What does Genesis 14:22 mean?
ESV: But Abram said to the king of Sodom, “I have lifted my hand to the LORD, God Most High, Possessor of heaven and earth,
NIV: But Abram said to the king of Sodom, 'With raised hand I have sworn an oath to the LORD, God Most High, Creator of heaven and earth,
NASB: But Abram said to the king of Sodom, 'I have sworn to the Lord God Most High, Possessor of heaven and earth,
CSB: But Abram said to the king of Sodom, "I have raised my hand in an oath to the Lord, God Most High, Creator of heaven and earth,
NLT: Abram replied to the king of Sodom, 'I solemnly swear to the Lord, God Most High, Creator of heaven and earth,
KJV: And Abram said to the king of Sodom, I have lift up mine hand unto the LORD, the most high God, the possessor of heaven and earth,
Abram has recaptured from the four kings of the east all that formerly belonged to Sodom, including all of the possessions and the people. Bera, Sodom's king, (Genesis 14:2) has come out to meet Abram. In doing so, he has observed a blessing (Genesis 14:19) given by Melchizedek. This mysterious figure's name means "King of Righteousness." Bera has also witnessed Abram's gift of a tithe to Melchizedek (Genesis 14:20). Not only does Bera fail to bring anything to Abram, he steps in with a demand: Keep the possessions, and give me the people (Genesis 14:21).
Abram's response to the king of Sodom's begins in this verse and continues through the following two verses.
As the victor over those who had plundered Sodom, Abram could have claimed the right to keep everything for himself. Instead, he tells Bera that he has sworn an oath to God not to keep any of it. Specifically, Abram says that he has raised his hand to swear this oath to "the Lord, God Most High, Possessor (or Creator) of heaven and earth." Having just received a blessing from the Lord's priest Melchizedek and giving a tenth of the plunder to him, Abram now declares his own loyalty to the One who owns all things.
This contrast is spectacular in its implications for Christians today. Faced with both the "king of righteousness" (Genesis 14:18) and a king of depravity (Genesis 13:13), Abram accepts a blessing from the righteous king and gives him a tithe. Abram flatly refuses to keep even a single coin—not even a thread—from the king of depravity. Abram's stance is explicitly clear: His oath to God means having absolutely nothing to do with wicked Sodom or its king. This choice parallels the need for believers, today, to draw a hard line between godly pursuits and a love of this fallen world, even material things associated with the world (1 John 2:15; Jude 1:23).
Genesis 14:17–24 tells the story of a meeting between Abram and two kings. Returning as the victor after having defeated the eastern kings and recapturing all their plunder, Abram is met by the king of Sodom and by Melchizedek, the mysterious king of Salem. Melchizedek, also known as a priest of God Most High, gives Abram bread, wine, and a blessing from God. Abram gives this priest ten percent of all the plunder. Sodom's king demands his people back, but offers to let Abram keep the riches. Abram refuses to keep anything. He doesn't want to be associated, in any way, with such an ungodly ruler.
This short chapter is packed with action, adventure, and war. An army from the east comes to reestablish its rule over the kings of the city-states of Canaan. Five kings from the Dead Sea region rebel, are defeated, and Sodom is looted. Abram's nephew Lot is captured and taken away. Abram and his own small army chase down the eastern kings, defeating them and recapturing all that was lost. Returning home, Abram is met by a mysterious king and priest of God Most High called Melchizedek.
At first, Genesis 14 seems unrelated to the previous chapter. Four kings from the east come to wage war against the kings and people groups of Canaan, including five kings from cities around the Dead Sea. The eastern kings defeat all challengers, looting Sodom and carrying off Lot and his entire family. Now Abram reappears in the story to chase down the departing army, defeat them in a single night, and retrieve all that was lost. On the way home, he is met by a mysterious king and priest of God Most High known as Melchizedek.
The book of Genesis establishes fundamental truths about God. Among these are His role as the Creator, His holiness, His hatred of sin, His love for mankind, and His willingness to provide for our redemption. We learn not only where mankind has come from, but why the world is in its present form. The book also presents the establishment of Israel, God's chosen people. Many of the principles given in other parts of Scripture depend on the basic ideas presented here in the book of Genesis. Within the framework of the Bible, Genesis explains the bare-bones history of the universe leading up to the captivity of Israel in Egypt, setting the stage for the book of Exodus.
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