Genesis 13:1 Commentary - The Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges
1. went up out of Egypt ] Cf. Gen 12:10, “went down into Egypt.” Egypt is always regarded as the low-lying country; and Palestine as the high ground.
Lot with him ] Lot was not mentioned in the previous chapter, but it is here implied that Lot had been with Abram in Egypt.
into the South ] i.e. into the Negeb: see note on Gen 12:9. This is a good illustration of the meaning of Negeb. Abram’s journey from Egypt into the Negeb was by a route leading N.E. The English reader, not understanding the technical meaning of “the South,” might suppose that Abram’s journey from Egypt into “the South” would have led in the direction of the Soudan.
The narrative in this section should be compared with the similar ones in 20, 26. It is repellent to our sense of honour, chivalry, and purity. It is true that Abram’s cowardice is reproved, and that the action of the Egyptian Pharaoh is represented in a more favourable light. On the other hand, Abram, though dismissed from the court, leaves Egypt enriched with great spoil. By a subterfuge he had hoped to save his own life at the cost of his wife’s honour. His cowardly deceit is detected: and his life is not imperilled. Sarai’s honour is spared; and the patriarch withdraws immensely enriched in possessions. This story, doubtless, would not have appeared so sordid to the ancient Israelite as it does to us. Perhaps the cunning, the detection, and the increase of wealth, may have commended the story to the Israelite of old times. Its popularity must account for its re-appearance in 20, 26.
It would be gratifying, if, in this story and in its variants, we were warranted in recognizing under an allegorical form the peril, to which nomad tribes of the Hebrew stock were exposed, of being absorbed among the inhabitants of a civilized community. Such a tribal misadventure might well be commemorated under the imagery of such a story. It is more probable, however, that the story illustrates the Divine protection over the patriarch amid the dangers of a foreign country. God’s goodness, not Abram’s merit, averts the peril.
In the present sequence of patriarchal narratives, this section shews how the fulfilment of the Divine promise is first imperilled through the patriarch’s own failure in courage and faith. The very qualities for which he is renowned, are lacking in the hour of temptation. God’s goodness and grace alone rescue him and his wife. A heathen king of Egypt upholds the universal law of virtue more successfully than the servant of Jehovah. The story reveals that Jehovah causes His will to be felt in Egypt no less than in Palestine. But the moral of the story does not satisfy any Christian standard in its representation either of Jehovah or of the patriarch. The knowledge of God is progressive.
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The Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges
The Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges is a biblical commentary set published in parts by Cambridge University Press from 1882 onwards. Anglican bishop John Perowne was the general editor. The first section published was written by theologian Thomas Kelly Cheyne and covered the Book of Micah.
Perowne exercised limited editorial control over the writers of individual commentaries: his aim was "to leave each contributor to the unfettered exercise of his own judgment".