Genesis 14:1-24 “Abram the Warrior”
Redeemer Church Sunday School
Genesis 14:1-24 “Abram the Warrior”
Bryan E. Walker
Read Genesis 14:1-24; Eph.6:10-20; Pray
Introduction: We turn now to Gen. 14, a very controversial yet fascinating chapter with an earthy element and a very mysterious element. Here for the next few weeks we will see things as diverse as: 1) Abram the warrior/hero; 2) Lot’s further travels into Sodom and sin; 3) Spiritual warfare and real warfare; 4) Should a Christian prepare for real war? 5) Melchizedek- a man and type of Christ or a theophany of the pre-incarnate Christ. We may have to take a week to look just at Hebrews ch.7 and the NT treatment of Melchizedek. 6) El Elyon- God Most High. There really is a ton of stuff in this chapter and I must have really been nuts to think we could breeze through here in one week.
Let me ask you, keeping in mind the things we have been studying in chapters 12-13, what is the main idea of this chapter? I think that the story is a continuation of the Lot narratives, it is the 2nd of three Lot stories; but, the theological theme of this chapter ties in with 12:1-3 and the promises God made to Abram. Here in ch.14 we shall see that Abram has been blessed and he has grown so powerful that he is a regional leader, a strong military man, and has fellowship with the mysterious Melchizedek who confers a blessing on him. The promise of the Land is threatened here, but the Lord wins the day using Abram and his small army.
- I. We Can Be Confident that God Will Be Victorious
- A. We Will Face Spiritual Warfare and Conflict
- 1. The Battle for the Valley of Siddim- vss.1-12 Liberal skeptics point to this chapter as being proof of a later writing, post-exilic, after the early 6th century BC. While some of the place names are clearly historical, like Shinar and Elam, some of the kings names do not appear anywhere in the historical record except in the Bible. The effort to elevate Abram to a warrior-hero status seems to some like it comes from the 6th century BC and we know nothing from history of this particular war.
- 2. However- archeology has found much support for the general nature of the account. While there may be no record of the specifics, the culture that is exhibited absolutely matches what the archeologists have found. For example: from records about 300 years later, assuming this war happened early in the 2000 BC area, we do find some confederations of city states from Mesopotamia and King Yahdun-Lim from Mari (about 1820 BC) did make some excursions into Syria-Palestine. In other words, the story is plausible and archeology does not contradict anything in the story.
- 3. The kings of the east made war against Sodom and others but also crossed over into the land of Canaan, which was promised by God to Abram. There was another threat to the promise of God. Previous threats included the story in ch.12 of the threat to Sarah’s purity and hence the bloodline of the promised heir. With the dispute between Lot’s herdsmen and Abram’s, and Abram’s generous offer to Lot, there was a threat of losing the Promised Land. Now some foreign kings have led their armies into the Promised Land and plundered parts of it.
- 4. Those allied with Sodom lost the battle of Siddim, Sodom was sacked. Now while Sodom may have been just outside of the Promised Land or it may have been just at the border, we don’t know. But the marauding armies did cross into Canaan in the south, and after the battle Siddim, they traveled through the Promised Land as Abram chased them.
- 5. Notice that Abram did not go out looking for a war- war came to him. Abram was not going around causing trouble. For the believer that is as it should be, we are not to be instigating problems with our neighbors. But despite Abram’s peaceful intentions, war came to him. We are not free from the normal terrible things that happen in this world. Just because we are saved does not mean we are exempted from things like famine and now war, that Abram faced. Abram was living the life of faith but trouble came his way.
- 6. Lot, on the other hand, now was dwelling in Sodom. Previously he had merely moved his tents near Sodom, now he is adopting their ways and living in the city. Here is another contrast with Abram. When you start hanging out with the worldly, soon you are acting like the world. When you are staying in Sodom and trouble comes, you are swept up in the trouble. Later on in the book of Judges we see that Israel is locked into a sad pattern of: blessing, complacency and pride, sin and idolatry, judgment and oppression, repentance, deliverance, prosperity. This roller coaster existence by Israel is never to be recommended.
- 7. In what ways is the Church facing conflict today? Atheistic secularism, economic collapse, spread of false religions, in some places real war, persecution.
- A. We Will Face Spiritual Warfare and Conflict
- B. Believers Must Fight Evil vss 13-16
- 1. “one who had escaped…told Abram…” I wonder why he told Abram? It may have been a friend or business partner with whom Abram had dealt. It could have been someone who thought that maybe, just maybe, Abram would come to their assistance. This would imply that Abram was considered by the people of Canaan to be powerful and influential enough to make a difference.
- 2. When God’s people live a faithful lifestyle the pagans around us may surely resent us, but also know they can come to us for help. Do we have a reputation of competence and confidence? Are we considered to be strong and capable? We know that the world will hate us and persecute us, but they will sometimes also know that we are helpful and can be depended on in a crisis.
- 3. Abram was allied with some Amorites. Now this is a difficult thing because the Scriptures also tell us, “do not be unequally yoked” Should we Christians ever be allied with pagans?
- 4. Abram heard that his kinsman had been taken captive. This may be some evidence of the kinsman-redeemer idea that is fully developed in Ruth. But in those days, in that culture, you did not just sit idly by and let your nephew get taken captive in a war.
- 5. Here we see a concept of “rescue the perishing” or pulling a backsliding brother back from the edge of the abyss. Lot, because he was now “dwelling in Sodom” received the trouble that was coming to Sodom. This is yet another sign of Lot’s compromise with sin.
- 6. Apply: we have to live in this sinfilled world, and some cities, states, nations are worse than others. Granted we cannot just go out and found a Christian city, colony or nation now, but is there any way that we ourselves can escape the judgment upon Sodom that may come in our own day? Do you think that sometimes defeat in war might be a judgment of God? Did you know that the founding of Plymouth Colony and Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1620 and 1629/30 was a result of a perception by the Separatists and Puritans that England was so sinful that they must flee the coming judgment? The religious persecution and political climate was so bad that in 1630 the Great Migration began where thousands of English families, whole churches, left their homes and land and businesses in England to carve out a new existence in the howling wilderness of New England where they could worship God as they desired.
- 7. Apply: how do we compromise with sin? Are we ever like Lot who first pitched his tents near Sodom, but now dwells in Sodom? How easy is it to compromise one step at a time so that we find ourselves in Lot’s predicament?
- 8. “Abram… led forth his trained men…318 of them…” So here we have a biblical patriarch who has his own little private army of trained men. I don’t think there is anything you can do to spiritualize the text so as to take away the fact that Abram trained his people, and armed his people, for brutal Bronze Age combat. Violence was a fact of life in those days so people had to take steps to arm and protect themselves, their dependents and property.
- 9. Many people have criticized the OT for being so bloody. Abram not only receives no criticism from the Lord for this move, the way the story is written really does make Abram out to be the hero, he acted courageously and justly. He was defending what the Lord had promised, he was redeeming the captive nephew, he was attacking evil. I not only find nothing to criticize his actions, I find them worthy of our modern day emulation.
10. What other OT heroes took up arms?
11. Do we have any examples of NT heroes bearing arms? Matt.8:5ff is the story of the Roman Centurion, an Army officer who was under arms. He receives praise from Jesus for his faith but is not told to abandon his profession. In Luke 3:14 John the Baptist is preaching and is being asked by many types of people what they should do as a result of hearing the Word. In this verse the Roman Soldiers ask and John replies by telling them to not extort money from anyone and to be content with their wages. He does not tell them to lay down their arms. In Luke 22:35-38 Jesus is warning the disciples of a coming persecution and a time of judgment, probably pointing forward to the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD by the Roman Army, and tells them to have supplies in a knapsack, money and, if they don’t already have a sword, to purchase one. The disciples then proudly raise their two swords and say, “here are two swords!” While Jesus dismisses this answer because they failed to grasp what he was talking about, the curious thing is that he allowed them to carry swords to begin with.
12. Believers must fight evil when possible. Abram took appropriate training and equipping measures, and in a crisis, he took immediate action.
13. Should Believers today be prepared for this kind of physical confrontation with evil or should we “turn the other cheek” every time and remember that we wrestle not with flesh and blood? In other words, while there is a spiritual meaning to this text that we can apply to our day in our fight against sin, is there also a real, practical way to interpret and apply the text?
14. “he divided his forces against them by night” There are times when dividing your forces might be a good idea, but that is how Custer lost at the Little Big Horn. Usually you want to keep your forces together when you are the underdog so that you can divide your enemy’s forces and defeat the larger force by dividing and conquering. But Abram’s plan for a night attack, which prefigures which other story later in the Bible?, worked. The spiritual imagery here is fantastic! Abram, outnumbered, enters the dark night of evil to wage battle with his 318 trained men…and emerges in the dawn as the victor.
15. “defeated them and pursued them to Hobah, north of Damascus” Notice that though he won the initial battle and routed the enemy, he also pursued them beyond his borders. Folks, all too often in our Christian walks, we win a little battle here and there with sin, and we settle for that small victory and pat ourselves on the back and congratulate ourselves for our heroism and holiness. But we must pursue the evil further. We are satisfied with too small of a victory time and again. We need boldness to fight our own sin and to fight the evil that is in our society. Right now in America there is a huge spiritual battle going on over the issue of homosexuality and gender identification rights, hate crimes etc. Five states have legalized gay marriage, a judge here in Texas has granted a “divorce” to a gay couple and stated that our laws prohibiting gay marriage are unconstitutional. In one battle after another the biblical view of marriage is being defeated. In the spiritual battle over abortion, we have lost. Christianity seems to be in retreat all across our culture.
16. The most important reason why we are in retreat is that we did not pursue the evil like Abram did here in our text. By this I mean that the Church 60 years ago utterly failed to make disciples. Growing up I saw plenty of converts, but very few disciples being made. Converts get baptized and attend church, but still largely think like the world. Disciples think biblically and change the world.
17. The biggest spiritual lesson I get from this episode of Abram waging war, is that the Church needs to pursue evil across the border and we do that with solid, biblical evangelism, raising up disciples, apologetics, prayer, home missions, AND taking a public stand on important spiritual/political issues. We must be compassionate and minister to the needs of people around us, but confront them with the gospel in every level of society.