Studies in Torah

Genesis 14: Abram goes to war to rescue Lot, cities of the plain

Richard AgeeThis is a very unusual story. Why did Abram go to war? Who are these kings? What is the story behind the story? Does God have anything to do with this? Where do we see God’s hand in this story?

There’s one king here that is mentioned more than the others, who is Chedorlaomer, but Chedorlaomer was the main king but not the only king who organized this war against Sodom and the cities of the plain.

Sodom and the other cities were paying tribute to Chedorlaomer, king of Elam. Elam is located in the area that is now called Persia or Iran. Elam was the son of Shem.

One of the kings who allied with Chedorlaomer was the king of Shinar named אַמְרָפֶל Amraphel, whose name means “sayer of darkness” in Hebrew (Strong’s lexicon No. H569). Shinar is the area “between the two rivers.”

A total of four kings to start a war against the cities of the plain in Canaan, with Sodom and her sister cities. Sodom was the largest, most prominent of the five kingdoms in the cities of the plain.

The three other kings who attached the cities of the plain were:

  • Chedorlaomer, king of Elam. His name, כְּדָרְלָעֹמֶר, means “handful of sheaves” (Strong’s H3540).
  • Arioch, king of Ellasar. His name, אַרְיוֹךְ, means “lion-like” (Strong’s H746).
  • Tidal, king of גּוֹיִם Goyim/Goiim (“nations,” Strong’s H1472). His name, תִּדְעָל, means “fearless” or “great son” (Strong’s H8413). Tidal may have been a Bedouin king or a chief of a group of mercenaries or refugee,s since he is not the king of a particular territory.

What do these kings have to do with our lives now? God recorded all of this for a reason. It’s our duty to figure out how this story applies to our lives. God does not spoon feed all His knowledge to us. Some times we are called to search deeply for Him.

For 12 years, the kings of the cities of the plain served Chedorlaomer and brought him tribute but in the 13th year, they decided to rebel against Chedorlaomer. It took about a year for Chedorlaomer to organize his attack against the cities to punish them for their tax revolt.

But Chedorlaomer didn’t attack the cities of the plain first. Chedorlaomer cleaned house, first by attacking the Rephaim and then attacked many of the nations further north of the cities of the plain including the Amalakites and Horites before he arrived at the cities of the plain to attack them.

We are told that after Chedorlaomer gained victory over the cities of the plain, he left to return back to his own country.

After this, Abram is informed of Chedorlaomer’s attack on Sodom. This is the first time Abram is called an עִבְרִי ’Ibri (Strong’s H5680), or “Hebrew” (Gen. 14:13). The only other person given the title of Hebrew is Yosef (Joseph), Abram’s grandson (Gen. 39:14). One thing both had in common is their presence in a particular nation — Mitzraim (Egypt) — profoundly changed the course of that nation forever.

We also see here Abram went against his own family (descendants of Shem). The people of the land of Canaan were Hamites, the kings who attacked the cities of the plain were all Shemites, yet Abram sided with the Hamites against his own family.

Some assume that the only reason that Abram went to war was to save Lot from captivity but he didn’t have to create an alliance with leaders around Mamre simply to liberate Lot and his family.

We see that Abram had 318 trained servants, servants who were trained in the art of war. These were not mercenaries, they were born in his household. These servants were also Shemites, since they had lived in Abram’s house even before he left for Canaan.

Abram and his servants with his allies attach the five kings and prevailed against them and took back all the stolen people and goods. Abram and his allies destroyed the five kings of the east.

It’s at this point that Melchizedek, king of Salem, shows up and blesses Abram with bread and wine, then Abram tithes what get received from the adventure (Gen. 14:17–20).

Then the king of Sodom comes along and tells Abram that he could have all the goods, that he just wanted his citizens back. Abram declined the offer from the king of Sodom. He did not want to become  wealthy at Sodom’s expense. He did not want an alliance with Sodom. Abram took an oath to God no to do so. Abram knew that God was going to give his descendants of the land of Canaan in His own way and in his own time. Abram is not taking a short cut to gain control of the land. Abram chose to remain as a sojourner in the land.

Abram did not compromise or take advantage of his newly gained position as a victorious general. He kept himself humble before God.

Abram is our example. If we consider ourselves his “children” by having similar trust in God, we should follow his way. Lot chose the easy way, but that was not Abram’s way.

Speaker: Richard. Reader & Summary: Tammy. 

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