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Genesis 14: The Empire Strikes Back

Posted by Gary Labels: ,

The Conquest 14:1-12
Kederlaomer, king of Elam, has three allies that he goes to campaign with one spring. Now, he had five vassals who had been his subjects for twelve years. In the thirteenth year, they refused to pay tribute and gathered together in rebellion against him while he was away at war. As his troops came back that fall from an extremely successful year, the rebel alliance (which included Sodom and Gomorrah) ambushed them in a valley. Their hope was to catch their former master and his troops battle-weary on their march home. This hope was dashed to pieces, and the rebels were utterly routed. Kederlaomer even launched a counter-offensive to take the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, and he plundered the cities completely – taking also Abram’s nephew Lot.

The Rescue 14:13-16
One of those who escaped must have known Lot, and Lot must have told of his uncle Abram. The fugitive finds Abram in Hebron and tells the whole spiel. Abram immediately moves out with all 318 trained fighting men in his household to rescue Lot. Even with such a small force, he pursues over a hundred miles and routs the four great kings. He’s confident enough to even divide his forces into smaller units to “surround” the much larger army. As is the case when Hebrews fight, it is God’s faithfulness that empowers them to victory (“those who curse you, I will curse”). And so, Abram and his Amorite allies rescue Lot and they come to the King’s Valley, near Jerusalem.

Politics, politics, politics 14:17-24
Now, the king of Sodom comes out to meet Abram. Then Melchizedek, the king of Salem (Jerusalem) comes out to bring Abram a simple meal in thanks of what he’s done. Melchizedek gives an honest gesture of friendship and hospitality. You see, he was a priest-king in the service of God Most High. What is interesting is that he probably attained his position as a high priest of the Canaanite god, who also has the title “god most high.” Yet at some point, he came to know the real God, because Abram acknowledges his blessing and gives a tithe to God through Melchizedek. Abram recognizes completely that it is God who gave him victory that day, and openly declares his faith and thankfulness with that tithe.

The king of Sodom, who had been passive through this entire affair, speaks up. “Of course, you’ll give me back my people, but keep all the goods for yourself.” If Abram took this offer, then he’d certainly be richer. However, it would put him in Sodom’s debt, in effect making him a vassal just like Sodom was to Kederlaomer. Here we see the first example of Sodomite hospitality – it comes with strings attached. They were a people who had no problem inflicting the same wrongs on others that they had suffered for twelve years.

Yet, Abram refuses this get-rich-quick scheme and takes nothing for himself, other than the meal for him and his men (offered by Melchizedek and not Sodom), though he will accept the shares for his Amorite allies. Whereas the last chapter has Abram making peace amid family strife, here he does “become a blessing to the nations” by solving international strife.

In this chapter, Abram shows great courage and devotion to his family. Abram acknowledges that God grants victory, and he proclaims faith in God, because God is faithful to him. Also worth noting is that Abram is not moved by greed for material gain. He wants to point not to his own wealth, but to God. He wants for everyone to say “God made Abram rich.”

What the king of Sodom tried to pull is much like the “rent-to-own” scheme people fall for, where you pay two to four times the price of an item over a long period of time. We could also liken it to the misuse of credit cards. Interest piles up, and you eventually become enslaved as a debtor. Abram refused to fall for that. Financial schemes are a true snare. We must be wary and remember that God will provide our needs – maybe not all our wants and desires, but all our needs will certainly be met.