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Bible Commentaries

Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary
Genesis 14

 

 

Verses 1-12

CRITICAL NOTES.—

Gen . Arioch.] Probably signifies lion-like. The name re-appears in the time of Daniel, as applied to the captain of the king's guard (Dan 2:14).—Chedorlaomer.] "Upon the bricks recently found in Chaldea there occurs the name of a king—Kudurmapula—which Rawlinson thinks may be the same, and especially as he is further distinguished by the title of ‘Ravager of the West.' The latter part of the name—laomer—presents the difficulty; but this may be the Semitic translation of the original Hamite term Mapula" (Jacobus).—Tidal king of nations.] Probably chief of a number of nomadic tribes to whom no special territory could be assigned, since they changed their place according to the seasons of the year. Some regard the word nations as of special significance, as bringing to mind the expression "Galilee of the nations" (Mat 4:15; Isa 9:1).—

Gen . That these made war.] After the confusion of tongues, Shinar was the central region from which the different branches of the human family spread; and it would naturally claim supremacy over the other colonies. It was the great commercial centre, being on the highway to the riches of the Nile.—

Gen . Vale of Siddim, which is the Salt Sea.] The vale was afterwards submerged by the Salt Sea when the Lord destroyed the Cities of the Plain. The words were probably added to the ancient document by way of explanation.—

Gen . Rephaims.] (Sept. the giants). "These were in Ashteroth Kamaim—the principal town, dedicated to the horned Ashteroth, as the term imports. This is a trace of the idolatry prevalent east of the Jordan. The original Astarte (goddess) was figured with the head of a cow, having a globe between the horns" (Jacobus). Their country is identified with that of Bashan, whose last king was Og, so famous for his stature.—

Gen . The names are repeated, and attention is drawn to the fact that there were four kings in battle with five.—

Gen . Full of slime-pits.] The word "pits" is doubled in the Heb. to convey the idea of a great number. The vale was full of places from which bitumen oozed out of the ground, and would therefore be inconvenient and dangerous for the purposes of warfare. Many of the fugitives, in the hurry of their flight, would fall into these pits and perish.—Fled to the mountain.] Probably the mountain heights on the east of the dale.—

MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Gen

THE FIRST WAR ON RECORD

From the character of some of the nations into which the earth was divided after the flood, we may reasonably suppose that there were wars before the time to which we are introduced by this chapter. But this is the first war of which we have any record, and it will be found in its chief features to be much like all other wars. The worst passions of mankind break out in the same disastrous manner from age to age. This first war of history may be compared with all the rest which have followed, at least in its chief characteristics.

I. As to its motives. Human conduct is determined by motives, and to such an extent that some have been led to question whether man's will is really free. It is said that his life is moulded by the moral circumstances in which he is placed. And it must be admitted that such is the power of evil in the world that most men yield themselves helplessly to its influence. They seem to lack that self-determining power which would set them free to do good and secure the fruits of righteousness. In the constant recurrence of some of the chief evils which afflict society we see the operation of a kind of fate or necessity. Such is the moral condition of human nature, and the strength of temptation, and the conflict of interests, that wars and fightings must needs be. This war against the invaders of the land was prompted by the same motives which have since that early age given rise to many wars.

1. Ambition. There is reason to believe that it was that sin which broke the peace of heaven. St. Paul warns his son Timothy against placing a novice in the office of a bishop, "lest being lifted up with pride he fall into the condemnation of the devil" (1Ti ). The sin of Lucifer was the sin of ambition: "Thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God.… I will be like the Most High" (Isa 14:13-14). This sin has been one of the most fruitful sources of wars amongst mankind. Destruction and misery are in its ways. Here we have Chedarlaomer, who was probably one of the early kings of the Persian dynasty, allying himself with the most powerful monarchs of his time. He had already obtained an ascendancy over the most powerful peoples of the east, and his ambition still urges him to extensive conquest. He inspires the same purpose in the breasts of other rulers, making them but his instruments to promote himself to universal dominion. This lust of conquest has produced the most terrible wars that have ever afflicted mankind. The history of the world has but repeated the battle of the "four kings with five" (Gen 14:9). Another motive is—

2. Plunder. This is a baser motive than the former, for it appeals to the worst elements of human nature. Ambition is a choice temptation, and the man who possesses it, if his feeling takes a right direction, is capable of great and noble deeds. But the impulse of plunder is a meaner thing. This has been almost the sole object of many wars, chiefly those between the lowest nations. The "Cities of the Plain" rose in the midst of beautiful scenery, in lands well-watered and of remarkable fertility. The inhabitants grew rich under the favours of nature. Such prosperity would be a temptation to the rapacity of the surrounding nations. There were spoils to be had. War, as it often breaks the sixth, so it often breaks the eighth commandment on a large scale. Men who are severe on individual acts of sin are indulgent to the sins of nations. The morality of war has too often been defended upon the principle, be monstrous, and you are acceptable. Like the Cities of the Plain, the lavish gifts of nature upon many nations have only invited the plunderers. And so it must be until the covetousness of human nature is overcome by the universal diffusion of the religion of the Prince of Peace. Another motive often leading to war is—

3. The desire to recover lost sovereignty. Chedarlaomer held undisputed sway, for the space of twelve years, over the petty princes who ruled the nations occupying the fruitful plain of Jordan. In the thirteenth year they rebelled; and as in that rude age it was difficult for a conqueror to keep in subjection the remote provinces of his empire, they succeeded in gaining their independence. (Gen ). But it was necessary to avenge the revolt, and therefore this warlike expedition into Canaan was organised. The restless ambition of kings cannot long bear the loss of a sovereignty which they had won by the power of arms. Brute force can never bring about a brotherhood of men. What the sword has won, the sword must keep. War can never bring about a state of permanent peace. Revenge for wrongs inflicted fills the breasts of the vanquished, and only waits the opportunity to break out in rebellion. Hence conquerors have to subdue the same people again and again. One war renders another necessary, and thus this terrible scourge of mankind is perpetuated. Again, this first war recorded in history may be compared with the rest—

II. As to the conditions of its success. In all wars men have made use of similar arts and strategy. They have aimed to take advantage of every circumstance which seemed favourable. From the failure of human foresight, and the endless complications of events, it may happen that the battle is not always to the strong; still there are general conditions of success. Some of these may be seen in the instance before us. Means were used which had a tendency to secure the desired end.

1. By depriving the enemy of all friendly help. When Chedorlaomer started on his expedition into Canaan he swept along the verge of the wilderness, in order to cut off the supplies of the five kings, and to bring into subjection the surrounding people to whom the rebels might have looked for help (Gen ). Thus the Cities of the Plain, deprived of the aid of surrounding tribes, would fall an easy prey. Conquerors have often used this stratagem. War tramples ruthlessly upon all the rights of man, and regards every device as lawful that will secure success.

2. By favourable physical conditions. The country was "full of slime pits," dug for the supply of mortar for building (Gen ). These were filled with a pitchy substance, forming a trap for the retreating foe. The kings of Sodom and Gomorrah fell there with many of their people, and only a few escaped to the mountains. Thus the conqueror was favoured by the external features of the land. War presses every circumstance into its service. Nature is quite indifferent as to the side on which the cause of justice lies.

3. By moral causes. The inhabitants of the Cities of the Plain were corrupted by those vices which often accompany prosperity. They grew luxurious and effeminate—the victims of self-indulgence. Such men would be lacking in the higher qualities of manly courage and patriotism, and would fall an easy prey to the enemy. Luxury robbed them of all spirit and energy. The fall of ancient Rome was not due alone to the strength of her enemies, but to that luxury which enervated her citizens. Moral causes often contribute to the victories of war, and the conqueror becomes the rod of God punishing nations for a long course of sin. This war may also be compared with others—

III. As to its results. Like many other wars, the consequences of this were most disastrous to the interests of mankind. The usual train of evils followed, but there are two which are specially to be observed in this instance.

1. That men often suffer who take no part in the quarrel. It does not appear that Lot mixed himself up with the political and military affairs of Sodom. He probably avoided coming into too close relations with that depraved community. The narrative seems to imply that he was not personally implicated in the quarrel. But he had to take his share in the sad issues of the battle. The enemy made no distinctions. No favour was shown to the man of God. He who was righteous in his generation had to share the evil fortunes of the rest. In all wars many must suffer who have contributed nothing towards them, and who have even studied the things that make for peace. A man must accept the conditions of society, however he may lament or strive to improve them. In this, as in many other human evils, "one event happeneth unto all."

2. That the vanquished do not always benefit by the discipline of adversity. The men of Sodom and Gomorrah did not learn wisdom by this calamity, but continued in their wickedness until by a severer judgment they were doomed to destruction. Many nations have failed to learn the lessons of God's judgments in the scourge of war.

SUGGESTIVE COMMENTS ON THE VERSES

Gen . As the countries about the Euphrates and Tigris were that part of the world where the sons of Noah began to settle after leaving the ark, it was there that population and power would first naturally accumulate, and lead to the establishment of despotic governments. The families and tribes emigrating from these regions would be considered in the light of colonies which ought to be subject to the parent state. Such, it appears probable, were the ideas of the four eastern kings here mentioned, and we may suppose that it was with a view of enforcing this subjection, which, after having been twelve years acknowledged, was at length thrown off, that the present invasion was planned. In what relation the four kings had previously stood to each other is uncertain; but they now combined as allies, and marched with their forces, which we have no reason to think were very large, to the land of Canaan.—(Bush.)

The ambition of kings has often disturbed the peace of the Church.

How often has the history of kings been a sad record of thrones won and maintained by violence, oppression, and cruel deeds of blood!

Gen . One of the terrible results of the Fall is that men waste most of their talent and energy in neutralizing each other. Such a wretched waste of power is a folly which only the complete setting up of the kingdom of God can banish from the world.

This is the first war expressly recorded in the annals of the human race, and it is evident that it sprung from the same cause that has given rise to the thousands of wars which from that day to this have wasted the family of man, and drenched the earth in blood—vain-glorious pride and grasping ambition. Nor can we hope for a cessation of the barbarous practice till the general prevalence of Christianity, in the power of its peaceful spirit, shall have extinguished the flames of these unhallowed passions, and taught them to regard each other as brethren who cannot, if they conceived aright of their mutual interests, have any conflicting object that should drive them to deeds of violence.—(Bush.)

The people of the Cities of the Plain were visited by the rod of God in this terrible scourge of war. Had they humbled themselves in repentance towards God, they might have escaped the second and severer judgment.

The first invasion of calamity is a signal for us to examine ourselves and to turn to God while we have time, lest a worse evil come upon us.

Gen . Self-defence—the only justifiable ground for engaging in war. How few wars can be justified on this plea!

A common calamity has power to unite men. If they were wise they would learn the secret of a deeper and more permanent union.

No principle of selfishness can ever bring about a real and abiding brotherhood amongst mankind. A nation of brothers in the participation of one spiritual life is the only strong nation.

Gen . The assertion of authority and rule by means of force can never hold men long together. Thus one war necessitates another.

Unjust and oppressive governments provoke rebellion. Human endurance has its breaking strain when it can hold out no longer, but becomes desperate.

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 so if the government be unjust and oppressive, and there is good reason to believe that success will attend their efforts to shake off the yoke of bondage.—(Dr. Gorman, in Lange's Genesis.)

Gen . The Rephaim lay in Peraea. Some of them also were once found on the west side of the Jordan (Gen 15:20), where they gave name to the valley of Rephaim. They were a tall or gigantic race. The Zuzim dwelt between the Jabbok and the Arnon. The Emim were also accounted Rephaim. They lay on the east of the Salt Sea, and were afterwards conquered by the Moabites, who gave them this name (Deu 2:10-11). Of Shaveh Kiriathaim, the plain of the two cities, the name probably remains in El-Kurciyt, a site near Jebel Attarus in Moab. (Murphy).

Gen . They turned about after smiting the people above mentioned, and, taking a northerly direction, entered the valley of the Jordan, and attacked the inhabitants of the plain. En-mishpat, i.e., fountain of judgment, is so called by anticipation. This name was conferred in consequence of the circumstance recorded Num 20:10, where God gave judgment or sentence against Moses and Aaron for their offence thus committed. All the country of the Amalekites—Heb. "All the field of the Amalekite." This also by anticipation, as Amalek was not yet born (Gen 36:10-11). Underderstand it of the country afterwards occupied by the Amalekites. The sacred writer speaks of places by the names most familiar in his own times.—(Bush).

The invaders pressed on to Hazezon-tamer, cutting of the palms—which is Engedi (2Ch ), on or near the western shore of the Dead Sea, a settlement of the Amorites, who were the most powerful tribe of Canaan. This was always an important point, because behind it was the celebrated pass to Jerusalem, called Ziz (2Ch 20:16).—(Jacobus).

War spreads destruction all along its course. Ambition disregards the laws of natural justice.

Gen . We have now arrived at the point we had reached in Gen 14:3. The five kings came out, and joined battle with the four in the vale of Siddim.—(Murphy.)

Many places of little importance in themselves are regarded with surpassing interest, because they have been the scenes of great battles.

How true it is that man marks the earth with ruin! The earth bears traces of the destructive power of evil.

In the place of battle God is often forgotten; justice is outraged, the worst passions of mankind are let loose, and men assume the character of fiends.

By this time Abram's neighbours, the kings of Sodom, Admah, Zeboim, and Bela, must have been not a little alarmed. They and their people, however, determine to fight, and fight they did.—(Fuller.)

Gen .—The fate of war is not always decided by the justice of the cause. Where brute force rules, the triumph of the right can be only an accident.

The natural features of a country are often made to serve the interests of men bent upon designs of wholesale slaughter. Thus, Nature's gifts are bestowed upon all, without respect to moral character.

They that remained fled to the mountains eastward, which run through the territory of the Moabites. Thus the five kings were utterly routed. The disaster which befel the two most powerful of them—falling into the pits—produced a panic, as would seem, among the remainder, resulting in their flight. The invaders advanced now from the westward flank, and thus cut off their escape from the mountains of Judah.—(Jacobus.)

It is still a common practice in the East for the inhabitants of towns and villages to hasten for safety to the mountains in times of alarm and danger, or, at least, to send their valuable property away. The moveables of the Asiatics, in camps, villages, and towns, are astonishingly few compared with those which the refinements of European life render necessary. A few carpets, kettles, and dishes of tinned copper, compose the bulk of their property, which can speedily be packed up, and sent away on the backs of camels or mules, with the women and children mounted on the baggage. In this way a large village or town is in a few hours completely gutted, and the inhabitants, with every stick and rag belonging to them, can place themselves in safety in the mountains.—(Pict. Bib.)

Gen . "Fulness of bread" was part of their sin (Eze 16:49); and now "cleanness of teeth" is made a part of their punishment.—(Trapp).

Those things by which men have sinned are often the marks at which God's judgments are aimed.

Temporal prosperity excites the covetousness of mankind, and has thus been the occasion of many sins.

Every kind of iniquity follows in the train of war. All the rights of man are violated.

Gen . Here we have a graver evil than the taking of spoils—the robbery of the persons of men. This is the sin which has led to all the horrors of slavery.

Lot, the man of God, would have his portion with the wicked in their prosperity, and now he must share in their calamities.

The worldly choice which Lot made was calculated to teach him solemn lessons.

1. The corrupting influence of evil associations.

2. That even a righteous man who chooses to live among a depraved community is liable to suffer from the evils which fall upon them, and even though his own conduct has not contributed to those evils.

3. That men are often brought under obligation to those whose interests they have selfishly disregarded. Lot had not behaved rightly to the generous spirit of Abraham, and now he becomes a candidate for his pity and help. The fortunes of life are too uncertain to render it safe for a man to treat his friend ungenerously.

The conquerors take all the goods of Sodom and Gomorrah, and all the victuals; and what few people are left they take for slaves. Among these was Lot, Abram's brother's son, his friend, and the companion of his travels, with all their family, and all his goods. And this notwithstanding he was only a sojourner but lately come amongst them, and seems to have taken no part in the war. O Lot, these are the fruits of taking up thy residence in Sodom; or rather the first-fruits of it: the harvest is yet to come!—(Fuller).

Even they who are altogether worldly themselves, however blind and indulgent they may be to their own worldly sins, are quick enough to discover, and keen enough to condemn, the sins of the worldly who are opposed to them; and however inoffensive you may really be, if they find you dwelling in Sodom they will not deal with you as in great mercy the Lord at a subsequent crisis dealt with Lot. They will rather do as the four kings did; they will take you where they find you, and deal with you accordingly. They will indiscriminately confound you with those among whom they see you taking refuge, and will not spare you from the obloquy and injury which they pour upon your companions. How careful, therefore, should Christ's people be in shunning all alliance or connection with any section or party of the ungodly world! Whatever may be the explanation, and whatever the object of such an alliance, the truth cannot fail to suffer from its contact with any one of the world's false and wicked ways; and it will be strange indeed, should there be anyone interested in running down the confederacy, if the truth thus entangled in worldly fellowship does not come in for nearly all the blame and loss which the world itself ought to sustain.—(Candlish).

That wealth which was the cause of his former quarrels is made a prey to merciless heathens; that place which his eye covetously chose, betrays his life and goods. How many Christians whilst they have looked at gain have lost themselves!—(Bp. Hall)

ILLUSTRATIONS

BY THE

REV. WM. ADAMSON

Battle and Blessing! Gen .

(1) Numerous as are the mountains of Switzerland, one stands out singular and unique. It belongs to Switzerland, and bears signs of resemblance to the other hills and valleys of the country; yet it has its own peculiar individuality. Who does not recognise the special prominence of Mont Blanc?

(2) The rocky mountains of the far West are a magnificent range, evidencing their continuous and successive resemblance one with the other. Yet there is a spur, so singular and unique in its formation and contour, that for a moment the traveller almost fancies it is out of place.

(3) This chapter has the air and aspect of an episode in history. It stands out singular and unique. As Candlish says, "The warlike character which Abram assumes is a solitary exception to the usual tenor of his life; while his subsequent interview with the royal priest is altogether peculiar.

(4) A plant grows in Eastern jungles which sheds a clear light when all beside is dark. To midnight travellers amid Himalayan hills it seems as if it were a lamp to guide them on their wanderings. And the appearance of Melchizedek is just such a plant-lamp, pointing to Him who is a Priest for ever, after the order of Melchizedek.

"On the truth thus dimly shadowed

Later days a lustre shed,

When the Great High Priest eternal

Offers us both wine and bread."

Four Kings! Gen . Lincoln says that we have here a scene representing millenial glory. It is to be received prophetically and practically.

(1) Prophetically, we have here the four kingdoms of Daniel, Tidal standing for the fourth of these, viz., Rome. For the Roman empire will yet again be headed up under ten kings, who, Lincoln conceives, are to sweep away corrupt, unclean Christianity after the removal of the Church to heaven. And thus Abram is the Jews, who, after the overthrow of Rome in the plain of Armageddon, are to be blessed by the appearance of their Messiah.

(2) Practically, we have here three battles, the second of which represents the man of faith, relying solely on faith, as he goes forth to attack the confederated hosts, and to deliver Lot. The second is, however, preliminary to the third; and in Abram's case the most important of all. It was the struggle with Sodom against receiving any gift. It was the struggle of the moral against the material—of the spiritual against the sinful. No doubt the timely interposition of Melchizedek with refreshment and benediction nerved the patriarch's soul for victory.

"Here is My grace—the mighty power victorious,

Which rights so strong for thy poor feeble strength;

Which nerves thy faith, the faith all-glorious,

Which fights and wins, and enters heaven at length."

Chedorlaomer, etc.! Gen , etc.

(1) Four hundred years ago, Spain held the reins of power, and swayed her sceptre over Europe, Africa, and the Americas. By and by that supremacy passed over to England, who now occupies many of the Spanish conquests. Centuries before, the Persians were a great power in the East, and acquired ascendancy over surrounding powers; but in course of time this position was occupied by the Greeks, who, under Alexander the Great, became successful invaders of distant countries. Centuries before, the Chaldeans under Nebuchadnezzar attained immense superiority over surrounding principalities, which in turn was wrested from them by the fierce wide sweep of Cyrus the Great.

(2). In the same way it seems that the supremacy of the Babylonians under Nimrod passed into the hands of the Elamites, who, as Rawlinson says, exercised a suzerainty over the lower Mesopotamian country. These Elamites felt themselves strong enough to make warlike expeditions into the distant land of Palestine. Chedorlaomer, with his vassal princes, had thus twelve years previously forced the kings in the Vale of Siddim to become his tributaries. Apparently, these subject monarchs sought to gain their independence, and thus brought upon themselves a second visit from the Elamite Chedorlaomer.

"Lord God of Peace, awake!

Thou Prince of Peace give ear!

The strength of battle break,

Both shield and sword and spear,

Bid wars and battles now to cease,

And o'er the tumult whisper ‘Peace.'"

Rephaims, etc.! Gen . Porter says that the modern Kenath was no doubt the Abrahamic "Karnaim." He thinks that the Rephaims were the aboriginal inhabitants of Bashan, and probably of the greater part of Canaan. Corbeaux, however, identifies them with the shepherd race which once held dominions in Egypt. On visiting Kenath, Professor Porter found the ruins beautiful and interesting. In no other city had he seen so many statues. Unfortunately, these were all mutilated; but some of them were recognisable. Before a little temple lay a colossal head of Ashtaroth, which, now sadly broken, had evidently been a chief idol. It had the two horns (Carnaim) on its head, and was thus a visible illustration of an incidental allusion in Gen 14:5. May Kenath not be the capital of the Rephaims?

"Dark fell the night of Carnaim's woe,

Deep was the sleep of men,

While downward swept proud Elam's foe,

On Rephaim's watchmen then."

Emim, etc.! Gen .

(1). Job's friend said, "Speak to the earth, and it shall teach thee." And this is commendable in more senses than one. Geologists explore the strata of the earth, and discover, thereby, its successive epoch-convulsions and upheavals. Antiquarians and travellers also explore the ruins of cities, and thus ascertain the changes which cities have undergone. They can read the past history of a nation in the ruin-strata of its cities, just as the geologist can read the past geological periods of our earth as shown in the strata of the earth's crust.

(2) Porter remarks the truth of this in regard to ancient Bozrah, built and inhabited by the gigantic Emim long before Abram migrated to Canaan. He describes a visit to the ruins, some of which record the changes in its history. In one spot, deep down beneath the accumulated remains of Greek and Roman sculpture, were simple, massive, primitive buildings—homes of the ancient aborigines. Having one of the finest climates in the world, yet the old home of the giant Emim is utterly deserted; without man, without inhabitant, and without beast (Isa ).

"'Tis all desolate now—a ruin wild

O'erspreads both hill and plain,

And the frolicsome mirth of Bozrah's child

Is heard no more again;

And the ruin of homesteads is ruinous more

Than the wrecks that are strewed on the earth's sea shore."

Kiriathaim! Gen . We have here some of the most ancient houses of which the world can boast. As Porter remarks, they are just such dwellings as a race of giants would build. The walls and roofs, but especially the ponderous gates, doors, and bars, are in every way characteristic of a period when architecture was in its infancy, when giants were masons, and when strength and security were the grand requisites. The heavy stone slabs of the roofs resting on the massive walls make the structure as firm as if built of solid masonry, and the black basalt used is almost as hard as iron. There can scarcely be a doubt that these are the cities erected and inhabited by the Rephaim—that on these masses of masonry, which Ritter remarks now stand as constant witnesses of the conquest of Bashan by Jehovah, Abram gazed—and that amid these secure strongholds Chedorlaomer and his Elamite warriors roamed ere they attacked the kings in the Vale of Siddim. Yet how dreary now!

"Cold, chill, mysterious, full of awe and dread,

Is this strange home of living and of dead."

Kirioth-Kiriathaim! Gen .

(1) Travellers tell us that the Druses of Kerioth are all armed, and always carry their arms. With their goats on the hill-side, with their yokes of oxen in the field, with their asses or camels on the road, at all hours, in all places, their rifles are slung, their swords by their side, and their pistols in their belts. Their daring chief, too, goes forth on his expeditions equipped in a helmet of steel, and a coat of linked mail.

(2) The ruins are of great extent. No large public building now exists entire; but there are traces of many. Graham remarks that in the streets and lanes are numerous fragments of columns and other vestiges of ancient grandeur. Its position amongst widespread rockfields made it a formidable task, no doubt, to the Elamite invader to subdue; while the giant race which tenanted its massive homes would increase the difficulty

"Of a charge by his legions in battle array,

Now defying the foeman, now blent in the fray."

Horites! Gen .

(1) These received their name from dwelling in caves. Strabo says that the life of these cave-dwellers was nomadic. They are governed by tyrants, wear skins, and carry spears and shields which are covered with raw hides. They anoint their bodies with a mixture of blood and milk, drink an infusion of buckthorn, and travel and tend their flocks by night.

(2) It is interesting to know that the excavated dwellings of the Horites are still found in hundreds in the sandstone cliffs and mountains of Edom, and especially in Petra. Some of them, Wilson says, have windows as well as doors. In front of others are receptacles for water. They are all approachable by a common way. The region is now a habitation of dragons—literally, as Irby says, swarming with lizards and scorpions, etc.

(3) Mount Hor, upon which Aaron died, is a striking summit. Mangles remarks that an artist who would study rock scenery in all its wildest and most extravagant forms, and in colours, which, to no one who has not seen them, would scarcely appear to be in nature, would find himself rewarded should he resort to Mount Hor for that purpose.

"Gay lizards glittering on the walls

Of ruin'd shrines, busy and bright,

As they were all alive with light;

And yet more splendid, numerous flocks

Of pigeons settling on the rocks,

With their rich, restless wings."—Moore.

Hazezon-Tamar! Gen .

(1) Rounding the southern end of the Dead Sea and conquering the Amalekites, Chedorlaomer came up on the west side of the Dead Sea to a place known as "The Pruning of the Palm." Here, midway up the shore of the Dead Sea, is a little plain, shut in by the rugged, rocky hills of Engedi. A sweet fountain bursts from the rock high up on the western side, four hundred feet up, and comes down shaking its spray over the green bushes and plants which grow by its side—acacias, mimozas, and lotus. Thus far the Elamite conqueror came on his military expedition of 2,000 miles.

(2) It was a roundabout route, either because (a) he wanted a convenient pass by which to conduct his army; or, because (b) he wished to leave no enemy in his rear. Here it was that the Kings of the Vale of Siddon marched out to be defeated.

"See how the hosts uprise;

Confused noise, and then

The march of Death, the cries

Of wounded dying men!

Behold the red and gory flood;

And, lo, the garments rolled in blood."—Maguire.

Slime-Pits! Gen .

(1) In the far north of Palestine are famous bitumen wells. This mineral exudes slowly in a semi-liquid state as petroleum, which hardens into bitumen. The Arabs on the shore of the Dead Sea say that the bitumen there is formed in the same way. They say that it forms on the rocks in the depths of the sea, and by earthquakes, or other submarine concussions, is broken up in large masses, and rises to the surface.

(2) Thomson points out that no doubt the Sodomites were in the habit of digging bitumen wells. It was doubtless an article of merchandise, as petroleum is from the American oil-springs now. Apparently, the Egyptians employed it largely in embalming their dead. When cold it is as brittle as glass, but it melts readily. It must be mixed with tar while melting, and in that way forms a hard, glassy wax, impervious to water.

(3) As the Dead Sea now is it could not well have been in Lot's time. No doubt the region was exceedingly beautiful, and the fresh, sparkling waters of the lake alive with boats and fish. All this was changed at the overthrow of the Cities of the Plain, when, in addition to the "heavenly fires," there issued from these "bitumen-wells"—

"Streams of burning, fiery spirit,

Liquid lava hot as coal,

Pouring forth on every homestead,

Like as rivers onward roll."

Mountain Flight! Gen .

(1) When the South African chief, Sekukuni, who had ravaged the borders of the white man's land, was assailed by the English soldiers, he and his followers fled to a mountain, and hid themselves in the caves and recesses.

(2) History relates how it was usual for the Vaudois, when attacked by the Papal troops, to remove their families and goods for security to the Alpine heights and caverns, where they could make a firm stand against their merciless foes.

(3) The Archbishop of Tyre relates that when Baldwin IV., one of the Crusade kings of Jerusalem, ravaged the fruitful valley of Bacar, the inhabitants fled to the mountains, whither his troops could not easily follow them.

(4) D'Arvieux says that in his time, when the Arabs attacked the rebel peasants of the Holy Land in the plain of Gonin, they fled towards the hills, and there, hiding themselves, were secure from attack or pursuit.

(5) This explains the statement here that the defeated Sodomites, who escaped from the field of battle, betook themselves to a mountain. And it is supposed that among the fugitives thus secure from the Elamite attack was the king of Sodom.

(6) It is worthy of notice that in the solemn woe on Mount Olives the Lord employs this figure in connection with the Roman armies: "Then let them which are in Judea flee to the mountains" (Luk ). See also Rev 6:15.

"Ah! what terror is impending

When the Judge is seen descending,

And each secret veil is rending."—Celano.


Verses 13-16

CRITICAL NOTES.—

Gen . Abram the Hebrew.] The lxx renders the word by περάτης one passing over, i.e., the immigrant, and some say that Abram is so described as having crossed the Euphrates from the east. But Murphy considers that the word should be understood as a patronymic, because in every other place the word is always used in this sense, and it might be said of every other tribe that they had originally migrated across the Euphrates. "And moreover Abram is distinguished as the Hebrew, just as his confederate Mamre is distinguished as the Amorite. ‘The Sons of Heber' are distinctly mentioned in the table of nations among the descendants of Shem."—Mamre.] This was near the seat of war. Confederate] Heb. "Lords of the earth (or covenant) of Abram." They were in league together for mutual defence.—

Gen . His brother] In the wider sense of a near relative. Trained servants born in his own house, three hundred and eighteen. This would represent a domestic following of upwards of one thousand men, women, and children.—

Gen . And he divided himself against them] He divided his forces into two portions so as to attack the enemy on two different quarters. Hobah on the left hand of Damascus. The Hebrews supposed the face to be turned towards the rising sun, and named the points of the compass accordingly. Hence, Hobah would lie to the north of Damascus. "The Jews regard the village of Jobar, a few miles N.E. of Damascus, as answering to Hobah. At Burzeh, very near, is a spot held in veneration by the people as having been the ‘praying place' of Abraham, where he returned thanks to God after the discomfiture of the kings." (Alford)—

MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Gen

ABRAM AS A WARRIOR

Here Abram appears altogether in a new character. He who was noted for the meekness of his disposition and simple trust in God, now acts the strange part of a warrior. He had shown the heroism of self-sacrifice, and now he shows the heroism of a patriot and a friend. In a private capacity the virtues and graces of his life were such as command esteem; and now, as a public man, vindicating and succouring the oppressed and unfortunate, he displays admirable skill and courage. We may consider Abram as a warrior in a twofold light:—

I. In the cause of man. The lives of good and holy men, which are recorded in the Scriptures, have a double aspect, on the one hand as they regard their fellow-creatures, and on the other as they regard God. He who is promoting the welfare of mankind may at the same time be accomplishing the wider purposes of the Almighty. The conduct of Abram must be interpreted in this double relation—in the light of social facts, and in the light of his high calling of God. One who is closely related to him in blood is in great danger. Moved by natural affection, by brotherly love, he engages in war. One motive which led him to take up arms was the rescue of Lot from the hands of the enemy. From this we learn—

1. The sacredness of natural affection. The Bible gives no distorted views of life, but accepts the great facts of human nature as they stand revealed to our ordinary observation. It inculcates no laws of conduct which are unpractical or unnatural. It insists upon the propriety and duties of natural affection. The assertion that all men are equal is true within limits, for they are such in the sight of God, and in the main features of their existence and destiny. We ought to love the whole human race. But this equality of affection is interfered with and modified by blood. There are duties which clearly lie nearest to us, and we have the prescription of nature urging us to their performance. A man is bound to love those of his own household with a peculiar affection. Our first impulse is to bless and deliver the brother and the friend. That virtue which professes devotion to humanity at large, while it disregards or thinks lightly of duties towards home and kindred, is not taught in the Bible. Our social love must move in the ways of the Divine order, i.e., it must move from within the domestic circle outwards to the whole human race. The impulse of natural affection was a sufficient justification of Abram's conduct. We learn also—

2. The noble generosity which forgets the faults of friends or kindred in their distress. Lot had some serious social faults. He was narrow-minded, selfish, and lacking in those graces which lend a charm to life and reduce that friction which must arise in the dealings of men with one another. He had behaved ungenerously towards Abram, and had separated from him at a time when his companionship was of importance to the social interests of both. Yet Abram forgets the faults and unkindness of his kinsman when he is in trouble. As a religious man, also, Lot was greviously at fault. By his own act he left the family circle of Abram, where so many religious privileges could be enjoyed. He exposed himself to great spiritual peril by dwelling in the midst of a people notorious for their wickedness. Yet Abram does not leave his kinsman to reap the consequences of his own folly, but hastens to render him aid. We have—

3. The heroism which sacrifices self for the benefit of others. Abram exposed himself to great danger in undertaking so desperate an enterprise; but he thinks not of himself while engaged in the noble cause of rescuing a brother. Others, also, shared in the benefits of his self-sacrificing act (Gen ). But we must consider Abram as a warrior—

II. In the cause of God. The external features of the history show us Abram in the light of a friend delivering his kinsman from the hand of the enemy. But he stood in certain relations to the kingdom of God, and therefore we must read a wider meaning into his conduct on the occasion of this war. Thus the history reveals to us more than appears upon the first view.

1. His engaging in war cannot be accounted for, except on the supposition that he had a Divine warrant for his conduct. This is rendered very probable if we reflect that Abram, ever since God called him, ordered all things in his life by faith. He would scarcely have faced the dangers of such an expedition as this, where, humanly speaking, the chances of success were against him, unless he had clearly ascertained the will of God. He was moved by the spirit, not of adventure but of faith. If he had merely obeyed his own feelings, we can hardly suppose that he would afterwards have received so remarkable a blessing. The prophet Isaiah is supposed to refer to Abram's conduct in this war (Isa ), and if such be the reference, it is evidently implied that the patriarch's enterprise had the Divine sanction. "Who raised up the righteous man from the east, called him to His foot, gave the nations before him, and made him rule over kings? He gave them as the dust to his sword, and as driven stubble to his bow. He pursued them, and passed safely; even by the way that he had not gone with his feet." Thus the motives which urged Abram on were not those of a man of the world, but they were derived from a principle of obedience to God, and faith in His promise. Two considerations will show, that he would scarcely have undertaken the mission of a warrior without the Divine sanction and assurance.

(1) As a private individual he would not have the right to wage war. He was not a chief, invested with power and authority, but a private and unofficial person, and moreover a stranger in the land. What right or title had he then to raise an army, and wage war? Besides, he was subject to other kings and rulers, and it was not likely that so irregular an expedition on his part would be tolerated. Consider—

(2). That his chance of success—to all human appearance—was small. The males of his own household were but 318, hastily prepared and armed, and with this insignificant force he ventures to pursue an army flushed with victory and commanded by four powerful monarchs! Surely Gideon's exploit in the war with the Midianites was scarcely more desperate. It is easier to believe that in each case the success was miraculous. Like the faith which led to it, this also was the gift of God. Abram derived the right and power by which he acted, not from human expediency but from God.

2. He wages war as the ruler and proprietor, by Divine right, of the land. God had promised the land to him. He was the real owner of it, and now exercises his royal prerogative of making war. Though a stranger and a pilgrim he appears for a moment in his true character as a victorious prince. He is permitted by the favour of God to foredate the great blessing which was in store for him. Thus Our Lord, in the days of His humiliation, was seen for awhile on the Mount of Transfiguration, in that glory in which He shall hereafter appear when He comes to reign. Abram acts throughout as the man of faith who was accomplishing the purposes of God, and not following his own private ends. He had an eye to the interests of a larger family than that which was bound to him by the ties of natural relationship, even that family which is the Church of God. When he had asserted his rights and privileges, and delivered his kinsman, he retires into private life again. He refuses to enrich himself with the conquests he had won, for he had that faith in God which does not make haste. His cause was with the Most High.

SUGGESTIVE COMMENTS ON THE VERSES

Gen . Among those who fled from the drawn sword and the fear-fulness of war, there was one who reached the plain of Mamre, and told the sad tale to Abram. He feels much, but what can he do? Can he raise an army wherewith to spoil the spoilers, and deliver the captives? He will try. Yes, from his regard to Lot, whose late faults would be now forgotten, and his former love recur to mind; and if he succeed, he will not only deliver him but many others. The cause is a just one, and God has promised to bless Abram and make him a blessing. Who can tell but he may prove in this instance a blessing to the whole country, by delivering it from the power of a cruel foreign oppressor.—(Fuller.)

The fugitive who escaped to tell Abram the sad news was probably an inhabitant of Sodom, but he was the servant of God's providence.

In the greatest calamities which happen to the Church, God finds a way of deliverance.

Abram and his kinsman represented the Church of God then upon earth. That Church is still one family, united by a common interest, and owning a common Father. One portion of that family cannot suffer without exciting the sympathy and engaging the help of the other.

It is fit that such as sit at ease in their own habitations should hear of the Church's troubles.—(Hughes.)

Abram could induce the chiefs of the land to make a covenant with him. Thus the blessings of the Church have overflowed to heathendom.

The Church of God will at last take all the kingdoms of the world into its unity.

Gen . Abram thought not of his kinsman's ingratitude, but of his need. He stayed not to weigh his deserts, but obeyed the call of his distress.

To deal with others on the principles of rigid justice would often inflict upon them the greatest injury. If God so dealt with man, none of us should see salvation. The property of mercy and compassion is to flow by the necessity of its own fulness.

Abram armed his trained servants, and hastened to rescue Lot. We must not be content with mere feeling for the miseries of others, but do all that in us lies to bring them succour. Love is not an empty emotion. It delights in giving, blessing, and helping.

He led forth to battle his tried ones—trained and skilful and trusty—born in his own house, and thus well-known and confidential house servants and body-guard, three hundred and eighteen, answering to more than a thousand men, women, and children, with flocks and herds of a corresponding extent. What was the force of his allies does not appear. This large number of slaves in Abram's house, capable of bearing arms, gives us an insight into the patriarchal household. These slaves were such as were originally taken in war, or bought with money. Many were also born in the house and trained in the doctrines and duties of religion, and admitted into the privileges of circumcision and the Sabbath, and treated as a religious charge. "Abram commanded his children, and his household after him, that they might keep the way of the Lord, to do justice and judgment, that the Lord might bring upon Abram all that He had promised."—(Jacobus.)

It is the duty of the Church of God to train all who belong to her for service. The Church of God is still militant here on earth, and has not entered upon the repose of victory.

Small force of man, and great faith in God, may do mighty things.—(Hughes.)

He armed his trained servants. Or catechised; such as he had painfully principled both in religion and military discipline, tractable and trusty, ready pressed for any such purpose. It is recorded to the commendation of Queen Elizabeth, that she provided for war, even when she had most perfect peace with all men. Darts foreseen are dintless.—(Trapp).

Gen . By prompt movements, Abram and his troop soon came up with the enemy. It was in the dead of the night. The conquerors, it is likely, were off their guard, thinking no doubt that the country was subdued, and that scarcely a dog was left in it that dare move his tongue against them. But when haughty men say, Peace, peace; lo sudden destruction cometh! Attacked after so many victories they are surprised and confounded: and it being in the night, they could not tell but their assailants might be ten times more numerous than they were, so they flee in confusion, and were pursued from Dan even to Hobah in Syria.—(Fuller.)

Abram came upon them as they were, secure, sleepy, and drunken, as Josephus writeth. So did David upon the Amalekites (1Sa ), and Ahab the Syrians (1Ki 20:16).—(Trapp).

A state of warfare necessitates policy and stratagem.

Gen . Abram's object was simply the recovery of Lot and his family; and having accomplished this he is satisfied. It is surprising that amidst all this confusion and slaughter their lives should be preserved, yet so it was, and he with his property and family, and all the other captives taken with him are brought safe back again. It was ill for Lot to be found among the Sodomites; but it was well for the Sodomites that he was so, else they had been ruined before they were.—(Fuller).

Those who are strangers to the knowledge of God have often shared in those deliverances which He has wrought out for His people.

Abram delivered others besides his kinsman Lot. There are duties of heroic enterprise and benevolence which we owe to men, irrespective of creed or race.

It is true heroism to come to the rescue of the defenceless and weak. This is imitating the kindness of God, which is most tender and plentiful towards His feeblest creature.

And the women also and the people. The hope of this might haply move that officious messenger to address himself to the old Hebrew (Gen ), little set by, till now that they were in distress.—(Trapp).

ILLUSTRATIONS

BY THE

REV. WM. ADAMSON

Battle and Blessing! Gen .

(1) Numerous as are the mountains of Switzerland, one stands out singular and unique. It belongs to Switzerland, and bears signs of resemblance to the other hills and valleys of the country; yet it has its own peculiar individuality. Who does not recognise the special prominence of Mont Blanc?

(2) The rocky mountains of the far West are a magnificent range, evidencing their continuous and successive resemblance one with the other. Yet there is a spur, so singular and unique in its formation and contour, that for a moment the traveller almost fancies it is out of place.

(3) This chapter has the air and aspect of an episode in history. It stands out singular and unique. As Candlish says, "The warlike character which Abram assumes is a solitary exception to the usual tenor of his life; while his subsequent interview with the royal priest is altogether peculiar.

(4) A plant grows in Eastern jungles which sheds a clear light when all beside is dark. To midnight travellers amid Himalayan hills it seems as if it were a lamp to guide them on their wanderings. And the appearance of Melchizedek is just such a plant-lamp, pointing to Him who is a Priest for ever, after the order of Melchizedek.

"On the truth thus dimly shadowed

Later days a lustre shed,

When the Great High Priest eternal

Offers us both wine and bread."

Four Kings! Gen . Lincoln says that we have here a scene representing millenial glory. It is to be received prophetically and practically.

(1) Prophetically, we have here the four kingdoms of Daniel, Tidal standing for the fourth of these, viz., Rome. For the Roman empire will yet again be headed up under ten kings, who, Lincoln conceives, are to sweep away corrupt, unclean Christianity after the removal of the Church to heaven. And thus Abram is the Jews, who, after the overthrow of Rome in the plain of Armageddon, are to be blessed by the appearance of their Messiah.

(2) Practically, we have here three battles, the second of which represents the man of faith, relying solely on faith, as he goes forth to attack the confederated hosts, and to deliver Lot. The second is, however, preliminary to the third; and in Abram's case the most important of all. It was the struggle with Sodom against receiving any gift. It was the struggle of the moral against the material—of the spiritual against the sinful. No doubt the timely interposition of Melchizedek with refreshment and benediction nerved the patriarch's soul for victory.

"Here is My grace—the mighty power victorious,

Which rights so strong for thy poor feeble strength;

Which nerves thy faith, the faith all-glorious,

Which fights and wins, and enters heaven at length."

Rescue! Gen .

(1) In the last century, when absence of trains and existence of bad roads isolated English towns and villages from each other, and from London, the separation of friends became a serious matter. A young maiden persuaded her relatives to allow her to leave the remote western hamlet home and to visit friends of the family in the metropolis. After a time tidings came that the maiden had been carried off, and was supposed to be concealed in the hall of a northern baronet. Distressed at the tidings, and full of love for their sister, the two brothers considered how her rescue was to be achieved. Ascertaining the whereabouts of the hall, they decided to explore its buildings in disguise, so as to learn the precise apartment in which their sister was lodged, and then, under cover of night, to secure her freedom.

(2) Lot had chosen to go to the neighbourhood of the friendly citizens of Sodom and Gomorrah. Four northern potentates make an incursion southwards, subdue the five princes in the Vale of Siddim, and carry off Lot, his family, and goods. A fugitive servant bears the sad tidings to Abram, who—full of love for his captured nephew and household—considers how their rescue is to be accomplished. The conqueror's track must be first ascertained, and then, under cover of the darkness of the night, an attempt to rescue must be made.

"Around are the nations, and enemies strong;

But God is our fortress, our strength, and our song."

Prayer-Power! Gen , etc.

(1) Naturalists say that at times when the eagle is about to soar, he seeks, finds, and puts himself upon a column of uplifting air; and thus, by its upheaving power, he is borne until he finds himself at the height at which he aimed.

(2) When the Lord Jesus was about to enter upon that struggle on Calvary, by which captive humanity was to be rescued and restored to moral freedom, He sought the column of uplifting communion with God in Gethsemane; and thus was able to rise to the lofty summit of the Cross, and achieve a glorious victory.

(3) We can hardly conceive Abram doing otherwise here. Happy is that soul which, entering on any spiritual expedition in behalf of others, places itself upon the uplifting breath of prayer, and thus is borne safely and securely on the tide of successful effort: "Lord, what wilt Thou have me to do?" "Up, for the Lord hath delivered them into thine hand."

"Go, fight the battles of your Lord,

But not with helm, or spear, or sword;

Take ye the Christian's panoply,

And sing, ‘Not unto us, O Lord.'"

Christian-Enterprise! Gen , etc.

(1) In the far East an Arab sheikh heard of the capture of his kinsman, chief of another Arab tribe, and of his being carried by his captors across the desert. His affection for his kinsman, to say nothing of the Arab sense of honour which required him to make some effort for his kinsman's safety, prompted him to summon a few of his bravest tribesmen, hurry after the spoilers to the verge of the terrible desert, fall upon them, and rescue his depressed kinsman.

(2) Abram does not do so on the mere impulse of natural affection; he has Divine warrant for what he does. He fights once, remarks Candlish, as he walks always—by faith. Isa is generally supposed to refer to Abram's course here; and if so, the testimony is explicit as to the Divine sanction given to Abram's enterprise. But, apart from this, the subsequent benediction of Abram, and the vision and promise in Genesis 15. establish clearly that he went forth by the express will of God.

(3) Christians have gone forth on enterprises for which they had no warrant; and they have brought shame on the Christian faith—as when Zwingle buckled on armour and went forth to die on the battlefield. It has even been suggested that Coligny yielded to do in France for the oppressed Huguenots what he felt was at variance with the Divine will. And missionary enterprise against the powers which have carried our fellow creatures captive in their minds and morals, senses and souls, should never be ventured on, except with prayer to know the Divine will, "Shall we go, or shall we refrain?"

"'Gainst sin, the world, and Satan all,

And every foe, both great and small,

This great crusade of faith and love,

Is owned and blessed of God above."

Union and Obedience! Gen .

(1.) In the Island of New Guinea is the bird of paradise, whose tail is a magnificent plume of fairy-like feathers, partly white and partly yellow, so that they resemble silver and gold. Wallace says that the king bird is distinguished by spots on his tail, and generally flies high up in the air above the flock. Every one keeps an eye upon their leader, obeying his guidance with startling exactness.

(2.) Naturalists refer in a similar manner to the herds of deer among the savannahs of North America. The buck-leader of the herd is distinguished by his remarkable antlers, and by the position which he assumes in the herd. All the members of the herd keep a constant watch with eye and ear upon their leader, and follow his lead with unity and completeness.

(3.) Abram seems to have had similar unity and submission amongst his servants. The moment he signals an advance and attack all are ready. And so ought the followers and servants of the Lord Jesus to follow Him with absolute exactness, implicit confidence and ready allegiance. As the birds and beasts keep an eye upon their leaders, so should we be ever looking unto Jesus.

"Temptations throng on every side;

We overleap them all;

Fight the good fight of faith, and hear

Our glorious Captain's call."

Dan-Laish! Gen .

(1.) This place becomes prominent in the time of the Judges. It was near Paneas on the way to Tyre, not far from the mound now called "Tell-el-Kady." Thomson says that not one habitation is there now. The fountain still pours forth its river of delicious water. Herds of black buffaloes wallow in its crystal pools; and in vain does the traveller look for the maiden with her pitcher. The site of the town cannot even be examined with satisfaction, so dense is the jungle of briars, thorns, and thistles which overspread the country.

(2.) The mention of the name "Dan" here has caused much discussion. We must suppose that either the "Dan" of Abram's pursuit was another place than the "Dan" of the Judges; or that the more modern name has been substituted for the more ancient one in the sacred text. Neither of them is impossible in itself. "Dan" may have been the name of a place in the time of Abram, and the word "Jordan (river of Dan) may have been employed because the Jordan sources were beside "Dan." Thither Abram sped in pursuit of the marauding hosts of Elam.

"Along the steep, above the dale,

And o'er the mountain wild,

To where dear Jordan's fountain's rise,

And Hermon's snows are piled."

Abram's Pursuit, etc. Gen . In the Far West, a white man with his daughters left the white settlements and pitched his block house near the village of a friendly Indian tribe. Highly esteemed by all, it was with regret and misgiving that the white settlers saw the family disappear in the trackless wilderness of wood and water. A distant Indian tribe, whose chiefs had long been at variance with the friendly tribe of Indians, resolved on an attack upon the village. Successful in their raid, they spared the white man and his daughters, but carried them off with all their cattle and chattels. One of the white man's servants, absent at the beginning of the attack, arrived as the triumphant Indians were setting off on their return home, and hastened off to the distant settlements to give the alarm. Eager to rescue their esteemed friend and his family, the settlers and hunters started in pursuit. For days they tracked the Indians, and at last reached the camp, which was now within easy reach of the villages and wigwams of the predatory tribe. Ignorant of any pursuit, and revelling over their spoil, the Indians retired to rest; when the settlers, suddenly breaking in upon the camp, attacked and scattered the foe, and delivered their white friend and maidens. Christian champions have their deeds of heroic rescue to achieve.

"Dark places of the soul and sin,

Dark places of the earth to win;

The inner shrine of man is trod

By foes of man, and foes of God."

Faith's Trial and Triumph. Gen .

(1) This incident presents to us the Father of the Faithful most vividly apprehending things to come. The tidings brought by the fugitive from Siddim's Vale were a test of Abram's faith, as to whether he had grasped the promise in Genesis 13. "To thee will I give this land; therefore, arise, walk up and down as its undoubted, destined heir." This is the victory of faith. While as yet Abram has not a foot of ground which he can call his own, he assumes, with all the calmness of undoubted sovereignty, the right to act as the heir of the land. And he goes forth in the full assurance of faith, that victory shall be his.

(2) When the first missionary reached the centre of Africa and gazed upon the wondrous scene, he felt that the kingdoms of the country were surely to become the possession of Christ. The eagle eye of Divine faith looked down in calm conviction upon the powers of darkness and heathenism, and saw the captive souls delivered from their bondage, sitting at the feet of Jesus, clothed and in their right mind. All Christians thus venture forth against the powers of hell—strong in faith—confident of victory against opposing foes.

"Faith whets the sword; faith is our shield;

Faith keeps our armour bright—

It makes us more than conquerors,

And then is lost in light."—Maguire.

Attach! Gen .

(1) Chardin says that the Arabs, when desirous of pillaging a caravan crossing the eastern deserts follow it day by day until a favourable opportunity occurs for a night attack. Then they silently fall upon the camp, and carry off one part of it before the rest can get under arms 2) Mayne Reid describes how a party of hunters thus followed a retreating band of Indians, until it separated into two bands. The white pursuers then followed the band, which carried off the white woman whose rescue they were after; and, waiting until night, burst upon the band, and rescued the captive.

(3) Harmer supposes that Abram fell upon the Elamite camp at Laish much as the Arabs did and do; and so, by unequal forces, accomplished the deliverance of Lot. There can be little doubt that it was by a sudden night attack that Abram was able, with so small a following, to overcome the vast, veteran hosts of Elam.

"Not now such fields of earthly strife

Demand the Christian warrior's life;

The moral fields of warfare stand

In every heart—in every land."

Sodom Sinners! Gen .

(1) Amongst those who were delivered by English arms from the oppression and cruelty of the West African chiefs, were a number of natives who still remained heathen. These shared in the deliverance; but for them alone, or even chiefly, the expedition would never have been undertaken. White and native Christians claimed and enjoyed the interposition of England: the others were partakers of the deliverance—no more.

(2) Abram delivers Lot and his family. That the men of Sodom shared for a season in the benefit of that deliverance, was an incidental consequence; at least, was not the main and primary purpose of Abram's interposition. It was not for their sakes that the pilgrim became the warrior, but for that of Lot, who, however far he had strayed, was a servant of God.

(3) In achieving the moral deliverance of His kinsfolk by the Lord Jesus, the ungodly are often partakers of the temporal blessing. The deliverance is not wrought for their sakes but for that of His own, whose souls are in peril; but even His enemies are benefited in the liberty wrought for His own. Yet, they do not share in the spiritual benediction, so long as they persist, as the sinners of Sodom. And the temporal deliverance is like that of Sodom, a respite—a fresh lease of mercy's forbearance, ere heavier doom of fire falls.

"When in majestic splendour He will rise,

With judgment and with terror on His wings."


Verses 17-20

CRITICAL NOTES.—

Gen . Valley of Shaveh] Shaveh means valley or dale. Nothing is known of its situation.—

Gen . Melchizedek, King of Righteousness] The Jews identify him with Shem. Thus the Targum of Jonathan: "But Melchizedek he is Shem, the son of Noah, king of Jerusalem." Also the Jerusalem Targum: "But Melchizedek, king of Jerusalam, he is Shem, who was the great priest of the Most High." This statement is manifestly absurd, for the genealogy of Shem is clearly given in the Scriptures. The priesthood of Shem would not be of a different order from Levi's, whereas in Heb 7:6, the contrary is asserted. "His person, his office, his relation to Christ, and the seat of his sovereignty, have given rise to innumerable discussions, which even now can scarcely be considered as settled." (Bullock, Bible Dict.) "Everything combines to show that Melchizedek was a Canaanitish king who had retained the worship of the true God, and combined in his own person the offices of king and priest." (Alford.)—King of Salem] "King of peace." (Heb 7:2.) It is doubtful whether this refers to the place afterwards called Jerusalem. Most probably Salem is to be understood in its strict sense as part of the title.—Most High God] Heb. El Elyon. This name of God occurs here for the first time. El signifies strength. "Hence we perceive that the unity, the omnipotence, and the absolute pre-eminence of God were still living in the memory and conscience of a section at least of the inhabitants of this land." (Murphy)—

MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Gen

THE TRUE PRIEST FOR MANKIND

There is in man such a deep consciousness of sin that he feels he is not fit to appear before God. He needs some one who shall be his mediator and representative, and who offers up that sacrifice for sin which turns away wrath and restores the forfeited favour of God. Hence the necessity for a priest. The idea of a priesthood is universal, and no improvement of human society can ever supersede it; for the fact must still remain that, by nature, there is a deep gulf between man's soul and God. This office has often been abused to serve the purposes of tyranny and oppression, and to retard the civil and intellectual progress of mankind. Still, with all the abuses which have degraded it, the office stands. Wherever men go they seek, in some form or other, the aid of the priest. To this need of the human heart the Providence of God has given an answer. In the verses before us we have the true ideal of a priest such as man requires and God approves. What must be the qualifications of such?

I. The true priest is divinely appointed. Melchizedek was "priest of the Most High God." This implies—1 That he was called of God. As it is the prerogative of God, in His dealings with His creatures, to take the first step of approach and to state His own terms, so no one can become a mediator in such a matter unless God appoints him to that office. As the purpose of mercy belongs to God, so He must choose the means of its conveyance to mankind. No man, therefore, can take this office upon himself. Unless he receives the Divine call he is an impostor and profane.

2. That he was separated from the rest of mankind. The true priest must be holy by vocation; and one of the essential parts of holiness is separation from all that is evil. By some lustration, or white robe, or other external sign, he must be distinguished from the profane crowd, and possess, at least, symbolic purity. Melchizedek has stood apart from all mankind, as reflecting the awful holiness of his God. Men require the mediation of some one who stands nearer to God than themselves. Holiness is the raiment wherewith God clothes His priests.

II. The true priest is one with the race he represents. This "priest of the Most High God" was not an angelic being, but of the same flesh and blood as the rest of mankind. The true priest must be taken from among men. There is a deep conviction in the heart of humanity that deliverance can only come through some one selected from among themselves. He alone who partakes of our nature can have a real fellow-feeling with us, and know how to have compassion upon our infirmity. He who represents the human race, and is a mediator with God on their account, must himself be one of that race. Humanity is a necessary element in a Redeemer. We can only be saved through a Divine man; for he touches God at one extremity and ourselves at the other, and brings us together. From this we learn—

1. The dignity of human nature. There must be something in human nature which makes it capable of representing what is Divine, or else the Incarnation would have been impossible. The great preparations for human redemption imply that man has a sublime value, and can be rendered capable of partaking of the Divine nature. We learn also—

2. The destiny of human nature. If man and God can be brought together through the agency of a mediator, then that reconciliation with God must have the tendency to draw man continually God-wards, and thus his soul is made to enter upon the upward path. When God pardons sin He is removing the barrier between the sinner and Himself, so that the objects of His mercy may be fitted to dwell with Him and see His glory.

III. The true priest has the power to bless. "And he blessed him, and said, Blessed be Abram of the Most High God, possessor of heaven and earth" (Gen ). This was a sacerdotal act, and he who administered it was, in regard to his office, superior to him on whom it was bestowed. "The less is blessed of the better" (Heb 7:7). Thus it is the office of the true priest—

1. To pronounce blessings on men. He is not the origin of blessing, but only declares authoritatively what God offers and bestows. He does not make the fact of God's pardon and peace, but announces it as an ambassador who has authority to act for his sovereign.

2. To bless God on their behalf. When man receives a benefit, God should be praised. We must not selfishly rest in the enjoyment of His goodness so as to forget the glory due to His name. The priest who stretches forth his hands to bless men, also lifts his eyes towards heaven to bless God on their behalf.

3. To declare God's benefits towards men. "And Melchizedek, king of Salem, brought forth bread and wine" (Gen ). These are the standing elements of the body's sustenance and refreshment. Bread is the staff of life, and wine maketh glad the heart of man. These were brought forth by this priest of the Most High God, in order to serve the lower use of the refreshment of the body. Such was the first intention of this act; but there was a second and more important one which can hardly escape our notice. These gifts of God, so essential to the life of the body, signified spiritual blessings—the soul's necessary food. Melchizedek was, therefore, the minister of holy symbols; which, while they visibly represented blessings not discerned by sense, were, at the same time, the means of the conveyance of those blessings to the soul. The pure and good gifts of God in the natural world shadow forth those of the spiritual. Both the visible and invisible worlds come from one Creator, and correspond to each other as type and antitype. Hence the use of symbolical worship and teaching. Our Blessed Lord took hold of these emblems of bread and wine, constituting them a holy ordinance for the remembrance of His death and passion, and effectual means of grace to the soul. In partaking of this bread and wine, Abraham was enjoying a spiritual repast which strengthened and refreshed the inner man. All the ministries and symbols of religion are but means to an end, and that end is the sanctification of our nature. Spiritual good is the only abiding reality; all else is representative and shadowy. The priests are of no value who lead us only to what is outward and visible, and who do not offer real blessings and urge us forwards to their attainment.

IV. The true priest is a mediator between God and men. He is the appointed medium of bringing together man and God upon terms which the Divine mercy has approved. Thus the true priest is the channel of blessings which flow in opposite directions—from God to man, and from man to God.

1. He receives gifts from God for men. Gifts of pardon, peace, reconciliation—the tokens of God's favour. There can be no religion unless God imparts something to men. If heaven is but a wall of brass then the prayers and aspirations of mankind are of no avail. He can be no true priest who has not something to offer from God to men.

2. He receives gifts from men for God. We cannot, strictly speaking, add anything to God's riches or His glory by our works or gifts. As we have nothing but what we have received from His bounty, so we can really give Him nothing that was not previously His own. But God is pleased to receive our thanks and praises—our easiest recompense. He receives offerings of man's worldly substance which testify of the gratitude of his heart and soul. Thus Melchizedek took gifts from Abram that he might offer them to God. "And he gave him tithes of all." Such was Abram's response to the priestly benediction. The offering of tithes is an acknowledgment on the part of man that all belongs to God. The king-priest received them from the patriarch that he might offer them to God, who has a right to all that man possesses, and to his entire service. "In presenting the tenth of all the spoils of victory, Abram makes a practical acknowledgment of the absolute and exclusive supremacy of the God whom Melchizedek worshipped, and of the authority and validity of the priesthood which he exercised. We have here all the indications of a stated order of sacred rites, in which a costly service, with a fixed official, is maintained at a public expense, according to a definite rate of contribution" (Murphy). Religion demands that man shall give some token of his allegiance to God, and man is appointed to receive such in His name. The ministry of man to men, on behalf of God, belongs to the nature of the Church's work on earth. But the full idea was not realised until God was manifest in the flesh. Then had we a Mediator, who was compassionate because He was human, and strong because He was Divine. Other mediators had been commissioned to convey spiritual blessings to mankind, but Christ alone brought salvation with Him and bestowed it from Himself.

MELCHIZEDEK A TYPE OF CHRIST

We have inspired authority for regarding this "priest of the Most High God" as a type of our blessed Lord. The author of the Epistle to the Hebrews gives this application to the prophecy of the Psalmist, "Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek" (Psa ; Heb 5:6; Heb 6:20). The history of the meeting of the patriarch with this remarkable man must be read by the light which Christ throws back upon it. Abraham rejoiced to see the day of the Son of Man, and to Him, in the person of Melchizedek, he did homage and received blessing. Christ was present to the minds of both. He was truly in their midst, making the blessing effectual, and the gifts truly an offering to God. Let us see how Melchizedek was fitted to be a type of Christ.

I. He was a royal priest. The priesthood of Aaron's house and of the Levitical order were all purely and simply priests. They had no regal state or function. Melchizedek combined in his person the offices and powers both of priest and king. In this regard he was not a partial, but a complete representative and type of the Messiah, who is described by the prophet as "a priest upon His throne" (Zec ), and who reigns over a kingdom of righteousness and peace (Psalms 72) Either character by itself could not be an exact and complete type of Christ, who holds the double office. Our souls need His priesthood for expiation, and His kingship, that they may preserve that righteousness which belongs to His kingdom.

II. His genealogy is mysterious. As a priest Melchizedek has no pedigree. He is not a single unit in the order of succession, for he has none going before or coming after him in the priestly office. His function and state are not transmitted to others, but remain attached to himself. Hence that strange description of him in the Epistle to the Hebrews:—"Without father, without mother, without descent, having neither beginning of days nor end of life, but made like unto the Son of God, abideth a priest continually." Both ends of the life of this remarkable man are shrouded in mystery, and he is therefore a fitting type of the Son of God, whose manifestation in our flesh must of necessity be mysterious. "Who shall declare His generation?" for, in reference to His human nature He had no father, and in reference to His Divine nature He had no mother. In this respect Our Lord stands alone among all the sons of men, and Melchizedek, whose origin and end are purposely made obscure, is chosen herein to be His type.

III. He was perpetually a priest. Melchizedek in his own person was mortal and shared the common lot of mankind; but that type of priesthood which he represented was perpetual. As it began before, so it lasted throughout the whole of the Jewish history. The Jewish priesthood had "beginning of days and end of life," but that of Melchizedek continued in Christ for ever. To that eternal priesthood the honour of God was committed, it shared the unchangeableness of His nature; but the priesthood of Aaron's line was, as it were, parenthetical in the Divine plan, to endure only while such a temporary provision was necessary. The greater light was to swallow up the lesser, and to continue a joy for ever to the Church of God. Melchizedek was the type of those real attributes of our Lord's priesthood which in their very nature are eternal.

IV. He was an universal priest. The Jewish priesthood was limited to their own nation and people. Strangers in race and blood were neither permitted to sustain that office nor to enjoy the most important benefits which it conferred. The range of it was narrow and confined, scarcely at all affecting the great mass of mankind outside. But Melchizedek was the priest of humanity at large, and was therefore an exact type of Christ, who was the all-sufficient priest for mankind of every age and nation.

V. He was a priest of the highest type. As compared with the priesthood of Aaron that of Melchizedek was superior—

1. In time. It belonged to an earlier age, and therefore had the prescription of antiquity in its favour. Such was the priesthood of Our Lord: though late as to the supreme moment in which it became a fact, it had been fashioned early in the counsels of God. This priest, as well as His offering, had been from the foundations of the world. It was also superior—

2. In dignity. Levi virtually acknowledged a priesthood higher than his own, when he paid tithes to Melchizedek and received his blessing.

3. Superior in duration. Unlike the Levitical, his priesthood was not designed to serve a temporary purpose. It belonged to an order of things which endures, not through one short stage but through the whole of human history. Christ is "a priest for ever." His office and the virtues of it last as as long as sinful man needs forgiveness.

VI. His priesthood has the highest confirmation. It was confirmed by the Divine oath—by an appeal to two immutable things—the Divine word and the Divine nature. The Levitical priesthood was not introduced or confirmed by such a solemnity, because it formed no part of the eternal plan of God. It could not sustain the full honour of that glorious Name which meant much more for man than the most fitly chosen types and ceremonies could signify. God will only give the highest confirmation to that priest who brings grace and truth—who gives to men the reality instead of the shadow, and reveals the fulness and beauty of the Divine love.

SUGGESTIVE COMMENTS ON THE VERSES

Gen . Abram is now congratulated upon his success. His faith obtained a good report.

Abram has now won the praise of the world—the result of those works by which his faith was made perfect (Jas ). This was a new trial to his faith, but the strength of his religious character was shown in his superiority to all worldly aims and possessions.

There are events in history which force the world to acknowledge the servants of God.

This expedition of Abram and his friends excited great attention among the Canaanites. At the very time when all must have been given up for lost, they are, without any effort of their own, recovered, and the spoilers spoiled. The little victorious band, now returning in peace, are hailed by everyone that meets them. The kings of the different cities go forth to congratulate them, and thank them as the deliverers of their country. If Abram had been of the disposition of those marauders whom he had defeated, he would have followed up his victory, and made himself master of the whole country, which he might probably have done with ease in their present enfeebled and scattered condition. But thus did not Abram, because of the fear of God.—(Fuller).

Gen . Melchizedek—the first priest on record.

The typology connected with Melchizedek does not require that he himself should be regarded as any superhuman person, but merely exalts the human circumstances under which he appears into symbols of superhuman things. Everything combines to show that Melchizedek was a Canaanitish king who had retained the worship of the true God, and combined in his own person the offices of king and priest. It is to be observed that there is not used regarding him, nor does he use, the title of Jehovah, but that of the HIGH GOD, a title found also in the question addressed (Mic ) by the Moabitish king, Balak, to his prophet Balaam; but that Abram in answering the King of Sodom probably in his presence, affirms the identity of his covenant-God, Jehovah, with the High God, possessor of heaven and earth, of whom Melchizedek had spoken.—(Alford).

Melchizedek was not only a type of Christ, but also represented the genius of the Christian religion. His priesthood was not limited to one nation or country, but was universal. Such is the Christian Church, which offers a home to all people.

The universal element in religion is the permanent. Judaism, which was but a temporary provision, has passed away, but that order of things which Melchizedek represented will stand till the end of time.

Some of the highest examples of the knowledge of the eternal verities of religion, and of faith in God, have been furnished by the heathen world—Melchizedek, Job, the Centurion, the Syro-Phœnician woman, Cornelius.

Bread and Wine. These are significant as the staple elements of refreshment for the body. Bread is the acknowledged staff of life, and hence was presented in the holy place of the Tabernacle as the shew-bread, or bread of the Presence. So it was presented at the Pentecost—the loaves representing the fruit of the Gospel work, and significant of the harvest and ingathering of the people. And so the wine was poured out as a libation at the daily sacrifice as a drink-offering (Exo ), also at the presentation of the first-fruits (Lev 23:13), and other offerings (Num 15:5). And from this Old Testament ordinance it passed to the Lord's Supper by Divine institution, and its significance in the latter was explained as symbolical of the blood-shedding of Christ for sinners, and the participation of it as an element of the Gospel feast becomes joyous to the Christian soul. They had a meaning, therefore, in the hands of Melchizedek, and in this sacred, official transaction. Abram is thus welcomed to a share in the sacred sacramental ceremonial, and witnessed to as having a right to that ancient communion of saints. This solitary priest hails him as one whom he recognises and rejoices in—as the head of the faithful, and the triumphant "friend of God."—(Jacobus).

This feast was significant of the life, strength, and joy which the Gospel would bring to the world. Thus there was represented to Abram what a blessing he would be to all nations.

Melchizedek refreshed the warriors after the battle, and Christ ordained His Last Supper to refresh the weary soldiers of the Cross.

Bread and wine are common things, familiar to the eye, the touch, and taste of men. The Great Teacher takes them out of the hands of man as emblems of grace, mercy, and peace, through an accepted ransom, of the lowliest as well as the loftiest boon of an everlasting salvation, and they have never lost their significance or appropriateness.—(Murphy).

The Most High God. This is a name of God here first found in the Scripture. El, signifying strength, is the base of the name Elohim—the original, absolute name of God, by which He is known in the history of the Creation, and appropriate to His creatorship. This is the evidence that the one God was worshipped, as a testimony against polytheism and idolatry, as the Living God, omnipotent and supreme. And this was done formally, publicly, and statedly by a set ministry, and in such form of worship as acknowledged the need of the great blood-shedding for atonement, and of the great high priesthood to come.—(Jacobus.)

Gen . God has ordained that all blessings shall come to men through His own Priest. Melchizedek was the type, but Christ was the reality.

The Christian religion has only one Priest, who is now in heaven, and who is the only fount of blessing for man-kind.

Melchizedek blessed Abram. He therefore acts in a priestly capacity. This sacerdotal act of his is that which is so significant, as interpreted by the New Testament:—"For the less is blessed of the better" (Heb ). And Abram, in receiving the blessing, admits the superiority of this king priest. The friend of God, the covenant-head and father of the faithful, has victory granted him over kings, and is thus a type of every true Christian and of the Church of Christ on the earth, while he expresses his faith and religious reverence and obedience by paying tithes to the accredited functionary of God's worship. The key to this mystery is, that both these personages were types of Christ; and their meeting here is a significant confluence of the streams of prophecy and promise, rushing onward to the destined consummation.—(Jacobus).

Melchizedek, in pronouncing this blessing, was only setting his seal to that which was already a fact in Abram's spiritual life. The patriarch already belonged to the Most High God, was His servant, His child, His friend. Thus the human instrument only declares the blessing, but does not make it.

The Most High God is here designated as the Founder of heaven and earth, the Great Architect or Builder, and, therefore, Possessor of all things. 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 Melchizedek with the one Creator and Upholder of all things. We have here no mere local or national deity with limited power and province, but the sole and supreme God of the universe and of man.—(Murphy).

All blessings become assured to us by the fact that they are the gift of Him who made the heavens and the earth. No other Being can confer any lasting good.

God, who possesses all things, had the right to dispose of them as it seemed good unto Him. He could give the land to Abram and to his seed.

God is the Proprietor of all things. We hold all blessings by His bounty and as His stewards.

Gen . Blessings received by man must be followed by thanksgiving to God. God blesses us, and we bless Him.

The second part of this benedictory prayer is a thanksgiving to the common God of Melchizedek and Abram for the victory which had been vouchsafed to the latter. Thy foes. Here Abram is personally addressed. Melchizedek as a priest first appeals to God on behalf of Abram, and then addresses Abram on behalf of God. He thus performs the part of a mediator.—(Murphy).

This Royal Priest in blessing God manifested—

1. His piety and devotion. He looks away from the good which has been bestowed, to the fountainhead of all blessing.

2. His appreciation of the true source of all victorious effort on the part of God's people. Instead of praising Abram's valour and skill, he praises the God of Abram who gave the victory.

Here is the first conflict of the children of faith with the world-power, and the victory vouchsafed to the former points to their final triumph. Those who are on the side of God must prevail in the end. There is no other really strong power.

And he gave him a tithe of all. This is a very significant act. In presenting the tenth of all the spoils of victory, Abram makes a practical acknowledgment of the absolute and exclusive supremacy of the God whom Melchizedek worshipped, and of the authority and validity of the priesthood which he exercised. We have here all the indications of a stated order of sacred rites, in which costly service, with a fixed official, is maintained at the public expense, according to a definite rate of contribution. The gift in the present case is the tenth of the spoils of war. This act of Abram, though recorded last, may have taken place at the commencement of the interview. At all events, it renders it extremely probable that a sacrifice had been offered to God, through the intervention of Melchizedek, before he brought forth the bread and wine of the accepted feast.—(Murphy).

Christ, as the true Priest, still demands the consecration of our worldly substance to His service.

Christ, our Mediator, not only receives gifts from God to convey them to men, but also receives gifts from men to present them to God.

ILLUSTRATIONS

BY THE

REV. WM. ADAMSON

Battle and Blessing! Gen .

(1) Numerous as are the mountains of Switzerland, one stands out singular and unique. It belongs to Switzerland, and bears signs of resemblance to the other hills and valleys of the country; yet it has its own peculiar individuality. Who does not recognise the special prominence of Mont Blanc?

(2) The rocky mountains of the far West are a magnificent range, evidencing their continuous and successive resemblance one with the other. Yet there is a spur, so singular and unique in its formation and contour, that for a moment the traveller almost fancies it is out of place.

(3) This chapter has the air and aspect of an episode in history. It stands out singular and unique. As Candlish says, "The warlike character which Abram assumes is a solitary exception to the usual tenor of his life; while his subsequent interview with the royal priest is altogether peculiar.

(4) A plant grows in Eastern jungles which sheds a clear light when all beside is dark. To midnight travellers amid Himalayan hills it seems as if it were a lamp to guide them on their wanderings. And the appearance of Melchizedek is just such a plant-lamp, pointing to Him who is a Priest for ever, after the order of Melchizedek.

"On the truth thus dimly shadowed

Later days a lustre shed,

When the Great High Priest eternal

Offers us both wine and bread."

Abram's Authority! Gen .

(1) In early days, when the white man first appeared amid the vast pinewoods and hunting grounds of the Red Indians, some of these red children of the wild were possessed of the conviction that the new-comers would by-and-by be owners of the soil. No doubt this was largely due to the consciousness of their keen Indian perceptive powers that the "white foreigners from over the water" were in many respects superior to them in intelligence and resource. But there was also a premonition, the origin of which was doubtless due to supernatural influence, that the "white man" was to possess the Indian's land. Hence some of these Indians became the fast friends of the early settlers.

(2) In the time of Abram certain of the Canaanite leaders were impressed with the conviction that this "pilgrim-pastor" would be the future lord of Palestine. Apparently Abimelech and Hamor had some such presentiment, that Canaanite ascendancy would give way before the Abrahamic posterity. Under supernatural conviction of a similar character the King of Salem comes forth to greet the deliverer of Lot on his return from the pursuit and overthrow of the four kings.

"Stay, pilgrim warrior, on thy road,

Refresh thy strength awhile;

Here is the banquet of thy God

To soothe thy warfare-toil."

Return Home! Gen .

(1) Ships, which have been parted by night, and the swift stroke of the tempest, come hurrying back at morning to their anchorage. What anxious inquiries follow as to the perils of the past night! What mutual felicitations ensue as they discover that all are safe in spite of the storm!

(2) The meeting between Lot and Abram, the princes of Sodom, and their rescued warriors, must have been full of agitation and excitement. When their hosts were defeated, and Lot's family carried off, there was little prospect, humanly speaking, of a happy reunion. Now they are safe home again.

(3) Christians are scattered and carried off by the marauding bands of death; but the Captain of our Salvation delivers them from the power of the grave. They shall meet again in the "King's Dale "at Salem, for Jerusalem which is above is free. What mutual congratulations and recognitions will then ensue! How all will unite in praising their Deliverer; in whom

"Majesty, combined with meekness,

Righteousness and peace unite,

To insure those blessed conquests,

His possession and full right;

Ride triumphant,

Decked in robes of purest light."

Melchizedek and Salem! Gen .

(1) Stanley refers to the Jerome tradition that Salem was not Jerusalem, but a smaller town not far from the scene of the interior in the "King's Dale." He appears for a moment, and then vanishes from our view altogether. It is this which wraps him round in that mysterious obscurity which has rendered his name the symbol of all such sudden, abrupt apparitions—the interruptions or dislocations of the ordinary succession of cause and effect and matter of fact in the varied stages of the history of the Church.

(2) Candlish says that whether this Salem was the city which afterwards became Jerusalem, or some other place near the Vale of Siddim and the River Jordan, does not appear. Nor, indeed, is it the precise locality, but the name, which is important. It was the King of Righteousness and Peace whom Abram acknowledged in the very height of his own triumph, when he accepted Melchizedek's hospitality of bread and wine.

"When the patriarch was returning,

Crowned with triumph from the fray,

Him the peaceful King of Salem,

Came to meet upon his way".

Melchizedek Meeting! Gen .

(1) Stanley says that the meeting of the ancient chiefs of Canaan and the founder of the chosen-people in the "King's Dale," personifies to us the meeting between what, in later times, has been called Natural and Revealed Religion. He adds that Abram's receiving the blessing from Melchizedek, and tendering to him reverent homage, is a likeness of the recognition which true historical faith will always humbly receive and gratefully render when it comes in contact with "Natural Religion."

(2) Law says that in Melchizedek we have a figure, not of "Natural Religion," but of Christ the Messiah. He is the true Melchizedek, without beginning of days or end of years. Abram, the weary warrior, typifies the soldiers of Christ, for whom refreshment is provided by their Royal Priest of Salem, which is peace. The fight of faith is fierce, the journey of life ofttimes long, but our true Melchizedek comes forth with the solid sustenance of the Word, with the overflowing cup of promise, with the spiritual food of His own body and blood.

"Good soldier of the Cross, well done!

Press forward more and more;

And still forgetting things behind,

Reach forth to things before."—Maguire.

Shaveh-Shadows! Gen , etc.

(1). The faith of Jonathan burning bright and pure in his father Saul's corrupt court is a lovely sight. In the interview between Jonathan and David, we have, as it were, the noble warrior handing the torch of royal trust to the son of Jesse. This was done in faith, "I know that God will establish thee king."

(2). Melchizedek seems thus to come forth and meet Abram in the "King's Dale." By his heroism of faith, Abram has shown his readiness to enter upon the rights and trusts of Canaan: and Melchizedek, as the preserver of the old primitive patriarchal hope, comes to surrender the charge to Abram.

(3). It is as if the torch was here visibly handed over from the last of the former band to the first of that which is to succeed. The interview between the two is the connecting link between the two dispensations—the one of which is waxing old, and the other of which is just beginning to appear.

(4). It is like aged Simeon embracing in his arms the infant Saviour; the last patriarch and prophet of the law not departing till he sees and hails the new-born hope of the Gospel arising on the world with healing in His wings.

(5). It is the lingering twilight of declining day in the Northern climes mingling with the dawn of a better morn. Both Melchizedek and Abram understood it thus. As debtors to the same grace, they realise that their actions now are shadows of good things to come. Both see Christ in all, and in the eye of their faith Christ is all in all.

"Though the altar has crumbled, and incense has ceased,

True worship still rises, through JESUS our PRIEST."


Verses 21-24

CRITICAL NOTES.—

Gen . I have lifted up mine hand] This is a Hebraism for "I have sworn." The custom was to raise the right hand when taking an oath.—

Gen . From a thread even to a shoe-latchet] A proverbial expression, signifying that he would not take even a thing of the most trivial value.

MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Gen

THE BELIEVER'S SUPERIORITY TO THE WORLD

Throughout the whole course of his conduct Abram maintains the character of a steady believer in God. He had won many victories by his faith; but here his faith is seen giving that victory which overcometh the world. The believing soul lives above the Spirit and the maxims of the age. This superiority to the world may be manifested in various ways—as in the case of Abram.

I. By refusing to insist upon lawful rights and privileges. After the battle the King of Sodom is ready to concede to Abram his lawful rights, i.e., the spoils of warfare, only reserving the captives for himself. Yet Abram refuses what was justly his by the customs of war. He will not claim even a lawful privilege when by so doing he might injure his religious character, or bring dishonour on the cause of God. There are times when religious men must refuse to insist upon what they may lawfully demand as their right.

1. When it brings them into dangerous association with the world. If Abram had accepted the spoils of warfare, he would have acted in strict justice; but, on the other hand, he must have entered into relations with the King of Sodom, which, though lawful at first, might in the end have injured the tone of his spiritual character, or have even corrupted it altogether. Any privilege is dearly purchased when it brings us into such relations with the world as place our souls in peril. With the believer, the principle of separation from the world is a far higher one than that by which he claims any human right. Believers must also forego even what the world is ready to yield as a lawful right.

2. When they might appear to countenance sin. Abram had seen the wickedness of Sodom. If he had received the spoils, he would have appeared to approve of Lot's association with that people, and so far he would have countenanced their sin. It is better to give up any lawful advantage rather than that we should appear to take pleasure in those who do iniquity. It was far better that Abram should lose by his valour than that his religious character should be placed in an equivocal position. That which is lawful is not always expedient. To every believer the welfare of God's righteous cause is the first consideration.

II. By refusing to acknowledge the world as the source of true greatness. Abram took an oath—made a solemn appeal to God—that he would take not even the smallest thing from the King of Sodom; giving this reason, "Lest thou shouldst say, I have made Abram rich." (Gen ). He attributed his worldly prosperity to the blessing of that God in whom he believed, and he would avoid all appearances that might lead men to ascribe it to any other source. There were two thoughts which supported him in this spirit of noble independence.

1. He was chosen of God. He had been called by the Divine voice, and had led a life manifestly guided and controlled by Providence. He felt that he was chosen to be a blessing to mankind. He was confident that God would mark out his way. He who feels that God has called him to his place and work can afford to take high ground.

2. He was heir to the promises. God had promised him the whole of the land, and however men might hinder, that promise would surely be fulfilled. His success depended not upon the will of man—it was assured by the Word of God. The believer is greater than the world, for he is safe in the faithfulness of God.

III. By showing that he stands on a different footing, and has better hopes than the children of this world. Abram refuses for himself the spoils offered by the King of Sodom. He is ready to give up his own rights, but he will not prevent others from asserting theirs. He allows his young men to take their subsistence, and the allies their portion. (Gen ). They would only be receiving what was justly their due. But Abram will show that he is not careful about these things. He stands upon a higher plane, and has a wider horizon. He is "looking for a better country, that is an heavenly," and he can afford to think lightly of every earthly good. Thus the believer, though in the world, is not of it. He belongs to God, and that is enough. All the children of faith are marked by a certain greatness of mind, which enables them to live above the world.

SUGGESTIVE COMMENTS ON THE VERSES

Gen . It would seem that, while these things were going on between Melchizedek and Abram, the King of Sodom stood by and heard what passed, but without taking any particular interest in it. What occurred between these two great characters appears to have made no impression upon him. Apparently he thought of nothing, and cared for nothing, but what respected himself. Though there is no evidence that he could claim any right, at least to the goods, yet he speaks in a manner as if he would be thought a little generous in relinquishing them.—(Bush.).

And take the goods to thyself. It would seem that here the king claims his own due, and allows Abram his. According to Arab usage, Abram had an undoubted right to the recovered goods and cattle. The custom is—if an enemy has spoiled an Arab camp, and carried away some of the persons as prisoners, and if the whole be afterwards recovered by another party—for the persons to be restored, but for the property to remain in the possession of those by whom it was recaptured. This exalts the conduct of Abraham in declining to receive his due, and detracts from the generosity for which the King of Sodom has obtained credit. Indeed, we see that Abram himself admits the right of his friends to that which, for himself, he declined.—(Pict. Bible.)

Gen . I have lifted up my hand. This is a serious matter with Abram. Either before, or then and there, he made an oath or solemn asseveration before God, with uplifted hand, that he would not touch the property of Sodom. He must have felt there was danger of moral contamination in coming into any political relationship with the cities of the vale. The LORD, the most high God, the Founder of heaven and earth. In this conjunction of names, Abram solemnly and expressly identifies the God of himself and of Melchizedek in the presence of the King of Sodom. The most high God of Melchizedek is the God of the first chapter of Genesis, and the Jehovah of Adam, Noah, and Abram.—(Murphy.)

To the designation by which Melchizedek knew God Abram adds the Sacred Name, which was revealed to himself. Every expression of the Divine Nature in human words enlarges our knowledge of God.

I have lifted up my hand. A swearing gesture (Dan , Rev 10:5-6). Neither doth he this rashly, but for very good reason: first, that by this oath, as by a buckler, he might fence himself against all covetous desires of the spoil; secondly, that he did seriously remit of that which was his right, and went not to war for wages; thirdly, hereby to profess his faith and religion in opposition to their superstitious vanities.—(Trapp).

Gen . Abram knew with what kind of man he had to deal. He was one of the prudent who foreseeth the evil, and therefore had already made up his mind what course to take.

He for whom the "Possessor of heaven and earth" has engaged to provide has no need to be beholden to any for his well-being, and especially in cases where his motives are liable to be misconstrued.

We should refuse the gifts of men when, by accepting them, we run the risk of bringing dishonour upon God.

Believers are so rich in their spiritual inheritance, and have so full a reward in God, that when it is expedient to do so, they can afford, in a spirit of noble generosity, to despise the world's gifts.

The reason why he would not be under the shadow of an obligation, or anything which might be construed an obligation to him, was not so much a regard to his own honour, but the honour of HIM in whose name he had sworn. Abram's God had blessed him, and promised to bless him more, and make him a blessing. Let it not be said by his enemies that with all his blessedness it is of our substance that he is what he is. No; Abram can trust in the "possessor of heaven and earth" to provide for him, without being beholden to the King of Sodom.—(Fuller).

Lest thou should say, I have made Abram rich. Occasion must not be given to any to speak the least evil of us, lest Christ be dishonoured: for every Christian quartereth arms with Christ. And if Abram do anything unbeseeming himself, Abram's God shall be blasphemed at Sodom.—(Trapp).

The generous conduct of Abram would raise him in the estimation of the Canaanites. The world has some admiration for true nobility of soul and disinterested goodness.

Gen . His excepting the portion of the young men who were in league with him shows a just sense of propriety. In giving up our own right we are not at liberty to give away that which pertains to others connected with us.—(Fuller).

We may, for sufficient reasons, give up a portion of our liberty; but we have no right to abridge the liberty of others to whom such reasons are not present.

Vows to God must not imply unjust things to men.—(Hughes)

ILLUSTRATIONS

BY THE

REV. WM. ADAMSON

Battle and Blessing! Gen .

(1) Numerous as are the mountains of Switzerland, one stands out singular and unique. It belongs to Switzerland, and bears signs of resemblance to the other hills and valleys of the country; yet it has its own peculiar individuality. Who does not recognise the special prominence of Mont Blanc?

(2) The rocky mountains of the far West are a magnificent range, evidencing their continuous and successive resemblance one with the other. Yet there is a spur, so singular and unique in its formation and contour, that for a moment the traveller almost fancies it is out of place.

(3) This chapter has the air and aspect of an episode in history. It stands out singular and unique. As Candlish says, "The warlike character which Abram assumes is a solitary exception to the usual tenor of his life; while his subsequent interview with the royal priest is altogether peculiar.

(4) A plant grows in Eastern jungles which sheds a clear light when all beside is dark. To midnight travellers amid Himalayan hills it seems as if it were a lamp to guide them on their wanderings. And the appearance of Melchizedek is just such a plant-lamp, pointing to Him who is a Priest for ever, after the order of Melchizedek.

"On the truth thus dimly shadowed

Later days a lustre shed,

When the Great High Priest eternal

Offers us both wine and bread."

Abram's Authority! Gen .

(1) In early days, when the white man first appeared amid the vast pinewoods and hunting grounds of the Red Indians, some of these red children of the wild were possessed of the conviction that the new-comers would by-and-by be owners of the soil. No doubt this was largely due to the consciousness of their keen Indian perceptive powers that the "white foreigners from over the water" were in many respects superior to them in intelligence and resource. But there was also a premonition, the origin of which was doubtless due to supernatural influence, that the "white man" was to possess the Indian's land. Hence some of these Indians became the fast friends of the early settlers.

(2) In the time of Abram certain of the Canaanite leaders were impressed with the conviction that this "pilgrim-pastor" would be the future lord of Palestine. Apparently Abimelech and Hamor had some such presentiment, that Canaanite ascendancy would give way before the Abrahamic posterity. Under supernatural conviction of a similar character the King of Salem comes forth to greet the deliverer of Lot on his return from the pursuit and overthrow of the four kings.

"Stay, pilgrim warrior, on thy road,

Refresh thy strength awhile;

Here is the banquet of thy God

To soothe thy warfare-toil."

Faith and Figure! Gen ; Gen 14:22.

(1). Abram returns victor. The hour of victory is the chosen time for the trial of faith. But the Prince of Salem comes and refreshes the weary warrior. Thus strengthened, Abram is proof against all the seductions of the king of Sodom. Strong in faith, the pilgrim refuses the proferred friendship of the king of Sodom.

(2). The rulers of the darkness of this world, successfully opposed in one form, meet us in another. Opposition to one form of evil brings us sometimes very near to other evil. If the king of Shinar is overcome, the king of Sodom is at hand, seeking the man of faith. But strong in the strength which God supplies through His eternal Son, he is able to refuse even a thread or a shoe-latchet.

(3). We have this exemplified in the life of the Son of Man Himself, who, when victor over the powers of evil, was invited to enter into alliance with the world. It is likewise the experience of the Church of Christ. Triumphant over one confederation of evil, the Sodom powers of corruption have humbly proferred their friendship and gifts. Faith views this as a snare of the wicked one, and scorns the offer.

"Trust not the moss-grown pleasant land,

Nor lilies of the field;

With worldly princes do not stand,

Nor to their offers yield."

Faith and Figure! Gen ; Gen 14:22.

(1). Abram returns victor. The hour of victory is the chosen time for the trial of faith. But the Prince of Salem comes and refreshes the weary warrior. Thus strengthened, Abram is proof against all the seductions of the king of Sodom. Strong in faith, the pilgrim refuses the proferred friendship of the king of Sodom.

(2). The rulers of the darkness of this world, successfully opposed in one form, meet us in another. Opposition to one form of evil brings us sometimes very near to other evil. If the king of Shinar is overcome, the king of Sodom is at hand, seeking the man of faith. But strong in the strength which God supplies through His eternal Son, he is able to refuse even a thread or a shoe-latchet.

(3). We have this exemplified in the life of the Son of Man Himself, who, when victor over the powers of evil, was invited to enter into alliance with the world. It is likewise the experience of the Church of Christ. Triumphant over one confederation of evil, the Sodom powers of corruption have humbly proferred their friendship and gifts. Faith views this as a snare of the wicked one, and scorns the offer.

"Trust not the moss-grown pleasant land,

Nor lilies of the field;

With worldly princes do not stand,

Nor to their offers yield."

Disinterestedness! Gen , etc. Canada has become a kingdom in fifty years. Its large cities were then little hamlets, and its mighty forests then covered its virgin soil. Near its lakes a gallant soldier had retired and settled; and around him had gathered a few brave hunters. They were surrounded by Indian tribes, who, partly from respect and awe, refrained from attacking this happy settlement. One of the white men, eager to find a wider field, left the hamlet, and took his family to the hunting ground and village of one of these tribes. Another tribe sacked the Indian village, carried off the leading chief, his wives and flocks; and at the same time took away the white man's family and property. When tidings reached the gallant head of the white settlement, he armed his servants, pursued after the retreating Indians, surprised them in their sleep, and brought back the captured white and red men. On arriving at the Indian wigwams again, the grateful Indian chief urged his deliverer to take the rescued cattle. The white leader, animated by those noble motives which blossom so sweetly where Divine Grace reigns, and anxious to shew the "Red man" what Christianity does for the white man, refused to take one hoof or horse: "Give only to those who volunteered to join me in the rescue; as for myself and friends, we are content with your deliverance and safe return home."

"The conflict's past, the fight is o'er,

The victory is won;

And we are more than conquerors

Through Him, who says "Well done."

God's Honour! Gen .

(1) In the South Sea Islands a missionary had undertaken a perilous enterprise for the sake of securing the freedom of a chief's wife, daughter, and goods, carried off by a hostile chief in his absence. By mediation and persuasion the missionary was successful in bringing back again the prisoners and property. The grateful chief, conscious that the life and liberty of his family could not have been secured by himself and followers, urged the missionary to accept the goods as a reward, but in vain. Anxious to impress upon the chief and natives the unselfish character of Christianity, the servant of Christ refused all reward.

(2) When the patriot-general of Benhadad appeared with flesh like the flesh of a little child, after his sevenfold plunge beneath the waters of the Jordan, his grateful heart desired to make a generous recognition of the prophet's interposition. But Elijah, jealous for the honour of God, and desirous of favourably impressing Naaman's mind as to the character and religion of Jehovah, refused all recompense. It is true that they which preach the Gospel should live of the Gospel, but there are seasons and circumstances when for the honour of God all rewards should be steadily refused.

"Death may dissever the chain,

Oppression will cease when I'm gone;

But the dishonour—the stain—

Die as I may, will live on."—Moore.

Oaths! Gen .

(1) As humanity had to become accustomed to a mutual reverence for truth and fidelity, it was natural that the use of oaths should be

(1) frequent, and

(2) forcible. There were three prominent classes of oath—

1. The Simple kind, when a private individual would confirm something in a sacred manner by his own voluntary action.

2. The Severe kind, when, by way of adjuration, one sought to compel another to confess the truth, or observe a command solemnly laid upon him.

3. The Solemn kind, which was employed in the making of contracts and forming of alliances, and of which we have frequent illustrations in Scripture and Ancient History.

(2) Abram's oath probably belongs to the first of these classes. It is singular that a similar custom obtained amongst the South Sea Islanders, and even amongst the ancient Indians. Roberts mentions that, doubting the faithfulness of his Arab guide and chief, Hassan lifted up his right hand to heaven, and swore by "Allah" that he would be true, vigilant, and faithful. This custom prevails most among nations where falsehood is common. It is remarkable that the Irish—and especially the Roman Catholics—are unusually profuse in the use of those oaths in which the Divine Name is emphasised.

"In every tale they tell, or false or true,

Well known, or such as no man ever knew,

They fix attention, heedless of your pain,

With oaths like rivets forced into the brain."—Cowper.

Thread and Latchet! Gen .

(1) Roberts thinks that this may refer to the red thread worn round the neck or arm, and which binds on the amulet; or to the string with which females tie up their hair. The latchet, he supposes, means the thong of the sandal, which goes over the top of the foot, and betwixt the great and little toes.

1. It is alluded to twice in the Old Testament—here and in Isa . In Isaiah it is referred to as a necessary requisite for rapid locomotion; while here it is spoken of as something valueless. Similar proverbial expressions have been in use in all countries to denote comparative unworthiness. Abram clearly employs it as an emphatic expression, signifying his resolute decision to accept of no return from Sodom's king.

"Set honour in one eye and death i' th' other,

And I will look on both indifferently;

For let my God so speed me, as I love

The name of honour more than I fear death."—Shakespeare.

Soldier and Servant! Gen . In olden days of feudalism and chivalry, stood a noble Saxon castle, with its wide sweeping plains and woods. One of the retainers, engaged in the work of forester, was attracted by cries of distress towards a cliff, at whose base foamed a river. A glance disclosed to him a human form contending helplessly with the waters, which bore him downwards. Springing from cliff to cliff, and rock to rock, the nimble forester reached the stream, where a stately tree bent half over its waters. Creeping along its trunk, he stooped down, caught and rescued the sinking man. Having brought him to the bank, he succeeded in restoring life to the rescued man, who turned out to be a neighbouring baron. Once more placed beyond danger on the cliffs from whence he had slipped into the torrent, the baron gratefully offered a handful of gold to his deliverer. Drawing himself up, the manly forester pointed with his finger to the lordly castle where his lord dwelt, saying: "My master is able to reward me." As the servant, he looked for his hire to the master. Abram was the soldier and servant of the living God, and to Him he looked for recompense—a stranger's wealth he could not accept.

"For when my years are ended, and my course

Of mortal conflict o'er; when the good fight

Of faith is fought, the Christian warfare done,

In heaven's bright plains shall be my endless benison."

 


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Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.

Bibliography Information
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Genesis 14:4". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/phc/genesis-14.html. Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1892.

Lectionary Calendar
Monday, September 23rd, 2019
the Week of Proper 20 / Ordinary 25
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