Teaching Notes are Bible studies we taught before GraceLife Ministries began publishing articles online in 1995. Some were presented as sermons, others as group studies.
Our hope is that these older studies will be a blessing to you in your life and ministry. Please use them in any way God leads you.
These teaching notes are from a series of studies about the Book of Genesis.
[These notes are from a study from almost 45 years ago.]
“And it came to pass in the days of Amraphel king of Shinar, Arioch king of Ellasar, Chedorlaomer king of Elam, and Tidal king of nations; That these made war with Bera king of Sodom, and with Birsha king of Gomorrah, Shinab king of Admah, and Shemeber king of Zeboiim, and the king of Bela, which is Zoar. All these were joined together in the vale of Siddim, which is the salt sea. Twelve years they served Chedorlaomer, and in the thirteenth year they rebelled.”
Now we are introduced to another phase of Abram’s life and I believe the believer and his battle with Satan and flesh (self).
Several kings are mentioned in this section:
- Amraphel (’amrāp̄el) King of Shina (Babylon – thought to be the renowned King Hammurabi)
- Arioch (’aryōwḵ) of Ellasar (probably Eri-Aku of Larsa – now Sinqara in central Babylonia)
- Chedorlaomer (kəḏārəlā‘ōmer) of Elam
- Tidal (ṯiḏ‘āl) of Goiim
- Bera (bera‘) of Sodom
- Birsha (birša‘) of Gomorrah
- Shinab (šin’āḇ) of Admah
- Shemeber (šem’êḇer) of Zeboiim
- Unamed king of Bela (Zoar)
For twelve years, Bera, Birsha, Shinab, Shemeber, and the King of Zoar had been subject to Chedorlaomer, but they rebelled in the thirteenth year.
“And in the fourteenth year came Chedorlaomer, and the kings that were with him, and smote the Rephaims in Ashteroth Karnaim, and the Zuzims in Ham, and the Emins in Shaveh Kiriathaim, And the Horites in their mount Seir, unto Elparan, which is by the wilderness. And they returned, and came to Enmishpat, which is Kadesh, and smote all the country of the Amalekites, and also the Amorites, that dwelt in Hazezontamar.”
In the fourteenth year, Chedorlaomer and his allies Amraphel, Arioch and Tidal went out and defeated the Rephaims in Ashteroth Karnaim, the Zuzims in Ham, the Emins in Shaueh Kiriathaim and the Horites in the hill country of Seir.
The conquerors then went to Enmishpat (Kadesh) and conquered the whole territory of the Amelekites, as well as the Amorites (from the line of Canaan). This took in most of Palestine. At that time the Amorites were living in Hazezontamar.
“And there went out the king of Sodom, and the king of Gomorrah, and the king of Admah, and the king of Zeboiim, and the king of Bela (the same is Zoar;) and they joined battle with them in the vale of Siddim; With Chedorlaomer the king of Elam, and with Tidal king of nations, and Amraphel king of Shinar, and Arioch king of Ellasar; four kings with five. And the vale of Siddim was full of slimepits; and the kings of Sodom and Gomorrah fled, and fell there; and they that remained fled to the mountain. And they took all the goods of Sodom and Gomorrah, and all their victuals, and went their way. And they took Lot, Abram’s brother’s son, who dwelt in Sodom, and his goods, and departed.”
With the forces of Chedorlaomer heading for them, the kings of Sodom, Gomorrah, Admah, Zeboiim and Zoar marched out and drew battle lines in the Valley of Siddin (probably the southern end of the Dead Sea).
There are four kings against five in the first war described in the Bible. These kings were leaders of cities and surrounding areas (city-states). Their kingdoms were probably small and only a few thousand soldiers would have traveled a long distance with them (at the most).
This valley was full of tar pits and when the armies of Sodom and Gomorrah retreated in battle, some of the men fell into them. The rest fled for the hills.
The four kings seized all the goods and food in Sodom and Gomorrah. They also carried off Abram’s nephew Lot, who was living in Sodom.
Here we have a horrible example of the greed and pride of men. Two qualities which must not be part of God’s man or woman.
“And there came one that had escaped, and told Abram the Hebrew; for he dwelt in the plain of Mamre the Amorite, brother of Eshcol, and brother of Aner: and these were confederate with Abram. And when Abram heard that his brother was taken captive, he armed his trained servants, born in his own house, three hundred and eighteen, and pursued them unto Dan. And he divided himself against them, he and his servants, by night, and smote them, and pursued them unto Hobah, which is on the left hand of Damascus. And he brought back all the goods, and also brought again his brother Lot, and his goods, and the women also, and the people.”
Abram is called a “Hebrew” for the first time. Etymologies could come from Eber, father of Peleg, or other words meaning “wanderers” or “those across.”
Abram was living near the trees of Mamre. Mamre was an Amorite. He was a brother (possibly ally) of Eschol (’eškōl) and Aner (‘ānêr), all of them allied with Abram.
Someone escaped to tell Abram about Lot and his family being taken. Abram got together 318 men in his household and headed out in hot pursuit. They got as far as Dan (northern Israel near Tyre or Sidon). It was a pretty long trip.
During the night, Abram divided his men up and they attacked. The armies retreated and were chased as far as Hobah (ḥōwḇāh). It is probably identical with the modern Hoba, which is about 60 miles northwest of Damascus, Syria.
This may have been an entirely supernatural victory or a combination of too much victory partying on the part of the four kings. They may have felt unbeatable and let down their guard.
Abram recovered Lot and the others plus all the goods the kings had stolen.
“And the king of Sodom went out to meet him after his return from the slaughter of Chedorlaomer, and of the kings that were with him, at the valley of Shaveh, which is the king’s dale.”
The King of Sodom came out to greet Abram in the valley of Shaveh, also known as the “Valley of the Kings.”
“And Melchizedek king of Salem brought forth bread and wine: and he was the priest of the most high God. And he blessed him, and said, Blessed be Abram of the most high God, possessor of heaven and earth: And blessed be the most high God, which hath delivered thine enemies into thy hand. And he gave him tithes of all.”
We are now introduced to a new figure in the biblical account. Melchizedek (malkîṣeḏeq) was the king of nearby Salem which later was called Jerusalem. Melchizedek was a priest as well as a king. He a priest of “God Most High” (’êl‘elyōwn).
Melchizedek blesses Abram with the blessing of El-Elyon who is “possessor of heaven and earth.” The word possessor is qōnêh. Then the king-priest praised God who delivered Abram’s enemies into his hands.
Next, Abram begins a precedent that falls even to our own generation. He gives Melchizedek a tenth of everything. That “everything” may have been the spoils of war or his own possessions.
Another interesting note is that Melchizedek brought bread and wine with him.
It is possible that this is merely a certain king of the day who happened to worship the True God or it might have been Shem, who may have still been alive, or it might be a theophany (Messiah). Any of these three seem possible.
The Bible presents Christ Jesus as “Superior” to the angels and greater than Moses. It also reminds us of the prophecy in Psalm 110:4 of the Messiah being “a priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek” and the fulfillment of that prophecy of Jesus Christ being “a priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec” (Hebrews 5:6).
We are told in Hebrews 7:1-3 that Melchizedek means “king of righteousness” and “King of Salem” means “King of peace.” He had no father or mother, no genealogy and no beginning of days or end of life.
If we take this to be exactly literal we must face a theophany, but if it is figurative or explanatory, then it Ould be an ancestor of Shem or even Shem himself.
It’s interesting that Jesus was a high priest after the “order” of Melchizedek. The word “order” is taxis in the Greek and speaks of the Divinely appointed character, nature, position, rank of the priesthood. The Hebrew word arakh also speaks of an arrangement in likeness or manner. Jesus was in the likeness or nature (similar position) of Melchizadek.
In Hebrews 7:11-17 the order of Melchizedek is compared with the order of Aaron. The comparison seems to stem from Melchizadek’s priesthood (and Christ’s) being based on the power of an indestructible life, whereas Aaron’s priesthood was based on a regulation of ancestry.
I doubt that Melchizedek was a theophany. I think he was a real-life king-priest in Salem (later known as Jerusalem) and was a true priest of God. Everyone else had gone polytheistic (except for Abram and Melchizedek). Abram was a polytheist until God called him to leave his land and travel to Canaan. Melchizedek may have never been a polytheist and always served the one True God. Hebrews would seem to imply that Melchizedek was specially chosen and preserved by God for a special purpose that began with Abram and continued through the Bible as an example of Jesus Christ the King-Priest. Melchizedek had no listed ancestry. He was not a king and priest because of what family he was born into, but because of the power of his life – a life given him by God that had no beginning or end – veritably indestructible.
If Melchizedek was human and not a theophany, he may have understood much about the suffering Savior (thus the bread and wine of Christ’s broken body and shed blood) or very little. He may have used the bread and wine in obedience to God without full understanding of its significance.
I don’t know for sure where Abram got the idea of giving a tenth of all he had, but it followed after him through the whole of Scripture. He may have been divinely inspired to do that or Melchizedek may have told him how much to give or Abram may have just given that amount out of the gratefulness of his heart. It’s also possible that a tenth was how much tribute subject people were expected to give to kings at that time. For whatever reason, it set a precedent for God’s people. We give a tenth (or more) out of the praise and thankfulness of our hearts for what God has done for us.
“And the king of Sodom said unto Abram, Give me the persons, and take the goods to thyself. And Abram said to the king of Sodom, I have lift up mine hand unto the Lord, the most high God, the possessor of heaven and earth, That I will not take from a thread even to a shoelatchet, and that I will not take any thing that is thine, lest thou shouldest say, I have made Abram rich: Save only that which the young men have eaten, and the portion of the men which went with me, Aner, Eshcol, and Mamre; let them take their portion.”
The King of Sodom asked Abram for the people and offered the goods to Abram. However, Abram made an oath with God earlier that he would take absolutely nothing belonging to the Sodomites. His reason – “lest thou shouldest say, I have made Abram rich.”
Abram wanted the three allies, Aner, Eschol and Mamre, to receive their share.
This is hard to interpret for today, but we have it to teach us and correct and train us (2 Timothy 3:16).
Even in the promises of God and walking in the Spirit we can be attacked by temptations. Our thoughts can even be taken captive. However, we must fight to bring them back into subjection to the Spirit. Jesus died to give us this power and is well-pleased with our battle. But let us not forget that God delivers the enemies into our hands. Though we stay out of Sodom (flesh), we are still under attack from Satan and the forces of evil.
We will look at Genesis Chapter 15 in the next part of our special series.
You can download and share the first 14 chapters of our study in Genesis here.
[Thank you for reading these teaching notes from almost 45 years ago. My prayer is they will be a blessing to you and your life and ministry.]