Blessing by Association. Genesis 14: 1-17
In chapter fourteen we come to a transition paragraph. In Genesis 13:14 the command is to look and then in verse 17 it is to arise and walk in the land in its length and is width, "for I have given it to you." So again we see the reiteration of a promise. What is that going to do? It tells us that God has made a promise and the next step is that God will test Abraham on the basis of that promise. Principle: God is going to teach us doctrine and then He is going to test you on the doctrine. He is going to teach each of us the various promises and as we learn He tests us on the basis of that doctrine.
The thing that we have to go back to with Abraham is that these promises that God is making to Abraham have to do with the Abrahamic covenant. The Abrahamic covenant is to the Jew what positional truth is to the church age believer. What Abraham is having to do is learn to live on the basis of those iron-clad unconditional promises that God gave him in the Abrahamic covenant. God has contractually obligated Himself to certain things irregardless of how Abraham behaves. It is not based on what Abraham is or what Abraham does. Abraham was freely given this contract by God which contained the provisions for the land, seed, and the blessing. So the application we have to think of here as Abraham is learning to live on the basis of the promises in the Abrahamic covenant, you and I as church age believers are learning to live on the basis of everything that God gave us at the instant of salvation. At the instant of salvation we have salvation related blessings that are ours forever. We have been redeemed from sin. God the Father has been propitiated. His character has been satisfied by the death of Christ, so that is a one-time for all action. We have been justified. Justification takes place in a point in time. At the instant we put our faith in Christ alone God the Father imputes to us the perfect righteousness of Jesus Christ and when His righteousness and justice looks at the righteousness of Christ in us He declares us justified, not because of anything we have done but because of who Jesus Christ did on the cross. Beyond that we have various other things that take place. We have various ministries of God the Holy Spirit that transpire at the instant of salvation which relate to sanctification. So the foundation for the Christian life is what took place in terms of positional realities at the instant of salvation. So positional truth has to do with everything that we have because of our position, our identification with Christ in His death, burial and resurrection, and being part of the body of Christ. In the same way in the Old Testament a Jew, when they are saved and become part of that spiritual seed of Abraham, they become a Jew indeed and heirs to all those promises in the Abrahamic covenant. That is their positional reality and they can't ever lose it. So the test for Abraham was to live in light of those positional realities, one of which was the land, and that is why the first three tests in chapters twelve and thirteen all relate to the land.
Genesis 13:15, "For all the land which you see, to you will I give it, and to your seed for ever." Notice there are no conditions on that promise. God doesn't say that as long as Abraham is obedient he can have the land. In the Mosaic covenant which was a temporary covenant God said Israel would only enjoy the blessings of the land if they were obedient. If they were disobedient He was going to take them out of the land, but "you will return to me and when you do, then I will bring you from the four corners of the earth back to the land." That is a promise that has yet to be fulfilled.
Then there is an expansion on the seed element of the Abrahamic covenant in verse 16, "And I will make your descendants as the dust of the earth: so that if a man can number the dust of the earth, then shall your seed also be numbered." So God promises to Abraham that through this line there will be an innumerable amount of descendants.
Then in verse 17 & 18 is the conclusion of the chapter. "Arise, walk through the land in the length of it and in the breadth of it; for I will give it unto thee. Then Abram removed his tent, and came and dwelt in the plain of Mamre, which is in Hebron, and built there an altar unto the LORD." His walking through the land is a sign that he is taking dominion over that land. He is marking it off, examining the dimensions of what God has given to him. In other words, God is telling him that he needs to become familiar with the realities of this covenant. In the same way the believer is to become familiar with the reality of what he was given in positional truth. We should be as familiar with the doctrines and terminology of propitiation, justification, imputation, baptism of the Spirit, indwelling, filling of the Spirit, priesthood of the believer, and all of the other things that were given to us at the instant of salvation. We need to be aware of them and should be so much a part of our thinking that it affects how we make decisions and what we do every day. Verse 18 gives the transition statement that sets things up for the next chapter. Mamre is not a location, he is a person, and Amorite chieftain who has staked out his property in the area near where what later becomes Hebron. It was at Hebron that he built an altar to the Lord. So through chapter thirteen we see that Abraham was in fellowship, he is worshipping the Lord, he is passing the tests, and now in chapter fourteen we come to the next test.
The tests up to this point have been related to the land paragraphs of the covenant. This test is going to be related to the blessing paragraph of the Abrahamic covenant. He moves down to Mamre as a result of God's promise and lives there and begins to associate with these Gentile Amorites there. Genesis 12:2, "…. you shall be a blessing." It is an imperative. In other words, Go be a blessing. Abraham failed to be a blessing when he was out of the land and living in deception in Egypt. He brought a plague and cursing on the house of Pharaoh. Now he is going to get another opportunity to be a blessing by association to those who are around him. A test comes up and this is going to involve a military test. It also involves the land because the land is invaded by a foreign power, a foreign coalition of four kings.
Genesis 14:1, 2, "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; 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." So what we see is a detailed account of a military campaign that extends down through verse 17. What we will see in these 17 verses is that God gives the blessing of victory over evil for the believer. It is God who is the hero of Old Testament narrative. Because of God's provision for Abraham there is blessing by association to his pagan neighbors.
Why do we have such a detailed account of this military campaign? Why has the Holy Spirit chosen certain events to put in the Word and not other events? Because He is demonstrating something. It is history, real genuine history but it is editorialized history, because the prophets are writing this to demonstrate that the God of the Bible, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, is a God who is unlike all of the other gods. He is a God who speaks and reveals and a God who intervenes and interferes in the life of man. And He is always true to His covenants. So the underlying theme throughout the Old Testament is that God is always faithful to His covenant. That is a principle of application for us. God is always faithful to His promises. That is why we as conservative evangelicals believe so vehemently in the doctrine of the inspiration and inerrancy of Scripture. If the Scripture isn't inerrant, if it isn't the inspired Word of God where God has objectively revealed this to us, then how do we know we can count on it? How do we know which promises are for today and how do we know that God is going to fulfill His promises? How do we know that we can trust Him? So we have to start with an inerrant, infallible Bible. If we don't start with an inerrant infallible Bible, then the Bible is just another piece of religious literature that is no better and no worse than the Koran, the Book of Mormon, or any of the other religious books that are out there. But if the Bible is the infallible Word of God, if God has spoken to us, then nothing else in life matters ultimately than to know what He has said to us. God has spoken, and if God has spoken then we can understand what he has said. It is not a guessing game. It is like a radio signal. He not only built the signal but He built in each one of us the receiver so that we can understand the signal. It is not a guessing game.
In verse 1 we have some names of kings of what were mostly city states. Unfortunately we can't tie any of these in with anyone known in history at this time. There is no known connection. But we can identify the geographical areas that they are associated with here. Amraphel king of Shinar which, according to Genesis 10:10 is the area around Babylon. Arioch king of Ellasar, but there is absolutely no reference anywhere in any ancient documents to such a place. Based on his name and the etymology of his name many scholars would link this to an area in eastern Asia Minor, connecting it to the region of Pontus, just south of the Black Sea and down into Cappadocia. In fact, the Vulgate and a Greek translation of the Old Testament both translate Ellasar as Pontus. The Genesis Apocryphon translates it as Cappadocia, which is to the south east of Pontus. The third individual mentioned who ends up being the military leader of the group is Chedorlaomer king of Elam. Elam is located just off the Persian Gulf and to the east. The last person identified here is Tidal who is said to be the king of the goyim. There is no known person of this name in the period of Abraham. Tidal seems to have been a ruler of a coalition made up of Hittites and Luvians. The point here is that if we look at the map of these areas we have a coalition of four major powers at that time. This is not just three or four bandits who gathered together a few hundred men and went on a rampage down through the Dead Sea valley area, this is something comparable in their age to a world war: four strong military powers aligning themselves together and involved in an assault down through the Jordan valley. It seems that their ultimate reasons are economic related to the bitumen pits.
Verse 3, 4, "All these were joined together in the vale of Siddim, which is the salt sea. Twelve years they served Chedorlaomer, and in the thirteenth year they rebelled." In the first list in v. 1 Amraphel was mentioned first. That would indicate that he had priority of leadership. By verse 4 Chedorlaomer seems to have risen to prominence, maybe because he had the military talent to conquer this area. On the shore of the Dead Sea is the location of the five cities of the plain. They had been conquered and were to send a tribute every year back to this coalition, and it would have been not only natural resources but also money. After twelve years they decided they weren't going to do it any more. That is what is means by "in the thirteenth year they rebelled." So the coalition got together again and embarked on their second military campaign down to discipline all of the little groups that were in rebellion.
Verse 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." The Rephaim are part of a group of pre-Canaanite or pre-Israelite inhabitants in the land of Canaan. They were renowned for their height. These were giants. One of the most renowned of their descendants was Og, king of Bashan who have a nine cubit bed. A cubit was 18-inches. That makes him close to thirteen and a half feet tall. He has an ancestor of Goliath. Cf. Numbers 13, "giants in the land." In the second battle they defeat the Zuzims in Ham. It is not certain exactly where Ham was located but it is going to have to be in the same area. The Zuzim were also a group of giants. So in both groups a group of physically larger soldiers was defeated and it indicates that the armies of Chedorlaomer were well trained, well disciplined, and were experienced. They are not going up against experienced armies though. The next battle takes on a group called the Emim in Shaveh Kiriathaim. This is in the Trans-Jordan area, and the Emim also were a group of giants. Then we come to the last battle, v. 6, "And the Horites in their mount Seir, unto Elparan, which is by the wilderness." It is evident from Scripture that these were a distinct group of people who were also part of the land and they lived in Sier which is the mountainous region later known as Edom where the Edomites would dwell. So these, too, were defeated by the coalition. Then they headed south to Elparan which is on the Gulf of Akabar. They head north and at Kadesh-Barnea they defeat a coalition of Amorites and Amalekites. Verse 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." Enmishpat means the well or spring of judgment, and it was the ancient name for what latter became known as Kadesh-Barnea. There is a coalition there made up of Amorites and Amalekites. The Amorites were a large people group in the ancient world. In fact, they become one of the major ethnic groups making up the Canaanites and are a problem for the Jews all through the period of Joshua, Judges, and on into the period of David and later because they didn't completely destroy them. The Amalekites were also a continuous problem for the Jews. They were a sort of roving band of land pirates who wreaked devastation everywhere they went in the ancient world, and as a result of that they carried with them a tremendous amount of booty. This is the first group of people that the Jews faced when they came out of Egypt. They were a continuous scourge all through the period of the Judges until Saul defeats them in a major battle when Saul does almost everything that God tells him to do. But he didn't kill their king. They are not ultimately defeated until David defeats them later on.
Verses 8-10, "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; 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. 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." So the kings of Sodom and Gomorrah got away but they lost all their goods and possessions. Chedorlaomer and his group takes it all and captures Lot and his family along with it. Abraham is in Hebron and he is going to ally himself with the Amorites who are living there with Mamre and his brothers, and they head north to a place called Hobah where they ambush Chedorlaomer and his armies and defeat them. This sets the stage for one of the most interesting meetings in all of the Bible, the meeting of Abraham with Melchizedek.