« PreviousContinue »
ABRAM'S SLAUGHTER OF THE KINGS.
It has been already observed, that, to form a just judgment of character we must view men in divers situations : we should not have expected, however, to find Abram in the character of a warrior. Yet so it is : for once in his life, though a man of
he is constrained to take the sword. We have seen in him the friend of God, and the friend of a good man: now we sball see in him the friend of his country, though at present only a sojourner in it. The case appears to have been as follows.
Ver. 1–7. Elam and Shinar, or Persia and Babylon, and the country about them, being that part of the world where the sons of Noah began to settle after they went out of the ark, it was there that population and the art of war would first arrive at sufficient maturity to induce them to attempt the subjugation of their neighbours. Nimrod began this business in about a century after the flood, and his successors were no less ambitious to keep it. The rest of the world emigrating from those countries, would be considered as colonies, which ought to be subject to the parent states. Such it seems were the ideas of Chedorlaomer, who was at this time king of Elam, or Persia. About three or four years before Abram left Chaldea, he had invaded Palestine ; which being divided into little kingdoms, almost every city having its king, and having made but little progress in the art of war in comparison of the parent nations, fell an easy prey to his rapacity. In this humiliating condition they continued twelve years ; but being by that time weary of the yoke, five of these lesser kings, understanding one another, thought they might venture to throw it off.
Accordingly, the next year they refused to pay him tribute, or to be subject to the authority under which he had placed them.
Chedorlaomer, hearing of this, calls together his friends and allies among the first and greatest nations ; who consent to join their forces, and go with him to reduce these petty states to obedience. Four kings and their armies engage in this expedition. If each one brought only five hundred men with him, they would form a great bost for that early age of the world, and capable of doing a great deal of mischief. This they did : for not content with marching peaceably through the country till they arrived at the cities which had rebelled, they laid all places waste which they came at; smiting in their way, first the Rephaims, the Zurims, and the Emims; then the Horites of Mount Seir; and after them the Amalekites, and the Amorites.
Ver. 8—10. By this time, Abram's neighbours, the kings of Sodom, Admah, Zeboim, and Bela, must have been not a little alarmed. They and their people however determined to fight; and fight they did. The field of action was the vale of Siddim. Unhappily, the ground was full of slime pits, or pits of bitumen, much like those on the plains of Shinar; and their soldiers being hut little skilled in the art of war, could not keep their ranks, and so were foiled, routed, and beaten, by the superior discipline of the invaders. Many were slain in the pits ; and those that escaped fled to a neighbouring mountain, which being probably covered with wood, afforded them a shelter in which to hide themselves,
Ver. 11, 12. The conquerors, without delay, betake themselves to the spoil. They take all the goods of Sodom and Gomorrah, and all the victuals ; and what few people are left they take for slaves. Among these was Lot, Abram's brother's son, his friend, and the companion of his travels, with all his family, and all his goods; and this, notwithstanding he was only a sojourner, but lately come among them, and seems to hare taken no part in the
Oh Lot, these are the fruits of taking up thy residence in Sodom; or rather, the first-fruits of it: the harvest is yet to come!
Ver. 13. Among those who fled from the drawn sword, and the fearfulness of war, there was one who reached the plain of Mamre, and told the sad tale to Abram. Abram feels much : but what can he do? Can be raise an army wherewith to spoil the spoilers, and deliver the captives? He will try. Yes, from bis regard to Lot, whose late faults would be now forgotten and his former love recur to mind : and if be succeed, he will not only deliver him, but many others. The cause is a just one ; and God has promised to bless Abram, and make him a blessing. Who can tell, but he may prove in this instance a blessing to the whole country, by delivering it from the power of a cruel foreign oppressor?
Now we shall see how the Lord bath blessed Abram. Who would have thought it? He is able to raise three hundred and eighteen men in bis own family ; men well instructed too, possessing skill, principle, and courage. Moreover, Abram was so well respected by his neighbours, Mamre, Eschol, and Aner, that they had already formed a league of confederacy with him, to defend themselves, perhaps, against this blustering invader, whose coming had been talked of more than a year ago ; and they, with all the forces they can muster, consent to join with Abram in the pursuit.
Ver. 15, 16. By prompt movements, Abram and his troop soon come up with the enemy. It was in the dead of night. The conquerors, it is likely, were off their guard, thinking, no doubt, that the country was subdued, and that scarcely a dog was left in it that dare move his tongue against them. But when haughty men say, Peace, peace ; lo, sudden destruction cometh! Attacked after so many victories, they are surprised and confounded : and it being in the night, they could not tell but their assailants might be ten times more numerous than they were. So they flee in confusion, and were pursued from Dan even to Hobah in Syria, a distance it is said of fourscore miles. In this battle, Chedorlaomer and the kings who were with bim were all slain. Abram's object, however, was the recovery of Lot and his family; and having accomplished this, he is satisfied. It is surprising, that amidst all this confusion and slaughter their lives should be preserved ; yet
earth, would seem to intimate as much as this ; as it recognises the principle on which the right of Abram's posterity to possess themselves of Canaan depended. There is much heart in the blessing. We see the good man, as well as the priest of the most high God, in it: from blessing Abram, it rises to the blessing of Abram's God, for all the goodness conferred upon him.
In return for this solemn blessing, Abram gave him tithes of all. This was treating him in character, and in fact presenting the tenth of his spoils as an offering to God.
Ver. 21. All this time the king of Sodom stood by, and heard what passed; but it seems without feeling any interest in it. What passed between these two great characters appears to have made no impression upon him. He thought of nothing, and cared for nothing but what respected himself. He could not possibly claim any right to what was recovered, either of persons or things : yet he asks for the former, and speaks in a manner as if he would be thought not a little generous in relinquishing the latter.
Ver. 22, 23. Abram knew the man and his communications ; and perceiving his affected generosity, gave him to understand that he bad already decided, and even sworn, in the presence of the most high God, what he would do in respect of that part of the spoils which had previously belonged to him. Abram knew full well that the man who affected generosity in relinquishing what was not his own, would go on to boast of it, and to reflect on him as though he shone in borrowed plumes. No, says the patriarch. I will not take from a thread even to a shoe-latchet that which was thine, save that which the young men have eaten, and the portion of the men that went with me, Aner, Eschol, and Mamre.
In this answer of Abram we may observe, besides the above, several particulars :
1. The character under which he had sworn to God : JEHOVAH, the most high God, the possessor of heaven and earth. The first of these names was that by which God was made known to Abram, and still more to his posterity.* The last was that which had been
* What Moses says, in Exod. vi. 3, that God appeared to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, by the name of God Almighty ; but that by his name JEHOVAH he was not known to them, cannot be understood absolutely. It does not
just given to him by Melchisedek, and which appears to have made a strong impresssion on Abram's mind. By uniting them together, he in a manner acknowledged Melchisedek's God to be his God; and, while reproving the king of Sodom, expressed his love to him as to a brother.
2. His having decided the matter before the king of Sodom met him, as it seems he had, implies something highly dishonourable in the character of that prince. He must have been well known to Abram, as a vain, boasting, unprincipled man, or he would not have resolved in so solemn a manner to preserve himself clear from the very shadow of an obligation to him. And considering the polite and respectful manner in which it was common for this patriarch to conduct himself towards his neighbours, there must have been something highly offensive in this case, to draw from him so cutting and dismaying an intimation. It is not unlikely that he had thrown out some malignant insinuations against Lot and his old wealthy uncle, on the score of their religion. If so, Abram would feel happy in an opportunity of doing good against evil, and thus of heaping coals of fire upon his head.
The reason why he would not be under the shadow of an obligation, or any thing which might be construed an obligation to : him, was not so much a regard to his own honour, as the honour of him in whose name he had sworn. Abram's God had blessed him, and promised to bless him more, and make him a blessing. Let it not be said by his enemies, that with all his blessedness, it is of our substance that he is what he is. No, Abram can trust in the possessor of heaven and earth to provide for him, without being beholden to the king of Sodom.
3. His excepting the portion of the young men who were in league with him, shows a just sense of propriety. In giving up
appear however to have been used among the patriarchs in so peculiar a sense, as it was after the times of Moses among the Israelites. From thence, it seems very generally to denote the specific name of the God and King of Israel. In this view we perceive the force and propriety of such language as the follow" ing: JEHOVAH is our judge, JEHOVAA is our lawgiver, JEHOVAH is our king. -Oh JEHOVA!, Our Lord, how excellent is thy name in all the earth ! VOL. V.