Abram's militia rescues Lot
Coalition armies invade1 War broke out. Foreign invaders attacked Lot’s homeland. Four kings led the invaders from distant kingdoms—King Amraphel of Shinar, King Arioch of Ellasar, King Chedorlaomer of Elam, and King Tidal of Goiim. 2 They attacked coalition forces of the Jordan River Valley, led by King Bera of Sodom, King Birsha of Gomorrah, King Shinab of Admah, King Shemeber of Zeboiim, and the king of Bela, also known as Zoar. 3 The Jordan River Valley coalition mustered their combined armies in Siddim Valley, near the Dead Sea. 4 For a dozen years King Chedorlaomer of Elam, had controlled the Jordan River Valley kingdoms, collecting taxes from them. But in year 13, the southern kingdoms declared their independence. 5 King Chedorlaomer did not approve. One year later, reinforced by his allies, he defeated the Rephaim in Ashteroth-karnaim, the Zuzim in Ham, the Emim in Shaveh-kiriathaim, 6 and the Horites in their Mount Seir, as far south as El-paran, near the desert badlands. 7 Then they turned around and headed back north. When they came to En-mishpat, also known as Kadesh, they defeated the Amalekites along with the Amorites, who lived in Hazazon-tamar. 8 As they pushed on toward the Valley of Siddim, they were met by armies led by the kings of Sodom, Gomorrah, Admah, Zeboiim, and Bella, also called Zoar. 9 Armies of the Jordan River Valley Kings fought against the invasion force led by King Chedorlaomer of Elam, King Tidal of Goiim, King Amraphel of Shinar, and King Arioch of Ellasar—four kings of the invasion force against five kings defending their homeland.
Sodom falls, Lot taken away as a slave10 Invaders overran the defenders, sending the armies of Sodom and Gomorrah running. Some soldiers fell into tar pits scattered throughout the valley. Others escaped to the hills. 11 Invading soldiers picked clean the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, taking everything of value, including the food. 12 They took people as well, including Abram’s nephew Lot and everything he owned. Lot had been living in Sodom. 13 Someone who managed to escape reported the news to Abram the Hebrew, who lived at Hebron near the oak grove owned by Mamre, an Amorite. Mamre was the brother of Eschol and Aner, who were allies of Abram.
Uncle Abram's militia to the rescue14 When Abram heard the invaders had taken his nephew Lot, he created an instant militia out of his family, with men born in his household: 318 men. This strike force set out in hot pursuit. They caught up with the raiders at the city of Dan. 15 Abram divided his men into units that attacked from different directions, under the cover of darkness. Chedorlaomer’s soldiers ran for their lives. Abram’s men chased them to Damascus and beyond, to the city of Hobah. 16 Abram recovered everything the invaders had taken: the supplies along with the women and all the other captives they had kidnapped, including Lot and everything he owned. 17 After Abram defeated Chedorlaomer and his allies, he returned to the Jordan River Valley. The king of Sodom came out to meet him in Shaveh Valley, also known as King’s Valley. 18 King Melchizedek of Salem came, too. He was also a priest of God Most High. He brought Abram some bread and wine. 19 He also brought Abram words of blessing and encouragement:
“May God Most High,
the creator of heaven and earth,
bless your life with prosperity and peace.
And may we all give thanks to God Most High,
who dropped your enemies into the palm of your hand.”
In gratitude, Abram gave Melchizedek 10 percent of all the supplies he recovered.21 Sodom’s king told Abram, “All I want back are my people who were captured and taken away. You can keep all the supplies and everything else you recovered.” 22 Abram answered the king, “I made a promise to the LORD, who is God Most High and the creator of heaven and earth. 23 I promised him that I would keep nothing of yours that I recovered—not a single piece of thread or a thong strap from a sandal. If I did, you might say, ‘I’m the reason Abram is rich.’ 24 I’m not going to accept anything for my men except the food they have already eaten. As for my allies who fought with us—Aner, Eshcol, and Mamre—I would ask that you give them a share of what we recovered for you.”
Babylon territory in south Iraq.
Unknown location. The king’s name, Arioch, sounds Hurrian, a race of people living along the border of southeastern Turkey and northern Iraq. Kurdish people now live in the area known as Kurdistan.
A region in Iran.
Unknown location. Goiim means “nations.” The king’s name, Tidal, sounds Hittite, a group of people based in southern Turkey.
What Siddim means is uncertain. It sounds like “Sodom.” References to “tar pits” (v. 10) hint at the southern Dead Sea area, where some of the world’s largest oil fields are located.
A group of Canaanites living mainly along the borders of Israel, Syria, and Jordan.
Unknown meaning. But “Ham” was a city along the border of Syria and Jordan.
A group of people living east of the Dead Sea in what was Moab, but is now part of Jordan.
People who lived along the southern border of Israel and Jordan, on the stretch of land between the Dead Sea and the Red Sea’s Gulf of Aqaba.
En-gedi oasis on Israel’s side of the Dead Sea (2 Chronicles 20:2).
Ancient name for the Jewish people. The word “Jew” comes from “Judah,” the name of Abraham’s great-grandson, whose extended family grew to become the tribe of Judah.
On Israel’s northern border, at the foot of Mount Hermon.
North, 40 miles (64 km).
Ancient name for part of the Kidron Valley on the north side of Jerusalem.
Possibly an early, abbreviated name for Jerusalem.
El-Elyon in Hebrew. It’s one of many titles that describe God. Canaanites also used it sometimes to describe their top god, El.
War breaks out where Lot is living. A coalition army of four kings from what are now Turkey, Iraq, and Iran overpower the allied armies of five kings living in the Jordan River Valley. Lot and his family get kidnapped. What might seem odd to some people is that Abraham rescues Lot and everyone else taken as captives, and he does it with a hastily assembled militia “of his family, with servants born in his household: 318 men” (14:14). Does it seem unusual to you that a shepherd like Abraham could take out four armies with such a small strike force?
After Abraham recovered everything the invaders had taken, he kept nothing for himself. He returned everything to the victims, though he asked the people to give a share of it to his allies. He also gave a 10 percent share to a mysterious priest named Melchizedek. Why do you think he gave this gift to this particular priest? And why 10 percent , since it would be several hundred years before God would give Moses any instructions about tithing?
It seems that on the basis of this one story, later Jewish writers would treat Melchizedek like a model for all priests. One songwriter said that when the Messiah comes he will be “a priest forever in the order of Melchizedek” (Psalm 110:4 New Living Translation). A New Testament writer said Melchizedek was greater than priests who collect tithes. “In the case of Levi’s tribe, the tithe went to mere humans. But with Melchizedek, the tithe went to someone we’re told is still alive” (Hebrews 7:8). Do you think that was a bit of an overreach on the part of the Jewish writers, or do you think they knew something we don’t know?
There are several reasons many scholars read the story of Abraham rescuing Lot as a fact of history . The names of the invading kings were common at that time, in the low-numbered 2000s BC. The route they used tracks with the ancient King’s Highway. And one phrase in particular sounds close to an Akkadian phrase from the 2000’s BC. Abraham: “I will not take a thread or a sandal thong” (14:23 New Living Translation). Akkadian: “not a blade of straw or a splinter of wood.” Do you think information like this would help convince Bible newcomers that this story is fact and not fiction?
LIFE APPLICATION. First Abraham gives his nephew Lot first pick in where to live. Then he gives back everything he recovers when he rescues Lot and the other people captured in the war. Have you ever met anyone that gracious and selfless?
LIFE APPLICATION. Do you think the fact that Abraham gave a tenth of what he recovered in this war to a local priest is a compelling argument for Christians to give 10 percent of their income to the local church?