Genesis 14 is unique in the fact that this chapter records the first war in the Bible. This topic of war brings up many questions, especially in the mind of believers. Should our country ever go to war? Is there such a thing as a just war? This topic often comes up in Christian conversation, therefore, it is good to have a complete biblical view on this subject. This chapter also reveals another consequence of Abram bringing Lot with him when he was called by God to go into the land that God had promised. The simple reality is that Abram would never have had to go to war if Lot had stayed behind in the land of Ur. In this chapter, we will also be introduced to the first of many references to Melchizedek, the priest of God. Who was this man, and what is his significance to what we learn about him in the New Testament?
What caused this war? Vs. 1-12
The Scripture records, “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. And 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” (Gen. 14:1-12).
This passage of Scripture is very clear that these four kings from the east who controlled most of the kings west of them chose to come and reassert their authority over these five kings in what is today the Jordan Valley. Along the way they also subdued many other kings who had most likely also rebelled against these kings from the east. This was a war motivated by Chedorlaomer and these three other kings in a desire to subjugate, plunder, and assert their position over this territory that they wanted to control. Chedorlaomer and the other kings first attacked and conquered Ashteroth Karnaim, which was a city in the land of Bashan east of the Jordan River and north of the city of Sodom. These kings then proceeded further south, but bypassed Sodom and Gomorrah and conquered the Zuzim and the Emim, who were a race of giants according to Deuteronomy 2:10-11. After this these kings went further south and subdued the Horites in the mountains of Seir, which was in the territory of Edom (Gen. 32:3). After this, the four kings from the east turned back north and brought the Amalekites and the Amorites, who were nomadic tribes, into submission. Last, Chedorlaomer defeated Sodom and the other four kings of Gomorrah, Admah, Zeboiim, and Zoar who resided north of the Dead Sea or the Salt Sea in the fertile delta of the Jordan River. After this victory these kings of the east then began to move north and to head back to their homeland.
What generally causes war?
This very question is asked and answered by the Apostle James. He writes, “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). James explains the most basic cause of all wars, but also tells us the solution to the problem of war itself. He explains that wars result from the lusts of men to obtain possessions, power, position, and pleasure. It is the coveting of these things that motivate men to possess and control what others have. The answer is that simple. Isn’t it interesting that James declares that there is another war going on inside of all men? Instead of men controlling their own lusts, they seek to subjugate others to their desires. When you study the history of mankind, these are exactly the reasons for all the wars that have taken place throughout time. Some king is greedy and lustful for power, territory, position, or the natural resources of another kingdom, and so he decides, “I want what you have, and I am willing to take it by force.” This is why James defines this desire as a lust or a covetousness of the heart.
The solution that James explains is equally as simple. His solution to the lusts that control men’s souls is prayer. He declared, “Yet you do not have because you do not ask” (James 4:2). Now many would say this answer is too simplistic. But we are warned throughout the Bible that, either you are controlled by your lusts, or you overcome your lusts by the power of God. This overcoming of your lusts can only be experienced by asking for God’s power to rule inside you. In 1 Peter 2:11 the Apostle Peter wrote to believers encouraging them, “I beg you as sojourners and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul.” This is the war that is also going on inside every believer every day of their lives. When this war rages inside you, only through prayer will you find victory over your lusts. All you must do is pray and receive the power of God’s Holy Spirit to control your desires. The reality is that you cannot control your fleshly lusts by your own strength. Your will power is not sufficient to keep your lusts under control. Paul taught the Galatian church, “Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh” (Gal. 5:16). You can only walk in the Spirit as you receive His power every day. So, if you are losing the war that is within, it is because you are not asking for His power, or you are asking amiss, or with the wrong motives. The Prince of Peace wants to reign inside of you today, so give Him control of your heart!
Is there ever a just war? Vs. 13-16
Whenever this topic of war comes up in a conversation people ask, “Is there ever a just war?” The answer is yes! However, if you are a pacifist like I was before coming to Christ, you are probably cringing inside at this moment. But, right here in our text is an example of an unjust war led by the four kings from the east, and you have an example of a just war in the response by Abram. In verses 1-12 you see the unjust war when the four kings from the east come to take a spoil from all these city-states, simply because of their lust for control and for things. From verses 13-16 you see a just war of self-defense. The text declares, “Then one who had escaped 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 his brother 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. 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. So he brought back all the goods, and also brought back his brother Lot and his goods, as well as the women and the people” (Gen. 14:13-16).
This is a just war because it is resisting the unjust capture of people, goods, and territory that is taken by force. You must understand that people taken captive in ancient wars (Genesis 14) and even modern wars, such as with Nazi Germany, were always subjugated into slavery. This is obviously unjust, and must be justly resisted every time it occurs.
Are there any other examples of just wars in the Scripture?
1. A just war is one of self-defense when a country is attacked without cause. Our text here is a great example of this premise for war. Another example is in Exodus 17:8-14 when the Amalekites came and attacked the Children of Israel for no reason, when they were on their way to the Promised Land. The people fought back and the Amalekites were utterly defeated.
2. A just war would be when a nation comes to the defense of innocent people who are under attack by others, who want to oppress these people or that nation. This example is found in 1 Sam. 11:1-11 when the Ammonites came to subjugate the people of Jabesh Gilead. Saul heard of this impending attack and called all Israel to come to their defense. Israel responded and defeated the Ammonites, and saved the people of Jabesh Gilead.
3. A just war would also include a preemptive strike when a country declares its intention for war. An example of this kind of just war is found in the book of Esther 9:1-32. The Persian people had determined to kill and destroy all the Jews in the kingdom in a war of extermination. However, King Ahasuerus allowed the Jews to preemptively overcome and destroy those who sought to destroy them.
4. A just war would also be right when God declares that a war should be initiated. In Deuteronomy 31:3-6, Moses recounted to the Children of Israel before they entered into the Promised Land, “The LORD your God Himself crosses over before you; He will destroy these nations from before you, and you shall dispossess them. Joshua himself crosses over before you, just as the LORD has said. And the LORD will do to them as He did to Sihon and Og, the kings of the Amorites and their land, when He destroyed them. The LORD will give them over to you, that you may do to them according to every commandment which I have commanded you. Be strong and of good courage, do not fear nor be afraid of them; for the LORD your God, He is the One who goes with you. He will not leave you nor forsake you.” You must never forget the wickedness of these nations who occupied the land of Israel. They were cultures that were self-destructing through their own wickedness, and wanted to destroy the Jews. The people who were to be destroyed were involved in child sacrifice to their gods, bestiality, and moral corruptions that are so evil I will not mention here. There were also sexual interactions with demons that corrupted the gene pool of men, which produced giants just as there had been before the flood (Gen. 6:4-5). You should also note that this was one of the reasons that God commanded that every man, woman, and child was to be destroyed because these giants had resurfaced again (Deut. 3:11; 13).This is why God allowed for their destruction.
5. The ultimate just war will be when Jesus comes to judge and make war upon a Christ rejecting world. This will also be because of the total moral corruption of our world. The Bible teaches that, “Now I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse. And He who sat on him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and makes war. His eyes were like a flame of fire, and on His head were many crowns. He had a name written that no one knew except Himself. He was clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God. And the armies in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, followed Him on white horses. Now out of His mouth goes a sharp sword, that with it He should strike the nations. And He Himself will rule them with a rod of iron. He Himself treads the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God. And He has on His robe and on His thigh a name written: KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS” (Rev. 19:11-16). This war will obviously be a just war. When I read these words here in Revelation as a young Christian, I realized that I had to revise my pacifist notions to the reality that God allows just wars.
How did Abram respond to Lot being taken captive in this war? Vs. 13
When Abram heard from one of the men who escaped from the battle over Sodom, he immediately took action. Abram first informed three of his allies, Mamre, Eshcol, and Aner, who must have lived near him. Then he armed his own 318 servants who had been born in his own house. These allies of Abram must have given him a considerable fighting force with which to attack these four kings from the east. Abram and his army pursued Lot and the other captives all the way to the city of Dan, which was approximately 120 miles north of Hebron. Josephus in his history, said that it was on the 5th night after Abram heard of Lot’s capture that he attacked these kings from the east. This meant that Abram and his army had to have ridden 25 to 30 miles a day to overtake Lot’s captors. Abram then divided his forces and attacked the camp of Chedorlaomer and the other kings from all sides at night, scattering and putting their enemies on the run. Abram and his army chased the armies of these four kings as far as Hobah which was north of Damascus, which was another 40 miles. God gave Abram and his allies a great victory that night and the following day. The invading army that captured Lot was running as fast as they could for home, having been decisively beaten.
Why was Lot in Sodom?
Another important question to consider is the fact that Lot lived in Sodom. Note that it says in verse 12 that these invading kings, “Took Lot, Abram’s brother son, who dwelt in Sodom.” Why was Lot living in that wicked city of Sodom? You must also note that in the previous chapter that it declared that Lot had only, “Pitched his tent toward Sodom” (Gen. 13:12). Lot had moved from being outside of the city of Sodom, to now living inside of the city. Do you know where Lot went after he was delivered from his captivity by Abram? He went right back to Sodom and continued to live there. Later in Genesis 19:1, you find Lot sitting in the gate of the city of Sodom, which meant that he was one of the town elders (2 Sam. 19:8). It is important to note that the Scripture tells us that Lot was a believer. In 2 Peter 2:6-8 it declared that God judged this city of Sodom, “Turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah into ashes, condemned them to destruction, making them an example to those who afterward would live ungodly; and 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).” The cities of Sodom and Gomorrah were very ungodly and wicked places, and Lot knew this, but he must have been seduced by something in that city that made him go back there again. Scripture does not tell us the reason why he went back, but something drew this man back to Sodom. However, God graciously delivered Lot again, but this time he would lose his wife, and see the loss of all his possessions for good.
I find two very important lessons here with the story of Lot. First, just because you are a righteous man or woman, doesn’t mean you can’t be extremely carnal. Paul addressed this truth in 1 Cor. 3:1 when he wrote, “I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual people but as to carnal, as to babes in Christ.” Note that he addressed the Corinthians as brethren in Christ, but babes in their faith. They were righteous in Christ, but they were also spiritually immature and carnal. The word carnal means that they were still ruled by their fleshly desires and tendencies. This is true of all believers when they first come to faith in Christ. We are saved, but the flesh still rules us in many ways. Over time this gradually changes as a person grows and matures in their faith and their knowledge of the truth. A mature believer is one who the Spirit rules the majority of their life, and the flesh is seen in a minimal way at times. Why is this true? Because no one will ever be perfectly controlled by the Spirit until they put off this fleshly tabernacle, and they receive a new spiritual body in heaven. To get the Spirit to rule in your life, all you must do is surrender to Him every day of your life. Therefore, cry out to God and tell Him, “I want You to reign over me, and I want Your Spirit to fill me and take control of me.” Remember, what God promises, He can deliver, but what the world promises, it can never deliver. Only by surrendering to God every day, and seeking Him in His Word and with prayer, will you find the life, joy, and inner peace you long for in your life.
The second lesson is the fact that your carnality as a believer can lead you to a place where those in your family will begin to follow your carnal example. This will lead them down a path of destruction, and they may lose their life just as Lot’s wife lost hers. This is why Jesus told His disciples to, “Remember Lot’s wife. Whoever seeks to save his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life will preserve it. I tell you, in that night there will be two men in one bed: the one will be taken and the other will be left. Two women will be grinding together: the one will be taken and the other left. Two men will be in the field: the one will be taken and the other left” (Luke 17:32-36). Christ’s exhortation in the passage makes it clear that she was trying to save her life in this world, or Jesus would not have used her as his example. Lot was delivered, but she looked back to all she had lost in Sodom. Lot led his wife and children into real temptation in the city of Sodom. He was delivered, but she was not. This is why the Scripture makes it clear that you are to be an example to other believers, because you influence others by how you live, who you associate with, and what you do for work (1 Tim. 4:12). Fathers and mothers, and husbands and wives, take heed to what you are reading here today. God does not want you to become a casualty of the temptations in this world, and neither does He want your family members to be stumbled by what you allow in your home.
What happened when Abram returned from this military victory? Vs. 17-20
Scripture records, “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. Then Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine; he was the priest of God Most High. And he blessed him 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,’ and he gave him a tithe of all. Now the king of Sodom said to Abram, ‘Give me the persons, and take the goods for yourself.’ But Abram said to the king of Sodom, ‘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’” (Gen. 14:17-24).
News of Abram’s victory over the forces of Chedorlaomer and the kings who were with him traveled back to King Bara of Sodom. The king of Sodom came out to meet Abram and to greet him and all the captives who had been delivered home safely. But, notice this other king who comes out to greet Abram whose name is called, Melchizedek king of Salem. Melchizedek is also called the priest of God Most High. Melchizedek offers Abram bread and wine and blesses him, and then blesses God Most High, identifying Him to be Possessor of heaven and earth. So, who was this man?
In the Bible you have the office of kings, and you have a separate office for the priests. But only here are these two offices combined as one. When the kings of Israel ever tried to combine these two offices, they were told they could not do this. When Saul tried to perform the sacrificial duties of the priest, he was rebuked by Samuel (1 Sam. 13). One of the most important reasons for this separation was that the priests were to come from the tribe of Levi, and the kings came from the tribe of Judah. This was an absolute separation. Melchizedek is also called the King of Salem which was the city of Jerusalem. Salem was the ancient name of the city of Jerusalem, meaning the city of peace.
Now note that there are four declarations of who God is here. First, in verse 18, Melchizedek was called the priest of “God Most High.” Then in verse 19, Melchizedek declared, “Blessed be Abram of God Most High.” And then again, Melchizedek pronounced in verse 20, “Blessed be God Most High.” Last in verse 22, Abram tells the King of Sodom that, “I have raised my hand to the LORD, God Most High, the Possessor of heaven and earth.” Abram acknowledged and also used the personal name for the LORD, which is Yahweh. Melchizedek and Abram, both make it clear who they are giving praise to; it is Yahweh. God’s personal name is not Allah; His personal name is Jehovah, or Yahweh. God’s personal name distinguishes Him from all other false gods. He is God Most High, the one who created the heaven and the earth, Yahweh, and no one else.
This declaration of faith by Abram, and the agreement of Melchizedek, that there is one God that we love and serve, whose name is Yahweh, is so important to be acknowledged in the first book of the Bible. God wants this issue clear right from the beginning that He is God, and there is no other. Abram absolutely knew that Yahweh was the God Who called him and that he served. More importantly for you today is the fact that you know this truth and declare His Lordship over your life. Is He the LORD of your life? I hope He is LORD over every part of your life. When He has this position of LORD inside of you, this is what changes the carnal parts of your life that still stumble you. When He rules as LORD over your life, and the Spirit of God also has full reign inside you, everything changes for the better in your life. Cry out to Him today for His help, surrender to Him as LORD, and allow the Spirit to set you free!
Who is Melchizedek, priest of God Most High?
This question is one that is very interesting, especially because in the New Testament he is referred to nine times in the book of Hebrews. In one of these passages Scripture declared concerning him, “For this Melchizedek, king of Salem, priest of the Most High God, who met Abraham returning from the slaughter of the kings and blessed him, to whom also Abraham gave a tenth part of all, first being translated ‘king of righteousness,’ and then also king of Salem, meaning ‘king of peace,’ without father, without mother, without genealogy, having neither beginning of days nor end of life, but made like the Son of God, remains a priest continually. Now consider how great this man was, to whom even the patriarch Abraham gave a tenth of the spoils. And indeed those who are of the sons of Levi, who receive the priesthood, have a commandment to receive tithes from the people according to the law, that is, from their brethren, though they have come from the loins of Abraham; but he whose genealogy is not derived from them received tithes from Abraham and blessed him who had the promises. Now beyond all contradiction the lesser is blessed by the better. Here mortal men receive tithes, but there he receives them, of whom it is witnessed that he lives” (Heb. 7:1-8).
It is essential that you realize who this man Melchizedek was, and his relationship to Jesus Christ because Scripture confirms that our Messiah is, “A priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek” (Heb. 7:17). Now that is a very powerful statement, which is why he is such an important figure here in Genesis. So, who was this man? From the Hebrews 7 passage I believe you would have to conclude that at the very least this Melchizedek was a type of Christ here in the Old Testament. However, many believe that he was much more than just a type of Christ. Many Bible commentators believe that Melchizedek was a theophany in the Old Testament, which means that he was an appearance of God who came in the flesh of a man before the birth of Christ. This is what I believe because of the many things that are said about this man Melchizedek. For example, Melchizedek had these characteristics that no mere man could ever possess.
1. Melchizedek brought together both king and priestly offices into one (Gen. 14:18).
2. Melchizedek received a tithe of all the spoils Abram brought back from the war (Gen. 14:20).
3. Melchizedek blessed the Patriarch Abram. The lesser is blessed by the better (Heb. 7:7).
4. Melchizedek was without father and mother, and without a human genealogy (Heb. 7:3).
5. Melchizedek had neither beginning of days, nor end of life (Heb. 7:).
6. Melchizedek was made like the Son of God, a priest who lives continually (Heb. 7:3).
7. Melchizedek gave Abram bread and wine, just as Jesus gave His body and blood (Gen. 14:18; Matt. 26:26-28).
8. Christ is a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek (Ps. 110:4). If Scripture declares this fact that Christ is a priest according to the order of Melchizedek, I believe that is pretty strong evidence that Melchizedek was a theophany, because Christ existed before any human being was created on this earth.
In addition, these characteristics could not have ever been fulfilled by any human being on this earth. This is why I believe Melchizedek was a theophany in the Old Testament. There are many theophanies in the Scriptures that you should study. Here are a few: Genesis 18:1-2; Genesis 18:22; Genesis 19:1; Joshua 5:13-15: Judges 2:1; Daniel 3:24-25.
Others believe that Melchizedek was just a type of Christ here in the Old Testament. That is possible too. But the statements that declare that he had no father or mother and that he lives continually cause me to believe this man was much more than just a type of Christ. This is not an essential doctrine for salvation, so let every man be persuaded in his own mind.
The issue of a tithe.
Many in the church today argue over the question of believers giving a tithe of their income to the Lord. Was the tithe just something under the Law of Moses or should we also give a tithe to our local church today? This also is not a salvation issue, so I don’t believe you should break fellowship with anyone over this issue. Giving is something that is very personal and should be decided in the heart of every giver. However, this passage gives you some important facts to consider. What are these facts?
First, note that the tithe is not just an issue found in the Law of Moses, but is here used by Abram a man of faith hundreds of years before the giving of the law. In addition, the tithe was used by Abram’s son, Jacob, who was also a man of faith, and not under the law (Gen. 28:22). So, the example found in Genesis is that a tithe is something that men of faith have done for a long time before the giving of the law.
Jesus also referred to the tithe in a positive way in Matthew 23:23, where He said, “Woe to you scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith. These you ought to have done, without leaving the others undone.” What is Jesus teaching in this verse? Jesus is saying that the Pharisees had focused on their tithing, and neglected the more important issues of justice, mercy and faith. Most people stop their reading at this point in the verse, but He goes on to say that these aspects of tithing should have been done, without leaving the weightier matters of the law undone. Clearly, Jesus is not disparaging the use of tithing.
There is also the illustration that Paul gives about how we should pay the pastors in our churches today. In 1 Corinthians 9:13-14 he taught, “Do you not know that those who minister the holy things eat of the things of the temple, and those who serve at the altar partake of the offerings of the altar? Even so the Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should live from the gospel.” Paul is associating the tithes that were brought into the Temple with the funds that believers were bringing into the church as a way to show the early church how and why they should be supporting their pastors.
My point in bringing this issue up is two-fold. First, the Bible clearly teaches the concept of a tithe long before the Law of Moses, and this same truth is referred to by both Jesus and Paul concerning giving. Most of the time when people discuss how believers should give, they use passages of Scripture that are referring to alms-giving or benevolent giving to the poor and needy. I’m referring to the teachings in 2 Corinthians chapters 8 and 9, and 1 Corinthians 16:1-2. Giving to the poor and needy is an important form of giving, but it is not the same as giving to support your local church, because this is where pastors are laboring to teach and support you and your congregation. In my view, a tithe is the least I should be giving. Missionary support and giving to the poor should all be above my tithe. If you look again at the Law of Moses, this is how giving was structured in those days as well. My pastor always stressed to me that you can never out give God. Why? Because He will never be a debtor to you. Jesus said, “Give, and it will be given to you: good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be put into your bosom. For with the same measure that you use, it will be measured back to you” (Luke 6:38). I can attest to you that my wife and I have tested this promise and found God to be true to His Word. We have tithed from the beginning of our marriage, given above our tithe when we heard of people in need, supported missionary work, and the Lord has always supplied our needs. If you don’t agree with tithing, that will be your personal decision, but always remember this guiding principle, “He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Cor. 9:6-7).
Abram’s response to the King of Sodom. Vs. 21-24
After Abram returned from his victory over the kings from the east, Scripture records, “Now the king of Sodom said to Abram, ‘Give me the persons, and take the goods for yourself.’ But Abram said to the king of Sodom, ‘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” (Gen. 14:21-24).
In these last few verses, notice that the king of Sodom comes out to Abram to ask for the people back that had been rescued in this military engagement. King Bera tells Abram to take the spoils, but just give him back the people. But Abram responds by telling him that all the people are free to go. But he also declared that he would not take anything from the spoils except what they have eaten on the way, and also the portion that Aner, Eshcol, and Mamre would take, and the tithe that he gave to Melchizedek. Abram declared his reasoning for this decision was two-fold.
First, Abram declared that he had raised his hand to the LORD who is the Possessor of heaven and earth. What does it mean that he had raised his hand to the LORD? This phrase refers to an oath or a pledge that he made to God that he would not personally take anything from the spoils. In those days, a pledge or oath to God was made by raising the hand to Him, and a pledge to men was made by the shaking of hands (Job 17:3). We still use this same way of taking oaths today in courts across our nation. Abram most likely had made a pledge to God, “If you help me recover Lot and his family and the other captives, I pledge not to touch any of the spoils.” Abram kept this pledge, which is a great witness to this man’s faithfulness to his word.
The second reason he made this pledge was because he didn’t want the king of Sodom to ever be able to say, “I have made Abram rich.” It is very probable that Abram knew of the wickedness of Sodom, and wanted no part or connection to these people or city. In addition, Abram was already very wealthy so he didn’t need anything from this spoil. If you consider that Abram had 318 trained servants that he could take with him for war, how many more servants must he have had, because he had to leave some servants at home to take care of his household and for protection of his family. If you just double the 318 servants for their wives, and a minimum of 2 children per family (there may have been many more), Abram probably had over a thousand people who had to be provided for and fed in Abram’s household. This meant that Abram was a very prosperous man, and had no need for the spoils of this war.
Now, think about the obvious contrast, between the offers of the King of Sodom and Melchizedek. The King of Sodom came out with a bargain for Abram, and Melchizedek came out with a blessing for him. Abram was concerned with his witness and how people saw him. He wanted people to see him as a man who was blessed by God, not a shrewd business man who knew how to take advantage of a good deal when he saw it. Abram wanted God’s blessing upon his life, and a testimony that God was with him. Jesus taught the disciples the same truth. He explained to them in Matthew 5:16, “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.” Do you want people to see the good works you do and glorify you, or glorify the Father? Do you want people to see that it is God who is working in you what is pleasing in His sight? For this to ever take place in your life, you must bow before the LORD, God Most High in the secret part of your heart. Then you must point people to the One you have raised your hand to, the LORD, God Most High. Paul encouraged the Philippian church that, “At the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and those on earth, and those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:10-11). I hope that everyone reading these words has bowed their knee to Him. If you have not, please surrender to Him today. You will never regret your decision!