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Yellow Balloons Devotional Series: Advent

Genesis 14:1-3

Genesis is a book about many beginnings. The beginnings of the world, the human race, sin and redemption, and the nation of Israel to name a few. In fact, the word Genesis from the Greek means “origin,” and in Hebrew it means “beginning.” The book of Genesis contains the events of the flood, tower of Babel, Sodom and Gomorrah, and the lives of the Patriarchs.

In the beginning, God created everything by simply speaking, “God said…and it was so” (Genesis 1:6-7, 9, 11, 14-15). This is not a scientific technical account of creation, but it shows a loving God creating a universe and mankind to rule it and fellowship with God. Man was formed especially from the ground and given the breath of life from God. The woman was made from the man’s rib (Genesis 2:7).

After man fell into sin, things began to spin out of control quickly. Cain murdered his brother Abel and the human race became so violent that God decided to destroy them all with a flood. God saved one righteous man (Noah) and his family in an ark filled with animals to deliver the human race from extinction. God chose Abraham and blessed a special group of people named “Israel.” God began to unfold a plan of salvation from a coming famine by sending Joseph to rule in Egypt. The failure of man in every circumstance is met by the salvation of God. We fail, but the good news is God saves us.


Chapter fourteen opens with a conflict between two warring coalitions of kings. The outcome of this war is the defeat of Sodom involving the capture of Lot. Abram rescues Lot and defeats a four-king alliance. With only 318 men of his own and a midnight surprise attack, Abram defeats the Kings, demonstrating courage and leadership. Then, he is blessed by the Priest-king Melchizedek when he returns. Melchizedek is presented in the New Testament as a type of Jesus, who is also a Priest and King that is superior to Abraham and his descendants. Abram refuses to compromise with the King of Sodom.


The Kings of the plains went to war with the kings from the east. It was four allied kings from the east against five allied kings on the plains (including Sodom and Gomorrah).

 

Thirteen years before, Chedorlaomer the king of Elam (Persia, modern Iran), had conquered various kings in the Jordan plain where Sodom and Gomorrah were located (e.g., Gen 14:4). Now, five of these kings rebelled against Chedorlaomer (e.g., Gen 14:4). Most likely, they refused to pay the tribute that was assigned to them by Chedorlaomer. Chedorlaomer appeals to his allies for help subjecting the cities in the plains to servitude, and paying the required tribute.

Chedorlaomer’s allies are: Amraphel (from Shinar or Babylonia), Arioch of Ellasar, and Tidal the Hittite (from Anatolia, modern Turkey). These four kings led by Chedorlaomer represent the eastern alliance from lower Mesopotamia. The five western revolting kings are all kings from cities on the Jordan plain. They are: Bera king of Sodom, Birsha, king of Gomorrah, Shinab, king of Admah, Shemeber, king of Zeboiim, and the king of Bela (e.g., Zoar). Zoar was at the southern tip of the valley of Jericho (Genesis 19:22-23,30; Deuteronomy 34:3). Such alliances were a common aspect of politics in the ancient Near East.

They made war, this is the first war recorded in Scripture. Each of the five cities of the plains of Jordan, as well as the four cities from the east had its own king.

All these came as allies, which is the Hebrew word Chabar, meaning to unite, join together, make an alliance, or to join battle forces. In the face of a common threat, the rebellious cities formed a pentapolis or five-city confederacy against the allied forces of the kings from the east. Each allied army came to the valley of Siddim (that is, the Salt Sea). The Salt Sea today is called the Dead Sea. The Siddim Valley was the valley that is now the Dead Sea. The water of the Dead Sea on this side of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah has an average of 32 percent salt content as compared with the 3 percent average of ocean water. It is the densest large body of water on earth.

Biblical Text

1 And it came about in the days of Amraphel king of Shinar, Arioch king of Ellasar, Chedorlaomer king of Elam, and Tidal king of Goiim, 2 that they 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 (that is, Zoar). 3 All these came as allies to the valley of Siddim (that is, the Salt Sea).

Map of Middle East