Now there is a story of a war. Some have questioned the purpose for the details of this war between five kings of Canaan and the four kings of the confederacy or large areas covered by Nimrod's kingdom in the area of Babylon. When one looks at the details, it shows some of the history associated with Sodom and Gomorrah which are very historic and have caused extreme controversy in our modern days. Since Lot, Abraham's nephew, was taken prisoner, Abraham had to do something greatly by faith to bring Lot back. He also meets Melchizedek, a very special character with which there is controversy. Who was this person that would and could bless Abraham?
This chapter starts a story of a war between kings of four kingdoms and the kings of five other Canaan kingdoms (which included Sodom and Gomorrah). At this point, it is known that, after Abraham and Lot divided up the land, Lot moved to Sodom to live. Even though the reputation of Sodom and Gomorrah should have affected the decision of Lot, he still decided to live there. Most likely that was associated with the business aspect of his life (i.e. money). He made the original land decision based on the lushness of the land.
The region was subdivided in small neighborhoods, like a city or a town. Chedorlaomer (also spelled Kedorlaomer - means “son of La’gamal,” a god of Elam), the king of Elam, (see map of kingdom areas) had ruled the whole district for about 12 years. On the thirteenth year there was a revolt against Chedorlaomer. In the fourteenth year, Chedorlaomer and three of his support leaders or kings made war on five Canaanite kings.
Little is actually known of the king Amraphel. He is mentioned as being king of Shinar (Babylon). He is, therefore, the successor of Nimrod, who was the highest of most of the ancient kingdoms. But this kingdom is no longer the supreme power. Amraphel is probably the descendant of Nimrod, and a Kushite. The Chaldee Targum (Aramaic translations of OT used in synagogues of Palestine and Babylonia) makes Amraphel king of Babylon; some make him king of Assyria; some even make him Nimrod; and others make him possibly one of Nimrod's descendants.
The next king is Arioch, king of Ellasar. The location of a location called Ellasar is not known. Some believe that Syria was what was meant.
The last of the group of four kings is Tidal, king of Goiim. Goiim means nations; so it is doubtful that this title denotes one special nation.
These four kings under Chedorlaomer make war on five major kings of Canaan. This occurs in the region around the Dead Sea. One king was Bera, the king of Sodom; the next king was Birsha, king of Gomorrah; The third king was Shinab (means "Sin" a god "is father"), king of Admah, a province next to Sodom and Gomorrah; the fourth king was Shemeber (means "powerful name"), king of Zeboiim, a city near Sodom and Gomorrah and was destroyed with those two cities (may have found some tablets near the Dead Sea to verify Zeboiim); and the fifth king was over Bela (another name for Zoar). Zoar is significant for Lot later in Genesis.Of the five city kings, Gomorrah is the leader.
Chedorlaomer overcame the four kings of Canaan. Because Lot lived in Sodom, Lot and his household and other persons were taken as captors.
Abraham heard of this from an escapee. Abraham took 318 trained servants and pursued Chedorlaomer and the captives to Dan and Hobah which is are in the area at the base of Mount Herman. Mount Herman is the primary source of water which flows into the north end of the Sea of Galilee and the Jordan River. Abraham, in the dark of night, surrounded Chedorlaomer. He overcame the the army of Chedorlaomer and took back the captors with, of course, Lot, family, possessions, and others. The fact that 318 men overcame the great army of Chedorlaomer is probably due to lack of organization and too much confidence. The army was probably feasting and drunk, etc. The grateful king of Sodom greeted the people when they came back. In addition, all the spoils were rescued.
Right after the war, the king of Sodom went out to meet Abraham in the valley of Shaveh, also called the King's Valley. This area is about 2-3 south of Jerusalem.
Abraham now meets a controversial figure Melchizedek (king of righteousness), the Chief of Salem (ancient name of Jerusalem) and king. He is controversial because there is very little known about him. He appears dramatically and disappears. He is mentioned again in the Bible (Ps. 110:4; Heb. 7:1-3). We do not know anything else about him. Why would the mysterious person appear now? We know nothing in the Bible is "incidental". It is likely this "silence" is designed to look forward toward Christ. Some say he was a very good man of God. Some scholars say he may have been a Theophany (an appearance of God) or Christophany (an appearance of Christ). He certainly was a type of Christ. There are accepted arguments to justifying both sides.
Some points for his being a man are:
Some point for his being God/Christ:
Whoever this person was, surely having Melchizedek "refresh" the army of Abraham and give them a meal of wine and bread gratified Abraham and his people, who were weary from war. Abraham gave a tenth (tithed) to Melchizedek. The king of Sodom offered to give Abraham all the materials he had recovered but the king just wanted the people back. Abraham did not accept any of the spoils of battle for himself. He did not want to be accused of getting rich from the king and this campaign.
This could be the point where Abraham realizes more about the direction he is to go. He certainly exhibited the character attributes of faith, courage, generosity, and love. He has now shown allegiance to God. Melchizedek gives two blessings. The first blessing is on the person of Abraham. The second is to God. He blesses with the probability that this is kind of a last declaration and blessing for God giving Abraham this land. By not taking any rewards for the win, Abraham is "accepting" his inheritance.
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