Genesis 14:10
And the vale of Siddim was full of slime pits; and the kings of Sodom and Gomorrah fled, and fell there; and they that remained fled to the mountain.
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(10) The vale of Siddim was full of slimepits.—That is, of holes whence bitumen had been excavated. Layers of this natural asphalte, well known both to the Greeks and Romans as pia Judaica, Judean pitch, still exist on the western side of the Dead Sea; and the places whence it had been dug out, and which are often very deep, formed dangerous impediments in the way of the defeated side.

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.We have now arrived again at the point we had reached in Genesis 14:3. The five kings came out and joined battle with the four in the dale of Siddim. This dale abounded in pits of mineral pitch, or asphalt. The kings of Sodom and Amorah fled toward these pits, and seem to have fallen into them and perished. The others betook themselves to the mountain - probably the heights on the cast of the dale.CHAPTER 14

Ge 14:1-24. War.

1. And it came to pass—This chapter presents Abram in the unexpected character of a warrior. The occasion was this: The king of Sodom and the kings of the adjoining cities, after having been tributaries for twelve years to the king of Elam, combined to throw off his yoke. To chastise their rebellion, as he deemed it, Chedorlaomer, with the aid of three allies, invaded the territories of the refractory princes, defeated them in a pitched battle where the nature of the ground favored his army (Ge 14:10), and hastened in triumph on his homeward march, with a large amount of captives and booty, though merely a stranger.

The vale of Siddim was chosen by those five kings for the place of battle, that their adversaries being ignorant of the place might unawares fall into those pits, which they by their knowledge of it thought to escape.

Kings of Sodom and Gomorrah, i.e. their armies; a figurative speech, frequent in Scripture and other authors; for their persons escaped: see Genesis 14:17. They either,

1. Fell into the pits which they designed for others; or rather,

2. Were slain, as this word is oft used, as Joshua 8:24,25 Jud 8:10 12:6; and here too; for those that fell are here opposed to those that remained. And the vale of Siddim was full of slimepits,.... Or "wells" or "fountains of slime" or bitumen (s); a liquid of a pitchy nature, cast out of fountains, and which was used for a cement in buildings; such fountains were near Babylon; see Gill on Genesis 11:3; so that this place was naturally prepared for what it was designed to be, a bituminous lake; and hence, when turned into one, it was called the lake Asphaltites, from this slime or bitumen, called by the Greeks "asphaltos". Brocardus (t) says, these pits or wells of bitumen are at this day on the shore of the lake, each of them having pyramids erect, which he saw with his own eyes; and such pits casting out bitumen, as fountains do water, have been found in other countries, as in Greece (u). Now this vale being full of such pits, the kings of Sodom and Gomorrah chose it to fight in, and here drew up in a line of battle, hoping that the enemy, being ignorant of them, would fall into them and perish, and their ranks be broke and fall into confusion; but as it often is, that the pit men dig and contrive for others they fall into themselves, so it was in this case:

and the kings of Sodom and Gomorrah fled: the battle going hard against them, and they not able to stand before their enemies:

and fell there, or "into them" (w); the slimepits, or fountains of bitumen, into which they precipitately fell, and many perished; or of their own accord they threw themselves into them for their own safety, as some think; though the sense may be this, that there was a great slaughter of them made there, as the word is frequently used, see 1 Samuel 4:10; this is to be understood not of the kings of Sodom and Gomorrah; for it is certain that they were preserved alive, at least the king of Sodom, for we hear of him afterwards, Genesis 14:17; but of their soldiers:

and they that remained fled to the mountain: or mountains hard by, where Lot after went when Sodom was destroyed, Genesis 19:30; hither such fled that escaped the sword of the enemy, or perished not in the slimepits, judging it more safe to be there, than to be in their cities, which would fall into the hands of their enemies, and be plundered by them, and where they would be in danger of losing their lives.

(s) "putei, putei bituminis", Vatablus, Piscator, Cartwright, Drusius, Schmidt; so Jarchi. (t) Apud Adricom. Theatrum Terrae Sanct. p. 44. (u) Aelian. Var. Hist. l. 13. c. 16. (w) "in eos", Cocceius.

And the {e} 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.

(e) And afterward was overwhelmed with water, and so was called the salt sea.

10. full of slime pits] i.e. bitumen pits. Bitumen, or asphalt, is found in the neighbourhood of the Dead Sea. Josephus speaks of the bitumen floating upon the surface of its waters. Here we are to suppose that the bitumen came out of large holes or pits in the earth, into which the confederates fell in their flight.

“Full of slime pits.” The Hebrew idiom gives be’erôth be’erôth ḥêmar, “pits, pits of bitumen” = “all bitumen pits.” Cf. 2 Kings 3:16, “trenches, trenches” = “nothing but trenches.”

The narrative is so fragmentary, or condensed, that only the rout is recorded.

they fell] Referring to the fugitive troops generally. The king of Sodom appears again in Genesis 14:17. It is implied that those who fell into the pits were lost.

to the mountain] i.e. to the mountains of Moab, the chain of hills on the east side of the Dead Sea.Verse 10. - And the vale of Siddim was full of slime-pits. Literally, was pits, pits (cf. 2 Kings 3:16; Ezekiel 42:12 for examples of repeated nouns) of slime, bitumen or asphalte, and therefore unfavorable for flight. "Some of the wells near the Dead Sea are 116 feet deep, with a stratum of bitumen fifteen feet in depth, and as black as jet" (Inglis). And the kings of Sodom and Gomorrah fled and fell there. Stumbled into the pits and perished (Keil, Lange, Murphy), though if the king of Sodom escaped (Ver. 17), the language may only mean that they were overthrown there (Knobel, Rosenmüller, Bush, 'Speaker's Commentary'). And they that remained fled to the mountain, of Moab, with its numerous defiles. The occasion of the war was the revolt of the kings of the vale of Siddim from Chedorlaomer. They had been subject to him for twelve years, "and the thirteenth year they rebelled." In the fourteenth year Chedorlaomer came with his allies to punish them for their rebellion, and attacked on his way several other cities to the east of the Arabah, as far as the Elanitic Gulf, no doubt because they also had withdrawn from his dominion. The army moved along the great military road from inner Asia, past Damascus, through Peraea, where they smote the Rephaims, Zuzims, Emims, and Horites. "The Rephaim in Ashteroth Karnaim:" all that is known with certainty of the Rephaim is, that they were a tribe of gigantic stature, and in the time of Abram had spread over the whole of Peraea, and held not only Bashan, but the country afterwards possessed by the Moabites; from which possessions they were subsequently expelled by the descendants of Lot and the Amorites, and so nearly exterminated, that Og, king of Bashan, is described as the remnant of the Rephaim (Deuteronomy 2:20; Deuteronomy 3:11, Deuteronomy 3:13; Joshua 12:4; Joshua 13:12). Beside this, there were Rephaim on this side of the Jordan among the Canaanitish tribes (Genesis 15:20), some to the west of Jerusalem, in the valley which was called after them the valley of the Rephaim (Joshua 15:8; Joshua 18:16; 2 Samuel 5:18, etc.), others on the mountains of Ephraim (Joshua 17:15); while the last remains of them were also to be found among the Philistines (2 Samuel 21:16.; 1 Chronicles 20:4.). The current explanation of the name, viz., "the long-stretched," or giants (Ewald), does not prevent our regarding רפא as the personal name of their forefather, though no intimation is given of their origin. That they were not Canaanites may be inferred from the fact, that on the eastern side of the Jordan they were subjugated and exterminated by the Canaanitish branch of the Amorites. Notwithstanding this, they may have been descendants of Ham, though the fact that the Canaanites spoke a Semitic tongue rather favours the conclusion that the oldest population of Canaan, and therefore the Rephaim, were of Semitic descent. At any rate, the opinion of J. G. Mller, that they belonged to the aborigines, who were not related to Shem, Ham, and Japhet, is perfectly arbitrary. - Ashteroth Karnaim, or briefly Ashtaroth, the capital afterwards of Og of Bashan, was situated in Hauran; and ruins of it are said to be still seen in Tell Ashtereh, two hours and a half from Nowah, and one and three-quarters from the ancient Edrei, somewhere between Nowah and Mezareib (see Ritter, Erdkunde).

(Note: J. G. Wetztein, however, has lately denied the identity of Ashteroth Karnaim, which he interprets as meaning Ashtaroth near Karnaim, with Ashtaroth the capital of Og (see Reiseber. b. Hauran, etc. 1860, p. 107). But he does so without sufficient reason. He disputes most strongly the fact that Ashtaroth was situated on the hill Ashtere, because the Arabs now in Hauran assured him, that the ruins of this Tell (or hill) suggested rather a monastery or watch-tower than a large city, and associates it with the Bostra of the Greeks and Romans, the modern Bozra, partly on account of the central situation of this town, and its consequent importance to Hauran and Peraea generally, and partly also on account of the similarity in the name, as Bostra is the latinized form of Beeshterah, which we find in Joshua 21:27 in the place of the Ashtaroth of 1 Chronicles 6:56; and that form is composed of Beth Ashtaroth, to which there are as many analogies as there are instances of the omission of Beth before the names of towns, which is a sufficient explanation of Ashtaroth (cf. Ges. thes., p. 175 and 193).)

"The Zuzims in Ham" were probably the people whom the Ammonites called Zam zummim, and who were also reckoned among the Rephaim (Deuteronomy 2:20). Ham was possibly the ancient name of Rabba of the Ammonites (Deuteronomy 3:11), the remains being still preserved in the ruins of Ammn. - "The Emim in the plain of Kiryathaim:" the אימים or אמים (i.e., fearful, terrible), were the earlier inhabitants of the country of the Moabites, who gave them the name; and, like the Anakim, they were also reckoned among the Rephaim (Deuteronomy 2:11). Kiryathaim is certainly not to be found where Eusebius and Jerome supposed, viz., in Καριάδα, Coraiatha, the modern Koerriath or Kereyat, ten miles to the west of Medabah; for this is not situated in the plain, and corresponds to Kerioth (Jeremiah 48:24), with which Eusebius and Jerome have confounded Kiryathaim. It is probably still to be seen in the ruins of el Teym or et Tueme, about a mile to the west of Medabah. "The Horites (from חרי, dwellers in caves), in the mountains of Seir," were the earlier inhabitants of the land between the Dead Sea and the Elanitic Gulf, who were conquered and exterminated by the Edomites (Genesis 36:20.). - "To El-paran, which is by the wilderness:" i.e., on the eastern side of the desert of Paran (see Genesis 21:21), probably the same as Elath (Deuteronomy 2:8) or Eloth (1 Kings 9:26), the important harbour of Aila on the northern extremity of the so-called Elanitic Gulf, near the modern fortress of Akaba, where extensive heaps of rubbish show the site of the former town, which received its name El or Elath (terebinth, or rather wood) probably from the palm-groves in the vicinity.

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