There were a number of city-states throughout the Middle East at this time. Alliances were formed and broken and wars, big and small, were fought on an almost constant basis. Chapter 14 opens describing two of these sets of alliances and the war they were involved in. For twelve years Kedolaomer, king of Elam (his name, Kudur-Lagamer means 'servant of Lagamer," one of Elam's gods) had held the rebelling group in his control, demanding tax monies and gifts. Then came the rebellion. Lot was caught up in it. He had wanted the wealth the lush valley represented and thus was taken prisoner, along with his family, when Sodom was sacked. There is an interesting note here: "Now the Valley of Siddim was full of tar pits..." The NIV text note mentions that "lumps of asphalt are often seen even today floating in the sourthern end of the Dead Sea." In other words, this was a geologically active area. An interesting note about the Horites, who were involved. "Hor" in Hebrew means cave. For a long time these were thought to be cave men, but it was Hitler's archaeologists who discovered the material which showed they were the Hurrians, a non-Semitic people scattered throughout the area. A second interesting thing is that although Lot had started off NEAR Sodom, at the time the city was sacked, he was living IN Sodom. Many teaching on this part of Genesis mention that this is a wonderful picture of getting sucked in to sin. I do not disagree, but I think there might also be another picture involved. When we do not trust God for protection, we will trust man. Because of the political unrest n the area, Lot may well have moved his family into the city enclosure proper for protection. Now note that when Abram found out Lot had been taken captive, he only took with him the 318 men born and trained in his own household (among his servants and any friends allied with him who stayed in his emcampment on a permanent basis, with their children possibly intermarrying). With this little family group, he went after an encampment of thousands! Abram's method of attack is only mentioned in an offhanded way, but we will see it repeated a couple of other times with similar good results: "During the night Abram divided his men to attack them and he routed them..." It sounds so simple when it is written like that! Still, a night attack, especially if everyone was yelling, would have been quite confusing to the enemy, and they very well might have turned on each other in the dark. Abram is not a little successfull -- he is WILDLY successful! He recovers ALL captives and ALL stolen goods! When you think of that, that is incredible! On his way home, Abram has two different meetings with people. The first is with Melchizedek, king of Salem. The writer of Hebrews gives us a little information about this king: This Melchizedek was king of Salem, and prist of God Most High. He met Abraham returning from the defeat of the kings and blessed him, and Abraham gave him a tenth of everything. First, his name means 'king of righteousness'; then also 'king of Salem' means 'king of peace.' Without father or mother, without genealogy, wihtout beginning of days or end of life, like the Son of God he remains a priest forever. Just think how great he was: Even the patriarch Abraham gave him a tenth of the plunder! Just who was Melchizedek? When we think of the words 'king of righteousness' or 'king of peace,' we immediately think of Christ Jesus. Melchizedek is listed as without father or mother, genealogy or end of days. This combination has led many to think that Melchizedek was Christ in an Old Testament appearance, or theophany. There are several points which argue against this, however. First, the writer to the Hebrews states that he was LIKE the Son of God. Secondly, Abraham seemed to be aware of him as one of the priest-kings of one of the cities or city-states. What about "no genealogy... without father or mother...." etc. All this means is that the writer to the Hebrews, looking at their Torah, notes that Melchizedek is not in any of the genealogies, so no one knows who his father or mother was or when he died. What is even more interesting than any of this, at least to me, is that the Talmud, or books of the arguments of the various rabbis over various issues, mentions that Melchizedek was Shem, Noah's son! If that were true, then either the writer to the Hebrews was not aware of this when he stated Melchizedek had no father or mother or genealogy, or the idea that Melchizedek was Shem was relatively new. I don't know which one, to be honest. But here is a brief bit from the Talmud itself which is fascinating. Abraham said to Melchizedek, "How is it you came forth safely from the Ark?" "By reason of the charity we practised there." "But what charity was thee for you to practise? Were there any poor in the ark? Only Noah and his sons were there, so to whom could you have been charitable?" "To the animals, beasts, and birds. We did not sleep but gave each its food throughout the night" (ref: the Jerusalem Targum on Gen. 14:18; the Midrash to Psalm xxxvii. I; 126b) Abraham died before Shem did, according to the Bible. In fact, Shem lived to see (if they were around where he was) Isaac, Esau, and Jacob all born! Melchizedek probably was not a theophany. He may have been Shem. We don't know. What we do know is that Melchizedek came out to greet Abram and brought him refreshment. The term 'bread and wine' is a standard phrase for general refreshment and is probably not related at all to Communion established by Jesus. ALTHOUGH it makes a very nice picture... One thing arguing in favor of Melchizedek being Shem is that he blessed Abram, and Abram not only accepted the blessing, but gave Melchizedek a tenth of everything from the plunder. Clearly, Abram looked up to Melchizedek with respect and honor. Abram did not have to do this for political or economic reasons; so there must have been something else... After the meeting with Melchizedek, Abram is met by the king of Sodom, who offers him all the plunder if he would just let the people go home to Sodom! Evidently Melchizedek had already warned Abram that this would happen, for Abram's response was, "I have raised my hand to the Lord, God Most High, 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, Eshcol and Mamre. Let them have their share." And there the chapter ends. Abram is not grabby, not acquisitive, and, what is most important, not unfaithful to God.