Genesis 14:1-24 “Abram the Warrior part 2”

Posted on October 18, 2009. Filed under: Genesis: Answers to Life's Crucial Questions |

Redeemer Church Sunday School

Genesis 14:1-24 “Abram the Warrior part 2”

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Bryan E. Walker

 

Read Gen. 14:1-24; Pray

 

Introduction:  Last week we began studying chapter 14 and looked at Abram as Warrior. We went quickly through the first 16 verses covering the battle between the 4 eastern kings and the 5 local kings, including the kings of Sodom and Gomorrah. We saw that Abram’s nephew, Lot, got caught up in the battle when Sodom was sacked, because he no longer dwelled near Sodom, he now lived in Sodom. Abram, as the nearest relative, was obligated to act as the redeemer. He gathered together his 318 man personal army, joined with some Amalekites, and pursued the eastern kings, attacking and defeating them in a daring night raid, liberating the captives and retrieving the booty.

 

The overall thrust of the passage was that here was yet another threat to the promises of God to Abram of land and descendants. The eastern kings invaded the land, and by taking Lot they brought Abram into the war, which meant that his life was at risk. But besides the main thrust of the story we also discussed a few things like Lot compromising with the wicked Sodomites and moving inside the city, Abram’s graciousness in rescuing Lot, the need for Christians to confront evil, and we briefly touched on the idea of the believer being involved in bearing arms.

 

Today we want to go through the story again, but looking at the literary details of how it is structured which will, I believe, help us to understand and appreciate the Bible more, and it will add greater light on what God is doing in this story. Also, since we did not get to the last portion of the story, the introduction of the mysterious Melchizedek, we will try to cover that as well because it is an important part of the whole.

 

The main idea remains the same, God has made some promises to Abram and yet circumstances come up that seem to threaten those promises. Sarai’s barrenness is the first obstacle, then there is Abram’s hesitancy at Haran with his father, next is the fact that the Canaanites dwelled in the land, then there was the famine. When Abram left the land of promise to go to Egypt during the famine, he had a failure of faith and inadvertently placed his wife in a compromising position so the next threat was to Sarai’s purity. Upon leaving Egypt and returning to the land of promise, the next threat was of discord with his nephew, Lot, because of their great wealth. Abram risks it all by giving Lot the choice of the land, but Lot chooses to dwell on the border of the Promised Land, near Sodom. Now it is the threat of war and physical danger. We see Abram in this situation as a man of great courage, resources, action and faith.

 

  1. I.                   Literary Analysis of Gen. 14 with Commentary
    1. A.      Structure of the Battle Sequence- notice the alternating structure
      1. 1.      Vss.1-4 the Five Dead Sea kings rebel against Chedorlaomer.
      2. 2.      Vss.5-7 the Eastern Alliance invades the Trans-Jordan.
      3. 3.      Vss. 8-12 the Five Dead Sea kings are defeated by the Eastern Alliance.
      4. 4.      Vss. 13-16 the Eastern Alliance is defeated by Abram and his allies, the Amorites.
      5. 5.      Notes on the story- last week I mentioned that liberal scholars point to this chapter as being somewhat out of sync with the rest of the Abraham narrative. One of the reasons is that none of the listed kings has really been positively identified from the era of Abram, about 2000 BC. Furthermore, neither Abram nor Lot is mentioned until vss.12 and 13, and the LORD is not mentioned until vs.18. Finally, they view the idea of Abram the Warrior as being a late idea; some even think this story was added to Genesis in about the 4th century BC. But I think the assumptions of some of the liberal scholars are that Moses could not have been the sole author and the Bible is not inspired by the Holy Spirit. Now by sole author, I do not deny that some later editing took place that modernized some of the place names to make sense to the people of a later day. Also, Moses could very well have had several sources through which the Holy Spirit inspired him. But the bottom line for this chapter is that it belongs where it is, the story is true, and it fits the surrounding portions of Genesis because Moses wrote it.
      6. 6.      Vs. 1 lists Amraphel king of Shinar first in the list of the 4 eastern kings. Look at the other places where the kings are mentioned and tell me where the king of Shinar is listed and who is the lead king. See vs.4, 5, 9, 17. Why would Moses list Amraphel first at the beginning of the story when it is obvious from the story that Chedorlaomer was the main king and is listed first in the list in v.9? Moses is deliberately linking this story back to 10:10; 11:2, 9 with the word Shinar, which is Babel. Babel, Babylon, plays a role throughout the rest of Scripture to Revelation. So in 14:1 the king of Shinar is listed first, not because he is the lead king of the 4 king Eastern Alliance, but because Shinar, Babel, is important for what has gone before and what will come about long after Moses.
      7. 7.      Vss. 1-7 are a needed background for the story of Lot being taken captive. What the international situation does is something quite astounding, and very realistic. It places the solitary, pastoral man of faith, Abram, in the context of a larger and hostile world of danger and war. Abram does not seek the international stage, but because in God’s providence he was placed there, his faith was challenged and he proved true. Abram is a rich and powerful man who has had personal dealings with Pharaoh in Egypt and now he is the deciding factor in a larger regional war. For the Christian, this shows us that one believer, one individual who is trusting in Christ, can have a worldwide impact. Your stand for truth, your resistance of evil, your evangelistic encounter, can have ripple effects far beyond what you can imagine, if you only be faithful to the Lord.
      8. 8.      Vs. 10 includes the word “bitumen” which again points us back to ch. 11:3 and the Tower of Babel story in the plain of Shinar.
      9. 9.      Vs.12 Lot’s capture in light of the geopolitical events surrounding him furthers the character development began in ch.13 and will culminate in ch.19. While the worldwide events provide a challenge for Abram which he overcomes with great courage and faith, it sweeps compromised Lot up in the flood of war, taking him into captivity which indicates his moral state if not his spiritual. Disobedience and lack of faith do not lend themselves to victorious living.

10.  Vs. 14 Abram’s 318 men- while the number is precise enough and small enough to lend credibility to the account, as I have previously mentioned, the Jews love to use numbers in some ways that remain mysterious to us. Clearly there is a connection with the account of Gideon and his three hundred in Judges 7 which also involved a night attack. The number 318 may be related to ch.15:2 and the first mention of Eliezer of Damascus as Abram’s servant who will likely inherit his property since he still has no heir. In the Hebrew letter of their alphabet have a numerical meaning and when you total up the numerals representing Eliezer, you get 318. To add further mystery, one genius figured out that the number 318 is the sum of all the prime numbers between 7 and 49 (7 squared) including the 7 but not the 49. What does this mean? I don’t know! What are the implications? 1) God’s Word is deeper than we can figure out; 2) I think this level of complexity can only point to a single author- no committee of editors could write this story so smoothly and with so much complexity with multiple overlapping levels of structure.

11.  The key word in the chapter- King is used 28 times in this story. You have the 4 kings from the Eastern Alliance, 5 kings of the Dead Sea area, Melchizedek is listed as king of Salem, and Abram, though not proclaimed as king, is shown to be the most powerful of all the kings in military night and in character. He is contrasted with the other kings. Bruce Waltke writes, (Genesis, Zondervan, 2001, p.226) “By contrasting two campaigns of the war, the scene contrasts the strength of the four eastern kings (14:5-7), the weakness of the five Dead Sea kings (14:8-12), and the superiority of Abraham to both (14:13-16).”

  1. B.      Structure of the Melchizedek Sequence- 14:17-24
    1. 1.      Vss. 17-18 King of Sodom and Melchizedek greet victorious Abram.

(a).  vs. 17 King of Sodom is mute and has no gift

(b). vs.18 Melchizedek brings bread and wine, symbolic of a banquet.

                                  2.  Vss.19-24 Melchizedek blesses but the king of Sodom is rude

                                       (a).  vs.19-20 Melchizedek’s blessing of Abram and Abram’s

                                               tithe to Melchizedek.

                                       (b).  vs. 21-24 king of Sodom’s rude demand and Abram’s.

                                                 response.

  1. C.      Bookends, vs. 2, 22 The mention of the king of Sodom at the beginning of the story and at the end provide the bookends that Moses is fond of using, and giving further proof that the story is a unified whole and that it belongs exactly where it is.
  2. D.      Comments on 14:17-24
    1. 1.      Vs. 17 The silence of the king of Sodom speaks loudly of ingratitude towards Abram. This would be further evidence of their pride and arrogance which, along with their gross immorality, brought about the wrath of God.
    2. 2.      Vs. 18 shows Melchizedek, however, bringing to Abram, and it is implied- to his army as well, a victory banquet. Notice that bread and wine are mentioned, which will be a part of the Passover meal later in Exodus and ultimately, the Lord’s Supper in the NT. Melchizedek’s name means “king of righteousness” and Salem is most likely Jerusalem, although there are some linguistic problems with that. Salem and the Hebrew shalom may be related so that you have a relation between righteousness and peace in Melchizedek. The author of Hebrews picks up on this as a type of Christ.
    3. 3.      Vs. 18 Melchizedek’s blessing upon Abram is in keeping with the Lord’s promise back in 12:1-3. Notice that Melchizedek is both a king and priest, in the land that has been promised to Abram. Since it is Melchizedek blessing Abram, and Abram is bringing a tithe of the booty to Melchizedek, we can safely assume that Melchizedek is greater than Abram. Heb. 7:7 confirms this. The fact that he and Abram both worship the same God shows that God has not restricted his revelation to Abram alone. Similarly we can look at Job, probably a non-Hebrew and a resident of Uz, east of the Promised Land, who also knew the Lord.
    4. 4.      Vs.19 Possessor of heaven and earth- this can be translated as Creator or Possessor, the emphasis is that God most High not only created the universe but he is still involved in it on a daily basis which points us to Col. 1:16-17 16 For by  him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. 17 And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.
    5. 5.      Vs.20 Abram offers Melchizedek a tenth of the booty. This was a fairly common practice at the time. Notice the irony: Chedorlaomer came to take his tribute from the rebellious cities, but now his tribute is going to a priest of God Most high.
    6. 6.      Vs21- The king of Sodom rudely demands, “Give me the persons, but take the goods for yourself.” The word “give” is a command. No praise or thanks come from this king, let alone a blessing from God. It is the Victor who has the right to make these kinds of stipulations, not the vanquished.
    7. 7.      Vs22-24- Abram says that because of his relationship with God Most High he will not take any of the booty, lest people think the wicked king of Sodom has made Abram rich rather than God. Abram’s response is dismissive towards the Sodomite, “I wouldn’t even take a sandal strap from the likes of you!”  
    8. 8.      Vs.24 the share of the men who went with me- Though Abram accepts nothing from Sodom in the way of booty or the spoils of war, which was just for him to take, he accepts what the men have eaten in the campaign, i.e. the costs are reimbursed, and his allies among the Amorites, Aner, Eshcol and Mamre, can take their share. The idea here is SEPARATION, Abram wants nothing to do with the Sodomites including being rewarded by them with their dirty money.

 

  1. II.                Ideas and Applications of the Text
    1. A.      The Christian Involved in the World
      1. 1.      Abram is contrasted with Lot by how he is related to the world. In vs.12, Lot is now dwelling in Sodom whereas in 13:12 he was tabernacling near Sodom and we find Abram in vs.13 tabernacling at the oaks of Mamre. Lot has made his home in this world, though a believer, while Abram understands this world is not his home. Lot settles for what this world offers, Abram, the man of faith, is trusting in God’s provision and promise. Heb.11:8-10; 1John 2:15-17; 1Peter2:11-12.
      2. 2.      Consequently, Lot suffers with the world when judgment comes and is carried away, captured by the world. Now we know that many faithful Believers have been and are today swept away when the forces of this world blow through whether it be the weather, like a hurricane, or an earthquake, war, persecution and revolution. So what happened to Lot can happen to an obedient believer. But what Moses intends to convey in the story is that Lot and Abram BOTH got involved in a world wide war, but one was the victim-due to his sinful choices- and the other was a victor- due to his faith.
      3. 3.      Abram does not go to war to conquer the Promised Land. He is trusting in God. There will come a time when God tells Israel to conquer the Promised Land, but not yet. Abram does go to war when his nephew is taken captive. Notice he does not negotiate nor pay a ransom, though that is how things were done for thousands of years. That cycle was broken by America in the War with  the Barbary Pirates in the early 1800’s. But Abram, the man of faith, is prepared for war, leads his army in a campaign that lasted several weeks, and defeated the enemy in a daring night time raid. And he did this with some worldly allies, the Amorites. There is, therefore, a time for Christians to take up arms, engage in a just war, and make allies with unbelievers. Abram balances dealing with the real world with tabernacling here as a sojourner.
      4. 4.      Abram’s faith stands up against superior numbers. Abram takes his small band of warriors and whatever troops the already defeated Amorites can come up with, and takes on the armies of the four kings of the Eastern Alliance. His faith, like that of Gideon later, enables him to take on a larger force knowing that it is the Lord who fights for him. In this world, we Christians are indeed a minority. According to the stats there may be more Christians than anything else, but by far, the majority of Christians are of the Lot variety, if even that. But we should still stand up against evil, and like Abram, rescue our brothers from the world, pursue the enemy even far away. Notice that sometimes our faith is to be passive and patient, like when Abram gave Lot the choice of which land to take, but sometimes it must be active, like here when Abram bears the sword.
      5. 5.      On making allies. While Abram was a temporary ally with the Amorites, later he would not let his son marry a Canaanite wife, 24:3. In Deut.7:1-6 it is clear that intermarriage and covenants with the Canaanites are prohibited. Where is the balance? Abram was a small, outnumbered band, and he made a temporary alliance in order to rescue his nephew. In Deuteronomy Israel was powerful and had the clear guidance of the Lord to conquer. Paul tells us to “Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness?” in 2Cor.6:14.
      6. 6.      The believer and wealth. Abram was wealthy to begin with, but as a result of this battle could have gotten even more wealth. He chose not to because he did not want to be linked to Sodom. He preferred to trust in God.
      7. 7.      Who was Melchizedek? Very likely he is one whom God had chosen to reveal himself to, much like Job and, later, Balaam. Not a Hebrew, probably a Jebusite or Canaanite, but his heart belonged to the Lord. At the least he is a type of Christ as shown in Hebrews. He appears suddenly on the scene without any genealogy; he is a priest and king, receives tithes from Abram and gives Abram a blessing. His priesthood was prior to the Levitical priesthood and points us to Christ our Priest and King.
    2. B.      Excursus on the Name for God- El Elyon, God Most High
      1. 1.      Introduction. In our study of Genesis we have paid some attention to the names of God. So far we have looked at Elohim- the strong God of creation who exists in the plural in Gen.1, which we can properly interpret through the NT as the Trinity, and El- the basic name for God used by even the Canaanites, the mighty one who exists as a unity. Today we look at El Elyon found in Gen.14:18-15:1.This name, El Elyon, is properly interpreted as God Most High. This is a superlative in the Hebrew, not a comparative. In other words it is not merely saying that God is higher than Baal, it is saying that God is the highest period. There can be no one higher than God, there is no comparison He is so high. Elmer Towns writes, (My Father’s Names, Regal Books: Ventura, CA. 1991. p.54) “Elyon means that the Lord is God of gods or the ultimate God. The superlative word Elyon is used in the book of Ezekiel to speak of the highest pool, the highest gate, the highest porch and the highest house. The heavens are higher than the earth (comparative) but God is highest, and that everyone else is below him. Because God is Elyon, He has the power to rule and the right to receive worship from all below Him.” Let us determine in our hearts to keep God foremost in our thoughts and actions as he is God Most High and deserves our devotion, worship, love and obedience.
      2. 2.      In Gen.14 we have the story of Lot being taken captive during the war between King Kedorlaomer and Sodom. Abraham and his 318 trained men made a daring night attack and routed the enemy and restored all the captives and loot to the king of Sodom. During this occasion we find the mysterious character of Melchizedek who was called priest of God Most High- El Elyon. The first thing we notice here is that Melchizedek worshipped God as El Elyon separate from Abraham, separate from God’s chosen people. In between Noah and Abraham we don’t know much about God’s people, but with this story and with the book of Job, and the later story of Balaam, we get the idea that God had some people worshipping him all over. They may have been few and scattered, but they are there. Notice that Melchizedek shows up with a fellowship meal while the king of Sodom is empty handed and is asking Abraham to restore his people which now rightfully belong to Abraham. Melchizedek brought out bread and wine, the elements of the Lord’s Supper, no accident, for here many scholars believe could even be the preincarnate Christ in a Christophony. At the very least he is properly interpreted by the author of Hebrews as a type of Christ in ch.7.In the Genesis 14 story the name El Elyon is used 4X and that is quite unusual. It is combined with Creator of heaven and earth and used in a blessing upon Abraham. It was El Elyon who delivered Abraham’s enemies into his hands, not Abraham’s skill, courage or trained men.  Abraham also invokes the name of God Most High and tells the king of Sodom that he can keep all the property because of an oath he has made with El Elyon. Here we see a clear testimony that Abraham was trusting in God Most High, not in sinful man.  God Most High is the creator and possessor of all that is, therefore, Abraham did not need anything that the wicked king of Sodom could give him. The point for us is that when you are serving and following the God Most High, there is nothing in the world that can approach Him, that can compare to Him. When you are serving the best and highest, you don’t need anything this old world can give you. What confidence this engenders!
      3. 3.      El Elyon and the Rest of the Bible. Look at Isaiah 14:12-14 Satan’s plan and desire was to take God’s Most High Place, he wanted to be God. When he called God Most High he was calling him what he himself wanted. Look at what the demons do in Mark 5:7 and Acts 16:17.Look at Daniel 3:26; 4:17-32; Deut.32:8; Psalm 9:2; 91; Phil.2:10f point out that Jesus will be proclaimed the Lord.
      4. 4.       An Exclusive Claim. If the God of the Bible is God Most High then we have a mandate to proclaim to the nations- the Great Commission. All other gods are therefore false gods and should be exposed- apologetics, polemics- makes folks today uncomfortable! Dr. Hemphill writes, (p.45) “…it creates a mandate for evangelism because we learn that all other supposed gods are false gods. One of the reasons that persons truly committed to Christ are often assertive in telling others about Jesus is because the Bible makes it clear that God alone is God and that His Son is the only One who can provide access to God.”…”many Christians live their lives like functional universalists.
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