Genesis 14

CHAPTER XIV

The war of four confederate kings against the five kings of

Canaan, 1-3.

The confederate kings overrun and pillage the whole country, 4-7.

Battle between them and the kings of Canaan, 5, 9.

The latter are defeated, and the principal part of the armies

of the kings of Sodom and Gomorrah slain, 10;

on which these two cities are plundered, 11.

Lot, his goods, and his family, are also taken and carried

away, 12.

Abram, being informed of the disaster of his nephew, 13,

arms three hundred and eighteen of his servants, and pursues

them, 14;

overtakes and routs them, and recovers Lot and his family,

and their goods, 15, 16;

is met on his return by the king of Sodom, and by Melchizedek,

king of Salem, with refreshments for himself and men, 17, 18.

Melchizedek blesses Abram, and receives from him, as priest

of the most high God, the tenth of all the spoils, 19, 20.

The king of Sodom offers to Abram all the goods he has taken

from the enemy, 21;

which Abram positively refuses, having vowed to God to receive

no recompense for a victory of which he knew God to be the

sole author, 22, 23;

but desires that a proportion of the spoils be given to Aner,

Eshcol and Mamre, who had accompanied him on this expedition, 24.

NOTES ON CHAP. XIV

Verse 1. In the days of Amraphel] Who this king was is not

known; and yet, from the manner in which he is spoken of in the

text, it would seem that he was a person well known, even when

Moses wrote this account. But the Vulgate gives a different turn

to the place, by rendering the passage thus: Factum est in illo

tempore, ut Amraphel, &c. "It came to pass in that time that

Amraphel, &c." The Chaldee Targum of Onkelos makes Amraphel king

of Babylon, others make him king of Assyria; some make him the

same as Nimrod, and others, one of his descendants.

Arioch king of Ellasar] Some think Syria is meant; but

conjecture is endless where facts cannot be ascertained.

Chedorlaomer king of Elam] Dr. Shuckford thinks that this was

the same as Ninyas, the son of Ninus and Semiramis; and some

think him to be the same with Keeumras, son of Doolaved, son of

Arphaxad, son of Shem, son of Noah; and that Elam means Persia;

see Ge 10:22. The Persian historians unanimously allow that

Keeumras, whose name bears some affinity to Chedorlaomer, was

the first king of the Peeshdadian dynasty.

Tidal king of nations] goyim, different peoples or

clans. Probably some adventurous person, whose subjects were

composed of refugees from different countries.

Verse 2. These made war with Bera, &c.] It appears, from

Ge 14:4, that these five Canaanitish kings had been subdued by

Chedorlaomer, and were obliged to pay him tribute; and that,

having been enslaved by him twelve years, wishing to recover their

liberty, they revolted in the thirteenth; in consequence of which

Chedorlaomer, the following year, summoned to his assistance three

of his vassals, invaded Canaan, fought with and discomfited the

kings of the Pentapolis or five cities-Sodom, Gomorrah, Zeboiim,

Zoar, and Admab, which were situated in the fruitful plain of

Siddim, having previously overrun the whole land.

Verse 5. Rephaims] A people of Canaan: Ge 15:20.

Ashteroth] A city of Basan, where Og afterwards reigned;

Jos 13:31.

Zuzims] Nowhere else spoken of, unless they were the same with

the Zamzummims, De 2:20, as some imagine.

Emims] A people great and many in the days of Moses, and tall

as the Anakim. They dwelt among the Moabites, by whom they were

reputed giants; De 2:10, 11.

Shaveh Kiriathaim] Rather, as the margin, the plain of

Kiriathaim, which was a city afterwards belonging to Sihon king of

Heshbon; Jos 13:19.

Verse 6. The Horites] A people that dwelt in Mount Seir, till

Esau and his sons drove them thence; De 2:22.

El-paran] The plain or oak of Paran, which was a city in the

wilderness of Paran; Ge 21:21.

Verse 7. En-mishpat] The well of judgment; probably so called

from the judgment pronounced by God on Moses and Aaron for their

rebellion at that place; Nu 20:1-10.

Amalekites] So called afterwards, from Amalek, son of Esau;

Ge 36:12.

Hazezon-tamar.] Called, in the Chaldee, Engaddi; a city in the

land of Canaan, which fell to the lot of Judah; Jos 15:62. See

also 2Ch 20:2. It appears, from Canticles So 1:14, to have been

a very fruitful place.

Verse 8. Bela, the same is Zoar] That is, it was called Zoar

after the destruction of Sodom, &c., mentioned in Ge 19:24, 25.

Verse 10. Slime-pits] Places where asphaltus or bitumen sprang

out of the ground; this substance abounded in that country.

Fell there] It either signifies they were defeated on this

spot, and many of them slain, or that multitudes of them had

perished in the bitumen-pits which abounded there; that the place

was full of pits we learn from the Hebrew, which reads here

beeroth beeroth, pits, pits, i.e., multitudes of pits. A bad

place to maintain a fight on, or to be obliged to run through in

order to escape.

Verse 11. They took all the goods, &c.] This was a predatory

war, such as the Arabs carry on to the present day; they pillage a

city, town, or caravan; and then escape with the booty to the

wilderness, where it would ever be unsafe, and often impossible,

to pursue them.

Verse 12. They took Lot, &c.] The people, being exceedingly

wicked, had provoked God to afflict them by means of those

marauding kings; and Lot also suffered, being found in company

with the workers of iniquity. Every child remembers the fable of

the Geese and Cranes; the former, being found feeding where the

latter were destroying the grain, were all taken in the same net.

Let him that readeth understand.

Verse 13. Abram the Hebrew] See Clarke on Ge 10:21. It

is very likely that Abram had this appellation from his coming from

beyond the river Euphrates to enter Canaan; for haibri,

which we render the Hebrew, comes from abar, to pass

over, or come from beyond. It is supposed by many that he got this

name from Eber or Heber, son of Salah; see Ge 11:15. But why

he should get a name from Heber, rather than from his own father, or

some other of his progenitors, no person has yet been able to

discover. We may, therefore, safely conclude that he bears the

appellation of Hebrew or Ibrite from the above circumstance, and

not from one of his progenitors, of whom we know nothing but the

name, and who preceded Abram not less than six generations; and

during the whole of that time till the time marked here, none of

his descendants were ever called Hebrews; this is a demonstration

that Abram was not called the Hebrew from Heber;

see Ge 11:15-27.

These were confederate with Abram.] It seems that a kind of

convention was made between Abram and the three brothers, Mamre,

Eshcol, and Aner, who were probably all chieftains in the

vicinity of Abram's dwelling: all petty princes, similar to the

nine kings before mentioned.

Verse 14. He armed his trained servants] These amounted to three

hundred and eighteen in number: and how many were in the divisions

of Mamre, Eshcol, and Aner, we know not; but they and their men

certainly accompanied him in this expedition. See Ge 14:24.

Verse 15. And he divided himself against them] It required both

considerable courage and address in Abram to lead him to attack

the victorious armies of these four kings with so small a number

of troops, and on this occasion both his skill and his courage are

exercised. His affection for Lot appears to have been his chief

motive; he cheerfully risks his life for that nephew who had

lately chosen the best part of the land, and left his uncle to

live as he might, on what he did not think worthy his own

acceptance. But it is the property of a great and generous mind,

not only to forgive, but to forget offences; and at all times to

repay evil with good.

Verse 16. And he brought back-the women also] This is brought in

by the sacred historian with peculiar interest and tenderness. All

who read the account must be in pain for the fate of wives and

daughters fallen into the hands of a ferocious, licentious, and

victorious soldiery. Other spoils the routed confederates might

have left behind; and yet on their swift asses, camels, and

dromedaries, have carried off the female captives. However, Abram

had disposed his attack so judiciously, and so promptly executed

his measures, that not only all the baggage, but all the females

also, were recovered.

Verse 17. The king of Sodom went out to meet him] This could

not have been Bera, mentioned Ge 14:2, for it seems pretty

evident, from Ge 14:10, that both he and

Birsha, king of Gomorrah, were slain at the bitumen-pits in the

vale of Siddim; but another person in the meantime might have

succeeded to the government.

Verse 18. And Melchizedek, king of Salem] A thousand idle

stories have been told about this man, and a thousand idle

conjectures spent on the subject of his short history given here

and in Heb. vii. At present it is only necessary to state that he

appears to have been as real a personage as Bera, Birsha, or

Shinab, though we have no more of his genealogy than we have of

theirs.

Brought forth bread and wine] Certainly to refresh Abram and

his men, exhausted with the late battle and fatigues of the

journey; not in the way of sacrifice, &c.; this is an idle

conjecture.

He was the priest of the most high God.] He had preserved in

his family and among his subjects the worship of the true God, and

the primitive patriarchal institutions; by these the father of

every family was both king and priest, so Melchizedek, being a

worshipper of the true God, was priest among the people, as well

as king over them.

Melchizedek is called here king of Salem, and the most judicious

interpreters allow that by Salem, Jerusalem is meant. That it

bore this name anciently is evident from Ps 76:1, 2: "In

Judah is God known; his name is great in Israel. In SALEM also

is his tabernacle, and his dwelling place in Zion." From the use

made of this part of the sacred history by David, Ps 110:4, and

by St. Paul, Heb 7:1-10, we learn that there was something very

mysterious, and at the same time typical, in the person, name,

office, residence, and government of this Cannanitish prince. 1.

In his person he was a representative and type of Christ; see the

scriptures above referred to. 2. His name, malki tsedek,

signifies my righteous king, or king of righteousness. This name

he probably had from the pure and righteous administration of his

government; and this is one of the characters of our blessed Lord,

a character which can be applied to him only, as he alone is

essentially righteous, and the only Potentate; but a holy man,

such as Melchizedek, might bear this name as his type or

representative. 3. Office; he was a priest of the most high God.

The word cohen, which signifies both prince and priest,

because the patriarchs sustained this double office, has both its

root and proper signification in the Arabic; [Arabic] kahana

signifies to approach, draw near, have intimate access to; and

from hence to officiate as priest before God, and thus have

intimate access to the Divine presence: and by means of the

sacrifices which he offered he received counsel and information

relative to what was yet to take place, and hence another

acceptation of the word, to foretell, predict future events,

unfold hidden things or mysteries; so the lips of the priests

preserved knowledge, and they were often the interpreters of the

will of God to the people. Thus we find that Melchizedek, being a

priest of the most high God, represented Christ in his sacerdotal

character, the word priest being understood as before explained.

4. His residence; he was king of Salem. shalam

signifies to make whole, complete, or perfect; and hence it means

peace, which implies the making whole the breaches made in the

political and domestic union of kingdoms, states, families, &c.,

making an end of discord, and establishing friendship. Christ is

called the Prince of peace, because, by his incarnation,

sacrifice, and mediation, he procures and establishes peace

between God and man; heals the breaches and dissensions between

heaven and earth, reconciling both; and produces glory to God in

the highest, and on earth peace and good will among men. His

residence is peace and quietness and assurance for ever, in

every believing upright heart. He governs as the Prince and

Priest of the most high God, ruling in righteousness, mighty to

save; and he ever lives to make intercession for, and save to the

uttermost all who come unto the Father by him.

See Clarke on Heb 7:25.

Verse 19. And he blessed him] This was a part of the priest's

office, to bless in the name of the Lord, for ever. See the form

of this blessing, Nu 6:23-26; and for the meaning of the word

to bless, see Ge 2:3.

Verse 20. And he gave him tithes] A tenth part of all the

spoils he had taken from the confederate kings. These Abram gave

as a tribute to the most high God, who, being the possessor of

heaven and earth, dispenses all spiritual and temporal favours,

and demands the gratitude, and submissive, loving obedience, of

all his subjects. Almost all nations of the earth have agreed in

giving a tenth part of their property to be employed in religious

uses. The tithes were afterwards granted to the Levites for the

use of the sanctuary, and the maintenance of themselves and their

families, as they had no other inheritance in Israel.

Verse 22. I have lift up mine hand] The primitive mode of

appealing to God, and calling him to witness a particular

transaction; this no doubt generally obtained among the faithful

till circumcision, the sign of the covenant, was established.

After this, in swearing, the hand was often placed on the

circumcised part; see Ge 24:2, 9.

Verse 23. From a thread even to a shoelatchet] This was

certainly a proverbial mode of expression, the full meaning of

which is perhaps not known. Among the rabbinical writers

chut, or chuti, signifies a fillet worn by young women to

tie up their hair; taken in this sense it will give a good meaning

here. As Abram had rescued both the men and women carried off by

the confederate kings, and the king of Sodom had offered him all

the goods, claiming only the persons, he answers by protesting

against the accepting any of their property: "I have vowed unto

the Lord, the proprietor of heaven and earth, that I will not

receive the smallest portion of the property either of the women

or men, from a girl's fillet to a man's shoe-tie."

Verse 24. Save only that which the young men have eaten] His

own servants had partaken of the victuals which the confederate

kings had carried away; see Ge 14:11. This was unavoidable, and

this is all he claims; but as he had no right to prescribe the

same liberal conduct to his assistants, Aner, Eshcol, and Mamre,

he left them to claim the share that by right of conquest belonged

to them of the recaptured booty. Whether they were as generous as

Abram we are not told.

THE great variety of striking incidents in this chapter the

attentive reader has already carefully noted. To read and not

understand is the property of the foolish and the inconsiderate.

1. We have already seen the danger to which Lot exposed himself in

preferring a fertile region, though peopled with the workers of

iniquity. His sorrows commence in the captivity of himself and

family, and the loss of all his property, though by the good

providence of God he and they were rescued. 2. Long observation

has proved that the company a man keeps is not an indifferent

thing; it will either be the means of his salvation or

destruction. 3. A generous man cannot be contented with mere

personal safety while others are in danger, nor with his own

prosperity while others are in distress. Abram, hearing of the

captivity of his nephew, determines to attempt his rescue; he puts

himself at the head of his own servants, three hundred and

eighteen in number, and the few assistants with which his

neighbours, Mamre, Aner, and Eshcol, could furnish him; and,

trusting in God and the goodness of his cause, marches off to

attack four confederate kings! 4. Though it is not very likely

that the armies of those petty kings could have amounted to many

thousands, yet they were numerous enough to subdue almost the

whole land of Canaan; and consequently, humanly speaking, Abram

must know that by numbers he could not prevail, and that in this

case particularly the battle was the Lord's. 5. While depending

on the Divine blessing and succour he knew he must use the means

he had in his power; he therefore divided his troops skilfully

that he might attack the enemy at different points at the same

time, and he chooses the night season to commence his attack, that

the smallness of his force might not be discovered. God requires a

man to use all the faculties he has given him in every lawful

enterprise, and only in the conscientious use of them can he

expect the Divine blessing; when this is done the event may be

safely trusted in the hands of God. 6. Here is a war undertaken

by Abram on motives the most honourable and conscientious; it was

to repel aggression, and to rescue the innocent from the heaviest

of sufferings and the worst of slavery, not for the purpose of

plunder nor the extension of his territories; therefore he takes

no spoils, and returns peaceably to his own possessions. How

happy would the world be were every sovereign actuated by the same

spirit! 7. We have already noticed the appearance, person,

office, &c., of Melchizedek; and, without indulging in the wild

theories of either ancient or modern visionaries, have considered

him as the Scriptures do, a type of Christ. All that has been

already spoken on this head may be recapitulated in a few words.

1. The Redeemer of the world is the King of righteousness; he

creates it, maintains it, and rules by it. 2. His empire is the

empire of peace; this he proclaims to them who are afar off, and

to them that are nigh; to the Jew and to the Gentile. 3. He is

Priest of the most high God, and has laid down his life for the

sin of the world; and through this sacrifice the blessing of God

is derived on them that believe. Reader, take him for thy King as

well as thy Priest; he saves those only who submit to his

authority. and take his Spirit for the regulator of their

heart, and his word for the director of their conduct. How

many do we find, among those who would be sorry to be rated so low

as to rank only with nominal Christians, talking of Christ as

their Prophet, Priest, and King, who are not taught by his word

and Spirit, who apply not for redemption in his blood, and who

submit not to his authority! Reader, learn this deep and

important truth: "Where I am there also shall my servant be; and

he that serveth me, him shall my Father honour."

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