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Genesis Fourteen

by Dr. Henry M. Morris

(taken from the Defender's Study Bible)

Genesis 14:1 And it came to pass in the days of Amraphel king of Shinar, Arioch king of Ellasar, Chedorlaomer king of Elam, and Tidal king of nations;

king of Shinar. Shinar probably refers to Sumeria and Elam to early Persia. Ellasar was the leading tribe in southern Babylonia and “nations” (Hebrew Goiim) was probably a tribe of northeastern Babylonia. Chedorlaomer seems to have been the chief leader of this confederacy (Genesis 14:4).

Genesis 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.

king of Sodom. These five “cities of the plain,” listed in this verse—Sodom, Gomorrah, Admah, Zeboim and Zoar—were formerly thought by critics to be fictional. However, the Ebla tablets found in northern Syria beginning in 1964 contain numerous names of cities mentioned in Genesis, including these five, listed the same as in this verse. They antedate the time of Abraham, who probably passed through Ebla on his migration from Haran to Canaan.

Genesis 14:3 All these were joined together in the vale of Siddim, which is the salt sea.

Siddim. “Siddim” meant “cultivated fields,” and the vale of Siddim at this time was extremely fertile, supporting the five cities of the plain. The reference to “the salt sea” was probably a later editorial insertion by Moses. At the time of Abram, what is now the Dead Sea was still a freshwater remnant of the great Flood, and the whole region was “well watered every where” (Genesis 13:10). The exact location of Sodom and her four sister cities is uncertain, although most authorities believe their remains are now submerged beneath the waters of the shallow southern arm of the Dead Sea. There is also the possibility that the actual cities were located on higher elevations overlooking five ephemeral streams (“wadis”) emptying into the lake, with the inhabitants working the fields below during the daytime, then living in the cooler heights above at night.

Genesis 14:4 Twelve years they served Chedorlaomer, and in the thirteenth year they rebelled.

Genesis 14:5 And 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,

Rephaims. Some of these Canaanite tribes seem actually to have been demon-possessed, in the same manner as the demon-energized population before the Flood (see notes on Genesis 6:1-4). The Rephaim (“strong ones”) and the Zamzummim (“powerful ones,” probably the same as the Zuzim) along with the Emim, all seem to have been of “the sons of Anak” or the Anakim, and all seem to have been giants (note Deuteronomy 2:10, 20; Joshua 15:13). In Numbers 13:33, these Anakim are actually said to have been “giants” (Hebrew nephilim, the same word as used in Genesis 6:4). Furthermore, the term rephaim is also used to refer to some of the spirits of the wicked dead in Hades (Job 26:5; Proverbs 2:18; 9:18; 21:16; Isaiah 14:9; 26:14). All of this suggests another irruption of demonic spirits after the Flood, possibly at the rebellion at Babel, with giant progeny again being produced through demon-possessed parents. Their descendants inhabited Canaan.

Genesis 14:6 And the Horites in their mount Seir, unto Elparan, which is by the wilderness.

Horites. The Horites are known to archaeologists as the Hurrians, a leading tribe of the ancient Middle East.

Genesis 14:7 And they returned, and came to Enmishpat, which is Kadesh, and smote all the country of the Amalekites, and also the Amorites, that dwelt in Hazezontamar.

Amalekites. The Amalekites probably were descended from Amalek, a grandson of Esau, and later inhabited a region west of the Dead Sea. This note was evidently inserted by Moses in his editing of Genesis.

Amorites. The Amorites were probably the dominant tribe in Canaan at this time.

Genesis 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;

Genesis 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.

Genesis 14:10 And the vale of Siddim was full of slimepits; and the kings of Sodom and Gomorrah fled, and fell there; and they that remained fled to the mountain.

slime pits. These asphalt pits were so extensive that the Dead Sea was called the Asphalt Sea by early writers. They probably represented accumulations of organic debris from the Flood, collecting in the unique basins of the Great Rift Valley which traverse the region.

Genesis 14:11 And they took all the goods of Sodom and Gomorrah, and all their victuals, and went their way.

Genesis 14:12 And they took Lot, Abram's brother's son, who dwelt in Sodom, and his goods, and departed.

Genesis 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.

Genesis 14:14 And when Abram 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.

Genesis 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.

by night. It is possible that this was in the nature of a commando raid on a relatively small contingent of the armies of the northern confederacy.

Genesis 14:16 And he brought back all the goods, and also brought again his brother Lot, and his goods, and the women also, and the people.

Genesis 14:17 And the king of Sodom went out to meet him after his return from the slaughter of Chedorlaomer, and of the kings that were with him, at the valley of Shaveh, which is the king's dale.

Genesis 14:18 And Melchizedek king of Salem brought forth bread and wine: and he was the priest of the most high God.

Melchizedek. The identity of Melchizedek is controversial, especially in view of the statements made concerning him in Psalm 110:4, and in Hebrews 5:6, 10; 6:20; 7:1-21). “The Lord” is called by David “a priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek.” The writer of Hebrews said Melchizedek was “without father, without mother, without descent (i.e., 'genealogy'), having neither beginning of days, nor end of life; but made like unto the Son of God; abideth a priest continually” (Hebrews 7:3). The usual interpretation of these words is that he was made into a type of Christ since, as a “King of Righteousness” (meaning of Melchizedek) and “King of Peace” (meaning of Salem), he appears and leaves the record, suddenly, with no mention of either ancestry or death. This, however, is obviously a strained and naturalistic exegesis of exalted and supernaturalistic language. It seems better to take the words literally, in which case they could only be applicable to Christ Himself, appearing here to Abram in a theophany. This would also solve the problem of how such a godly king and priest as Melchizedek could be ruling a city in such an ungodly land as Canaan and, why, if he did, Abram would have had no other contact with him. The fact that he was “made like unto the Son of God” accords with one of Christ's pre-incarnate appearances; at His human birth, he became the incarnate Son of God forever. Melchizedek was also said to be a man (Hebrews 7:4), but the same is true in the case of other theophanies, one of which was likewise manifested to Abram and Lot (Genesis 18:2, 22; 19:1-24). That Melchizedek's Salem could never have been Jerusalem is evident especially from Ezekiel 16:2-4 (see note on Ezekiel 16:4).

Genesis 14:19 And he blessed him, and said, Blessed be Abram of the most high God, possessor of heaven and earth:

Genesis 14:20 And blessed be the most high God, which hath delivered thine enemies into thy hand. And he gave him tithes of all.

Genesis 14:21 And the king of Sodom said unto Abram, Give me the persons, and take the goods to thyself.

Genesis 14:22 And Abram said to the king of Sodom, I have lift up mine hand unto the LORD, the most high God, the possessor of heaven and earth,

Genesis 14:23 That I will not take from a thread even to a shoelatchet, and that I will not take any thing that is thine, lest thou shouldest say, I have made Abram rich:

Genesis 14:24 Save only that which the young men have eaten, and the portion of the men which went with me, Aner, Eshcol, and Mamre; let them take their portion.