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War of the Kings Lot's Captivity and Rescue An Alliance of Four Eastern Kings Abram Rescues Lot The Campaign of the Four Kings
14:1-12 14:1-4 14:1-12 14:1-7 14:1-12
14:13-16 14:13-16 14:13-16 14:13-16 14:13-16
God's Promise to Abram     Melchizedek Blesses Abram Melchizedek
14:17-24 14:17 14:17-24 14:17-20 14:17-19
  Abram and Melchizedek     (19)
(19-20) (19-20) (19-20)    
  14:21-24   14:21 14:21-24

READING CYCLE THREE(see Guide to Good Bible Reading)


This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects. Compare your subject divisions with the five translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Third paragraph

4. Etc.



And it came about in the days of Amraphel king of Shinar, Arioch king of Ellasar, Chedorlaomer king of Elam, and Tidal king of Goiim, 2that they 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 (that is, Zoar). 3All these came as allies to the valley of Siddim (that is, the Salt Sea). 4Twelve years they had served Chedorlaomer, but the thirteenth year they rebelled. 5In the fourteenth year Chedorlaomer and the kings that were with him, came and defeated the Rephaim in Ashteroth-karnaim and the Zuzim in Ham and the Emim in Shaveh-kiriathaim, 6and the Horites in their Mount Seir, as far as El-paran, which is by the wilderness. 7Then they turned back and came to En-mishpat (that is, Kadesh), and conquered all the country of the Amalekites, and also the Amorites, who lived in Hazazon-tamar. 8And the king of Sodom and the king of Gomorrah and the king of Admah and the king of Zeboiim and the king of Bela (that is, Zoar) came out; and they arrayed for battle against them in the valley of Siddim, 9against Chedorlaomer king of Elam and Tidal king of Goiim and Amraphel king of Shinar and Arioch king of Ellasar-four kings against five. 10Now the valley of Siddim was full of tar pits; and the kings of Sodom and Gomorrah fled, and they fell into them. But those who survived fled to the hill country. 11Then they took all the goods of Sodom and Gomorrah and all their food supply, and departed. 12They also took Lot, Abram's nephew, and his possessions and departed, for he was living in Sodom.

14:1-12 The events recorded here are unknown to current history, as are the names of the kings. There has been much disagreement about these names. It is possible that a related set of cuneiform texts purchased by the British Museum called "the Chedorlaomer Texts" records the same event because of the similarity of three of the four kings' names, but this, too, is uncertain.

So what do we know?

1. There is "archeological evidence of an advanced civilization (Middle Bronze I) in trans-Jordan, Negev, and Sinai at this time which collapsed suddenly" (ZPEB, vol 1, p. 785). This war fits current evidence.

2. Armies moved long distances during this period (i.e., second millennium b.c.) to gain spoil and control.

One example to show the current state of the confusion which surrounds this event involves "Arioch king of Ellasar," which can refer to

1. Eri-aku, king of the city of Larsa (Akkadian), which is in central Babylon or Assyria

2. a satrap of Armenia (Ellasar is Armenian for Armenia)

3. Cappadocia (from Genesis Apocryphon of the Dead Sea Scrolls)

4. a city between Carchemish and Haran (from the Mari Texts)

The confusion is obvious. These names are not common to any written sources. The spelling of names changes from language to language. It is best to wait until more documented history is known from this period and locale. The kings must be contemporaneous and from the period of Abram (19th or 18th century b.c.). But let me hasten to mention that the names fit the country (region to which they are related, Derek Kidner, Genesis, p. 30).

1. Amraphel - Semite flavor

2. Arioch - Hurrian flavor

3. Chedorlaomer - Elam flavor

4. Tidal - Hittite flavor


14:2 The cities listed (Sodom, Gomorrah, Admah, Zeboiim, and Bela/Zoar) are cities located in the southern Arabah, today in the region covered by the southern tip of the Dead Sea.

▣ "Bera. . .Birsha" The Jewish Study Bible says these two names are symbolic for "evil" (BDB 948) and "wickedness" (BDB 957, p. 34, also note Derek Kidner, Genesis, p. 130). This is unsubstantiated by BDB. It may be a rationale on its part for asserting that the account is not historical. The names of the kings are unknown from history.

14:3 "the valley of Siddim" This location is found only in this chapter, Gen. 14:3, 8. The ancient translations used the immediate context (Gen. 14:10) to translate it as part of the Jordan Rift Valley, where fossil petroleum products were visible on the surface. This is probably an area now covered by the southern part of the Dead Sea.

14:4 This verse tells us the reason for "the cities of the plain" to rebel (BDB 597, KB 632, Qal perfect) against their Mesopotamian overlord. In response Chedorlaomer recruited several other Fertile Crescent kings to join him in retaliation.

14:5-7 Derek Kidner (Genesis, Tyndale OT Commentaries, p. 131) thinks Gen. 14:5-7, possibly Gen. 14:1-11, 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. I also think this is a possible option. It is "different" from the surrounding chapters.

14:5 "Rephaim. . .Zuzim. . .Emin" See Special Topic below.


▣ "Ashteroth" This (BDB 800) is one name for the Canaan female goddess connected to Ba'al.


14:6 "Horites" See Special Topic at Gen. 12:6.

▣ "El-paran" This is not the general name for Deity (i.e., El) prefixed. It is an abbreviation of "terebinth" (cf. LXX, i.e., a large tree).

14:7 "En-mishpat (that is Kadesh)" The term "En" (BDB 745) means "spring" and is part of the name of several locations in the OT. "Mishpat" (BDB 1048) means "judgment," "justice," or "decision," which denotes the events of Numbers 13.

This is the only occurrence of this name in the Bible. The parenthesis identifies it with the oasis in the northern Sinai desert so famous during the Wilderness Wandering Period (cf. Num. 13:26; 20). Kadesh is also mentioned in Gen. 16:14, 20:1 and Num. 13:26; 20:1,14, later called "Kadesh Barnea" (cf. Num. 32:8). Apparently this is another example of an editor or scribe who added information (1) from a later period or (2) as further clarification to an existing text or oral tradition (cf. Gen. 14:2,8,17).

▣ "Amalekites" This group may be descendants from Esau (cf. Gen. 36:15-16), who became a symbol of evil to Israel because of their raiding the defenseless rear part of the Israelite migration (cf. Exod. 17:8-16; Deut. 25:17-19).

▣ "Amorites" See Special Topic: The Pre-Israelite Inhabitants of Palestine.

▣ "Hazazon-tamar" From 2 Chr. 20:2 this is identified as En-gedi, a unique freshwater source on the western side of the Dead Sea.

Then a fugitive came and told Abram the Hebrew. Now he was living by the oaks of Mamre the Amorite, brother of Eshcol and brother of Aner, and these were allies with Abram. 14When Abram heard that his relative had been taken captive, he led out his trained men, born in his house, three hundred and eighteen, and went in pursuit as far as Dan. 15He divided his forces against them by night, he and his servants, and defeated them, and pursued them as far as Hobah, which is north of Damascus. 16He brought back all the goods, and also brought back his relative Lot with his possessions, and also the women, and the people.

14:13 "Abram the Hebrew" The term "Hebrew" (BDB 720) can derive from

1. Eber - a descendant of Shem (cf. Gen. 10:21) and Shelah (cf. Gen. 10:24). The name means "beyond" (cf. LXX) or "the region across" (BDB 719). If this term designates a people group (cf. Gen. 39:14), it is another example of an anachronism denoting a later editor or scribe updating the text.

2. Habiru - name for migrating Semites of the second millennium b.c.; Akkadian for Hebrew (ABD, vol. 3, p. 6); the name itself means "refugees."

This term is often used to designate Israelites to foreigners. Chapter 14 is unique in the recorded events of Abram's life.

1. use of "Hebrew" (BDB 720 I)

2. linked to the city of Jerusalem (Salem)

3. use of the title "God Most High" (cf. Gen. 14:18,19,20,22)


14:14 It is surprising that a force of 318 (plus allies) could defeat a combined army of four Fertile Crescent kings (this is the faith miracle). This defeat is meant to reveal the presence and power of YHWH with Abraham (as Gen. 14:17-24 and 15:1 clearly show). This is the reason this event is recorded! Also Abram's use of the title "Melchizedek" recognizes YHWH's activity beyond Abram's covenant. Others (i.e., Job, Elihu) also knew and worshiped YHWH, but by a different name (i.e., El Elyon). Abram's call was not an exclusive act, but a way to reveal YHWH to all the nations.

▣ "trained men" Even though this is a military context, this term (BDB 335) refers to domestic or pastoral training.

A military aspect may be found in the verb "he led out" (BDB 937, KB 1227, Hiphil imperfect), which may reflect an Akkadian root, "to muster troops," which follows the Samaritan Pentateuch and the Septuagint.

▣ "as far as Dan" This is another case of a later name being used. Dan (the city) refers to the migration of the tribe of Dan from the Philistine area to the far north in Joshua 19:40-48 and Judges 18. Obviously a later editor or scribe is making updates!

14:15 The UBS's Handbook on Genesis makes a good comment here.

"14:15 shows 'that Abram did not recover Lot in the night raid at Dan, but only later at Hobah" (p. 319).

This city/region "Hobah" (BDB 295) is north of Damascus and is mentioned only here in the Bible. The invading kings and Abram with his allies traveled long distances.

17Then after his return from the defeat of Chedorlaomer and the kings who were with him, the king of Sodom went out to meet him at the valley of Shaveh (that is, the King's Valley). 18And Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine; now he was a priest of God Most High. 19He blessed him and said,
"Blessed be Abram of God Most High,
Possessor of heaven and earth;
20And blessed be God Most High,
  Who has delivered your enemies into your hand." He gave him a tenth of all. 21The king of Sodom said to Abram, "Give the people to me and take the goods for yourself." 22Abram said to the king of Sodom, "I have sworn to the Lord God Most High, possessor of heaven and earth, 23that I will not take a thread or a sandal thong or anything that is yours, for fear you would say, 'I have made Abram rich.' 24I will take nothing except what the young men have eaten, and the share of the men who went with me, Aner, Eshcol, and Mamre; let them take their share."

14:17 "the king of Sodom" Exactly how "the king of Sodom" is related to the king of Salem is uncertain. (Verse 17 picks up on the divisions of the spoils of war continued in Gen. 14:21-24). It is surprising to me that he (i.e., Bera, Gen. 14:2) is even mentioned. Apparently (1) the king of Salem was a spiritual advisor to the king of Sodom or (2) this is an abridged context combining two separate events. Salem is not one of the Cities of the Plain that were attacked (cf. Gen. 14:1-2).

From Gen. 14:23 Abram wanted YHWH to receive all the credit for his prosperity (cf. Gen. 14:20b) and he did not fully trust the king of Sodom.

▣ "the valley of Shaveh (that is the King's Valley)" The term "Shaveh" (BDB 1001) means "to be smooth" (BDB 1000) and here may refer to a plain.

The "King's Valley" is also mentioned in 2 Sam. 18:18 and appears to be a valley close to Salem. Its location is uncertain (though some think it is the Kidron Valley), as are so many people and places in this chapter.

14:18 "Melchizedek" The name means "king of righteousness" or "my king is righteous" (BDB 575, similar to Jos. 10:1; Zedek may relate to a Canaanite astral god, Zedek). The name (Melchizedek) appears only here and in Ps. 110:4 in the OT. The Psalm 110 passage caused the Dead Sea Scrolls community to expect two Messiahs.

1. a royal one from the tribe of Judah

2. a priestly one from the tribe of Levi

The NT book of Hebrews (i.e., chapter 7) uses this Canaanite priest/king as a type of a superior priesthood.

1. his genealogy is not given

2. Abram offers a tithe to him (Gen. 14:20, a sign of an acknowledgment to a superior)

3. he is leader of the city later to become Jerusalem

4. he is a priest (unusual at this period, the father acted as priest for the family, cf. Gen. 31:54; Job 1) to God Most High (El Elyon, נוילע לא, cf. Gen. 14:19,20)

By means of rabbinical hermeneutics the author of Hebrews uses him as a type/symbol of a better priesthood than Aaron/Levi.

▣ "Salem" The special city that YHWH chose for His name to dwell goes by several names in the OT.

1. Salem - early Canaanite name

2. Jebus - Canaanite name of Joshua's day

3. Jerusalem - of David's day (see parallelism of Ps. 76:2)


▣ "bread and wine" This was for Abram and all the others as well. This was a way of referring to the necessities of life (cf. Ps. 104:15). They may have had a religious significance (i.e., covenant of peace meal), but this is uncertain from the text. It is not a foreshadowing of the Lord's Supper. Be careful of types not revealed by inspired NT authors! 

▣ "wine"  See Special Topic below.


14:19-20 Most English translations mark this as poetry.

14:19 "blessed be Abram" This is the same verb (BDB 138, KB 159) found three times in Gen. 12:3. Its basic meaning is to "kneel" or "bless."

▣ "Most High" Abram, Melchizedek, and Job all knew the God of creation by different names.

1. Abram - YHWH

2. Melchizedek - El Elyon

3. Job - Elohim, El

See Special Topic: Names for Deity.

▣ "Possessor of heaven and earth" The verb (BDB 888, KB 1111, Qal participle, cf. Gen. 14:22) means "to own" or "to make" (possibly from two similar consonantal roots). This theological language is common in Near Eastern religions (i.e., Canaanite Ugaritic poems); it was a way to acknowledge the high god (applied to YHWH in Ps. 115:15; 121:2; 124:8; 134:3; 146:6).

14:20 "a tenth of all" This is the first mention of a numerical concept that develops into the tithe in Leviticus (see Special Topic following). This gesture on Abram's part was a way of thanking YHWH for the victory and acknowledging that He was the victor!

By giving this to Melchizedek he was recognizing him as one who truly knew and served the same God who called him from Ur (cf. Gen. 14:22).



14:21 One wonders if the "tithes" of Gen. 14:20 are part of the spoils discussion of Gen. 14:21. There is confusion in the context.

1. vv. 17, 21-24 deal with the king of Sodom and the spoils

2. vv. 18-20 deal with the tithe of the spoils to the king of Salem


14:22 Notice how Abram equates the names for Deity.


2. El Elyon

thereby identifying them as one and the same.

14:23 "I will not take a thread or a sandal thong or anything that is yours" This hyperbolic language is typical (cf. NIDOTTE, vol. 3, p. 120) of Ancient Near Eastern bartering language (cf. Genesis 23). It is an idiom for "taking nothing." Clothing was one of the spoils of battle. Abram wanted to make it perfectly clear, he was not entering or had never been in a covenant relationship with the king of Sodom.

14:24 This is a list of Abram's neighbors who aided in the battle and who deserved the spoils due them.


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