The rebellion of the valley kings. — V.1. And it came to pass in the days of Amraphel, king of Shinar, Arioch, king of Ellasar, Chedorlaomer, king of Elam, and Tidal, king of nations, v.2. that these made war with Bera, king of Sodom, and with Birsha, king of Gomorrah, Shinab, king of Admah, and Shemeber, king of Zeboiim, and the king of Bela, which is Zoar. Those were the days of the city-states, just before the rise of the great Eastern nations. According to contemporary documents, Amraphel of Shinar is to be identified with Ammu-rabi, or Khammurabi, king of Sumer, who shortly afterward founded the early Babylonian empire; Arioch of Ellasar was probably Eri-Aku, king of Larsa, a south Babylonian city-state; Chedorlaomer was Kudur-Lagamor, a near successor of Simti Shilkhak, mentioned in ancient records of Elam, or Elymais; and Tidal, king of Goiim, or nations, was Tudhkhulu, king of Gutium, in the southwestern part of what was afterward Amraphel’s territory. 4) [Footnote text: Cp. Mercer, Extra-Biblical Sources for Hebrew and Jewish History, 5. 6. ] These four kings had formed a confederacy for the purpose of extending their power and to that end waged war with the five kings of the vale of Siddim, in the southeastern part of Canaan, where their city-states also formed a confederacy. V.3. All these were joined together in the vale of Siddim, which is the Salt Sea. At the time when this history was written, the vale of Siddim was no longer in existence, its former fruitful fields being covered by the waters of the Dead Sea. Cp. chap. 19, 24. 25. V.4. Twelve years they served Chedorlaomer, and in the thirteenth year they rebelled. Chedorlaomer at that time was the head of the northern confederacy, and therefore the rebellion of the southern kings and their refusal to pay tribute is represented as being directed against him. V.5. And in the fourteenth year came Chedorlaomer, and the kings that were with him, and smote the Rephaims in Ashteroth Karnaim, and the Zuzims in Ham, and the Emims in Shaveh Kiriathaim, v.6. and the Horites in their Mount Seir, unto Elparan, which is by the wilderness. V.7. And they returned and came to Enmishpat, which is Kadesh, and smote all the country of the Amalekites, and also the Amorites, that dwelt in Hazezontamar. It was a campaign of revenge and conquest which the kings of the northern, or Babylonian, confederacy undertook under the leadership of Chedorlaomer. Coming down with their armies, they took their way over Damascus and then turned south through the country east of the Jordan. They first gained a decisive victory over the Rephaim, a tribe of giants then living in the highlands of Bashan, their capital being Ashteroth Karnaim, “the two horned Ashteroth.” They next conquered the Zuzim, also a race of giants, occupying the eastern tableland, south of Bashan and Gilead. Continuing southward, the Babylonian armies overthrew the armies of the Emim, “the terrible ones,” whose capital was Shaveh Kiriathaim, “the dale of the two cities.” The last country to yield to the conquerors was that of the Horim, a race of cave-dwellers south of what was afterward the Dead Sea. Chedorlaomer now turned back toward the west and north, invaded the country afterward occupied by the Amalekites, with the capital Kadesh Barnea, and that of the Amorites, who lived just east of the Sea of the Plain, afterward the Dead Sea. Both nations were conquered by the armies of the northern confederacy. It was the first of a long series of campaigns of conquest that were conducted by the ancient empires of the Euphrates Valley.
The capture of Lot. — V.8. And there went out the king of Sodom, and the king of Gomorrah, and the king of Admah, and the king of Zeboiim, and the king of Bela, (the same is Zoar;) and they joined battle with them in the vale of Siddim; v.9. with Chedorlaomer, the king of Elam, and with Tidal, king of nations, and Amraphel, king of Shinar, and Arioch, king of Ellasar; four kings with five. Flushed with their recent conquests, by which they had eliminated all the possible confederates of the southern confederacy, the kings of the north poured their victorious hordes into the vale of Siddim, near the beautiful Sea of the Plain. V.10. And the vale of Siddim was full of slime-pits; and the kings of Sodom and Gomorrah fled and fell there; and they that remained fled to the mountain. This was the outcome of the battle: the five southern kings were routed by the armies of the north and sought to save their lives. The kings of Sodom and Gomorrah were familiar with the country and fell into one of the asphalt-pits which abounded in the neighborhood, that is, they quickly hid themselves there, while their allies fled to the secluded canyons of what was afterward the country of Moab, where the many hiding-places prevented their being found by the enemy. V.11. And they took all the goods of Sodom and Gomorrah and all their victuals, and went their way. Even in those days the spoils belonged to the victors; they plundered the cities of the conquered armies, down to the last remnant of food, and then marched on. V.12. And they took Lot, Abram’s brother’s son, who dwelt in Sodom, and his goods, and departed. Thus Lot was obliged to suffer with the godless people among whom he lived, whose city he had chosen for his home, This was to prove an excellent chastisement and correction for him.
Abraham’s march and victory. — V.13. And there came one that had escaped, and told Abram, the Hebrew; for he dwelt in the plain of Mamre, the Amorite, brother of Eshcol, and brother of Aner; and these were confederate with Abram. Abram, living at some distance from the scene of all these happenings, was not aware of the straits into which Lot had fallen, until a fugitive from the battle brought him the news. He was known as the Hebrew, the immigrant from the other side of the Euphrates, and he was still living in the grove of terebinths which belonged to Mamre, the Amorite. V.14. And when Abram heard that his brother was taken captive, he armed his trained servants, born in his own house, three hundred and eighteen, and pursued them unto Dan. By the time Abram received the news, the enemies had gotten a long start on their way to their home country. But he acted with commendable speed and energy, for it was his brother, his near relative, whose life was in danger. He immediately assembled the slaves that had been born in his house and had been trained in the use of arms, and literally poured them forth in pursuit of the Babylonian armies, in proper battle array. There were three hundred and eighteen of these servants, besides the men of Aner, Eshcol, and Mamre, that went with Abram to the extreme northern boundary of Gilead, in Perea, where the city of Dan was afterward situated. V.15. And he divided himself against them, he and his servants, by night, and smote them, and pursued them unto Hobah, which is on the left hand of Damascus. By making use of strategy and with the help of Almighty God, before whom mere numbers are not the deciding factor, Abram was able to put the Babylonian armies to rout and even to pursue them northward from Damascua (literally, on the left hand, as one faces the east), to a little village now known as Hoba. V.16. And he brought back all the goods, and also brought again his brother Lot, and his goods, and the women also, and the people. The whole spoil of the enemy was thus taken from them by Abram’s little army, who thereby, in magnanimous love, rewarded Lot good for evil. Thus true faith produces holy courage and is able to face and to overcome all dangers, if the work in which a believer is engaged is one which meets with the approval of God.
Abraham’s return. — V.17. And the king of Sodom went out to meet him after his return from the slaughter of Chedorlaomer, and of the kings that were with him, at the valley of Shaveh, which is the king’s dale. The news of Abram’s victory preceded him, for, with all the spoil and the women, he was unable to travel so rapidly as he had hurried in pursuit. The king of Sodom, who had saved his life by his self-possession, went forth to meet the returning victors at a place situated probably on the Kidron, which from that time bore the name “King’s Dale,” 2 Sam. 18, 18. V.18. And Melchizedek, king of Salem, brought forth bread and wine; and he was the priest of the most high God. Of this Melchizedek, king of Salem, probably Jerusalem, nothing more is known. Cp. Heb. 7, 3. He seems to have been one of those that clung to the worship of the true God after the majority of the people had plunged into the depths of heathendom; to this God he was a priest. He now showed his appreciation and gratitude toward Abram and his little army by bringing forth bread and wine to refresh and strengthen the weary soldiers. V.19. And he blessed him and said, Blessed be Abram of the most high God, possessor of heaven and earth; v.20. and blessed be the most high God, which hath delivered thine enemies into thine hand. And he gave him tithes of all. So Melchizedek transmitted to Abram the blessing of God, of the Most Exalted One, of the Founder and Owner of heaven and earth. And, in turn, he praised the Lord, the Exalted One, to whom the victory of Abram must be ascribed. It was a prayer for prosperity and blessing, in beautiful, poetical form. Melchizedek is a type of Christ, The great High Priest of the New Testament, Ps. 110, 4, and the entire 7th chapter of Hebrews is really a commentary on this passage. Abram acknowledged Melchizedek as a priest by giving him tithes of all, Heb. 7, 4. This was the more important transaction at the meeting. V.21. And the king of Sodom said unto Abram, Give me the persons, and take the goods to thyself. His intention was to repay Abram for the work which he performed in delivering the captive Sodomites, especially the women and children, from the hands of the enemy. He asked only for the souls, the people whom Abram had brought back, proposing that Abram keep the spoil that had originally belonged to the men of Sodom, in return for his victory. V.22. And Abram said to the king of Sodom, I have lift up mine hand unto the Lord, the most high God, the Possessor of heaven and earth, v.23. that I will not take from a thread even to a shoe-latchet, and that I will not take anything that is thine, lest thou shouldest say, I have made Abram rich; v.24. save only that which the young men have eaten, and the portion of the men which went with me, Aner, Eshcol, and Mamre; let them take their portion. It is a kind, but solemn and emphatic refusal. With a confession in the true God, in whose name he swears, Abram declares that the men belonging to his allies may take advantage of the offer and claim their share of the spoils, and he would be willing to accept what his servants had consumed in food daring their campaign; but as for himself, not even a thread or a sandal-strap would he accept from the king of Sodom, lest the latter might afterward boast that Abram owed his riches to him. Abram wanted to be under no obligations to the heathen king. Even so the believers today are encouraged to do good also to the unbelievers; but beyond that they should not go, lest their Christianity be endangered.