Abraham (Genesis 14)

By Mary Jane Chaignot

Categories: Patriarchs

  • Abraham got involved in a battle between two groups of kings.
  • Five kings from southern cities (including Sodom and Gemorrah) stopped paying tribute to the kings in the north, who then marched against them.
  • The southern kings lost the battle, and their citizens were captured.
  • None of this involved Abraham's community.
  • Because Lot was living in Sodom, he was among those captured.
  • One man managed to escape and told Abraham about Lot's capture.
  • When Abraham heard about Lot, he took 318 trained men from his household and headed north to Dan, one of the northernmost cities of Israel.
  • Upon arrival they waited until nightfall, split their forces in two, and routed the unsuspecting army.
  • Abraham chased after them until they abandoned Lot and all the booty they had taken.
  • This was a great victory for Abraham, and he headed home.
  • News traveled fast, and the southern kings went out to meet him.
  • Before they could say anything, the king of Salem (Melchizedek) brought out bread and wine.
  • He was a priest of God Most High, and he blessed Abraham.
  • Melchizedek appeared out of nowhere, speaks, acts, and immediately disappear. His part lasts for exactly three verses.
  • But he made a huge impression; writers would forever speak in awe of the Priesthood of Melchizedek.
  • In this story, he acted like a true spiritual brother for Abraham.
  • He also believed in the one God who created all, gave Abraham the victory, and promised him land, descendants, and blessings.
  • His gifts of bread and wine changed a military celebration into a spiritual experience.
  • The effect of this moment upon Abraham cannot be overstated.
  • He had just experienced the joy of victory and was the local hero.
  • He had the right to keep all the spoils he brought back from the enemy. Might this be God's blessing? Would he become great through military victories?
  • Melchizedek said, "no." Melchizedek appeared as a divine messenger, reminding Abraham of the real source of his safety and success.
  • This message was effective.
  • Abraham's thoughts were changed from gaining a kingdom based on military victories to a kingdom of peace.
  • He gave a tenth of everything to Melchizedek. That was the common way to thank him.
  • Only after this did the King of Sodom speak.
  • Unlike Melchizedek, who brought an offering of bread and wine, this king arrived empty handed and shouted, "Give me the people..."
  • It was an outrageous demand. This king had no right to anything and tried to bully his way into cutting a deal with Abraham.
  • In exchange for the people, the king said Abraham could keep all the spoils of war – stuff that already belonged to Abraham because he won the battle. (What a deal!)
  • Abraham said no. He said he had already sworn an oath not to accept anything— not a thread or a sandal thong—from the king. Otherwise, one day the king might say that he had made Abraham rich.
  • Abraham knew that God would provide for his needs.
  • His expression—not a thread or a sandal thong, which would have been a thick strap—is called a merism. It's a statement that uses opposites to express the whole gamut of meanings.
  • He didn't want to accept anything from the king of Sodom, not even the tiniest item, from that place of evil.
  • But he gave his allies some of the spoils.
  • At the end of this chapter, Abraham has made a clear choice between divine blessings and worldly honors or possessions.
  • He went back to Hebron; Lot went back to Sodom.

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