In Genesis 12, we experienced the promises that God made to Abram, from which eventually came the nation of Israel, the Ten Commandments and Jesus Christ.
Abram left Egypt with many goods and riches. The same was also true for his brother Lot. They traveled to the same area where Abram made an altar to the Lord in chapter 12 in Canaan, between Bethel and Ai. As before, there were still other inhabitants in the land.
There does not seem to have been any discord between Lot and Abram, but there was between their respective herdsmen. These men who were taking care of Abram’s and Lot’s livestock evidently had difficulty getting along due to the small space that both groups were trying to inhabit: “So Abram said to Lot, “Please let there be no strife between you and me, and between my herdsmen and your herdsmen; for we are brethren. Is not the whole land before you? Please separate from me. If you take the left, then I will go to the right; or, if you go to the right, then I will go to the left.”” Genesis 13:8-9
Lot chose all the plain of Jordan to the east. In this section of the chapter there is mentioned the evil of Sodom and Gomorrah, which were on the outskirts of this vicinity. Lot’s choice of this area, in close proximity to these dens of evil, will have an eventual effect on him and his family. But for now, we are only told that the men of Sodom were “exceedingly wicked” and that the two cities would be destroyed sometime in the future.
Abram, having selflessly given the preference to Lot, finds himself in the land that will prove superior in the long run. God speaks to Abram again and reiterates the land and descendent promises. Abram, evidently pleased with the land and his communion with God, takes action: “Then Abram moved his tent, and went and dwelt by the terebinth trees of Mamre, which are in Hebron, and built an altar there to the LORD.” Genesis 13:18
Let’s look at the behavior of these two men by way of a lesson for this chapter. Both men were quick to act, but their motives to do so were most likely different. Abram, sensing the strife between the herdsmen, was quick to offer a solution to the issue by way of separation, even going so far as to selflessly offer Lot first pick of the land. This quick decision is one made in the interest of peace and successful brotherhood. Abram was willing to sacrifice first pick of the land for peace with Lot. Abram’s story from this point is overall successful as God begins to fulfill the promises.
For his part, Lot was quick to accept the offer and pick the land. The land chosen by Lot was well-watered and appeared as the garden of the Lord. But this sight was deceptive, much like sin. Temptation promises success, fulfillment and even happiness, but within that temptation, sin hides stealthily, waiting to infect and corrupt. This is what will ultimately happen to Lot as he lives close to the evil cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. Although he does not intend to participate in evil, he will as the result of this choice.
Does the fate of Lot and his family rest on this one quick choice? Lot’s choice to take the well-watered plain of Jordan could be interpreted as Lot trying to take advantage of the situation. This in turn, could lead us to interpret that Lot’s fate is the result of his selfishness. The text of chapter thirteen does not make any of this apparent, but the lesson is important and familiar nevertheless: Self-seeking in decision-making can benefit in the short term, but the unintended consequences are often inescapable.