Upon initially reading Genesis 14 it seems a bit of a departure from the previous chapters, and since the general scholarly belief is that the book of Genesis was compiled from various sources to form a cohesive whole, it may not be a complete surprise that the story quickly shifts in direction. After all, we just began reading about Abram’s story; how he went to Egypt and emerged wealthy; how he and his nephew Lot parted ways. We were whisked away from the genealogies and drama (Babel and the dispersion) of chapters 10 and 11, and in Genesis 12 Abram is lifting his eyes in quiet silence, surveying the promised land. All seems well, but the war machine is moving.
Four kings and their armies, on a mission to crush a rebellion, destroying everyone in their paths, even those peoples who were not considered subject to them. And so the five subject kings and their respective armies prepared for the coming battle in the valley of Siddim. And what does this war have to do with Abram? Nothing, it seems, until a fugitive informs Abram that his nephew Lot has been taken captive. We may wrestle with this, and plea bargain with ourselves that this is not Abram’s fight; that Lot was the one who left Abram, and it was Lot’s decision to begin to associate with the people of Sodom. But the text does not really give us the option to flip-flop our hearts on the situation. Instead Abram moves with alacrity and deftness as soon as he “heard that his relative had been taken captive” (Gen. 14:14); Abram did not hesitate even though to the common man he was heading into a suicide mission. 318 men against four armies?
Check back soon for The War of the Kings, Part II!