GENESIS 14:1-24


In the previous chapter, we pondered the decision of Abram to separate himself from his nephew Lot.  Abram allowed Lot to have the first choice to which part of the land he would move and Abram consented to take the remainder.  Lot chose for himself what appeared to be the most fertile and desirable portion of the land; that land that was reminiscent of the land of Egypt.


            And Lot lifted up his eyes and saw all the valley of the Jordan, that it was well watered everywhere‑‑ this was before the LORD destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah‑‑ like the garden of the LORD, like the land of Egypt as you go to Zoar. (Genesis 13:10).


The reference to Egypt is significant when we remember who is the author of the book of Genesis and who are the original readers of the book.  They are the Israelites in the wilderness who have come out of Egypt.  Lot chose to enter a land that was reminiscent of the land from which they had been delivered.


As we shall see in this chapter, going down to Egypt will be seen as a costly mistake on the part of Lot.  He will need to be rescued in the same way the Israelites who were in Egypt needed to be rescued.  This is a call to leave Egypt and to leave the old manner of life that was represented by Egypt.





            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). 4 Twelve years they had served Chedorlaomer, but the thirteenth year they rebelled. (Genesis 14:1-4).


This chapter opens with a reference to a certain set of political and military events that took place in the ancient world of the days of Abram.  It involved alliances and treaties made with a variety of nations and city-states.  This alliance was made up of four powerful kings from the lands to the east of Canaan.


           Amraphel king of Shinar: We have already seen references to Shinar in Genesis 11.  It is the land in which the Tower of Babel was constructed.  It is a reference to Mesopotamia.


           Arioch king of Ellasar: Ellasar is commonly thought to be another name for the Sumerian city of Larsa, located in southern Mesopotamia.


           Chedorlaomer king of Elam: The Elamites were one of the superpowers of this era.  They lived to the east of Mesopotamia, but also exerted influence over all of Mesopotamia.  Chedorlaomer is seen in verse 4 to be the leader of this alliance.


           Tidal king of Goiim: The term “goyim” is the regular word for “nations.”  It seems to be a reference to a collection of city states in northwestern Mesopotamia.


War broke out when several of the tribute nations under the rule of Chedorlaomer formed an alliance of their own and determined to stop payment of the annual tribute.


·        Bera king of Sodom.

·         Birsha king of Gomorrah.

·        Shinab king of Admah.

·        Shemeber king of Zeboiim.

·        The king of Bela (that is, Zoar)


These five rebellious cities were all located in the valley of Siddim.  The word “Siddim” is normally rendered “harrow” and describes the process of plowing up the ground.  We are not told the significance of the name of “Siddim.”  It could be that the entire Jordanian Valley was considered to be a giant indentation in the earth caused, as it were, by a divine plow.   In this case, it was these cities that were “plowed up” by the invading coalition.


The passage goes on to explain that this Valley of Siddim is to be identified with the Salt Sea.  Evidently, by the time Moses penned this narrative, this location was no longer known as the Valley of Siddim and that was a designation lost in history, so a clarification is given to note that this place is now known as the land of the Salt Sea.





            5 And 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.

            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. (Genesis 14:5-10).


The rebellion of the five cities of the Jordanian Plain brought about a quick retribution as Chedorlaomer, this king of Elam, gathered up a coalition of kings and armies as set forth on a campaign designed to sweep down the Jordan River Valley all the way to the land of Edom.


The route followed by Chedorlaomer was known as the King’s Highway.  It was one of the major trade routes from Mesopotamia to Egypt during this period.  It ran from Damascus southward along the eastern side of the Jordan River, passing on the east side of the Dead Sea and continuing southward to the Red Sea.  Chedorlaomer took this route and then made a swing to the west, conquering the inhabitants of Kadesh and the Amalekite and Amorite tribes living in southern Canaan.  Completing a wide circle, Chedorlaomer turned north to come against the Jordan Valley from the south where an alliance of the cities of the Jordan Valley was waiting to meet him.


These two armies clashed and the kings of the Jordanian Alliance found themselves overwhelmed and forced to retreat.  They were pushed back into an area that was full of tar pits.  It is as though they had escaped one foe, only to be swallowed by another.





            11 Then they took all the goods of Sodom and Gomorrah and all their food supply, and departed. 12 And they also took Lot, Abram's nephew, and his possessions and departed, for he was living in Sodom. (Genesis 14:11-12).


With the defeat of the Jordanian Alliance, the cities of the Jordan Valley were left completely defenseless.  Chedorlaomer and his forces took all five of these cities, taking captives and loot as he desired.  Among the captives that were taken was Lot, Abram’s nephew.


When we last saw Lot in Genesis 13, he had moved down into the Jordan Valley with his tent pitched toward Sodom (13:12).  But now, we are told that he was living in Sodom.  At some point along the line, he had given up the life of a nomad and a wanderer and had moved into the city.


Perhaps there is a principle illustrated here.  It is the principle that proximity often leads to participation.  When you allow yourself to remain in the presence of sin, it is not long before you will soon find yourself in its very midst and partaking of it.  It is for this reason we are give the warning:  “Therefore, come out from their midst and be separate,” says the Lord. "And do not touch what is unclean” (2 Corinthians 6:17).





            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. (Genesis 14:13).


Now our scene shifts.  It moves from Lot who is a prisoner of war and a captive to Abram who is dwelling peacefully among Amorite allies of the land.  The oaks of Mamre were located near to the ancient city of Hebron and due west of the Dead Sea (Genesis 13:18).


Lot’s actions in choosing the best land for himself and at the expense of his uncle would have been perceived as a slight in those days when respect for one’s elders was considered normative.  One might imagine a response that said, “Lot got exactly what he deserved for his blatant disrespect for his elder.”  None of that takes place.  Instead, Abram takes immediate steps to rescue his nephew.


What has taken place?  Forgiveness.  Abram demonstrates a forgiving spirit toward his nephew.  We are called to exhibit the same sort of forgiveness toward those who have wronged us.  We are to forgive as we have been forgiven.





            14 And 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 And 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 And he brought back all the goods, and also brought back his relative Lot with his possessions, and also the women, and the people. (Genesis 14:14-16).


Abram’s concern for his nephew was quickly translated into action as he led out his trained men.  These were not a new acquisition.  They had been born under his tent.  They numbered 318 men.  We are told in Genesis 14:24 that Abram was also accompanied by his Amorite neighbors.  If Abram had been in their midst, building altars and proclaiming the name of the Lord, then these companions had been present to witness that testimony to the Lord.


Abram caught up with the invaders in the vicinity of Dan, near to the slopes of Mount Hermon on the northern border of Canaan.  Considering that Dan initially settled in the south and did not move to northern Palestine until the days of the Judges, this is evidently the modernized addition of a later scribe (like changing “New Amsterdam” to “New York” ). Abram’s strategy was twofold.


           He divided his forces.  This suggests a two-pronged attack designed to throw the enemy into confusion.


           He attacked by night.  Such an attack under the cover of darkness would add to the confusion of the enemy forces.


Not only did Abram with a great victory, but he was able to pursue the defeated forces to a point north of Damascus.  As a result, he was able to effect the rescue, not only of Lot, but also of the people and possessions of Sodom and the other cities of the plain.





            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. 19 And 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." And he gave him a tenth of all. (Genesis 14:17-20).


As Abram returns from his victory against Chedorlaomer, he is met by two kings who come out to meet him.  These two kings are seen in striking contrast to one another.


Bera, King of Sodom


King of Sodom, a city of sinful pleasure.

King of Salem, a city of peace.

Came out to meet Abram.

Came out to meet Abram.

He offered riches to Abram.

He offered a blessing to Abram along with bread and wine.

Abram refused his offer.

Abram accepted his blessings and the gifts.

Abram returned all of his riches and people.

Abram gave to him tithes of all the spoils of war.


These two kings are intentionally presented in juxtaposition to one another.  This is seen when verse 17 introduces the coming of the king of Sodom, but we do not see an interaction between him and Abram until verse 21.


           The king of Sodom and his fellow kings come to meet Abram.

           Abram meets with Melchizedek.

           The king of Sodom proposes that Abram keep all of the spoil he has rescued.


We are meant to look at these two kings and we are meant to contrast and compare them.  Why?  Because they are both representative of more than meets the eye.


The king of Sodom represents the sinful pleasures of the world.  Sodom was the place that was reminiscent of Egypt.  It represented the old life of the people of Israel when they were in bondage.  The world seeks to make an offer: “Take the riches you have won through your own self effort.”  It is an offer to make you wealthy.  It is an offer to obtain your desires through your own works and on the basis of your own effort.


The contrast is with the king who comes from Salem.  The word Salem is the Hebrew word for “peace.”  This seems to have been the ancient name of Jerusalem, the small Canaanite city that would one day become the capital of Israel.


1 God is known in Judah;

His name is great in Israel.

2 And His tabernacle is in Salem;

His dwelling place also is in Zion. (Psalm 76:1-2).


Salem” was evidently one of the ancient names for the city of Jerusalem.  Before this city became the capital of Israel, it belonged to a people known as the Jebusites.  Their city was alternately known as “Jebus” and “Salem.”  Its name today reflects a composite of these two names:   Jeru-salem.


That is an interesting name for Jerusalem, for the history of this city has been a history of war and of conquest.  It has been anything but a city of peace — with one notable exception.  It was the city where the Prince of Peace came to present Himself.  It was the city where the God of Peace located His temple.


Melchizedek was the king of Salem.  At the same time, he is said to have been the priest of God Most High (El Elyon).  The tem El was a general designation for a divinity among the Canaanites.  This is its first use in the Bible.  It means “the strong one.”


The name “Melchizedek” is a compound of two Hebrew words which have been joined together.


           Melech is the Hebrew word for “king.”

           Zedek means “righteousness.”


The name means “king of righteousness.”  We would not normally attach any special significance to this name, but the New Testament commentary on this passage makes a point of the meaning behind the name (Hebrews 7:2).  What’s in a name?  When we name children, it is often only because we like the sound of it.  But names in the ancient world were full of meaning, especially among the Jews.  Names were given to tell something about the character of the person.


This is why you occasionally see a person whose name is changed.  This was the case of Abraham — his name was changed from Abram (“father of high places”) to Abraham (“father of a multitude”).  It was also true in the case of Jacob (“con-artist”) whose name was changed to Israel (“prince of God”).


Melchizedek appears in our passage as he ministers to Abram.  He comes bringing bread and wine as Abram returns from the long, tiring march.  The parallels with the New Testament coming of Jesus are striking.



Jesus Christ

His name means “king of righteousness.”

He is the Righteous King.

We are given no genealogy or narrative of his origins.

Though he has an genealogy, His true origins are from all eternity.

He is the king of the city named “Peace.”

He is the Prince of Peace.

He was the first priest ever mentioned in the Bible.

He is our Great High Priest who fulfilled every Old Testament priesthood.

He brought bread and wine to Abram.

He offered His own body and blood, symbolized today by bread and wine.


Melchizedek comes with bread and wine and with a blessing.  He pronounces a blessing upon Abram in the name of God Most High.  This blessing recognizes, not a mere tribal deity, but the Possessor of heaven and earth.


Abram’s response to this announcement of God as Possessor of heaven and earth is to give to His priest a portion of those possessions.  The idea of giving a tenth of one’s possessions was not unique to the people of Israel.  This concept was established in both Mesopotamia and in Egypt. [1]




            21 And the king of Sodom said to Abram, "Give the people to me and take the goods for yourself."

            22 And 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, lest you should 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." (Genesis 14:21-24).


The encounter of Abram with the king of Sodom has already been introduced.  We were told in verse 17 that the king of Sodom came out to meet Abram.  This was mentioned in order that we might see him in contrast with Melchizedek and it was also mentioned so that we might anticipate the encounter.


It seems almost anticlimactic, for the battle had already taken place and the victory had been won.  Why does the author include this dialogue?  It is because we are to see this as a conflict of a different sort.  Abram is being faced with a temptation as to his motivations.  Did he rescue Lot so that Abram could become rich or was it out of love for his nephew?


The king of Sodom offers Abram all of the wealth of the cities of the Jordan Plains.  Abram refuses to take anything, stating the he has sworn to the Lord that he would not take anything.


Why such an oath?  Because if Abram had taken a reward, then people would have said that the king of Sodom made him rich rather than recognizing that such blessings came from the Lord.  Abram was demonstrating to all in the land that his dependency was upon God alone and that he riches were solely due to God’s grace in his life.


What is the attitude of a Christian ministry when they are offered a great sum of money?

If they think of it at all, there is a tendency to begin coming up with all sorts of reasons why they ought to take it.  Abram did not fall prey to this temptation.


At the same time, Abram does not hold his Amorite companions to the same standard of conduct.  He does not preclude their acceptance of the portion that is due to them.  This is perhaps Abram’s greatest victory of all.  It is a victory over self-righteousness.  This if often the most difficult victory to win.  After you have won a great victory, your tendency is to show off your “great spirituality” by putting down a believer younger than yourself and by pointing at how they ought to be following your example.  Abram does not fall prey to this temptation.  He recognizing it to be acceptable for his companions to be recompensed for their time and energy.


In closing, there is a contrast to be seen between Genesis 13 versus Genesis 14.  It is a contrast in action and it is a contrast in promises and blessings.


Genesis 13

Genesis 14

Begins with strife between the servants of Lot and the servants of Abram.

Begins with strife between the Elamite kings and the cities of the Jordan.

Lot moves into Sodom.

Lot is taken from Sodom.

As a result of the strife, Abram separates from Lot.

As a result of the strife, Abram goes to Lot’s rescue.

After his separation from Lot, God comes and makes promises to Abram.

After Abram’s rescue of Lot, Melchizedek comes and blesses Abram.

God promises to give the land of Canaan to Abram.

Abram gives tithes to Melchizedek.


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[1]  As in the instances of circumcision (though infant circumcision does not seem to be documented outside Israel), sacrifice, dietary restrictions, and the like; tithing was not unique with Israel in the ancient near east.  Other nations of antiquity practiced tithing.  This is true of the Egyptians as well as the Mesopotamians (See, e.g., citations from Akkadian literature respecting tithes paid to gods or temples in CAD, IV-E, 369). -- Allen, Ronald B., Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament, Editors Harris, Archer & Waltke, Chicago, IL: Moody Press.