GENESIS - CHAPTER 14
A Bible Study - Commentary by Jim Melough
Copyright 2000 James Melough
The history of Abram continues in Genesis chapter 14, but the first twelve verses of that chapter are devoted to detailing events that involved Lot, that record being preserved to teach all men the folly of acting in independence of God.
Before examining each verse in detail it might be well to look at the whole picture. The confederation of four Babylonian kings which invaded the land represents worldly religion, particularly the great apostate system which rules Christendom today, having arrogated complete power over the lives of its deluded votaries.
The coalition of five kings from the cities of the plain of Jordan represents the world of men estranged from God, spiritually dead even while they live in sin, though under the bondage of a religion that knows nothing of a faith relationship with God through the Lord Jesus Christ.
The abortive rebellion reveals the true state that exists between godless man and his religion. His submission is an unwilling one, and when opportunity presents itself he will attempt to throw off the yoke. The failure of the rebellion, however, reveals the truth that in refusing to accept God’s control, which is true freedom, man makes himself a slave indeed, for he who will not willingly serve God must be the unwilling slave of Satan, serving sinful lusts, and then of necessity having also to submit to the tyranny of a Christless religion in which he tries to find relief from the sting of a guilty conscience.
Lot, having chosen to live like a worldling, must pay the price of his folly, and experience the worldling’s bondage. He too became a captive of the Babylonian master.
With this brief sketch of the spiritual picture before us, we will now examine the chapter in detail.
14:1. “And it came to pass in the days of Amraphel king of Shinar, Arioch king of Ellasar (Larsa), Chedorlaomer king of Elam, and Tidal king of nations:”
Amraphel means sayer of darkness: fall of the sayer. It was in the days when he ruled Shinar, meaning tooth of the city: change of the city, that the war was fought which resulted in the defeat of the kings of the Jordan plain.
In contrast with the Word of God which proceeds from Him Who is light, and Who gives life and light to men, the proclamations of the great world church come from the prince of darkness, and are intended to keep men in darkness, leading them on to the eternal darkness of a lost eternity.
The second meaning of his name fall of the sayer would hint at the truth that the sayer of darkness is none other than the one who once was Lucifer shining one, and who has become Satan adversary, the fallen prince of darkness. There is also undoubtedly the reminder that he will fall yet farther: he will be cast for all eternity into the torment of the lake of fire.
I don’t see clearly the spiritual significance of the meaning of Shinar, but since tooth appears to direct attention to the mouth, which is of course associated with speech, and since teeth are frequently used in Scripture to designate the strength of the wicked, it may be pointing to the false speech or doctrine, and the Satanic strength which govern the whole apostate system.
Arioch means lion-like, and would direct attention to another aspect of the great world church. The power behind it is Satan, the one of whom Peter warns in 1 Pe 5:8 “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about seeking whom he may devour.”
The kingdom ruled by Arioch was Ellasar (Larsa), which means God is chastener, and while it may be difficult to see the connection between this obvious truth and the dominion of Satan, one thing is clear: Satan may rule, by God’s permission, for a little while, but in the end God will prove to be indeed the Chastener.
Chedorlaomer means as binding for the sheaf. The world church with all its religious forms, binds men in bondage which leads to eternal death, whereas the Lord Jesus Christ sets men free, “If the Son, therefore, shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed” (Jn 8:36). That whole evil system, however, will yet be bound by God and cast into the lake of fire.
The territory ruled by Chedlaomer was Elam which means their heaps: suckling them: eternal. “Their heaps” taken in conjunction with the meaning of Chedorlaomer, evokes the thought of heaps of sheaves. The sowing of seed, and the reaping of the harvest, Mt 13, are Biblical figures of the preaching of the Gospel, as is also Ps 126:6, “He that goeth forth and weepeth, bearing precious seed, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him.” As sheaves of wheat represent believers, these heaps of sheaves we are considering seem to speak of unbelievers bound together, not by the Gospel, but by the false doctrine of the great religious system that has sought to usurp the place of the true Church.
The second meaning suckling them seems to be the evil counterpart of the Christian experience in which new believers “desire the sincere milk of the Word” (1 Pe 2:2). The world church “suckles” its babes with the deadly poison of the Word perverted and corrupted.
The third meaning eternal needs little comment. With regard to evil, as also to good, the results are eternal.
The fourth king is Tidal which means thou shalt be cast out by the most high: thou shalt be cast out from above. This language is certainly applicable to Satan, for in Re 12:9 it is written concerning him, “And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan ... he was cast out into the earth.” In Isa 14:12-18 we read, “How art thou fallen from heaven, Oh Lucifer, son of the morning! how art thou cut down to the ground.... yet thou shalt be brought down to hell.... thou art cast out of thy grave like an abominable branch.” As with the prince, so also with those who submit to his rule: both “shall be cast out by the Most High.” The world’s religion leads men finally to the great white throne from which they will be cast down into the eternal burning of the lake of fire, as it is written, “And the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone ... and shall be tormented ... for ever.... And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire” (Re 20:10-15.
Just as God has chosen to use four Gospels to portray Christ, so it seems has He chosen these four kings to portray the evil prince of darkness who is the unseen power behind the great world church.
No specific kingdom is mentioned in connection with Tidal. As king of nations he stands forth as the figure of him who is the malignant fallen spirit who rules unseen over the kingdoms of this world.
14:2. “That these made war with Bera king of Sodom, and with Birsha king of Gomorrah, Shinab king of Admah, and Shemeber king of Zeboiim, and the king of Bela, which is Zoar.”
The character of the true Church is that her Head loves all the members, and died that their sins might be forgiven, “Christ loved the church, and gave himself for it” (Eph 5:25). That spirit of love marks also the members, “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another” (Jn 13:15). But that divine love extends even farther. Not only did Christ love the Church, He loves every man, and died to bring eternal life to all who will accept it, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (Jn 3:16). And even as He hung on the cross the Lord prayed on behalf of those who had crucified Him and mocked Him in His agony, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do” (Lk 23:34).
Not so with Satan and his counterfeit church, “These (the Babylonian coalition which represents the world church) made war with Bera....” Christ attracts men to His easy service with love, or not at all, but the great harlot masquerading as the bride of Christ, compels the allegiance of all, under threat of eternal damnation; and when there is no one able to oppose, she compels also with the sword. The history of the Roman Catholic church between 500 and 1500 A.D., leaves no doubt as to her true character, or as to the truth that she is as described in Re 17:6, “drunken with the blood of the saints, and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus Christ.”
The thraldom the five kings attempted to break was one that had been imposed by force. It is an accurate picture of the bondage imposed upon men by the false church.
The first-named is Bera king of Sodom. His name means in the evil, and his city, Sodom means fettered. This is a description of the men of the world: they are always in evil, and they are in bondage to sin and Satan, “And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil” (Jn 3:19). Paul, referring to the former state of the believers in Rome, wrote, “Ye were the servants (slaves) of sin” (Ro 6:17).
The second is Birsha king of Gomorrah. His name means in wickedness, and his city means bondage. The spiritual application is too obvious to need comment.
The third is Shinab meaning father’s tooth: change of father, and his city is Admah meaning earthiness.
Since, as with the very similar Shinar, tooth appears to direct attention to the mouth, which is associated with speech, as teeth are with the power of evil, it may be connected with the false speech or doctrine, and Satanic power, which govern the whole apostate system. The spiritual significance of Admah is easily read, for in 1 Co 15:47 it is written, “The first man is of the earth, earthy.” Man in his natural state is “in Adam” the first man, and like him, is also earthy.
The fourth is Shemeber, meaning name of soaring, and his city is Zeboiim meaning gazelles: troops.
Soaring connotes flying or rising up, and may be connected with the thought of pride and worldly ambition: man’s attempt to lift himself up without God. The meaning of the city is not unrelated to the idea of pride, for in gazelles we have the thought of gracefulness (the refinements of civilized society), and in troops we have the thought of strength or power of large numbers. These are the very things that cause man to become lifted up with pride in his own achievements.
The fifth king is unnamed, but in the names of his city, the first name Bela meaning swallowing, and the second Zoar meaning bringing low, we have the symbolic declaration of the truth that the end of the natural man is to be swallowed up and brought low, first down to the depths of hell, and finally to the eternal torment of the lake of fire.
There being five kings in this Sodomite league seems to confirm that they represent unregenerate humanity, for not only is five the number of responsibility, it is also the number that is stamped upon man as a sensual creature, dead to spiritual realities. He has five fingers on each hand; five toes on each foot, and he has five senses. The hand is the Biblical symbol of service or work, and man is responsible to do the work of God and live, Jn 6:28-29, or the work of Satan, and perish. The foot is the Biblical symbol of the walk or manner of life. Man is responsible to walk in obedience, and live; or to walk in disobedience, and perish. The five senses govern the complete functioning of the body, and men are responsible to “...present (their) bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God....” Ro 12:1, or to yield them as instruments of sin, and perish, Ro 6:12-13.
14:3. “All these were joined together in the vale of Siddim, which is the salt sea.”
Siddim means furrows: cultivators, and furrows and cultivation, connected as they are with man’s earthly toil, would certainly set the vale of Siddim before us as a picture of this world which is the scene of that toil.
“... which is the salt sea” is that which is now the salt or Dead Sea. In those days it was a fertile valley producing abundant harvests in the furrows plowed by the cultivators. In this too, it pictures the world. All in this world that delights man’s heart for a few brief years must eventually give place to the encroaching waters of the sea of death.
14:4. “Twelve years they served Chedorlaomer, and in the thirteenth year they rebelled.”
Twelve is the number of God’s government on display, that is, the effects of His government as seen in the lives of the governed. Twelve years of Babylon’s oppressive rule produced rebellion, and here the literal is but a demonstration of spiritual truth. The natural man chafes under the tyranny of his religion, because man in his natural state is a rebel who will accept no restriction of his lusts. However lax the standards of his religion, the average man, either by inability, or by deliberate choice, fails to meet those standards fully.
In connection with the thirteenth year, since thirteen is a prime number, the spiritual lesson is found by subtracting one, the number of God, and
then examining the remainder, twelve, the number of divine government on display. The lesson, then, of the rebellion in the thirteenth year is that man is a rebel, not only against God, but against even the religion which he himself has devised.
14:5. “In the fourteenth year came Chedorlaomer, and the kings that were with him, and smote the Rephaims in Ashteroth Karnaim, and the Zuzims in Ham, and the Emims in Shaveh Kiriathaim.”
Fourteen is two (number of witness or testimony), multiplied by seven (number of perfection or completeness). The retributive invasion in the fourteenth year is simply the witness to the completeness of Babylon’s tyrannous rule.
First to feel the stroke of the invading Babylonian kings were the Rephaims the dead, in Ashteroth Karnaim double horned mind readers: double horned flocks, followed by the Zuzims roving creatures, in Ham tumult: he raged, and next were the Emims terror, in Shaveh equality: plain, Kiriathaim double city.
While the meaning of some of these names is difficult to interpret precisely, it is apparent that the overall picture is that of unregenerate man. The Rephaims portray his spiritual state: he is “dead in trespasses and sins” (Eph 2:1).
I am unable to interpret the meaning of Ashteroth Karnaim, though since a horn is the Scriptural symbol of a king, it may be in some way related to earthly power in the realm of the intellect. The wisdom of the unbeliever is earthly.
The Zuzims roving creatures point to another characteristic of the natural man. Roving connotes aimless wandering. The life of the unbeliever is nothing more than an aimless wandering between two eternities. Ham tumult: he raged is the fitting description of the angry, restless tumult which is man’s life. (It should be noted that it is only here that Ham has this meaning. Elsewhere it means hot: father-in-law).
The Emims terror represent the fear that stalks man through life: fear of the unknown, fear of death, etc., and his territory, the equality or plain of the double city, represents that striving for equality that is never achieved, for man spends his days in the “double city” where there are always the rich and the poor, the strong and the weak, the rulers and the subjects, etc.
14:6. “And the Horites my cave: caveites: my whiteness in their mount Seir shaggy: hairy: goatlike, unto Elparan power of their adorning which is by the wilderness.”
In Scripture a cave is always connected with death and burial, as whiteness is with righteousness (either the righteousness of Christ that clothes the believer, or the filthy rags of man’s self-righteousness). In the present context, however, since the whiteness is linked with that which speaks of death, the picture appears to be that of mere human righteousness according to man’s standard, not God’s. Such righteousness ends in death.
Elparan reinforces this thought, for it is righteousness according to human standards that constitutes man’s spiritual adornment.
The land of the Horites was mount Seir, which means shaggy: hairy: goat-like. It was the land of Esau who is a type of the natural man, and associated with this obvious connection with sin, is the fact that the goat was the animal used on the day of Atonement in connection with the ritualistic putting away of Israel’s sin each year. It is also significant that from the moment of his birth Esau the profane man was covered with red hair, see Ge 27: 11-23. The lesson is easy to read. However righteous man may be according to human standards, he is not righteous in God’s sight. Had he but the spiritual ability to see himself as he really is, his language would be that of the prophet who wailed, “Wo is me! for I am undone: because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips” (Isa 6:5).
Elparan’s being by the wilderness would remind us that the adornment of self-righteousness is dangerously close to the “wilderness,” the place of death.
14:7. “And they returned and came to Enmishpat fount of judgment, which is Kadesh apartness: set apart fro a purpose, and smote all the country of the Amalekites people of lapping or licking up, and also the Amorites sayers, that dwelt in Hazezontamar archer of the palm trees.”
Amalek represents the flesh and its lusts. This being so, the question arises as to why the Amalekites should have felt the stroke of the Babylonian invader, since the one is as much the representative of evil as is the other. The answer is found in practical experience. The world church sets for her subjects a standard of morality that is impossible to achieve - her own priests being chief among the offenders - and she is the first to inflict judgment on the transgressor, though she herself fails to meet that standard.
The Lord put His finger on this evil in Mt 23:2-5 when He said, “The scribes and Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat... but do not ye after their works: for they say and do not. For they bind heavy burdens and grievous to be borne, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers. But all their works they do for to be seen of men.”
The stroke fell at Enmishpat fount of judgment. The point where the worldling refuses to submit to the domination of the false church becomes “Enmishpat” - she passes judgment on the rebel, and inflicts her sanctions, by which she deprives him of his only hope for the hereafter, vain though that hope is.
Enmishpat’s being also Kadesh would remind us that he who rebels against the authority of the harlot church finds himself “set apart” as the object of her wrath.
A word of explanation is perhaps in order here as to the Amalekites. These are not to be confused with the descendants of Esau, who didn’t appear until a later date, though it is from the latter that we learn the spiritual significance of the name. It was the Amalekites descended from Esau who first fought against Israel when they came out of Egypt, and of whom God declared that he would have war with Amalek from generation to generation, and that he would blot out the remembrance of Amalek (Ex 17).
That Amalek represents the flesh is easy to understand when we remember that Esau, Amalek’s forebearer, was the elder brother of Jacob who was the father of the Israelites. The enmity between these two brothers - an enmity carried on by their descendants to this day - is an apt picture of the enmity between the old and the new natures, the flesh and the spirit.
“...and also the Amorites sayers that dwelt in Hazezontamer archer of the palm trees.”
The Amorite represents the mere professor - talk without reality. In 2 Pe 2:18 and Jude 16 false teachers are described as those who “speak great swelling words.” The palm tree represents the righteous man, “the righteous shall flourish like the palm tree” (Ps 92:12), but since an archer is one who inflicts wounds, the thought seems to be of that self-righteousness of the moral, but unconverted man, which employs itself in wounding others by a harsh condemnation of all that doesn’t meet the standards of the critic. The self-righteous professor who is ready in an instant to criticize others, must also submit to the domination of the great harlot church, for he himself can never escape the nagging fear that his self-righteousness may fall short of what is required to escape hell and enter heaven. He must remain the abject slave of the religious system under which he has placed himself, and rebellion brings retribution.
The invasion was southward on the eastern side of the Jordan and around the southern end of the Dead Sea. Those attacked were living either outside of Canaan, east of Jordan (the east being always connected with sin and departure from God), or in the region of Canaan dominated by the wicked cities of the plain. Only two classes of people fall prey to the world’s religion
typified by the Babylonian confederation: unbelievers, and believers living in sin. Abram, type of the spiritual believer, was not involved, and so is it in practice: the spiritual believer, grounded in the Word of God, lives beyond the reach of being entangled by the error of the world’s religious systems.
14:8. “And there went out the king of Sodom, and the king of Gomorrah, and the king of Admah, and the king of Zeboiim, and the king of Bela (the same is Zoar;) and they joined battle with them in the vale of Siddim.”
The five kings comprising the Sodomite league represent the mere natural, sensual man, and the rebellion of the old nature against, not only true righteousness, but also against even that which is only according to man’s standards.
14:9. “With Chedorlaomer the king of Elam, and with Tidal king of nations, and Amraphel king of Shinar, and Arioch king of Ellasar; four kings with five.”
The four Babylonian kings we have found to be representative of the great world church, and of man’s religion in general. There being four, points to the earthly nature of man’s religion, for four is the number of earth and testing. Testing under even the low standard of his own earthly religion reveals the true state of man. Not only does he fail to meet the divine standard: he fails also to meet that which man himself sets. Man in his natural state is a rebel against all righteousness, human as well as divine.
14:10. “And the vale of Siddim was full of slime pits; and the kings of Sodom and Gomorrah fled, and fell there; and they that remained fled to the mountain.”
The battle was joined in the vale of Siddim furrows: cultivators, which is a type of the world. Slime (bitumen) was used instead of mortar to build Babylon. It may represent false doctrine. The slime pits are Satan’s substitute for the wells of the Word. By the corruption of the Word through the evil doctrine of the harlot church, the wells have become slime pits in which multitudes perish. Like those who perished in the slime pits of Siddim, the men of the world, attempting to throw off the yoke of worldly religion, find themselves wallowing and dying in sin, cut off from the only hope they ever had, worthless though it is.
But some escaped and fled to the mountain. For the believer, the mountain speaks of being alone with God above the distractions of earth. For the unbeliever, it speaks of separation from the world, but it is a lonely barren fruitless separation, for it is not a separation unto God. Those who escaped to the mountain represent those who hope to save themselves by separation from the world. As we have already learned however, God not only calls from the world: He also calls to Himself. A separation that is only from the world but not unto God is utterly worthless, for it is mere asceticism.
14:11. “And they took all the goods of Sodom and Gomorrah, and all their victuals, and went their way.”
Having punished rebellion and reasserted their authority, the invaders passed on enriched by their victims’ goods and wealth. The divine Artist has sketched with a very few lines a very clear picture. It is the great world church of Revelation 17 and 18, sitting as a queen and ruling with an iron rod those men who know not God.
All the goods and all the supplies were taken. Having accepted the standards of some religious system as the measure of his fitness for heaven, man, in rebelling against it, is robbed of everything, for that rebellion results in the loss of all his hope for eternity, even though that hope was worthless to begin with.
14:12. “And they took Lot, Abram’s brother’s son, who dwelt in Sodom, and his goods, and departed.”
Lot, as captive of the Babylonians, portrays a believer under the bondage of a corrupt religious system. Some are there because they are untaught; and some, like Lot, are there because they are carnal, the desire for worldly gain being that which has brought them into bondage. Had he not been dwelling in Sodom, he wouldn’t have been taken captive.
14:13. “And there came one that had escaped, and told Abram the Hebrew; for he dwelt in the plain of Mamre the Amorite, brother of Eshcol, and brother of Aner: and these were confederate with Abram.”
This escapee represents a new believer, one just recently enlightened, and escaped from the dominion of the world’s false religion. Though himself escaped, he yet was powerless to deliver another. In this he represents a new believer, who by faith has escaped from Satan’s bondage, but who lacks knowledge beyond that point. But recognition of his own helplessness, instead of causing him to throw up his hands in despair, impels him to turn to one whom he recognizes as having the power to effect a rescue.
The youngest, most untaught believer has a greater than Abram to Whom he can bring every problem - the Lord Jesus Christ.
But there is another practical lesson to be learned. Not every believer is fitted for every task. The restoration of an erring saint, typified in Abram’s deliverance of Lot, is a work that should be left to spiritual believers, “Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, deliver such an one” (Gal 6:1).
The man who lives as did Abram, a life separated unto God, is the man capable of doing God’s work. This is the only place where Abram is spoken of as “the Hebrew,” and here it is particularly apt. Hebrew means beyond: the other side (as having crossed over), and certainly his life was the demonstration of what that appellation implied - he had crossed over from the land of the Chaldeans to Canaan; but in Canaan too, he had “crossed over.” Lot had also crossed over from Chaldea to Canaan, but that was the extent of his separation. In Canaan he walked with the Canaanites, but Abram walked with God, his separated life being the OT foreshadowing of the truth of Gal 6:14, “But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world.”
And it is repeated that, “... he dwelt in Mamre, which is in Hebron,” but unlike chapter 13:8 which simply states that, “He came and dwelt in the plain of Mamre, which is in Hebron....” this verse adds that “he dwelt in the plain of Mamre the Amorite....” The friendship of these Canaanites is a demonstration of the truth that, “When a man’s ways please the Lord, He maketh even his enemies to be at peace with him” (Pr 16:7). The record of Abram’s life would indicate that his being confederate, i.e., “in covenant with” these Canaanites, implies simply that they had made a covenant of peace together.
14:14. “And when Abram heard that his brother was taken captive, he armed his trained servants, born in his own house, three hundred eighteen, and pursued them unto Dan.”
Abram’s response to the news of Lot’s capture might well have been, “Of what concern is that to me? He is reaping what he has sowed.” Instead we read, “When Abram heard that his brother was taken captive....” This is the attitude of the man who lives to please God. Lot was only his nephew, and also the one who had selfishly chosen the best part of the land for himself, yet Abram calls him, “My brother.”
”... he armed his trained servants,” is literally, “He led forth his instructed servants.” Those who would do God’s work must be instructed, “Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Tim 2:15). Few things have had more disastrous results in the Church than the activity of uninstructed men, particularly in the sphere of leadership. It is God Himself Who excludes the novice from the oversight, “Not a novice, lest being lifted up with pride he fall into the condemnation of the devil” (1 Tim 3:6). What is true of the one who would be an elder is equally true of the one who would be a teacher. The work of both requires spiritual maturity, and the ability to “rightly divide the word of truth.”
The spiritual meaning of the number 318 is difficult to determine, for factorizing it produces two prime numbers 53 and 13, but since the factors are 2 and 3 - the numbers of witness and resurrection respectively - the spiritual lesson may perhaps be to remind us that Abram’s life was the witness to the truth that he was a man who stood spiritually on resurrection ground.
The matter of birth is also stressed. They had been born in Abram’s house. No one who has not been born into the household of faith can render service to God.
While certainly Abram’s recovery of Lot would remind us that each one of us is his brother’s keeper, the spiritual lesson goes far beyond that. Since the life of the unbeliever and that of the carnal Christian are so similar, we may, in the present context, view the captive Lot as the representative of both, for God would have us see in his deliverance, a picture of Christ’s recovery of us from a bondage far more terrible than that imposed by the Babylonian confederacy - the bondage of Satan carrying us to eternal death.
Abram pursued the enemy to Dan, and there the battle began. Dan means judging: a judge, and it points to Calvary where the battle for your soul and mine began, for it was there that the judgment due to us fell upon Christ. For Him Calvary was “Dan,” the place of judgment.
There is one striking difference, however, between the type and the reality. Abram was assisted by three hundred eighteen trained servants. When the Lord Jesus Christ came to the place of judgment, “They all forsook Him and fled” (Mk 14:50). He fought the battle alone.
14:15. “And he divided himself against them, he and his servants, by night, and smote them, and pursued them unto Hobah, which is on the left hand of Damascus.”
The battle at Calvary was also fought in the darkness, “Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land unto the ninth hour” (Mt 27:45).
The conflict ended at Hobah which means hiding: affectionate, and it resulted in the utter defeat of the enemy. The battle at Calvary also ended at “Hobah” with the utter defeat of the enemy. What began for Christ at “Dan,” the place of judgment, has become for us “Hobah,” the hiding place where our sins are eternally hidden from God’s sight under the precious blood of Christ, and where we have become the eternal objects of His affection, for it is written, “A man shall be as an hiding place from the wind, and a covert from the tempest” (Isa 32:2). Christ is that Man, that Hiding Place.
Hobah’s being on the left hand of Damascus teaches us something about our position in Christ. The left is symbolic of weakness, but it is also the side nearest the heart, the place of affection (the second meaning of Hobah). Christ’s love in giving Himself for us has fully met all our need, supplied everything our weakness will ever require; and in that place of shelter, that hiding place, we rest in perfect peace, eternally secure.
While the exact location of Hobah is uncertain, it is generally believed to have been on the west of Damascus, and that too, is significant, for the west is always Scripturally connected with approach to God.
Damascus, meaning, silent is the sackcloth weaver, has also spiritual significance, for sackcloth is synonymous with sorrow, mourning, and death. For those spiritually in “Hobah,” the sackcloth weaver is silent. Never again will his loom produce our covering, for we are clothed in Christ’s righteousness.
14:16. “And brought back all the goods, and also brought again his brother Lot, and his goods, and the women also, and the people.”
Abram’s victory adumbrates that of Christ. At Calvary all that had been snatched from the first Adam was recovered by the last Adam.
The recovery of the goods as well as the people would remind us that when Christ won the battle at Calvary He did more than redeem men’s souls: He redeemed also the whole creation. It is to be remembered too, that the redeemed have been restored to a better position than that which Adam had occupied. He could, and did fall. The believer can never lose his salvation. This enrichment of the redeemed is symbolically declared in that those delivered by Abram returned richer than they had been before, for he had recovered, not only what had been seized from the cities of the plain, but in addition, all that had been in the possession of the invaders.
14:17. “And the king of Sodom went out to meet him after his return from the slaughter of Chedor-laomer, and of the kings that were with him, at the valley of Shaveh, which is the king’s dale.”
Any doubt as to the completeness of Abram’s victory is removed by the statement that he returned “from the slaughter of Chedorlaomer and the kings that were with him.” They had been slain. There was no danger of their returning. Christ’s victory needs no repetition, for “... we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all,” for “... this man (Christ), after he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God.... For by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified” (Heb 10:10-13).
The victorious Abram returning from the battle was met by Bera in the evil, king of Sodom fettered. Having set Abram before us as a type of Christ, God now returns him to his role as representative of the believer, and would teach us needed lessons as to the pitfalls lying in the path of the believer who has just won a spiritual battle. “Now all these things happened unto them for ensamples (types): and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world (age) are come. Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall” (1 Co 10:11-12). There is probably no time when the believer is more vulnerable than when coming fresh from a spiritual battle flushed with victory; nor is anyone more aware of this than Satan. It is the moment when he will press his attack with the most chance of success. He cares little about this world’s goods, though he will use them to lure men on to destruction, but this evil prince of darkness and death seeks above all else to have men’s souls. Down through the ages the hiss of the serpent has been, “Give me the persons.”
The place where the evil king of Sodom met the man of God was in “the king’s dale.” The believer will have many an encounter with Satan, but those encounters take place in “the King’s dale.” The Lord Jesus Christ is King of “the valley.” Satan’s activity in this “vale of tears” is limited to what the King permits, and only for as long as the King permits.
14:18. “And Melchizedek king of Salem brought forth bread and wine: and he was the priest of the most high God.”
Melchizedek, meaning king of righteousness, is clearly a type of Christ, just as Bera is of Satan. In regard to Christ it is written, “Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek ... called of God an high priest after the order of Melchizedek” (Heb 5:6-10). Hebrews chapter seven refers to this meeting between Melchizedek and Abram, and supplies details not given here in the Genesis record. Heb 7:3 declares Melchizedek to have been, “without father, without mother, without descent (ancestry or beginning), having neither beginning of days nor end of life; but made like unto the Son of God; abideth a priest continually.”
This verse has perplexed many, unnecessarily. Melchizedek was not Christ: he was “made like Him.” “... without father ... mother ... descent” is not declaring him to have been eternally existing. It is simply that his birth and lineage have not been recorded, so that he might stand as a type of Him Who is eternal. “... having neither beginning of days, nor end of life: abideth a priest continually.” The omission of the record of his birth and death is designed to focus attention on the seeming eternal duration of his priesthood. It wasn’t eternal. Like his life, it did have a beginning and an end, but the unrecorded terminals of his priesthood make it symbolic of the eternal priesthood of Christ. Hebrews chapter seven makes it clear that Melchizedek was simply a man, who as king of Jerusalem (Salem), i.e., king of peace, and priest of the most high God, was a type of Christ.
Abram was met, not only by the evil king of Sodom, but also by this godly king of righteousness and peace, and it is instructive to note that he received the sustaining ministry of Melchizedek before having to deal with Bera. We aren’t left to meet the foe in our own strength, “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me” (Php 4:13).
The significance of the feast spread by Melchizedek will be better understood if we remember that God uses many men in the Scriptures to be types of Christ, as in this present chapter He has used Abram in his battle with the Babylonian kings, to portray Christ in His battle fought at Calvary. Having served in that character, however, Abram is now returned to his more usual role of representing the believer, and Melchizedek is brought upon the scene to represent Christ in resurrection power and glory, ministering to the needs of His own as their Great High Priest, spreading before them the memorials of the battle in which “By weakness and defeat, He won the meed and crown; trod all His foes beneath His feet, by being trodden down.”
This meeting of Abram and Melchizedek sets before us, first of all, the Lord’s supper, where the risen Lord meets with His own, presenting them with the bread and wine, emblems of His body and blood, while they present their grateful worship, typified in Abram’s tithes. Significantly, it was not until after this feast that Abram had to deal with Bera’s proposal. A much needed practical lesson is being taught here. Divine wisdom has ordained that the Lord’s supper should be eaten on the first day of the week, before we go out to face a hostile world, for it is only as we are brought face to face with the inestimable worth of the sacrifice offered at Calvary, that we will be able to keep things in perspective, seeing the worthlessness of the things of this passing world, in the light of heaven. The believer who absents himself from the Lord’s table is not only disobedient - he is foolish, for the poet reminds us that there we partake of “bread to strengthen, wine to cheer.” Without that spiritual fortification we are no match for “the world, the flesh, and the devil.”
Melchizedek’s being a priest implies the presence of other believers in Canaan, for since the priest stands as the intermediary between God and men, it is difficult to see how he could function as priest if there were no other believers. If our deduction is correct, then we are assured that Abram received also the encouragement of learning that he wasn’t alone in the midst of a wicked people.
But even if there had been no others, wasn’t Melchizedek worth ten thousand ordinary men? He was king of Jerusalem, king of righteousness, king of peace, and he was God’s high priest. Are we sometimes tempted to think that we are all alone? There are others, for God is never without His witnesses; and even if there weren’t, there is still Christ, the chiefest among ten thousand, the true King of righteousness, King of peace, God’s, and our Great High Priest. Jerusalem is a type of the human heart. When Melchizedek reigned in Jerusalem, righteousness and peace reigned. When Christ reigns in the heart, righteousness and peace reign in the life.
It is interesting to note that it was after his slaughter of the priests of Baal, that a discouraged Elijah, thinking himself to be alone, received from God the assurance, “I have left me seven thousand in Israel, all the knees which have not bowed unto Baal” (1 Ki 19:18). God is never without His “seven thousand.”
14:19. “And he blessed him, and said, Blessed be Abram of the most high God, possessor of heaven and earth.”
In Abram’s receiving blessing from Melchizedek we have a demonstration of the truth that no believer will ever be sent away unblessed from the presence of our Great High Priest. The God in Whose name the blessing was bestowed is described as the “Possessor of heaven and earth.” The blessing was no mere empty gesture. The God in Whose name it was given would make it good.
14:20. “And blessed be the most high God, which hath delivered thine enemies into thy hand. And he (Abram) gave him (Melchizedek) tithes of all.”
God also has His portion out of Christ’s victory, typically revealed in the offering presented by Abram. The thanksgiving offered that day represents the worship of the redeemed. Since then countless multitudes have blessed the most high God for the victory of Christ at Calvary, which has resulted in their deliverance from the bondage of Satan.
The table is the symbol of satisfaction and communion, and Abram’s sitting there enjoying communion with God through God’s priest and king, being blessed, and presenting tithes through the blesser, is a picture of God’s ideal for every believer. The man of faith could enjoy communion with God, but he could have none with the wicked king of Sodom. God would have His own walk in separation from the world, and enjoy fellowship with Him through our Great High Priest, the Lord Jesus Christ.
Lot was probably a guest at that feast, but his name isn’t mentioned. When we sit at the Lord’s table on the first day of each week, God sees us not as poor, weak, sinful “Lots” - He sees us as “Abrams,” for He sees us in Christ, “More than conquerors through Him that loved us” (Ro 8:37).
In regard to the tithes presented, it is to be noted that Abram gave tithes of all. That little word “all” is important. It is one thing to sit at the Lord’s table and, “offer the sacrifice of praise ... the fruit of our lips” (Heb 13:15), and to give the tithe of our income; but, do we give tithes of all? Is God given His rightful share of our time, our talents, our homes, our cars, etc., as well as our money? We are very prone to forget that it is written, “... ye are not your own. For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s” (1 Co 6:19-20).
14:21 “And the king of Sodom said unto Abram, Give me the persons (souls), and take the goods to thyself.”
We have seen Melchizedek to be a beautiful type of Christ. He gave bread and wine, and bestowed a blessing, and he asked for nothing. He is the direct antithesis of Sodom’s wicked king, type of the evil master he served, Satan, whose character is revealed in the words with which Bera greeted Abram, “Give me ...” “God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son” (Jn 3:16). “... the Son of God ... loved me, and gave himself for me” (Gal 2:20); but Satan gives nothing, a few worthless baubles, in order that he may have men’s precious souls. Down through the ages his deadly whisper has been, “Give me the persons.” Satan cares little about this world’s goods, though he will use them to lure men to destruction. This evil prince of darkness lusts for men’s souls.
14:22. “And Abram said to the king of Sodom, I have lift up my hand unto the Lord, the most high God, the possessor of heaven and earth,”
14:23. “That I will not take from a thread even to a shoe latchet, and that I will not take anything that is thine, lest thou shouldest say, I have made Abram rich.”
Abram looked to God for his enrichment, not to the evil king of Sodom. He would not rob God of glory by enabling anyone but Him to say, “I have made Abram rich.” We should exercise the same care as to the source of our enrichment, lest we find ourselves robbing God of glory, and placing ourselves under obligation to those who are His enemies. Bera’s suggestion was subtle, an apparent act of generosity, but how far-reaching its effects would have been. It would have enabled others to say that Bera, not God, had made Abram rich.
So far is this principle ignored today that the professing church not only accepts gladly what the world offers, but worse, is not infrequently found standing at the world’s door begging for money “to support the Lord’s work.” Since when has God declared Himself willing to accept anything from those who are His enemies? Since when has He had to beg? To present Him to the world as a beggar is to affront Him. We have become so occupied with what we call “the Lord’s work” - but which is often only the energy of the flesh - that we have lost perspective. What requires the world’s support is not God’s work, no matter what man may choose to call it.
We need to relearn the truth that God graciously deigns to accept the believer’s offerings, whether of time, talent, or money, not as support for His work, but as the expression of our gratitude and love for His priceless Gift, the Lord Jesus Christ, given to redeem our souls. Giving to God is a privilege reserved for believers only.
14:24. “Save only that which the young men have eaten, and the portion of the men which went with me, Aner, Eschol and Mamre: let them take their portion.”
This is the other side of the coin. Abram takes from Bera only “that which the young men have eaten.” If the lesson of verse 23 is that the believer is not to become a debtor to the world, the lesson of verse 24 is that neither is he to give to the world what belongs to God. And Satan’s approach in this area is just as subtle and cunning as in presenting the temptation to take from the world.
Do we, without examining its doctrine, contribute anything to any religious cause? Afraid of offending a neighbor or fellow-worker, do we buy tickets or make contributions to churches or organizations whose doctrines are wrong? Would we be loyal to God? Then refuse to make the contribution, explaining graciously but firmly, our reasons. The cause of God will be better served. To buy the world’s approval at the cost of offending God is too high a price to pay, and God will always honor loyalty to Himself.
If there is a temptation to justify such giving on the ground that “it’s only a dollar,” remember Abram’s words, “I will not take from a thread even to a shoe latchet.” The same principle applies to our giving to the world. Abram took from Bera what had been spent in bringing back his people and goods. He would contribute nothing to the enrichment of Sodom’s evil king. We should not take what belongs to God and give it to His enemies.