HaShem has sworn and will not repent, “You are priest for (in) perpetuity (eternally) according to My words (d’varati: reasoning, cause, purposes) My king righteousness.” -Tehillim 110:4
Introduction and Overview:
At the conclusion of chapter 13 we find Avram camped beneath the oaks of Mamre (Strength, fatness, abundance) approximately 32 km south west of Beit-lechem (Bethlehem: House of bread). Avram had recently parted ways with his nephew Lot and had settled into his life rhythm, epitomized by the tent and altar, a sojourner in this world and one who understood the need for sacrifice. At least 15 years pass before Avram catches up with Lot again by way of delivering him from captivity.
The present account is the first time in Biblical record that external history is co-ordinated with Biblical history. Scholars have concluded that the topographical details suggest these events took place in the early Bronze Age (The early second millennium BCE), subsequently some believe that chapter 14 was originally an outside account that was later added by Moses, however, there is equally compelling textual evidence to the contrary. Regardless, the tribal nations in question are well documented and archaeological evidence supports the Biblical account.
Avram is seen exhibiting many of the characteristic qualities of a Tzadik (righteous one) throughout this chapter. He is living in the secular world but he is not of it. He understands his familial responsibility and rescues his nephew Lot from captivity. He remains fiercely vigilant in his calling, and while Lot’s green pastures have become short lived, Avram soon sees the L-rd’s providence at work in his right actions, even to the point of defeating a much larger combined force in the delivering of his nephew.
This account begins with waring kings, sees Avram drawn into a secular war due to the captivity of his nephew Lot and then concludes with Avram being blessed by the King of Righteousness, which is closely followed by the king of S’dom’s attempt to compromise that blessing by offering to Avram that which wasn’t his to give.
War of the Chieftains
Gen 14:1 And it came to pass in the days of Amraphel (Speaks of darkness/Gives dark council) king (Chief) of Shinar (Country of two rivers), that Arioch (Fierce Lion) king of Elasar (G-d chastens/disciplines), Cedarlaomer (Hand full of sheaves) king of Elam (Pepetual/Eternal), and Tidal (Thanks toward High) king of nations (Goyim); Gen 14:2 Made war with Bera (In the evil) king of S’dom (Destruction, burning, field, demons), and with Birsha (In iniquity/guilt) king of Amorah (People of fear, bound, sheaves, submersed), Shinav (Teeth of father) king of Admah (Red Earth), and Shemeiver (Name that is strong) king of Tzeboiym (Beautiful ones), and the king of Bela (devouring, destruction, engulf), which is Tzoar (Insignificance). Gen 14:3 All these were joined together (bound in agreement) in the valley of Ha-Siddim (plain), which is Yam Ha-melach (the Sea of Salt—Dead Sea, a lake). Gen 14:4 Twelve years they served Cedarlaomer (Hand full of sheaves), and in the thirteenth year they rebelled. Gen 14:5 And in the fourteenth year came Cedarlaomer (Hand full of sheaves), and the kings that were with him, and smote the Rephaims (healing) in Ashterot (Cohesiveness/star goddess) Karnaim (Two horns), and the Zuzim (roaming ones) in Ham (hot), and the Emim (dreaded ones) in Shaveh Kiriathaim (Plain of two cities), Gen 14:6 And the Ha-Chori (cave dwellers) in their mount Seir (Hairy), unto Elparan (ram of glory: ayil – pa’ar), which is by the wilderness. Gen 14:7 And they returned, and came to Ein-mishpat (Spring of judgement), which is Kadesh (holy), and struck all the fields of the Amaleki (lapping people, wrung out people), and also the Amori (Sayers), that dwelt in Chatzetzon tamar (Division of a date palm). Gen 14:8 And there went out the king of S’dom (Destruction, burning, field, demons), and the king of Amorah (People of fear, bound, sheaves, submersed), and the king of Admah (Red Earth), and the king of Tzeboiym (Beautiful ones), and the king of Bela (devouring, destruction, engulf) [the same is Tzoar (Insignificance);] and they joined battle with them in the valley of Siddim (Plain); Gen 14:9 They fought against Cedarlaomer (Hand full of sheaves) the king of Elam (Perpetual, Eternal), and with Tidal (Thanks toward High) king of nations (Goyim), and Amraphel (Speaks of darkness/Gives dark council) king (Chief) of Shinar (Country of two rivers), Arioch (Fierce Lion) king of Elasar (G-d hastens/disciplines); four kings against five. Gen 14:10 And the valley of Siddim (Plain) had one tar piy after another (Be’erot be’erot); and the kings of S’dom (Destruction, burning, field, demons) and Amorah (People of fear, bound, sheaves, submersed) fled, and fell there; and they that remained fled to the hill country. Gen 14:11 And they took all the goods of S’dom (Destruction, burning, field, demons) and Amorah (People of fear, bound, sheaves, submersed), and all their food supplies, and went their way. Gen 14:12 And they took Lot (Covering), Avram's (Exalted father, Father of a nation) brother's son, who dwelt in S’dom (Destruction, burning, field, demons), and his goods, and departed.
The names of the numerous kings illuminate the text greatly. I have rendered an allegorical paraphrase following the main text in order to try and convey a sense of the spiritual forces at work within the tribal nations and their attempts to gain supremacy over the other nations of the region. Something that can still be observed today in the conflicts of the Middle East.
It’s worth noting that only the last of the five rebel cities survives the events of chapter 19. It appears that the valley of Siddim was submerged following the destruction of S’dom and Amorah.
The Sea of Salt (Dead Sea) region was known in Roman times as Ashphalties, due to the lumps of bitumen often found floating in the waters, particularly in the southern waters which then covered the proposed location of the valley of Siddim.
Avram Rescues Lot
Gen 14:13 And there came one that had escaped, and told Avram (Exalted father, Father of a nation) the Hebrew (Ha-Ivri); for he dwelt in the plain of Mamre (Strength, fatness) the Amori (Sayer), brother of Eshcol (cluster, community), and brother of Aner (boy): and these were masters in covenant with Avram (Exalted father, Father of a nation). Gen 14:14 And when Avram heard that his brother was taken captive, he armed his trained servants, born in his own house, three hundred and eighteen, and pursued them unto Dan (Judge). Gen 14:15 And he divided himself against them, he and his servants, by night, and smote them, and pursued them unto Chovah (Hiding Place), which is on the left hand of Damasek (Silent sackcloth weaver, mourning). Gen 14:16 And he brought back all the goods, and also brought again his brother (nephew) Lot (Covering), and his goods, and the women also, and the people. Gen 14:17 And the king of S’dom (Destruction, burning, field, demons) went out to meet him after his return from the slaughter of Cedarlaomer (Hand full of sheaves), and of the kings that were with him, at the valley of Shaveh (Level plain, agreement), which is the valley of the king.
The designation, Avram Ha-Ivri (Abram the Hebrew) is of great significance. The name Ivri is probably derived from the root Ever (an ancestor of Avram: Luke 3:35), which is variously translated, The Region Beyond, One From Beyond, From The Other Side; and He Who Passed Over: all of which allude to the coming Messiah of the Ivrim (Hebrews). In modern terms we could translate the text dynamically and say, “Abraham the Jew”.
The Talmud interprets the 318 trained servants as being a symbolic representation of Elietzer (Eliezer) the servant of Avram, because the numerical value of the Hebrew name Elietzer is 318. While this is not the plain (p’shat) meaning of the text it is a beautiful picture of the present help of G-d in Avram’s battle to free his nephew: Eli (My G-d) etzer (Helps).
The mention of the region of Dan is one piece of textual evidence that might suggest that this text was an oral or outside historical tradition that was added to the Torah at its recording by Moses at a later date. This may also explain the reference to the Salt Sea (Dead Sea) which some understand to have resulted from the destruction of S’dom and Amorah.
Avram Encounters Malki-tzedek
Gen 14:18 And Melki-tzedek (My king of Righteousness) king of Shalem (Peace, wholeness, soundness) brought forth bread (Lechem) and wine (Yine): and he is priest of the El elyon (G-d over all gods). Gen 14:19 And he blessed him, and said, Blessed be Avram (Exalted father, Father of a nation) of the El elyon (G-d over all gods), possessor of heaven and earth: Gen 14:20 And blessed be the El elyon (G-d over all gods), who has delivered your enemies into your hand. And he gave him a tenth of everything.
It is here that we first see the unification of the roles of King and priest. King David, who inherited Melki-tzedek’s throne in Jerusalem would later write the 110th Psalm, which speaks of the King Messiah of Israel who was to come. Yeshua is thus confirmed in the book of Hebrews as the One of Whom David spoke, the king of Shalem being a type for Yeshua the Messiah, our King of Righteousness.
Numerous Jewish scholars have misunderstood the text of verse 14:20, and have interpreted Melki-tzedek to be the giver of the tenth. This is easily refuted by the written record of the book of Hebrews, codified over 130 years prior to the earliest of the rabbinical opinions to the contrary. Not only can the Hebrew text be understood to mean that Avram gave a tenth to Malki-tzedek, the context also infers that this is the case. When we add to this the fact that the Torah presents the role of priest as a receiver of tithes and offerings on behalf of G-d, without exception, and that the drash of Hebrews 7 clearly articulates the fact that Avram was the giver of the tenth, the alternate reading becomes untenable.
The best commentary on Genesis 14:18-20 is found in Psalm 110 and the book of Hebrews chapter 7. King David is the writer of the former and a Hebrew priest the writer of the latter. Both writers understood the greater priesthood of the Messiah Yeshua and the subordinate role that the Levitical priesthood plays in relationship to Him.
It is interesting to note that Malki-tzedek blesses El-Elyon in verse 20. No man can bless G-d, because all things come from G-d and are returned to Him. This is therefore another allusion to the Messiah, Who is G-d with us and is thus qualified to bless G-d.
1 Of David, a musical oracle. HaShem said to my Lord (l’Adoni), Sit you at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool. 2 A branch of strength will be sent by HaShem out of Zion: to tread down your enemy. 3 Your people shall be spontaneously willing in the day of your power, in the beauties of holiness from the womb of the dawn: you will have the covering dew of your youth. 4 HaShem has sworn and will not repent, “You are priest for (in) perpetuity (eternally) according to My words (d’varati: reasoning, cause, purposes) My king righteousness.” 5 My Lord your right hand shall smash in the day of your snorting anger against kings. 6 Judging among the nations, he shall fill the places with dead bodies; he shall strike the heads of land abundant. 7 The stream in the way he will drink: therefore upright he will raise the head.
–Tehillim [Psalm] 110
7:1 For this Melki-tzedek, king of Shalem, priest of El elyon, the most high God, who met Avram returning from the slaughter of the kings, and blessed him; Heb 7:2 To whom also Avram gave a tenth part of all; first being by interpretation King of righteousness, and after that also King of Shalem, which is, King of peace; Heb 7:3 Without father, without mother, without descent, having neither beginning of days, nor end of life; but made like unto the Son of God; remains a priest continually. Heb 7:4 Now consider how great this man was, unto whom even the patriarch Avraham gave the tenth of the spoils. Heb 7:5 And truly they that are of the sons of Levi, who receive the office of the priesthood, have an instruction to take tithes of the people according to the Torah, that is, of their fellow Israelites, though they come out of the loins of Avraham: Heb 7:6 But he whose descent is not counted from them received tithes of Avraham, and blessed him that had the promises. Heb 7:7 And without all contradiction the lesser is blessed of the better. Heb 7:8 And here men that die receive tithes; but there he received them, of whom it is witnessed that he lives. Heb 7:9 And as I may so say, Levi also, who received tithes, payed tithes in Avraham. Heb 7:10 For he was yet in the loins of his father, when Melki-tzedek met him. Heb 7:11 If therefore perfection were by the Levitical priesthood, (for under it the people received the Torah,) what further need was there that another priest should rise after the order of Melki-tzedek, and not be called after the order of Aaron? Heb 7:12 For if the priesthood is being changed, it is also necessity a change the instruction. Heb 7:13 For he of whom these things are spoken is of another tribe, of which no man gave attendance at the altar. Heb 7:14 For it is evident that our Lord (Yeshua) sprang out of yehudah (Praise); of which tribe Moses spoke nothing concerning priesthood. Heb 7:15 And it is yet far more evident: for that after the likeness of Melki-tzedek there arises another priest, Heb 7:16 Who is made, not after the Torah of an earthly carnal (fallen human) instruction, but by the power of endless life (Ein Sof – without end, a name for G-d). Heb 7:17 For he testifies saying, “You are a priest for ever after the order of Melki-tzedek. Heb 7:18 For there is truly a disannulling of the former instruction because of its weakness and inability to profit those instructed. Heb 7:19 For the Torah made nothing perfect, but the bringing in of a better hope did; by which we draw near to God. Heb 7:20 And this is affirmed by the fact that He was made priest with an oath: Heb 7:21 (For those priests were made without an oath; but this one with an oath by him that said unto him, “HaShem has sworn and will not repent, You are a priest for ever after the order of Melki-tzedek:) Heb 7:22 By so much was Yeshua (Jesus) made a guarantee of a better covenant. Heb 7:23 And there truly were many priests, they were not able to continue because each of them died: Heb 7:24 But this man, because he continues forever, has an unchangeable priesthood. Heb 7:25 Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God through Him, seeing He lives forever to make intercession for them. Heb 7:26 For such a Cohen Ha-Gadol (high priest) became ours, who is holy, innocent, undefiled, separate from sinners, and made higher than the heavens; Heb 7:27 Who need not daily, as those high priests, to offer up sacrifice, first for His own sins, and then for the people's: for this He did once, when He offered up Himself. Heb 7:28 For the Torah makes men high priests which have infirmity; but the Word [D’var (John 1): d’varati: see Psalm 110:4 (5)] of the oath, which was made after the Torah, affirms the Son, who is perfect for evermore.
The King of S’dom as Tempter
Gen 14:21 And the king of S’dom (Destruction, burning, field, demons) said unto Avram (Exalted father, Father of a nation), Give me the persons, and take the goods for yourself. Gen 14:22 And Avram (Exalted father, Father of a nation) said to the king of S’dom (Destruction, burning, field, demons), I have lifted up mine hand (Made a pledge) unto HaShem (YHVH), the El elyon (G-d over all gods), the possessor of heaven and earth, Gen 14:23 That I will not take from you a thread even of a sandal thong, and that I will not take anything that is yours, lest you should say, “I have made rich Avram: Gen 14:24 Save only that which the young men have eaten, and the portion of the men which went with me, Aner (boy), Eshcol (cluster, community), and Mamre (Strength, fatness); let them take their portion.
It is interesting to note the differences in the actions of the king of (Shalem) wholeness and peace, Malki-tzedek and the king of destruction, king of S’dom.
Malki-tzedek (My king of righteousness) comes out to meet Avram with bread (Lechem) and wine, He offers Avram sustenance and then blesses him, asking nothing of him. To which Avram responds by giving a symbolic tenth of the spoils. The number 10 symbolizes completion and fulfilment in Hebraic thought, thus the King of Righteousness is seen as the one in whom Avram is made complete through trust.
The king of S’dom on the other hand, comes to meet Avram and offers Avram that which is no longer his to give. The goods of S’dom are the spoils of war and rightfully belong to Avram, however, Avram refuses the offer—which is in fact an attempt to draw Avram’s eyes away from the promises of G-d with worldly riches. Avram is sure of G-d’s promises and his calling as the father of a holy nation, thus he asks nothing but that which belonged to those who had been in covenant with him. This is the first practical outworking of the promise of G-d, “I will bless those who bless you”.
Some see the bread and wine as symbolic of communion (A Christian practice derived from Passover), and it is true that in Messianic Judaism we use the same blessing for both yeast filled bread and matzah (unleavened bread), however, the exodus hadn’t yet taken place, therefore there is no reason to commemorate pesach (Passover) here. It seems more likely that this is simply an offer of sustenance. Perhaps even an early Shabbat tradition, the King of Peace offering rest, respite and sustenance to a weary warrior.
An Allegorical Paraphrase: using the meanings of the proper nouns (Remez)
Gen 14:1 And it came to pass in the days of the one who gives dark council, chief of a country of two rivers, a fierce lion, chief of G-d’s discipline, and a hand full of sheaves, which ruled perpetually, gave thanks toward heaven in ruling the nations; Gen 14:2 They made war with the evil king of destruction and with iniquity the ruler over people in fear, their forefathers teeth were red with earth, a king of renown ruled beautiful ones, and the king devouring became insignificant. Gen 14:3 All these were in agreement with one another in the valley of the plain, which is the sea of salt.
Gen 14:4 Twelve years they served one with a hand full of sheaves, and in the thirteenth year they rebelled. Gen 14:5 And in the fourteenth year came the one with a hand full of sheaves, and the kings that were with him, and smote the healers in the worship of the twin stars, and the roaming ones of heat, and the dreaded ones in the plain of two cities, Gen 14:6 And the cave dwellers in their hairy mountain, came unto the ram of glory, which was in the wilderness. Gen 14:7And they returned, and came to the spring of judgement, which is holy, and struck all the fields of the lapping people, and also the Sayers that dwelt in division under date palms.
Gen 14:8 And there went out the king of destruction, and the ruler of people under fear, and the king of red earth, and the king of beautiful ones, and the king of devouring and Insignificance; and they joined battle with them in the plain valley; Gen 14:9 against the one with a hand full of sheaves the king of Eternity, and gave thanks toward heaven the king of nations, and one who gives dark council ruler of a country of two rivers, a fierce Lion king of G-d’s discipline; four kings against five. Gen 14:10 And the plain valley had springs, pits of tar; and the kings of Destruction and people of fear, fled, and fell there; and they that remained fled to the hill country. Gen 14:11 And they took all the goods of destruction, and the people of fear, and all their food supplies, and went their way. Gen 14:12 And they took covering, the nephew of the father of faith, who dwelt in Destruction, and his goods, and departed. Gen 14:13 And there came one that had escaped, and told the father of faith, Father of a nation, the Hebrew; for he dwelt in the plain of Strength, a Sayer, a brother in community, and brother of a young man: and these were masters in covenant with the father of faith. Gen 14:14 And when the father of faith heard that his nephew was taken captive, he armed his trained servants, born in his own house, three hundred and eighteen, and pursued them unto Judgement. Gen 14:15 And he divided himself against them, he and his servants, by night, and smote them, and pursued them into hidden places, where weakness silently wove sackcloth and mourned. Gen 14:16 And he brought back all the goods, and also brought again his nephew covering, and his goods, and the women also, and the people.
Gen 14:17 And the king of Destruction, went out to meet him after his return from the slaughter of the one with a hand full of sheaves, and of the kings that were with him, at the valley of agreement, which is the valley of the king.
Gen 14:18 And My king of Righteousness, king of Peace, wholeness, and soundness brought forth bread and wine: and he is priest of the G-d over all gods. Gen 14:19 And he blessed him, and said, Blessed be the father of faith, Father of a nation and servant of the G-d over all gods, possessor of heaven and earth: Gen 14:20 And blessed be the G-d over all gods, who has delivered your enemies into your hand. And he gave him a tenth of everything.
Gen 14:21 And the king of destruction, said unto the father of faith, father of a nation, Give me the persons, and take the goods for yourself. Gen 14:22 And the father of faith, father of a nation said to the king of destruction, I have lifted up my hand and made a pledge unto HaShem, the G-d over all gods, the possessor of heaven and earth, Gen 14:23 That I will not take from you a thread even of a sandal thong, and that I will not take anything that is yours, lest you should say, “I have made the father of faith rich: Gen 14:24 Save only that which the young men have eaten, and the portion of the men which went with me, the boy, the community, and strength; let them take their portion.
© 2016 Yaakov Brown
Spiritual leader of Beth Melekh Community, Auckland, Aotearoa, N.Z.