ABRAM’S RETURN FROM EGYPT AND HIS SEPARATION FROM LOT.
(1-4) He went on his journeys.—Or, according to his stations, which the Vulgate very reasonably translates, “by the same route by which he had come.” This route was first into the south, the Negeb, which is virtually a proper name, and thence to the spot between Beth-el and Ai mentioned in Genesis 12:8.
At the first does not mean that this was the first altar erected by Abram, but that he built it on his first arrival there. His first altar was at Shechem. As regards his wealth, while his cattle had been greatly increased in Egypt, he had probably brought the silver and gold with him from Mesopotamia. Gold, however, was plentiful at that time in Egypt, but silver rare.
As the garden of the Lord.—Mr. Palmer (Desert of the Exodus. p. 465) describes the fertility of the Jordan valley as follows:—“Although the immediate vicinity of the Dead Sea is barren enough, the Ghor, or deep depression at the northern and southern extremities, teems with life and vegetation; and even where the cliffs rise sheer up from the water’s edge, streams of fresh water dash down the ravines, and bring the verdure with them almost to the Salt Sea’s brink.” The same writer (p. 480) has also shown conclusively, with Mr. Grove, Dr. Tristram, and others, that Sodom and Gomorrha were at the northern end of the lake, and not, as was previously supposed, at the southern. For the Ciccar is strictly the part of the Ghor near Jericho, and as the Dead Sea is forty-six miles in length, its southern extremity was far away out of sight. Moreover, Lot was standing some miles away to the north-west, on the high ground between Beth-el and Ai, whence “the northern end of the Dead Sea, and the barren tract which extends from the oasis of Jericho to it and the Jordan, are distinctly visible” (Dr. Tristram, Sunday at Home, 1872, p. 215). This “barren tract” was once the Ciccar, and the traces of ancient irrigation and aqueducts attest its former fertility. It was upon this district, “well watered everywhere,” that Lot gazed so covetously, and its richness is indicated by a double comparison: for, first, it was like Jehovah’s garden in Eden, watered by its four rivers; and next, it was like Egypt, rendered fertile by artificial means.
As thou comest unto Zoar.—This makes no sense whatsoever. No person on the route to Egypt could possibly take Zoar in his way; and of the five cities of the plain this was the least like Paradise. The Syriac has preserved the right reading, namely, Zoan. This city, however, was called Zor, or Zar, by the Egyptians (Records of the Past, viii. 147), and was situated on the eastern side of the Tanaitic branch of the Nile, at the head of a fertile plain, called “the field of Zoan” in Psalm 78:12. Through this rich and well-watered region Lot had lately travelled in Abram’s company, and the luxuriant vegetation there made it not unworthy to be compared with Paradise.
Hebron.—That is, alliance. Hebron was perhaps so called from the confederacy formed between Abram and the Amorites, and was apparently the name not only of a city, but of a district, as the oaks of Mamre are described as being “in Hebron.” For its other name, Kirjath-arba, see note on Genesis 23:2.