We’ve been walking with Abram and Sarai these past few weeks in Genesis and we’ve seen many things. We’ve seen God make great promises to Abram, and go off into a strange land God called him to. We’ve seen Abram make a fool of himself, act the coward, and endanger his wife in Egypt by lying about her. And we’ve seen Abram return to the land, worship the Lord, and trust the Lord once again. Today we come to chapter 14, which is a regal and kingly chapter. I mean that quite literally. The word king is used 28 times in this chapter. There’s a host of kingly figures throughout these 24 verses: five kings of Canaan, four kings of Mesopotamia, the mysterious figure of Melchizedek, Abram himself, and of course God the King of kings who reigns over all. Perhaps we remember how God at the beginning made Adam to be a kingly figure, to have dominion and reign over all creation under Him the true King. Adam failed in this. Noah, the second kind of Adam also failed in this same calling in the days of the flood. And as we come to Abram in chapter 14, and that the theme of kingship is so present and repeated, we’re meant to see that the Patriarch himself, though not a king, is greater than all these kings of the land. God is indeed doing something new through this flawed yet faithful man Abram.
So here’s what we’re going to do today. First, we’ll walk through the initial portion of this chapter, v1-16, to see what is there for us to feast on. It’s a brief account so it won’t take all our time to work through. Second, this account of war puts a grand and glorious theme on display that is repeated all throughout Scripture. So we’ll explore this theme, pulling the thread all the way through to the end of the OT, to the incarnation and cross of Christ, and to the end of the book of Revelation and enjoy what it meant for God’s people then, and what it means to for us as God’s people today.
Abram Comes for Lot (v1-16)
“In the days of Amraphel king of Shinar, Arioch king of Ellasar, Chedorlaomer king of Elam, and Tidal king of Goiim, these kings made war with Bera king of Sodom, Birsha king of Gomorrah, Shinab king of Admah, Shemeber king of Zeboiim, and the king of Bela (that is, Zoar). And all these joined forces in the Valley of Siddim (that is, the Salt Sea). Twelve years they had served Chedorlaomer, but in the thirteenth year they rebelled. In the fourteenth year Chedorlaomer and the kings who were with him came and defeated the Rephaim in Ashteroth-karnaim, the Zuzim in Ham, the Emim in Shaveh-kiriathaim, and the Horites in their hill country of Seir as far as El-paran on the border of the wilderness. Then they turned back and came to En-mishpat (that is, Kadesh) and defeated all the country of the Amalekites, and also the Amorites who were dwelling in Hazazon-tamar.”
Much of the stage has now been set on which the events of chapter 14 will unfold. What we find in v1-7 initially is that four kings (Amraphel, Arioch, Chedorlaomer, and Tidal) make war with five other kings (Bera, Birsha, Shinab, Shemeber, and the king of Bela). We might not blink at this, believing nothing could be more common to man than war, but this is the first mention of war in the Bible. Remember it was not always like this. All these nations were once united in their hubris at Babel. Yet, after being scattered and spread out into separate nations it clearly didn’t take that long for new conflict to arise again after they all dispersed from Babel. So these two groups of kings, four against five, met for war in the Valley of Siddim, which would become the location of the Salt Sea, or Dead Sea, after the time of the Exodus. We learn why the war began in v4. For twelve years the five kings had served Chedorlaomer the king of Elam, which probably entails not only servitude but likely an annual tribute to be paid to him as well. That the very next thing we read in v4 is that they rebelled, implies that they stopped the servitude and stopped paying tribute. So Chedorlaomer, in v5, comes out for war. And come out he did. v5-8 give the details of the successful campaign he led. He absolutely routed this area, such that the five kings who’ve joined together against Chedorlaomer now stand alone to face him with no other support.
Now let’s pick back up in v8, “Then the king of Sodom, the king of Gomorrah, the king of Admah, the king of Zeboiim, and the king of Bela (that is, Zoar) went out, and they joined battle in the Valley of Siddim with Chedorlaomer king of Elam, Tidal king of Goiim, Amraphel king of Shinar, and Arioch king of Ellasar, four kings against five. Now the Valley of Siddim was full of bitumen pits, and as the kings of Sodom and Gomorrah fled, some fell into them, and the rest fled to the hill country. So the enemy took all the possessions of Sodom and Gomorrah, and all their provisions, and went their way. They also took Lot, the son of Abram’s brother, who was dwelling in Sodom, and his possessions, and went their way.”
Even though the rebelling kings took the initiative against Chedorlaomer and company, they didn’t stand a chance. That’s clear. The battle began, two of the kings (king of Sodom and king of Gomorrah) flee, many of their men flee, and much of the army fell into these bitumen pits, or tar pits, while trying to escape. The way this is written gives the impression that the swords of Chedorlaomer’s warriors were so formidable, the fleeing armies exchanged one death for another. They’d rather die by falling into these pits than die in battle. So, without two of their leading kings, the rebels lose and Chedorlaomer begins to pillage the countryside. Which leads to the most important part of the story so far for our purposes. In v12 we see that Lot, Abram’s nephew, and his possessions were taken as part of the plunder as well.
Which leads us to the main portion of the text, v13-16, “Then one who had escaped came and told Abram the Hebrew, who was living by the oaks of Mamre the Amorite, brother of Eshcol and of Aner. These were allies of Abram. When Abram heard that his kinsman had been taken captive, he led forth his trained men, born in his house, 318 of them, and went in pursuit as far as Dan. And he divided his forces against them by night, he and his servants, and defeated them and pursued them to Hobah, north of Damascus. Then he brought back all the possessions, and also brought back his kinsman Lot with his possessions, and the women and the people.”
v13 immediately grabs our attention as we see an unnamed man escape and go off to find Abram. We don’t know who this heroic individual is and we don’t know the details of his escape, but we can imagine what it was like thinking, planning, and accomplishing the plan. We do know that his plan worked, and out he went to find Abram living by oaks of a man named Mamre the Amorite, who’s the brother of Eschol and Aner, allies of Abrams. Abram heard the man’s account of what took place, and we don’t see any hesitation on Abram’s part. He heard of Lot’s plight, Abram led forth his trained men.
It could’ve been different. Abram could’ve concluded prudently that this was simply the outcome of choices made. Lot foolishly chose to head off to the East in 13:11, to camp near Sodom in 13:12, and then to dwell in Sodom in 14:12. These were all bad decisions and Abram could’ve left Lot to experience the consequences of foolish choices made. Abram also could’ve concluded fatalistically that this was what happens in a sinful messed up world, that nothing could be done about it, and the best anyone could do was to just accept it. Abram also could’ve concluded cowardly that his own life would be put in danger if he went out to rescue Lot. This is the same spirit that drove him as he entered Egypt in 12:10-20, leading him to lie about his wife to save his own skin. So if he’s selfishly chosen to act like this before, what’s to stop him from doing it again? Abram could’ve reacted in any of these ways, especially when we remember the conflict in chapter 13 about there being no space left for them to dwell together. Lot lifted up his eyes and chose the best looking land and left the rest for Abram. Now Lot’s in trouble, and Abram could’ve very easily left Lot to deal with his own affairs.
But praise God, he didn’t. Instead, Abram acted bravely and led forth (emptied out in Hebrew) his men to rescue Lot and all his possessions. It was an evening raid, with only 318 men (very similar to what we’ll see Gideon do later on), he was victorious, bringing back Lot and his possessions.
There is so much we can learn here.
First, v1-16 is unique. It is the only episode we have where Abram the man of faith becomes Abram the man of war. It is the only episode where there is no mention of the promise made to Abram. And it is the only episode where we don’t hear from God or of God at all. Yet, God and His great promise to Abram exudes all over it. God’s divine presence is clearly with Abram here, as he is safe and unharmed even when his life is in danger from many enemies. And once again we see nations who could’ve been blessed by Abram come against Abram only to be humiliated and killed. Lesson? 12:3 continues to hold true over Abram’s life such that no foreign king, however mighty, can prevail against God’s promises.
Second, this chapter shows us much of what life is to be within the Church. Meaning, what Abram is to Lot is what we’re to be toward one another. Matthew Henry in his commentary put it like this, “Though others may have been wanting in their duty to us, we must not deny our duty to them.” So when someone is in need among us instead of thinking of how this person has treated us recently, and instead of thinking how helping this person will inconvenience us, we ought to be to them what Abram was to Lot here. He had just reasons to not help Lot, but he did. So too, when someone among us is in need of help or rescue, we must do our duty to them even though they may be lacking in their duty to us. It will be costly, but it will be Christ-like sacrificial love, so it will be a love that’s worth it!
Which of course brings us to our third point. Earlier I said this account of war puts a grand and glorious theme on display that is repeated to the end of the OT, to the incarnation and cross of Christ, and to the end of the book of Revelation. What is this theme? v1-16 shows us the heart of Christ. This is so large a point to see here I made it our last heading today. So, see it with me now…
Christ Came for Us (Matthew 12:29)
The basic gist of this grand and glorious theme goes like this: as Abram was to Lot so too Christ is to us. The Son of God did not idly sit by in heaven waiting for us to deserve redemption, no. In grace upon grace, Christ came for us! That is wonderful, but it’s not where we should begin. Rather, we begin first with the rest of the OT after this moment of Abram going to war to rescue Lot.
When we begin there, we see the pattern of God’s people always being in the position of need and God always being in the position of Rescuer and Provider. This remains to be true for the rest of Abraham’s life, it remains to be true for Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph’s life. This is true for Israel in the exodus, this is true for Israel in the conquest as they enter into the promised land, and this is true for Israel as they do life as God’s people in the promise land time and time again. And even after they come into the land and settle as a nation and get removed from that land in the exile for their own sin, God still shows Himself to be their Rescuer and their Provider.
Which brings us into the new covenant, the New Testament where we see God do this in Christ. The eternal son of God willingly and voluntarily takes on to himself a human nature. True and full God become true and full Man. Living for us, dying for us, rising for us, and ascending for us. This is the work of Christ where God maximally reveals himself to be the Rescuer and the Provider for his people. There are a number of places we could go to describe this in Scripture but I have chosen one, that is in a similar category and theme as Genesis 14. It’s Matthew 12:29. Let’s back up a few verses to get the context, so listen to Matthew 12:25-29, “Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste, and no city or house divided against itself will stand. And if Satan casts out Satan, he is divided against himself. How then will his kingdom stand? And if I cast out demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your sons cast them out? Therefore they will be your judges. But if it is by the Spirit of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you. Or how can someone enter a strong man’s house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man? Then indeed he may plunder his house.”
This is, in my opinion, one of the clearest descriptions of the work of Christ in the entire Bible. The Pharisees get angry after Jesus works a miracle and say the reason Jesus can cast out demons is because He is the prince of demons. To this Jesus responds with the passage I just read to you. He points out how contradictory that is that Satan could not or would not cast out himself, and that He does His work by the Spirit of God which means the Kingdom of God has come upon them. Then He says in v29, “Or how can someone enter a strong man’s house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man? Then indeed he may plunder his house.” Now be sure, this is not Jesus giving advice on how to properly burglarize someone. He’s describing what He has come to do, and what He indeed is doing. In this one verse Jesus likens the devil to be the strong man and the world to be the devil’s house. And then he says that his coming into the world is for the purpose of binding the strong man so that he can plunder his house. Meaning, not that he would steal all the devil’s stuff but that he would burglarize the devil by winning back through the gospel one heart at a time. So people are in view that used to be the devil’s possession but through the gospel and through the work of Christ he wins souls and plunders the devil’s house. In this sense Jesus is the greater Abram. Abraham did not idly sit by and wait for lot to save himself, no. Abram went to save him when he was in need and won him back with all his possessions. So too Christ did not idly sit back in heaven as he looks out over the world and sees his own people in great need. Christ did not wait until we were willing to save ourselves. Christ did not wait until we were savable people. Christ did not wait, he came for us!
Lesson? See the heart of Christ in genesis 14 and in Matthew 12. Jesus is the ultimate Rescuer and ultimate Provider. No one, however mighty they are, can prevail against God’s promises and the people to whom those promises are made.
And of course, this grand and glorious thread can be pulled all the way through to the end when Christ will return, to judge and living and the dead, to cast Satan his demons and all the wicked into fiery judgment, to save His people fully and finally, to usher in His Kingdom in full measure in order to dwell with His people forever, world without end, amen.
 Bruce K. Waltke, Genesis (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Academic, 2001), 226.
 James Montgomery Boice, Genesis 12-36 (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Books, 1985), 493.
 John D. Currid, Genesis 1:1-25:18, EP Study Commentary (Holywell, UK: Evangelical Press, 2015), 282.
 John Calvin, quoted in R. Kent Hughes, Genesis, Preaching the Word (Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway, 2004), 207.
 Currid, Genesis 1:1-25:18, 283.
 Boice, Genesis 12-36, 496–497.
 Victor P. Hamilton, Genesis 1-17, NICOT (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans, 1990), 399.
 Waltke, Genesis, 232.
 Matthew Henry, quoted in Currid, Genesis 1:1-25:18, 285.
 Hughes, Genesis, 209.