A. Abram rescues Lot from the confederacy of kings.
1. (1-10) The rebellion of the five kings.
And it came to pass in the days of Amraphel king of Shinar, Arioch king of Ellasar, Chedorlaomer king of Elam, and Tidal king of nations, that they made war with Bera king of Sodom, Birsha king of Gomorrah, Shinab king of Admah, Shemeber king of Zeboiim, and the king of Bela (that is, Zoar). All these joined together in the Valley of Siddim (that is, the Salt Sea). Twelve years they served Chedorlaomer, and in the thirteenth year they rebelled. In the fourteenth year Chedorlaomer and the kings that were with him came and attacked the Rephaim in Ashteroth Karnaim, the Zuzim in Ham, the Emim in Shaveh Kiriathaim, and the Horites in their mountain of Seir, as far as El Paran, which is by the wilderness. Then they turned back and came to En Mishpat (that is, Kadesh), and attacked all the country of the Amalekites, and also the Amorites who dwelt in Hazezon Tamar. And the king of Sodom, the king of Gomorrah, the king of Admah, the king of Zeboiim, and the king of Bela (that is, Zoar) went out and joined together in battle in the Valley of Siddim against Chedorlaomer king of Elam, Tidal king of nations, Amraphel king of Shinar, and Arioch king of Ellasar—four kings against five. Now the Valley of Siddim was full of asphalt pits; and the kings of Sodom and Gomorrah fled; some fell there, and the remainder fled to the mountains.
a. Chedorlaomer and the kings that were with him came and attacked: The people who lived in Canaan in the days of Abram were like humanity in general. There were many among them interested in conquest and domination. This confederation of kings who rebelled against Chedorlaomer wanted to be free from his dominion.
i. Archaeologist Nelson Glueck documented the destruction left by these kings: “I found that every village in their path had been plundered and left in ruins, and the countryside was laid waste. The population had been wiped out or led away into captivity. For hundreds of years thereafter, the entire area was like an abandoned cemetery, hideously unkempt, with all its monuments shattered and strewn in pieces on the ground.” (cited in Morris)
b. Now the Valley of Siddim was full of asphalt pits: There were fearful asphalt pits in this region, and some fell there. The Hebrew here is a good example of how the language uses repetition to show emphasis.
i. “The Hebrew way of saying full of bitumen pits is: pits, pits of bitumen. Repetition expresses abundance, plenitude, etc.” (Leupold)
2. (11-12) The four kings take Lot and all his possessions.
Then they took all the goods of Sodom and Gomorrah, and all their provisions, and went their way. They also took Lot, Abram’s brother’s son who dwelt in Sodom, and his goods, and departed.
a. They also took Lot: Because Lot was Abram’s brother’s son, the group of four kings involved Abram. Abram was a man of honor and a guardian of his family, so he would fight for his nephew’s life and safety.
b. And his goods: Since Lot lived among the wicked people of Sodom, we are not surprised he was also taken captive.
i. “Those believers who conform to the world must expect to suffer for it.” (Spurgeon)
3. (13-14) Abram hears of Lot’s captivity and marshals an army.
Then one who had escaped came and told Abram the Hebrew, for he dwelt by the terebinth trees of Mamre the Amorite, brother of Eshcol and brother of Aner; and they were allies with Abram. Now when Abram heard that his brother was taken captive, he armed his three hundred and eighteen trained servants who were born in his own house, and went in pursuit as far as Dan.
a. Abram the Hebrew: This is the first use of the term Hebrew in the Bible. It was probably a reference to the fact that Abram came from beyond the Euphrates River, and had passed over the river to come to Canaan.
i. “The word Hebrew comes from a root that means passed over. The Septuagint translates it the passenger.” (Barnhouse)
b. He armed his three hundred and eighteen trained servants: This demonstrates the great wealth of Abram. Any man who could assemble 318 servants capable of fighting must be very rich.
c. Trained servants: Abram was a man who walked in faith, yet he was also a prudent man. Abram kept his own personal army, and he apparently kept them trained and ready to defend his interests.
d. Went in pursuit as far as Dan: Abram’s army pursued the confederacy of four kings for a long distance to the north. The city of Dan is not far from the northern border of Israel.
i. The gates of the city of Dan from Abram’s time have been discovered by archaeologists and can be viewed at the Israeli national park at Dan.
4. (15-17) Abram leads his army to victory over the four kings.
He divided his forces against them by night, and he and his servants attacked them and pursued them as far as Hobah, which is north of Damascus. So he brought back all the goods, and also brought back his brother Lot and his goods, as well as the women and the people. And the king of Sodom went out to meet him at the Valley of Shaveh (that is, the King’s Valley), after his return from the defeat of Chedorlaomer and the kings who were with him.
a. He divided his forces against them by night: Abram had military wisdom. Using the clever tactic of a night attack with his army split into two groups, he succeeded in rescuing Lot and recovering all the plunder (all the goods) seized by the partnership of the four kings.
b. Also brought back his brother Lot and his goods: Unfortunately, Lot moved right back to where he was before in Sodom. He refused this warning from God and would eventually lose everything when Sodom and Gomorrah were ultimately judged (Genesis 19:24-25).
i. We may see a story in the account of Abram’s rescue of Lot. We were those off in sin and shame, rescued by one who left his safety and happiness. Our kinsman redeemer went to great trouble and distance, and with His courage and daring defeated the mighty enemy that had put us in bondage, and He took all the enemy’s spoil.
B. Abram and Melchizedek.
1. (18-20) Abram meets Melchizedek.
Then Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine; he was the priest of God Most High. And he blessed him and said:
“Blessed be Abram of God Most High,
Possessor of heaven and earth;
And blessed be God Most High,
Who has delivered your enemies into your hand.”
And he gave him a tithe of all.
a. Then Melchizedek: We have no idea of where Melchizedek came from, how he came to be in Canaan, how he came to be a worshipper and priest of the true God, and how Abram came to know about him. We only know he was there.
b. Melchizedek king of Salem: The name Melchizedek means King of Righteousness. He was the king of Salem, and Salem was the original Jerusalem, and Melchizedek was the priest of God Most High. He was a worshipper and priest of the true God, ruling over Jerusalem even in those ancient times.
i. One thing that makes Melchizedek unique was he was both a king and a priest. History shows that it is often dangerous to combine religious and civic authority. God forbade the kings of Israel to be priests and the priests to be kings. In 2 Chronicles 26:16-23, King Uzziah tried to do the work of a priest, and God struck him with leprosy. Melchizedek was an exception.
ii. Melchizedek was the priest of God Most High. El Elyon means “Highest God,” like saying “Supreme Being.” Melchizedek is an example of a worshipper of the true God, even a priest of God Most High yet not related to Abram or other known covenant people of God.
c. Brought out bread and wine: Melchizedek served Abram bread and wine. Perhaps he even served them in a manner looking forward to our redeeming sacrifice, as the bread and wine of Passover and the Lord’s Table look at our redeeming sacrifice, Jesus Christ.
d. He was the priest of God Most High: Melchizedek, as priest, did two things. He blessed Abram and he blessed God. Melchizedek showed that a priest must connect with both God and man and has a ministry to both God and man.
i. Though Melchizedek seems like an obscure figure, he is in fact an important Old Testament person. Psalm 110:4 says the priesthood of the Messiah is a priesthood according to the order of Melchizedek, as opposed to being of the order of Aaron. Hebrews chapters 5 through 7 show this is an important idea.
ii. Hebrews 7:3 described Melchizedek as without father, without mother, without genealogy, having neither beginning of days nor end of life, but made like the Son of God, remains a priest continually. Because of this passage, some have thought Melchizedek was actually a pre-Bethlehem appearance of Jesus.
iii. Others have suggested he was Seth, Noah’s son, or Job, or an angel; or even some have fancifully speculated Melchizedek was an outer-space visitor, an “unfallen Adam” from another planet, sent to observe the progress of God’s work of redemption for this fallen race. These suggestions are bizarre and have no Biblical foundation.
iv. “The question cannot be said to be settled completely… otherwise, the identity of Melchizedek would have been agreed on by Bible scholars long ago” (Morris). We can say with confidence that if Melchizedek was not an appearance of Jesus Himself, at the very least he is a remarkable type or picture of Jesus.
e. And he gave him a tithe of all: Abram gave unto the LORD and he did it through giving to Melchizedek a tithe of all. This referred to one tenth of his assets, not his income.
i. It was almost as if Abram and Melchizedek worked to see who could bless the other more. Melchizedek blessed Abram out of his resources, and Abram blessed Melchizedek out of his resources. This is a great attitude for us to have in the community of believers, an attitude of mutual blessing.
2. (21-24) Abram refuses the plunder from the battle.
Now the king of Sodom said to Abram, “Give me the persons, and take the goods for yourself.” But Abram said to the king of Sodom, “I have raised my hand to the LORD, God Most High, the Possessor of heaven and earth, that I will take nothing, from a thread to a sandal strap, and that I will not take anything that is yours, lest you should say, ‘I have made Abram rich’—except only what the young men have eaten, and the portion of the men who went with me: Aner, Eshcol, and Mamre; let them take their portion.”
a. Take the goods for yourself: As seemed proper, the king of Sodom wanted to reward Abram for all he did in recovering what was taken by the partnership of the four kings, and he offered Abram a tremendous amount of plunder.
b. I will take nothing: Yet, Abram would not take any of the plunder, the spoil taken from Sodom and Gomorrah and recovered. This was because of a vow he made to God Most High – a phrase he used after hearing Melchizedek use this particular title for God (Genesis 14:19). The phrase I have raised my hand to the LORD indicates that Abram made the vow.
c. Lest you should say, “I have made Abram rich”: Abram refused any portion of the plunder because he would not allow anyone say that a man had made Abram rich. Abram determined that all of the credit for his success and wealth should go to God and God alone.
i. If success does come when we pursue human measures of success, using man-centered wisdom and methods, how can we really say that God gave the success? It is much better to follow God’s wisdom so that when success comes He gets the glory, and it is evident to everyone that it was His work.
d. Let them take their portion: However, at the same time, Abram did not impose his principles on his Amorite allies (Genesis 14:13). They were entitled to as much of the spoil as was appropriate under the customs of the time.
©2018 David Guzik – No distribution beyond personal use without permission