A Verse by Verse Study of Genesis 14:1-24
The account of Genesis 14 is the first international crisis that occurs in the Bible – an all-out war of five kings against four – and Abraham inserts himself into the middle of it to rescue Lot.
The War of Five Kings
Genesis 14:1-4 begins by describing the political state of affairs during the time of Abraham. One powerful king, King Kedorlaomer, ruled over all the neighboring lands and their kings, who had to pay homage and taxes to him for twelve years. But in the thirteenth year some of the kings rebelled and refused to pay the tax.
Three kings were most likely afraid to rebel against Kedorlaomer and joined his forces, while five other kings banned together in rebellion.
Genesis 14:5-10 tells us that, when King Kedorlaomer heard of the rebellion, he took his armies to those lands and reconquered them. But the rebel kings were not ready to give up. They prepared for a final battle in the valley of the Dead Sea.
King Kedorlaomer and his army were too powerful, and eventually the rebel kings lost, though many of the men of Sodom and Gomorrah escaped.
Lot Lived for the World
In Genesis 13, Lot left Abram and moved near Sodom, but he wasn’t living in it. Now in Genesis 14, Lot is living in Sodom. And not only is Lot living there, but he has also become one of them. Later in Genesis 19, we find out that Lot has become a politician – a law maker and person of authority in Sodom.
Lot’s love of the world had a hold on him. It was a strong force in his life. But when you walk a little too closely to the world, it won’t be long before you become part of it.
In Genesis 14:11-12, Sodom is raided by King Kedorlaomer and his armies, and as the saying goes: “To the victor go the spoils”, Lot and his possessions were taken captive and carried away.
Lot was not simply in the wrong place at the wrong time. Lot deliberately chose to become a citizen of Sodom. And Lot was being given a warning: those who conform to the world, must expect to suffer for it. Bad choices have bad consequences.
Abraham Lived for God
In Genesis 14:13, we find out that one of Lot’s men escaped captivity and came to find Abraham who was still living near the oak grove belonging to Mamre.
Abraham was a righteous man. He obediently waited on the Lord for direction. He had not moved from the spot that the Lord directed him. And God blessed him. In verse 14, we read that Abraham had 318 trained men – servants born into his household. This demonstrates great wealth.
This verse also demonstrates, that even though Abraham walked in faith, he was also a wise and prudent man. He prepared for the future by training his men to be ready for battle, knowing the political culture that he lived in.
But though Abraham had a large company of trained men, his army was nothing in comparison to the armies of the four kings. This is where Abraham’s faith came in. He pursued Kedorlaomer’s army and caught up with them. Abraham relied on God’s promises, and knowing that his promises had not yet been fulfilled, he had faith to do the impossible!
Abraham Rescues Lot
Genesis 14:15-16 tells us that Abraham was strategic in battle. He attacked Kedorlaomer’s army by night, when they would least expect an ambush. Though Abraham was outnumbered, Kedorlaomer and his army fled, taking Abraham’s nephew with them.
Though their surprise advantage was now gone, Abraham pursued Kedorlaomer’s army and he did not stop until he had the victory. He recovered Lot, all the other captives, and all their stolen possessions. The impossible is possible with God!
Abraham’s rescue reveals another story to us. Two thousand years before Jesus came to earth, we get a glimpse of another redemption story and God’s own rescue plan for us.
Lot chose to part ways with Abraham – to go his own way and walk in the world. Abraham could have allowed the consequences of Lot’s bad choices to play themselves out – Lot had “made his bed” and now he could lie in it.
But Abraham was a man after God’s heart. Abraham chose to show Lot mercy and grace and went to extreme lengths to rescue him.
Like Abraham in this account, our Redeemer went to great trouble and distance to defeat the enemy and set us free from captivity.
Who is Melchizedek?
Genesis 14:17-20 is a mystery that remains unsolved today. Who is Melchizedek? There are three main theories as to who Melchizedek was:
- Shem, the son of Noah (though not a likely alternative)
- A monotheistic Canaanite king who also received supernatural revelation from God, like Abraham.
- An appearance of the pre-incarnate Jesus.
While it may be possible that Melchizedek was a monotheistic king within a polytheistic culture, it is less likely that he was both a king and a priest as depicted in this passage. There is no record of anyone else ever being both king and priest. In fact, God appointed the kingly line to descend from tribe of Judah, while the priestly line descended from the tribe of Levi. God forbade the kings of Israel to be priests and even struck down King Uzziah when he tried to do the work of a priest.
Who Does Melchizedek Represent?
The name Melchizedek comes from the two Hebrew words: melek(h), meaning king, and sedek, meaning righteousness. The King of Righteousness.
The passage tells us that he was the King of Salem, which is later renamed Jerusalem, and the priest of El Elyon – translated as the Most High God. Jesus is both our King and our High Priest.
He offers Abraham bread and wine, which reminds us of Jesus at Passover, followed by blessing Abraham and the Most High God. An important part of the priestly ministry is to connect with both God and man.
In turn Abraham offers him a tithe – a tenth of everything – a form of worship.
We can say with confidence, that if Melchizedek was not a pre-Bethlehem appearance of Jesus, at the very least he is an extraordinary representation of Jesus.
Abraham Refuses the Spoils
In Genesis 14:21-24, the King of Sodom wanted to reward Abraham. But Abraham refused. Notice his response to the king: “With raised hand I have sworn an oath to the Lord, God Most High, Creator of heaven and earth, that I will accept nothing belonging to you.” (NIV). Abraham uses the title “God Most High” after hearing Melchizedek use this title.
Abraham had once accepted gifts from a king – the pharaoh of Egypt – but that encounter ended in embarrassment and shame (Genesis 12).
Instead, Abraham wanted his blessing and wealth to come from God and God alone. He didn’t want anyone to be able to say that his wealth came from man. His success and wealth could only be credited to God and God would receive all the glory.
However, Abraham did not impose this principle on his allies. They were entitled to as much of the spoils as was customary. Abraham lived by a different standard – God’s standard – but he did not impose this standard on his neighbours and allies. Instead, Abraham’s life would reflect God and his ways. He would live by example, rather than force God’s ways on non-believers, and his example would lead others to God.
Rescue and Redemption
Theologians believe that Jesus made many appearances throughout the Old Testament. He is said to have appeared as the Angel of the Lord – God in physical form who delivered revelation to several people and received worship from them in return. Some theologians also believe that God walked in the Garden of Eden as Jesus.
God appears to man throughout the Old Testament to reveal his nature, his heart, and his plan. Like the flood account in Genesis 8, Genesis 14 is another rescue and redemption story. This is a demonstration of God’s heart and compassion for his people. He wants to rescue and bless us.
So often the Old Testament is vilified, as people focus on the violence and war that took place. But when you take a closer look and read the passages in context, you get a picture of God’s heart: his love, his mercy, his compassion, and his grace.
Is God a Moral Monster?: Making Sense of the Old Testament God by Paul Copan. Recently more and more books have been written accusing the God of the Old Testament of being a bully and a murderer. This viewpoint is even beginning to enter the church, leading to division and doing away with central biblical teaching. Apologist Paul Copan takes on some of the major accusations and takes a deeper dive into some of the Bible’s toughest passages to reveal a God who is faithful, unchanging, righteous and loving.
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