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The Pentateuch: God’s Covenant with Abraham, Genesis 13-15
God had given Abram a new name and a promise, both of which told Abraham that God would make him the father of God’s people. After receiving this promise, Abraham went to Egypt because of a great famine in the land. While there, he was more afraid of the Egyptians than he was trusting in the Lord as he told the Egyptians that his wife was his sister in order to decrease the risk to his own life. Even in Abraham’s lack of faith, God intervened for him. The Egyptians were afflicted because they had treated Abraham’s wife as an available woman rather than a married one.
God is faithful even when we lack faith
The Egyptians sent Abraham and his family away and Abraham took his people to Negev and then to Bethel, back to where he had previously pitched his tent and built an altar to the Lord. Abram, even after his lack of faith in Egypt, was prospering under God’s promise. He followed where God led, and he was very wealthy in livestock and treasures. Even with his great wealth and his moment of weakness in Egypt Abraham continued to call on the name of the Lord.
Abram went up from Egypt to the Negev—he, his wife, and all he had, and Lot with him. 2 Abram was very rich in livestock, silver, and gold. 3 He went by stages from the Negev to Bethel, to the place between Bethel and Ai where his tent had formerly been, 4 to the site where he had built the altar. And Abram called on the name of the Lord there.Genesis 13:1-4 CSB
This is such an important example for all of us. Abraham, the man God chose to be the father of His holy people, had lacked faith, sinned, and had a great horde of wealth that would have surely been a serious temptation to rely on himself. Even in these moments, Abraham sought the Lord, and the Lord was there intervening for Abraham. God’s promise did not change because of Abraham’s sin and temptation – God continued to bless Abraham and hold true to His great covenant with him.
Lot leaves Abraham
In contrast to Abraham, whose focus and faith was in God, Lot, Abraham’s nephew, was focused on wealth and tempted by prosperous lands. When conflict arose between Lot’s people and Abraham’s, Abraham gave Lot a choice.
8 So Abram said to Lot, “Please, let’s not have quarreling between you and me, or between your herdsmen and my herdsmen, since we are relatives. 9 Isn’t the whole land before you? Separate from me: if you go to the left, I will go to the right; if you go to the right, I will go to the left.”Genesis 13:8-9 CSB
Abraham let Lot make the first choice of what land he would claim. He gave Lot the choice and trusted that whichever way Lot chose to go that God would still hold to His promise that Abraham would be given the land that was promised to him. Lot chose to give up his claim on the promised land and move out. He went and settled in an area that looked fertile, and beautiful, and reminded him of the stories he had been told of the Garden of Eden. Interestingly, he chose land that appeared on the surface to be like the holy place God had first placed His people, yet the land ended up being close to nations who were evil and sinful against the Lord. Looks can sure be deceiving, especially when our eyes are not filtered through the Lord but by our own desires.
Abraham then went the other way and settled in Hebron which is part of modern-day Jerusalem. So while Lot went to a sinful region, Abraham went and settled in what would become God’s holy city.
The War in the Siddim Valley
There was a war in the area at the time. Several kingdoms had been forced for 12 years to pay tribute to King Chedorlaomer of Elam. In the thirteenth year, enough was enough and they waged war in rebellion against these tributes they’d been forced to pay for so many years.
The kingdoms forced to serve and pay tribute to King Chedorlaomer of Elam were King Bera of Sodom, King Birsha of Gomorrah, King Shinab of Admah, King Shemeber of Zeboiim, and King Zoar of Bela. King Chedorlaomer of Elam and his allies in the Siddim Valley, King Amraphel of Shinar, King Arioch of Ellasar, and King Tidal of Goiim, defeated the Rephaim in Ashteroth-karnaim, the Emim in Sheveh-kiriathaim, the Horites in the mountains of Seir, the Zuzim in Ham, the Amalekites in Kadesh, and the Amorites in Hazazon-tamar.
When the armies of Sodom, Gomorrah, Admah, Zeboiim, and Bela finally met in the Siddim Valley in battle against King Chedorlaomer and his allies, they began to flee but got trapped. Many perished in the asphalt pits of the region while others fled to the mountains. They were defeated. King Chedorlaomer and his allies plundered Sodom and Gomorrah, and also took Abraham’s nephew, Lot, captive with all his people and wealth.
Lot had decided to leave the land God had promised to give to Abraham, chose to settle in a sinful land, and now that same sinful land had been captured and ransacked, and Lot was in bondage to a great enemy.
10 Now the Siddim Valley contained many asphalt pits, and as the kings of Sodom and Gomorrah fled, some fell into them,[a] but the rest fled to the mountains. 11 The four kings took all the goods of Sodom and Gomorrah and all their food and went on. 12 They also took Abram’s nephew Lot and his possessions, for he was living in Sodom, and they went on.Genesis 14:10-12 CSB
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Where is the Siddim Valley?
Elam, Shinar, Ellasar, and Goiim were all in what is now Iraq, Iran, and Syria. All of these countries to this day are enemies of the Lord and His promised land.
Sodom, Gomorrah, Admah, Zeboiim, and Bela (later named Zoar) were in what is now Israel and the Jordan Valley. These kingdoms were destroyed for their wickedness and are examples of what happens when evil is allowed to prosper.
Lot is Rescued
After Lot is captured by Elam and their allies, Abraham learns of the situation and goes to rescue him with 318 armed men. Think about this for a second – 4 armies just defeated and pillaged 5 armies. Abraham now takes only 318 men with him to rescue his kinsman from these 4 victorious armies. Even crazier is that Abraham and his men not only went up against impossible numbers, but they defeated the army that held Lot and chased after them all the way to Damascus, what is now the capital of Syria.
According to today’s geography, this is approximately 50 walking miles. Someone hitchhiking would be able to trek this distance in about 16 hours, but back then, with wild untamed terrain and an army of 318 men, they made this journey in pursuit of Lot’s captors. This was after Abraham left his new home in Hebron, which is in modern-day Jerusalem, and brought these 318 men about 125 miles, which would take about 40 hours nowadays in today’s conditions.
About 200 miles with 318 men to chase an army that had just defeated and looted 5 kingdoms in order to rescue his nephew who had left him to live in these sinful lands that had now been conquered. Then, Abraham and his men did defeat this army, reclaim his nephew, all that belonged to his nephew, and the other people and goods that had been captured.
14 When Abram heard that his relative had been taken prisoner, he assembled[a] his 318 trained men, born in his household, and they went in pursuit as far as Dan. 15 And he and his servants deployed against them by night, defeated them, and pursued them as far as Hobah to the north of Damascus. 16 He brought back all the goods and also his relative Lot and his goods, as well as the women and the other people.Genesis 14:14-16 CSB
So great was this victory that when Abraham had returned to Hebron, another 200-mile trek, the king of Sodom had survived the defeat of his kingdom and came to visit Abraham. The king of Salem, which is thought to be Jerusalem, where Hebron is located, was there with them. The king of Sodom offered a bargain to Abraham, saying that Abraham could have all of the goods, the immense wealth that the armies had looted and Abraham had claimed when rescuing Lot. All the king of Sodom wanted was his people. After all, you cannot have a kingdom without citizens to rule.
Imagine the temptation of all that additional wealth. Abraham was already wealthy, and the Lord had led him to a victory in reclaiming his nephew and all that his men had brought back home with them. In this moment it would have been very easy for Abraham to take the credit, to take the wealth being handed to him, and to accept praises for this great victory.
Abraham did none of these.
Abraham declined this arrangement and gave all the credit to the Lord. He was open and honest about his reason for declining all this wealth, telling the king of the sinful kingdom of Sodom that he had made an oath to the Lord, God Most High, Creator of heaven and earth, that he will not take a single thing that belongs to the sinful kingdom of Sodom.
21 Now the king of Sodom said to Abram, “Give me the [a]persons, and take the goods for yourself.”
22 But Abram said to the king of Sodom, “I have raised my hand to the Lord, God Most High, the Possessor of heaven and earth, 23 that I will take nothing, from a thread to a sandal strap, and that I will not take anything that is yours, lest you should say, ‘I have made Abram rich’— 24 except only what the young men have eaten, and the portion of the men who went with me: Aner, Eshcol, and Mamre; let them take their portion.”Genesis 14:21-24 NKJV
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Who is Melchizedek?
Abraham resisted the temptation to boast and to take the wealth he was instructed by God to decline, and he gave all the credit and glory to the Lord for the victory and outcomes that unfolded. With this, the king of Salem and priest of God, Melchizedek, blessed Abraham.
18 Then Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine; he was the priest of God Most High. 19 And he blessed him and said:
“Blessed be Abram of God Most High,
Possessor of heaven and earth;
20 And blessed be God Most High,
Who has delivered your enemies into your hand.”
And he gave him [a]a tithe of all.Genesis 14:18-20 NKJV
Melchizedek is an interesting character in scripture. In this moment of triumph, Abraham is not only blessed by Melchizedek but also gives Melchizedek his tithe. Tithes are our offerings to the Lord. Melchizedek is spoken of in other parts of scripture, and we see an interesting exploration and explanation in Hebrews.
For this Melchizedek, king of Salem, priest of the Most High God, who met Abraham returning from the slaughter of the kings and blessed him,
to whom also Abraham gave a tenth part of all, first being translated “king of righteousness,” and then also king of Salem, meaning “king of peace,”
without father, without mother, without genealogy, having neither beginning of days nor end of life, but made like the Son of God, remains a priest continually.
Now consider how great this man was, to whom even the patriarch Abraham gave a tenth of the spoils.
And indeed those who are of the sons of Levi, who receive the priesthood, have a commandment to receive tithes from the people according to the law, that is, from their brethren, though they have come from the loins of Abraham;
but he whose genealogy is not derived from them received tithes from Abraham and blessed him who had the promises.
Now beyond all contradiction the lesser is blessed by the better.
Here mortal men receive tithes, but there he receives them, of whom it is witnessed that he lives.
Even Levi, who receives tithes, paid tithes through Abraham, so to speak,
for he was still in the loins of his father when Melchizedek met him.Hebrews 7:1-10 NKJV
God Reaffirms His Covenant
After all of this, the Lord comes to Abraham in a vision and encourages and blesses Abraham. Abraham had been faithful in so many things, and at this moment he announces his confusion to the Lord. He is honest with God about his confusion over having no children. God then reaffirms and strengthens the covenant with Abraham.
4 And behold, the word of the Lord came to him, saying, “This one shall not be your heir, but one who will come from your own body shall be your heir.” 5 Then He brought him outside and said, “Look now toward heaven, and count the stars if you are able to number them.” And He said to him, “So shall your descendants be.”
6 And he believed in the Lord, and He accounted it to him for righteousness.Genesis 15:4-6 NKJV
Don’t miss this moment. After God made a covenant with him, Abraham had lacked faith in Egypt, argued with his nephew over land, separated from Lot and gave Lot the choice of land, discovered his nephew had been captured, fought armies to win him back, and resisted the temptation to seize the great wealth and honor of such a victory. Abraham was on a rollercoaster of ups and downs. He wasn’t perfect. He made mistakes. He lacked faith sometimes. He was a sinner just like you and me. Yet at this moment, the Lord came to him and blessed him as the father of nations, and counted Abrahams’s faith as righteousness.
We don’t need to be perfect, either. What stands out about Abraham is that even when he did the wrong thing, he came back to God. God knew what Abraham’s intentions were. God knew what was in Abraham’s heart. God blessed Abraham’s faith, yet his faith was not flawless. He wavered just like you and I do. Then he got back up and sought the Lord’s will out again, and got right with Him.
God proceeded to make another important point at this juncture. He told Abraham that the promised land He was giving to Abraham would not be won until after Abraham’s offspring were enslaved and oppressed for 400 years. God said He will judge those who enslave his offspring, but that it will take a very long time and 4 generations after Abraham to get there. This would take a lot of patience and a lot of faith.
This is a promise we need to remember. God will keep His promises, and He will keep them in His time and in His ways. Faith requires patience, trust, and hope in the Lord. Faith requires that we believe and obey the Lord even when it doesn’t make sense to us. Sometimes, like Abraham, we will not see the promise fulfilled. Sometimes we will not see the problem solved and justice done. Sometimes we will not see the fruits of a promise kept. God asks us to trust His plan, and have faith that He will keep every promise He makes. Abraham believed this, and it was counted to him as righteousness.
What prayer are you waiting for God to answer? What promise are you waiting for Him to fulfill? Let Abraham’s journey be a needed reminder that God is always honest, and will show up when and how He knows is best and right. Keep trusting. Keep hanging on. Keep your eyes on the Lord. He is always working in ways we do not see, and He is always trustworthy. Let’s have an active faith like Abraham today.
18 On the same day the Lord made a covenant with Abram, saying:
“To your descendants I have given this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the River Euphrates— 19 the Kenites, the Kenezzites, the Kadmonites, 20 the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Rephaim, 21 the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Girgashites, and the Jebusites.”Genesis 15:18-21 NKJV
Have you accepted the grace of God?
If you have not accepted the grace of God and chosen to believe in Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, I encourage you to pray to God now and invite Him in, accept Jesus as the sacrifice for your sins, and repent of your sins. Submit it all to God, lay it at His feet, seek the forgiveness of God, welcome Him into your life, and believe that Jesus died and rose again to save you from your sins.
If you would like to learn more about salvation, you can find a couple of studies that may help here:
- Names of Jesus: Savior
- Don’t Neglect Your Salvation
- Prayer of Salvation
- What is grace and why do we need it?
- What does it mean to be justified by grace?
- Don’t Reject God’s Grace
- Don’t Reject Christ
- Godly Women – what it means to live a godly life
- Redeemed Women – what it means to be redeemed
- What is Biblical Love?
- What are Spiritual Gifts?
- How to live in Spirit and Truth
- How to test what is pleasing to God
- Names of Jesus as the Son of God
- Names of Jesus as the Son of Man
- Names of Jesus as the Truth