Genesis 14:3
All these were joined together in the vale of Siddim, which is the salt sea.
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(3) All these were joined together.—Were united in a confederacy, and so formed a pentapolis, or group of five allied towns, like the Philistine league with its five lords (1Samuel 6:16-18).

The vale of Siddim.—Mr. Conder (Tent-work, ii. 16) says that the name Sidd is still given by the Arabs to the cliffs or banks of marl which run along the southern edge of the plain of Jericho; and with this agrees Aben-Ezra’s explanation, who derives the word from the Hebrew sid, chalk. Mr. Conder searched throughout the Ciccar for traces of the ruined cities, but in vain; and “the gradual rise of the level of the plain, caused by the constant washing down of the soft marl from the western hills, would effectually,” he thinks, “cover over any such ruins.” He found, however, copious springs of water upon the north-western side of the lake, and considers that the five cities were in their neighbourhood.

Which is the salt sea.—From these words commentators have rashly concluded that the vale of Sodom was swallowed up by the Dead Sea; but not only is no such convulsion of nature mentioned in Genesis 19, but Abram is described as seeing the Ciccar-land not submerged, but smoking like a furnace (Genesis 19:28). Probably “the vale of Siddim” was the name of the whole district in which these sidds, or bluffs, are situated, and which extend round all the northern shores of the lake. Mr. Conder, after tracing the lines of former beaches, which show that the Dead Sea has long been shrinking in extent, tells us (Tent-work, ii. 43) that geologists hold that it had reached its present condition long before the days of Abram. It still, indeed, covered a much larger space, for the rains at that time were far more copious in Palestine than at present; but it no longer extended over the whole Arabah, as, by the evidence of these beaches, was once the case.

(3) The Horites.Cave-men, the aboriginal inhabitants of Mount Seir, subsequently conquered by the Edomites (Deuteronomy 2:12; Deuteronomy 2:22). The miserable condition of these earth-men is described in Job 30:3-8.

El-paran.—This forest of oaks (or terebinths) was on the edge of the great wilderness, and reached to within three days’ journey of Sinai (Numbers 10:12; Numbers 10:33).

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.

Which now is, though when this battle was fought it was not so.

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.

All these were {c} joined together in the vale of Siddim, which is the {d} salt sea.

(c) Ambition is the chief cause of wars among princes.

(d) Called also the dead sea, or the lake Asphaltite, near Sodom and Gomorrah.

3. All these] Probably the kings mentioned in Genesis 14:2, i.e. the five local subject princes. That there should be any doubt whether “all these” refers to the four kings of the east, or to the five kings of the west, is an example of the unskilful style in which this section is written.

joined together] The five local kings combined: “the vale of Siddim” was their rallying place. But as “the vale of Siddim” was their own country, the wording is awkward. Hence some prefer R.V. marg. “joined themselves together against,” with a change of subject; i.e. the kings of the E. combined and marched against the kings of the W. But the change of subject, interrupting Genesis 14:2; Genesis 14:4, is surely too harsh.

the vale of Siddim] Not mentioned elsewhere; but traditionally identified with the Dead Sea, beneath whose waters the “cities of the Plain” were believed by the Israelites to lie engulfed. The suggestion of Renan to read Shêdim (“demons”), a word occurring in Deuteronomy 32:17, Psalm 106:37, is ingenious, but lacks support from any other passage mentioning the Dead Sea. LXX τὴν φάραγγα τὴν ἁλυκήν = “the salt valley,” Lat. vallem silvestrem.

the Salt Sea] An explanatory note, like the reference to Zoar, in the previous verse. “The Salt Sea” is the commonest name in the O.T. for “the Dead Sea”: e.g. Numbers 34:3; Numbers 34:12; Joshua 15:2; Joshua 15:5. Another name by which it is called is “the sea of the Arabah,” Deuteronomy 3:17, Joshua 3:16; Joshua 12:3, where “the Salt Sea” is added as an explanation. In Ezekiel 47:18, Joel 2:20, it is called “the eastern sea.” Josephus calls it “the sea of Asphalt”; and in the Jewish Talmud it appears as “the sea of Sodom,” or “the salt sea.” The intense saltness of its waters and its deposits of salt have given rise to its name. Nothing lives in its waters. The name “Dead Sea” goes back to the time of Jerome, 6th cent. a.d.

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. Genesis 14:3"All these (five kings) allied themselves together, (and came with their forces) into the vale of Siddim (השׂדּים, prob. fields of plains), which is the Salt Sea;" that is to say, which was changed into the Salt Sea on the destruction of its cities (Genesis 19:24-25). That there should be five kings in the five cities (πεντάπολις, Wis. 10:6) of this valley, was quite in harmony with the condition of Canaan, where even at a later period every city had its king.
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