The People's Bible by Joseph Parker
And it came to pass in the days of Amraphel king of Shinar, Arioch king of Ellasar, Chedorlaomer king of Elam, and Tidal king of nations;1. And it came to pass in the days of Amraphel [the representative of Nimrod, the founder of the Babylonian empire] king of Shinar [Babel], Arioch king of Ellasar [the Larissa of the Greeks], Chedorlaomer king of Elam [the most powerful of the Asiatic princes], and Tidal king of nations [chief of several nomad tribes];
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.
3. All these were joined together in the vale of Siddim, which is the salt sea.
4. Twelve years they served Chedorlaomer, and in the thirteenth year they rebelled.
5. And in the fourteenth year came Chedorlaomer, and the kings that were with him, and smote the Rephaims [giants] in Ashteroth Karnaim [Ashteroth of the two horns], and the Zuzims [strong or mighty ones] in Ham, and the Emims in Shaveh Kiriathaim [the plains of the cities],
6. And the Horites [the inhabitants of caves] in their mount Seir, unto Elparan [the oak wood], which is by the wilderness.
7. And they returned, and came to En-mishpat [the well of judgment] which is Kadesh, and smote all the country of the Amalekites, and also the Amorites, that dwelt in Hazezon-tamar [the pruning of the palm, afterwards called Engedi, the fountain of the wild goat].
8. And there went out the king of Sodom, and the king of Gomorrah, and the king of Admah, and the king of Zeboiim, and the king of Bela (the same is Zoar); and they joined battle with them in the vale of Siddim;
9. With Chedorlaomer the king of Elam, and with Tidal king of nations, and Amraphel king of Shinar, and Arioch king of Ellasar; four kings with five.
10. And the 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.
11. And they took all the goods of Sodom and Gomorrah, and all their victuals, and went their way.
12. And they took Lot, Abram's brother's son, who dwelt in Sodom, and his goods, and departed.
13. And there came one that had escaped, and told Abram the Hebrew; for he dwelt in the plain of Mamre the Amorite, brother of Eshcol, and brother of Aner: and these were confederate with Abram.
14. And when Abram heard that his brother was taken captive, he armed [or drew out, as a sword if drawn from its sheath] his trained servants, born in his own house, three hundred and eighteen, and pursued them unto Dan.
15. And he divided himself against them, he and his servants, by night, and smote them, and pursued them unto Hobah, which is on the left hand of Damascus.
16. And he brought back all the goods, and also brought again his brother Lot, and his goods, and the women also, and the people.
17. And the king of Sodom went out to meet him after his return from the slaughter of Chedorlaomer, and of the kings that were with him, at the valley of Shaveh, which is the king's dale.
18. And Melchizedek [supposed by some to be a title rather than a proper name, like Pharaoh or Caesar] king of Salem [Jerome says it was not Jerusalem, but a city near Scythopolis] brought forth bread and wine: and he was the priest [this is the first time the word priest occurs in the Bible] of the most high God.
19. And he blessed him, and said, Blessed be Abram of the most high God. possessor of heaven and earth:
20. And blessed be the most high God, which hath delivered thine enemies into thy hand. And he [Abram] gave him [the priest] tithes of all.
21. And the king of Sodom said unto Abram, Give me the persons, and take the goods to thyself.
22. And Abram said to the king of Sodom, I have lift up mine hand [a solemn form of attestation in all nations] unto the Lord, the most high God [El-Elion, Jehovah], the possessor of heaven and earth,
23. That I will not take from a thread even to a shoelatchet, and that I will not take anything that is thine, lest thou shouldest say, I have made Abram rich:
24. Save only that which the young men [Abram's trained servants] have eaten, and the portion of the men which went with me, Aner, Eshcol, and Mamre; let them take their portion.
Battle of the Kings
When Lot made choice of the well-watered plain, it does not seem to have occurred to him that it would be a likely place to excite the envy of king and men of war. Like his mother, and ours, he saw that the sight was pleasant to the eyes, and for that reason he put forth his hand and took all he could get. He soon found, however, that there were other people in the world besides himself, and that he could not keep the prize a secret. He would not leave it for Abram's enjoyment, and now we shall see if he can keep it for his own. Kings were plentiful in that neighbourhood; some nine of them seemed to be within easy distance of each other; and those nine kings divided themselves into fighting parties, four against five, and the four conquered the five, driving the kings of Sodom and Gomorrah into the slimepits and causing the others to flee to the mountains. Then, conqueror-like, they took everything they could lay their hands upon, and amongst the rest they "took Lot and his goods." But Lot had made a good bargain, had he not? The plain was well-watered, and pasture was everywhere plentiful, and Lot was already a king. It is always those things which we did not expect that upset us! One night Lot heard a noise and could not make out its meaning; in the daylight, however, he saw that unbidden visitors were not far off, and that their plan was not dictated by mutual civility. They fought; the weak ones fell, the swift ones fled, the thriving young Lot was walked off a prisoner of war, and unconsecrated mouths devoured his victuals and his wine. Think of his reflections as he "lifted up his eyes" this time! He was looking round for his uncle;—as you, young man, will one day be looking round for your father—he complained that the grip was too tight upon his arm, and his complaint was answered by a blow that stunned him; the wine he prized most was drunk without a blessing, and the skins were thrown in his face that he might smell the wine he should never drink. And Lot looked round for his uncle! His tent was torn up to make bandages, and his soft mat was thrown upon a beast of burden. He complained again, and the heathen laughed at his accent and told him to go back beyond the Euphrates when he could steal away from their hand. And they bade him speak again that they might have a heartier laugh, and they mimicked this young man who had left his mother to make his future in the west. And Lot looked round for his uncle! As I see him in that poor plight I feel that some bargains are not so good as they look, and that some young men may set up for themselves a little too soon in business. Do not go far out to sea in a cockle-shell. The young man should take the old orator's advice to a young preacher: "Begin low: proceed slow: rise higher; take fire: wax warm; sit down in a storm." Lot got into the storm too soon, and in the battering rain and roaring wind he looked round for his uncle!
The news of the fight was brought to Abram by "one that had escaped," and Abram armed his trained servants and set out to recover Lot. He did not sit in his tent and say, "He left me for his own pleasure, and now he must take the consequences of his selfishness: he thought he could do without me, now let him try." If Abram had said this there would have been a good deal of excuse for him. It would have been most human. We at all events could not have complained with any consistency, for this is exactly what we said when our friend offended us; but, to be sure, we are Christians, and Abram was only a Hebrew: and Hebrews are mean, greedy, crafty, villainous! I find we must beware, though, lest the Jew beat us in noble behaviour! He can bo great! He can forgive vile injuries! How much greater should he be who has seen Christ slain and has named himself after the name of the Son of God! How noble his temper, how forgiving his spirit, how hopeful his charity! Charity! Charity thinketh no evil; charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity hopeth all things, believeth all things, endureth all things; charity never faileth! If we could reach this ideal it seems as if we might convert the world by charity alone!
Abram brought back Lot. What side-glances the younger shot at the elder, and how brave he thought his uncle! It is in this way, that is by good deeds, by generous efforts, by high success in lawful daring, that men establish a natural kingship and become crowned without murmur or grudge. It is in this way, as in others, that Christ is King of kings and Lord of lords. He does good beyond all other men; he brings the lost lambs home; he sets the star of hope in the cloud of fear; he stands at the door and knocks! A beautiful picture is this of going after captive men and bringing them back to liberty. It is a New Testament picture. We are all taken captive by Satan at his will, and his hand is heavy upon us. Let us who know the joys of liberty go after that which is lost until we find it. Christ calls us to deliver the prey from the spoiler, and to save the lamb from the jaws of the lion. "Go ye into all the world and preach the Gospel to every creature." "He that winneth souls is wise." "They that turn many to righteousness shall shine as the stars for ever and ever."
And now wonderful things take place. The king of Sodom goes out to meet Abram, and another king of mysterious name came forth with bread and wine, and with a priestly blessing on his lips. He is called Melchizedek, and Abram gives him a tenth of all. Some are anxious to know all about Melchizedek, but I prefer that the cloud of mystery should settle on his name. This wish to know everything in the letter is the curse of the human mind. Curiosity deposes reverence, and sight clamours against contented and holy faith. Oh, beautiful beyond most other scenes is this priest standing in the cloud, as if he had come up from eternity and was rather a voice than a man. And beautiful to think that his bread and wine had been brought from some high sacramental board, mayhap from the upper sanctuary where is the Lamb slain from eternity. I would not question this messenger. He is king and priest, perhaps he is but a shadow projected by One unseen! Leave the mystery. Do not pluck the stars from their places. By-and-by you will come to another Priest who will give you bread and wine and tell you the meaning of the symbols; by-and-by you will hear him called Melchizedek, and pronounced to be a Priest for ever. To other priests we have given tenths, to this Priest we must give all. Melchizedek is a mystery; Christ is a great light. Melchizedek appeared but for a moment; Christ abideth for ever. Melchizedek showed himself to one man; Christ fills the world with his presence.
After Melchizedek what could the king of Sodom do for Abram? The sight of some men transfigures us. We feel after being with them that we can never be mean again. Abram had seen Melchizedek, and the king of Sodom dwindled into a common man. Abram had eaten the holy sacrament, and after that all gifts were poor. Where the city was bad, the probability is that the king was bad too. Abram separated himself from the unclean thing. "Ye cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of devils." "Ye cannot serve God and mammon." "The friendship of the world is enmity against God." Can a man rise from prayer to do evil? Can a man go from the Lord's table, and do the devil's work? The Church should never put itself under obligation to bad men. The people of God should build their own churches, support their own ministers, maintain the whole scale of their operations, without touching the tainted gold of Sodom, or the ill-gotten booty of Gomorrah.