“Imago Dei” and the Population Debate -- By: E. Calvin Beisner
TrinJ 18:2 (Fall 1997) p. 173
“Imago Dei” and the Population Debate1
Sometime early in the nineteenth century bc,2 the Hebrew patriarch Abram and his nephew Lot dwelt as semi-nomadic shepherds in the region of Bethel and Ai in Palestine. “Abram had become very wealthy in livestock and in silver and gold” (Gen 13:23 ), and Lot
also had flocks and herds and tents. But the land could not support them while they stayed together, for their possessions were so great that they were not able to stay together. And quarreling arose between Abram’s herdsmen and the herdsmen of Lot… So Abram said to Lot, “Let’s not have any quarreling between you and me, or between your herdsmen and mine, for we are brothers. Is not the whole land before you? Let’s part company. If you go to the left, I’ll go to the right; if you go to the right, I’ll go to the left.”
Lot looked up and saw that the whole plain of the Jordan was well watered, like the garden of the Lord, like the land of Egypt, toward Zoar… So Lot chose for himself the whole plain of the Jordan and set out toward the east. The two men parted company: Abram lived in the land of Canaan, while Lot lived among the cities of the plain and pitched his tents near Sodom. (Gen 13:5–12)
This is the earliest instance recorded in the Bible4 of the impression that a local human population had outstripped the ability of the land to support it.
*E. Calvin Beisner is Associate Professor of Interdisciplinary Studies at Covenant College, Lookout Mountain, Georgia, and author of several books on population and environmental science, economics, and ethics, including Where Garden Meets Wilderness: Evangelical Entry into the Environmental Debate (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans/Acton Institute, 1997).
TrinJ 18:2 (Fall 1997) p. 174
Tucked away in this passage is a fascinating lesson for those who will see it: Lot chose for himself what appeared to be the most fertile land. In contrast, Abram, father of the faithful and of many nations (Rom 4:11, 16–17), accepted whatever land God, in his providence, gave him through Lot’s choice. Lot’s eyes focused on material circumstances, Abram’s on the ability of God to bless his servant regardless of circumstances. Lot’s decision was driven by his thoughts about the capacity of the land; Abram’s by his faith...
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