For those of you who are joining us for the first time, we are currently engaged in a study of the Bible, being presented here in the form of a two-act play which we’ve entitled, God’s One Big Story. In Act 1, Scene 1, we covered Genesis 1-11—the Overture to our story—and now, in Act 1, Scene 2, we are studying the lives of the Four Patriarchs found in Genesis 12-50. They are Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph, the four men most responsible for the birth and development of Israel—the nation who would one day become the Wife of Jehovah and the one through whom Jesus Christ would later come into the world.
We are referring to the stories of these men as Biopics, short for Biographical Pictures, and in our studies of them we are looking specifically for the…
- Life Lessons they have to teach us;
- Contributions they have to make to God’s One Big Story of Redemption; and,
- Revelations they provide of God and His Purposes.
During our last visit together in Episode #1 of Biopic #1, we learned that Abraham—or, Abram, as he was named at birth—was…
Called by God to Wander;
Called by God to Worship; and,
Called by God to Witness.
Following him through his first faltering steps of faith, we watched as he navigated his way through a series of Divine Revelations and Testings—and when we left him, he had arrived in a very good place. He had returned from a disastrous trip into Egypt (a picture or type of the world) where, in a backslidden condition, he had managed to compromise…
- His relationship with God;
- His relationship with his wife; and,
- His witness to the world.
However, once Abram was back in the Land of Promise…
- He restored his relationship with God through a renewal of Worship;
- His restored his Witness following his Separation from Lot; and,
- He was given a renewed and expanded Revelation of God’s will for his life.
Afterwards, Abram relocated his headquarters from Bethel (the House of God) to Hebron (the Place of Fellowship)—which is where we will find him today when Episode #2 of his story begins. As we wait expectantly for it to get underway, we suddenly hear our Narrator, somewhere off-stage, giving us an update on the events that have taken place in Abram’s world since we saw him last…
Episode #2 of Biopic #1
Cast: Narrator Abram Melchizedek King of Sodom
Our Narrator begins…
And it came to pass in the days of Amraphel king of Shinar, Arioch king of Ellasar, Chedorlaomer king of Elam, and Tidal king of nations, that they made war with Bera king of Sodom, Birsha king of Gomorrah, Shinab king of Admah, Shemeber king of Zeboiim, and the king of Bela (that is, Zoar). All these joined together in the Valley of Siddim (that is, the Salt Sea). Twelve years they served Chedorlaomer, and in the thirteenth year they rebelled.
In the fourteenth year Chedorlaomer and the kings that were with him came and attacked the Rephaim in Ashteroth Karnaim, the Zuzim in Ham, the Emim in Shaveh Kiriathaim, and the Horites in their mountain of Seir, as far as El Paran, which is by the wilderness. Then they turned back and came to En Mishpat (that is, Kadesh), and attacked all the country of the Amalekites, and also the Amorites who dwelt in Hazezon Tamar.
As our Narrator continues with his report, we can also hear the distinctive sounds of a battle taking place in the background, as…
…the king of Sodom, the king of Gomorrah, the king of Admah, the king of Zeboiim, and the king of Bela (that is, Zoar) went out and joined together in battle in the Valley of Siddim against Chedorlaomer king of Elam, Tidal king of nations, Amraphel king of Shinar, and Arioch king of Ellasar—four kings against five. Now the Valley of Siddim was full of asphalt pits; and the kings of Sodom and Gomorrah fled; some fell there, and the remainder fled to the mountains. Then they took all the goods of Sodom and Gomorrah, and all their provisions, and went their way. They also took Lot, Abram’s brother’s son who dwelt in Sodom, and his goods, and departed.
At this, the curtain rises, and we see Abram minding his own business and enjoying his peaceful life in the Place of Fellowship with God in Hebron—when suddenly, his life is turned upside down by this series of events which, on the surface, seem to be totally unrelated to him. This upheaval begins when…
…one who had escaped [from the war] came and told Abram the Hebrew, for he dwelt by the terebinth trees of Mamre the Amorite, brother of Eshcol and brother of Aner; and they were allies with Abram.
Now when Abram heard that he [Lot] was taken captive, he armed his three hundred and eighteen trained servants who were born in his own house, and went in pursuit as far as Dan.
Although Abram was greatly outnumbered…
He divided his forces against them by night, and he and his servants attacked them and pursued them as far as Hobah, which is north of Damascus…
…which was over 150 miles to the north of Hebron. Following his victory…
…he brought back all the goods, and also brought back his brother Lot and his goods, as well as the women and the people.
And, the king of Sodom went out to meet him at the Valley of Shaveh (that is, the King’s Valley), after his return from the defeat of Chedorlaomer and the kings who were with him.
However, there someone far more important who went out to meet Abram first…
Then Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine; he was the priest of God Most High. And he blessed [Abram] and said…
Blessed be Abram of God Most High, Possessor of heaven and earth; and blessed be God Most High, Who has delivered your enemies into your hand.
In response to this blessing, Abram…
…gave him a tithe of all.
Following his encounter with Melchizedek, the king of Sodom approached Abram with the following offer…
Give me the persons, and take the goods for yourself.
In other words, just return the people and you can keep all the loot—to which Abram responded without hesitation…
I have raised my hand to the LORD, God Most High, the Possessor of heaven and earth, that I will take nothing, from a thread to a sandal strap, and that I will not take anything that is yours, lest you should say, ‘I have made Abram rich’— except only what the young men have eaten, and the portion of the men who went with me: Aner, Eshcol, and Mamre; let them take their portion.
With this response, this brief and somewhat puzzling Episode comes to an abrupt ending. That doesn’t mean that we are finished with it, though, for there is still much for us to discuss, once we don our Critic’s Caps again and begin our Review of the events which have transpired here.
To aid us in this Review, let’s first take a look at the most important points of this story…
I. The War of the Kings
—Since this is the first mention of a battle, king, or war in the Bible, it must be significant.
–Why were Kings from so far east interested in the area around Sodom and Gomorrah?
Although this was not the first war in human history, since it is the first one recorded in the Bible, it becomes a template for all the others that would follow. As in most of those cases, the motivating forces here can be attributed to Egos and Economics—that is, to a Lust for Power motivated by Pride, and to a Lust for Wealth motivated by Greed. The Apostle James, many centuries later, described these powerful forces in the following way….
Where do wars and fights come from among you? Do they not come from your desires for pleasure that war in your members? You lust and do not have. You murder and covet and cannot obtain. You fight and war. Yet you do not have because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures. (James 4:1-3)
–So, what was it that Sodom and the surrounding cities had that provoked such lusts in the Kings of the East? It was their…
- Position—they were located in close proximity to the major trade routes connecting the East with Egypt, the Breadbasket of the World at the time;
- Natural Resources—the valley in which they were located was full of asphalt pits, a material highly prized because of its uses in building and road construction, the waterproofing of boats, and even as medicine; and,
- Wealth—these cities, because of their location and natural resources, had become extremely wealthy—wealth which made possible their lavish and decadent lifestyles.
–Why did the Canaanite Kings rebel? What made them think they could win? What might God’s motive been in allowing this to happen?
After being bled dry by the Eastern Kings for twelve years, the cities in the Valley of Siddim had had enough. Having lost the lifestyle to which they had hoped to remain accustomed to and tired of being fleeced by foreigners, they—no doubt also motivated by Egos and Economics—must have thought the battle to reclaim that their wealth and lifestyle would be well worth the effort.
As for God’s part in all of this, while it is not spelled out for us here, considering what happens to Lot and Sodom and her sister cities later on, their defeat and looting could very well have been God’s wake-up call to them—giving them an opportunity to repent and get right with Him in order to stave off the judgment that was soon to come.
–What spiritual picture does this paint for us?
Throughout Scripture, we find instance after instance in which God raises up someone to fight for right even in the face of overwhelming opposition. Think of the victories of Gideon and his three hundred men against the Midianite army, David and his five smooth stones against Goliath, and Jonathan and his armor-bearer against the Philistines—who, at the time, rightly declared…
For nothing restrains the LORD from saving by many or by few (1 Samuel 14:6).
The spiritual principle for us, then, is that when we are called to warfare—as we surely will be—the battle belongs to the Lord; for, we have His assurances that…
A thousand may fall at your side, and ten thousand at your right hand; but it shall not come near you (Proverbs 21:31); and,
The horse is prepared for the day of battle, but deliverance is of the LORD. (Proverbs 21:31).
II. The Rescue of Lot
–Where was Lot living at the time?
Because he was taken prisoner along with everyone else in Sodom, it seems that he was no longer living on the outskirts but had become a permanent resident in the city.
–What does this tell us about Lot?
It seems to say that either Lot did not share the same faith in God as his uncle Abram; or, if he did, that he had been lured away from that faith by the worldly attractions of Sodom.
–Do you think Lot merited Abram’s intervention? Why or why not?
On the surface, Lot doesn’t appear to have been worthy of Abram’s rescue but because Abram had “adopted” Lot following the death of his father, he had a moral obligation to go after him and rescue him. He must have also felt a spiritual obligation to do so, in the hopes of giving his nephew a chance to repent before he lost everything he held dear—that being, his family.
Peter later gives us this insight into Lot’s spiritual condition at the time, when he says, if God…
…delivered righteous Lot, who was oppressed by the filthy conduct of the wicked (for that righteous man, dwelling among them, tormented his righteous soul from day to day by seeing and hearing their lawless deeds)—then the Lord knows how to deliver the godly out of temptations and to reserve the unjust under punishment for the day of judgment, and especially those who walk according to the flesh in the lust of uncleanness and despise authority (2 Peter 2:7-10).
–Can you think of a parable that might apply in this situation?
The one that comes to my mind is the Parable of the Lost Sheep, found in Luke 15:4-7…
What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he loses one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one which is lost until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!’ I say to you that likewise there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine just persons who need no repentance.
III. Abram’s Encounter with Melchizedek
–Who was Melchizedek?
In this episode, we are told that he was the King of Salem (the city that would later be called Jerusalem) and the Priest of God Most High. The name used for God here is El Elyon, a name which…
…emphasizes God’s strength, sovereignty, and supremacy. In Genesis 14:20, Melchizedek said to Abram, ‘blessed be God Most High, who has delivered your enemies into your hand!’ He understood that the Lord is extremely exalted. Let us say as the Psalmist did—’I cry out to the Most High Elohim, To El who is perfecting all matters for me’ (Psalm 57:2).
–Where did he come from?
Unlike everyone else of significance in the Book of Genesis, no genealogical information for Melchizedek is provided—no record of his birth, his death, or his parentage.
–Where else is he mentioned in Scripture?
In addition to this passage in Genesis 14, where Melchizedek serves in the dual roles of King of Peace and Priest of the Most High God—the one who sets a table of communion before Abram—King David references him in Psalm 110 when he prophesies of the coming Messianic King who will one day come through his line. This King will be held in higher honor than Melchizedek, because He will sit at the right hand of God and rule over the nations. He, too, will serve as Priest of the Most High God, something which is elaborated upon at length in Hebrews 7. There, the writer elevates Melchizedek to the status of a pre-incarnate figure of Christ who, without father or mother, is eternal and who, unlike those in the Levitical Priesthood, will continue as a Priest forever.
–How do you think a King of Righteous could have come to rule over the ungodly people of [Jeru] Salem?
When we consider that the Canaanites were notorious idol worshipers, it seems highly unlikely that a Righteous King would be ruling over one of their cities. However, Seth, the righteous son of Noah, was still alive at this time, leading some to think that he could have been Melchizedek (Melchizedek being a title rather than a first name). However, in addition to Arphaxad, the ancestor of Abram, Seth had four other sons through whom his Faith in God could have been passed on. So, it is entirely possible that Melchizedek might have been one of them.
–Why are the bread and wine, the tithes, and the blessing an important part of this Story?
As elements of the Covenant, the Bread and Wine represent the Communion that Abram shared with God as part of that Covenant. In the giving of his Tithes, Abram was recognizing and honoring Melchizedek as God’s Chosen Mediator of that Covenant; and, in his blessing of Abram, Melchizedek was reaffirming God’s Covenantal Promises to Abram.
IV. Abram’s Encounter with the King of Sodom
–What was the King’s offer?
According to the rules of warfare at the time, the spoils of war belonged to the winner of the conflict which, in this case, would have been Abram and would have included the people as well as the material objects. It seems, then, that the King of Sodom was trying to cut a deal with Abram where the spoils were concerned.
–What did it represent to Abram?
Abram had been made extremely wealthy through a compromise of his faith and integrity when he went down to Egypt—a compromise which put him on the “outs” with God, and which brought strife and division into his home. So, for Abram, this represented another Test—one designed to reveal whether or not he had learned anything from those earlier mistakes.
–What, if anything, do you think is significant about Abram’s response?
For one thing, in using the same name for God that Melchizedek had used—that is, the LORD, God Most High, the Possessor of heaven and earth—Abram revealed that the decision to reject the offer of the King of Sodom was made as a result of his worshipful encounter with the King of Salem. In his speedy response to the offer, he was demonstrating that he had learned that his relationship with God, and his reputation and witness were more important to him than anything the world had to offer.
–What, if any, Life Lessons can we take away from Abram’s experience in Genesis 14?
As we are going about our lives of wandering, worshiping, and witnessing, there will be times when we, like Abram, will be called to do warfare at a moment’s notice. But unlike the fleshly battle that he was called to, the warfare that we will be engaged is one that is spiritual in nature. Like it or not, there will be times when we will be called to do battle on behalf of those who seem to be totally undeserving of our intervention and those who may not even appreciate our efforts to rescue them.
And for every victory we experience, we can be sure that the Enemy will be there trying to steal it away through some sort of compromise on our parts. But like Abram, we need to settle the issue beforehand of what is most important to us—our walk with God and our testimony before others, or the temporal gratification of material rewards or recognition.
–What Contributions does this Chapter Make to God’s Big Story?
In Melchizedek, Abram was given a preview of the coming Messiah—his very own descendant who even now is serving as our Great High Priest in heaven, and the One who will one day reign forever as the King of Peace and Righteousness in the New Jerusalem.
–How is God Revealed in this Chapter?
In His relationship with Abram, God reveals Himself as Jehovah-Nissi—the Lord is My Banner—the God who goes before us into battle and secures the victory for us through His own power. And in His relationship with Lot, He reveals Himself as the Guardian and Deliverer of His People—even in the midst of His judgment upon the wicked.
So far in this study, we have seen how God has been revealing Himself through His Promises to Abram, and then Testing him to reveal his Faith in and Stewardship of those Promises. In the next chapter—Genesis 15—we will begin to discover the Purpose behind all of this Preparation.
Map courtesy of Bible History Online.
Some pictures courtesy of Free Bible Images.