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Genesis 14 – Abram Rescues Lot & Pays a Tithe to Melchizedek

Abram’s nephew Lot and his possessions were taken captive by four kings. Abram and his 318 trained men rescue Lot. He then pays a tithe to Melchizedek.

At this time Amraphel king of Shinar, Arioch king of Ellasar, Kedorlaomer king of Elam and Tidal king of Goiim went to war against Bear king of Sodom, Birsha king of Gomorrah, Shinab king of Admah, Shemeber king of Zeboiim, and the king of Bela (that is, Zoar). All these latter kings joined forces in the Valley of Siddim (the Salt Sea). For twelve years they had been subject to Kedorlaomer, but in the thirteenth year they rebelled. Genesis 14:1-4

Four kings from Mesopotamia went to war against five Canaanite kings who rebelled after having been subjugated to them for 12 years.

Kings of Mesopotamia

Kings of Southern Canaan

Amraphel king of Shinar (Iraq)

Bear king of Sodom

Arioch king of Ellasar

(City-state on Syrian-Turkish border)

Birsha king of Gomorrah

Kedorlaomer king of Elam (Iran)

Shinab king of Admah

Tidal king of the Goiim (Turkey)

Shemeber king of Zeboiim

The king of Bela (that is Zoar)

Kingdoms of Mesopotamia

1. Shinar: In central Mesopotamia (Iraq), Shinar was the land where Nimrod built his cities including Babylon, which are listed in the table of nations in Genesis 10:8-10.

2. Ellasar: Possibly a city-state on Syrian-Turkish border

3. Elam: Ancient territory to the E and NE of the valley of the Tigris and Euphrates in the Zagros Mountains (modern Iran).

4. Goiim (Goyim): Literally meaning “nations” in Hebrew. The “king of Goiim” means “king of nations.” This is probably a reference to tribal people like the Hittites who lived on the fringes of the Mesopotamian cultures, in Asia Minor (Turkey) or along the Black and Caspian Seas.

City-states of the kings of the Siddim Valley in southern Canaan

The valley occupied the depression that is now filled by the Dead Sea. The names of the kings from these cities were also listed in alphabetical order in Genesis 14:2

· Sodom

· Gomorrah

· Admah

· Zeboiim

· Zoar: Name means “trifling.” The city is so small that its king isn’t named.

In the fourteenth year, Kedorlaomer and the kings allied with him went out and defeated the Rephaites in Ashteroth Karnaim, the Zuzites in Ham, the Emites in Shaveh Kiriathaim and the Horites in the hill country of Seir, as far as El Paran near the desert. Then they turned back and went to En Mishpat (that is, Kadesh), and they conquered the whole territory of the Amalekites, as well as the Amorites who were living in Hazazon Tamar. Genesis 14:5-7

This list may be from a historical document (a royal record of military campaigns) describing the defeat of the “cities of the plain” and their local allies. The defeated cities included the dwelling places of the Rephaites who are described as giants. The armies of Kedorlaomer and the other three kings conquered as far south as El Paran, which means “the southern wilderness.” Then they turned back after this initial campaign and headed for their original target – the rebellious five cities of southern Canaan.

Then the king of Sodom, the king of Gomorrah, the king of Admah, the king of Zeboiim and the king of Bela (that is, Zoar) marched out and drew up their battle lines in the Valley of Siddim against Kedorlaomer king of Elam, Tidal king of Goiim, Amraphel king of Shinar and Arioch king of Ellasar—four kings against five. Now the Valley of Siddim was full of tar pits, and when the kings of Sodom and Gomorrah fled, some of the men fell into them and the rest fled to the hills. The four kings seized all the goods of Sodom and Gomorrah and all their food; then they went away. They also carried off Abram’s nephew Lot and his possessions, since he was living in Sodom. Genesis 14:8-12

Abram’s nephew Lot was taken captive and his possessions were taken as plunder by the four kings. Lot exposed himself and his family to danger by preferring to live in a fertile area, even though the people who lived in the region were workers of iniquity. Not only did Lot suffer being taken captive, but so was his entire family. Ironically Lot, who sought to enrich himself by living in the plain of the Jordan, ended up losing of all his property.

When the armies of the four kings of Mesopotamia routed the forces of the five kings of southern Canaan, some of the men who were fleeing fell into tar pits.

I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. Matthew 5:18

The New International Version speaks of the smallest letter and least stroke of a pen. The King James Version states, “… one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law.” The “jot” refers to the smallest Hebrew letter (the letter yod). The “tittle” was the smallest stroke of a pen (the horn) – a tiny flourish, like a serif in English typeface. This small stroke is the only mark to distinguish between the following similar Hebrew letters:

Not only is every word in the original Hebrew language of the Books of Moses significant, but so are the letters. With that understanding, we should seek out why the tar pits in the Valley of Siddim are mentioned because they must be significant.

Then the LORD rained down burning sulfur on Sodom and Gomorrah—from the LORD out of the heavens. Genesis 19:24

The region of the Dead Sea is known, now and in ancient history, for its natural petroleum deposits. In the past the Romans called the sea “Lake Asphaltitus” because of the natural bitumen that would come up from deposits in the fault line beneath the lake. Bitumen is a heavy viscous oil mixture combined with sulfur and other metals, minerals and toxic chemicals. At the time of the Genesis 19 account there were “slime pits” or bitumen pits in the valley.

The Jordan Rift is an unstable area with a great deal of thermal energy as demonstrated by the hot springs on both sides of the sea. While the Dead Sea no longer shows evidence of vast bitumen deposits there are still oil slicks that rise to the surface from time to time. A great deal of evidence confirming this can be found in historical accounts.

Geologist Fredrick Clapp formulated the theory that pressure from an earthquake could have caused bitumen deposits to be forced out of the earth through the fault line that exist precisely at this site. If natural deposits of sulfur were forced into the air, the dust would have been extremely flammable. If natural heat ignited existing sulfur deposits at the time of an earthquake the results would result in localized cataclysmic rain of fire, tar and burning sulfur.

In the Genesis account, Abraham looked out towards the cities and saw smoke like a great furnace. This would be consistent with a large petroleum fire. Sulfur balls are commonly found today in the area. Moreover their condition shows that they self-extinguished in the ash and dirt.

God would later pour out his judgment on Sodom and Gomorrah but may have used natural means. The area around the south end of the Dead Sea is still a barren plain of salt, sulfur, and bitumen (asphalt) deposits.

One who had escaped came and reported this to Abram the Hebrew. Now Abram was living near the great trees of Mamre the Amorite, a brother of Eshcol and Aner, all of whom were allied with Abram. Genesis 14:13

In this passage, Abram is called the Hebrew. This is the first time the designation Hebrew is found in the Bible. The term, Hebrew commonly refers to Abraham’s descendants who are known today as the Jewish people. The word for Hebrew used in the Bible is “Ivri”, meaning “of or pertaining to Ever.”

In Jewish tradition there are three reasons as to why Abram is called the Hebrew:

1) The Hebrew word “ever” means “opposite side.” Abraham believed in one God, and the rest of the world worshipped man-made gods. Thus, “Abraham stood on one side, and the entire world stood on the other side.”

2) Ever (usually Anglicized as “Eber”), is the ancestor of Abraham. Eber was a great-grandson of Noah’s son Shem and the father of Peleg. According to Jewish tradition, Eber, refused to help with the building of the Tower of Babel, so his language was not confused when it was abandoned. He and his family alone retained the original human language, Hebrew, is a language named after Eber. Eber was one of the bearers of the monotheistic tradition which he had learned from his ancestors Shem and Noah and passed on to his grandson Abraham. Since Abraham was both a descendant and disciple of his, he is called an “Ivri” – a Hebrew.

3) The rabbis held that the word is a reference to the fact that Abraham came from the other side and crossed over the river and was not a native Canaanite. “Ivri” also refers to the fact that Abraham spoke the Hebrew language—thus named because of its ancient origins, preceding the development of the other languages current at that time.

So Hebrew means the one who has crossed over, but is opposed, on the other side, and different from all others. Abraham was a solitary believer in a sea of idolatry.

When Abram heard that his relative had been taken captive, he called out the 318 trained men born in his household and went in pursuit as far as Dan. During the night Abram divided his men to attack them and he routed them, pursuing them as far as Hobah, north of Damascus. He recovered all the goods and brought back his relative Lot and his possessions, together with the women and the other people. Genesis 14:14-16

Abram had now a company of three hundred and eighteen trained men, born in his own house. This number of men is an indication of Abram’s wealth and power. Including women and children, there were probably more than 1,000 persons under his authority and enough corresponding numbers of flocks and herds to feed, clothe and provide shelter for all of them.

Although the armies of the five ungodly kings of the cities of the Valley of Siddim had fled in defeat, Abram was victorious. Gideon with a mere 300 men routed a great multitude of Midianites and Amalekites. In a similar fashion, because the LORD was with him, Abram not only defeated the armies of four kings with only 318 men but all the stolen goods and kidnapped people were recovered.

After Abram returned from defeating Kedorlaomer and the kings allied with him, the king of Sodom came out to meet him in the Valley of Shaveh (that is, the King’s Valley). Then Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine. He was priest of God Most High, and he blessed Abram, saying, “Blessed be Abram by God Most High, Creator of heaven and earth. And blessed be God Most High, who delivered your enemies into your hand.” Genesis 14:17-20a

This is the first recorded appearance of the priest of the Most High God (Hebrew – Kohen El Elyon). The name Melchizedek is the compilation of three Hebrew words, melek, iy and tsedeq. Melek means “king.” Meleky or melchi means “king of. Tsedeq” means “righteousness.” The meaning of the name Melchizedek is “King of Righteousness.” Salem (shalom) means peace. The King of Righteousness was also the King of Peace.

Melchizedek brought out bread and wine which are the emblems of the communion table and blessed Abram.

The term “chazal” refers to the rabbinic sages who served as commentators on the Hebrew Scriptures. According to the Chazalic literature, specifically Targum Jonathan, Targum Yerushalmi, and the Babylonian Talmud, the name Melchizedek served as a title for Shem, the son of Noah.

He also said, “Blessed be the LORD, the God of Shem! May Canaan be the slave of Shem. May God extend the territory of Japheth; may Japheth live in the tents of Shem, and may Canaan be his slave.” Genesis 9:26-27

Noah declared that Yahweh – the Great I AM – was the God of Shem. Through Shem, the middle son, the “promised seed of the woman” (Messiah) would be transmitted. Shem not only was still alive during the days of Abraham, but actually outlived Abraham.

We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain, where Jesus, who went before us, has entered on our behalf. He has become a high priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek. Hebrews 6:19-20

Jesus fulfilled the prophecy of Psalm 110:4 which declared: The LORD has sworn and will not change his mind: “You are a priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek.”

Then Abram gave him a tenth of everything. Genesis 14:20b

Abram gave a tithe of the recovered goods to Melchizedek.

This Melchizedek was king of Salem and priest of God Most High. He met Abraham returning from the defeat of the kings and blessed him, and Abraham gave him a tenth of everything. First, his name means “king of righteousness”; then also, “king of Salem” means “king of peace.” Without father or mother, without genealogy, without beginning of days or end of life, like the Son of God he remains a priest forever. Hebrews 7:1-3

Without father or mother, without genealogy, without beginning of days or end of life, like the Son of God he remains a priest forever…

Jesus being 100% human has a genealogy that proves He is the promised descendant of David who is the promised seed of Eve. Jesus had both a natural mother and a father. But also being in very nature, 100% God the Son, Jesus is eternal. The phrase translated as “like the Son of God” in the NIV is translated as “resembling the Son of God” in the English standard Version and “but made like unto the Son of God” in the King James. The inspired author was trying to communicate the idea that God intentionally presented Melchizedek as a type of Christ, who foreshadowed the Son of God who was to come. The purpose of the phrase was to emphasize the unique nature of Melchizedek’s priesthood; that it did not pass from one person to another as did that of the Aaronic priesthood.

And he says in another place, “You are a priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek.” Hebrews 5:6

The Scripture states that Jesus is our eternal High Priest “in the order” of Melchizedek, not that Jesus was Melchizedek.

The king of Sodom said to Abram, “Give me the people and keep the goods for yourself.”

But Abram said to the king of Sodom, “I have raised my hand to the Lord, God Most High, Creator of heaven and earth, and have taken an oath that I will accept nothing belonging to you, not even a thread or the thong of a sandal, so that you will never be able to say, ‘I made Abram rich.’ I will accept nothing but what my men have eaten and the share that belongs to the men who went with me—to Aner, Eshcol and Mamre. Let them have their share.” Genesis 14:21-24

Abram knew that his success and victory over the kings of Mesopotamia were from the LORD and not by his own hand. He refused to take the least thing from the king of Sodom. He wanted all the glory to go to the God of the Hebrews. Abram made a declaration to the king of Sodom that it was the LORD God who was the source of his wealth and success and not any man.

But remember the LORD your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth, and so confirms his covenant, which he swore to your forefathers, as it is today. Deuteronomy 8:18