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Bible Commentaries

L. M. Grant's Commentary on the Bible
Genesis 14

 

 

Verses 1-24

THE WORLD'S CONFLICT

We read now for the first time in scripture of war among nations of the ungodly world. Abram has no part in this. It is recorded mainly because of Lot. Four kings war against five. 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 dogmas. 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, typically 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. 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.

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 hardly carry much in the way 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).

ABRAM FIGHTING THE GOOD FIGHT OF FAITH

A fugitive from the battle brought news to Abram, who is here called "the Hebrew" for the first time (v.13). The name is in contrast to one settled in the land, for it means "passenger," or one passing through, a good example for every child of God today. 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" (ch.15:16), and the Lord makes no issue of it.

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.

BLESSING FROM MELCHISEDEC

When the king of Sodom learned of Abram's victory, he was quick to go to meet and congratulate him for what Sodom was helpless to do (v.17). But. the Lord knew how to intervene first. He sent Melchisedec, king of Salem, priest of the Most High God, to refresh Abram with bread and wine. This is the only occasion in history of which we read of Melchisedec. Psalms 110:4 speaks of Christ being a Priest forever according to the order of Melchisedec. And this is quoted in Hebrews 5:10; Hebrews 6:20; then elaborated on in Hebrews 7:1-28.

This man is strikingly typical of the Lord Jesus, who has now, in resurrection and ascension, been "saluted of God a high priest forever after the order of Melchisedec" (Hebrews 6:20). Therefore, after a believer has gained a victory, his faith overcoming the world, the Lord Jesus, as High Priest, delights to refresh His servant with the reminder of His own great sacrifice, the bread speaking of His body given for us in suffering, the wine of His blood shed for us. In this way our hearts are drawn away from any mere pride in our own accomplishments, for His great work is infinitely greater than the greatest we could ever attain.

Melchisedec too pronounces a blessing upon Abram (v.19), just as the Lord Jesus pours His blessing on the church of God from heaven today. His hands were uplifted in blessing when He was taken up to glory after His resurrection, and this remains true during all this dispensation of the grace of God. The blessing is from "the Most High God, Possessor of heaven and earth," a title of special significance as to the millennium.

God's portion was more blessed than Abram's, for it was He who gave Abram the victory, as Meichisedec reminds Abram that it was God Most High who had delivered his enemies into his hand (v.20). Then Abram gave a tenth of all the plunder to Melchisedec. This was a spontaneous, voluntary response to the grace of God, just as every believer today ought to respond to the remembrance of the sacrifice of the Lord Jesus and His blessing poured upon us.

This unusual experience of Abram with Melchisedec prepares him fully to refuse the offer of the king of Sodom. No doubt the world thinks that the man who gains the victory is entitled to the goods he recaptures, but as with Abram, the believer should remember that every true victory has really been by God and for God. The king of Sodom tells Abram he will take the souls, but leave the goods to Abram. But it was for the sake of the soul of Lot that Abram had fought: he had no interest in the goods. He tells him he had sworn to the Lord God Most High, Possessor of heaven and earth, that he would take absolutely nothing, not the most trivial thing that belonged to Sodom, lest the king of Sodom would take the credit for enriching Abram (vs.22-23). The Possessor of heaven and earth had brought about a deliverance for Sodom that ought to have driven Sodom to realize they needed the same faith as Abram, a faith that gives God the first place. But the ungodly world only walks by sight, not by faith. How good it is if we, like Abram, allow no suggestion that we are dependent on a world at enmity with God.

However, Abram did not ask that Aner, Eschol and Mamre should act on the same faith as he. He agreed that they should take some remuneration for their work. For faith is intensely personal (Rom 13:22). As regards Lot also, he was a believer, and though he owed his deliverance to the faith of Abram, yet even this did not awaken in his soul the serious exercise of walking by faith himself. It is sad to think that he went right back to Sodom! Did the Most High God, Possessor of heaven and earth not mean more to him than this?

 


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Bibliography Information
Grant, L. M. "Commentary on Genesis 14:4". L.M. Grant's Commentary on the Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/lmg/genesis-14.html. 1897-1910.

Lectionary Calendar
Saturday, December 14th, 2019
the Second Week of Advent
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