CONTEXT: This J story is finely worked to include two insertions from a separate version, P, signified by redundancy and idiom. Priestly narrative is spare: conflict, separation, geography. The action proceeds smoothly if you skip the italicized lines but including them adds a nice touch to the story.
“Then” in 7b, about the C’na’ani and P’rizi, then a historical gloss, i.e. an explanatory comment inserted by a later hand to inform us that the indigenous population was no longer there at the time of the narrator. Verse 10b, describing the former fertility of S’dom is a gloss pointing to ch. 19, but, like the P insertions, we can read the words as appropriate literary imagery. (Parentheses indicate glosses.)
            Note the use of “tent” as a verb. Avram and Lot were nomads accustomed to migrating to greener pastures with their flocks.
            SIGNIFICANT NAMES: Eloney Mamre means “trees (oaks?) of Mamre.” Mamre may be a place name or the name of a landowner as in the next chapter. As in the preceding chapter, the tree is likely a shrine/landmark.
            Negev means “south” and I treat it as proper noun as in modern Hebrew. It refers to the surroundings of B’er Sheva and further south.

            2Avram was very substantial in livestock, silver, and gold. 3From the Negev he went on his journey to BetEl, to the site where his tent had stood in the beginning, between BetEl and the Ai, 4to the site of the altar he had built there at the first, and he called out in Yahh’s name.
            5Lot, traveling with Avram, also had flocks, cattle, and tents. 6The land couldn’t sustain them dwelling together. Their possessions being so great they could not dwell together.
7There was a dispute between the herdsmen of Avram and the herdsmen of Lot.  (The K’na’ani and the P’rizi were then dwelling in the land.)
            8Avram said to Lot: “Please, let there be no disputing between me and you and between my herdsmen and yours, for we are brotherly men. 9Doesn’t the whole land lie before you? Separate from me. If you go left I’ll go right. If you go right, I’ll go left.”
            10Lot looked around and saw the whole flat of the Yarden all well watered. (Prior to Yahh’s destroying S’dom and Amorah it was like the Garden of Yahh. It was like the land of Mitsrayim till you come to Tsoar.) 11So Lot chose for himself the whole flat of the Yarden and migrated east, tenting as far as S’dom. They separated, one from his brother. 12Avram lived in the Land of K’na’an and Lot among the villages of the flat.13The men of S’dom were very wicked, sinners against Yahh.
            14Yahh said to Avram, after Lot had separated from him, “Look around and see from where you stand, northward, southward, eastward, and westward. 15All the land that you see I give you and your seed, for eternity. 16I will set your seed like the dust of the land so that if anyone can count the dust of the land your seed will be countable. 17Up! Walk about the land­its length and width–for I give it to you.”
            18So Avram tented and arrived to dwell at Eloney Mamre in Hevron.  There he built an altar to Yahh.

© Rabbi David L. Kline  

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