Don Isaac Abravanel (1437-1508) was a preeminent Jewish thinker, scholar, and prolific Biblical
commentator. In Genesis chapter 13, the Bible reiterates divine promises previously made to Abram in
an earlier chapter. Here again, God tells Abram that his progeny will wax prolific, and that they will
inherit the Holy Land.
“And God said unto Abram, after Lot separated from him: Lift up your
eyes, and look from the place where you are – northward and southward
and eastward and westward. For all the land which you see, to you will I
give it, and to your seed forever. And I will make your seed as the dust of
the earth, so that if a man can number the dust of the earth, then shall
your seed also be numbered.”
Abravanel wants to get a read on the reason why the Creator repeats both divine promises, essentially
the same message that He already communicated with Abram. Further, Abravanel compares the
language of the two divine communiqués. He finds that the second time around goes into far greater
detail than the terse, first prophecy.
Abravanel’s answer educates Bible students. Readers will not only learn why there is a repeat of the
prophecies, but they will also become sensitized to a theme Abravanel drives home throughout his
commentary on the Bible. It is this: prophecy does not come in a vacuum. God speaks to man, assuaging
his inner turmoil and distress.
The verse quoted above, then, sets the all-important context. God spoke with Abram after his nephew
Lot separated from him. Abravanel plumbs the patriarch’s mood, post separation. In a word, the
patriarch felt forlorn. Years of trial and tribulation together had brought the uncle and nephew
extremely close; they bonded.
When Lot bolted, Abram had no other family member remaining with him from his father’s household.
Despondent, the patriarch received the Creator’s message, one of profound comfort and cheer – he
would be the patriarch of a burgeoning nation, one whose number can be likened to the dust of the
earth. More good news – his descendants would inherit the Holy Land.
For sure, the first divine message carried the same gist, albeit in shorthand. However, after Lot
abandoned Abram, the Creator sought to gladden a heavy heart. The second, amplified prophecy hit its
Abravanel brings a second reason that answers why the Bible reiterates the original prophecy delivered to
Abram. You can learn about it in Bereshit: Theory of Moral Evolution