The Development of a War (1-9)
The problems Lot brought to Abraham’s life did not end with his separation. Lot settled in Sodom, a city in alliance with four other kings, who were each paying tribute to Chedorlaomer, king of Elam. For 12 years, they, thus Lot, had been paying the tribute to Chedorlaomer and were thus a vassal state, servants to a tyrant king. In the 13th year of their oppression, they rebelled and discontinued their tribute (1-3).
In the 14th year, Chedorlaomer and three kings with him made their way down on the east side of the Jordan River, winning battles all along the way. Staying on the east side of the Jordan, they traveled south, below the Dead Sea, past the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, and defeated further cities still. Finally, they circled back up and entered the valley of Siddim, east of Sodom and Gomorrah, and the four kings in alliance with Sodom come out to meet Chedorlaomer and the three kings with him in battle (4-9).
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The Battle (10-12)
The Valley of Siddim was an area where petroleum was seeping to the surface of the ground, creating bitumen leaks or tar pits. The armies of Chedorlaomer were so powerful that the alliance army with Sodom became panicked and began fleeing toward the mountains. As they were running for their lives, some fell into these tar pits, while the remainder made it to cover in the hills. Once Chedorlaomer had successfully routed the Sodom alliance, he then went into the unprotected cities and took his tribute by force. While in Sodom, they took Lot by force, along with all of Lot's possessions.
Abraham's Rescue (13-16)
A fugitive escaped and told Abraham of Sodom's defeat and Lot's captivity (14). Abraham was living by those oaks belonging to Mamre, an Amorite, and had made friends with Mamre's family (13). When Abraham heard the news, he assembled 318 of his personally-trained men, those young enough to be born in his household. A contingent of troops provided by Mamre's associates went with Abraham. Abraham's band of brothers and the tag-along mercenaries pursued Chedorlaomer's army and caught up with them just north of the Sea of Galilee (14).
In a surprise attack by night, Abraham divided his forces and caused Chedorlaomer to retreat, being chased by Abraham all the way north of Damascus (15). Abraham saved the day, recovering the possessions and souls taken captive, along with his nephew Lot (16).
The Blessing (17-24)
Abraham then returned from battle, along with the two kings who had taken their armies with him. The King of Sodom met the returning armies at the King's Valley. While there, Melchizedek, king of Salem or Jerusalem but also priest of God Most High, brought bread and wine to Abraham and pronounced a blessing over him (17-18).
Little is known of Melchizedek except for some detail the author of Hebrews provided. He was a king who ruled in righteousness and peace; he was also a priest of God. He was a king who appeared on the Biblical scene having no genealogy or claim to the throne. He not only blessed Abraham but received a blessing of tithe from him (Hebrews 7:4-10). It could be assumed Melchizedek was the person to whom Abraham tithed and may have been the person who taught Abraham much of what is written in the first 11 chapters of Genesis.
Melchizedek blessed Abraham and God Most High for Abraham's victory. Abraham, recognizing the victory as the Lord’s, gave Melchizedek a tenth of everything he owned (19-20).
The king of Sodom, wanting to top Abraham's gesture to Melchizedek, offered to give Abraham all the spoils he had recovered from Sodom. Abraham, recognizing he was neither a priest nor a king, declined. Abraham had made a sacred oath before Melchizedek not to keep any of the spoil he had recovered, so it could be known Yahweh alone was his Keeper (21-23). Abraham took nothing from the king of Sodom, unlike the kings who accompanied him—they did take their share (24).