Is there such a thing as just war? This chapter details a war, four kings against five. This is the era, not of nations, but city states. Lot is caught in the middle of it and taken captive and Abram rescues him.
It also tells us of Abram’s interaction with the King of Sodom and Melchizedek.
vv. 1-4 - We learn that Chedorlaomer, the king of Elam, has the Canaanites under tribute, i.e. making them pay a certain amount in order to live at peace. Despite their prosperous environment, the Canaanites are experiencing the curse Noah pronounced upon them, “Cursed be Canaan; a servant of servants shall he be unto his brethren” (Gen. 9:25). After 12 years of tribute, they stop paying and await the response.
vv. 5–7 - Chedorlaomer begins a campaign against rebels.
vv. 8–10 - The battle is at valley of Siddim at the southern tip of the Dead Sea. Five Canaanite kings seek to stand their ground, but end up fleeing for their lives (v. 10), and among the captives is Lot and his family.
vv. 13–16 - Someone informs Abram, and he musters his household servants, 318 of them, to pursue. They succeed in defeating Chedorlaomer and recovering Lot and his family. Aside: this is the first reference of a people called “Hebrews” coming from the line of Eber.
Abram uses the element of surprise to overcome the the enemy and rescue Lot and his family. He uses the cover of darkness and follows the enemy over many, many miles (v. 15). It is a remarkable victory.
On his return, the king of Salem comes to meet Abram. Abram recognizes him as superior, receives provisions and blessings from him, and Abram, in a desire to acknowledge to the goodness of God, gives a tithe to the godly priest.
Who is Melchizedek? An historical person? A Christophany? He is a king and a priest who worships the true God and does not descend from the tribe of Levi. This is why he is referred to in Psalm 110 and Hebrews. When faced with the argument that the only God-appointed priesthood are Levites, therefore Christ cannot be a priest, the apostle uses Melchizedek as a historical example to prove otherwise.
A few other ways Melchizedek typifies Christ:
He is a king and a priest. These are distinct offices that were not to overlap in Israel, but they do in both Melchizedek and Christ.
His name means “king of righteousness” just as Christ is the Lord our Righteousness.
He reigns over Salem. Likely the location of what is later called “Jerusalem.” Christ is the one who is the Priest and King of the New Jerusalem. In addition, “Salem” is a form of “shalom” meaning “peace.” Christ is the King or Prince of Peace.
So is there such a thing as just war? War is part of our fallen world. James answers why. “From whence come wars and fightings among you? come they not hence, even of your lusts that war in your members?” (James 4:1). As Christians, we are not pacifists, but neither ought we to blindly support war. The original battle was driven by greed, Abram’s involvement was driven by duty and justice. His warfare honored God.
Abram displays no resentment to Lot. He doesn’t say, ‘serves him right’ and leave Lot to suffer as a result of his choices. The man who did everything in his power to avoid an argument with Lot, was prepared to risk everything to rescue Lot. Christian, seek to pick up fallen brothers. You won’t win them all, but do not give up trying. In this, Abram is like Christ. He goes after those snared by sin, makes war with the enemy, and rescues needy souls. Lot is a child of God, and God will always rescue His elect people. Truly, a brother is born for adversity.
Some like to tie tithing to the Mosaic covenant. But Abram practices it long before there was a nation. It is too big a subject to expand on now, but I encourage parents to teach your children to learn to give a defined portion to God before anything else.
It is possible that rather than wanting to wait for the nation promised to Abram, Lot desired to be part of something now. Many within the church are like Demus, the man who “loved this present world.” Lot had that weakness. But Abram kept in view that he was part of something yet to come. Note how God has kept greed from his heart. He has no interest in any wealth that does not come from the hand of God. Christian, be eternally minded. Make sure the promises of God govern you, and not the allure of this world. Even though Abram helped the king of Sodom, he would not bind myself to him. This is a good policy in modern politics. Christians can help good candidates, but do not yoke yourself to them in such a way that you can no longer oppose them. They need accountability.
Finally, children, have you met the king of righteousness? This is who Jesus is, and if you turn from your sins, He will take them all away and replace them with a garment of perfect obedience. Why not ask Him for that garment of righteousness today?
“Cowards never won heaven. Do not claim that you are begotten of God and you have His royal blood running in your veins unless you can prove your lineage by His heroic spirit: to dare to be holy in spite of men and devils.” ― William Gurnall