Genesis 13:1 Abram went up out of Egypt... into the south
Who is the voice of the writer of Genesis? You may think it is Moses but that is not correct. The voice for the first 5 books of the Old Testament is an unidentified scribe or scribes. The record may have been written originally by or under the direction of Moses but some later individual recorded the stories. Evidence is seen for this in this particular verse. "Abram went up out of Egypt... into the south." Well, what is the south? In the world of the scribe, the south is the southern part of Israel's inheritance in the land of Canaan. But Israel hasn't been born yet!
"[The] teller of the story lived much later than the patriarch's time, such as calling Terah's home town 'Ur of the Chaldeans,' for Chaldeans did not arrive there until hundreds of years after Abraham. This way of identifying which Ur is meant made sense for later hearers, but is not a phrase Abraham would have used...
"Scholars recognize that the Pentateuch was written much later than the events described." (Biblica: The Bible Atlas [Australia: Global Book Publishing, 2006] p. 104)
These geographic anachronisms may seem trivial, but they are not. One of the reasons the Pentateuch lacks important priesthood doctrines is that the scribes responsible for the final version understood only the priesthood of Aaron. Therefore, the significance of the Patriarchal Priesthood, the importance of Melchizedek, the power of Enoch, etc. are not found in Genesis. It is not Moses' fault, for he understood the higher priesthood and the higher law, but the scribes who wrote the final Hebrew version did not.
Genesis 13:1-2 Abram was very rich
Elder Mark E. Petersen taught, "There were several reasons why Abraham became rich. One must have been that he was a highly intelligent man, well educated in Ur, and trained no doubt in business as well as ranching. His business skill could have accounted for much of his successes, as it does with others. But there was a more important reason: He served the Lord!" (Abraham, Friend of God, p. 72)
Symbolically, Abram goes to Egypt because of a famine; he leaves Egypt a wealthy man. This is a type and shadow for the children of Israel, who are driven to Egypt by a famine, but leave Egypt 430 years later taking the spoil of Egypt with them (Ex. 12:35-36).
"When Abraham and Sarah returned after their trial in Egypt to that sacred land promised them, they went 'rich in cattle, in silver, and in gold,' returning first to Bethel-the house of God-and its altar that they might call upon the name of the Lord. (Gen. 13:2-4) Similarly, before the children of Israel left Egypt to return to the promised land to rebuild their temple and call upon God, they were directed to obtain from the Egyptians their 'jewels of silver, and jewels of gold.' (Ex. 11:2.) When the Jews were freed from their captivity in Babylon to return to Palestine to rebuild the Holy City and its temple, the treasure houses of that great nation were opened to them, and they returned laden with silver and gold. (Ezra 7:15-21.) Thus, when Israel returns to claim the blessings of the temple in the last days, should they not return with their rich treasures as their forebears did before them?" (Kent P. Jackson, ed., Studies in Scripture, Vol. 8: Alma 30 to Moroni [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1988], 194, footnote 3)
Genesis 13:3 he went... where his tent had been at the beginning, between Beth-el and Hai
Bethel and Hai, or Ai, are located less than 15 miles north of Salem, the future site of Jerusalem. See map below.
(Biblica: The Bible Atlas [Australia: Global Book Publishing, 2006] p. 105)
Genesis 13:7 there was a strife between the herdmen of Abram's cattle and the herdmen of lot's cattle
What does human nature tell us about a conflict like this one? Most people would make the mistake of getting in the middle of the conflict. Most men would take sides with their herdsmen and escalate the conflict. Is that what Abraham did?
Abraham could have told Lot that he was his uncle and by virtue of his age and seniority, his flocks and herdsmen should have priority over Lot's. Is that what he did?
Abraham was a man of great wisdom and judgment. He could have set up a small claims court; he could have brought in Lot's herdsmen for testimony; he could have called upon his own herdsmen for theirs. He could have sat as the great judge to administer a just resolution to the conflict. Is that what he did?
This sort of conflict happens all the time. A man argues with his neighbor over the line of his property even though the difference may be a mere three feet. The natural man would fight for his three feet until the neighbor is forced to move or dies. Years of embittered conflict could ensue. Abraham would respond differently. He would gladly give up the three feet knowing that property was not worth the conflict, jealousy, and enmity.
The fight for property just isn't worth it. The Master taught the same lesson when a man requested He intervene with his brother to divide the inheritance with him. Jesus had no interest in becoming a judge between the two. He said, "who made me a judge or a divider over you?" (Lu. 12:14) The Savior was certainly qualified to mediate the conflict, but the Judge of the quick and the dead had no interest in becoming the judge over such petty, material concerns. He then warned, "beware of covetousness: for man's life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth." (Lu. 12:15) Abraham was rich, but he understood the dangers of conflict and covetousness and wisely avoided them both.
Contentions frequently arise to so alienating a degree that brethren have no faith in each other's honesty and integrity, when, perhaps, both parties have stumbled over a little, selfish, ignorant, personal misunderstanding, are carrying it to the extent of wishing to cut each other off from the Church. Very frequently such cases are presented before me. Unravel the difficulty, and it is found to have started in a trifling misunderstanding in relation to some small matter; all the trouble has arisen from a most frivolous cause. Avoid nursing misunderstandings into difficulties. (Discourses of Brigham Young, selected and arranged by John A. Widtsoe [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1954], 277)
Genesis 13:8 Let there be no strife, I pray thee, between me and thee
James E. Faust
Holders of the priesthood of God should be men of impeccable character. I have always admired the integrity of Father Abraham when he returned from Egypt to Palestine. He came with his nephew Lot. Soon there was strife between the herdmen of Abraham's cattle and the herdmen of Lot's cattle. "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." Abraham offered Lot his choice of property, either on his left hand or on his right. Lot chose the more productive land to the east, and so Abraham took the land to the west. In course of time, Lot and all of his household were captured in battle and taken to Dan, over a hundred miles to the north. When Abraham heard of his fate, he armed 318 of his servants and went in pursuit. He not only rescued Lot and his family but also restored to them their property in Sodom. The king of Sodom returned from exile and, in gratitude, offered Abraham the spoils of the victory. But these Abraham declined, saying, "I will not take from a thread even to a shoelatchet, and ... I will not take any thing that is thine, lest thou shouldest say, I have made Abram rich." (Gen. 14:23) In these episodes, Abraham demonstrated his fairness, integrity, and faith. And the Lord rewarded him with both spiritual and earthly blessings so that ultimately he prospered far more than Lot. ("We Seek After These Things," Ensign, May 1998, 44)
Genesis 13:10 all the plain of Jordan... was well watered every where...even as the garden of the Lord
Today the plain of Jordan would not be described in such lush terms-certainly not rivaling the Garden of Eden. However, in Lot's day, the land was very fertile. This underscores the variability in climate and vegetation that have occurred over thousands of years of the earth's existence. For example, modern day Iraq includes the lands of ancient Mesopotamia, the cradle of civilization, the Fertile Crescent (LINK). But that land no longer boasts of lush vegetation and fertile plains. Whether by the deliberate curse of God, natural changes over time, or man's poor stewardship, the Biblical lands have become more arid and less fertile. Some scholars falsely assume that vegetation and geology have been constant for thousands of years. Biblical and Book of Mormon evidence argues to the contrary.
Genesis 13:11-13 Lot... pitched his tent toward Sodom
"Note how the facts develop. Abraham and Lot with their respective families and retainers are moving here and there through Canaan, according to where they find pasture for their flocks. The herdsmen of the two begin a quarrel. That distressed Abraham, though it does not seem to have troubled Lot. The one thing Abraham is most bent upon is that friendship should not be embittered; personal loss is to him a secondary matter. So when it seems necessary to separate he offers the advantage wholeheartedly to Lot. Let Lot say whichever part of the land he wants for his own flocks. He can have first choice and Abraham will take what he has left. A right-spirited man would have refused an offer so one-sided, but this man snapped it up. Lot's only concern was to make sure that he used his advantage to the limit. That was his first step in the wrong direction...
"The next one followed naturally... He looked about the land and chose what pleased the eye. All the country in the valley of Jordan was green and well watered; it was as inviting as a garden but in its human aspect it was no garden. It was the territory adjacent to Sodom...
"Lot was a man who made what seemed to be a clever choice but which turned out to be a wrong one. He set the example which has been followed by innumerable people since his time who have reached out for what they thought was easy gain and instead have got disaster. The story of Lot is the more arresting because it might have been so different." (The Interpreter's Bible, ed. by G. A. Buttrick et al [New York, Abingdon Press, 1952] vol. 1, p. 586-876)
Lot was given the choice of lands but was still looking for greener grass. So he pitched his tent with a view of Sodom. There are latter-day saints who do the same-they pitch their tents toward Sodom. They just want to see how the other half lives. They may partake of the tree of life, but they always have their eye on the great and spacious building. These are the saints who are eventually ashamed by the mockers (1 Ne. 8:28). They cannot serve two masters. Apparently, we cannot live with one foot in Zion and the other in Babylon.
Carlos E. Asay
There is no balance in living on the fringes of our faith, with one foot in Zion and one foot in Babylon. We cannot be sinners part of the time and saints part of the time. We cannot be servants of the Lord one moment and people of the world the next. It won't work. It smacks of hypocrisy. Those who attempt to do so teeter on the brink of disaster. As James stated, "A double minded man is unstable in all his ways" (James 1:8). (In the Lord's Service: A Guide to Spiritual Development [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1990], 51)
Genesis 13:15-17 All the land which thou seest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed forever
Abraham had given Lot the choice of land. The Lord, seeing his great generosity and integrity, blessed Abraham with more land than Lot could ever dream of. Consider standing on the foothills overlooking Los Angeles and hearing the Lord promise you all the land was yours. Consider standing on Ensign Peak overlooking the Salt Lake Valley and having the Lord tell you all that land was yours. That means you're rich, filthy rich!
Bruce R. McConkie
It is clear; it is plain; it is certain: God gave ancient Canaan to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and the twelve tribes of Israel, of whom the Ten Tribes are the dominant part. It is their land, in time and in eternity. It is their land now whenever they are worthy to tread its blessed surface. And it shall be theirs again in that everlasting eternity that lies ahead. "It is decreed that the poor and the meek of the earth shall inherit it," in that celestial day when it shall be crowned with the presence of God, even the Father. (D&C 88:17-19.) Where else, then, would we expect to see the Ten Tribes return? Where else would we expect them to assemble to worship the God of their fathers and to be inheritors of the promises made to the ancient ones whose seed they are?
Thus it is that we see why the revelations speak of the gathering of Israel from the four parts of the earth into the Church and kingdom of God on earth, and also of the leading of the Ten Tribes from the land of the north back again to their promised Canaan. The gathering of Israel is one thing, the return of the Ten Tribes to a specified place is another; and Moses gave to men in our day the keys and power to perform both labors. (The Millennial Messiah: The Second Coming of the Son of Man [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1982], 322)
Genesis 13:18 Abram removed his tent, and came and dwelt in the plain of Mamre
Wherever Abraham goes, he builds an altar and worships the Lord. He always gives the Lord the credit for his success and wealth. His move to Hebron places him south of present day Jerusalem. See map above.