Genesis 14: Abram Travels North to Save Lot

bread-wineHebrew-English Text

I. Summary

Lot is captured by the four kings of Mesopotamia, who defeat the five kings of the Jordan Valley. Abram saves Lot by defeating the four kings in the north past Damascus. Abram is blessed by the king of Salem and returns the plunder to the king of Sodom.

II. Photo

Abram is blessed: “And King Melchizedek of Salem brought out bread and wine; he was a priest of God Most High. He blessed him, saying, ‘Blessed be Abram of God Most High, Creator of heaven and earth.'” (vv. 18-19)

III. Select Verses

1-2: Now, when King Amraphel of Shinar, King Arioch of Ellasar, King Chedorlaomer of Elam, and King Tidal of Goiim made war on King Bera of Sodom, King Birsha of Gomorrah, King Shinab of Admah, King Shemeber of Zeboiim, and the king of Bela, which is Zoar,

11-12: [The invaders] seized all the wealth of Sodom and Gomorrah and all their provisions, and went their way. They also took Lot, the son of Abram’s brother, and his possessions, and departed; for he had settled in Sodom.

14-16: When Abram heard that his kinsman had been taken captive, he mustered his retainers, born into his household, numbering three hundred and eighteen, and went in pursuit as far as Dan. At night, he and his servants deployed against them and defeated them; and he pursued them as far as Hobah, which is north of Damascus. He brought back all the possessions; he also brought back his kinsman Lot and his possessions, and the women and the rest of the people.

18-20: And King Melchizedek of Salem brought out bread and wine; he was a priest of God Most High. He blessed him, saying, “Blessed be Abram of God Most High, Creator of heaven and earth.  And blessed be God Most High, Who has delivered your foes into your hand.” And Abram gave him a tenth of everything.

22-23: But Abram said to the king of Sodom, “I swear to the LORD, God Most High, Creator of heaven and earth: I will not take so much as a thread or a sandal strap of what is yours; you shall not say, ‘It is I who made Abram rich.’

IV. Outline

1-9. A battle is waged between the 4 kings of Mesopotamia and the 5 kings of the Jordan Valley

10. The kings of Sodom and Gomorrah hide in bitumen pits

11-12. Lot and the other Sodomites are captured

13. Abram is informed

14-15. Abram and 300 men defeat the 4 kings north of Damascus

16. Lot is returned

17. The king of Sodom meets Abram

18-20a. King Melchizedek of Salem blesses Abram and Yahweh (called “the highest God”)

20b. Abram grants the king a tenth of the plunder

21-24. Abram tells the king of Sodom that he will not keep the plunder for himself, though his servants may take

V. Comment

The primary purpose of this narrative appears to be Abram’s traveling to the north. The previous chapter ended with a blessing and commandment from Yahweh to travel the land:

And Yahweh said to Abram, after Lot had parted from him, “Raise your eyes and look out from where you are, to the north and south, to the east and west, for I give all the land that you see to you and your offspring forever. I will make your offspring as the dust of the earth, so that if one can count the dust of the earth, then your offspring too can be counted. Up, walk about the land, through its length and its breadth, for I give it to you.”

Having already travelled in the southern portion of Canaan called the Negev (Gen 12:9; 13:1), it was now up to Abram to head north. In this passage Abram travels to two northern sites. The first, Dan (v. 14), appears to be the limit of later Israelite settlement as depicted in the phrase “from Dan to Beer-sheba” found throughout the Hebrew Bible (Judg 20:1; 1 Sam 3:20; 2 Sam 3:10; 17:11; 24:2, 15; 1 Kings 5:5; Amos 8:14; 1 Chr 21:2; 2 Chr 30:5). The second, Hobah north of Damascus, appears to be a grand idealized vision of the land, as reflected in territorial descriptions found in passages such as Num 13:21; 34:8; Josh 13:5; Judg 3:3; 1 Kings 8:65; 2 Kings 14:25; Ezek 47:20; 48:1; 1 Chr 13:5; 2 Chr 7:8. The two sites are probably mentioned in order to correlate to the two competing visions of the land of ancient Israel, one limited at Dan and the other limited north of Damascus.

Abram Travels

VI. Works Used

(see “Commentaries” page)

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