Welcome to EBible Fellowship’s Bible study in the Book of Genesis. Tonight, is study #2 of Genesis, chapter 13 and we are going to begin by reading Genesis 13:2-4:
And Abram was very rich in cattle, in silver, and in gold. And he went on his journeys from the south even to Bethel, unto the place where his tent had been at the beginning, between Bethel and Hai; Unto the place of the altar, which he had made there at the first: and there Abram called on the name of JEHOVAH.
Abram and his family had traveled down into Egypt. Sarai was taken by Pharaoh into Pharaoh’s house and while she was there Abram was entreated well. We can understand that he prospered. His possessions grew and the number of his cattle grew and some bondservants may have been added to him. We know that Hagar was an Egyptian and maybe this was when she became a bondservant. Then the Lord plagued Pharaoh’s house and Abram left Egypt with Sarai and Lot and all the servants and cattle.
Now Abram has returned to the land of Canaan, as it says in Genesis 13:3-4:
And he went on his journeys from the south even to Bethel, unto the place where his tent had been at the beginning, between Bethel and Hai; Unto the place of the altar, which he had made there at the first: and there Abram called on the name of JEHOVAH.
We have two statements. One says, “at the beginning,” and one says “at the first.” If we go back Genesis, chapter 12, it says in Genesis 12:7-8:
And the LORD appeared unto Abram, and said, Unto thy seed will I give this land: and there builded he an altar unto the LORD, who appeared unto him. And he removed from thence unto a mountain on the east of Bethel, and pitched his tent, having Bethel on the west, and Hai on the east: and there he builded an altar unto JEHOVAH, and called upon the name of JEHOVAH.
All this took place in the land of Canaan and we discussed that Bethel means “house of God” and it identified with the corporate church and how the land of Canaan pictures the kingdom of God, or in this case, it represents the outward representation of the kingdom of God (the corporate church). The altar identifies with Christ, signifying the presence of Christ in the land of Canaan; that is, Christ dwelling in the midst of the corporate church during the church age. Following this, Abram departed into Egypt, but now he has returned and God makes a point to emphasize in Genesis 13, verses 3 and 4, that he has gone back to Bethel and the land of Canaan and it was as it was “at the beginning” or “at the first.” This means that the mini illustration of going into Egypt and all that happened there is over and now the Lord is continuing with the spiritual picture of the land of Canaan representing the corporate church.
We should not think in any way that it was a picture of the end of the church age and the return of Canaan is somehow indicating we can go back to the corporate churches after the church age. That has nothing to do with it. Remember, history must unfold and God has various portraits in his “picture gallery,” as Mr. Camping used to say. When you read various passages in the Bible, look at them as if you are going through a picture gallery. In this passage, there is a picture, but the picture has its boundaries. When you have investigated that picture, then you move on to the next passage and there could be a very different picture. That is what is happening here with these statements, “at the beginning” and “at the first.” The Lord is putting us on notice that He has returned to the spiritual picture of the land of Canaan representing the outward representation of the kingdom of God and, in turn, it can identify with national Israel because they had a long run as that representative for about two thousand years, but, more so, it points to the corporate church in the New Testament era that would be the outward representation of the kingdom of God to the people of the earth. They would have God dwelling in their midst and it was also for about two thousand years. That is what is in view here and we see the term “at the first,” in Jeremiah 7:12-14:
But go ye now unto my place which was in Shiloh, where I set my name at the first, and see what I did to it for the wickedness of my people Israel. And now, because ye have done all these works, saith JEHOVAH, and I spake unto you, rising up early and speaking, but ye heard not; and I called you, but ye answered not; Therefore will I do unto this house, which is called by my name, wherein ye trust, and unto the place which I gave to you and to your fathers, as I have done to Shiloh.
Initially, God settled in Shiloh. That was the place where the ark of the covenant was kept, but then God brought judgment upon Shiloh. That judgment was like a picture in a portrait gallery. It was an historical type and figure of the end of the church age and the final judgment, but history continued; God continued to operate within national Israel after Shiloh’s fall and destruction and it even progressed to the point where the Lord caused Solomon to build a house and He dwelt in Israel in the house of God. So, we can see that this phrase, “at the first” is reminding us of an earlier occasion, but it does mean that God is continuing along with the spiritual illustration.
Let us read Genesis 13:5-9:
And Lot also, which went with Abram, had flocks, and herds, and tents. And 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. 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. 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.
I will stop reading there. This is very curious because of the men involved. Abram is a child of God. There is no doubt about that because the Bible clearly tells us he is a friend of God and was justified by the faith and work of Christ. There are enormous amounts of confirmation that he was saved. Likewise, Lot was a child of God. We know because we are told in 2Peter 2:7-8:
And delivered just Lot, vexed with the filthy conversation of the wicked: (For that righteous man dwelling among them, in seeing and hearing, vexed his righteous soul from day to day with their unlawful deeds;)
Three times God identified Lot as “just” or “righteous.” He calls him, “just Lot,” “righteous man” and “righteous soul.” That clenches it because the only way someone can have a “righteous soul” is to be born again, so there is no question that Abram and Lot are both children of God. It is possible that Lot was not saved at this point in time, but we are given no indication of that. There is nothing to indicate that Lot was not truly saved at this point. He left Haran and crossed over the flood with Abram. He journeyed into Egypt with Abram. He came back again with Abram. He is closely following Abram and Abram is a child of God. Abram was going the way the Lord would have him to go, so Lot is giving no evidence that he is not saved. There is nothing we read that he had done. It was not Lot that was striving, but it was his herdmen against Abram’s herdmen. Neither Abram or Lot were striving, but we wonder why there is the separation of believer and believer. Indeed, they did separate. Lot ended up going to Sodom and Abram went another direction. They no longer dwelled together and it is very interesting as to why. What could be the spiritual teaching God would want us to learn from this separation of believers?
Let me show you some very similar language. Remember, it said in Genesis 13:6:
And 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.
Then the strife started and Abram went to Lot and they decided that they would part from one another. But, if we look at Genesis, chapter 36, we read in Genesis 36:6-7:
And Esau took his wives, and his sons, and his daughters, and all the persons of his house, and his cattle, and all his beasts, and all his substance, which he had got in the land of Canaan; and went into the country from the face of his brother Jacob. For their riches were more than that they might dwell together; and the land wherein they were strangers could not bear them because of their cattle. Thus dwelt Esau in mount Seir: Esau is Edom.
This is very similar language, is it not? Esau and Jacob were twin brothers. Abram and Lot were not twin brothers, but they were an uncle and his nephew and there is a close family relationship between Abram and Lot. There was also a family relationship between Esau and Jacob. They were both rich and they had much “substance” and they cannot dwell together because of the “cattle.” So, yes, there is a practical reason why two men that both have great “substance” cannot dwell together; they have large herds of sheep and oxen and asses and camels, and so forth. The cattle feed upon the grass, so if you have two large herds and they are both together, they can make bare the land in no time at all and that would be a practical explanation for why they had to separate. It would also explain the strife between the herdmen because they may have been running out of grassland or maybe the water holes were not big enough to water all the animals in a reasonable time. It could make their jobs that much more difficult, so we can understand the separation on a practical or earthly level. There is reason for it, but we can see in the case of the separation of Jacob and Esau that there would be more of a spiritual dimension because God makes a point in the Bible to let us know: “Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated.” Jacob was saved and Esau was not saved. We know there came a time in their lives when their father blessed Jacob, but did not give the blessing of the firstborn to Esau, who was the firstborn son and there were all kinds of trouble about that.
But that is not the situation with Abram and Lot when we look at the spiritual meaning. And there is always a spiritual meaning in the Bible. If we were to settle for an earthly explanation…and that is what a great many pastors do because they have natural minds, as do many theologians, and they think, “Yes, they had great amounts of livestock and there would not have been sufficient grass or water, so it was just practical for them to separate.” Then they are satisfied because they looked at the historical account and they found a literal explanation and that is all there is to it. Again, that is fine for other history books, but it is not fine for the Bible. There is a spiritual point. There is a spiritual truth that is underlying it and, yet, we could become stalled, as it is difficult to think of why two believers would ever separate. What would be the spiritual meaning in that? Where can we go to find explanation on a spiritual level for why Abram, Lot and their substance would separate from one another.
The answer is found when we understand they are in the land of Canaan. The land of Canaan is a picture of the corporate church, the churches and congregations of the world. Within the churches, we had pastors and elders and deacons and priests and bishops. There were spiritual leaders that taught in the congregations and in them were righteous souls during the church age. You would have Lot and you would have Abram and you would have true believers, although not as many as we might have thought because many were called, but few chosen. They dwelt together and they both occupied the land of Canaan. Even after this separation takes places, Lot will go in one direction and Abram will go another direction, but they are still both within the land of Canaan. There was a separation within the land of Canaan, which means that the separations we have seen happened repeatedly down through the centuries of the church age. It is the separation that results because of doctrinal strife and because of disputes over theology and that happens when people come to the Bible and they look at a verse and they see two different things. That is what is happening here with the herdmen, as it says in 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.
That last phrase is just a little notice to us that this represents the church age when the saved and the unsaved dwelt together. This is just a piece of information to help us know that unsaved people are also within the land of Canaan, the outward representation of the kingdom of God on the earth and, therefore, there were unsaved people within the churches. That did happen during the church age because there were both the wheat and the tares. The tares were more numerous because they were the unsaved. There was strife between these herdmen. The herdmen were not Canaanites, but they were the herdmen of Abram’s cattle and of Lot’s cattle and they were striving. Historically, they may have been striving over a water hole or over a well. In the case of a well, you put down a bucket and pull up some water and if there are a lot of people and animals, it can take a lot of time. It could get done in half the time if there was a separation, so these herdmen are getting a little “edgy.” One may be saying, “It is my turn to feed my cattle,” and the other one says, “But I was here first.” Strife developed and it is unseemly. It is not good for brethren dwelling together. And maybe it did not just happen once or twice, but it had been ongoing or maybe it was increasing in how often this happened.
The word “herdmen” is Strong’s #7462 and it is a word that is translated as “shepherd” or “pastor.” It is translated as “keeper” in Genesis 4:2:
And she again bare his brother Abel. And Abel was a keeper of sheep…
He was a “herdmen.”
Or, it says in Genesis 46:32-34:
And the men are shepherds, for their trade hath been to feed cattle; and they have brought their flocks, and their herds, and all that they have. And it shall come to pass, when Pharaoh shall call you, and shall say, What is your occupation? That ye shall say, Thy servants’ trade hath been about cattle from our youth even until now, both we, and also our fathers: that ye may dwell in the land of Goshen; for every shepherd is an abomination unto the Egyptians.
The word “shepherd” is the word translated in our verse as “herdmen.”
There was strife between the “shepherds” of Abram’s cattle and the “shepherds” of Lot’s cattle. Now we understand that this can be translated as “shepherd,” just as in Psalm 23, where it says, “JEHOVAH is my shepherd, I shall not want.” Once we understand that, then we realize that is it the “shepherd” or the “pastor” that oversees the flock of sheep and feeds the flock – that is their job. Their role is to take care of the flock. It is they that are striving with one another and now we see how it ties into the church age. You have a “pastor” of a church over here and you have another “pastor” of a church over there and they begin to “butt heads” and to strive with one another over the doctrine of baptism or over the Lord’s Table concerning the meaning of the bread or the blood. Or, they begin to dispute with one another over the qualifications for a deacon or an elder or they strive over this teaching or that teaching. We are very familiar with that. The Bible is a wonderful, glorious Book that is full of tremendous truth and it is a great blessing to the child of God and, yet, it is a “battle ground.” Every verse is a “battle ground.” Every statement God has made and every declaration causes spiritual discussion that often leads to strife and dispute and separation, one from another, especially during the church age.
At the end of the church age (where we are today), God opened the scriptures and brought much correction to doctrinal “high places” that churches and congregations had established and they were pulled down and destroyed by the revelation of God at the time of the end as He brought forth so many wonderful things from His Word that had previously been sealed and kept secret, but were now being revealed to the people of God. Even so, there have been many disputes over these things. Anyone who goes on social media, like twitter or Facebook, where the Word of God is declared, it is no time at all before a doctrine or teaching is declared and someone else rises up and says, “Not so – here is how it is.” The disputes are over everything from salvation to the doctrine of Hell or regarding the end of the church age and the timeline of history. Just think of the dispute over the question of whether we can know the time of the end or whether, “No man can know.” Satan has come against the truth and stirred up people to raise doubts, which is his specialty. It was the original form of temptation at the beginning, when Satan said, “Hath God said?” That is Satan’s primary aim. He does not necessarily try to prove a point, but only to introduce a second, a third, a fourth or a fifth possibility to confuse the issue and get man to that doubting stage.