Sunday, March 05, 2006


Genesis 14

July 17, 2005

Good morning! In our last lesson we covered a large amount of territory, as Chapter 13 covered Abram’s return from Egypt and reestablishment of worship at Bethel, his separation from Lot, Lot’s backsliding, and finally God’s establishment with Abram of his covenant. This is where the land that was to become Israel became officially the Promised Land.

Chapter 14 will start us off into a new direction and we’ll need to look a bit at ancient history to get us started down the right path. You’ll remember that Genesis is known as a book of Moses. In other words it was written by Moses through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Throughout scripture we find places where documents available to the author were included into the holy writ by the author under the inspiration of God. We find such quotes in Esther and Nehemiah and in the Gospels. Many scholars believe that at least the first portion of Chapter 14 is a document from the Babylonian record which Moses included because it mentioned Abram. One evidence of this is that in verse 13 he is referred to as "Abram the Hebrew" which is strikingly different from Moses’ other descriptions of Abram. We’ll look now at the first 12 verses of Chapter 14. Please bear with my inaccurate pronunciation of the names. And keep in mind as you follow along that you may well be reading an English translation of a battle report written in Babylonia over 3000 years ago, perhaps on clay tablets…

Genesis 14:1-12. Read.

So just what had happened here? The story actually starts 13 or 14 years earlier while Abram was still living in Haran. Chedorlaomer, the king of Persia, here called Elam, had invaded this area and subjugated the kings of the small kingdoms around the Salt Sea. Since this was before the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, the Dead Sea was much smaller and fertile deltas led up to it. In the 13th year the five kings of this area rebelled against Chedorlaomer. He formed an alliance with three other kings who were from the area around Babylon to go punish the rebels. It was probably a scribe from one of those king’s court, a sort of "imbedded combat reporter" who wrote this account.

The Persian alliance marched south, down the eastern side of the Dead Sea, circled the southern end and came up to the north on the western side to attack Sodom and Gomorrah. This was a tactical success, the rebel kings were no doubt expecting an attack from the north with set piece battles in the fertile lowlands where chariots and cavalry could be used to good effect. Instead they were taken by surprise from the rear in an attack through the "slime pits". There was asphalt underground in the area and it was mined down from the surface, strip mined, if you will. It’s possible that this area was one of the sources for the slime that was used for mortar for the Tower of Babel. Anyway, if you are familiar with the old strip mined area south of here in the neighborhood of the County Landfill, you have an idea of the character of the landscape. The main difference would be that instead of the numerous water filled ponds you see here, these strip pits were at their bottoms filled with oily goo, much as the La Brea tar pits out in California. If the Persian alliance had soldiers skilled in guerilla type warfare, they had an ideal killing field, and indeed, the kings of Sodom and Gomorrah fell there.

The soldiers fled to the mountains and the Persian alliance scooped up prisoners to be sold into slavery and also the rich booty from the loot of the two great cities. This included Lot who must have remained neutral in this fight so that he and his vast herds and large numbers of servants made easy pickings for the alliance.

Genesis 14:13. Read.

This is the verse that makes it likely this is a passage from a Babylonian document. This is the source of the name "Hebrew" for Jews. I will quote from the New Bible Commentary:

"There are two possibilities: either it comes from Eber (which we find in Genesis 11:14, one of Abram’s ancestors), or it is derived from the verb meaning to pass over a river and contains an allusion to the crossing of the river Euphrates by Abram and his great company. In this latter sense it might be translated ‘immigrant’, and it possibly reflects a Canaanite way of speaking of Abram. There is a further possibility that this is the term ‘Habiru’, which means a semi-nomad."

Genesis 14:14. Read.

We know a number of things about these warriors. They were Abram’s slaves, because they were born in his house. We know that they had been trained in combat. This also tells us something about the nature of servanthood in those days. It would not be wise to arm and train slaves who were angry at their status and condition, so the status of those servants must have been more as hired soldiers working for their chieftain. They were for the purpose of protecting flocks and people from marauding tribes. The fact that their were 318 available to go on a long expedition to rescue Lot means that there must have been at least that many more to stay behind and continue their guard duty. So we know that Abram’s holding must have been very extensive. He also was joined in this expedition by bodies of Amorites under Aner, Eshcol, and Mamre, as we see from verse 13 and later verse 24. Abram’s private army had the advantage of not being held back by heavy cargoes of loot and prisoners and they soon caught up with the victors in Syria, close to Dan.

Genesis 14:15. Read.

So here we see the advantage of Abram’s private troops who were trained to fight off marauders… they had to know how to fight at night. Their job was to protect against sneak attacks and that made them experts at sneak attacking. The Persian alliance was caught by surprise and fled in terror. With his Amorite reserves ready to take up the chase, Abram won a great victory. This may well have been when the record of the earlier verses was captured.

Genesis 14:16. Read.

So Lot had to be delivered by the sword. And not only Lot, but also the captives and riches looted from Sodom and Gomorrah.
We now move into a portion of the narrative that is rich in type and prophetical meaning. We will see two characters introduced who will show us types of both temptation and redemption.
Genesis 14:17. Read.

The first actor to appear on our stage is the king of Sodom. There is some question as to who this is, as verse 10 tells us the king of Sodom fell in the battle of the slime pits. It’s possible that verse 10 means the kings fell BACK into the pits or retreated there. The possibility also exists that he was wounded in that battle and fell physically but did not die. Or there may have been more than one king of Sodom and this one survived. Lastly, he may have been the son or younger brother of the king, who was crowned during Abram’s expedition up to Syria. We also can gather from verse 17 that Abram’s troops did not just pursue Chedorlaomer and chase them back north, but there was a great slaughter there. We will watch later as the king of Sodom serves as a tempter.

Genesis 14:18. Read

Here we are introduced to a Bible character, Melchizedek about whom all sorts of foolishness has been speculated and preached. He is described here as a man both priest and king which makes him a type of Christ. Melchizedek means "king of righteousness". Salem is short for Jeru-salem, meaning "peace". Christ is our king of both righteousness and peace. Col. Scofield is quick to point out in his notes:

"The type strictly applies to the priestly work of Christ in RESURRECTION since Melchizedek presents only the MEMORIALS of sacrifice, bread and wine." The book of Hebrews has something to say about this priest – king, let’s look at that passage.

Hebrews 6:20-7:10. Read.

We know first of all, that God always has a remnant. Though Abram and his seed became the Chosen People, there were still centers of the earth’s population who worshipped the One True God. Not insignificantly, one of these groups and their king was based in Jerusalem. The Jews have always been very focused on genealogy, and well they should as it was Adam’s seed which was to crush the serpent’s head and the Aaronic priesthood was to be maintained by genealogy. The writer of Hebrews points out to us in verse 3 that no such genealogy existed for Melchizedek, and thus his priesthood did not have a beginning or an end, just as our Lord’s did not.

Also, this is first place in scripture where the word "priest" occurs, so that after a fashion every priest of God later to come was "after his order".

Genesis 14:19-20. Read.

We are introduced by Melchizedek here to a new name for God, The Most High God or The Supreme God. I will read to you MacDonald’s commentary on these verses.

"Melchizedek blessed Abram, and Abram in turn gave to this priest of God a tithe of all his captured prizes. In Hebrews 7 we learn that there was a deep spiritual significance to these actions. Because Abram was the progenitor of Aaron, he is seen as representing the Aaronic priesthood. The fact that Melchizedek blessed Abram means that Melchizedek’s priesthood is greater than Aaron’s, because the one who blesses is superior to the one who is blessed. The fact that Abram paid tithes to Melchizedek is seen as a picture of the Aaronic priesthood acknowledging the superiority of Melchizedek’s priesthood, because the lesser pays tithes to the greater."

This passage also shows us that the paying tithes was an ancient custom already long before the giving of the law of Moses.

Genesis 14:21. Read.

In the earlier verses we saw Melchizedek as a type of the resurrected Christ, now we see the king of Sodom as a type of the fallen angel, Satan. The king of Sodom tempts Abram with getting material riches as Satan later would tempt our Lord, offering him all the riches of the earth. And like Satan, his was offering what really wasn’t his to give. He was also being very subtle. He knew that if Abram kept all the loot for himself, his allies, the Amorites would resent him and thus their currently loyalty to Abram, which must have scared the king, would turn into a willingness to intrigue against Abram. But Abram was much to wise to fall for this.

Genesis 14:22. Read.

You may have seen someone be sworn in as a witness in a court or the president sworn in and wondered where the tradition of raising the hand as an oath is taken came from. Here is the answer. We also see that Abram is at once using the new title for God just taught to him, The Most High God, as well as Jehovah.

Genesis 14:23-24. Read

So Abram dodges the bullet of temptation. The trap the king of Sodom so carefully laid at his feet will not entangle him as the king hoped. By allowing Aner, Eshcol, and Mamre to take their portion, Abram retains their friendship and loyalty and they won’t ally with the king against him. By refusing to keep any of the spoil for himself, Abram prevents himself from becoming beholden to the king. Abram recognized the lie implicit in the king’s offer… Abram already was rich. He didn’t need more possessions. Had he out of greed kept that loot, the citizens of the country who already resented him as an interloper would have looked at ALL his possessions and felt they really didn’t belong to him.

Abram’s wisdom is a lesson to us this morning. We are faced with two persons who offer us choices and rewards. The king of Sodom offers us what MacDonald calls "the toys of dust". That is the rewards of greed and sin. Make no mistake, the toys of dust are very real. The one who chooses them gains pleasure for a season. We may find riches and what we think is financial security. We may find sensual pleasure. But, "the pleasure of sin lasts but for a season." "There is a way that seemeth right unto a man, but the ends thereof are the ends of death".
We, like Abram are faced also with a King of Righteousness and of Peace, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Like Melchizedek, he invites us as we did this morning to share the symbols of his sacrifice and resurrection, the bread and the wine. And he once provided that broken body and shed blood they symbolize. Like Melchizedek he offers his blessing and the chance to be the person who belongs to the most high God, the possessor of heaven and earth. Like Melchizedek he offers the possibility of having our enemies delivered into our hands. And like Melchizedek he doesn’t ask for our tithes, he leaves that up to us. It is our choice.

We have a choice between whom we shall serve. Sodom or Savior.

Joshua would say a thousand years later, "choose ye this whom you will serve… but for me and my house, we will serve the Lord."
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