This was not really one of the big ones growing up. Definitely it was one that got taught periodically but not huge. I also probably did not maintain it very well because a great deal of it is listing kings and stuff and it has always been difficult for me not to shut my brain off when I start hearing those sorts of lists.
However, essentially what I remember is that Lot gets into a scrape, Abram goes running off to save him, which is nice, and then he does that somehow and Lot offers to give him stuff in gratitude for what he’s done for him and Abram gives a speech about how he can’t take anything because God wants it to be clear that no one gave him anything except God and so he can’t take anything or it’ll take glory away from God. Which was usually the point of the story as we were taught it, that God always wants to make sure that it’s clear that he is the one who made something possible and I think this was more evidence of Abram as being faithful to that.
So, let’s take a look.
Abram Rescues Lot
At the time when Amraphel was king of Shinar,[a] Arioch king of Ellasar, Kedorlaomer king of Elam and Tidal king of Goyim, 2 these kings went to war against Bera king of Sodom, Birsha king of Gomorrah, Shinab king of Admah, Shemeber king of Zeboyim, and the king of Bela (that is, Zoar). 3 All these latter kings joined forces in the Valley of Siddim (that is, the Dead Sea Valley). 4 For twelve years they had been subject to Kedorlaomer, but in the thirteenth year they rebelled.
5 In the fourteenth year, Kedorlaomer and the kings allied with him went out and defeated the Rephaites in Ashteroth Karnaim, the Zuzites in Ham, the Emites in Shaveh Kiriathaim 6 and the Horites in the hill country of Seir, as far as El Paran near the desert. 7 Then they turned back and went to En Mishpat (that is, Kadesh), and they conquered the whole territory of the Amalekites, as well as the Amorites who were living in Hazezon Tamar.
8 Then the king of Sodom, the king of Gomorrah, the king of Admah, the king of Zeboyim and the king of Bela (that is, Zoar) marched out and drew up their battle lines in the Valley of Siddim 9 against Kedorlaomer king of Elam, Tidal king of Goyim, Amraphel king of Shinar and Arioch king of Ellasar—four kings against five. 10 Now the Valley of Siddim was full of tar pits, and when the kings of Sodom and Gomorrah fled, some of the men fell into them and the rest fled to the hills. 11 The four kings seized all the goods of Sodom and Gomorrah and all their food; then they went away. 12 They also carried off Abram’s nephew Lot and his possessions, since he was living in Sodom.
13 A man who had escaped came and reported this to Abram the Hebrew. Now Abram was living near the great trees of Mamre the Amorite, a brother[b] of Eshkol and Aner, all of whom were allied with Abram. 14 When Abram heard that his relative had been taken captive, he called out the 318 trained men born in his household and went in pursuit as far as Dan.15 During the night Abram divided his men to attack them and he routed them, pursuing them as far as Hobah, north of Damascus. 16 He recovered all the goods and brought back his relative Lot and his possessions, together with the women and the other people.
17 After Abram returned from defeating Kedorlaomer and the kings allied with him, the king of Sodom came out to meet him in the Valley of Shaveh (that is, the King’s Valley).
18 Then Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine. He was priest of God Most High, 19 and he blessed Abram, saying,
“Blessed be Abram by God Most High,
Creator of heaven and earth.
20 And praise be to God Most High,
who delivered your enemies into your hand.”
Then Abram gave him a tenth of everything.
21 The king of Sodom said to Abram, “Give me the people and keep the goods for yourself.”
22 But Abram said to the king of Sodom, “With raised hand I have sworn an oath to the Lord, God Most High, Creator of heaven and earth, 23 that I will accept nothing belonging to you, not even a thread or the strap of a sandal, so that you will never be able to say, ‘I made Abram rich.’ 24 I will accept nothing but what my men have eaten and the share that belongs to the men who went with me—to Aner, Eshkol and Mamre. Let them have their share.”
Response: Oh yeah, I can’t believe I forgot about the Melchizedek guy. He also definitely came up a lot because no one seemed to know what the fuck was up with him and there were a whole lot of theories. But I don’t remember any of them because apparently this story didn’t interest me much.
So, basically the overwhelming feeling I get when I read this story is how distant I am from it. Like I feel like there is so much culturally happening that I do not understand at all (including Melchizedek but certainly not limited to) and I feel like however we were interpreting this when I was a kid, I don’t feel like we were doing a good job.
Also, look at that, I totally remembered the story wrong. Lot doesn’t have much of a place in this story weirdly. It’s actually the King of Sodom who wants to give Abram stuff. Now this is… okay, this is weird to me. Because the idea that God wanted to prove that Abram got rich on his own is clearly provably absurd. We just saw a few chapters ago that a huge portion of Abram’s wealth comes from that time he pimped out his wife as his sister. And it’s not like God is super cool with Egypt. Frankly God doesn’t seem to be particularly awesome with anyone most of the time. Except maybe this King of Salem and how did he become a high priest of God anyway because the priesthood hasn’t even been established yet and how did he even know about God? Is there like a set of stories we just never got to see?
I mean, anyone who knows anything about the Bible knows that God is probably particularly not cool with Sodom as he’s totally going to destroy their faces in not too long. So maybe he just doesn’t want Abram taking their money? But in that case, it’s not really about God receiving glory alone, it’s just about making sure Sodom doesn’t. Which, once they’re a smoldering ruin of what used to be a city, seems like it’ll be less important. Which God definitely knows they’re going to be, right? That’s part of the all seeing, all knowing God deal? Is this one of those things where all their goods and livestock have to be destroyed with them or it’ll all creep up again?
I don’t know. And I don’t know because it doesn’t really say. Personally I feel like Abram’s speech is a little offensive. “I will not take so much as a THONG OF A SANDAL FROM YOU PEOPLE!” But then again, his people skills are clearly not the greatest. I’m not sure why God picked Abram but maybe it wasn’t for his people skills. Maybe it was his fighting skills. Apparently he can lead groups of armed men now. Was that a thing he could do before? Was that something people could just generally do? I feel like I was always thrown by this story as a kid because my idea of “Kings” of places involved really big armies and he goes out with a couple hundred guys and whips them. But the truth is this was all probably very tribal, a bunch of small groups fighting among themselves.
It would seem that my reaction to this now is “I don’t understand the point of this story.” Also I think it’s a little funny that Lot essentially plays the damsel in distress with no voice in it.