WAR AND PEACE
Lord, give us peaceful surroundings.
Read GENESIS 14
Abram Rescues Lot
14 At the time when Amraphel was king of Shinar,[a] Arioch king of Ellasar, Kedorlaomer king of Elam and Tidal king of Goyim, 2 these kings went to war against Bera king of Sodom, Birsha king of Gomorrah, Shinab king of Admah, Shemeber king of Zeboyim, and the king of Bela (that is, Zoar). 3 All these latter kings joined forces in the Valley of Siddim (that is, the Dead Sea Valley). 4 For twelve years they had been subject to Kedorlaomer, but in the thirteenth year they rebelled.
5 In the fourteenth year, Kedorlaomer and the kings allied with him went out and defeated the Rephaites in Ashteroth Karnaim, the Zuzites in Ham, the Emites in Shaveh Kiriathaim 6 and the Horites in the hill country of Seir, as far as El Paran near the desert. 7 Then they turned back and went to En Mishpat (that is, Kadesh), and they conquered the whole territory of the Amalekites, as well as the Amorites who were living in Hazezon Tamar.
8 Then the king of Sodom, the king of Gomorrah, the king of Admah, the king of Zeboyim and the king of Bela (that is, Zoar) marched out and drew up their battle lines in the Valley of Siddim 9 against Kedorlaomer king of Elam, Tidal king of Goyim, Amraphel king of Shinar and Arioch king of Ellasar—four kings against five. 10 Now the Valley of Siddim was full of tar pits, and when the kings of Sodom and Gomorrah fled, some of the men fell into them and the rest fled to the hills. 11 The four kings seized all the goods of Sodom and Gomorrah and all their food; then they went away. 12 They also carried off Abram’s nephew Lot and his possessions, since he was living in Sodom.
13 A man who had escaped came and reported this to Abram the Hebrew. Now Abram was living near the great trees of Mamre the Amorite, a brother[b] of Eshkol and Aner, all of whom were allied with Abram. 14 When Abram heard that his relative had been taken captive, he called out the 318 trained men born in his household and went in pursuit as far as Dan. 15 During the night Abram divided his men to attack them and he routed them, pursuing them as far as Hobah, north of Damascus. 16 He recovered all the goods and brought back his relative Lot and his possessions, together with the women and the other people.
17 After Abram returned from defeating Kedorlaomer and the kings allied with him, the king of Sodom came out to meet him in the Valley of Shaveh (that is, the King’s Valley).
18 Then Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine. He was priest of God Most High, 19 and he blessed Abram, saying,
“Blessed be Abram by God Most High,
Creator of heaven and earth.
20 And praise be to God Most High,
who delivered your enemies into your hand.”
Then Abram gave him a tenth of everything.
21 The king of Sodom said to Abram, “Give me the people and keep the goods for yourself.”
22 But Abram said to the king of Sodom, “With raised hand I have sworn an oath to the Lord, God Most High, Creator of heaven and earth, 23 that I will accept nothing belonging to you, not even a thread or the strap of a sandal, so that you will never be able to say, ‘I made Abram rich.’ 24 I will accept nothing but what my men have eaten and the share that belongs to the men who went with me—to Aner, Eshkol and Mamre. Let them have their share.”
New International Version (NIV)Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
Help us to retain our identity as a pilgrim people, no matter how severe the trouble and strife in our world may be.
There is a startling change between chapters 13 and 14. From the tranquility of the ending of the previous chapter, with the building of another altar to the Lord, we are suddenly plunged into a massive international conflict in which alliances of kings and their armies fill the air with the noise of battle! The narrative is unlike anything else in the stories of the patriarchs, since it ‘takes us out into world history, tells of a coalition of empires, a war against another coalition, and it involves Abram in this international incident’ (Gerhard von Rad, Genesis: A Commentary, SCM Press, 1972, p175)
The story of the people of God does not unfold in some privileged space, isolated and protected from the turmoil and conflicts which disfigure the general history of the world. Abram finds himself caught up in these events as battles swirl around him and place his own family at grave risk. Perhaps the violence of this chapter is a reminder that God’s promise of shalom is given to a world still desperately fallen and broken, and it gleams with an even brighter light amid the chaos and destructiveness of international war.
However, at the heart of this chaotic chapter we discover one of the most remarkable texts in the whole of Genesis. Melchizedek, king of Jerusalem, blesses Abram in the name of ‘God Most High’ and receives from him a substantial gift (18–20). The name that Melchizedek uses is that of the ‘high god’ of Canaan, yet in his response to the king of Sodom in verse 22, Abram connects this deity with ‘the LORD’ whom he worships and serves. We are reminded of Paul’s encounter with Greek philosophers in Athens and his statement that what they worship as something unknown, ‘I am going to proclaim to you’ (Acts 17:23) The pagan knowledge of God is not ridiculed but rather is the opportunity for witness to Abram’s Lord.
Think about Abram’s response. Does it teach us anything important concerning our relationships with people belonging to other faiths?
Lord, You are the One to whom we present our offerings.
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