This study covers Genesis 14, and Abram’s dealings with two kings: the king of Sodom and the king of Salem.
- Who are these kings?
- Why did Abram accept blessing from one and not the other?
- And what does that say about Abram’s faith?
Listen to Audio Study
In this study we’re going to be in Genesis 14, and the study is going to be entitled Abram and the 2 Kings. And so I’ll need to bring you up to speed a little bit, because we’re just jumping into the 14th chapter here without the benefit of having any of the previous chapters fresh in our minds, and so you remember we go back a few chapters to the call of Abram, where he is told by God—whom he has sought out…
You know it’s funny that you can hear and read about Abram being called the father of the Jewish nation, right? He’s the one, in fact the very first time the word “Hebrew” is used in the Bible appears in chapter 14 and it’s describing Abram —and we’ll get to that, it’s in verse 13.
We’ll get to that in a few minutes, but I want you to know that before that he belonged to a family, according to Jewish tradition, he belonged to a family whose occupation was the manufacture of idols. They had a little shop there in Ur down in Iraq today, and it was that little shop, was a craftsman shop where the family manufactured different idols for the different residents of the city, they’d come in and order one of these or one of that, and these guys would make it up for them. And of course they had some inventory on the shelves—and this is all tradition and it’s not Biblical —it’s outside the Bible so who knows, but it’s a Jewish tradition.
The story goes that Abram was involved in this business with his family, and was troubled by it because he had this feeling in his heart that it just wasn’t right, these idols. And he said he was there in the shop all alone one day, when it just came over him that he should destroy them all, wipe out all the inventory.
So he gets this big club, and he’s in the process of smashing all these idols and things into smithereens, when his father or his uncle, (can’t remember which, let’s say it’s his dad) his father walks in and grabs him and says: What are you doing here?
And Abram was kind of embarrassed by it, so he made up this story, he said: These idols started talking to me, and they started telling me all this crazy stuff and I got scared and I started looking around for something to defend myself with, and I just went crazy and before you knew it I’d blasted them all up.
And the father said: Who are trying to kid? These idols can’t talk! They can’t do anything, they’re just statues!
And Abram said: Do you hear yourself? Do you hear what you’re saying here?
And so this is the tradition. He went out of there and he started seeking, he started looking for something. He knew there had to be something bigger than us, and he was like what Paul said in Romans 1 where if you just look around you with your eyes open, you can tell this just couldn’t have happened by itself, there had to be some kind of person or something who designed it – and that’s the latest excuse for not mentioning the name of God in schools, by the way. Is it evolution or is it intelligent design? They can’t say God, they can’t say some super being or some super power, so they say that we’re here because of the efforts of some kind of intelligent design.
Well anyway, he started looking. And sure enough, just like the Bible says, you will find me when you seek me with all your heart, God did reveal Himself to Abram and eventually told him to leave Ur of the Chaldees, (as it was called in those days, “Chaldees” was another name for the Babylonian people). He told them to leave there and go to a place that God was going to show him. And so, He told him to leave his family and leave everybody.
Well Abram left like he was supposed to, but he didn’t quite do it in exactly the way he was supposed to. He took his father with him and he took his nephew, a nephew named Lot. And the father and Abram, their wives, Lot and his wife, they all started off.
And in those days if you wanted to go to Israel from Babylon, you followed the Euphrates River all the way up into almost Turkey, and then you made a left turn and went over to the Mediterranean Coast, and then you came back down the coast until you got to what’s now called Israel, (or what in those days was called Canaan) because there’s this huge desert in between and nobody could survive going across the desert, so you had to take this big circular route.
And so they started off, this was 600 mile journey, and they’re going on foot. And they started off, and they got up to a place about in the middle of the journey, just before they were going to turn and make their turn over toward the coast of the Mediterranean and then come down the Mediterranean Sea coast, and they stopped for a while, like years and years. I can’t remember whether it was 20 or 30 or 40 years but somewhere around in that vicinity, they stayed there for a long time until Abram’s father actually died, and he died up there.
After he died, they made the turn and they left there and they came down, (and the name of the town they were in slips my memory, does anybody remember what the name of the town they were? Haran, that’s it) and they were stopped up there and they had been there long enough so that they’d acquired quite a bit of wealth.
Abram had this ability to generate wealth, in fact as they left he was surprised at how many people left with him, because he had quite a retinue with him and they went from Haran, they turned left and they went over toward the Mediterranean Sea coast and then they came down the sea coast until they came to the Promised Land. And of course there’s Abram and Lot, their wives, and all their herds and sheep and cattle and people and all the stuff that came with it. And so they went down there.
And so they stayed there for a little while, and that was the land that God was taking them to to show them, and so they’re finally in Canaan, but after they’d been there for a little while there was a series of bad weather and stuff and the place got dry and the grass didn’t grow, and so there was kind of like a famine. And so they went down into Egypt and they stayed down in Egypt for a while until things looked a little better.
While they’re down there, Sarah got hijacked into the pharaoh’s harem so they had to get her out of there and they did and they came back, and they’re back in Canaan now, the famine is over and the land is restored. They came out of Egypt with even more wealth because in order to get rid of them, the pharaoh in Egypt who thought they had brought him a bunch of bad luck (which they had) of course in order to get rid of them they gave Abram and Lot a bunch more stuff.
And in those days what you gave people was animals, that was the agrarian society remember we talked about before. And so they had all these animals and things, now they’re back in Canaan, they got all the animals, and they’re setting into the southern part of what we would call Israel today, south of Jerusalem. They had so many herds they couldn’t keep them separate, and Lot’s animals got mixed up with Abram’s animals, and the shepherds that watched them both started quarreling among each other:
We were here first!
No, we were!
No, you got our water!
No, you have ours!
And you know how people are. And so finally Abram and Lot get together and they say: Look, we got to stop this, we’re family we shouldn’t be fighting like this.
And so Abram says: Look at all this land around us.
And they’re standing there on the west side of the Jordan river at this time and they’re talking.
And Abram said: Look all around you, He said: and you choose first. If you go north, I’ll go south. If you go east, I’ll go west. And that way we’ll separate. We won’t get far enough apart so we don’t see each other again, but we’ll get far enough apart so our herds don’t intermingle and our people won’t start problems with each other.
And so Lot chose to go east, and so Abram said: Okay, see you later.
So Lot goes across to the other side of the Jordan River into the East Bank – now you never hear about the East Bank of the Jordan River. The Jews say that Jordan is the only river in the world that only has 1 bank, the West Bank, it’s all you ever hear about. But the Jordan has an East Bank too, and in those days it was lush and fertile land.
And they were down to the southern end of the Jordan where it flows into what’s called the Dead Sea, and east of that is of course today Jordan, but in those days it was just land, it was just open land. There were a couple of cities down there, one of which was Sodom and another was Gomorrah, and they were down at the southern end of the Dead Sea.
And so Lot settles into an area just north of there, and little by little he is drawn by the attractiveness of the city. And so as our story opens, Lot actually has moved into the city of Sodom, and he’s living there. He still has all his herds and things like that outside the city, he’s living there in Sodom.
Abram stayed on the west side of the Jordan River, and he’s down in a place called Hebron which is a famous city even today, it’s the place where they have all the trouble in southern Israel there, it’s Palestinians, a whole bunch of Palestinians, surrounding a little enclave of Jews.
But anyway Lot’s over in the east area, and Abram’s in the west and they’re getting along fine, and then at this point we’ll open up Genesis 14, so you’re up to date now on the story.
Lot lives in Sodom, Abram is over west in Hebron. And it’s just a couple days walk between them, you’ve got to cross the Jordan River there at the mouth of the Dead Sea, but other than that they’re close enough where they can visit, far enough apart where they don’t get in each other’s way.
So, now we’re in chapter 14 of the Book of Genesis:
At the time when Amraphel
These names are tough and I’ll try to pronounce them right for you, but I may not get them all right.
Amraphel was king of Shinar, Arioch king of Ellasar, Kedorlaomer king of Elam and Tidal king of Goyim, 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
Who doesn’t have a name, and Bela’s also called Zoar.
All these latter kings joined forces in the Valley of Siddim
Which is where the Salt Sea, or the Dead Sea, is.
For twelve years they had been subject to Kedorlaomer, but in the thirteenth year they rebelled.
All right so where are these places? Well, Amraphel the king of Shinar. Shinar —the Plains of Shinar —is where Babylon is, and it’s in Iraq today, the Plains of Shinar. Shinar literally means Two Rivers, and so the Tigris and Euphrates come together right there, and the city of Baghdad is in that region today, and just a little bit from there is the old city of Babylon.
This is a big area that’s encompassed by these 5 kings, and so they’re quite a ways away, and as you’ll see the story’s going to stretch from there, all the way north to north of Damascus, so they’re going to be trampling all over the entire Middle East before we get done here.
Okay now some people think (and up until a few years ago this was pretty much the general consensus) this Amraphel, the king of Shinar, was a fellow that we know from the secular history as Hammurabi. Is that name familiar to you, Hammurabi? Remember the Code of Hammurabi? One of the first, in fact probably the first legal system in the world, was the Code of Hammurabi, the king of Babylon. Some still believe, many still believe, that Amraphel is, the Biblical name for this, Hammurabi.
Amraphel means the sayer of darkness. Some of these names are going to be interesting to us, and some won’t matter, but I’ll give you all of them anyway.
Arioch means lion. Ellasar is god is the chastener, you know, if you’re bad you need to be chastened right? So that’s what that concept means there. And Ellasar was actually about 28 miles east of Ur, which is down fairly far south on the, (is it on the Euphrates River? I think) fairly far south in the Middle East there.
Tidal the king of Goyim, Goyim actually is the Hebrew word for nations and so some people think that he was the head of a conglomerate of Gentile tribes.
And these four kings went to war against the five kings, Bera of Sodom – now these names are more interesting – Bera means son of evil, how would you like to have your kid named that? Son of evil, okay.
Sodom, interesting name, means burning, like scorched, okay? and Birsha the king of Gomorrah, Birsha means wickedness, and Gomorrah means submersion, and of course the city of Gomorrah is underneath the Dead Sea today, so these names were prophetic. Now maybe they got the name after the thing happened, but it turns out that in the Bible it precedes it, so we have to go for that.
So those two names are meaningful to us, Admah is a variant of the name “Adam” and it means red Earth, just like Adam’s name means Earth.
Shemeber is a concoction of two Hebrew words. Shem means name, and Eber is a bird. But the concept of Shem as a name is exalted. And so when you put Shem and Eber together you get a lofty flight, a bird that flies way up high (which I don’t know how they do that, but nobody ask me).
But even today the Jews call God Ha-Shem which means The Name, because they can’t say the name. It’s illegal for them to say it, so they just call Him The Name, Ha-Shem.
Alright, so you’ve got the four kings here of the region going to war against five kings.
All right now, in verse 5:
In the fourteenth year, Kedorlaomer and the kings allied with him went out and defeated the Rephaites in Ashteroth Karnaim,
Now, Rephaites (If you got a King James they’ll be called the Rephaim) and it comes from the word Rapha which means giant. The Rephaites were a tribe of giants. There’s going to be another tribe of giants mentioned here, and they are the Zuzuim I think they’re called, we’ll get to them in a minute, but these are both tribes of giants. Goliath’s family heritage was of the Rephaites, giants. They were big people. Today they’d all be in the NBA.
Here’s the next one, the Zuzites, and you’ll find them later on in the Book of Deuteronomy called the Zamzuzi, and they are the original Jordanians, but they’re all gone now. They lived, and in those days the country was called Ham. Now Ham means hot or sunburned, and becomes known as dark, as to the color of your skin. In fact the Egyptians and other people who settled in the northern part of Africa are all descendants of Ham —the word means dark in the Hebrew language today —but originally it meant sunburned. This has probably given you more than you need to know, but that’s the way we do it here.
So Kedorlaomer has defeated these two tribes of giants, and the Emites in Shaveh Kiriathaim. And then you have the Horites in the hill country of Seir, which is another name for Edom. The mountains of Seir, over east and south of the Dead Sea, a place called Petra there today that you probably know of.
And they went:
as far as El Paran near the desert. Then they turned back and went to En Mishpat (that is, Kadesh),
Which later on becomes known as Kadesh, remember how the Jews went from the Sinai to Kadesh and then later on the name Barnea went with it, Kadesh Barnea. So that’s Kadesh.
and they conquered the whole territory of the Amalekites,
Remember how the Amalekites gave the Jews so much trouble coming up out of the Sinai?
as well as the Amorites
Now these are the people that are living in Canaan.
who were living in Hazezon Tamar.
Okay I think we’ve fractured those up pretty good. So the Rephaim are giants, the Zuzuim literally means roving creatures but they were giants too.
The Emims preceded the Moabites, they were in the land of the Moabites before the Moabites got there. The Moabites of later times in Genesis are all descendants of one of Lot’s daughter’s son’s right? Remember how Lot’s two daughters became pregnant by their father, they tricked him, and one of the sons was named Moab, and the Moabites come from there, and the Ammonites come from the other son and so those two sons, their descendants populated the region that we would call Moab and Ammon, which later gets called Jordan.
Okay and so they all gang up. So now we’ve got a region here that extends from about the northern end of the Dead Sea, down and across the Dead Sea and over into the so-called Plains of Shinar (Mesopotamia, we know it as later) and that’s where Babylon is.
Mesopotamia is a Greek word meaning between the rivers. Mesos means between, and potamus was the word for river. You know the word “hippopotamus” right? River horse, that’s what a hippopotamus translates literally into English, as a river horse. Hippopotamus, river horse – or horse river as it turns out. A hippodrome was a place they raised horses. Are you interested in any of this, you want me just to keep going?
Alright, so now we get to verse 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)
I can see, by the way, why they called Bela Zoar – or why they called Zoar Bela – because Bela means destruction and that’s a much better name to have than Zoar which means insignificant. So I’d rather be known as a destroyer than as somebody who’s insignificant right, wouldn’t you? Wouldn’t that give you better rep on the street?
marched out and drew up their battle lines in the Valley of Siddim against Kedorlaomer king of Elam, Tidal king of Goyim, Amraphel king of Shinar and Arioch king of Ellasar—four kings against five. 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.
And so the armies of Sodom and Gomorrah are routed, some of them fall into the tar pits where they’ll eventually be dug up and be, what do you call those things? When you dig up an old dinosaur what’s it called? Fossils! Yeah, they become fossils, sorry. And the rest of them fled into the hills, nobody saw them since them.
But you see in those days, this was before the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, and it was very fertile and it was also a very rich land, and there was oil there, (now some claim there’s still oil there, but they just can’t get to it) but in those days the oil —in fact throughout the Middle East in those days —oil was so plentiful that in some places it just came bubbling up through the ground.
And in fact, remember when they were going to build a tower of Babel? They didn’t make up cement to cement the blocks together, they just went out and took tar out of these tar pits and they cemented the blocks together with tar. In the Bible they call it slime, but basically what it is is asphalt – what we make asphalt out of – is tar, bitumen. Bitumen is concrete, is what asphalt really is.
Okay so it happened around the whole area of the Dead Sea. In fact under the Dead Sea there used to be so many of these tar pits bubbling up, that the tar would bubble up through the water and it would float on top of the water in the Dead Sea. And the people would go out in boats, chop it up, and bring it home and sell it.
Now the ones who were most famous for this, we’ve talked about in classes before, the Nabateans, remember those? The Nabateans were the people who inhabited Petra, they were a nomadic tribe that came in and they spent centuries there in Petra, and were very prominent in the Middle East, around the time of Alexander the Great. In fact Alexander the Great could not defeat them because the fortress of Petra is so hard to get to, you can only walk down through this narrow cave and only one person at a time, and so on.
The Nabateans used to go out on the Dead Sea and they’d carve up this tar that floated to the surface, they’d throw nets around it, drag it into shore, cut it up into blocks, and they sold it to the Egyptians who used embalm their dead people. In other words, in those days they just carved out all your innards and they filled you up with tar and that’s how they embalmed you.
Well do you know the crazy thing about people, centuries later in the Middle Ages somebody caught onto the idea that ground up mummies had healthful benefit. If you ate the dust of a ground up mummy it would extend your life or cure you, and so they started grinding up these mummies, who are just old skin and bones filled up with tar, and they started grinding them up and then selling the powder to the guys in Europe in the Middle Ages who thought they were buying this exotic remedies to cure whatever they had. And so that’s why you don’t see very many mummies around anymore, because they ate them all up.
But the Nabateans got really wealthy doing all this. This was years and years later of course, and what we’re doing is going back here in Genesis and showing you that what is today a barren desert—nothing grows there, no cities or people live there —was in the time of Abram lush, meadow lands, rich fertile soil, and plentiful oil that floated right up to the surface of the Dead Sea. Now, one more little story about the Dead Sea and we’ll move on.
Sometimes this oil, during a thunderstorm, lightning would strike and set it on fire and you’d have this whole place on fire, and that’s where the phrase “lake of fire” came from. It’s a vision that everybody could understand in those days because they would have seen occasions when lightening struck the Dead Sea, set the tar on fire, and the whole lake—and it’s the funniest thing to see a lake burning with fire—and so that’s where that name came from.
In fact the Romans called the Dead Sea Lake Asphaltus which means asphalt lake. But there’s where the concept of the Dead Sea came from, and then here’s how it became a place of eternal punishment, because you know in the Dead Sea you float right? You can’t sink. So when the weather’s nice and everything and you go in there, and you just lay there and float it’s a real novelty and it’s nice to relax and get away from the heat.
But suppose you were floating around on the Dead Sea and it caught on fire, and you can’t sink. You’re there, burning up, right? And that’s where their concept of eternal punishment came from, that’s where the vision of it came from, because they could visualize being there trapped in this water, which would normally put a fire out, and you think: Well gee, all they have to do is duck under the water and the fire goes out.
Well you can’t duck under the water in the Dead Sea, you pop right back to the surface and so you can’t escape. In other words you can’t escape the punishment, can’t escape the torture. And so that’s where all that concept came from, it came out of real things that people were used to seeing, and because they had visualized it they could believe it.
All right now verse 11:
The four kings seized all the goods of Sodom
Remember the four were chasing the five, and the kings of Sodom and Gomorrah fled to the hill country, their troops fled with them —the ones that didn’t die in the tar pits—and so it left the two cities undefended. And the other four kings that were chasing them ran in and they seized all the goods of Sodom and Gomorrah, and all their food, and then they went away.
They also carried off Abram’s nephew Lot and his possessions, since he was living in Sodom.
And so now these kings have raided Sodom and Gomorrah, taken the people, taken all the produce and all the food and everything, and boom, they take off with it. But they didn’t take off back to where they came from, down toward Shinar, they took off north.
Well, verse 13:
One who had escaped came and reported this to Abram the Hebrew.
And that’s the first mention of that word anywhere in the Bible, “the Hebrew.” Literally means one who has crossed over, or who has changed. The concept was changed his outlook, changed his view, changed his lifestyle, but it came to be known in later times as the ones who had crossed over the Jordan, they came up the east side and crossed over to the west side.
Now Abram was living near the great trees
Or some of your translations might say oaks of Mamre. And they came from this guy whose name is Mamre, he was an Amorite.
a brother of Eshkol and Aner, all of whom were allied with Abram.
So Abram has made this sort of treaty with the Amorites living there. Amorite technically means westerner – it just means people west of the Jordan – and it came to be a general name for all the tribes. There were about 10 tribes that lived there in so-called Canaan, there were the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Gergeshites, all these -ites, you remember all those from later on in Genesis. But they all sometimes became known as the Amorites because that was one of the most prominent tribes, sometimes they’re known as Amorites, sometimes as Canaanites.
When Abram heard that his relative had been taken captive, he called out the 318 trained men born in his household
Now this tells you something about how wealthy Abram is now, he’s got his own private army with 300 guys in it, of people who were born to his servants. And so they’ve been born, they’ve grown up and trained to be warriors, and they’re his bodyguards now. He’s got 318 bodyguards.
and went in pursuit as far as Dan.
Of course Dan—it wasn’t called Dan in those days—but the writer is putting the word “Dan” in here because that’s what it would one day be called. Dan is the northernmost tribe in Israel. When they settled the Promised Land, Dan took the land northernmost, it’s on the border with Lebanon, so you see how far north they are now.
These guys have come all the way from Babylon basically, and they’re all the way up in northern Israel, 5 or 600 miles from home. Now get this, this was in a time when the average man traveled less than 25 or 35 miles in his lifetime, because nobody traveled for pleasure in those days because you had to walk, and you couldn’t go you know – travel was at the speed of foot. If you were lucky you might have a horse or something, but most people had to walk. And so when these guys went all the way that far north, and they’re not done yet.
It says that:
During the night Abram divided his men to attack them and he routed them, pursuing them as far as Hobah, north of Damascus.
Now if you got your map out, Damascus is of course in Syria and you go Israel, Lebanon, Syria. And so now you’re way far away from southern Israel where Abram was. And so he chased these guys several hundred miles, all the way near the headwaters of the Euphrates, which is actually one country further up, Turkey. But he caught them.
He recovered all the goods and brought back his relative Lot and his possessions, together with the women and the other people.
You know, he might have spent a year doing this. It might have taken him that long to go that far, defeat that army, and bring everybody back. And that’s kind of something we miss out on, because if you don’t have a map in front of you and you don’t pay attention to the geography here, you think maybe he went a couple blocks down the street and found them. No he went several hundred miles, there might be as many as 500 or 600 miles from where this thing all started to where it all finally wound up, and then he had to capture them and bring them all back. He could have spent a year or so doing this, we’re not told how far it was but it could have happened.
Now verse 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).
And Shaveh just simply means the plain of two cities, and the two cities down there were Sodom and Gomorrah, so it’s out on the plains near their two cities.
Okay now here’s where it gets interesting because in verse 18 it says:
Then Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine. He was the priest of Most High God, and he blessed Abram, saying,
“Blessed be Abram by Most High God,
Creator of heaven and earth.
And blessed be God Most High,
who delivered your enemies into your hand.”
Alright now – let’s just finish:
Then Abram gave him a tenth of everything.
So he gave him a tenth of all he had collected.
The king of Sodom said to Abram, “Give me the people and keep the goods for yourself.”
But Abram said to the king of Sodom, “I have my raised hand to the Lord, Most High God, Creator of heaven and earth, and have taken an oath that I will accept nothing belonging to you, not even a thread or the thong of a sandal, so that you will never be able to say, ‘I made Abram rich.’ 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.”
So he’s saying: You can pay the Canaanites who helped us, and you can reimburse me for the food my men have eaten, but that’s it. I won’t take another penny from you.
All right now here comes the—well one of the several points in the story. Melchizedek, in verse 18, we’ve talked about him before. The two words Melchi and zedek here, Melchi is king, and zedek is righteousness, so you put the two together, and Melchizedek stands for king of righteousness. And we don’t know whether that was a name or a title.
We see similar things in scripture that sometimes people gave themselves names like that, like Antiochus IV when he invaded Israel during the time of the Hasmonean dynasty and the Maccabean revolt he gave himself the name Epiphanes, Antiochus Epiphanes, which means God made manifest. He thought he was God, he wanted everybody to know he was God so he named himself that.
So we don’t know whether it’s a title or a name. And this guy, it’s been suggested that he could be one of several people. Some believe that he was actually Shem. Now Shem was a son of Noah, right? And Shem, if you read the genealogy back in Genesis you realize that Shem lived for a long time after the Flood, in fact Shem outlived Abram.
In fact Noah—Abram was 50 when Noah died, and so you see all these people can kind of get together and talk to each other, so it was easy in those days to see how the story of the Flood and everything could have been carried along, because these people could have known each other.
But Shem actually lived longer than Abram did, he outlived Abram and he outlived the next 8 of the next 9 generations after the Flood. And so he was one of the long-life guys, some believe that Melchizedek’s actually Shem. Now that’s okay.
Some believe that Melchizedek was not just an ordinary human, but was actually a pre-incarnate Christ, he was Jesus in an Old Testament appearance. And they call these theophanies, an Old Testament appearance of God. And a lot of times you see hints of the fact that Jesus was around – you know He just didn’t show up in 0 BC and die in 33 and then He’s going to come back some day. You can see hints throughout the scripture that He’s been around ever since the creation—and before that.
But whoever this Melchizedek was he was the king of Salem, and Salem is an original name for a city we know today as Jerusalem. And you see later on Abram’s going to take Isaac there right? And he’s going to sacrifice him on the hill outside of town, Mount Moriah it’s called. And when they get done with this of course, God brings a ram and they substitute the ram and Isaac isn’t sacrificed, and they go back home. And it says Abram named this place and he named Jehovah-jireh. On the mountain of the Lord, it will be provided—Jehovah-jireh.
This “-jireh” part stuck and got hooked to “Salem” which is a Greek rendering of the Hebrew word “Shalom.” “Shalom” in Hebrew, “Salem” in Greek both mean peace, and one is a derivative of the other.
And so according to tradition the early name of Jerusalem was jireh from Jehovah-jireh—Jireh shalom. And then it became “Jeru-salem” as it gets anglicized. And so in fact in Arabic today, salaam means the same as the Hebrew shalom they both mean peace. And so the two languages, in other words, are very closely connected there. Arabs would not like you to tell them that so please don’t mention it, but it happens to be true that the Hebrew language, I believe, was the first language and every other language is a derivative from there of some kind.
But anyway, in those days it was called Salem, it wasn’t called Jerusalem yet, and of course it wasn’t a Jewish city yet because they hadn’t come into the Promised Land, the city belonged to the Jebusites. And so it wasn’t until the time of king David that Jerusalem actually became a Jewish city.
But anyway, you’ve got a guy here who’s called Melchizedek, the king of righteousness, living in Salem, the city of peace. And so it’s an interesting concept there and you begin to think: Well who could this guy be anyway? And it says he was a priest of the Most High God – now if you’ve got an NIV or some translation that says “God Most High”, that is a shame, mine’s like that too.
The phrase is El Elyon that’s the Hebrew, El Elyon. And “El Elyon” —of course Hebrew reads from right to left—and so “Elyon El” is the way they would read it, Most High God, not God Most High. His title is the Most High God, it’s only used in two places, here and in Isaiah 14, which we’re going to look at. The Most High God—El Elyon.
The darndest thing happens here when the editors of the NIV put their study notes down at the bottom, they try to say that this guy was a Canaanite god and that Melchizedek was the priest of a pagan god, and it just doesn’t wash. I don’t know where they got this from and what they were trying to accomplish with it, but I just don’t think that it’s reasonable to assume that, especially in light of what we know later on in the Book of Hebrews, about Melchizedek.
He is a king and a priest—and never in Israel was that permitted. There’s only one person that’s ever been both a king and a priest and that’s the Messiah, He’s the Messiah—He’s the king and the priest. Zechariah 6 tells us when He comes He will put the two titles together, king and priest.
And of course in Psalm 110, God speaking to His son says:
“You are a priest forever,
in the order of Melchizedek.”
So He says He’s a king and a priest, so I’m one of those who believes that Melchizedek was at least a model of the Messiah. He might not have actually been, you can’t prove it one way or another, it doesn’t really matter, but he’s at least a model of the Messiah.
And the darndest thing happens next, he brings out some bread and some wine, which is something familiar to us from the communion, but in those days it was the Covenant meal, that was the meal that you had when you were in a relationship with somebody. The bread and the wine was a Covenant meal. And he blesses Abram – now the writer of Hebrews makes a big issue about this in chapter 7, about the fact that the senior always blesses the junior, the superior always blesses the subordinate.
And so here is a king, who is also a priest, and he gives Abram a blessing. And then chapter 7 of Hebrews says to return the —to close the circle basically —Abram pays a tithe to Melchizedek which both of them acknowledge that Melchizedek is the superior, Abram is the subordinate, because you don’t pay a tithe to someone unless you pay the tithe to someone superior.
And so in some ways, in some things we just don’t understand yet, this Melchizedek turns out to be a pretty powerful figure, Hebrews goes on to say you don’t hear about this guy before this, and you don’t hear about him after either. And so he uses the analogy “he had no beginning and no end” and then he relates that to eternal life, which has no beginning and no end.
And so the writer to the Hebrews—no matter who it was, I believe it was Paul—but whoever wrote the Book of Hebrews had this belief that Melchizedek was a supernatural being, and that’s good enough for me because he was closer to the events than I am. But anyway we go on to find out that he blesses Abram, and he says:
“Blessed be Abram by the Most High God,
Here’s another place where the NIV does something crazy. It takes the next word, Hebrew word, and translated it as creator. Nowhere else in the Bible except in the couple verses below is that word translated as creator. The literal translation, the accurate translation, is possessor. And there’s a difference between a creator and a possessor right? You can be a possessor without being a creator. That word appears in scripture, the word is qanah and it appears in the scripture 84 times, and 46 of those times, more than half, it means to buy or purchase.
Now we know that God is the creator of Heaven and Earth right? But did God ever have to purchase the Earth? That’s what He does at the cross, that’s right. Because He gives the Earth to Adam. Adam loses it to Satan. Jesus comes and buys it back. That’s the whole idea of the redemption of the cross.
He did the same with us, God gave to Adam the right of procreation. Adam starts having children, and he gives them all to Satan by sinning and injecting the sin nature into us. Jesus comes across, buys us all back. He’s redeeming us. When you redeem something you’re buying back something that you have lost right? To redeem something—you had it once, you lost it—to redeem it you’re getting it back.
Okay so the concept is here, yes God had to buy the Earth back because He gave it to Adam, Adam lost it (Satan really stole it from him), but now God has to buy it back. And so that was the whole focus of the redeemer. So it makes sense to see God as the possessor, having to purchase with His blood Heaven and Earth.
Alright so I don’t know why in the original Hebrew they stuck that there unless they wanted to point you to another passage, the only other place where this phrase Most High really occurs, and that is in Isaiah 14:11 because it makes a lot more sense, and maybe this is what the NIV translators thought, it makes more sense to say “creator” because that’s what He is, God created the Heavens and the Earth. Why would He have to purchase it? He made it. Well He would only have to purchase it if somebody lost it and He had to buy it back for them, which by the way was the responsibility of the next of kin. If Adam lost it, his next of kin had to buy it back and Jesus is called throughout scripture the second Adam or the last Adam or the next of kin to Adam.
And so by now you’re wondering, well what the heck’s in Isaiah 14 that that would be so important? So let’s go over there for just a minute and maybe we’ll have to change the name of this to Abram and the 3 Kings, but I don’t know.
We’ll just go over to Isaiah, if you can find Isaiah it’s a few books to the right. (Boy I’m so happy for these tabs, I couldn’t find anything without them. That’s why they call them Pharisee tabs you know, because it makes us look smart when we find the book.)
In Isaiah 14 the Lord is having Isaiah write this oracle, if you will, this curse if you will or something about, he calls them the king of Babylon. And of course in Isaiah’s day they’re between Babylons, the ancient Babylon is gone. And Neo-Babylon (Nebuchadnezzar’s Babylon) hasn’t come yet.
And so Isaiah’s writing some prophecy, and he’s going along about the king of Babylon:
On the day the Lord gives you relief from your suffering and turmoil and from the cruel bondage, you will take up this taunt against the king of Babylon:
That’s in verse 3, and it goes on and on like this until we get down to verse 12. And then it says in verse 12:
How you have fallen from heaven,
O morning star, son of the dawn!
You have been cast down to the earth,
you who once laid low the nations!
Well that doesn’t really fit the king of Babylon, and then when you get into the Hebrew here How you have fallen from heaven, the king of Babylon never fell from Heaven. But somebody fell from Heaven, and in the Gospel of Luke, I believe it’s 10:17, Jesus actually says: I saw Satan falling from Heaven. And so that gives us a clue.
And then you get down to O morning star and you find out if you read that in Latin it says O Lucifer and maybe your King James, if you’ve got a King James, it’ll say “Lucifer.” And of course “Lucifer” is the Latin name for Satan. And so the Hebrew here says helel ben-shachar which means the shining one, son of the dawn. And that was Lucifer, that was Satan’s name.
son of the dawn!
You have been cast down to the earth,
you who once laid low the nations!
For you said in your heart,
“I will ascend heaven;
Ascend there means take a position—I’m going to take a position in Heaven.
I will raise my throne
above the stars of God;
That means above all the Angels.
I will sit enthroned on the mount of the assembly,
on the utmost heights of the sacred mountain.
I will ascend above the tops of the clouds;
I will make myself like
Guess who, El Elyon,
the Most High.”
And that’s the other place where that phrase appears. And so this tells you what Satan was up to. Satan’s not trying to replace God—he knows he can’t—he’s not trying to take over the universe—he knows he can’t—but when he uses that phrase “El Elyon” he’s talking about becoming the possessor of Heaven and Earth.
Now you got to understand that in the Bible Heaven doesn’t mean what we think it means. In the Bible the word for Heaven meant the immediate atmosphere around the Earth. You remember in the Genesis story where it says God created the Heavens and the Earth? And then He divided the waters above from the waters below, and in the middle of that it He called it the firmament? Remember that from the King James, the firmament? That’s the atmosphere. There was water on Earth, and there was this water vapor canopy that encircled the Earth at some altitude we don’t know, and between that was the Heavens. In the Hebrew it’s called the shamayim, the Heavens.
And it was basically – it was Earth’s atmosphere. And you notice in the creation story when God talks about that on that day, when He separates the waters above from the waters before and creates a firmament, that’s the only day of the whole creation day He never says anything about it being good. That day nothing was good about that, and some believe the reason that He doesn’t claim it was good is because immediately after He separated the waters above from the waters below created the atmosphere, the demonic host inhabited it, and that’s why He didn’t say it was good. Well the next day He creates something and said it was good twice, so He gives the next day two goods, but this day He doesn’t give any goods to.
But it tells you a little bit about what Satan was really up to. He wanted to be the possessor of the Earth and its atmosphere. He wanted to be the God of this world, he wanted to be—and he’s called that in scripture—he’s called the God of this age, he’s called the prince of the power of the air. And so there’s a pretty good indication here by tying these two things together and using the word “possessor” instead of “creator” that what the writer of Genesis was trying to get us to see is, this was Satan’s mission. Not trying to replace God, just trying to catch a little corner of the universe for himself.
Now it turns out that it appears like God had already let him live here, but that wasn’t good enough for him. He didn’t want to just live here, he wanted to own this place and he wanted all of us to be subject to him. He wanted to be the king of the Earth, and all of the Earth’s inhabitants to be subject to him, that’s what he was trying to accomplish. And that’s his mission. He knows he can’t be God, he knows he can’t replace God, but he’s thinking: Well if I can just carve out this little piece of the universe for myself God won’t mind, and I’ll just take these few billion people and I’ll call them mine and make them worship me. And I can be like the Most High. I can own the Earth and the Heavens.
And so I believe seriously that that’s what Satan’s real mission was, and I believe that’s what he was all about in trying to do this. And I take that from tying together Genesis 14 here and Hebrews 7 and Isaiah 14, and a couple other passages that kind of make a little collage out of that. But that’s not really the story we’re after.
The story we’re after is a little different. And there’s two little points that I really want you to see here. The first point is what we would call life application point. And that point is this: how far was Abram willing to go for a brother, a family member? How far was he willing to go?
When a family member got into trouble, to what extent was Abram willing to go to rescue him? And, does that give us some idea about how far we should go for one of our brothers? Is that telling us a little story there? I think that’s an interesting analogy and I wish I could take credit for it. One of the guys in the Bible study I’m in brought that one up. Says: Boy, He says: That convicts me. He says: If that means that we should go to that extent to save somebody who’s been taken captive, or somebody who’s come under the influence of something evil…
Because, the fascinating thing here is this name here “Kedorlaomer” means a handful of sheaves. Has someone stolen the fruit from someone? And how far should we go to rescue that person if he’s a brother of ours? Good point huh? All right.
Here’s the other one, this might get you. What do you suppose the spoil that these kings stole from Sodom and Gomorrah might be worth on today’s market? It’s hard to guess isn’t it? It says they took all the produce out of both those cities. All the food, all the property, all the personal belongings out of both those cities.
Let’s just take a wild guess. You think on today’s market the possessions of all the people in two cities might be worth, oh, a million bucks? Considerably more, so we’d be conservative if we set a million. And would the people to whom it was returned be grateful? Especially if we brought back all the people from the cities too? And that’s exactly what the king of Sodom said wasn’t it? The king of Sodom says: Whoa, Abram you’ve done something remarkable here. Tell you what, you deserve a great reward for this. Give me back the people, you keep all the goods.
In other words: Here’s your reward Abram. Here’s a million bucks, here’s a check for a million bucks for saving my city.
And what does Abram say? He says: No thank you. The blessing I just received from God is sufficient.
Woah. How many of us would be able to make that choice? Or would we, (I know I’d be tempted) would we say: Gee look at that. God’s using this king to hand me a million bucks!
Isn’t that a wonderful thing! I’d try to have it both ways, wouldn’t you? But not Abram, he says: No, no no no. My wealth comes from God and I’m depending fully on Him for that, I don’t want you to ever be able to say that you have enriched me because God is going to get whatever I get, God is going to get all the credit for that.
Now how about that? That is an incredible example of the integrity of a man’s faith, isn’t it? To walk away from that million dollars and just say: I spent a year or two here, I’ve been 6 or 800 miles, all I want back is my expenses. I just got a thank you from God and that’s enough.
Isn’t that a remarkable thing? And I had never seen that before in this. I bet you I’ve taught this but of course I’ve always been concentrated on who Melchizedek is and all the prophetic significance of all that – I had never before seen that comparison of what those two kings offered. Here’s a king of materialism, he’d be a king that you would associate with the Earth right? He’s the king of Sodom. Let’s see if I can find his name here for you, (and I know I got in here somewhere) oh yeah he’s Bera. He’s the son of evil, and he’s from the city of burning okay? But he’s got a check for a million bucks and he wants to give it to me!
And I say: No thank you, I don’t want your money. I just want God’s thanks, that’s good enough for me. I want to be able, when I stand face to face with Him, to have Him say “Well done, good and faithful servant” and that’s all I want. If He chooses to enrich me in any other way that’s frosting on the cake, but all I want is God’s blessing. I don’t want any of the wealth of this world to contaminate that, I just want the blessing of God and I’m going to be happy with that.
Now what about that? That I believe in an absolutely incredible vision there, of the integrity of one man’s faith. And no wonder Abram winds up in Hebrews 11 as being the father of the faithful. Amazing story.
That’s the main point I wanted you to see, is what a stunning revelation of this man’s faith. To see him without giving it a second thought, turn down these riches because he felt the blessing he had just received from God was more than sufficient. And he didn’t want to do anything to contaminate that. Isn’t that amazing?