|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
14:1-12 The wars of nations make great figure in history, but we should not have had the record of this war if Abram and Lot had not been concerned. Out of covetousness, Lot had settled in fruitful, but wicked Sodom. Its inhabitants were the most ripe for vengeance of all the descendants of Canaan. The invaders were from Chaldea and Persia, then only small kingdoms. They took Lot among the rest, and his goods. Though he was righteous, and Abram's brother's son, yet he was with the rest in this trouble. Neither our own piety, nor our relation to the favourites of Heaven, will be our security when God's judgments are abroad. Many an honest man fares the worse for his wicked neighbours: it is our wisdom to separate, or at least to distinguish ourselves from them, 2Co 6:17. So near a relation of Abram should have been a companion and a disciple of Abram. If he chose to dwell in Sodom, he must thank himself if he share in Sodom's losses. When we go out of the way of our duty, we put ourselves from under God's protection, and cannot expect that the choice made by our lusts, should end to our comfort. They took Lot's goods; it is just with God to deprive us of enjoyments, by which we suffer ourselves to be deprived of the enjoyment of him.
Verse 3. - All these - the last-named princes - were joined together - i.e. as confederates (so. and came with their forces) - in (literally, to) the vale of Siddim. The salt valley (LXX.); a wooded vale (Vulgate); a plain filled with rocky hollows (Gesenius), with which Ver. 10 agrees; the valley of plains or fields (Onkelos, Raschi, Keil, Murphy). Which is the salt sea. i.e. where the salt sea afterwards arose, on the destruction of the cities of the plain - Genesis 19:24, 25 (Keil, Havernick; cf. Josephus, ' Bell. Jud.,' 4:08, 4); but the text scarcely implies that the cities were submerged-only the valley (cf. Quarry, p. 207). The extreme depression of the Dead Sea, being 1300 feet below the level of the Mediterranean ("the most depressed sheet of water in the world:" Stanley's 'Sinai and Palestine,' Genesis 7.), conjoined with its excessive saltness (containing 26.25 per cent of saline particles), renders it one of the most remarkable of inland lakes. Its shores are clothed with loom and desolation. Within a mile from northern embouchure the verdure of the rich Jordan valley dies away. Strewn along its desolate margin lie broken canes and willow branches, with trunks of palms, poplars, and other trees, half embedded in slimy mud, and all covered with incrustations of salt. At its south-western corner stands the mountain of rock salt, with its columnar fragments, which Josephus says, in his day was regarded as the pillar of Lot s wife.
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
All these were joined together in the vale of Siddim,.... Or "of fields", or "ploughed lands" (b), a fruitful vale abounding with corn; or of gardens or paradises, as the Targums of Jonathan and Jerusalem, being full of gardens and orchards, and was as the garden of the Lord, even as Eden, see Genesis 13:10; though Aben Ezra thinks it had its name from the slime or bitumen, of which there was great plenty in it, see Genesis 14:10. Now the above five kings, as they all dwelt in the plain, they entered into a confederacy, met together, and joined their forces in this vale, to oppose the four kings that were come to make war with them, as being an advantageous place, as they judged, perhaps on more accounts than one; and here they stayed to receive the enemy, and give him battle, see Genesis 14:8,
which is the salt sea; afterwards so called, not at this time, for then it would not have been fit for armies to be drawn up in battle array in it; but it was so called in the times of Moses, and after this fine vale was turned into a bituminous lake, and had its name from the saltness of the waters of the lake, or from the city Melach, or city of salt, which was near it, Joshua 15:62.
(b) "valle amaenissimorum agrorum", Munster; "in planitie agrorum", Fagius; so Jarchi; "in valle occationum", Hiller. Onomastic. Sacr. p. 937. "dicta ab agris occatis", Schmidt.
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