Welcome to Genesis 14 - a chapter of firsts. Today we are going to see the first war that ever takes place on the Earth. We also see the first instance of tithing and the first priest of God. This is a very rich chapter.
So, let’s quickly recap. The chapters before this were spent tending to family matters. In chapter 12, we see Abram called by God to uproot his household and leave his homeland. During the time that Abram is traveling around the desert with his entire household, which is not just mom, dad, and the kids. It’s everyone - uncles, aunts, cousins, all the kids, all the servants. Quite the family road trip. And during this time in the desert, God richly blesses them and Abram, along with his nephew, Lot, become very wealthy. In fact, they’ve each accumulated so many resources they can no longer occupy the same space. So, at the end of Chapter 13, we see them part ways, Abram settling in Canaan and Lot moving into the Dead Sea Valley.
Cut scene - and the Director skips ahead and calls Action on chapter 14. And action, there is! The chapter opens with the first war we ever see in the history of mankind. Let’s break it down, because it’s important to the whole of the story. Okay, so basically, there were four powerful kings that ruled over five city states located around the Dead Sea. After many years, the kings of these smaller city states decided to rebel against the larger kingdoms. Two of these city states happened to be Sodom and Gommorah.
The powerful kings come to know of this rebellion and they begin to invade the entire region. They come from the north, they come of the east and they take over everything around the Dead Sea valley. Eventually, the five city state kings gather their armies and go out to meet the four powerful kings. Now, this is like the army of Wichita Falls going out against the entire Texas National Guard. I mean, these guys don’t have a chance.
So, the battle begins and these five small armies are overrun. The Dead Sea valley, at the time was “filled the tar pits”. Verse 10 tells us, “And as the army of the kings of Sodom and Gomorrah fled, some fell into the tar pits, while the rest escaped into the mountains.” It was mass chaos. In that battle, the rebellion failed. But, more importantly, the powerful kings plundered the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah and during this plundering, they kidnapped Lot, Abram’s newphew.
Verse 14 says “When Abram heard that his nephew Lot had been captured, he mobilized the 318 trained men who had been born into his household. Then he pursued Kedorlaomer’s army until he caught up with them at Dan.” So here we are. Abram with 318 men against this great army that has just shown their might by invading the entire region. Abram knows he needs to be wise if he is to be victorious. He waits for the cover of night. Then he divides his forces into small groups.
And let me tell you, I would really like more detail here, because all we get to know is that this might army, Verse 15 tells us, it fled from Abrams 318 men. What?! But, wait! That wasn’t good enough for Abram. We also read that Abram chased the army all the way north of Damascus. If you look at a map, Damascus is 70 miles from Dan. He chased them with his 318 men for 70 miles! Absolutely remarkable. Now, after this humiliating defeat, Abram rescues Lot and gets back everything that was stolen from his nephew, and plunders everything that the powerful king had plundered previously. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is the first war in the Bible. But I said we would also cover some other firsts, and these are a little less straight forward.
Let’s read verses 17-20. “17 After Abram returned from his victory over Kedorlaomer and all his allies, the king of Sodom went out to meet him in the valley of Shaveh (that is, the King’s Valley).
18 And Melchizedek, the king of Salem and a priest of God Most High,[d] brought Abram some bread and wine. 19 Melchizedek blessed Abram with this blessing:
“Blessed be Abram by God Most High, Creator of heaven and earth.
20 And blessed be God Most High, who has defeated your enemies for you.”
Then Abram gave Melchizedek a tenth of all the goods he had recovered.”
Okay, so, Abram is returning from victory. He stops in Sodom to drop off Lot and all of Lot’s stuff. Here, we meet a mysterious man named Melchizedek. We learn nothing about his lineage or where he is from, or any of his exploits. Here is what we do know about him. He is the king of Salem. This was the name of the holy city of Jerusalem before it was called Jerusalem. He is also a priest of the Most High God.
Remember, this is long before Moses and Aaron are even born. This is before the priesthood of the Levites. This is before the enslavement of the Hebrew people and their miraculous escape across the Red Sea. This is before Mount Sinai. This is before the Law of the Old Testament is even written, but listen to this language.
The King and Priest of the Most High God brought Abram bread and wine and blessed him…. Let me say that again, The King and Priest of the Most High God brought Abram bread and wine and blessed him…. Are you tracking with me here? Let’s skip ahead.
Hebrews 4:14 tells us that we have a great High Priest who has ascended into Heaven, Jesus the Son of God. Revelation 19:16 calls him the King of kings and the Lord of lords. Those are only two examples of Jesus being referred to as a King and Priest. If you have read the New Testament, you probably remember the story of the last supper in Mark 14 where it reads, “As they were eating, Jesus took some bread and blessed it. Then he broke it in pieces and gave it to the disciples, saying, “Take it, for this is my body.”
23 And he took a cup of wine and gave thanks to God for it. He gave it to them, and they all drank from it. 24 And he said to them, “This is my blood, which confirms the covenant[e] between God and his people. It is poured out as a sacrifice for many.”
This all points to Melchizedek as being a type of Christ that came centuries before Jesus was born. Now, as quickly as Melchizedek comes on the scene, he vanishes and we never get to meet him again. However, David, speaking prophetically, refers to him in Psalm 110 saying, “You are a priest forever in the order of Melchizedek.” And, let me tell you, as people are reading this live at the time and they see the name Melchizedek they’re like, well there’s a blast from the past. But, wait, there’s more!
We see the author of Hebrews in Chapter 7 as he is explaining the new law given when Jesus died on the cross. He says in verse 15 “This change has been made very clear since a different priest, who is like Melchizedek, has appeared. 16 Jesus became a priest, not by meeting the physical requirement of belonging to the tribe of Levi, but by the power of a life that cannot be destroyed. 17 And the psalmist pointed this out when he prophesied,
“You are a priest forever in the order of Melchizedek.”
What?! This man comes and goes in a few verses, but God was clearly trying to tell us something when he introduced the first High Priest of the Bible. Even Abram recogized that this man was special. So much so, that he gave him a tenth of all the goods he had recovered when he plundered the army after the battle. And there we see the first instance of a tithe in the bible as Abram gives the King and Priest who gave him bread and wine and a blessing, he gives this man a tenth of all he just received.
Though not obvious to Abram at the time, the mysterious priesthood of Melchizedek pointed millenia forward to the eternal priesthood of Jesus Christ, who ministers grace and mercy to us based on His own sacrifice for our sins.
So what does this mean for us now? I want to encourage you today that God has always had a plan in place for our salvation. He has always had a plan to make a way for us to be with Him. Though this world is crazy and hard, nothing that is happening in it surprises God because He knew it all from the beginning. In Genesis 14, 2,000 years before Jesus was born, He was showing us a type of what was to come. He’s always had it planned out. So take heart, no matter what you’re going through, remember Jesus is our High Priest, sitting at the right hand of the Father, forever making intercession on our behalf.
I truly enjoyed diving into this chapter. I hope you are encouraged by its revelation as much as I was.