Lot gets known primarily for his sort-of weird role in Sodom and Gomorrah (coming soon, kids!) but he totally showed up before that. He was definitely a thing before all of that and this is one of the first times you see him. I know I’ve heard this story talked about but it did not make a tremendous amount of impression. I guess the point was that Abram was willing to take any land rather than risk conflict? He was happy to compromise? He was a good guy? I mean, you know. It’s important he be a good guy and after the last story it could be argued that we don’t have the most compelling case for that. Also we have God promising in nice, poetic language that he’s going to have a bazillion descendants. I mean, you know. Everyone will, really but Abram’s are going to be God’s people, so they’re special.
Abram and Lot Separate
So Abram went up from Egypt to the Negev, with his wife and everything he had, and Lot went with him. 2 Abram had become very wealthy in livestock and in silver and gold.
3 From the Negev he went from place to place until he came to Bethel, to the place between Bethel and Ai where his tent had been earlier 4 and where he had first built an altar. There Abram called on the name of the Lord.
5 Now Lot, who was moving about with Abram, also had flocks and herds and tents. 6 But the land could not support them while they stayed together, for their possessions were so great that they were not able to stay together. 7 And quarreling arose between Abram’s herders and Lot’s. The Canaanites and Perizzites were also living in the land at that time.
8 So Abram said to Lot, “Let’s not have any quarreling between you and me, or between your herders and mine, for we are close relatives. 9 Is not the whole land before you? Let’s part company. If you go to the left, I’ll go to the right; if you go to the right, I’ll go to the left.”
10 Lot looked around and saw that the whole plain of the Jordan toward Zoar was well watered, like the garden of the Lord, like the land of Egypt. (This was before the Lord destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah.) 11 So Lot chose for himself the whole plain of the Jordan and set out toward the east. The two men parted company: 12 Abram lived in the land of Canaan, while Lot lived among the cities of the plain and pitched his tents near Sodom. 13 Now the people of Sodom were wicked and were sinning greatly against the Lord.
14 The Lord said to Abram after Lot had parted from him, “Look around from where you are, to the north and south, to the east and west. 15 All the land that you see I will give to you and your offspring[a] forever. 16 I will make your offspring like the dust of the earth, so that if anyone could count the dust, then your offspring could be counted. 17 Go, walk through the length and breadth of the land, for I am giving it to you.”
18 So Abram went to live near the great trees of Mamre at Hebron, where he pitched his tents. There he built an altar to the Lord.
So. I mean, you know. I love that the story just says that Abram had become super wealthy, when we know from like three verses before that at least a huge chunk of that wealth came from that time he lied to the Egyptians and they ended up paying him off with a huge amount of stuff to just please make him go away before his God killed them. But YOU KNOW. Semantics.
I feel like in reading this that this story was supposed to say something about Lot’s character. He looked and he saw that part of the country was better than the other and he said all right, you’re saying take any part, I’ll take that part. And so he does and he ends up where all the terrible people are, selfish like him I guess. But like… what would you do? Lot doesn’t have a magic covenant with a strangely powerful and capricious god-thing. He has a family and stuff and he’s trying to protect it. And it makes the most sense to take the better looking land. I mean, it’s kind-of the worst thing to ask. I feel like I would feel guilty for taking the good land and annoyed and possibly bitter for taking the bad. I guess it depends on their relationship. ANYWAY. My point is that I am not at all convinced this story says anything about Lot’s character. Although a few later stories certainly do.
So God waits till Lot is gone and can’t hear him anymore (does this sound like a junior high idea somehow? “Look, I didn’t want him to know but now that he’s gone, I can tell you…) and tells Abram that it was totally nice of him to give that land to Lot (just kidding! I assume it’s implied) but he’s actually going to give him all the land he can see, everything he can see, gonna be all his and his kids. Just walk up and down, the whoooooooole thing, cause it’s yours. All yours.
So Abram goes and pitches tents (is that like going all over the land, because it sounds different, but whatever. Maybe God meant metaphorically walking all over the land) and makes an alter to God and thanks him for how he’s totally going to have a bazillion babies someday.