Friday, October 8, 2010

Rout, Rescue and Reward

The previous material about the attacks led by Kedorlaomer and his allies showed that they had pretty much cleared out the surrounding countryside before they arrived to attack Sodom and Gomorrah.  The battle began in the Valley of Siddim, four kings against five.  The Valley of Siddim was 'full of tar pits' (Genesis 14:10), and when the warriors of Sodom and Gomorrah fled, some of the men fell into the pits and many fled to the hills.  Kedorlaomer, Arioch, Amraphel and Tidal seized the valuables from Sodom and Gomorrah and left, taking food supplies and people as well.  Abram's nephew Lot, unfortunately, had by now become a resident within Sodom and was among the captives.  When a survivor reported this to Abram, he assembled the 318 trained men born in his household, along with Aner, Eschol and Mamre (who, incidentally is described as "Mamre the Amorite" in Gen. 14:13).  At first I thought that this was surprising, since I had in previous posts recounted how the Amorites were generally enemies of the Jews, but then I realized that such enmity had not necessarily developed at this part of the story...there is no nation of Israel yet, and Abram is known merely as "Abram the Hebrew" in this same verse.  At any rate, Abram assembles his men and allies and pursues them as far as Dan.  After routing them, Abram pursues them as far as Hobah, north of Damascus (Genesis 14:15).  He brings back all the goods and people, a remarkable achievement, considering the confusion and chaos of war. (However, I suppose it would be likely that the goods and captives would have been kept fairly segregated until after the battle, when they would probably be distributed.)  Even so, it was a real accomplishment, and bears the unmistakable fingerprints of having come from the hand of God, who allowed the victory.

God both protected Abram and allowed his name to become 'great' (Genesis 12:2) in the eyes of all nine kings, regardless of their association with the battle.  Melchizedek, the king of Sodom, was so impressed that he offered to let Abram keep all the goods and merely return the people.  He also set a meal before him and blessed him.  However, Abram did not want to leave the impression that Melchizedek, rather than God, had enriched him, so he refused to accept the goods, except for what his men had eaten.  However, he gave Melchizedek a tithe, politely recognizing Melchizedek's kingly position over Sodom while still making it clear that "...the LORD, God Most High, Creator of heaven and earth..." (Gen. 14:16-22) was the only One to whom he would have further obligation.  However, Abram allows his allies Aner, Eshcol and Mamre to make their own decisions regarding these matters (Gen. 14.24). 

The character of Abram rings through clearly in this passage.  He rescues his nephew despite Lot's less than stellar treatment of him.  He treats Melchizedek respectfully, even though God had promised that Abram would one day own all the surrounding land (Gen. 13:14-18).  He allows his allies the freedom to make their own decisions regarding the reward for their efforts.  Most importantly, Abram acknowledges God, who clearly had given him the victory and was quite able to reward him as He saw fit.

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