And there came one that had escaped, and told Abram the Hebrew; for he dwelled in the plain of Mamre the Amorite, brother of Eshcol…
In this chapter Abram appears in a new character. He had encouraged Lot to separate from him for the sake of peace, and now we find him taking up arms at the head of a confederacy of Amorite chiefs, and contending against Elam, then the ruling power in that part of Asia. When Lot went to live in the Jordan valley, the kings of the Pentapolis acknowledged the suzerainty of Chedorlaomer, king of Elam, and paid him an annual tribute. At length, however, they had rebelled, and Chedorlaomer, with three tributary kings, after sweeping down upon the surrounding tribes, defeated the allied army in the Valley of Siddim. The foreign host then plundered Sodom and Gomorrah, "took Lot and his goods" (ver. 12), and withdrew up the Jordan valley, laden with booty and captives.
I. ABRAM'S RESCUE OF LOT (vers. 13-16). In this Abram showed —
1. A magnanimous and generous spirit. He did not say to himself, "Serve him right; my ungrateful nephew has made his bed, and I shall allow him to lie upon it." His natural affection and family spirit, together with the grace of God reigning in his heart, would not permit him to cherish any secret satisfaction in connection with Lot's punishment.
2. Martial prowess. In the sudden arming of his household, the gathering of his Amorite allies, the rapid march to the springs of the Jordan, the skilful tactics adopted in the attack, and the pursuit of the flying foe as far as Damascus, Abram discovered not only great gallantry, but also brilliant generalship. He employed the same tactics which Gideon used long afterwards to surprise the Midianites (Judges 7:16), which Saul adopted against the Ammonites (1 Samuel 11:11), and which have commended themselves to the greatest generals in all ages. What a contrast is presented here between the patriarch's distrustful timidity in Egypt (Genesis 12:12, 13), and the heroism which he displayed in the rescue of his kinsman! It was "by faith" that Abram fought to recover Lot, and "in the fear of the Lord is strong confidence."
II. ABRAM'S MEETING WITH THE KING OF SODOM (vers. 17, 21-24).
1. Abram's personal disinterestedness and independence (vers. 22, 23). Abram was not "seeking his own" when he went forth to rescue Lot, and he will accept nothing for having done his duty. The Lord whom he serves has made him heir of the whole land, and he cannot receive any portion of his inheritance from man, least of all from the representative of the filthy Sodomites.
2. His considerateness of the claims of others (ver. 24). He is generous, but he does not forget to be just. His own young men shall have only what of the spoil they have used as rations — a portion which, of course, could not be returned; but his allies, Aner, Esheol, and Mature, are entitled to their fair share of the plunder, and this cannot in equity be taken from them, except with their consent.
III. ABRAM'S INTERVIEW WITH MELCHIZEDEK (vers. 18-20). How marked the contrast between the patriarch's attitude towards the King of Sodom and his conduct to this King of Salem! He saw in the former the chief representative of the wicked heathen Pentapolis, but he recognized in the latter "the priest of the Most High God" (ver. 18). So, while he maintained a dignified reserve in his interview with the King of Sodom, and refused to receive any benefit at his hands, he accepted refreshment for both body and spirit from Melchizedek. In his dealings with Melchizedek two traits in Abraham's character are brought out.
1. His recognition of the communion of saints. The patriarch discerned in this royal priest — although he was a stranger, and perhaps a Hamite — a faith and piety closely akin with his own. These two eminent personages met on the basis of a common worship, involving a common confession of monotheism.
2. His profound humility as a man of faith. "He that had the promises" (Hebrews 7:6) felt himself honoured in being blessed by this Canaanite pontiff, and in offering his tithes to God through him.
1. Trust in God enables its possessor to be helpful to his fellow men, while it also keeps him exalted above all who are not like-minded with himself. We may well covet earnestly the wonder-working faith which Abram manifested in this great achievement.
2. We must beware lest the Jew beat us in noble behaviour. He can be great! He can forgive vile injuries!
3. Abram, in declining to retain any of the spoil for himself, acted under the guidance of a great principle, and not of the custom of the times, reminding us thereby that moral principle, rather than the example of others, ought to be our rule of action.
4. It casts a dark light upon the character of Lot that he should have allowed himself to return to Sodom after his rescue by Abraham, instead of seeing that he had suffered a punishment which was not only fully deserved, but also plainly premonitory.
5. "The sight of some men disfigures 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."
(Charles Jerdan, M. A. , LL. B.)
Parallel VersesKJV: 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.