In the days of Amraphel king of Shinar, Arioch king of Ellasar, Chedorlaomer king of Elam, and Tidal king of Goiim, 2 these kings made war with Bera king of Sodom, Birsha king of Gomorrah, Shinab king of Admah, Shemeber king of Zeboiim, and the king of Bela (that is, Zoar). 3 And all these joined forces in the Valley of Siddim (that is, the Salt Sea). 4 Twelve years they had served Chedorlaomer, but in the thirteenth year they rebelled. 5 In the fourteenth year Chedorlaomer and the kings who were with him came and defeated the Rephaim in Ashteroth-karnaim, the Zuzim in Ham, the Emim in Shaveh-kiriathaim, 6 and the Horites in their hill country of Seir as far as El-paran on the border of the wilderness. 7 Then they turned back and came to En-mishpat (that is, Kadesh) and defeated all the country of the Amalekites, and also the Amorites who were dwelling in Hazazon-tamar.
8 Then the king of Sodom, the king of Gomorrah, the king of Admah, the king of Zeboiim, and the king of Bela (that is, Zoar) went out, and they joined battle in the Valley of Siddim 9 with Chedorlaomer king of Elam, Tidal king of Goiim, Amraphel king of Shinar, and Arioch king of Ellasar, four kings against five. 10 Now the Valley of Siddim was full of bitumen pits, and as the kings of Sodom and Gomorrah fled, some fell into them, and the rest fled to the hill country. 11 So the enemy took all the possessions of Sodom and Gomorrah, and all their provisions, and went their way. 12 They also took Lot, the son of Abram’s brother, who was dwelling in Sodom, and his possessions, and went their way.
13 Then one who had escaped came and told Abram the Hebrew, who was living by the oaks of Mamre the Amorite, brother of Eshcol and of Aner. These were allies of Abram. 14 When Abram heard that his kinsman had been taken captive, he led forth his trained men, born in his house, 318 of them, and went in pursuit as far as Dan. 15 And he divided his forces against them by night, he and his servants, and defeated them and pursued them to Hobah, north of Damascus. 16 Then he brought back all the possessions, and also brought back his kinsman Lot with his possessions, and the women and the people. 
Over the last few weeks we have seen Abram demonstrate the effects of both giant, miraculous trust into the bare word of God and the effects of his tiny shriveled trust and disastrous self-reliance. He traveled 800 miles from one end of the Fertile Crescent to the other, without knowing where he was supposed to settle. St Author of Hebrews wrote:
8 By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going. 9 By faith he went to live in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, living in tents with Isaac and Jacob, heirs with him of the same promise.
But when God upped Abram’s trust training by sending a famine to Canaan, Abram traveled to Egypt in self-confidence and self-reliance that resulted in him forcing his wife into adultery and prostitution for his own safety and a massive amount of additional wealth. His self-reliance earned him the disgust of a pagan king, his household, and his wife. Abram and his entourage were escorted out of Egypt in shame. But his sinful failures drove him back to YHWH and the altar at Bethel where he worshipped and regained greater trust into his Creator Covenant God.
The evidence of Abram’s renewed trust came in his next great faith training exercise as Lot’s slaves and Abram’s slaves declared a good old-fashioned range war against one another over who would get the best grazing land and water rights. Because Abram had received more trust into YHWH’s promises, he offered his nephew Lot the opportunity to take whatever portion of the land Lot found pleasing. Lot becomes Abram’s foil; he chooses the best pastures to build a greater ranching empire, leaving his uncle to fend in the hill country with its seasonal rains. Though Lot’s choice may be disrespectful and worldly, Abram’s trust into God’s promises remains strong. The Lord then restates his land, seed, and blessing promises to the patriarch to further strengthen Abram’s faith.
In our passage this morning, we see yet another hard faith training exercise for Abram. But rather than the cowardly self-interested Abram of Egypt, we see the confident and steadfastly loving man of God set out to rescue his foolish, disrespectful nephew from slavery to evil powers. We see Abram undertake a royal act of salvation despite the fact nobody recognizes his kingly status. And, we see him miraculously defeat evil demonized forces. We see Abram prefiguring the work of the Promised Seed, Jesus.
REGIONAL WAR (14:1-12)
Abram settled in Hebron where he continued to openly worship YHWH at the altar he built. Lot, who once pitched his tents near Sodom, is now living in the city as he continues to build his wealth (13:12; 14:12) and pursue status in the City of Man. Because Lot has become a citizen of Sodom, his life is now entangled with the politics of this city-state with its king. Like other regions of his early to middle Bronze Age era, each walled city has its own “king” in the way each of our towns may have a mayor and a city council. Sodom was part of a pentapolis – a five-city confederation each with its own petty king. These five kings had been paying protection money to a group of four kings from the regions of modern-day Iraq, Iran, and Turkey.
But the little kings of the pentapolis stopped making their yearly payments. It appears that a number of other city states along the Fertile Crescent and the Transjordan region had also refused to pay their protection money. The four-king coalition was international in scope and clearly powerful. Chedorlaomer of Elam was from modern Iran, Amraphel of Shinar (Babylon) was from modern Iraq, and the two other kings, Arioch and Tidal, represented the Hurrians and Hittites from areas within modern Turkey.
Chedorlaomer and company devised a two-point strategy for putting down the rebellion. First, they would subdue the Transjordan and Sinai city-states. They followed the same route Abram and Tarah had traveled. They swept west along the Euphrates River to Carchemish and then down through Damascus and into Canaan and the Transjordan. “5 In the fourteenth year Chedorlaomer and the kings who were with him came and defeated the Rephaim in Ashteroth-karnaim, the Zuzim in Ham, the Emim in Shaveh-kiriathaim, 6 and the Horites in their hill country of Seir as far as El-paran on the border of the wilderness.”
The first tribe to fall were the Rephaites who were famous for their height (Deuteronomy 2:11). These giants were called “Zamzummim” by the Ammonites (Deuteronomy 2:20) and “Emim” by the Moabites (Deuteronomy 2:11).  These were the giants who would later intimidate the spies of Israel who scouted the Promised Land and led to Israel to refuse to enter, triggering 40 years of wilderness wanderings. This is Moses’ way of letting Israel know that if pagan armies could defeat the giants in Abram’s day, so could Israel have done in Moses’ day had they but trusted into YHWH.
Next Chedorlaomer and company subdued all the cities and towns of the Sinai Peninsula and the lower part of Canaan (the Negev). “Then, turning northwest, they took the strategic oasis of Kadesh-barnea, whipping the Amalekites and Amorites in Hazazon-tamar, which we know as Engedi on the western side of the Dead Sea.” By taking this devastating route, the four great kings left the five little kings of the pentapolis no allies and nowhere to flee. They were now trapped in their own valley. The entire region was so broken that there would be no city-state to rise up against the four great kings for some time to come. Also, the coalition had secured the trade route between Mesopotamia and Egypt that linked the Nile and the Euphrates. They now controlled all the wealth of the region. Only Egypt remained free of their power.
Now the fourfold kings were ready to exact their revenge on the little potentates of the Dead Sea pentapolis. “8 Then the king of Sodom, the king of Gomorrah, the king of Admah, the king of Zeboiim, and the king of Bela (that is, Zoar) went out, and they joined battle in the Valley of Siddim 9 with Chedorlaomer king of Elam, Tidal king of Goiim, Amraphel king of Shinar, and Arioch king of Ellasar, four kings against five. 10 Now the Valley of Siddim was full of asphalt pits, and as the kings of Sodom and Gomorrah fled, some fell into them, and the rest fled to the hill country.”
Moses paints a picture of these five petty kings having no choice but to go out and meet the enemy to fight. But they are outmatched by stronger and more experienced soldiers and their forces are easily broken. Those left alive run for their lives. Moses could mean that many accidentally fell into asphalt in their retreat. He could mean that they chose to end their lives being burned in tar rather than tortured at the hand of the enemy. Or, he could mean that soldiers fled into the treacherous area of the pits to escape capture (the verb “fell” may also mean “to settle, dwell, camp,” or even “flee to,” as in Jer. 38:19). Whatever the details of the battle, the five little kings and their forces were utterly routed and their cities were sacked and plundered.
As part of the great sacking and plundering of Sodom, Lot and all this wealth fall into the hands of Chedorlaomer and company. Lot’s choice of the best part of the land turned out to be disastrous. “Lot is still a fool. Note the progressive identification of Lot with Sodom: choosing it (13:11), camping near it (13:12), living in it (14:12), and a respected citizen in it (19:1, 6; see Ps. 1:1). He compounds his folly later by three more steps downward, for a total of seven: he flees to Zoar (19:18–23), settles in a cave (19:30), and in a drunken stupor incestuously begets Moab and Ammon (19:31–38).”
“11 So the enemy took all the possessions of Sodom and Gomorrah, and all their provisions, and went their way. 12 They also took Lot, the son of Abram’s brother, who was dwelling in Sodom, and his possessions, and went their way.” This incident has a number of parallels with earlier incidents. In chapter 12, Sarai was taken/captured (lāqaḥ) from Abram (12:15). In this chapter Lot is captured (lāqaḥ). In both cases the one taken had no say in controlling their destiny. Each is an innocent bystander caught in the crossfire between two parties. Both Sarai and Lot are abducted while staying outside the land of promise (in Egypt and Sodom, respectively).” As he is dragged along behind the conquering armies, Lot is as good as dead. He has lost all hope.
THE UNTITLED KING (14:13-16)
Some of Sodom’s escapees ran for the hills where Abram lived. One of them stumbled into Abram’s camp about 20 miles from (and 3,000 feet above) the devastation. “13 Then one who had escaped came and told Abram the Hebrew, who was living by the oaks of Mamre the Amorite, brother of Eshcol and of Aner. These were allies of Abram. 14 When Abram heard that his kinsman had been taken captive, he led forth his trained men, born in his house, 318 of them, and went in pursuit as far as Dan.”
Abram could have decided to do nothing. Lot made his choice; let him live with the consequences. He could have reasoned, as he did in Egypt, that as God’s source of worldly blessing he must stay out of harm’s way and out of any worldly engagements. Staying by his altar and worshipping YHWH would be so much safer spiritually and physically. The word king appears 28 times in this chapter. Moses names kings from all over the Fertile Crescent and beyond and pictures war engulfing the entire region to show Abram as God’s vice-regent of earth. In this moment we see Abram acting as the king of the land that is his by God’s covenant promise, despite that fact that no pagan recognized Abram’s royalty. The veil of Abram’s Godly glory is parted for us as we see his unhesitating response to seek and to save the undeserving lost.
Moses reminds us of Abram’s place in the line of the Promised Seed by calling him Abram the Hebrew. Hebrew, “ʿiḇrî is the gentilic of ʿē ḇer, and here it distinguishes Abram from other residents already living in Canaan. He is a descendant of Eber of the line of Shem.” Everything Abram is about to accomplish he does as God’s chosen agent of earthly blessing operating out of God-given faith. We know that because we’ve already read what happened when Abram operated out of self-trust. Now, Abram becomes the savior of sinners: “he led forth his trained men, born in his house, 318 of them, and went in pursuit as far as Dan.”
Abram is quite wealthy by now and has his own force of trained warrior slaves. These are not shepherds who take up arms on occasions, their sole purpose is fighting. The number of Abram’s fighting force seems small. But it would be a large force in his era, particularly when combined with those of his allies, Mamre, Eschol, and Aner. This tells us Abram was no mild nomad shepherd. He was a chieftain, a very wealthy and important leader. He marched his army 120 miles to the northernmost reaches of the Promised Land where they caught up with the four kings.
As far as Chedorlaomer knows, he has decimated every fighting force in the Transjordan, not to mention the central and western Fertile Crescent, so he and his comrades can rest easy. They had no need to be on the lookout for enemies and Abram catches them with their guard down, asleep by their fires. In Judges 7, Gideon and his force of 300 triumph over the Midianites in a nighttime raid (Judges 6-8). Perhaps Gideon took his strategy from Abram’s great victory.
Abram divides his warriors and attacks at night, confusing and thoroughly routing the enemy. They abandon their captives and all the swag they have taken. Abram’s army, in a running scrape, chases the enemy to Hobah north of Damascus. That Abram gives chase tells us his surprise attack must have wiped out a great number of the opposing force. Likely, he breaks off the pursuit only when he has recovered all the captives and loot. Moses wants us to see what a great victory this is, which is why he has been so careful to write about Chedorlaomer’s stunningly successful march through the region – he cut the giants down to size, subdued the Sinai peninsula, tied up the trade routes, and took out the petty kings of the Dead Sea Pentapolis. But his great army is routed by a seemingly ordinary chieftain from the backwater hills of Hebron.
Part of Abram’s promise from YHWH had been, “those who disdain you I will curse.” Pharaoh’s household had contracted the plague. Now, by enslaving Abram’s nephew, the four great kings and their brutal armies have been humiliated by Abram’s God. Since Chedorlaomer’s forces had captured the trade route that ran to Egypt, they may have concluded they were being attacked by the powerful Egyptian army and panicked that fateful night. Still, Abram was only victorious by the sovereign power of God alone. Abram knew this because he was trusting into God promises, just like Gideon would later do.
Like Abram had been, Gideon was a timid man of weak faith. God told Gideon that he was to be the agent of Israel’s deliverance from the Midianites saying, “Go in this might of yours and save Israel from the hand of Midian; do not I send you? …I will be with you, and you shall strike the Midianites as one man.” Gideon asked for a sign and was given one. Still he hesitated. He asked for another sign and was given that. At last, convinced that God was with him, he led his armies to battle.
At first, he had thirty-two thousand men. God told him that this army was too large, so Gideon sent home those who were afraid. These were still too many. God had Gideon lead them to a stream of water, where the majority kneeled down to drink (perhaps laying down their arms); only a few stood at the alert, lapping up the water with their hands. God told Gideon to go with the men who remained ready. As it turned out, these numbered just three hundred. Those three hundred men encircled the enemy army at night with torches covered by jars. They shattered the jars, held up the torches, and sounded battle trumpets. The enemy scattered in fear. The writer recorded, “the Lord set every man’s sword against his comrade and against all the army. And the army fled….”
For both Abram and Gideon, it was the Lord God who gave the victory. God, by Abram’s stunning conquest, makes it clear that Abram holds God’s promises of blessing. In his victory, Abram will face more hard faith-training. “16 Then he brought back all the possessions, and also brought back his kinsman Lot with his possessions, and the women and the people.” According to the customs of his day, the victorious Abram now owns all the wealth and all the captives of the pentapolis. Everything captured, including Lot and the others taken, are Abram’s to do with as he pleases. Lot’s property is now Abram’s property. Lot is now Abram’s slave, as are all the other captives.
What a contrast emerges in our next passage between the king of Sodom and the priest-king of Jerusalem, and Abram. The king of Sodom will demand the return of his people while offering Abram all his people’s captured wealth. The priest-king of Jerusalem will bring out gifts to Abram and offer him a blessing. And Abram will give away all that is his by right to glorify his Covenant Creator God. The contrasts are stark and ultimately based upon what, or whom these three men trust.
“Abram trusted God’s word implicitly. That is the great continental divide in our lives as believers. Do we really trust his word? Distrust will implode us, shrink us, compact us, reduce us, and hermetically seal us in the smallest compass of self. But if we truly believe God’s word, that will enlarge our souls, not just in generosity, not just in opening our hands, but in moving us to sacrifice for the welfare of others— to be like Jesus himself.” In this moment of tremendous gospel sanity, Abram was a foreshadowing, a type, of his great descendant to come – the Promised Seed, the Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus said, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.” 
 The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Ge 14:1–16.
 The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Heb 11:8–9.
 Hughes, 206. Kindle Edition.
 Hamilton, 403.
 Waltke and Fredricks, 231.
 The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Ge 14:13–14.
 Waltke and Fredricks, 226.
 Hamilton, 405.
 The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Jdg 6:14–16.
 The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Jdg 7:22.
 Hughes, 212. Kindle Edition.
 The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Mt 4:4.