These articles are the fruit of my preaching through the book of Genesis in 2017-2018. It is refreshing to review each chapter with an eye to the context of the rest of the book and the context of the Bible as a whole. It is my prayer that these articles are helpful to those seeking a better understanding of the book of Genesis. More can be found at www.fbcroxana.com.
The study of history is often the study of wars and battles. This chapter contains the first battle recorded in Scripture. However, the battle is not the primary focus. It is only mentioned, because of Abram’s involvement on account of his nephew, Lot. In the last chapter, Lot moved toward Sodom and Gomorrah, an exceedingly wicked place. He seemed to be drawn toward Sodom, for he moved toward the city in chapter 13, was living in the city in this chapter, and was sitting at the gates of the city in chapter 19. In this chapter, his life becames endangered by his association with Sodom, due to an ongoing drama with a coalition of kings from the east.
1 And it came about in the days of Amraphel king of Shinar, Arioch king of Ellasar, Chedorlaomer king of Elam, and Tidal king of Goiim, 2 that they made war with Bera king of Sodom, and with Birsha king of Gomorrah, Shinab king of Admah, and Shemeber king of Zeboiim, and the king of Bela (that is, Zoar). 3 All these came as allies to the valley of Siddim (that is, the Salt Sea).
Four kings from the east made war with five kings from the region of Canaan. The kings from the east conquered the kings from the region of Canaan, and made them subservient to them, paying taxes to Chedorlaomer, king of Elam.
4 Twelve years they had served Chedorlaomer, but the thirteenth year they rebelled.
They payed the tax for twelve years, but decided not to pay it on the thirteenth. They probably assessed their strength to be sufficient to defeat Chedorlaomer and his allies in battle.
5 In the fourteenth year Chedorlaomer and the kings that were with him, came and defeated the Rephaim in Ashteroth-karnaim and the Zuzim in Ham and the Emim in Shaveh-kiriathaim, 6 and the Horites in their Mount Seir, as far as El-paran, which is by the wilderness. 7 Then they turned back and came to En-mishpat (that is, Kadesh), and conquered all the country of the Amalekites, and also the Amorites, who lived in Hazazon-tamar. 8 And the king of Sodom and the king of Gomorrah and the king of Admah and the king of Zeboiim and the king of Bela (that is, Zoar) came out; and they arrayed for battle against them in the valley of Siddim, 9 against Chedorlaomer king of Elam and Tidal king of Goiim and Amraphel king of Shinar and Arioch king of Ellasar—four kings against five.
After a long campaign throughout the territory, the four kings from the east again faced the five from the region of Canaan. The battle did not go so well:
10 Now the valley of Siddim was full of tar pits; and the kings of Sodom and Gomorrah fled, and they fell into them. But those who survived fled to the hill country. 11 Then they took all the goods of Sodom and Gomorrah and all their food supply, and departed. 12 They also took Lot, Abram’s nephew, and his possessions and departed, for he was living in Sodom.
Ironically, the kings of Sodom and Gomorrah fell into the tar pits as they fled in their own land. The survivors fled west to the hill country. The kings from the east plundered Sodom and Gomorrah for all their goods and food, and they took captives. Among the captives was Lot, Abram’s nephew. He was captured, because he was living in Sodom.
13 Then a fugitive came and told Abram the Hebrew. Now he was living by the oaks of Mamre the Amorite, brother of Eshcol and brother of Aner, and these were allies with Abram. 14 When Abram heard that his relative had been taken captive, he led out his trained men, born in his house, three hundred and eighteen, and went in pursuit as far as Dan. 15 He divided his forces against them by night, he and his servants, and defeated them, and pursued them as far as Hobah, which is north of Damascus. 16 He brought back all the goods, and also brought back his relative Lot with his possessions, and also the women, and the people.
Abram led an army of more than three hundred people more than one hundred fifty miles in pursuit of the kings of the east in order to rescue Lot.
17 Then after his return from the defeat of Chedorlaomer and the kings who were with him, the king of Sodom went out to meet him at the valley of Shaveh (that is, the King’s Valley). 18 And Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine; now he was a priest of God Most High.
The king of Sodom, whose name was not recorded, went out to meet Abram when he returned. Another king, who was not one of the five who went to war, went out to meet Abram as well. The king of Sodom deferred to this king, who was also a priest of God. Melchizedek means ‘king of righteousness,’ and he was king-priest of Salem (Jerusalem), which means ‘peace.’ This king-priest of righteousness and peace blessed Abram:
19 He blessed him and said,
“Blessed be Abram of God Most High,
Possessor of heaven and earth;
20 And blessed be God Most High,
Who has delivered your enemies into your hand.”
How surprised Abram must have been to hear Melchizedek invoke God’s name. Melchizedek blessed Abram and God, and identified Abram as being a man of God.
He gave him a tenth of all.
Abram tithed a tenth of all the spoil of war to Melchizedek.
21 The king of Sodom said to Abram, “Give the people to me and take the goods for yourself.” 22 Abram said to the king of Sodom, “I have sworn to the Lord God Most High, possessor of heaven and earth, 23 that I will not take a thread or a sandal thong or anything that is yours, for fear you would say, ‘I have made Abram rich.’ 24 I will take nothing except what the young men have eaten, and the share of the men who went with me, Aner, Eshcol, and Mamre; let them take their share.”
As the victor, all of the spoil belonged to Abram, but the king of Sodom tried to make a deal with Abram. Abram did not take the demands of the king of Sodom, but took nothing for himself from the spoils except for the shares rightly due to his partners. He gave everything to the king of Sodom.
Five kings and their armies were unsuccessful in battle against the coalition of kings from the east. Though they had judged themselves to be powerful enough to successfully revolt against the kings, they found themselves defeated and retreating from battle. However, Abram, an old man who had seemingly little battle experience, was able to overtake the eastern kings and defeat them. Already, we see that God is with Abram in an extraordinary way. This is confirmed by Melchizedek’s blessing of God Most High, possessor of heaven and earth. Melchizedek blessed God for delivering Abram’s enemies into his hand.
Melchizedek was the King-Priest of Salem (which means peace), who is revealed to be a type of the anticipated Messiah (Psa 110; Heb 5; 7). Melchizedek appeared out of nowhere with no credentials listed, and then disappeared just as quickly from the biblical narrative. He led Abram in worship of the Almighty God, imparting to Abram a robust theology of God as the creator and possessor of heaven and earth. Abram tithed a tenth of everything to Melchizedek, demonstrating that Melchizedek was greater than Abram.
The Messiah is also a king-priest of peace who is greater than Abraham. Jesus Christ, the Messiah and anticipated seed (Gen 3:15), came to earth as a man, God in the flesh. He died to enact a New Covenant wherein sin is taken away by the atonement He provided in His death. All who believe in Him will be given everlasting life and a share in the inheritance of the saints. Christ ascended into heaven where He sits at the right hand of God until His enemies are made a footstool for His feet. Then He will rule from Zion over the earth. And His people will be by His side forever.
All who believe in Jesus have no need to fear, for their sins are forgiven on the basis of the propitiation that He Himself provided. God will never condemn them, but has promised them a kingdom wherein Christ will rule as the King/Priest forever. And His kingdom will be one of peace.