Matthew Poole's Commentary
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;Several kings wage war against the king of Sodom, &c.; Lot is taken prisoner, Genesis 14:1-12. Abram rescues him, Genesis 14:13-16. The king of Sodom congratulates him his victory, Genesis 14:17. Melchizedek king of Salem blesses him; to him Abram gives tithes, Genesis 14:18-20. The king of Sodom offers to give Abram the goods taken in victory, Genesis 14:21; which Abram refuses to accept, Genesis 14:22-24.
i.e. Of a people which came to him out of several nations, (being allured possibly by his fame, or by promises and privileges granted to them), and put themselves under his government. Or Goiim is the name of a certain place or country, so called from the confluence of divers people or nations thither, as Tyrus is called the mart of nations, Isaiah 23:3, upon the same account.
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.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.
All these were joined together in the vale of Siddim, which is the salt sea.Which now is, though when this battle was fought it was not so.
Twelve years they served Chedorlaomer, and in the thirteenth year they rebelled.He was their lord, either,
1. By inheritance, as the issue of Elam, Shem’s son, Genesis 10:22. Or,
2. By conquest, having subdued those people in a former war, which Josephus speaks of.
And in the fourteenth year came Chedorlaomer, and the kings that were with him, and smote the Rephaims in Ashteroth Karnaim, and the Zuzims in Ham, and the Emims in Shaveh Kiriathaim,The kings that were with him, i.e. confederate with him for the recovery of his right, expecting the same assistance from him upon the like occasion. 1913
The Rephaims, a fierce and warlike people of Canaan. See Genesis 15:20. Or the giants, as this word is taken Deu 2:11.
Ashteroth Karnaim, a place in Basan called Ashteroth, Deu 1:4 Joshua 9:10 13:31. It is surnamed Carnaim, q.d.
Two-horned, like a half moon, either from the situation and form of the place, or from the goddess Diana, or the moon, which usually was painted with two horns, whom they worshipped.
The Emims, a people in Canaan of giant-like stature, Deu 2:10,11.
Shaveh Kiriathaim; Kiriathaim is a noted city in Gilead, and Shaveh may be either the ancient name of that city, or the present name of the country adjoining and belonging to it.
And the Horites in their mount Seir, unto Elparan, which is by the wilderness.The Horites, the ancient inhabitants of Seir, of whom see Genesis 36:20 Deu 2:12. El signifies a plain, and Paran is the name of a known city and mountain. See Numbers 13:3 Deu 33:2 1 Samuel 25:1, &c.
And they returned, and came to Enmishpat, which is Kadesh, and smote all the country of the Amalekites, and also the Amorites, that dwelt in Hazezontamar.Which is Kadesh, i.e. which after that time was called Kadesh, of which see Numbers 20:1,14, &c.
The country of the Amalekites, i.e. which afterwards was possessed by the Amalekites, Genesis 36:12. A known figure called prolepsis.
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;No text from Poole on this verse.
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.No text from Poole on this verse.
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.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 they took all the goods of Sodom and Gomorrah, and all their victuals, and went their way.No text from Poole on this verse.
And they took Lot, Abram's brother's son, who dwelt in Sodom, and his goods, and departed.Lot now suffered for his cohabitation with bad neighbours.
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.Abram the Hebrew; so called, either,
1. From his great and good predecessor Eber, Genesis 10:24 11:14, in and by whom the primitive language and true religion were preserved; and therefore though Abram had five other progenitors between Eber and him, which were persons of less note, he is rightly denominated from Eber, the Hebrew, because he was the first that revived the memory and the work of Eber, that kept up the same language, and eminently propagated the same true religion. Or,
2. As others think, from his passing over the river Euphrates, from beyond which he came into Canaan.
These were confederate with Abram, i.e. had entered into a league for their mutual defence against common enemies. Whence we learn that it is not simply and universally unlawful to make a league with persons of a false religion.
And when Abram heard that his brother was taken captive, he armed his trained servants, born in his own house, three hundred and eighteen, and pursued them unto Dan.He armed his trained servants, whom he had disciplined and instructed both in religion and in the military art too, both which were necessary to make them good soldiers, that they might both fight with skill and courage, and also rely upon God, and engage his assistance; which was now especially necessary, when so small a party were to engage against so numerous an army.
Dan is commonly thought to be a town then called Leshem, Joshua 19:47, or Laish, Judges 18:7, and afterwards Dan; see Judges 18:7,29; so it is an anticipation. But it may be doubted whether this was a city; or if it were, whether it were not another town called by the same name, which was frequent in those parts. And some think this is not a town, but the very fountain of Dan, whence Jordan had its name.
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.He divided himself, i.e. his forces into several parties, that coming upon them from several quarters he might strike them with greater terror, whilst they thought his army far more numerous than it was.
And he brought back all the goods, and also brought again his brother Lot, and his goods, and the women also, and the people.He brought back all the goods which the victorious kings had taken from the princes and people mentioned before in this chapter.
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.So called either upon this occasion of the meeting of divers kings here; or because king Melchizedek either had his habitation, or was much delighted with it, and conversant in it. See 2 Samuel 18:18.
And Melchizedek king of Salem brought forth bread and wine: and he was the priest of the most high God.Quest. Who was this?
1. Shem, as the Jews and many others think, who probably was alive at this time, and, no doubt, a great prince. But neither is it probable that Shem should be a king among the cursed race of Ham; nor will this agree with the apostle’s description of Melchizedek, Hebrews 7:3, without father and mother, & c. Whereas Shem’s parents, and the beginning and end of his days, are as expressly mentioned by Moses as any other.
2. A Canaanitish king, by the Divine Providence made both a king over men, and priest unto the true God, brought in here in this unusual manner, without any mention of his parents, birth, or death, for this end, that he might be an illustrious type of Christ. Of this matter see more upon Hebrews 7:3.
King of Salem, i.e. of Jerusalem, called elsewhere Jebus, and Salem, Psalm 76:2.
Bread and wine; not for sacrifice to God; for then he had brought forth beasts to be slain, which were the usual and best sacrifices: but partly to show the respect which he bore to Abram, and principally to refresh his weary and hungry army, according to the manner of those times. See Deu 23:3,4 25:18 Judges 8:5,6,15 1 Samuel 17:17.
He was the priest of the most high God: thus in succeeding ages the same persons were often both kings and priests, as the learned note out of Virgil and other authors. And this clause is here added, as the cause and reason, not for his bringing forth or offering bread and wine, as some would have it, (for that is ascribed to him as a king, as an act of royal munificence), but of the following benediction and decimation. In those times God had his remnant scattered here and there even in the worst places and nations.
And he blessed him, and said, Blessed be Abram of the most high God, possessor of heaven and earth:And, or therefore, ( as the particle is oft taken, i.e. because he was a priest of God),
he (i.e. Melchizedek)
blessed him, ( Abram,) which was one act of the priestly office. See Poole on "Hebrews 7:6". See Poole on "Hebrews 7:7". So it is a prayer for him, that God would confirm and increase the blessing which he had given him. Or, blessed is; so it is an acknowledgment of God’s blessing conferred upon Abram both formerly, and in this late and great victory. Or, blessed shall be; so it is a prediction concerning his future and further blessedness, whereof this was only an earnest.
And blessed be the most high God, which hath delivered thine enemies into thy hand. And he gave him tithes of all.Not Melchizedek gave to Abram, as some Jews foolishly understand it; for Abram swears that he would not keep nor take any of the recovered goods of the kings of Sodom, or his brethren, Genesis 14:23. But Abram gave to Melchizedek, as appears both from Hebrews 4:7, and from the nature of the thing, for the tithes confessedly belong to the priest, such as Melchizedek, and not Abram, is here described to be.
All, not of all the recovered goods, but of all the spoils taken from the enemies.
And the king of Sodom said unto Abram, Give me the persons, and take the goods to thyself.No text from Poole on this verse.
And Abram said to the king of Sodom, I have lift up mine hand unto the LORD, the most high God, the possessor of heaven and earth,This was the ancient manner of swearing. See Exodus 6:8 Numbers 14:30 Deu 32:40 Ezekiel 20:5,6.
That I will not take from a thread even to a shoelatchet, and that I will not take any thing that is thine, lest thou shouldest say, I have made Abram rich:That I will not take; Heb. If I shall take. Understand, God do so and so to me, which is expressed 1 Samuel 14:44. A defective manner of swearing used amongst the Hebrews, either to maintain the reverence of oaths, and the dread of perjury, seeing they were afraid so much as to mention the curse which they meant; or to show that they were willing to submit to any punishment which God should inflict upon them, without exception, if they violated their oaths.
Even to a shoe-latchet, i.e. any thing, though never so small or mean, lest thou shouldst claim a share with God in the honour due to him, to whose blessing alone I do and I will owe my riches. Or, lest thou shouldst say, Abram is enriched with my spoils; and however he pretended kindness and charity, yet indeed it was his covetousness that put him upon this work.
Save only that which the young men have eaten, and the portion of the men which went with me, Aner, Eshcol, and Mamre; let them take their portion.For as Abram had a right to spoils, so had they, whether they joined with him in the battle, as it is conceived they did, or only abode by the stuff, 1 Samuel 30:24; and therefore though he might and did give away his own right, he could not give away other men’s.