“At the time when Amraphel was king of Shinar, Arioch king of Ellasar, Kedorlaomer king of Elam and Tidal king of Goyim, these kings went to war against Bera king of Sodom, Birsha king of Gomorrah, Shinab king of Admah, Shemeber king of Zeboyim, and the king of Bela (that is, Zoar). All these latter kings joined forces in the Valley of Siddim (that is, the Dead Sea Valley). For twelve years they had been subject to Kedorlaomer, but in the thirteenth year they rebelled.” – Genesis 14: 1-4
These verses clarify an ancient war between the Canaanites and the Babylonians.
A lot of these names and places refer to actual historical kingdoms, wars and rulers; that are often intertwined with the times that these Biblical books were written in.
Amraphel was the king of Shinar (“country of two rivers”) the land between the Tigris and the Euphrates, or in other words Babylonia
Arioch was the king of Ellasar which was a major town in Babylonia.
Kedorlaomer was king of a province east of Babylon and northeast of the lower Tigris, called Elam.
Tidal was most likely the king of an separate ethnic group that allied themselves with the Babylonians, since Goyim is the Hebrew word for “gentiles, nations, other people”.
These Babylonian kings formed an alliance against the kings of the Canaanites because they were in open rebellion against Babylonian rule.
Bera means “Son of Evil” and was the name that the ancient Hebrews gave to the king of the Canaanite city of Sodom when they wrote this passage of Genesis.
Birsha was the king of Gomorrah, which was the evil twin-city of Sodom, and he joined the Canaanite alliance against the Babylonian invasion.
Shinab was the king of Admah (“red Earth”), a city in the Valley of Siddim where the Dead Sea lies nowadays. This King also joined the Canaanites in their clashes with the Babylonians.
Zeboyim with its king Shemeber was also present in order to wreak havoc on the enemies of Canaan.
Zoara or Bela was the last of the five cities and the only one that still is around in modern-day Israel. This small and insignificant city also had its fair share in this ancient Biblical war.
Kedorlaomer the most powerful king of the Babylonians, ruled the Canaanites for 12 years until they finally had enough of it and thus these two blocks of power were formed (Canaan against Babylon) in order to usher in a new power structure in this region.
Now we might ask ourselves, what does this have to do with the story of Abram?
Well, Abram was a bad ass dude and he actually successfully partook in battle during this war of the Kings.
“In the fourteenth year, Kedorlaomer and the kings allied with him went out and defeated the Rephaites in Ashteroth Karnaim, the Zuzites in Ham, the Emites in Shaveh Kiriathaim and the Horites in the hill country of Seir, as far as El Paran near the desert. Then they turned back and went to En Mishpat (that is, Kadesh), and they conquered the whole territory of the Amalekites, as well as the Amorites who were living in Hazezon Tamar.” – Genesis 14: 5-7
Kedorlaomer basically ransacked the Canaanite territory and destroyed any opposition that was standing in his path.
The unification and alliance of the Canaanite kings was basically forced upon them because king Kedorlaomer seemed to be unstoppable.
“Then the king of Sodom, the king of Gomorrah, the king of Admah, the king of Zeboyim and the king of Bela (that is, Zoar) marched out and drew up their battle lines in the Valley of Siddim against Kedorlaomer king of Elam, Tidal king of Goyim, Amraphel king of Shinar and Arioch king of Ellasar—four kings against five.” – Genesis 14: 8-9
This was a forced alliance as can be obviously derived from the text.
The kings of Canaan were evil people themselves, they were not righteous people; they were merely at the wrong tip of Babylonian swords and arrows.
“For twelve years they had been subject to Kedorlaomer, but in the thirteenth year they rebelled.”
This is not a story of Good against Evil, but that of one barbaric race against another.
“Now the Valley of Siddim was full of tar pits, and when the kings of Sodom and Gomorrah fled, some of the men fell into them and the rest fled to the hills. The four kings seized all the goods of Sodom and Gomorrah and all their food; then they went away. They also carried off Abram’s nephew Lot and his possessions, since he was living in Sodom.” – Genesis 14: 10-12
The Canaanite kings were absolutely no match for their overlords.
Kedorlaomer seized the moment of the battle and routed the Canaanite armies in an utterly destructive sweeping attack.
Upon which the Canaanites fled into the hills; abandoning all their lands, men and possessions.
This gave the Babylonians the opportunity to loot all the war booty the Canaanites left behind including all their food and Abram’s cousin Lot to be a slave in Babylon.
According to Christian and Jewish theologians, Lot became a victim because he personally made the choice to go and live amongst the sinful people of Sodom.
There is a lesson here… never associate with those who are evil or you yourself will suffer the punishments designed for them as well.
“A man who had escaped came and reported this to Abram the Hebrew. Now Abram was living near the great trees of Mamre the Amorite, a brother of Eshkol and Aner, all of whom were allied with Abram. When Abram heard that his relative had been taken captive, he called out the 318 trained men born in his household and went in pursuit as far as Dan.” – Genesis 14: 13-14
This is what I keep telling you all.
Abram was not an ordinary man, he was actually quite powerful and ruthless.
He was so well-suited and equipped for carrying out Yahweh’s missions, that he even had 318 trained and armed men in his household.
Now all of a sudden the scope of Abram’s mission starts to change and we start to realize that the Bible does not tell us everything.
He is actually commanding an army and rules his people in a king-like manner.
That is something really different from the desert-wanderer and sheep-herder narrative, the Bible teachers in school and the churches portray Abram to be.
“During the night Abram divided his men to attack them and he routed them, pursuing them as far as Hobah, north of Damascus. He recovered all the goods and brought back his relative Lot and his possessions, together with the women and the other people.” – Genesis 14: 15-16
Abram was one bad ass dude….
His knowledge of warfare now speaks for itself.
What he did here was a very skilled war tactic often used by outnumbered forces against larger ones.
To attack the enemy by night, Abram secured the element of surprise and caused an intense panic within the camp; causing the enemy to flee in terror.
Most of them were likely asleep as well or in the state of relaxation and leisure; as is normal human behavior at night time, even in times of war.
By seizing this opportunity Abram was able to attack the enemy from multiply sides during the night, bringing forth the illusion of Abram’s superiority in numbers.
“During the night Abram divided his men to attack them and he routed them, pursuing them as far as Hobah, north of Damascus.”
The enemy most likely assumed that they were severely outranked and outclassed and thus in the moment of intense chaos, they fled.
Leaving behind their possessions in the same way the Canaanite kings did in the Valley of Siddim.
Thus Abram was reunited with his cousin Lot and even more people, wealth and possessions than he had before.
He acquired the good spoils of war.
“After Abram returned from defeating Kedorlaomer and the kings allied with him, the king of Sodom came out to meet him in the Valley of Shaveh (that is, the King’s Valley). Then Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine. He was priest of God Most High, and he blessed Abram, saying, “Blessed be Abram by God Most High, Creator of heaven and earth. And praise be to God Most High, who delivered your enemies into your hand.” Then Abram gave him a tenth of everything.” – Genesis 14: 17-20
How can Melchizedek be a priest of El Elyon (God Most High), if Abram was the one with whom God would make a covenant?
Had God already revealed Himself as El Elyon to Melchizedek before or was it just a coincidence; that they both worshiped the same God, in a time where the rest of Canaan was still a pagan society?
Or is there a mystical meaning behind this literal text that we find here and is Melchizedek somebody else than a mere king of Salem like some divine intermediary whom only Abram could see… (Perhaps Christ?!?)
“The king of Sodom said to Abram, “Give me the people and keep the goods for yourself.” But Abram said to the king of Sodom, “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, not even a thread or the strap of a sandal, so that you will never be able to say, ‘I made Abram rich.’ I will accept nothing but what my men have eaten and the share that belongs to the men who went with me—to Aner, Eshkol and Mamre. Let them have their share.” – Genesis 14: 21-24
Like a true general Abram only accepts the war booty he himself acquired, and he refuses to be in the king of Sodom’s debt.
This is what I meant when I said, Abram is no ordinary men, he was a powerful leader in his own right and able to refuse the influence of kings.
Because he was basically a king himself.
Christians often want to assume the role of piety and humble beginnings for themselves, however the prophets of the Bible were anything but humble.
This verse might imply that Abram didn’t care about material wealth except for his men, but that is simply not true or did you forget his money scheme in Egypt?
Abram cared a lot about material possessions, he just didn’t care about being in debt because he was a major player in his own right.