The Life of Abraham: War
Abram and Lot have separated and God has comforted Abram by confirming His promise to give the land to his descendants one day. Abram has temporarily settled by the oaks of Mamre and is living by faith in God’s promises to him.
In this next story, we are whisked back to Lot. The peace between the kingdoms of the land which he chose to settle is quickly breaking down and the political environment is suddenly destabilizing. This may have been a fertile land but it was not a peaceful land.
And it came about in the days of Amraphel king of Shinar, Arioch king of Ellasar, Chedorlaomer king of Elam, and Tidal king of Goiim, that they 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 (that is, (Zoar). All these came as allies to the valley of Siddim (that is, the Salt Sea). Twelve years they had served Chedorlaomer, but the thirteenth year they rebelled. In the fourteenth year Chedorlaomer and the kings that were with him, came and defeated the Rephaim in Ashteroth-karnaim and the Zuzim in Ham and the Emim in Shaveh-kiriathaim, and the Horites in their Mount Seir, as far as El-paran, which is by the wilderness. Then they turned back and came to En-mishpat (that is, Kadesh), and conquered all the country of the Amalekites, and also the Amorites, who lived in Hazazon-tamar. And the king of Sodom and the king of Gomorrah and the king of Admah and the king of Zeboiim and the king of Bela (that is, Zoar) came out; and they arrayed for battle against them in the valley of Siddim, against Chedorlaomer king of Elam and Tidal king of Goiim and Amraphel king of Shinar and Arioch king of Ellasar—four kings against five. Now the valley of Siddim was full of tar pits; and the kings of Sodom and Gomorrah fled, and they fell into them. But those who survived fled to the hill country. Then they took all the goods of Sodom and Gomorrah and all their food supply, and departed. They also took Lot, Abram’s nephew, and his possessions and departed, for he was living in Sodom. (Genesis 14:1-12)
This is the first recording of war in the Bible. These kings had all been united under one king for twelve years. But in the thirteenth year, five of these kings decided they no longer wanted this current situation and rebelled. The next year, four of the kingdoms that had chosen to stay true to the unity went out to quell the rebellion.
The four kingdoms succeeded in their mission and conquered the rebellious kings. In one specific battle, many of those who were not killed by the sword died in the tar pits. The ones who survived both the battle and the tar pits, fled to the hill country.
An interesting side note is that these are likely the same tar pits that the kingdom of Babel resourced the pitch to build their city and tower.
The conquering kingdoms then plundered the cities for their wealth.
These cities were some of the most wealthy cities in the ancient world. They had grown rich during the famine due to the fertility of their land. This made them arrogant and envied by others.
“Pride, covetousness, and ambition, are the lusts from which wars and fightings come. To these insatiable idols the blood of thousands has been sacrificed.” ~ Matthew Henry1
War is an outward expression of the sin within us. Adam and Eve enjoyed peace with God and creation before sin entered the world. But, after Adam and Eve sinned, we became genetically infected with sin. War is just one fruit of the sin that lies within all of this.
We know all too well that we are in a spiritual war every moment of the day. We are constantly moving from one battle against sin and our flesh to the next. When we focus on the moment by moment, we feel the exhaustion. We cry out with the writer of Ecclesiastes, “Vanity of vanities! All is vanity.” (Ecclesiastes 1:2)
This is why God, in His mercy, has given us the encouragement of the eschatological (end times) writings. These passages are not meant to scare us, cause us anxiety about the end times, or give us something to argue over. These passages are meant to encourage us, equip us, and give us hope and peace of the future.
By studying eschatology, we should not focus on how everything is going to unfold in the specifics but see that in the end, Jesus conquers the enemies, restores peace on earth, and provides a place for His Bride to spend all eternity in peace and worshiping God. The fact that God has revealed what He has about the end times in prophetic revelations and visions that seem strange to us is so that we do not get caught up in the specifics but see the big picture, the ultimate outcome.
Our daily struggle in the wars of this life whether, literal, philosophical, or spiritual, can be exhausting and discouraging. But we can have peace in the middle of the wars by remembering that our Lord, our King, our Chief Commander is sovereign and He has already told us that our side wins. Not only does He win in the end but He has told us that He works out everything, even calamity and suffering, for the good of His children (Romans 8:28).
Prisoner of War
In the last sentence of our passage, we find out why this war is even of interest to us. Lot has been taken as a prisoner of war.
There are a couple of things we can learn about this predicament that Lot has found himself in.
First, being righteous does not excuse us from the suffering of this world.
Lot is remembered in Scripture as being a righteous man (2 Peter 2:7). In spite of his many recorded failings, Lot is still remembered as righteous. Keeping this in mind, we see he is taken captive by these warring people. We wonder how God could let such a thing happen to a “righteous man.”
This fact proves the false teachings of the Word of Faith teachers, legalists, and promoters of karma, that if you do good, you will prosper and be successful. Jesus said in Matthew 5:45, “He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” We also read in Job of great calamity falling on a righteous man. Another example is found in John 9 where Jesus heals a blind man. His disciples ask Him who sinned to cause the man to be blind, the man or his parents. Jesus replies, “It was neither that this man sinned, nor his parents; but it was so that the works of God might be displayed in him.”
Bad things happen to godly people in this life and good things happen to evil people. In the midst of suffering, it is difficult for us to understand this phenomenon. However, we know, as I said above, that we can have hope and peace in the midst of suffering. We can rest in the knowledge that our Lord is sovereign and is using this suffering to sanctify us and bring about good.
One point that we can recognize in Lot being taken captive is that this was a mercy from God. While others of Sodom were being killed by the sword or dying in the tar pits, God caused the warring kings to spare Lot’s life. Lot had all his possessions taken from him but he was still allowed to live.
God may take everything from us to show us that He is enough. Job knew first hand about this. He lost all his children, his wealth, even his health failed. The only thing he was left with was a wife that told him to curse God and “friends” who suggested that he was to blame for the calamity that fell on his household. Yet, Job said, “Shall we indeed accept good from God and not accept adversity?”
Paul also suffered but God told him, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9).
Another thing we can learn about Lot’s predicament is that he would not have even been caught us in this fiasco if he had not been selfish and chosen the “better land.” Sometimes we are allowed to suffer due to the choices we make. We should look upon this as a mercy from God as well, however. When we suffer the consequences of our actions, it reemphasizes and helps us to remember to make a better choice next time. Pain will brand lesson into our minds to help us be better discerning in the future.
A lesson we see here with Lot can be applied to our lives today to be careful of the company you keep.
He who walks with wise men will be wise, But the companion of fools will suffer harm. (Proverbs 13:20)
Abram was a wise man but Abram chose to leave his companionship for what seemed like the “better land.” He lived among a very evil people and lost everything.
This doesn’t mean that we should never associate with the world but that should not be the “company we keep.” We are called to be participants in this world. We are called to do business with, submit to the authority of, and evangelize the world but we are not to be identified as one of the world.
Lot has been taken captive by the warring nations. All hope seems lost for him. The good news is that this is not the end of this story. Salvation is coming.
God did not leave His children as captives of sin but sent His Son to rescue us. God did not leave Lot in captivity to these pagan nations but sends Moses to rescue him. But, that is the story for next time.
1. Henry, Matthew. 2017. “Chapter 14 – Matthew Henry’s Commentary – Bible Gateway”. Biblegateway.Com. https://www.biblegateway.com/resources/matthew-henry/Gen.14.1-Gen.14.24.