Part H. Abram’s Migration to Canaan (12:1—16:16)
H3. Separation of Abram and Lot (13:1–18)
· Lot was the son of Abram’s brother Haran. He migrated with Abram to Canaan from the city Haran. These 2 chapters contain 2 of the 3 stories about Lot in Genesis. The third one was about the departure of Lot’s family from Sodom (ch.18,19). Lot was passive and with poor judgment. He made the wrong decision of selecting Sodom.
· The 3 stories about Lot demonstrates the benevolence of Abram toward his nephew, resulting in Lot’s deliverance from servitude (ch.14) and from death (ch.19). They show how Lot received blessing because of Abraham. Lot’s descendants were Moabites and Ammonites. Although they had perpetual conflicts with the Israelites later, they still received a land grant from God (Dt 2:9,19).
· This chapter (ch.13) describes the quarrel between the herdsmen of Abram and Lot. Abram decided to avoid the quarrel and separated from Lot. However, he let Lot choose his preferred land first.
H4. Abram’s rescue of Lot (14:1–24)
· There was a war between two warring coalitions of 4 kings and 5 kings. The result was the defeat of Sodom and its allies. Then Lot was also captured. On hearing the news, Abram gathered his men to save Lot. He pursued the winning army for a long distance and finally defeated them and saved Lot and recovered all the captured people and goods.
· After Abram’s victory, he met 2 kings: king of Sodom and Melchizedek, king of Salem. In them, we can see a great contrast.
13:1 Lot went with him: Lot, who did not appear in Abram’s Egyptian journey, now appeared. He joined Abram’s group, meaning that Abram was the leader. Yet, when conflict started, Abram did not impose his authority and order Lot to leave.
13:2 Abram had become very wealthy: the result of God’s promise; note that Lot also accumulated flocks and wealth (v.5). Material goods are often the source of arguments between close relatives.
13:3 until he came to Bethel: Abram was very careful to retrace his steps from Negev to Bethel and to return to the altar that he built. Abram’s emphasis on worshipping God show his strong and perhaps renewed faith as a result of Egypt’s sojourn.
13:7 quarreling arose: Disputes arose probably for water and grazing rights.
Canaanites and Perizzites: In Hebrew, the second sentence is actually before the first sentence. It showed that these people were originally living there. Now, with addition of Abram’s and Lot’s herds, the dispute intensified because of greater competition.
13:8 we are brothers: Abram did not ignore the problem or argue with Lot. He valued peaceful relations with his nephew so he proposed a solution quickly after the problem appeared.
13:9 the whole land: Abram was confident of God’s promise of land possession. He spoke as if the land were his to distribute to whomever he chose.
Let's part company: The two “let’s” (v.8,9) were in the sense of polite pleading, showing Abram’s effort in keeping peace without imposing his authority.
If you go to the left: Abram, as the uncle, could have chosen first; yet he let Lot to choose first. In contrast, Lot the nephew should desist; yet he chose the land he judged to be good, reflecting his selfishness.
13:10 looked up and saw: The beauty of the plain of Jordan attracted Lot but also distracted him from the wickedness of the people. The irony is that this lush land would later be consumed by fire.
The words used in this story are similar to two tragic stories happened earlier in Genesis: in Eden (Gen 3:6) and about “the sons of God” (6:2). There are 10 common words used in all these 3 stories.
13:11 set out toward the east: Different people in Genesis moved east after they sinned, including Adam and Eve (Gen 3:24), Cain (Gen 4:16), and now Lot.
13:12 Lot lived among the cities of the plain: Abram lived in the “land” while Lot lived among the “cities” (near the periphery of Canaan) so Lot was more influenced by other people. The term “cities of the plain” often refers to places full of sin; they are not part of the promised land.
13:13 wicked and were sinning: People in Sodom were described as “great sinners”, probably committing great sin that was exceptional in human history. The word “wicked” is the same as the one used to describe the generation before the Flood (Gen 6:5). The word “sin” is the same as the one used to describe Cain (Gen 4:7).
Sodom and Gomorrah were 2 of the 5 cities of the plain (Gen 14:2,8). Even after their destruction, Sodom was still mentioned as a prototype of Gentile wickedness—with scandalous sins and calamitous end. Besides sexual sins, the cities also mistreated the disadvantaged (widow and orphan, Eze 16:49–50) and aliens. More likely, there were many more great sins.
The location of these cities is not known. Based on literary and archeological analysis, the south-eastern plan of the Dead Sea receives more support. It is also possible that the location is the southern basin now below the Dead Sea.
13:15 All the land that you see: God assured Abram that all the land that he could see and he could walk (v.17) would be given to him. This would include Jordan Valley that Lot moved to. It was also a permanent possession (“forever”). The Israelites did not possess the land for centuries after the promise to Abram, yet eventually the land will be theirs.
Even though the promise was not completed during Abram’s lifetime, yet he accepted the promise as if it was already completed (Heb 11:13).
13:16 like the dust of the earth: Abram was also promised innumerable descendants, described in other places as “sand on the seashore” (Gen 15:5) and “countless stars” (Gen 26:4).
13:18 moved his tents: God instructed Abram to survey the land by traversing its “length” and “breadth” in a sign of ownership (v.17) and Abram obeyed. Abram moved to Hebron and immediately built an altar to worship God. Hebron-Mamre was the primary settlement of Abram and Isaac (e.g. Gen 18:1; 35:27; 37:14). Hebron and Mamre are different names for the same place, 30 km south of Jerusalem (Gen 23:19).
14:1-4 For twelve years they had been subject: The eastern alliance consisted of 4 kings, led by Kedorlaomer, king of Elam (v.1, possibly in ancient Persia), who had received tribute from at least 11 western kings for 12 years (v.4). In the 13th year, the western kings refused to pay their annual tribute. So in the 14th year, the eastern kings came to the west to conquer the western kings.
14:5-7 The eastern kings defeated 6 peoples (including Amalekites and Amorites) from a north to south direction.
14:8-12 the king of Sodom: The rest of the western kings included 5 kings from the cities of the plain; they gathered to fight against the 4 kings. But the 4 kings won and seized all the goods of Sodom and Gomorrah. Their only mistake was the capture of Lot and his possessions. If they had been satisfied with the goods, he might well have left unhindered. Yet by mistreating Lot, they were actually opposing Abram. This resulted in their destruction (see Gen 12:3 about “curse” in God’s promise).
14:13 Abram the Hebrew: This is the first mention of Hebrew in the OT. The name is likely originated from the personal name Eber (Gen 10:21,25; 11:16). However, the name can also be related to “to cross over (from the other side)”, thus describing the origin of the Hebrews.
Mamre the Amorite: The Amorites were allies of Abram and they went with Abram for the pursuit, following their 3 leaders mentioned here.
14:14 heard that his relative had been taken captive: Abram pursued the kings for his relative Lot, not for his possessions.
318 trained men: The term referred to armed retainers by Canaanite chieftains at that time.
Dan: located in the far north at the base of Mount Hermon. Later, it was the area occupied by the tribe of Dan, at the northern limit of the promised land. The name was a post-Mosaic updating of the place name for later readers.
14:15 During the night: Night attacks gave smaller forces the advantage required for victory (such as Jos 19:47. Jdg 18:29). Abram’s side was victorious and the 4 kings fled beyond Damascus which was later the capital of the Aramean state. Abram’s side was certainly a much smaller army so their victory was a miracle (v.20).
14:16 recovered all the goods: everything robbed from Sodom (possibly also Gomorrah), including all of Lot’s household and people living in Sodom.
14:17 the king of Sodom came out: probably the leader of the 5 kings. The humiliated king emerged from hiding to meet Abram at a valley possibly east of Jerusalem (=Salem). That is why the king of Salem also appeared.
There were great contrasts between the welcome by 2 kings: the king of Sodom “came out” but the king of Salem “brought out”. The first words of the king of Sodom were “give me” followed by bargains, but the first word of the king of Salem was “blessed” followed by sharing. In Hebrew, Salem and Sodom have similar sounds but the 2 cities are incomparably different.
14:18 Melchizedek king of Salem, … priest of God Most High: The name means “king of righteousness”; Salem means peace, thus is an association of righteousness and peace. These 2 characteristics are found together in the OT (Ps 85:10; Isa 9:7; 32:17; 48:18; 60:17). Priests later were the chief agents of blessing in Israel (Nu 6:24–26; Dt 10:8).
bread and wine: These are daily but luxurious provisions (Jdg 19:19) and were refreshment for returning warriors (Jdg 8:5).
14:19 he blessed Abram: The blessing was directed to Abram and to Abram’s God. To bless God means to recognize God’s goodness of blessing His subjects.
God Most High: (Heb. El Elyon) This name means “Creator” or “Possessor” of heaven and earth. It is used instead of the common “Yahweh”. Melchizedek was claiming for Abram’s God the exalted place of Lord of the universe and was identifying Him as the one who brought Abram victory.
14:20 a tenth of everything: It is the origin of the tithe, a custom of giving a tenth to the Levites (Nu 18:21–28; Dt 14:28–29) and to kings (1Sa 8:15–17). It is a recognition of the blessing.
delivered: God of deliverance—salvation. These 2 verses include the 2 main descriptions of God: Creator and Saviour.
Question: Who is Melchizedek?
Melchizedek is mentioned only twice in OT (Gen 14:18; Ps 110:4). He appeared to hold a superior position over Abram by virtue of his blessing the patriarch and the contribution of the tithe by the patriarch. His priesthood antedated the Levitical order, apparently independent of the traditional priesthood of Israel. He clearly worshipped the same God as Abram but the Bible does not explain how he also knew of the true God.
Different identies of Melchizedek include:
· an angel or a superior heavenly being (from Qumran document)
· a man but an especially anointed priest—high priest before God (from traditional Judaism)
· Noah’s son Shem (from intertestamental Judaism); and he transferred his priesthood to Abram making Abram a priest (Ps 110:4)
· a man, a type for Christ as “bread and wine” is a type for the Christian communion (from church fathers)
· pre-incarnate Christ (from ancient Christian church)
Christian interpretation based on Heb 5—7: Melchizedek is used to contrast the Levitical order. (1) He was the first priest and therefore no genealogical requirements. Ps 110:4 was addressed by God to David’s Lord, who was Christ; hence, like that of Melchizedek, Jesus was appointed the head of a new order, having no predecessors (Heb 5:5–6,10), and having no priestly succession (Heb 7:11–17). (2) Whereas for Levi, his divine appointment was not formalized by oath, the priesthood of Melchizedek was confirmed by divine oath (Heb 7:20–21). (3) Melchizedek’s priesthood was perpetual (Heb 7:3), for he had no priestly heritage and no successor. Abraham, representing Levi, who resided in the patriarch’s loins, presented a tithe to Melchizedek and was blessed by the priest-king priesthood. Jesus too has an eternal priesthood (Heb 5:6; 6:20; 7:17,21,24,28). Therefore, the priest-king was superior to Levi (Heb 7:2).
It makes no difference if Melchizedek in fact had predecessors or successors, for the writer of Hebrews argues typologically, not actually, on the basis of the silence of Genesis regarding his heritage and succession (Heb 7:3).
As Melchizedek is only a type for Christ, it is unnecessary for Melchizedek and Jesus to share in all traits; thus the ancient interpretation that Melchizedek was the pre-incarnate Christ is not required. Melchizedek is a copy of the heavenly priesthood of Jesus—“like” the Son of God, but not Jesus a type of Melchizedek.
14:22 LORD, God Most High: adding Yahweh to El Elyon, thus identifying Melchizedek’s God as the same God.
have taken an oath: the first oath in the Bible; normally by raising a hand and invoking God who judges the person’s fidelity to the oath.
14:23 I will accept nothing: By his oath, Abram affirmed his faith in God who will bless him; he will not be indebted in any way to the foreign king for his success. This of course did not include: (1) the food already eaten, (2) the shares that Abram’s allies should receive, and (3) the tithe given to Melchizedek.
· Wealth is attributed to God (Pr 10:22; Ecc 5:19), and trust in riches leads to folly (Ps 49; 52:7; Pr 11:4).
· We can learn from Abram for his way of dealing with conflicts or problems: (1) take initiative and find a solution immediately, (2) based on unselfishness—let others have first choice, (3) do not just trust appearance. In contrast, Lot was selfish and greedy—selecting first over his uncle. He trusted appearance and did not detect the more important reality (evil) beneath the appearance. So he moved closer and closer to Sodom and eventually lived in it. Despite these shortcomings, Lot is described as a righteous man in the Bible (2Pe 2:7).