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Matthew Henry's Commentary – Verses 5–9
Verses 5–9

We have here an unhappy falling out between Abram and Lot, who had hitherto been inseparable companions (see Gen. 13:1; and Gen. 12:4), but now parted.

I. The occasion of their quarrel was their riches. We read (Gen. 13:2) how rich Abram was; now here we are told (Gen. 13:5) that Lot, who went with Abram, was rich too; and therefore God blessed him with riches because he went with Abram. Note, 1. It is good being in good company, and going with those with whom God is, Zech. 8:23. 2. Those that are partners with God’s people in their obedience and sufferings shall be sharers with them in their joys and comforts, Isa. 66:10. Now, they both being very rich, the land was not able to bear them, that they might dwell comfortably and peaceably together. So that their riches may be considered, (1.) As setting them at a distance one from another. Because the place was too strait for them, and they had not room for their stock, it was necessary they should live asunder. Note, Every comfort in this world has its cross attending it. Business is a comfort; but it has this inconvenience in it, that it allows us not the society of those we love, so often, nor so long, as we could wish. (2.) As setting them at variance one with another. Note, Riches are often an occasion of strife and contention among relations and neighbours. This is one of those foolish and hurtful lusts which those that will be rich fall into, 1 Tim. 6:9. Riches not only afford matter for contention, and are the things most commonly striven about, but they also stir up a spirit of contention, by making people proud and covetous. Meum and tuum—Mine and thine, are the great make-bates of the world. Poverty and travail, wants and wanderings, could not separate between Abram and Lot; but riches did. Friends are soon lost; but God is a friend from whose love neither the height of prosperity nor the depth of adversity shall separate us.

II. The immediate instruments of the quarrel were their servants. The strife began between the herdsmen of Abram’s cattle and the herdsmen of Lot’s cattle, Gen. 13:7. They strove, it is probable, which should have the better pasture or the better water; and both interested their masters in the quarrel. Note, Bad servants often make a great deal of mischief in families, by the pride and passion, their lying slandering, and tale-bearing. It is a very wicked thing for servants to do ill offices between relations and neighbours, and to sow discord; those that do so are the devil’s agents and their masters’ worst enemies.

III. The aggravation of the quarrel was that the Canaanite and the Perizzite dwelt then in the land; this made the quarrel, 1. Very dangerous. If Abram and Lot cannot agree to feed their flocks together, it is well if the common enemy do not come upon them and plunder them both. Note, The division of families and churches often proves the ruin of them. 2. Very scandalous. No doubt the eyes of all the neighbours were upon them, especially because of the singularity of their religion, and the extraordinary sanctity they professed; and notice would soon be taken of this quarrel, and improvement made of it, to their reproach, by the Canaanites and Perizzites. Note, The quarrels of professors are the reproach of profession, and give occasion, as much as any thing, to the enemies of the Lord to blaspheme.

IV. The making up of this quarrel was very happy. It is best to preserve the peace, that it be not broken; but the next best is, if differences do happen, with all speed to accommodate them, and quench the fire that has broken out. The motion for staying this strife was made by Abram, though he was the senior and superior relation, Gen. 13:8.

1. His petition for peace was very affectionate: Let there be not strife, I pray thee. Abram here shows himself to be a man, (1.) Of a cool spirit, that had the command of his passion, and knew how to turn away wrath with a soft answer. Those that would keep the peace must never render railing for railing. (2.) Of a condescending spirit; he was willing to beseech even his inferior to be at peace, and made the first overture of reconciliation. Conquerors reckon it their glory to give peace by power; and it is no less so to give peace by the meekness of wisdom. Note, The people of God should always approve themselves a peaceable people; whatever others are for, they must be for peace.

2. His plea for peace was very cogent. (1.) “Let there be no strife between me and thee. Let the Canaanites and Perizzites contend about trifles; but let not thee and me fall out, who know better things, and look for a better country.” Note, Professors of religion should, of all others, be careful to avoid contention. You shall not be so, Luke 22:26. We have no such custom, 1 Cor. 11:16. “Let there be no strife between me and thee, who have lived together and loved one another so long.” Note, The remembrance of old friendships should quickly put an end to new quarrels which at any time happen. (2.) Let it be remembered that we are brethren, Heb. we are men brethren; a double argument. [1.] We are men; and, as men, we are mortal creatures—we may die to-morrow, and are concerned to be found in peace. We are rational creatures, and should be ruled by reason. We are men, and not brutes, men, and not children; we are sociable creatures, let us be so to the uttermost. [2.] We are brethren. Men of the same nature, of the same kindred and family, of the same religion, companions in obedience, companions in patience. Note, The consideration of our relation to each other, as brethren, should always prevail to moderate our passions, and either to prevent or put an end to our contentions. Brethren should love as brethren.

3. His proposal for peace was very fair. Many who profess to be for peace yet will do nothing towards it; but Abram hereby approved himself a real friend to peace that he proposed an unexceptionable expedient for the preserving of it: Isa. not the whole land before thee? Gen. 13:9. As if he had said, “Why should we quarrel for room, while there is room enough for us both?” (1.) He concludes that they must part, and is very desirous that they should part friends: Separate thyself, I pray thee, from me. What could be expressed more affectionately? He does not expel him, and force him away, but advises that he should separate himself. Nor does he charge him to depart, but humbly desires him to withdraw. Note, Those that have power to command, yet sometimes, for love’s sake, and peace’ sake, should rather beseech as Paul besought Philemon, Philm. 1:8, 9. When the great God condescends to beseech us, we may well afford to beseech one another, to be reconciled, 2 Cor. 5:20. (2.) He offers him a sufficient share of the land they were in. Though God had promised Abram to give this land to his seed (Gen. 12:7), and it does not appear that ever any such promise was made to Lot, which Abram might have insisted on, to the total exclusion of Lot, yet he allows him to come in partner with him, and tenders an equal share to one that had not an equal right, and will not make God’s promise to patronise his quarrel, nor, under the protection of that, put any hardship on his kinsman. (3.) He gives him his choice, and offers to take up with his leavings: If thou wilt take the left hand, I will go to the right. There was all the reason in the world that Abram should choose first; yet he recedes from his right. Note, It is a noble conquest to be willing to yield for peace’ sake; it is the conquest of ourselves, and our own pride and passion, Matt. 5:39, 40. It is not only the punctilios of honour, but even interest itself, that in many cases must be sacrificed to peace.