Biblical Archaeology Review 45:1, January/February 2019

Biblical Views: Safeguarding Abraham

By Dan Rickett

After Abraham enters Canaan in Genesis 12, God informs him, “To your offspring I will give this land” (12:7). Shockingly, just one chapter later, Abraham offers to share this very land with his nephew Lot!

One of the hallmarks of ancient Biblical interpretation was the safeguarding of Biblical heroes. At times, interpreters would go to great lengths to ensure that the righteousness of the hero is no longer in question. One finds, for example, this particular practice evident in the interpretation of Abraham’s offer.

In Genesis 13:7–9 we learn of a quarrel between Abraham’s and Lot’s herders and Abraham’s call for a peaceful resolution to the conflict: separation between him and Lot. In the proposal, Abraham tells Lot that they need to separate and offers to share the land with his nephew. Lot looks around, we are told, sees the “well-watered” Jordan plain (possibly north of the Dead Sea), and chooses it “for himself,” and thus the family members “separated from each other” (Genesis 13:10–11).a

What makes the offer problematic is that Lot is not part of God’s promise to Abraham. This is further complicated by the statement in Deuteronomy 23:3 prohibiting Lot’s descendants (the Ammonites and Moabites) from entering the assembly of the Lord (cf. Nehemiah 13:1).

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