We’ve been walking through these initial chapters of Genesis for several months now and today we find ourselves today in the end of Genesis 14. But before we get into our passage, recall the first part of chapter 14. There, in v1-16, we saw a battle of kings. The great king of Elam Chedorlaomer and company goes out against other kings who have rebelled against him, he routs them all, and in the process he pillages and plunders the surrounding regions. During these raids Lot, Abram’s nephew, is taken off as plunder along with all his possessions. When Abram heard about this, even though he had reason not to, he led forth his own trained men to rescue Lot. And this they did. Abram and his 318 men successfully plundered Chedorlaomer’s camp in a night raid and bring back Lot and all his possessions. In this moment Abram the man of faith becomes Abram the man of war, and gives us not only a stunning example of courage, honor, and duty, he also gives us a preview of Christ, the greater Man of war who through the gospel, one heart at a time, is plundering the devil’s house.

That’s a very quick summary of course, but it does bring us up to our passage today, v17-25. See first…

Two Contrasting Kings (v17-21)

“After his return from the defeat of Chedorlaomer and the kings who were with him, the king of Sodom went out to meet him at the Valley of Shaveh (that is, the King’s Valley). And Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine. (He was priest of God Most High.) And he blessed him and said, “Blessed be Abram by God Most High, Possessor of heaven and earth; and blessed be God Most High, who has delivered your enemies into your hand!” And Abram gave him a tenth of everything. And the king of Sodom said to Abram, “Give me the persons, but take the goods for yourself.”

Right away in v17 we read of Abram returning from defeating not just Chedorlaomer, but that he was returning from defeating Chedorlaomer and the kings allied with him. This small detail in the text is to indicate to us as readers, not really how great Abram is, but how great the God of Abram is. We didn’t hear of God or from God in v1-16, but Abram’s victory is evidence of God going with Abram and defeating his enemies.

So Abram had gone out, he succeeds, and he returns. Now as he returns we see in v17 the king of Sodom coming to meet him. But wait, back in v10 we saw many among the kings of Sodom and Gomorrah fell into tar pits as they fled. So who is this in v17? Well it’s either the king of Sodom who apparently didn’t fall into a tar pit, or this is the new king of Sodom who replaced the former king who died in the pits.[1] So this king comes out to meet Abram. As to precisely why he comes out to meet Abram we’ll see later on in v21. For now notice that another king seems to simultaneously come out to meet Abram as well in v18. The name of this king is Melchizedek, which means king of righteousness. We learn he is the king of Salem, which will later come to be called Jerusalem. We learn he comes with bread and wine, which is a phrase used during this time to indicate a royal feast.[2] We learn Melchizedek is a priest of God Most High, which is the first appearance of the word priest in the Bible. Then we see Melchizedek bless Abram and God in v19-20 saying, “Blessed be Abram by God Most High, Possessor of heaven and earth; and blessed be God Most High, who has delivered your enemies into your hand!”

Melchizedek is indeed a strange figure. He shows up only here in the Bible. Other than this, he is mentioned in two other places, first in Psalm 110 and later on in Hebrews 5-7. We don’t know much about him. Many have thought him to be a pre-incarnate Christ, or an angel, or even a kind of magi like figure.[3] The ancient Jewish tradition believes he is Shem, one of the sons of Noah. There’s really no evidence within Scripture for any of these conclusions, so we’re not left with much to determine who he is really. We read of no birth, no lineage, or no mention of death. He enters the story without warning, no comments are made about him, he blesses Abram, receives a tithe from Abram, and vanishes forever with no one taking up his office after him. Though he only appears here, it seems this sole appearance is enough to be remembered forever. The biblical authors make much of the fact that Melchizedek is both a priest and king, as will be the case with David later, and as will be the case with Jesus much later on in a full and final manner, as the author of Hebrews will point out.[4]

Well, Melchizedek’s blessing is brief but beautiful. It honors Abram and distinguishes him from the other kings of the nations, and it honors God and distinguishes Him as the true God from the false gods of the nations. For this God is the creator and possessor of heaven and earth, and He can deliver even the greatest of enemies into the hands of His people. After Melchizedek blesses the Patriarch, Abram gives him a tenth of everything, a tithe, which shows Abram’s acknowledgement of Melchizedek as a true priest of the true God.[5] It is now at this precise point where the king of Sodom speaks up again. As the tithe of plunder is being doled out to Melchizedek the king of Sodom says in v21, “Give me the persons, but take the goods for yourself.” In Hebrew this is only six words, ‘Give me people; take property yourself.’ Not only does the word order here seem ungracious (‘give me’ comes before ‘take for yourself’), but what’s totally absent from the king’s words to Abram? Gratitude. There is no ‘Thank you!’, or ‘I really appreciate you saving us.’, ‘Or, I am indebted to you for defeating our enemies for us, please keep all the plunder for yourself.’[6] There’s none of this. Which is surprising because in war it is the victor, not the defeated, who has the right to give out the spoil as they see fit.[7] Yet here comes the king of Sodom like a 4 year old selfishly saying ‘Gimme, gimme, gimme.’

These two kings, the king of Sodom and Melchizedek the king of Salem, are a lesson in contrast. Their actions, words, and postures reveal who they are. Salem and Sodom, giving and taking, light and dark, good and evil.[8] On one hand we have the king of Sodom who is himself greedy and self-centered and his posture very much resembles the greedy, self-centered posture that will be present later on in Sodom during Genesis 18-19. And on the other hand we have Melchizedek who comes blessing Abram, praising God, and bringing bread and wine for Abram. If we remember Gen. 12:3, we can understand this scene before us. In 12:3 God said whoever curses Abram will be cursed but whoever blesses Abram will be blessed, and we can understand why Melchizedek is spoken of so highly throughout the rest of the Bible. He is blessed himself for blessing Abram. And we can also understand why Sodom is so wicked and ends up destroyed by God. Their king certainly doesn’t bless Abram here but comes with a greedy command, and the whole city seems to follow suit.

All of this displays how God’s promises are still ringing true for Abram. Which reminds us that even when God’s people are threatened God’s promises to His people remain. In chapter 12 when Abram went down to Egypt and sold out his wife to save himself, despite his many sins God’s promise remained as God saved Sarai from Pharaoh. In chapter 13 when conflict arose between Abram and Lot and they had to part ways, Abram gave Lot the first choice of land. And though it seemed Lot chose the better land, Abram once again receives the land of promise, so God’s promise remains. And here in chapter 14 against the threat of mighty kings Abram comes out victorious. God’s promise remains! As each of these threats come, Abram doesn’t merely just survive, he is tremendously blessed through them.[9] In Egypt he comes out wealthy, with Lot he comes out with the better land, and after the war he is blessed by Melchizedek and becomes known by many nations to be a mighty king in his own right. Threats may come and go, but God’s promises remain.

But, here is yet again another challenge. How will Abram respond to the king of Sodom offering him worldly riches? Sure he asked for the people, but was going to give (as if he could’ve) Abram everything else. Now see the rest of our passage and our second heading…

Abram’s Content Response (v22-25)

“But Abram said to the king of Sodom, “I have lifted my hand to the LORD, God Most High, Possessor of heaven and earth, that I would not take a thread or a sandal strap or anything that is yours, lest you should say, ‘I have made Abram rich.’ I will take nothing but what the young men have eaten, and the share of the men who went with me. Let Aner, Eshcol, and Mamre take their share.”

Abram’s response here is so good to see. He shows growth and maturity. Let’s not forget how just a few chapters ago, while in Egypt, Abram was all too eager to accept the riches of Pharaoh in exchange for his own wife. But now it’s a different story. Here he refuses the riches offered to him. In an oath like manner he says he’s lifted his hand to the LORD, to God Most High, Possessor of heaven and earth (the same phrasing Melchizedek used) and vowed to not take anything from Sodom. Not a thread or a sandal strap or a penny to enrich himself with the plunder of Sodom.[10]

Think of it like this. We’re in need as a church. Right now we have to meet in two services because there’s so many of you we can’t all fit in this room together. So even though we’re doing two services we’d prefer to be all together again in one larger service, which means we need a larger space. It would great, truly great, if someone dropped by the church and said, ‘Hello there, here’s a few million dollars to build you guys a new building that all of you can fit in.’ That would be wonderful! We’d love it! We’d rejoice in God for His provision! But what if that someone who stopped by was Hugh Heffner? Would we accept his offer and his money and begin the new construction? I’m sure there could be ways to justify it, using the world’s money for Kingdom purposes. But when it comes down to it, we couldn’t accept it. Think of what we’d say if we did take the money and someone asked us, ‘How did you guys raise that money so quickly?’ What would we answer? ‘Ummm…well…you see…’ I can see the headlines now, ‘Playboy builds church in Pasco county.’ Yikes.

So too with Abram. See it in v23? He doesn’t want to be in a situation where it could become known that his wealth came from Sodom.[11] Even here before the infamous chapters coming soon about Sodom, Abram already desires to distance himself from this city and from those who leads it. Rather, he ever desires to align himself with the Lord. Why? Because Abram trusts in, rests in, and is content in the Lord.

But see in v25, as he allowed Lot the first pick of the land in chapter 13, here Abram allows his allies to keep their share of the plunder.[12] For Abram, this is an issue he cannot waiver in, and cannot compromise an ounce.


There are many ways to drive this text home to us today. We could speak of the lessons we learn from these contrasting kings. We could speak of Abram’s contented trust in the Lord. We could speak of the temptation of the riches of the world.

But today is Palm Sunday, which brings a particular light onto this text. Traditionally today is the day we remember Jesus’ entrance into the Jerusalem and the beginning of what is called Holy Week. In one sense, there’s nothing special about “Holy Week.” It’s just another week near the start of Spring. But in another sense without a doubt it is the most important week of the year, for it was this week long ago that the most divine and majestic events took place. These events and the truths they teach us are so vital that the final 8 chapters of Matthew’s gospel are given to this one-week, as well as the final 6 chapters of Mark, the final 6 chapters of Luke, and the entire back half of John deal with the final week of our Lord’s life.

His entry on a donkey into the city is commonly called the ‘triumphal entry.’ But the word triumphal doesn’t do it justice. When Jesus rode into the city He was the King and He is King now, but He didn’t enter into the city with the normal pomp and circumstance a king would bring. No, He came lowly, displaying His humble authority. While the people all around were crying out ‘Hosanna! Hosanna! (which means ‘our God saves’) they were hoping this so-called King would deliver them from Roman tyranny and restore Israel’s glory. But Jesus had other plans, bigger and grander plans, plans that involved crucifixion.

The triumphal entry on Palm Sunday has everything to do with Genesis 14. It’s a chapter about mighty kings, and on Palm Sunday we see the true King of kings and His great might. Gen. 14 is a chapter about war, and on Palm Sunday Jesus was in a war, which was about to escalate to its highest and hardest moment. Gen. 14 is a chapter about a worldly king who offered worldly riches, something Jesus was familiar with in His own temptations with the Devil. Gen. 14 is a chapter about a godly king and priest, Melchizedek, who comes with blessing and prepares a meal. So too Jesus is the true King and our true Priest who as King comes to usher in His Kingdom and as Priest offers Himself on the cross as a sacrifice to satisfy divine justice and bring us peace, all of which is displayed in a greater meal of bread and wine He prepares for us in the Lord’s Supper. Gen. 14 is a chapter where even though kings visit Abram, Abram’s trust and rest isn’t in any of them but is in God Most High. So too on Palm Sunday we see the true King make Himself known as He rides into the city, humble and mounted on a donkey. Is our trust and rest in Him? Are we content in Christ? Or are we looking elsewhere? And Gen. 14 is a chapter where Abram responds to the priest king Melchizedek by giving a tithe. So too, on this Palm Sunday, may we not give a small percentage of our hearts and lives to Christ. As He gave His all for us, may we give our all to Him.

[1] John D. Currid, Genesis 1:1-25:18, EP Study Commentary (Holywell, UK: Evangelical Press, 2015), 287.

[2] Bruce K. Waltke, Genesis (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Academic, 2001), 233.

[3] Gordon J. Wenham, Genesis 1-15, WBC (Waco, Texas: Word Books, 1987), 322.

[4] Reformation Study Bible, notes on Psalm 110:4 (Orlando, Florida: Reformation Trust, 2015) page 964.

[5] Waltke, Genesis, 235.

[6] Wenham, Genesis 1-15, 318.

[7] Waltke, Genesis, 235.

[8] James Montgomery Boice, Genesis 12-36 (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Books, 1985), 519.

[9] Kevin DeYoung, A Battle and A Blessing, sermon from Christ Covenant Church, 2.28.21.

[10] Victor P. Hamilton, Genesis 1-17, NICOT (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans, 1990), 413.

[11] Currid, Genesis 1:1-25:18, 291.

[12] Wenham, Genesis 1-15, 318.

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