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Bible Commentaries

Lange's Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical
Genesis 14

 

 

Verses 1-24

THIRD SECTION

Abram and his War with the Heathen robber-bands for the rescue of Lot. The victorious Champion of Faith and his greeting to Melchizedec, the prince of peace. His conduct towards the King of Sodom, and his associates in the War

Genesis 14:1-24

1And it came to pass in the days[FN1] of Amraphel [Gesenius: it seems to be Sanscrit Amrapâ Lamentations, keeper of the gods; Maurer: perhaps, robbers; Fürst: = Arphaxad] king of Shinar [region of Babylon], Arioch[FN2] [Gesenius, after Bohlen, Sanscrit Arjaka, venerated; Fürst: the Arian, embracing Persian, Median, and Assyrian] king of Ellasar,[FN3] [Symmachus and Vulgate: Pontus; Gesenius: probably the region between Babylon and Elymais], Chedorlaomer[FN4] [Maurer: band of the sheaf; Fürst: probably from the ancient Persian] king of Elam [Elymais], and Tidal [Gesenius: fear, veneration] king of nations [Clericus: Galilean heathen]; 2That these made war with Bera [Gesenius = בֶּן־רַע] king of Sodom, and with Birsha [Gesenius = בֶּן־רֶשַׁע] king of Gomorrah, Shinab [Gesenius: father’s tooth] king of Admah [Fürst: fruit region, city in the district of Sodom, farm-city], and Shemeber [Gesenius: soaring aloft; glory of the eagle?] king of Zeboiim [Gesenius: place of hyenas] and the king of Bela [devoured, destroyed], which is Zoar [the small]. 3All these were joined together in the vale of Siddim [Aquila? valley of fields; Gesenius: depressed land, Wady; Fürst: plain], which is [now] the salt sea4[sea of asphalt, Dead sea]. Twelve years they served Chedorlaomer [as vassals], and in the thirteenth year they rebelled 5 And in the fourteenth year came Chedorlaomer, and the kings that were with him, and smote the Rephaims [giants; Ewald: long-drawn, tall] in Ashteroth Karnaim [horned Astarte; from Astarte-worship, city in Batanæa, Deuteronomy 1:4; Joshua 13:12], and the Zuzims [Susäer; Gesenius: from the fertility of the country; Septuagint and others: ἔθνη ἴσχυρά] in Ham [treasures; probably an Ammonite region], and the Emims [terrors; Emäer, originally in the land of Moab] in Shaveh [plain] Kiriathaim [twin cities in the tribe of Reuben, Numbers 32:37; later in Moab, Jeremiah 48:1]. 6And the Horites [dwellers in caves] in their Mount Seir [rugged; Gesenius: wooded; Fürst: hairy], unto El-[oak, terebinth] Paran [probably, cave-region], which is by the wilderness 7 And they returned, and came to En-mishpat [well of Judgment], which is Kadesh [sanctuary], and smote all the country [fields] of the Amalekites [between Palestine, Idumea, and Egypt], and also the Amorites [mountaineers?] that dwelt in Hazezon-tamar [palm-pruning, a city in the wilderness of Judea; later, Engedi, fountain of the kid]. 8And there went out the king of Sodom, and the king of Gomorrah, and the king of Admah, and the king of Zeboiim, and the king of Bela (the same is Zoar;) and they joined battle with them in the vale of Siddim; 9With Chedorlaomer the king of Elam, and with Tidal king of nations, and Amraphel king of Shinar, and Arioch king of Ellasar; [which] four kings with five 10 And the vale of Siddim was full of slime-pits [pits upon pits]; and the kings of Sodom and Gomorrah fled, and fell there [the warriors]; and they that remained fled to the 11 mountain. And they [the victors] took all the goods of Sodom and Gomorrah, and all their victuals, and went their way 12 And they took Lot, Abram’s brother’s Song of Solomon, who [for he] dwelt in Sodom, and his goods, and departed.

13And there came one that had escaped [fugitives], and told Abram the Hebrew [immigrant]; for he [who] dwelt in the plain [oak-grove] of Mamre [richness, strength] the Amorite, brother of Eschol [vine-branch], and brother of Aner [i.e. נַעַר, ἀνήρ?]: and these were confederate with Abram 14 And when Abram heard that his brother was taken captive, he armed [led out to war] his trained servants [initiated, tried], born in his own house, three hundred and eighteen, and pursued them unto Daniel 15And he divided himself against them, he and his servants, by night, and smote them, and pursued them unto Hobah [hiding-place], which is on the left hand [northerly] of Damascus [restless activity]. 16And he brought back all the goods, and also brought again his brother Lot, and his goods, and the women also, and the people.

17And the king of Sodom went out to meet him (after his return from the slaughter of Chedorlaomer, and of the kings that were with him [confederates]), at the valley of 18 Shaveh [the plain northward of Jerusalem, 2 Samuel 18:18], which is the king’s dale. And [But] Melchizedec [king of righteousness] king of Salem [schalem = שָׁלוֹם] brought forth bread and wine: and he was the priest of the most high God [of El-Eljon]. 19And he blessed him, and said, Blessed be Abram of the most high God, possessor of heaven and earth: 20And blessed be the most high God, which hath delivered thine enemies into thy hand. And he [septuagint: ’Αβράμ; compare Hebrews 7:4] gave him tithes of all 21 And the king of Sodom said unto Abram, Give me the persons [souls], and take [retain] the goods to thyself 22 And Abram said to the king of Sodom, I have lifted up my hand unto the Lord, the most high God, the possessor of heaven and earth, That I [the form of an oath: if I] will not take from a thread even to a shoe-latchet [the least], and 23 that I will not take anything that is thine, lest thou shouldest say, I have made Abram rich: 24Save only that which the young men have eaten, and the portion of the men which went with me, Aner, Eschol, and Mamre: let them take their portion.

GENERAL REMARKS

1. The Modern Criticism.—Knobel (p143) assigns the Section (with Genesis 15) to the Jehovistic enlargement, since the Elohistic author narrates the founding of the theocratic covenant elsewhere ( Genesis 17). We must carefully distinguish, in a theological point of view, between the permanent covenant of faith ( Genesis 15) and the special and temporary covenant of circumcision[FN5] ( Genesis 17), which rests upon it (see Romans 4). The idea that the character of Abram and the narrative of Melchizedec are drawn traditionally from interested motives of the Hebrews, is without foundation.[FN6]

2. For special literature upon Genesis 14see Knobel, p134.

3. The War-making Powers.—According to Knobel, who here agrees with Joseph, Antiq. i9, the Assyrian must be viewed as the ruling power, which leads all the individual attacking kings, as subject princes or monarchs; for there is no trace of evidence in history, that the elsewhere unimportant Elymais (Susiane) has ever exercised a sort of world-dominion. Josephus calls the Assyrian the leading power, Syncellus the Syrian, which in this case is just equivalent; but according to Ktesias and others, the Assyrians were the first to establish a world-dominion (see p142, ff.). Keil, on the other hand, holds that the kingdom of Amraphel of Shinar which Nimrod founded, had now sunken to a mere dominion over Shinar, and that Elam now exercised the hegemony in inner Asia. The beginning of the Assyrian power falls in a later period, and Berosus speaks of an earlier Median dominion in Babylon, which reached down to the times of the patriarchs. (He refers to Niebuhr’s “History of Assyria,” p271). There is clearly a middle view. At the date, Genesis 14:1, Amraphel, king of Shinar, stands at the head of the alliance of Eastern princes; but the war was waged especially in the interest of Chedorlaomer of Elam. Amraphel appears as the nominal leader; Chedorlaomer the victorious champion of an Eastern kingdom, involved to some extent in decay. The Palestinian kings, or kings of Siddim, opposed to them, are described as previously vassals of Chedorlaomer, because the narrative here treats of the history of Siddim, pre-eminently of the history of Sodom and Lot; but this does not exclude the supposition, that the princes or tribes named in Genesis 14:5-6, were also at least partly dependents of Chedorlaomer. For in order to subject the lower Jordan valley, he must have somewhere forced a passage for himself into the land. Keil: “It seems significant that at that time the Asiatic world-power had advanced to Canaan, and brought the valley of the Jordan into subjection, with the purpose, doubtless, to hold, with the valley of the Jordan, the way to Egypt. We have, in this history, an example of the later pressure of the world-power against the kingdom of God established in Canaan; and the significance of these events with reference to the historical salvation, lies in the fact, that the kings of the Jordan valley and surrounding region are subject to the world-power. Abram, on the contrary, with his home-born servants, slays the victor and takes away his spoil—a prophetic sign, that in its contests with the world-power, the seed of Abram shall not only not be brought into subjection, but be able to rescue those seeking its help.

4. Ancient Damascus, also, first appears here in the dim distance.

EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL

1. The Kings at War.—( Genesis 14:1-3). “The kings named here never appear again.” Keil.[FN7]Shinar and Elam (see Genesis 10). Ellasar, probably Artemita, which is called also Chalasar, lying in Southern Assyria. (Goiim[FN8]) Nations is here of special significance (see translation of the text, also upon Genesis 14:2; compare Joshua 10:3; Joshua 10:5; Joshua 10:23).—All these; namely, the last-named five kings.—In the vale of Siddim[FN9] (see the text). “The five named cities described ( Wisdom of Solomon 10:6) as a πεντάπολις, appear to have formed a confederacy. The four first (connected together; also Genesis 10:19) perished afterwards ( Deuteronomy 29:22; comp. Hosea 11:8). On the contrary, Bela, i.e, Zoar, was not overtaken in the ruin. The most important are Sodom and Gomorrah, which are elsewhere exclusively named, even here, Genesis 14:10-11.” Knobel. There is no ground for his conjecture that they were not Canaanites, drawn from a misunderstanding of Genesis 12:12, that this region did not belong to the land of Canaan. Keil: “That there were five kings of the five cities, is in accordance with the custom of the Canaanites, among whom, still later, every city had its king.”[FN10]

2. The War ( Genesis 14:4-12). a. Its cause( Genesis 14:4). b. The course of the Eastern Kings in their March.—“They came, doubtless, in the usual way, through the region of the Euphrates to Syria (Strabo, xvi.); from here, as they afterwards directed their return march to this region, advancing southwards, they attacked those who had revolted; at first, namely, the Rephaim in Bashan, i.e. the northerly part of the country, east of the Jordan ( Numbers 32:39), then the Zuzims, dwelling farther to the south, and afterwards the still more southern Emims.” Knobel.—The Rephaim.—“A tribe of giants of great stature, spread throughout Peræa; also found westward from Jerusalem, upon Mount Ephraim, and in Philistia. They were gradually exterminated through the Amorites, Ammonites, Moabites, and Israelites.” Keil holds that they were of Semitic origin (p140). Ashteroth Karnaim, or simply Ashteroth, a chief city of Bashan, the residence of Og, the king ( Deuteronomy 1:4). The details may be found in Keil and Knobel.[FN11]Zuzims (an Ammonitish province), probably the same with Zamsummims ( Deuteronomy 2:20.)—Ham. Identified ( Deuteronomy 3:11) with Rabbah of the Ammonites (ruins of Ammon).—Emims, terrors. The older inhabitants of the country of Moab, like the Zuzims, included with the Rephaim.—Kirjathaim. Incorrectly located by Eusebius and Jerome; the ruins el Teym, or el Tueme.—The Horites. The original inhabitants of the country of the Edomites. They drove the Horites to Elath, upon the east side of the wilderness of Paran. The mount Seir between the Red and Dead seas.[FN12]

Genesis 14:8. They now turned from the south to the north (see Keil, p141). The victory of the Amalekites was gained in what was later the southern territory of the Hebrews. Keil and Hengstenberg hold that it is not the Amalekites themselves, but the inhabitants of the land which later belonged to the Amalekites. It says, indeed, the country of the Amalekites,[FN13] and ( Genesis 36:12; Genesis 36:16) Amalek descended from Esau. But then we should expect some account of that original people. And the Amalekitish descendants of Esau may have mingled with the earlier constituent portions of the people, as the Ishmaelites with the earlier inhabitants of Arabia. Lastly, even the Amorites, upon the west side of the Dead Sea, were involved in the slaughter. Knobel denies that Hazezon-tamar can be identified with Engedi, for which, however, 2 Chronicles 20:2, bears its testimony. A rapid march made it possible that these tribes should be attacked and overcome one by one. It is not said that they had all been tributary. Meanwhile, however, the five kings in the vale of Siddim had time to arm themselves. c. The Battle in the vale of Siddim. The five feeble kings of the pentapolis could not resist the four mightier kings.—And they fell there. The valley, we are told, was full of pits of bitumen, or asphalt. This account is confirmed by the mass of asphalt in the Dead Sea. For these masses of asphalt, see the condensed notices in Knobel, p136.[FN14] This remark, however, does not explain why the five kings were defeated, but why they found the flight through that region so destructive. They fell here, partly hindered by the pits, partly plunging into them; only a few escaped into the mountains of Moab. The obvious sense appears to be, that the kings of Sodom and Gomorrah were themselves slain. Knobel thinks the troops or forces are intended, and holds it as certain that the king of Sodom escaped ( Genesis 14:17). But it may be his successor in the government who is here mentioned. Whatever of spoil, in goods or men; was found by the conquerors in the city, was taken away; and, what is the main thing in the narrative, Lot with them. It is most significant: for he dwelt in Sodom.[FN15]

3. Abram’s March and Victory ( Genesis 14:13-16).—One that had escaped. The article marks the race or lineage. A fugitive who sought Abram in Hebron, must doubtless have stood in close relations with Lot.—Abram the Hebrew, the immigrant.[FN16] Abram, as Lot also, was viewed by the escaped, who was born in the land, as an immigrant, and because Lot the Hebrew was a captive, he sought Abram the Hebrew. The Amorite Mamre, and his two brothers, were named as confederates with Abram, because they assisted him now in the war ( Genesis 14:24). Their confederation shows his overwhelming influence.—Abram heard that his brother was a captive. The expression is significant. Instantly he arms his trained,[FN17] i.e, his hired servants, and practised in the use of arms; especially those born in his own house. “That the patriarchs carried weapons is clear from chs. Genesis 34:25; Genesis 49:5.” Knobel.—Unto Dan. Keil shows that the Dan alluded to cannot be the (Laish) Dan ( Judges 18:29) situated in the midst of the sources of the Jordan, since it does not lie upon either of the ways leading from the valley of the Jordan to Damascus; but Dan in Gilead ( Deuteronomy 34:1; 2 Samuel 24:6). In Daniel, Abram divides his little army into bands, and falls upon the enemy from different quarters by night, and pursues him unto Hobah, “probably preserved in the village Hoba, which Troilo found a quarter of a mile northerly from Damascus.” Keil. The Hebrews defined the quarters of the heavens with their faces to the East; hence the left hand is northward. Victorious, he brought back the whole spoil of the enemy, both in men and goods.—And also Lot his brother.

4. Abram’s Triumphant Return ( Genesis 14:17-24). The kings who welcome him.—At the valley of Shaveh, i.e. the (later) king’s dale. The valley probably takes its name from this event. Absalom erected his pillar here, 2 Samuel 18:18 (afterwards remodelled in the Greek style). According to Josephus, Antiq. vii10, 3, it lay about two stadia from Jerusalem. Melchizedec went northwards to meet him, thus in the upper valley of the Kidron (see Dictionaries). Melchizedec appears to have anticipated the king of Sodom; at all events he has the precedence. Under his royal city, Salem, we must understand Jerusalem ( Psalm 76:3), and not the distant Salim in whose vicinity John baptized ( John 3:23). Comp. Keil, p143. In favor of Jerusalem (יְרוּי = יְרוּ, founding, or יְרוּשׁ, possession; the name יְרוּשָׁלֵם is either the founding or the possession of peace; the first is preferable,) are Josephus: Antiq. i10, 2; the Targums, Aben Ezra, Kimchi, etc, Knobel, Delitzsch, and Keil; Krahmer, Ewald: “History of Israel, ii. p410,” are in favor of the Salim of Jerome. That at the time of Jerome, the palace of Melchizedec was usually pointed out in the ruins of Salumias, lying about eight Roman miles from Scythopolis, of which Robinson and Smith found no trace, proves nothing. Salumias lay too far to the north, for the statement in the narrative. Melchizedec (king of righteousness—the language of the Canaanites was Hebraic) is described as a priest of El Eljon. According to Sanchûniaton (Eusebius: Prœp. i10), the Phœnicians called God ’Ελιοῦν, and Hanno the Carthaginian, in Plautus Pœnulus, names the gods and goddesses Elonim or Elonoth; but the term here used is different, and its signification is monotheistic, “not God as the highest among many, but in a monotheistic sense, the one most high God.” (Delitzsch). He brings from his city bread and wine to refresh Abram and his followers. “The papists explain it with reference to the sacrifice of the mass, but the reference is fatal to their own case, since Melchizedec gave the wine also. He brought forth, not he brought before God.” Schröder. Melchizedec’s prayer for prosperity and blessing is translated by Delitzsch rhythmically as a double blessing.[FN18] The term קֹנֵה denotes the ruler, but may also be used to denote the creator and possessor.—And he gave him tithes. As Melchizedec was a priest of the true God, the gift of the tithe of the spoil was a sanctification of the war and victory, as in the later history of Israel the tithe belonged to the priest ( Leviticus 27:30), and the payment of the gift of consecration, out of the spoils of war, to the priestly tribe, was secured by law ( Numbers 31:28 ff.; 2 Samuel 8:11; 1 Chronicles 26:27). Compare Hebrews 7:4.—The king of Sodom does not speak in a formal, solemn way, but with obvious prudence, encouraged by the generosity of Abram, to whom, by the laws of war, the captives belonged as slaves.—Give me the persons (souls). Then follows the noble declaration of Abram, which is both a recognition of the God of Melchizedec, or of the community of faith, between Abram and Melchizedec, since it joins together the names Jehovah and El Eljon, and at the same time a noble expression of his unselfishness. He would not retain anything from a thread to a shoe-latchet, i.e, not the least thing, so that the king of Sodom could never say, I have made Abram rich. As he declares his intimate communion with Melchizedec, and introduces it into the very forms of expression of his religion, so he utterly refuses any community of goods with theking of Sodom. He reserves only what his servants had already consumed in the necessities of war, and that part of the spoil which fell to his three confederates, Aner, Eschol, and Mamre ( Numbers 31:26; 1 Samuel 30:26).

DOCTRINAL AND ETHICAL

1. The first well-defined appearance of war in its different aspects. A war of the world against the world—the kings—the alliances—the conquests—the rulers and their revolted vassals—the prominent leader (Chedorlaomer)—the attack—the victory and defeat—the plunder, and service of captives—of the hard destiny of those who dwelt quietly in the land (Lot)—of the wide-spread terror, and the rebuke of that terror, before the true heroism with which the true hero of faith opposes a defensive and necessary war, to the attacks of the confident and haughty prince. The children of God find themselves unexpectedly involved in the wars of the world, as the history of Abram, Lot, and Melchizedec proves. The destructive nature of war, so far as it is the fruit of human passions, and the providential overruling of it unto salvation.

2. The fearful overthrow of the Sodomite pentapolis in the vale of Siddim, and the wonderful rescue by Abram the man of faith, wrought no repentance in the people of that valley, although they were already weakened and enervated by their luxury, nor even any gratitude towards Lot, for whose sake they were rescued ( Genesis 19:9). Hence the lost battle, and the terrors of war in the vale of Siddim, became a portent and sign of their later overthrow.

3. In the misfortunes which came upon him, Lot must suffer the retribution for his misdeeds towards Abram. But Abram rewards his ingratitude with self-sacrificing magnanimity.

4. The terrors of war in its desolating and paralyzing power. How it may be interrupted, and is usually checked and brought to an end, through the heroic faith and courage of some single hero, or it may be, band of heroes.

5. Abram, the man of peace of the previous chapter, the yielding child of peace, is instantly changed into a lion when the report comes to him, that Lot, his brother, is a captive. One citizen of the kingdom of God is of so great importance in his esteem, that he will attack a whole victorious army with his little band, and venture his own life, and the lives of his servants upon the issue. Thus enter in opposition to the gloomy heroism of the earth in Chedorlaomer and his followers, the light and cheerful heroism of heaven, to the war for oppression and bondage in its dark form, the light form and aspect of the war of salvation and liberty, to the power of godlessness, inhumanity, and desperation, in union with demoniac powers, the power of faith, and love, and hope, in covenant with Jehovah.

6. It did not enter the thought of Abram, that the princes against whom he went out to war were for the most part descendants of Shem, and indeed the people of his former home, and that those whom he rescued, and with whom he connects himself, are the descendants of Ham. The motive for the war was to save Lot,[FN19] and the alliance for the right, against the alliance for wrong, was decisive for him. The love to his brother, the Hebrew, has special power. Brotherly love. Every Hebrew, in the best and highest sense, must help others as his brethren. But in “the Hebrew” here the important thing Isaiah, that he “comes from across the river,” not as Delitzsch holds, that he is descended from Heber.

7. Abram has not only, in his faith, a heroism and self-sacrifice which overcomes the world, he has also the heroic strength and spirit. His servants are men trained to arms. He knew that, in an evil world, one needs defence and weapons, and must be armed. In his war with the world, he does not despise an honorable alliance with those who, in a religious point of view, may have different ways of thinking from himself. Indeed, he acts throughout in the true hero-spirit. The rapid, instantaneous onset, the well-ordered and irresistible charge, the outmarching and flanking of the enemy, the falling upon him by night, the fierce pursuit to the very utmost, to the completed result, these are the original, fundamental laws of all intelligent warfare. And it does not admit of question, that Cromwell learned these fundamental principles of warfare from Abram and other Old Testament heroes, and it is probable that Napoleon, in these, as in many other points, was an imitator of Cromwell; as it is certain that Gneisenau and Blücher have learned from the method of Napoleon. In the spirit of prayer Cromwell, the invincible, was greatly in advance of him (Napoleon); the heroes of the times when freedom triumphs place victoriously the joyful longing for deliverance of the people over against the demoniac lust of conquest of the murderers of the people.

8. Abram is assured of the good-will and help of Jehovah through the Spirit of God inspiring him with believing and sacrificing courage; and therefore joins his might, in the feeling of his individual weakness, with omnipotence, and makes himself and his forces, to whom he communicates his own spirit, invincible against the hosts of the enemy, whose power, as demoniac and magical, cannot stand before the terrors of God, but passes at once from haughty confidence to trembling and despair. The germ-like oriental world-power surges and breaks itself upon the heroic heart of the father of the faithful, as all the succeeding forms of the world-power, must break into pieces upon the believing power of the kingdom of God; and for this reason, because, in the very centre of the world’s history, all the powers of the world and of hell broke and went to pieces against the divine stability of the heart of Christ.

9. In warfare, as in all the forms of civilization and life, in political government, in poetry, the Hebrew principle is dynamic, living, while the principle of the world, especially of the Greek and Romish civilization, is lifeless, formal, or technical. Here the living fountain of original, direct divine inspiration is prominent, while the ordinary cosmical forming principles are throughout kept in the back ground. But the dynamic principle is also the principle of regeneration for the technical and artistic system—even for science itself. Thus, in our history also, the technical is sufficiently apparent.[FN20] “It is remarkable, moreover, that corresponding to this original mode of warfare, the almost exclusive order of battle in later times, is the division of the army into three parts, that the enemy may be attacked in the centre and upon both flanks at the same time ( Judges 7:16; 1 Samuel 11:11; 1 Maccabees 5:33)” Schröder.

10. Melchizedec as priest and king in one person, without genealogy in his priesthood, which he executed for his people by virtue of a sovereign individual call, is a type of the Messiah, and is represented as such, Psalm 110:4, but especially in the Epistle to the Hebrews ( Genesis 5:6; Genesis 7:17). From the circumstance that Melchizedec was not a worshipper of the Canaanitish Baal, but was a monotheist, or as Knobel thinks, a worshipper of the Semitic principal deity, El, Knobel concludes that he belonged to the Semitic tribe, Lud, to which also the tribes at war belonged. The supposition of a Semitic chief deity is in an erroneous manner transferred from the relations of a later time, to the times of the primitive religion. It is the characteristic of the primitive religion, that in it throughout Heathenism and Monotheism cleave together and go asunder. Melchizedec might, therefore, well belong to the Hamitic race.[FN21] He is not a Christ of the heavenly world, as perhaps the Gnostics would make him, nor Shem, nor Enoch, as the Rabbins and the Church fathers have thought; he is a type of Christ, because he is king and priest at the same time, because his priesthood rests upon his individual personality (ἀπάτωρ), etc, Hebrews 7:3), and because Abram, the ancestor of the Levitical priesthood, gave tithes to him. He is not “perhaps the last witness and confessor of the primitive revelation out of the night of heathenism,” for that is the splendor of an evening sky which reaches through all time; but he is the last representative of the period of the primitive religion, and therefore he blesses Abram in a similar sense to that in which the Baptist must baptize Christ the Lord, in Jordan. Hebrews, in his way, stands as the last of the first world-period; Abram is one who belongs to the future,[FN22] and therefore he blesses Abram, and Abram does him homage. That he is Melchizedec, is in the first place significant (“it may be concluded from Joshua 10:1; Joshua 10:3, where a later king of Jerusalem, Adoni-Zedek, i.e, lord of righteousness, is mentioned, that this was a standing name of the old kings of Salem.” Keil); then, the name of his residence, Salem; further, that he is priest and king at the same time (“in the old Phœnician custom.” Delitzsch); finally, that he represents no legal and genealogical priesthood, but shines singly and alone as a clear, bright star, in the night of Canaan: all these constitute him a mysterious, renowned type of Christ (see Delitzsch, p363; Keil, p144; Auberlen upon “Melchizedec,” in the Studien und Kritiken, 1857, p153).[FN23] As he is the priest of El Eljon, that can only mean, that he intercedes for his people before the most high God with prayer and sacrifice, that he sought either to lead back the Jebusites at Salem to a living monotheism, or to preserve them in it.

11. It is in the highest degree significant that Abram honors Melchizedec with the tithes,[FN24] and that he introduces El Eljon, in the oath, or the religious expression of it, while he will not take from the king of Sodom anything from a thread to a shoelatchet. (Knobel: “Abraham is perhaps sensitive,” etc.) This is the position of the religion of faith to the world both in its godly and ungodly aspects, the whole connection and concern of faith in the forms of its higher culture, the entire strength of its repelling attitude and tendency towards its ungodly nature.

12. “If it is certain that the repetition by Melchizedec of the familiar title of God which he uses was intended, then the name Jehovah, which Abram adds to this title, and which, indeed, he places in the greatest prominence, is not without a purpose. It must serve the purpose to announce that Abram, in the common foundation on which they stand, has still more than Melchizedec. Melchizedec, in the most high God, recognizes the Lord of heaven and earth, but not Jehovah.” Hengstenberg. This agrees with the idea that Jehovah is the God of the covenant. In the measure of this faith, a new period of religion begins with Abram. God, as the Most High,[FN25] does not designate the Highest in distinction from lower gods, but in his exaltation above all the symbols of his being, which the heathen began to reverence as gods; thus it stands in opposition to polytheism, and also to pantheism and dualism, the true expression of the primitive religion. Hofmann finds here again an intimation of the ascension of God from the earth before the flood. We have alluded to this in the previous part of this work.

13. The oath of Abram is the first example of an oath with the uplifted hand, in solemn appeal to God. But Abram swears in his own method, and at the same time in the devout, customary mode of Melchizedec. For other examples, see chaps. Genesis 21:23; Genesis 26:28, etc.

14. In the elevated character of Abram, it is worthy of particular notice and praise, that with his entire renunciation of any advantage to himself, he preserves the rights of his confederates, Mamre, etc, according to both usage and equity.

15. It is remarkable, that this one chapter shows us how the father of believers enters into these varied forms of life, of war, of union with those who differed from himself in their modes of thought, of tithes, and of the oath, as his intercourse with the world demanded. He uses the oath with the king of Sodom, a man of the world, who appears to have doubted his unselfishness and magnanimity.

16. We have here, also, the first stratagem, the first celebration of victory, and the first priest.

17. The first conflict of the hosts of faith with the first appearance of the world-power. The historical example of the Maccabees, Waldenses, etc.

HOMILETICAL AND PRACTICAL

See the Doctrinal and Ethical portions.—Texts for sermons on war, victory, deliverances, public calls, and demands to duty, and upon the oath, etc. War in a threefold form: 1. War of violence; 2. war of a faint-hearted defence; 3. the rescuing war of divine inspiration.—Alliances in a threefold form: 1. Alliance for robbery; 2. the faint-hearted alliance for defence; 3. alliance for life and death.—Abram as a warlike prince.—Love of our brother as a motive in war.—Abram’s war and victory.—Celebration of Abram’s victory.—Melchizedec as a type of Christ.—Christ also does not enter into worldly wars, but he refreshes pious heroes with bread and wine.—Bread and wine the refreshment of the king of peace, for those who contend for God.—To every one his own, particularly to faithful confederates.

Starke: This the first war which the Scripture commemorates, and its cause was the lust of dominion. (Let it be granted that Chedorlaomer had subjugated the cities mentioned in Genesis 14:2, in an unrighteous way, still they were in the wrong, since they began to rebel, and in this way would regain their freedom,[FN26] etc.—How can Abram help these rebels?)—God used the four kings as rods to punish others. Wurtemb. Bible: War and rebellion are evils above all other evils; indeed, a condensed epitome, as it were, of all calamities and sorrows.—Osiander: If the saints dwell with the godless, they must often be brought down and punished with them.—(Query: Whether Abram, with a good conscience, could enter into a covenant with the Canaanites? He might make different excuses; e.g, it is not proven that they were heathen; finally, he could say correctly, one must discern and distinguish the times.—Citation of Jewish fables: “In Abram’s contest, all the dust (every staff?) became swords, and every straw an arrow.”) Genesis 14:15. An instance of stratagem, Joshua 8:2; Judges 20:29; 1 Samuel 15:5.—Cramer: God remembers even the poor captive.—Covenants, even with persons not of our religion and faith, if made in a correct way, and with a right purpose, are not wrong; still, we must not rely upon them ( Deuteronomy 20:1).—Legitimate war.—Against rash undertakings.—Osiander: No external power, but faith in God, gives the victory.

Genesis 14:18. Here, for the first time, a priest is spoken of.—Cramer: Honor is the reward of virtue.—The tithes of Abram.—Osiander: A Christian must even make his possessions of service to the officers of the Church.—Kings and princes, if God grants them victory over their enemies, must not only give him public thanks, but present to him of the spoil they have taken.—Teachers and princes must proffer assistance to each other, and exchange temporal goods for spiritual ( 1 Corinthians 9:11.—Finally, upon the legitimate oath; renunciation of his own rights, the competency, the equitable wages or rewards of war.

Lisco: Abram’s magnanimity overlooks all the unbecoming deportment of Lot towards him; he ventures his life for him.—The central point in this narrative is the grace of God towards his chosen, through which he places him in a condition to wage victorious war with kings, and after the assured victory, the same grace brings kings to meet him, the one in a thoughtful recognition, the other fawns in subjection and begs.—Abram’s freedom from selfishness.—Calwer, Handbuch: The humble man of faith, a victorious warrior and hero.—The strength of the Lord is mighty in the weak.—Schröder: No greeting of blessing, no word of God falls from the lips of this king of Sodom; he is only thinking of the earthly.—(Calvin): It is worthy of praise, that he is thankful to men if he is not ungrateful to God. It is possible, of course, that this poor Prayer of Manasseh, stript of his goods, through a servile, hypocritical pretence of modesty, might obtain from Abram, at least, the captives and the free city for himself. (Calvin saw, correctly, that Abram, as possessor of the people of Sodom, and the conqueror of the rulers of Sodom, won for himself essentially a legitimate dominion over Sodom, over which the king of Sodom would pass as lightly as possible).—Abram bows himself before Melchizedec, but before the king of Sodom he lifts his hand.—Thus Abram recognizes and acknowledges Melchizedec, while he penetrates to its depth the nature of the king of Sodom. As he is clearly conscious of his own high position, he condescends to the lower standpoint of the Sodomites (out of which condescension the oath which he swears proceeds), in order thereby to recognize and own the higher religious standpoint of Melchizedec. The oath an act of worship. He testifies, thereby, that he had not undertaken the war from any lust of gain, and cuts off the roots of all the solicitation to covetousness (even all suspicion of the same) through the name of God.—Passavant: Psalm 91; Romans 8:31.—Covenants for mutual defence against such expeditions for plunder and life were necessary, and God permitted his servants among the Canaanites, to use such means of help and defence.—There is something greater than bread and wine, mightier than victory and the power of the victor, stronger than death, and it overcomes, indeed, it inherits the world. What is it? Every child of Abram can tell.—Taube: We see in Abram’s victory and blessing, the victory and blessing of every one who is a soldier for God.—The sacred history transplants us at once into the midst of the turmoil of worldly affairs; from the quiet, peaceful tents of Abram, we are transferred to the tumults of war of heathen nations.—Heuser: The meeting of Melchizedec, the royal priest, with Abram: a. The historical event itself; b. the typical elements in it; c. their realization; d. the importance of these truths.

[This history must be placed in its New Testament light ( Hebrews 7) if we would see its meaning and importance.—A. G.]


Footnotes:

FN#1 - Genesis 14:1.—Lange renders this first clause as independent. “And it came to pass after days, or, in the lapse of days.”—A. G.]

FN#2 - Genesis 14:1.—Wordsworth and Murphy, lionine, or lion-like.—A. G.]

FN#3 - Genesis 14:1.—“Some identify it with Telassar; others more probably regard it as Larsa, now Simkarah, about fifteen miles southeast of Warka. Rawlinson. Wordsworth, p69.—A. G.]

FN#4 - Genesis 14:1—“Rawlinson compares it with Kudur-Mapula, or Maluk, whose name is found on the bricks of Chaldea, and whose title is Apda Martu, Ravager of the West.”—Murphy, p278.—A. G.]

FN#5 - Temporary, however, only as to its external form, and the sign or seal of the covenant. The covenant itself Is one and permanent.—A. G.]

FN#6 - The connection of this chapter with what precedes and follows is close and natural. It shows that Lot’s choice, while apparently wise, was attended with bitter fruits; it lays the ground, in Abram’s conduct, for the promise and transactions of the 15 th chapter. There would be a serious break in the history were this wanting.—A. G.]

FN#7 - Chedorlaomer. Upon the bricks recently found in Chaldea there occurs the name of a king—Kudurmapula—which Rawlinson thinks may be the same, especially since he is further distinguished as the Ravager of the West. Jacobus, p247.—A. G.]

FN#8 - Delitzsch suggests perhaps an earlier name for “Galilee of the Gentiles.” Comp. Joshua 12:23; Judges 4:2; and Isaiah 8:23.—A. G.]

FN#9 - Which is the Salt sea, i.e, into which this valley was changed in the overthrow of the cities ( Genesis 19:24). Keil, p139.—A. G.]

FN#10 - The five kings belonged probably to the family of Ham, which had pushed its way northward, but had been here checked and held under the sway of the Shemitic king for twelve years, but had now revolted. Wordsworth, p69.—A. G.]

FN#11 - Ritter finds it in the Tell Ashareh. J. G. Wetstein identifies it with Bosra, for which he urges the central position of this city in Peræa, and the similarity of the names Bostra and בִּעֶשְׁתְּרָה. “Porter suggests ’Afineh, eight miles from Bosra, as the Samaritan version, has ’Aphinet for ’Ashtaroth.”—A. G.]

FN#12 - El Param, terebinth, or rather wood of Paran, is without doubt the later Elath, at the head of the Ailanitic gulf; the present Akaba. Keil, p141.—A. G.]

FN#13 - Kadesh, probably at Ain-el Waibeh; though Keil and Wordsworth favor the location at Ain Kades, in the east of the highest part of Jebel Halal, about five hours E.S.E. from Morlâkhi.—A. G.]

FN#14 - Also Robinson’s “Researches,” vol. ii. pp228–230.—A. G.]

FN#15 - The passage is so constructed in the Hebrew as to bring out this significance. And they took Lot, and his goods, Abram’s brother’s Song of Solomon, and departed; and (for) he was dwelling in Sodom.—A. G.]

FN#16 - The one from the other side, who has come across the river. But Murphy urges in favor of taking Hebrew as a patronymic; “that every other tribe in the country had originally migrated across the Euphrates, and that the word here distinguishes Abram as the Hebrew, just as his confederate, Mamre, is distinguished as the Amorite.”—A. G.]

FN#17 - These tried, proved, thus trained servants, were born in his house, Proverbs 22:6. “Abram had trained them in spiritual things in the service of God, as well as in fidelity to himself; see chap. Genesis 18:19, and Genesis 24:12-49.” Wordsworth, p71.—A. G.]

FN#18 -

“Gebenedeit sei Abram Gott, dem Allerhabenen,

Dem Erschaffer Himmels und der Erde

Und gebenedeit sei Gott, der Allerhabene

Der geliefert deine Dränger in deine Hand.”

[Keil also refers to the poetical forms צָרֶיךָ and מִגֵּן.—A. G.]

FN#19 - “But his march and victory have another and a higher reference in the object of the history. Even here it is not to glorify Abram, but rather the wonderful providence of God over his chosen, through which all here enters in immediate connection with the divine plan. Abram is the designated possessor of the land; it is his concern, therefore, to guard the land from all assaults, and to avenge its injuries; it is the part of God, who has designated him to this end, to give him the victory.” Kurtz: “History of the Old Covenant,” p171.—A. G.]

[His title to the land involves him in the war. He must defend that which has been given to him. “He is no sooner confirmed in his title, than the land is invaded by a confederacy of hostile kings. Thus the kingdom of God is no sooner set up anywhere, than there is a rallying of the world kingdoms against it.” Jacobus, p247.—A. G.]

FN#20 - “The things of chief importance here are Abram’s faith and the help of God; but we should not overlook, that his force may have reached a thousand men, including his confederates, and further, the effect of the security of the hostile forces, the sudden terror, the darkness of the night, their confusion among themselves, and the strategic skill of Abram.” Kurtz, p170.—A. G.]

FN#21 - The name, however, is Semitic. It is probable that he was a Semitic chieftain, having his royal seat at Jerusalem. The locality, as everything else in connection with this person, so briefly referred to here, and then dismissed, is important. This is clear from the use which is made of this history in the Epistle to the Hebrews. He was a personal type of Christ: 1. As he was both priest and king; 2. as king of righteousness and peace; 3. as he was constructively, so far as the history goes, without father and without mother; 4. as he held his priesthood probably by a special divine warrant. He acts as a priest: 1. In bringing the bread and wine, here probably connected with a sacrifice and sacramental, refreshing this wearied warrior of the faith, and welcoming him to the communion of saints; 2. in blessing Abram—which is here the solemn, priestly benediction; 3. in receiving tithes from Abram—through which Abram recognizes his typical superiority—and in which the whole Levitical priesthood, yet in the loins of Abram, recognizes the superiority of that Priesthood of which he was the type. It thus becomes evident, as the Apostle shows, that the Levitical priesthood, and the whole Mosaic institution, were intermediate and temporary, and pointed to the higher Priest to come—who is both Priest and King, and who holds his priesthood not by descent, but by the express appointment and oath of God.—A. G.]

FN#22 - German, Ein Werdender.

FN#23 - See also Kurtz: “History of the Old Covenant,” pp173–176, whose remarks here are very suggestive, and Jacobus: “Notes,” pp256–260.—A. G.]

[“Melchizedec brought forth bread and wine as the priest of the most high God. There seems to be an intimation that this was a priestly Acts, and accordingly the crowning part of a sacred feast. It was probably connected with the offering of a sacrifice. This view of his acts is confirmed by the blessing which he pronounces as the priest of the most high God.” Murphy, p288, 289.—A. G.]

[Melchizedec stands as the personal type of Christ, and at the same time in his acts and relations here, seems to typify what Christ, as our Priest, is ever doing for his people.—A. G.]

FN#24 - “The bringing of the tithes was an actual recognition of the priestly dignity of Melchizedec. For, in general usage, the tenth is the sacred portion, which belongs to God, and to his representatives.” Baumgarten, p182; Bahr: Symbolik i. p179.—A. G.

[“Abram, the blessed of Jehovah, and the mediator of blessings for all the people, allows himself to be blessed by this royal priest, who stands beyond the line and circle of the promise. Abram, the ancestor of Israel, of Aaron, and Levi, of the people and the priesthood of the law, allows himself to be blessed by this royal priest, who shows no title through descent or the law. And not only so; Abram, in whom was the priestly race which should receive the tithes, gave to this royal priest the tithes of all the spoil. There Isaiah, therefore, an extra-legal, royal priesthood, and priestly kingdom, which this history typically prophesies, to whom even Abram and his seed should bow, to whom even the Levitical priesthood should render homage; for, just where Abram stands in incomparably the most striking typical character, there Melchizedec enters and towers above him. Melchizedec is the setting sun of the primitive Revelation, which sheds its last rays upon the patriarchs, from whom the true light of the world is to arise. The sun sets, that when the preparatory time of the patriarchs, the preparatory time of Israel, have passed away, it may rise again in Jesus Christ, the antitype.” Delitzsch.—A. G.]

FN#25 - “There is here no indistinct allusion to the creation of ‘heaven and earth’ mentioned in the opening of the book of God. This is a manifest identification of the God of Melchizedec with the one creator and upholder of all things.” Murphy, p289.—A. G.]

FN#26 - It is not said in the narrative that they were wrong; and it is by no means clear that they were. Rebellion may be right. It is Song of Solomon, if the government is unjust and oppressive, and there is good reason to believe that success will attend their efforts to shake off the yoke of bondage.—A. G.]

 


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Bibliography Information
Lange, Johann Peter. "Commentary on Genesis 14:4". "Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/lcc/genesis-14.html. 1857-84.

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Monday, December 9th, 2019
the Second Week of Advent
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