Although the first 16 verses of Genesis chapter 14 can be summarized in a one liner as “A Lot to Gain” for Abram goes after four kings and their armies to rescue his nephew Lot, who was taken captive by these kings, close scrutiny of these verses reveals that there was not only a lot for Abram to gain but also for us, when we apply the Spiritual truths hidden in this historical account.
The chapter starts out with listing four kings and their territories followed by the listing of five other kingdoms with four kings mentioned by name. The first four kings are Amraphel (king of Shinar), Arioch (king of Ellasar), Chedorlaomer (king of Elam), and Tidal (king of Nations). These four were allies. The other five kings were Bera (king of Sodom), Birsha (king of Gomorrah), Shinab (king of Admah), Shemeber (king of Zeboiim) and the unnamed king of Bela or Zoar. These five were allies.
The five kings served Chedarloamer as his subjects for a period of 12 years and on the 13th year, they rebelled. To address the rebellion, Chedorlaomer, along with his three allies, began conquering the people and the lands surrounding the kingdoms of the five kings in the 14th year. The people (lands) that the four kings conquered were the Rephaims (in Ashteroth Karnaim), Zuzims (in Ham), Emims (in Shaveh Kiriathaim), Horites (in Mt. Seir), Amalekites (in Enmisphat, which is Kadesh) and Amorites (in Hazezontamar). So the five subject kings drew their battleground in the valley of Siddim (which is the salt (Dead) sea) which was filled with slimepits. So this historically has come to be known as the Battle in the Vale of Siddim or the War of the nine kings. But as the four allied kings started to pursue the kings of Sodom and Gomorrah, they fled and some fell into the slimepits, while the others fled to the mountains from the valley. The four kings took away all the food and the goods of the land of Sodom and Gomorrah and since Abram’s nephew Lot was living in Sodom at that time, they carried him and his goods and left.
One of the men who escaped, came to Abram the Hebrew, who dwelt in the plain of Mamre (the Amorite), along with his brothers Eschol and Aner, who were friends (confederates) of Abram. Abram takes 318 of his trained servants, along with Mamre, Eschol and Aner and pursued the fours kings until the place called Dan. At night, Abram strategized and divided his servants to attack, smiting the four kings and their armies, until the place called Hobab, which is the left side (north) of Damascus. He brought back all the goods, his nephew Lot (who is referred to as his brother in the Scripture), the women and the people.
So what can we learn from this account? A lot.
1. The Bible lists out the names and kingdoms of nine kings who can be traced historically. This is to affirm that the Scripture’s intersect with the geopolitical aspects of the day, then and now, are given or happen, to affirm that the Sovereign Lord is in control throughout history. We as children of God should be aware of the times around us, so that we can see the hand of God shape it, for his glory. We are asked to “Watch” and “Pray” – Watching the events that transpire around us is as important as Praying about/for them. Jesus himself reasserts the importance of being cognizant of our times as an indicator of the fulfillment of God’s plans according to his will (Matthew 24).
2. The five kings chose to fight in the valley of slimepits and lost many of their army to these slimepits when the fled from their attackers. It is important for us, in our Spiritual warfare, to stand on solid ground and not in a valley with sinful miry pits (Psalm 40). We need to stand on the rock, Jesus Christ.
3. When the one who escaped came to report of the captivity of Lot, Abram is living in the plains of Mamre, the Amorite and is in confederacy with Mamre’s brothers, also Amorites, but the Scripture refers to Abram, as “Abram, the Hebrew”. Although the exact etymology of the word ‘Hebrew’ is speculated, the most widely accepted explanation is that the word Hebrew is derivative of the verb, ‘abar‘ which means to pass over or through (a pilgrim or sojourner). This distinction is important to note, for it teaches us that, even if we are living along side people of other cultures who follow other gods, we must not lose our identity in Christ as a pilgrim in progress, passing through life toward our final destination in the presence of Jesus Christ and God the Father, in heaven, by the leading of the Holy Spirit.
4. When Abram hears the news that his nephew Lot was taken captive, he does not hesitate or think to himself that Lot, who chose to separate from him, got what he probably deserved, but instead he goes after the four kings, rescues and recovers Lot, whom the Bible refers to as Abram’s brother (and not his nephew). Jesus came after us and not only did he rescue us from the penalty of in which is death but recovered us back to God. Like Abram, we must be willing to overlook past differences and still go after those whom we deem family (as our own), for God himself considers us to be his family as Jesus called us, his disciples, his brothers after his resurrection (Matthew 28:10).
5. Abram took 318 trained servants of his against the armies of four kings, which from any military standpoint would seem completely as a suicide mission, yet this does not stop Abram. What is interesting to note is that these servants were trained, not just to serve, but also soldiers. As servants of God, we must always be ready to put on the full armor of God (Ephesians 6:10-18) and do so when the Spiritual battle rages on, even if it may seem like we don’t have a chance, for the battle belongs to the Lord (1 Samuel 17:47).
6. At night, Abram strategized to divide his servants and conquer the kings. As spiritual servants and soldiers of the Christ King, Jesus Christ, we must plan our course of action, even if it is a night time. We must always be ready, sober and vigilant (1 Peter 5:8)!
Points to ponder:
1. Are you/I watchful and prayerful?
2. Choose your battleground – stand on the Rock Jesus Christ.
3. Let us never forget that we are pilgrims (Hebrews) on earth.
4. Pursue your family, even if they have deserted you.
5. It is important for us to be more than servants … we need to be soldiers; trained solders.
6. We must always be ready, even at night time!
We have a lot to gain from the scriptural account that is listed in Genesis 14:1-16.
Genesis 14:1-16 (KJV)
1 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;
2 That these 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, which is Zoar.
3 All these were joined together in the vale of Siddim, which is the salt sea.
4 Twelve years they served Chedorlaomer, and in the thirteenth year they rebelled.
5 And in the fourteenth year came Chedorlaomer, and the kings that were with him, and smote the Rephaims in Ashteroth Karnaim, and the Zuzims in Ham, and the Emins in Shaveh Kiriathaim,
6 And the Horites in their mount Seir, unto Elparan, which is by the wilderness.
7 And they returned, and came to Enmishpat, which is Kadesh, and smote all the country of the Amalekites, and also the Amorites, that dwelt in Hazezontamar.
8 And there went out the king of Sodom, and the king of Gomorrah, and the king of Admah, and the king of Zeboiim, and the king of Bela (the same is Zoar;) and they joined battle with them in the vale of Siddim;
9 With Chedorlaomer the king of Elam, and with Tidal king of nations, and Amraphel king of Shinar, and Arioch king of Ellasar; four kings with five.
10 And the vale of Siddim was full of slimepits; and the kings of Sodom and Gomorrah fled, and fell there; and they that remained fled to the mountain.
11 And they took all the goods of Sodom and Gomorrah, and all their victuals, and went their way.
12 And they took Lot, Abram’s brother’s son, who dwelt in Sodom, and his goods, and departed.
13 And there came one that had escaped, and told Abram the Hebrew; for he dwelt in the plain of Mamre the Amorite, brother of Eshcol, and brother of Aner: and these were confederate with Abram.
14 And when Abram heard that his brother was taken captive, he armed his trained servants, born in his own house, three hundred and eighteen, and pursued them unto Dan.
15 And he divided himself against them, he and his servants, by night, and smote them, and pursued them unto Hobah, which is on the left hand of Damascus.
16 And he brought back all the goods, and also brought again his brother Lot, and his goods, and the women also, and the people.