sea of their rage will weaken our bank fast enough, we need not cut it for them.

(J. Spencer.)

Saul was anxious to pick a quarrel with David, but in vain. We all know who came off best in the end. Gotthold quaintly says, "It is not disgraceful to step aside when a great stone is rolling down the hill up which you are climbing, and let it rush past." He who provokes a quarrel sets the stone rolling, and he who steps aside to avoid it does not disgrace himself by so doing.

(J. Spencer.)

Fontaigne says that religious contention is the devil's harvest. And this is true, where the contention is unseemly, untimely, and unnecessary. But all religious contention is not the devil's harvest. To contend earnestly for the faith once delivered to the saints is not doing Satan's work; but the contrary.

1. To contend against the pirate seeking to plunder the English merchantman is not doing the pirate's work. To contend against the adversary who is eagerly endeavouring to sow tares in my wheat field is not doing the adversary's work. To contend against the wolf, which, arrayed in sheep's clothing, is seeking to enter in to the sheepfold where the lambs are bleating safely, is not doing the wolf's work.

2. When Noah, the preacher of righteousness, contended against his ungodly contemporaries, he was doing God's work. When Jeremiah, the melancholy seer of Jerusalem's overthrow, contended against the hireling shepherds of Jehoiakim's reign, he was doing God's work. When Paul withstood Peter at Antioch on the theme of circumcision, when John contended against prating Diotrephes, when maintained the truth against , when Cranmer and Luther struggled in conflict with the papal priests and princes, they were doing God's work.

3. Only the contention must be conducted in method and manner, by mean and medium, with precept and principle, strictly Christian. There is, however, a happy contention. Lord Bacon says it is when Churches and Christians contend, as the vine and olive, which of them shall bring forth the sweetest fruit to God's glory; not as the briar and thistle, which of them shall bear the sharpest thorns.

(J. Spencer.)

In most quarrels there is a fault on both sides. A quarrel may be compared to a spark, which cannot be produced without a flint as well as a steel; either of them may hammer on wood forever, no fire will follow. Two things, well considered, would prevent many quarrels; first, to have it well ascertained whether we are not disputing about terms, rather than things; and secondly, to examine whether that on which we differ is worth contending about.

(C. Colton.)

Francis I of France was in counsel with his generals, as to the way they should take to lead the army to the invasion of Italy. Amaril, a fool, who, unseen, had heard their propositions, sprang up and advised them rather "to consider which way they should bring the army back out of Italy again; for it is easy to engage in quarrels, but hard to be disengaged from them."

In the year 1005 some soldiers of the Commonwealth of Modena ran away with a bucket from a public well belonging to the State of Bologna. The implement might be worth a shilling; but it produced a quarrel which worked into a long and bloody war. Henry, the king of Sardinia, for the Emperor Henry the second, assisted the Modenese to keep possession of the bucket; and, in one of the battles, was made prisoner. His father, the emperor, offered a chain of gold that would encircle Bologna, which is seven miles in compass; but in vain. After twenty years' imprisonment, his father being dead, he pined away and died. His monument is still extant in the church of the Dominicans. The fatal bucket is still exhibited in the tower of the Cathedral of Modena enclosed in an iron cage.

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