February 17, 2014

Commentary on the Book of Genesis

By: Tom Lowe


                   

Lesson II.B.3: Lot Captured and Rescued. (Gen. 14:1-16)      

                                                               

       

Genesis 14:1-16 (KJV)


1 In the days of Am'raphel king of Shinar, Ar'ioch king of Ella'sar, Ched-or-lao'mer king of Elam, and Tidal king of Goi'im, 

2 these kings made war with Bera king of Sodom, Birsha king of Gomor'rah, Shinab king of Admah, Sheme'ber king of Zeboi'im, and the king of Bela (that is, Zo'ar). 

3 And all these joined forces in the Valley of Siddim (that is, the Salt Sea). 

4 Twelve years they had served Ched-or-lao'mer, but in the thirteenth year they rebelled. 5 In the fourteenth year Ched-or-lao'mer and the kings who were with him came and subdued the Reph'aim in Ash'teroth-karna'im, the Zuzim in Ham, the Emim in Sha'veh-kiriatha'im, 

6 and the Horites in their Mount Se'ir as far as El-paran on the border of the wilderness; 7 then they turned back and came to Enmish'pat (that is, Kadesh), and subdued all the country of the Amal'ekites, and also the Amorites who dwelt in Haz'azon-ta'mar. 

8 Then the king of Sodom, the king of Gomor'rah, the king of Admah, the king of Zeboi'im, and the king of Bela (that is, Zo'ar) went out, and they joined battle in the Valley of Siddim 

9 with Ched-or-lao'mer king of Elam, Tidal king of Goi'im, Am'raphel king of Shinar, and Ar'ioch king of Ella'sar, four kings against five. 

10 Now the Valley of Siddim was full of bitumen pits; and as the kings of Sodom and Gomor'rah fled, some fell into them, and the rest fled to the mountain. 

11 So the enemy took all the goods of Sodom and Gomor'rah, and all their provisions, and went their way; 

12 they also took Lot, the son of Abram's brother, who dwelt in Sodom, and his goods, and departed. 

13 Then one who had escaped came, and told Abram the Hebrew, who was living by the oaks of Mamre the Amorite, brother of Eshcol and of Aner; these were allies of Abram. 14 When Abram heard that his kinsman had been taken captive, he led forth his trained men, born in his house, three hundred and eighteen of them, and went in pursuit as far as Dan. 

15 And he divided his forces against them by night, he and his servants, and routed them and pursued them to Hobah, north of Damascus. 

16 Then he brought back all the goods, and also brought back his kinsman Lot with his goods, and the women and the people.



Introduction


This passage records the first war recorded in the Bible, and it would not be recorded here had it not involved Abraham. The Bible records a great deal of history, because God knows that what is recorded helps us understand how God worked out His great plan of salvation in this world. In the Bible, historical facts are often windows for spiritual truth.



Commentary


1 In the days of Am'raphel king of Shinar, Ar'ioch king of Ella'sar, Ched-or-lao'mer king of Elam, and Tidal king of Goi'im, 

2 these kings made war with Bera king of Sodom, Birsha king of Gomor'rah, Shinab king of Admah, Sheme'ber king of Zeboi'im, and the king of Bela (that is, Zo'ar). 

3 And all these joined forces in the Valley of Siddim (that is, the Salt Sea). 

4 Twelve years they had served Ched-or-lao'mer, but in the thirteenth year they rebelled. 

5 In the fourteenth year Ched-or-lao'mer and the kings who were with him came and subdued the Reph'aim in Ash'teroth-karna'im, the Zuzim in Ham, the Emim in Sha'veh-kiriatha'im, 

6 and the Horites in their Mount Se'ir as far as El-paran on the border of the wilderness; 

7 then they turned back and came to Enmish'pat (that is, Kadesh), and subdued all the country of the Amal'ekites, and also the Amorites who dwelt in Haz'azon-ta'mar. 

8 Then the king of Sodom, the king of Gomor'rah, the king of Admah, the king of Zeboi'im, and the king of Bela (that is, Zo'ar) went out, and they joined battle in the Valley of Siddim 

9 with Ched-or-lao'mer king of Elam, Tidal king of Goi'im, Am'raphel king of Shinar, and Ar'ioch king of Ella'sar, four kings against five. 

10 Now the Valley of Siddim was full of bitumen pits; and as the kings of Sodom and Gomor'rah fled, some fell into them, and the rest fled to the mountain. 

11 So the enemy took all the goods of Sodom and Gomor'rah, and all their provisions, and went their way; 

12 they also took Lot, the son of Abram's brother, who dwelt in Sodom, and his goods, and departed. 


The five city-states in the plain of Jordan (v. 2) had been subject to for twelve years to the kings of four eastern city-states (v. 1) and finally revolted against them. This was the area where Lot settled after he split from Abraham’s company—“Lot looked up and saw that the whole plain of the Jordan was well watered, like the garden of the LORD, like the land of Egypt, toward Zoar. (This was before the LORD destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah.)” (Gen. 13:10). The revolt, of course, was a declaration of war, so the four kings invaded the plain of Jordan to bring the five kings into subjection. From our viewpoint, the invasion was a minor skirmish; but in that day it was considered a major international conflict.



The names of the four kings have meanings that imply a religious significance, the first one, Amraphel meaning "sayer of darkness," and Shinar meaning "change of the city." Thus false religion can speak in dark, mystical ways with the object of improving (not saving or converting) people. In verse 4, however, we see that Chedorlaomer assumes the chief role, his name meaning "as binding for the sheaf," while his city Elam means "their heads." So false religion exerts every effort to bind its captives into a sheaf under its authority, while having various "heads" instead of the one Head, who is Christ (Colossians 2:16-19).


The five kings are typical of the outright wickedness of the ungodly, corrupt world. The king of Sodom, Bera, means "in the evil," and Birsha (King of Gomorrah) means "in wickedness." Of course an ungodly world needs salvation, but instead of this, mere human religion fights hard to bring the world into bondage to its rules and philosophies. Actually this only glosses over the world's corruption with a thin layer of religion, making it seem outwardly less corrupt while it remains inwardly the same, but it has added religious deception to its moral corruption.


The five kings became subject to Chedorlaomer for twelve years (which is typical of the world under subjection to false religion), but finally rebelled against this bondage (v. 4). However, just as the history of the professing church through the Middle Ages teaches us, false religion can be determined and strong. Chedorlaomer and his allies began with defeating six nations (vs.5-7) before approaching Sodom and Gomorrah. The cities of Sodom and Gomorrah were two of the city-statesincluded in the rebellion, and Ezekiel 16:49-50 tells us that the lifestyle of the people who lived there did not prepare them for the conflict—“Now this was the sin of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy. They were haughty and did detestable things before me. Therefore I did away with them as you have seen.” “Sodom and her daughters,” or rather, the inhabitants of that place, and the adjacent cities, thought they were above God and man; they were above regarding the poor and needy; and were proud of their abundance and prosperity, and behaved very insolently, both to fellow citizens and strangers. “Detestable things” probably refers to that sin, which got its name from Sodom; a sin abominable to God, and scandalous to human nature; and which they committed openly and publicly, without fearing God or respecting man.Then the king of Sodom and Gomorrah, with three other kings, went out to engage the four kings in battle (vs. 8-9), but the fleshly, ungodly world has little power against satanically inspired religion. To be properly delivered from such a yoke it is necessary to have a true knowledge of the Lord Jesus. Certainly five kings ought to be able to defeat four kings, especially when they are fighting “on their own turf.” But the army of the cities of the plain was soundly defeated by the invading kings! Apparently the five kings did not even know their own land because they were trapped in the slime pits (v. 10). The valley of Siddim was full of slime pits in which the kings of Sodom and Gomorrah became trapped. This is the very picture of the ungodly being snared in their own sinful lusts, the slime of this world. Others who escaped this fled to the hill country. Yet they could not carry much of their possessions with them, and the four kings took possession of the goods and food supply of their defeated foes, as well as taking Lot captive, with his goods (vs. 11-12). Other captives are not mentioned at this time, but verse 16 speaks of them. Thus man's religion is zealous in capturing both people and what they possess, a contrast to the principle of true Christianity expressed by Paul in 2 Corinthians 12:14 : "I do not seek yours, but you." Nor did Paul seek them as mere captives, but that they might be set free in "the liberty by which Christ has made us free" (Galatians 1:5).



Whatever purpose the kings may have had in mind for this war, God had something special in mind for Lot—he became a prisoner of war. Lot had looked at Sodom and moved toward Sodom (13:10-13), and now he was living in Sodom (v.12). You might not guess it from his conduct, but Lot was a righteous man—“if he condemned the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah by burning them to ashes, and made them an example of what is going to happen to the ungodly; and if he rescued Lot, a righteous man, who was distressed by the filthy lives of lawless men (for that righteous man, living among them day after day, was tormented in his righteous soul by the lawless deeds he saw and heard)” (2 Peter 2:6-8). Lot was a righteous man, and the only way he could be declared righteous is by having the righteousness of Christ imputed to him; and being born  again, and living soberly, righteously, and godly, though not without sin, because all men have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. But where did righteous lot fail?



While in Egypt with Abraham, Lot had got a taste of the world and enjoyed it. Scripture doesn’t record that Lot ever built an alter and sought the Lord, as his uncle Abraham did on numerous occasions. Abraham was the friend of God (James 2.23), but Lot was the friend of the world (James 4:4). In time, Lot conformed to the world (Rom. 12:2); and when Sodom lost the war, Lot was condemned with the world (1 Cor. 11:32). If you identify with the world, then expect to suffer what the world suffers. 



Lot’s capture was God’s way of disciplining him and reminding him that he had no business living in Sodom. No doubt Abraham was praying faithfully for his nephew that he might separate himself from the world and start living like a true “stranger and pilgrim.” God disciplines his children because he loves them and wants the best for them (Prov. 3:11-12; Heb. 12:1-11). If we don’t listen to his rebukes, then he has to get our attention another way; and that way is usually very painful.




13 Then one who had escaped came, and told Abram the Hebrew, who was living by the oaks of Mamre the Amorite, brother of Eshcol and of Aner; these were allies of Abram. 

14 When Abram heard that his kinsman had been taken captive, he led forth his trained men, born in his house, three hundred and eighteen of them, and went in pursuit as far as Dan. 

15 And he divided his forces against them by night, he and his servants, and routed them and pursued them to Hobah, north of Damascus. 

16 Then he brought back all the goods, and also brought back his kinsman Lot with his goods, and the women and the people.



A fugitive from the battle brought news to Abram of the battle and the capture of Lot. Abraham didn’t get involved in the war until he heard that Lot had been captured, and then he began to act. Abraham was separated, but not isolated; he was independent, but not indifferent. In fact, he and some of the local sheiks had formed an alliance for just such an emergency (v. 13). He was at the time living by the oaks of Mamre the Amorite, who with his two brothers were allies of Abram. In later years a link of this kind would have been wrong, but at this time "the iniquity of the Amorites was not yet complete" (Gen. 15:16), and so the Lord does not make an issue of it. He is called here, “Abram the Hebrew” (v. 13) for the first time, which means “the outsider, the person with no secure place in society.” He was not “Abraham the hardhearted.” He was a “pilgrim and stranger” in the land, but that was no excuse for inaction.



While believers must not compromise with the unsaved in matters of spiritual walk and ministry (2 Cor. 6:14-7:1), they may cooperate when it comes to matters of humanity and “promoting the general welfare.” When you see that people are in trouble, you don’t ask them for a testimony before helping them (Luke 10:25-37; Gal. 6:10). Sacrificial service is one way of showing the love of Christ to others—“In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven” (Mat. 5:16). If Christians don’t carry their share of the common burdens of life, how can they be the salt of the earth and the light of the earth?

For example, Joseph served in Egypt, and God used him to preserve his family and the Jewish nation. Nehemiah served a heathen king, yet God used the authority and resources of that king to rebuild Jerusalem. Esther was a Jewess married to a Gentile king, and God used her to protect the Jewish people from almost certain annihilation. 




ABRAM FIGHTING THE GOOD FIGHT OF FAITH


Ordinarily Abram would not have become involved in this conflict, but when he hears that his brother Lot had been taken captive, he does not hesitate in his decision to intervene. He led out 318 trained men who had been born in his house, to pursue the four kings. There is a lovely picture here of those born again in the house of God, the church of the living God. They have not needed the training of worldly wise men nor of theological schools. God has trained them in His own house, the assembly of the living God. Here is where the best training is found, in the fellowship of the saints of God (God's house), where God is free to teach in His own way by means of every gift He has given to His saints.


Warfare was not the object of Abram's life: his object was the knowledge of God. So we too ought to be well trained in the ways of the Lord, not with the object of fighting. Yet if we find it necessary to fight we shall be better equipped for this than those who are well trained controversialists, for then it will be God's battle we are waging, and not a battle for a certain "cause" or "principle."


One verse (v.15) is sufficient to describe the battle of Abram with the four kings, and his decisive victory. No doubt his adversaries far outnumbered his force of 318 men, but the Lord does not depend on numbers. God rewarded Abram's faith by making his enemies flee as he pursued them for a long distance, to north of Damascus.


Then Abram returned with all the goods that had been taken, as well as with Lot and the women and other people who had been captured (v.16). Nothing is said of any slaughter taking place, but Abram gained his object of liberating Lord, while also liberating others and retrieving property that had been taken. Do we have such energy of faith to seek to recover saints of God who have been ensnared by falsehood? It was not anger against the enemy that moved Abram, but love for his brother.


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