The Meek Shall Inherit the Earth

It might appear to some that I’m on a Fr. Reardon kick seeing as I posted one of his Pastoral Ponderings only yesterday and here I am again quoting him. But I really enjoyed this brief commentary on Genesis 13 (from here), particularly the note about the meek inheriting the earth.

When Abraham and Lot went their separate ways Abraham, as Fr. Patrick notes, really got the raw end of the deal. Yet,  in the end it was the meek, it was Abraham who saved Lot, not only once but twice! For before he would save him from the rain of brimstone and fire he had to rescue him and his family from the four Mesopotamian kings who held them in captivity. It was right after this rescue mission that he meets the mysterious figure of Melchizedek.

When Abram left Egypt, he and his family were very wealthy because of Pharaoh’s generosity to someone he was trying to gain as a brother-in-law! Now Abram and Lot find that the sheer size of their flocks requires them to live apart (verses 1-7). The story of their separation (verses 8-13) demonstrates Abram’s humility in giving his younger relative the choice of the land (verse 9), while he himself takes what is left. This humble action of Abram illustrates the meaning of the dominical saying that the meek shall inherit the earth. Abraham’s descendents, not Lot’s, will inherit all this land. In this story we discern the non-assertive quality of Abram’s faith. He is not only meek; he is also a peacemaker. Meekness and peacemaking are qualities of the man of faith.

Lot serves in this story as a kind of foil to Abram. The meek and peaceful Abram takes what is left, whereas Lot, obviously having failed to do a proper survey of the neighborhood, chooses to live in Sodom. This was to prove one of the worst real estate choices in history.

The present chapter closes with God’s solemn asseveration to Abram, promising him the land and the “seed” (verses 14-18). Unfortunately the rich ambivalence of this latter noun (zera‘ in Hebrew, sperma in Greek, semen in Latin) is lost in more recent translations that substitute the politically correct but entirely prosaic “descendents” for “seed” (verses 15-16).

Besides Sodom, two other important Canaanite cities are introduced in this chapter, Bethel (still called Luz at this period — cf. 28:19) and Hebron. Both of these cities will be extremely important in subsequent biblical history, and Abram is credited with making each of them a place of worship (verses 4,18).

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