Genesis chapter 14

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1And it came about in the days of Amraphel king of Shinar, Arioch king of Ellasar, Chedorlaomer king of Elam, and Tidal king of Goiim, 2that they 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 (that is, Zoar). 3All these kings came as allies to the Valley of Siddim (that is, the Salt Sea). 4For twelve years they had served Chedorlaomer, but in the thirteenth year they rebelled. 5And in the fourteenth year Chedorlaomer and the kings who were with him came and defeated the Rephaim in Ashteroth-karnaim, and the Zuzim in Ham, and the Emim in Shaveh-kiriathaim, 6and the Horites on their Mount Seir, as far as El-paran, which is by the wilderness. 7Then they turned back and came to En-mishpat (that is, Kadesh), and conquered all the country of the Amalekites, and also the Amorites, who lived in Hazazon-tamar. 8And the king of Sodom and the king of Gomorrah, the king of Admah and the king of Zeboiim, and the king of Bela (that is, Zoar) came out; and they lined up for battle against them in the Valley of Siddim, 9against Chedorlaomer king of Elam, Tidal king of Goiim, Amraphel king of Shinar, and Arioch king of Ellasar—four kings against five. 10Now the Valley of Siddim was full of tar pits; and the kings of Sodom and Gomorrah fled, and they fell into them. But those who survived fled to the hill country. 11Then they took all the possessions of Sodom and Gomorrah and all their food supply, and departed. 12They also took Lot, Abram’s nephew, and his possessions and departed, for he was living in Sodom.
Christian Standard Bible

New Living Translation

King James Version

New King James Version

What does Genesis chapter 14 mean?

Genesis 14 is an action-packed story of war between ancient city-states with a surprising conclusion.

For 12 years, the four kings of an eastern group of city-states—Elam, Shinar, Ellasar, and Goiim—had ruled over the city-states in and around Canaan. Finally, the kings of five cities grouped around the south end of the Dead Sea rebel. A year later, the four kings arrive in the region to reestablish their rule.

Following a southerly route along a line east of the Jordan River, the four kings defeat every city, king, and people group in their path all the way to the edge of Canaan's southern wilderness. Then they turn back north, eventually arriving at the Valley of Siddim near the Dead Sea. There the five kings of Sodom, Gomorrah, Admah, Zeboiim, and Zoar have gathered their forces to take their stand against the eastern kings.

The battle, apparently, doesn't last long. The five kings are defeated, and their forces flee, some falling into the tar pits in the region. Others escape into the hills. The enemy raiders descend on Sodom and loot all of their possessions, provisions, and many of their people.

Here is where the story of this war connects to the story of Abram, who would later be re-named Abraham. Abram's nephew Lot was living in Sodom at the time, after separating from Abram to prevent their growing families from competing for resources (Genesis 13:8–9). As a part of this new war, the kings of the east captured Lot and all of his possessions before heading back toward their homeland.

A survivor of the carnage comes and tells Abram what has happened. Without hesitation, Abram—who is more than seventy-five years old (Genesis 12:4)—gathers 318 servants trained for battle, along with three Amorite brothers who were his allies. Together they chase down the eastern armies, finally catching up to them in Dan at the far northern edge of Canaan.

What could Abram's small army do against this force that had conquered all in their path without a loss? With God's help, they could win. They do so in one night, using clever tactics as part of their rescue. Abram's forces chase down the enemy farther to the north, and retrieve Lot, all of his possessions, and everything else the eastern kings had plundered along the way.

As Abram returns home, two kings come out to meet him. One is the king of Sodom (Genesis 13:13), who survived the battle. The other is a mysterious figure identified as Melchizedek, the king of Salem and priest of God Most High. His name means "King of Righteousness." Melchizedek brings Abram bread and wine and a blessing from God. Abram immediately responds by giving ten percent of all the plunder to God's priest. This encounter is later used, in part, to explain the priesthood of Jesus Christ by writers of the New Testament (Hebrews 7:1–4).

The king of Sodom is less gracious. He curtly demands that Abram return his people and keep the rest for himself. As the victor, Abram likely could have claimed the right to all of it, but he refuses to keep even a thread of Sodom's plunder. Abram seems to have the same attitude towards Sodom which God will express to Israel many centuries later: some cultures are so depraved that even their material possessions should be shunned. Abram also doesn't want Sodom's king to believe his wealth in any way comes from Sodom. Abram won't stop his allies from keeping their portion, however.
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