Genesis 14:2
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.
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(2) Bera king of Sodom.—The failure of the attempt to explain the names of these five kings, and of the cities over which they ruled (with one or two exceptions), by the help of the Hebrew language makes it probable that the inhabitants of the Ciccar were either Canaanites who had come from the sea-coast, or men of some Hamite stock who had colonised this region from the east. The latter is the more probable view, as they do not seem to have had much affinity either with the Amorites or with the Jebusites, their neighbours.

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.They made war. - Shinar was the central region from which the different branches of the human family dispersed after the confusion of tongues. It is possible that the mother country claimed some supremacy over the colonies. Shinar was also a great center of commerce, and the cities of the dale of Siddim formed another, of secondary importance. Intercourse between the two countries was therefore frequent. Abram himself had come from Ur Kasdim. The spirit of despotism had descended from Nimrod to the present potentates of the East, and prompted them to aim at universal empire. The five kings are the petty sovereigns, each of a single town and its neighborhood. The area in which these towns lay was very circumscribed. With the exception of the territory of Bela it was afterward submerged and formed part of the basin of the Salt Sea. Hence, Siddim is said to be the Salt Sea. The dale is the deep valley or glen in which these kings dwelt on the banks of the Jordan, or the salt lake into which it flowed. Of the five cities, Sodom was the chief in power, luxury, and wickedness; whence it is mentioned first. Bela is also called Zoar, "the little," and, hence, is placed last; even the name of its king is not given. "All these joined together." They formed a league in self-defense, and marched out to meet the enemy in the dale of Siddim.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.

Once for all, observe that the name of kings is here and elsewhere given by Moses to the chief governors of cities or little provinces. Compare Joshua 12:9, &c. That these made war with Bera king of Sodom,.... A city in the plain of Jordan, which with the four following made the Pentapolis, or five cities of the plain. Strabo (y) says, in this place formerly were thirteen cities, the metropolis of which was Sodom, and which yet had remaining a compass of sixty furlongs; according to Dr. Lightfoot (z), it should be placed in the southern extremity of the lake Asphaltites, whereas it is usually set in the maps in the northern bounds of it:

and with Birsha king of Gomorrah; another city in the plain of Jordan, called by Solinus (a) Gomorrum:

Shinab king of Admah; a third city situated in the same plain:

and Shemeber king of Zeboiim; a fourth city of the plain, which seems to have its name from the pleasantness of its situation:

and the king of Bela, which is Zoar; so it was afterwards called by Lot, being a little city, Genesis 19:20; but before, Bela; the name of its king is not mentioned, being a person of no great note and importance, and his city small.

(y) Geograph. l. 16. p. 526. (z) Works, vol. 2. p. 6. Vid. Reland. Palestina illustrata, tom. 2. p. 1020. (a) Polyhistor. c. 48.

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.
2. that they made war] This anticipates and summarizes the contents of Genesis 14:5-10. As Hammurabi, the conqueror of Elam and founder of the Babylonian kingdom, terms himself king of Amurru = Amorites, or northern Palestine, there is nothing unhistorical in the representation of an invasion of this region by the Elamite suzerain.

Bera … Birsha] The kings of the cities of the Plain mentioned in this verse are not otherwise known. Identifications with the Arabic Bari and Birshi, and with the Babylonian Sinabu, have been conjectured. The five cities here named, sometimes (e.g. Wis 10:6) called the Pentapolis, were, according to the tradition, situated at the southern end of the Dead Sea, and, with the exception of Zoar, were overwhelmed in the catastrophe of chap. 19. Each city has its king, as was the case with the cities of Canaan, according to the Book of Joshua and the Tel-el-Amarna tablets.

It is noteworthy that Bera and Birsha can, in the Hebrew letters, denote “with evil” and “with wickedness” respectively.

The LXX (Cod. A) reads “Balla” for “Bera,” and “Sennaar” for “Shinab.”

Admah, and … Zeboiim] These towns are mentioned in Deuteronomy 29:23 and Hosea 11:8 as having been overthrown in the great catastrophe described in chap. 19.

the king of Bela] The only king whose name is not given. The omission favours the accuracy of the list. The name “Bela,” meaning “destruction,” conceivably contains a local allusion. It has been suggested that we should read “Bela, king of Zoar.” The reader, in reviewing these two verses, will be struck with the fact that Chedorlaomer, king of Elam, whose name is mentioned first in the list of Genesis 14:9, and who is evidently the supreme sovereign in Genesis 14:4-5, stands third in the list in Genesis 14:1. It is not easy to find an explanation. Some scholars suggest that the names are arranged in the order of their nearness to Palestine! Others, by a slight emendation of the text, reading the final “1” in “Amraphel” as a preposition, render as follows: “in the days of Amraph, when Arioch king of Ellasar was king over Shinar, then Chedorlaomer king of Elam and Tidal king of Goiim made war with, &c.” But the mention of the four kings in Genesis 14:9, where their order is different, does not favour the conjecture.

A relief on the upper part of the basalt stele on which is inscribed in cuneiform characters the famous Code of Laws.Verse 2. - That these made war. The LXX. connect the present with the preceding verse by reading "that Arioch," &c. Ewald interpolates "of Abram," before "that Amraphel." With Bera. "Gift - בֶּש־רַע (Gesenius). King of Sodom. "Burning, conflagration," as being built on bituminous soil, and therefore subject to volcanic eruptions; from סָדַם, conjectured to mean to burn (Gesenius). "Lime place," or "enclosed place;' from סָדָה, to surround (Furst). A mountain with fossil salt at the present day is called Hagv Usdum; and Galen also knew of a Sodom mountain. And with Birsha = בֶּן־רֶשַׁע "son of wickedness" (Gesenius); "long and thick" (Murphy); "strong, thick" (Furst). King of Gomorrah. ΓομάῥῬα (LXX.); perhaps "culture, habitation" (Gesenius); "rent, fissure" (Furst). Shinab. "Father's tooth" (Gesenius); "splendor of Ab" (Furst); "coolness" (Murphy). King of Admah. Fruit region, farm city (Furst). And Shemeber. "Soaring aloft" (Gesenius). King of Zeboiim. Place of hyenas (Gesenius); gazelles (Murphy); a wild place (Furst). And the king of Bela. "Devoured," or "devouring" (Gesenius). Which is Zoar. "The small," a name afterwards given to the city (Genesis 19:22), and here introduced as being better known than the more ancient one. After Lot's departure, Jehovah repeated to Abram (by a mental, inward assurance, as we may infer from the fact that אמר "said" is not accompanied by ויּרא "he appeared") His promise that He would give the land to him and to his seed in its whole extent, northward, and southward, and eastward, and westward, and would make his seed innumerable like the dust of the earth. From this we may see that the separation of Lot was in accordance with the will of God, as Lot had no share in the promise of God; though God afterwards saved him from destruction for Abram's sake. The possession of the land is promised עולם עד "for ever." The promise of God is unchangeable. As the seed of Abraham was to exist before God for ever, so Canaan was to be its everlasting possession. But this applied not to the lineal posterity of Abram, to his seed according to the flesh, but to the true spiritual seed, which embraced the promise in faith, and held it in a pure believing heart. The promise, therefore, neither precluded the expulsion of the unbelieving seed from the land of Canaan, nor guarantees to existing Jews a return to the earthly Palestine after their conversion to Christ. For as Calvin justly says, "quam terra in saeculum promittitur, non simpliciter notatur perpetuitas; sed quae finem accepit in Christo." Through Christ the promise has been exalted from its temporal form to its true essence; through Him the whole earth becomes Canaan (vid., Genesis 17:8). That Abram might appropriate this renewed and now more fully expanded promise, Jehovah directed him to walk through the land in the length of it and the breadth of it. In doing this he came in his "tenting," i.e., his wandering through the land, to Hebron, where he settled by the terebinth of the Amorite Mamre (Genesis 14:13), and built an altar to Jehovah. The term ישׁב (set himself, settled down, sat, dwelt) denotes that Abram made this place the central point of his subsequent stay in Canaan (cf. Genesis 14:13; Genesis 18:1, and Genesis 23). On Hebron, see Genesis 23:2.
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