What does Genesis 14:4 mean?
ESV: Twelve years they had served Chedorlaomer, but in the thirteenth year they rebelled.
NIV: For twelve years they had been subject to Kedorlaomer, but in the thirteenth year they rebelled.
NASB: For twelve years they had served Chedorlaomer, but in the thirteenth year they rebelled.
CSB: They were subject to Chedorlaomer for twelve years, but in the thirteenth year they rebelled.
NLT: For twelve years they had been subject to King Kedorlaomer, but in the thirteenth year they rebelled against him.
KJV: Twelve years they served Chedorlaomer, and in the thirteenth year they rebelled.
Verse Commentary:
The previous few verses set the stage for a battle. The rebellious kings of five cities grouped at the southern end of the Sea of Galilee had gathered their forces in the Valley of Siddim to await the attack of the kings of four eastern cities. In response, the four kings were coming west to attack. These four were from city-states loyal to the ruling regime.

Apparently, these five kings (and perhaps other city-states in the region) had rebelled against the twelve-year rule of the four kings of the east, headed by Chedorlaomer, king of Elam. This control probably involved taxes and other contributions, rather than direct military occupation.
Verse Context:
Genesis 14:1–16 is an action-packed story of war between ancient city-states. Four kings from the east arrive to put down a rebellion by five kings from cities around the Dead Sea. After defeating them, the eastern kings loot Sodom, carrying off Abram's nephew Lot and all he owns in the process. Abram gathers his own small army, along with three Amorite allies, and gives chase. They catch the enemy in the northern reaches of Canaan, defeat them, and recapture all the plunder, including Lot.
Chapter Summary:
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.
Chapter Context:
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.
Book Summary:
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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