Tuesday, June 6th, 2023
the Week of Proper 4 / Ordinary 9
the Week of Proper 4 / Ordinary 9
The Pulpit Commentaries The Pulpit Commentaries
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These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on Genesis 14". The Pulpit Commentary. https://studylight.org/
commentaries/ eng/ tpc/ genesis-14.html. 1897.
Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on Genesis 14". The Pulpit Commentary. https://studylight.org/
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And it came to pass. After the separation of Abram and Lot, the latter of whom now appears as a citizen of Sodom, and not merely a settler in the Jordan circle; perhaps about the eighty-fourth year of Abram's life (Hughes). The present chapter, "the oldest extant record respecting Abraham" (Ewald), but introduced into the Mosaic narrative by the Jehovistic editor (Knobel, Tuch, Bleek, Davidson), possesses traces of authenticity, of which not the least is the chronological definition with which it commences (Havernick). In the days of Amraphel. Sanscrit, Amrapala, keeper of the gods (Gesenius); Arphaxad (Furst); powerful people (Young, 'Analytical Concordance'); root unknown (Murphy, Kalisch). King of Skinar. Babel (Onkelos); Bagdad (Arabic version of Erpenius); Pontus (Jonathan); the successor of Nimrod (vide Genesis 10:10). Arioch. Sanscrit, Arjaka, venerated (Bohlen, Gesenius, Furst); probably from the root אֲרִי, a lion, hence leonine (Gesenius, Murphy). The name, which re. appears in Daniel 2:14, has been compared, though doubtfully, with the Urukh of the inscriptions. King of Ellasar. Pontus (Symmachus, Vulgate); the region between Babylon and Elymais (Gesenius); identified with Larsa or Laranka, the Λάρισσα or λαράχων of the Greeks, now Senkereh, a town of Lower Babylonia, between Mugheir (Ur) and Wrarka (Erech), on the left bank of the Euphrates (Rawlinson). Chedorlaomer. A "handful of sheaves," if the word be Phoenicio-Shemitie, though probably its true etymology should be sought in ancient Persian (Gesenius, Furst). The name has been detected by archaeologists in Kudurmapula, the Ravager of the West, whom monumental evidence declares to have reigned over Babylon in the twentieth century B.C.; and "Kudurnanhundi the Elamite, the worship of the great gods who did not fear," and the conqueror of Chaldaea, B.C. 2280; but in both instances the identifications are problematical. The name Chedorlaomer in Babylonian would be Kudur-lagamer; but as yet this name has not been found on the inscriptions. King of Elam. East of Babylonia, on the north of the Persian Gulf (cf. Genesis 10:22). And Tidal. "Fear, veneration" (Gesenius); terror (Murphy); "splendor, renown" (Furst); though the name may not be Shemitic. King of nations. The Scythians (Symmachus); the Galilean heathen (Clericus, Rosenmüller, Delitzsch), which are inappropriate in this connection nomadic races (Rawlinson); probably some smaller tribes so gradually subjugated by Tidal as to render it "impossible to describe him briefly with any degree of accuracy" (Kalisch).
That these made war. The LXX. connect the present with the preceding verse by reading "that Arioch," &c. Ewald interpolates "of Abram," before "that Amraphel." With Bera. "Gift—בֶּש־רַע (Gesenius). King of Sodom. "Burning, conflagration," as being built on bituminous soil, and therefore subject to volcanic eruptions; from סָדַם, conjectured to mean to burn (Gesenius). "Lime place," or "enclosed place;' from סָדָה, to surround (Furst). A mountain with fossil salt at the present day is called Hagv Usdum; and Galen also knew of a Sodom mountain. And with Birsha = בֶּן־רֶשַׁע "son of wickedness" (Gesenius); "long and thick" (Murphy); "strong, thick" (Furst). King of Gomorrah. Γομόῤῥα (LXX.); perhaps "culture, habitation" (Gesenius); "rent, fissure" (Furst). Shinab. "Father's tooth" (Gesenius); "splendor of Ab" (Furst); "coolness" (Murphy). King of Admah. Fruit region, farm city (Furst). And Shemeber. "Soaring aloft" (Gesenius). King of Zeboiim. Place of hyenas (Gesenius); gazelles (Murphy); a wild place (Furst). And the king of Bela. "Devoured," or "devouring" (Gesenius). Which is Zoar. "The small," a name afterwards given to the city (Genesis 19:22), and here introduced as being better known than the more ancient one.
All these—the last-named princes—were joined together—i.e. as confederates (so. and came with their forces)—in (literally, to) the vale of Siddim. The salt valley (LXX.); a wooded vale (Vulgate); a plain filled with rocky hollows (Gesenius), with which Genesis 14:10 agrees; the valley of plains or fields (Onkelos, Raschi, Keil, Murphy). Which is the salt sea. i.e. where the salt sea afterwards arose, on the destruction of the cities of the plain—Genesis 19:24, Genesis 19:25 (Keil, Havernick; cf. Josephus, ' Bell. Jud.,' 4.8, 4); but the text scarcely implies that the cities were submerged-only the valley. The extreme depression of the Dead Sea, being 1300 feet below the level of the Mediterranean ("the most depressed sheet of water in the world:" Stanley's 'Sinai and Palestine,' ch. 7.), conjoined with its excessive saltness (containing 26.25 per cent of saline particles), renders it one of the most remarkable of inland lakes. Its shores are clothed with loom and desolation. Within a mile from northern embouchure the verdure of the rich Jordan valley dies away. Strewn along its desolate margin lie broken canes and willow branches, with trunks of palms, poplars, and other trees, half embedded in slimy mud, and all covered with incrustations of salt. At its south-western corner stands the mountain of rock salt, with its columnar fragments, which Josephus says, in his day was regarded as the pillar of Lot's wife.
Twelve years—dating from the commencement of his reign (Murphy)—they served—and paid tribute (cf. 2 Kings 18:7)—Chedorlaomer. If the king of Elam was a Shemite prince, this was m accordance with the Noachic prophecy (Genesis 9:26); but according to the monuments the Elamits dynasty was Turanian. And in the thirteenth year—during the whole of the thirteenth year—they rebelled, or had rebelled.
And in (or during) the fourteenth year came Chedorlaomer, and the kings that were with him, and smote (because of actual or probable rebellion) the Rephaims. Γίγαντας (LXX.), a tribe of gigantic stature (from an Arabic root, to be high), the iron bed of whose last king, Og, measured nine yards in length and four in breadth (Deuteronomy 3:11); forming a portion of the aboriginal inhabitants of Palestine prior to the invasion of the Canaanites, though existing as a remnant as late as the conquest (Genesis 2:20; Genesis 3:11, Genesis 3:13). In Ashteroth Karnaim. Literally, Ashteroth of the Two Horns; so called either from its situation between two horn-shaped hills (Jewish interpreters), or because of the horned cattle with which it abounded (Hillery), or in honor of the goddess Ashtaroth, Astarte, or Venus, whose image was such as to suggest the idea of a horned figure (A Lapide, Gesenius, Kalisch); identified by some with the capital of Og (Keil), but by others distinguished from it (Wetstein); of uncertain site, though claimed to sin-rive in the ruins of Tell Ashtereh, near the ancient Edrei (Ritter); in those of Afineh, eight miles from Buzrah (Porter); in the modern village Mesarib (Burckhardt); or in El Kurnem or Ophein in Ledsha (Robinson). And the Zuzims. Probably the Zamzummims between the Arnon and the Jabbok (Deuteronomy 2:20). In Ham. "Possibly the ancient name of Rabba of the Ammonites (Deuteronomy 3:11), the remains being still preserved in the ruins of Amman" (Keil). And the Emims. Fearful and terrible men, the primitive inhabitants of Moab (Deuteronomy 2:10, Deuteronomy 2:11); called also Rephaims, as being of colossal stature. In Shaveh Kiriathaim. Literally, the plain of Kiriatkaim, or the plain of the two cities, situated in the district afterwards assigned to Reuben (Numbers 32:37); identified with Coraiatha, the modern Koerriath or Kereyat, ten miles west of Medebah (Eusebias, Jerome, Kalisch), which, however, rather corresponds with Kerioth, in Jeremiah 48:24 (Keil).
And the Horites. Literally, dwelling in caves; from char, a cave. In their mount Seir. Literally, wooded (Gesenius); hairy (Furst); rugged (Lange); probably with reference to the thick brushwood and forests that grew upon its sides. The cave men of Seir were the earlier inhabitants of the region lying between the Dead Sea and the Gulf of Elam, afterwards taken possession of by the Edomites (Deuteronomy 2:12; Jeremiah 49:16; Obadiah 1:3, Obadiah 1:4). Unto El-paran I.e. the oak or terebinth of Paran. Which is by the wilderness. Between the land of Edom and the fertile country of Egypt, and to the southward of Palestine, identified as the plateau of the Tîh, across which the Israelitish march lay from Sinai.
And they returned—from the oak of Paran, the southernmost point reached by the invaders—and came to En-mishpat—the Well of Judgment, regarded as a prolepsis by those who derive the name from the judgment pronounced on Moses and Aaron (À Lapide); but more probably the ancient designation of the town, which was so styled because the townsmen and villagers settled their disputes at the well in its neighborhood (Kalisch)—which is Kadesh, of which (Numbers 20:14) the exact site cannot now be ascertained, though the spring Ain Kades, on the heights of Jebel Hals', twelve miles east-south-east of Moyle, the halting-place of caravans (Rowland, Keil, Kalisch), and Petra (Josephus, Stanley), have been suggested as marking the locality. And smote all the country of the Amalekites. i.e. afterwards possessed by them, to the west of Edom. Amalek was a grandson of Esau (vide Genesis 36:12). And also the Amorites. The mountaineers, as distinguished from the Canaanites or lowlanders (cf. Genesis 10:16). That dwelt in Huezon-tamar. "The pruning of the palm;" afterwards Engedi, "the fountain of the wild goat," situated midway up the western shore of the Dead Sea, and now called Ain-jidy (cf. Joshua 15:62; 1 Samuel 24:1, 1Sa 24:2; 2 Chronicles 20:2; Ezekiel 47:10).
Genesis 14:8, Genesis 14:9
And there went out (to resist the onslaught of the victorious Asiatics) 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); (i.e. the five revolted monarchs of the Pentapolis) and they joined battle with them in the vale of Siddim (vide Genesis 14:3); 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 slime-pits. Literally, was pits, pits (cf. 2 Kings 3:16; Ezekiel 42:12 for examples of repeated nouns) of slime, bitumen or asphalte, and therefore unfavorable for flight. "Some of the wells near the Dead Sea are 116 feet deep, with a stratum of bitumen fifteen feet in depth, and as black as jet" (Inglis). And the kings of Sodom and Gomorrah fled and fell there. Stumbled into the pits and perished (Keil, Lange, Murphy), though if the king of Sodom escaped (Genesis 14:17), the language may only mean that they were overthrown there (Knobel, Rosenmüller, Bush, 'Speaker's Commentary'). And they that remained fled to the mountain, of Moab, with its numerous defiles.
And they (the conquering kings) took all the goods of Sodom and Gomorrah, and all their victuals, and went their way, ascending up the valley of the Jordan en route for Damascus.
And they took Lot, Abram's brother's son, who dwelt in Sodom. The last view of Lot saw him driving off his flocks and herds from Bethel. It betokens a considerable declension in spiritual life to behold him a citizen of Sodom. And his goods (all the property he had acquired through his selfish choice of the Jordan circle), and departed.
The capture of Lot, or Nemesis pursuing, sin.
I. AN EXAMPLE OF THE BITTER FRUITS OF WAR.
1. War is sometimes justifiable in its origin and objects. When undertaken to achieve or preserve national independence, to vindicate the liberties and secure the rights of men, or to repel the aggressions of ambitious despots, even war with all its bloody horrors may become an imperious and fierce necessity. It is difficult to determine whether on either side the campaign in the vale of Siddim was entitled to be so characterized. The kings of the Pentapolis were fighting for emancipation from a foreign yoke, and so far perhaps were entitled to be regarded as having right upon their side; yet they had themselves been invaders of a land which had originally been assigned to the tribes of Shem. But however the question of right may be settled as between these ancient warriors, it is certain their successors on the battle-fields of earth have much more frequently had the wrong upon their sides than the right.
2. Victory does not always favor those who seem to have the best cause. The maxim of the great Napoleon, that God is always on the side of the strongest battalions, is as wide astray from the exact truth on this important subject as is the prevailing sentiment that God always defends the right. The doctrine of Scripture is that the Lord of Hosts is independent of both regiments and rifles, can save by many or by few, and giveth the victory to whomsoever he will; and that not always does he choose to render these arms triumphant which are striking for the holiest cause, but sometimes, for reasons of his own, permits the wrong to trample down the right. The history of Israel and the records of modern warfare supply numerous examples.
3. Disastrous and terrible are the usual concomitants of war. Not that God does not frequently overrule the hostilities of contending nations, and evolve from the murderous designs of monarchs results the most beneficial, making war the pioneer of civilization, and even of religion; but the immediate effects of international strife are ever ruinous and appalling—fruitful fields devastated, fair cities sacked, valuable property destroyed, lives of men wasted, a nation's blood and treasure poured out like water, lamentation: mourning, and woe commissioned to many homes, and a burden of care and sorrow laid on all. All this was exemplified in the present instance.
4. When war arises the innocent largely suffer with the guilty. Had the campaign against the kings of the Pentapolis not been prepared, it is probable that the Rephaims, Zuzims, Emims, Horites, Amalekites, and Amerites would not have suffered at the hands of Chedorlaomer, and it is certain that Lot would not have been made a prisoner by the victorious monarch. Now, so far as the primal reason of this invasion was concerned, all these were innocent of any offence against the Asiatic king, and yet they were amongst the victims of his wrath against the rebels of the Jordan circle.
II. AN INSTANCE OF DIVINE RETRIBUTION.
1. Deserved. Although Lot was a righteous man, he had egregiously sinned,
(1) in choosing the Jordan circle as his portion,
(2) in making his abode in Sodom,
(3) in continuing amongst the inhabitants when he ascertained their ungodly character.
Consequently God avenged himself upon his erring servant by allowing him to lose his property, and to come near the losing of his life as well in the sacking of the city. So "the face of the Lord is set against them that do evil."
2. Unexpected probably as to its cause, Lot thinking he had committed nothing worthy of chastisement, for sin has a strange power of obscuring the moral vision and deadening the voice of conscience; almost certainly as to its time, God's judgments for the most part taking men unawares (cf. Psalms 73:18, Psalms 73:19), and evil-doers being commonly snared in an evil time, like the fishes of the sea (Ecclesiastes 9:12), walking like blind men because they have sinned against the Lord (Zephaniah 1:17); and more than likely as to its form, those who anticipate the outpouring of Divine indignation being seldom able to discern beforehand the special character it will assume.
3. Appropriate. Lot had chosen the Jordan circle as the most advantageous locality for thriving in his flocks and herds, and Chedorlaomer's armies swept his folds and stalls entirely clean. He had elected to live among the filthy Sodomites, and so he is compelled to fare as they. God's recompenses to evil-doers (whether saints or sinners) are never unsuitable, though man's often are.
4. Merciful. He might have lost his life in the general massacre of the city's inhabitants, but he only lost his property, or rather it was not yet lost, although, doubtless, Lot imagined that it was; only pillaged and carried off along with himself, his wife, and daughters. So God ever mingles mercy with judgment when dealing with his people.
5. Premonitory. Though all retribution is not designed to admonish and reprove, this was. The vengeance taken on the wicked at the Day of Judgment will be purely punitive; that which falls upon transgressors while on earth is aimed at their amendment. Unhappily, however, as in the case of Lot, it is sometimes inefficacious. Instead of taking warning at what might have proved his ruin, Lot was no sooner rescued than he returned to Sodom. So great providential judgments and great providential mercies are often equally despised.
HOMILIES BY J.F. MONTGOMERY
The kingdom of God in its relation to the contending powers of this world.
I. GOD'S JUDGMENTS ARE ALREADY BEGINNING TO FALL. War is made by confederate kings or princes against the people of the wicked cities of the plain, who by their propinquity would naturally be leagued together, but by their common rebellion against Chedorlaomer were involved in a common danger. Notice the indication of the future judgment given in the course of the narrative—"the vale of Siddim was full of slime-pits." God's vengeance underlies the wicked, ready to burst forth on them in due time.
II. THE UNFAITHFUL LOT IS INVOLVED IN THE JUDGMENT. He and his goods are taken. For while before it is said he pitched his tent near to Sodom, now we find that he is in Sodom.
III. THE MEDIATION OF ABRAM, representative of that of God's people in the world, procures the deliverance of the backsliding. He has already succeeded in drawing strength to himself; and doubtless Abram the Hebrew represented a nucleus of higher life even in that land of the idolatrous and degenerate which was recognized as in some sense a refuge to which men could appeal.
IV. THE VICTORY OF THE CHILD OF GOD, with his small company, over the great army of heathen is typical. It represents, like the victory of David over Goliath, &c; the superior might of the spiritual world (cf. 1 Corinthians 1:27-31).
V. THE HOMAGE PAID TO ABRAM as the conqueror both by the heathen king of Sodom and the priest-king of Salem is typical of the superior position of the covenant people. Abram gave tithes to Melchizedek (cf. Hebrews 7:1-7) as an acknowledgment of the superiority of the position of Melchizedek, but Melchizedek blessed Abram as the possessor of the promise. The idea is that Melchizedek was the priest of a departing dispensation, Abram the recipient of the old and the beginning of the new.
VI. ABRAM'S STRICT SEPARATION from the worldly power, which he rested on an oath of faithfulness to God, shows that he is decidedly advancing in spiritual character. The contrast is very striking between his conduct and that of Lot. He at the same time does not attempt to enforce his own high principle upon others. The Church of God has suffered much from its attempts to apply its own high rules to the world instead of leaving the world to find out for itself their superiority and adopt them.—R.
And there came one that had escaped. Literally, the fugitive party, the article denoting the genus, as in "the Canaanite,'' Genesis 12:6. And told Abram the Hebrew. "The immigrant" trans fluvialis, ὁ περάτης, from beyond the Euphrates, if applied to the patriarch by the inhabitants of Palestine (LXX; Aquila, Origen, Vulgate, Keil, Lange, Kalisch); but more probably, if simply inserted by the historian to distinguish Abram from Mature the Amorite, "the descendant of Eber" (Lyra, Drusius, Calvin, Bush, Candlish, Murphy, 'Speaker's Commentary;' vide on Genesis 10:21). For he dwelt—literally, and (sc. at that time) he was dwelling—in the plain—rather "oak groves" (vide Genesis 13:18)—of Mature the Amorite, the brother of Eshcol, and brother of Anor, concerning whom nothing is certainly known beyond the fact that they were Canaanitish chieftains (probably possessing some remnant of the true faith, like Melchisedeck) with whom the patriarch entered into an offensive and defensive alliance. And these were confederate—literally, lords of covenant, i.e. masters or possessors of a treaty (cf. "lord or possessor of dreams," Genesis 37:19; "lords or masters of arrows," 2 Kings 1:8); rendered συνωμόται (LXX.)—lords of the oath, as in Nehemiah 6:18, ἔνορκοι (LXX.)—wit Abram.
And when Abram heard that his brother—so called as his brother's son, or simply as his relative (Genesis 42:8)—was taken captive, he—literally, and he—armed—literally, caused to pour forth, i.e. drew out in a body, from a toot signifying "to pour out" (Gesenius, Furst); from a root meaning to unsheath or draw out anything as from a scabbard, and hence equivalent to expedivit, he got ready (Onkelos, Saadias, Rosenmüller, Bush, 'Speaker's Commentary'). Kalisch connects both senses with the root. The LXX; Vulgate, and others translate "numbered," reading later יָּדֵּק for יָּרֵק his trained—literally, initiated, instructed, but not necessarily practiced in arms (Keil); perhaps only familiar with' domestic duties (Kalisch), since it is the intention of the writer to show that Abram conquered not by arms, but by faith—servants, born in his own house—i.e. the children of his own patriarchal family, and neither purchased nor taken in war—three hundred and eighteen—which implied a household of probably more than a thousand souls—and—along with these and his allies (vide Genesis 14:24)—pursued them—the victorious Asiatics—unto Dan—which is here substituted for its older name Laish, for which vide Joshua 19:47 (Ewald), though regarded by some as not the Laish Dan conquered by the Danites, but probably Dan-jaan, mentioned in 2 Samuel 24:6 (Havernick, Keil, Kalisch); against which, however, is the statement of Jose. phus ('Ant.,' 1.10), that this Dan was one of the sources of the Jordan. Murphy regards Dan as the original designation of the town, which was changed under the Sidonians to Laish (lion), and restored at the conquest. Clericus suggests that the Jordan fountain may have been styled Dan, "Judge," and the neighboring town Laish, and that the Danites, observing the coincidence of the former with the name of their own tribe, gave it to the city they had conquered. Alford is doubtful whether Dan-juan was really different from Laish.
And he divided himself (i.e. his forces) against them, he and his servants (along with the troops of his allies), by night, and (falling on them unexpectedly from different quarters) smote them, and pursued them unto Hobah. A place Choba is mentioned in Judith 15:5 as that to which the Assyrians were pursued by the victorious Israelites. A village of the same name existed near Damascus in the time of Eusebius, and is "probably preserved in the village Hoba, mentioned by Troilo, a quarter of a mile to the north of Damascus" (Keil); or in that of Hobah, two miles outside the walls, or in Burzeh, where there is a Moslem wady, or saint's tomb, called the sanctuary of Abraham. Which is to the left of (i.e. to the north of, the spectator being supposed to look eastward) Damascus. The metropolis of Syria, on the river Chrysorrhoas, in a large and fertile plain at the foot of Antilibanus, the oldest existing city in the world, being possessed at the present day of 150,000 inhabitants.
And he brought back all the goods. Col-harecush. The LXX. translate τὴν ἵππον, as if they read רֶכֶשׁ for רְכֻשׁ. And also brought again his brother Lot, and his goods. Καὶ πάντα τὰ ὑπάρχοντα αὐτοῦ (LXX.). And the women also, and the people.
The kinsman deliverer, or Abram's military expedition.
I. ABRAM'S ELEVATED PIETY.
1. Self-forgetful magnanimity. Had the patriarch possessed a less noble soul, the tidings of his nephew's capture would almost certainly have kindled in his breast a secret feeling of complacency. But not only in his behavior on the occasion was there the complete absence of any such revengeful disposition as gloats with satisfaction over the punishment of a wrong-doer, there was something like a manifest unconsciousness of having ever suffered injury at Lot's hands at all.
2. Brotherly compassion. If he did sometimes admit to himself that his nephew had scarcely acted handsomely towards him, any feeling of resentment with which that reflection may have been associated was completely swallowed up by the sorrow which he felt for that nephew's fate. After all Lot was his dead brother's son, and was a child of God as well, and he could not choose but be affected by the melancholy news. Besides being self-forgetful, the piety of Abram was sympathetic.
3. Active benevolence. Meekly patient of injuries when inflicted on himself, the patriarch was ever ready to redress the wrongs of others, even of the undeserving. Nor was his philanthropy of that weakly benevolent sort which is always going to do some act of kindness to others, but never does it, or is so unaccountably slow in doing it that it comes to be practically of little use, or that would willingly extend a helping hand to the unfortunate if it could only be done without much trouble; on the contrary, it was prompt, decisive, energetic, and carried through with much labor, and at considerable risk to his own personal safety.
II. ABRAM'S MILITARY GENIUS.
1. Unexpectedly evoked. The last thing which ordinary minds would anticipate as an element in the character of one so good, pious, benevolent, and magnanimous as Abram the Hebrew, there is yet no essential incongruity between the talents of a soldier and the graces of a Christian; while as for the patriarch suddenly discovering all the qualities of a great commander, it is perhaps sufficient to reply that hitherto the crisis had not arrived to call them forth. The annals of warfare, both ancient and modern, attest that true military genius has not always been confined to professors of the soldier's art, but has oftentimes been discovered, of the rarest kind, in persons who, till summoned forth by Providence, have been engaged in peaceful callings.
2. Brilliantly displayed. In the gallant exploit of the patriarch are exhibited the tactics that from time immemorial have been adopted by all great generals—by Miltiades and Themistocles of Greece, by Julius Caesar, by Belisarius, the general of Justinian, by Oliver Cromwell, by Napoleon, by Stonewall Jackson and Sherman of America, and again by Von Moltke of Prussia—celerity of movement, suddenness of attack, skilful division of forces, outflanking and outmarching of the enemy.
3. Completely successful. The foe was defeated, the prisoners and spoil were recaptured, and it does not appear that Abram or his allies lost a man. That generalship is the best which accomplishes its object at the least expense of soldiers' blood and subjects' treasure.
III. ABRAM'S WONDER-WORKING FAITH. It afforded—
1. A sufficient ground on which to go to war. The question as to Abram's right to mingle contest in the Sodom valley is fairly answered by replying that Abram had the right
(1) of natural affection to attempt the rescue of his relative,
(2) of a sacred humanity to liberate the captive and punish the oppressor, and
(3) of faith. Already God had given him the land, and we are fully warranted in regarding him as acting in this heroic expedition in the capacity of (under God) lord-paramount of the soil.
2. The necessary power with which to prosecute the war. Possessed of military genius though the patriarch was, it is not supposable that he entered upon this campaign against the trained armies of the conquering kings, pursuing them along a difficult and dangerous track, without first casting himself on the Almighty and as his strength. And if that Almighty arm, in order to succor him, took the way of developing the capabilities for warfare which had hitherto been lying dormant in his soul, it was none the less true that the help which he received was Divine.
3. The splendid victory which resulted from the war. Whether the writer to the Hebrews (Gen 11:1-32 :34) thought of Abram when he spoke of faith's heroes subduing kingdoms and waxing valiant in the fight, it is apparent that Isaiah (Genesis 41:2, Genesis 41:3) ascribed the triumph of the son of Terah to the grace of God, which thus rewarded the faith which, in obedience to a Divine impulse, sprang to the relief of Lot.
IV. ABRAM'S TYPICAL CHARACTER. The symbolic foreshadowing of the great kinsman Deliverer is too obvious to be overlooked.
1. In his person the Lord Jesus Christ, like Abram, was the kinsman of those whom he delivered.
2. The work he undertook, like that of Abram, was the emancipation of his brethren.
3. As in the case of Abram, that work consisted in despoiling the principalities and powers of evil.
4. The motive by which he was impelled on this arduous warfare was, like that which inspired the patriarch, love for his kinsmen.
5. The promptitude of Christ in coming to the aid of men was typified by Abram's celerity in hastening to the rescue of Lot.
6. As the campaign of Abram, so the warfare of Christ was carried through at great expense of toil and suffering to himself.
7. In the faith of Abram was shadowed forth the calm reliance of the Savior that all he did was in obedience to his Father's will.
8. The success with which the patriarch was rewarded was emblematic of the higher victory of Christ.
1. To imitate the piety of Abram.
2. To admire in him, if we cannot in ourselves, the possession of superior abilities.
3. To covet earnestly the wonderworking faith which he displayed.
4. To trust in the great kinsman Deliverer of which he was the type.
HOMILIES BY W. ROBERTS
Abram's expedition a sermon for the New Testament Church.
I. THE LITTLE ARMY; emblematic of the handful of Christ's disciples at the first, and of the comparative feebleness of the Church still; yet "God's strength is ever made perfect in weakness," and so "the weakness of God becomes stronger than men."
II. THE TRUSTY CONFEDERATES; regarding the Amorite chieftains as possessors of the true faith, suggestive of the united purpose and action by which the Church of Christ in all its parts should be governed, and of the weakness that springs from divided counsels.
III. THE RAPID MARCH; a picture of the holy celerity and earnest zeal with which the Church should set about her enterprise of conquering the world for Christ; a reminder of how much may be lost by delay.
And the king of Sodom—Bera, or his successor (vide Genesis 14:10)—went out to meet him (i.e. Abram) after his return from the slaughter (perhaps too forcible an expression for mere defeat) of Chedorlaomer, and the kings that were with him (the entire clause from "after" is parenthetical), at the valley of Shaveh. A valley about two stadia north of Jerusalem (Josephus, 'Ant.,' 8.10), supposed to be the valley of the Upper Kedron, where Absalom's pillar was after. wards erected (2 Samuel 18:10); which may be correct if the Salem afterwards mentioned was Jerusalem (vide infra); but if it was not, then the exact site of Shaveh must be left undetermined. Which is the king's dale. Or valley (emek); so styled because suitable for kingly sports or military exercises (Onkelos); because of its beauty (Poole); because Melchisedeck had his camp and palace there (Malvenda); or most likely because of the interview between him and Abram which there occurred (Keil, Lange), with which agrees the rendering τὸ πεδίον τῶν βασιλέων, (LXX.).
And Melchisedeck. "King of righteousness" (Hebrews 7:2); an indication that the Canaanitish language was Shemitie, having been probably 'adopted from the original Shemite inhabitants of the country. Not a titular designation, like Augustus, Pharaoh, or Malek-ol-adel (rexjustus) of the Mohammedan kings (Cajetan), but the name of a person; neither an angel (Origen), nor the Holy Ghost (Hieracas), nor some great Divine power (the Melchisedecians), all of which interpretations are baseless conjectures; nor Christ (Ambrose), which is contrary to Hebrews 6:20; Norghem (Targums, Lyre, Willet, Luther, Ainsworth), which Hebrews 7:3 sufficiently negatives; but most probably a Canaanitish prince by whom the true faith was retained amid the gloom of surrounding heathenism (Josephus, Irenaeus, Eusebius, Calvin, A Lapide, Delitzsch, Keil, Rosenmüller, Candlish, Bush), though it has been suggested that "the enlightenment of the king of Salem was but a ray of the sun of Abram's faith" (Kalisch), an opinion difficult to harmonize with Hebrews 7:4. King of Salem = "king of peace (Hebrews 7:1). The capital of Melchisedeck was either Jerusalem, of which the ancient name was Salem, as in Psalms 76:2 (Josephus, Onkelos, Aben Ezra, Kimchi, Knobel, Delitzsch, Keil, Kalisch, Murphy, Bush); or a city on the other side Jordan en route from Damascus to Sodom (Ewald); or, though less likely, as being too remote from Sodom and the king's dale, Salem in the tribe of Ephraim, a city near Scythopolis, where the ruins of Melchisedeck's palace were said to exist (Jerome), and near to which John baptized (Bochart). Brought forth bread and wine. As a refreshment to the patriarch and his soldiers (Josephus, Calvin, Clarke, Rosenmüller), which, however, was the less necessary since the spoils of the conquered foe were in possession of Abram and his men (Kalisch); hence mainly as a symbol, not of his transference of the soil of Canaan to the patriarch, bread and wine being the chief productions of the ground (Lightfoot), or of his gratitude to Abram, who had recovered for the land peace, freedom, and prosperity (Delitzsch), or of the institution of the Supper by the Lord Jesus Christ (Bush); but of the priestly benediction which followed and of the spiritual refreshment which it conferred upon the soul of Abram (Kalisch, Murphy). The Romish idea, that the act of Melchisedeck was sacrificial, is precluded by the statement that he brought forth the bread and wine before the people, and not before God. And he was the priest. Cohen; one who undertakes another's cause, hence one who acts as mediator between God and man, though the primary signification of the root is doubtful and disputed. The necessity for this office has its ground in the sinfulness of man, which disqualifies him for direct intercourse with a holy Being (cf. Kurtz, 'Sacrificial Worship,' ch. 1. b.). The occurrence of this term, here mentioned for the flint time, implies the existence of a regularly-constituted form of worship by means of priests and sacrifice. Hence the Mosaic cultus afterwards instituted may only have been a resuscitation and further development of what had existed from the beginning. Of the most high God. Literally, El-Elion, a proper name for the Supreme Deity (occurring only here, in the narrative of Abram's interview with the kings); of which the first term, El, from the same root as Elohim (Genesis 1:1, q.v.), signifies the Strong One, and is seldom applied to God without some qualifying attribute or cognomen, as El-Shaddai, or El, the God of Israel; and the second, 'Elion (occurring frequently afterwards, as in Numbers 24:16; Deuteronomy 32:18; Ps 7:18; Psalms 9:2), describes God as the High, the Highest, the Exalted, the Supreme, and is sometimes used in conjunction with Jehovah (Psalm. 7:18), and with Elohim (Psalms 57:3), while sometimes it stands alone (Psalms 21:8). Most probably the designation here describes the name under which the Supreme Deity was worshipped by Melchisedeck and the king of Sodom, whom Abram recognizes as followers of the true God by identifying, as in Verse 22, El-Elion with Jehovah.
And he blessed him (in which act appears his distinctively sacerdotal character), and said (the form of the benediction is poetical, consisting of two parallel stanzas), Blessed be Abram—so Isaac blessed Jacob (Genesis 27:27), and Jacob Joseph (Genesis 48:15), conveying in each case a Divine bone-diction—of the most high God—לְ after a passive verb indicating the efficient cause—possessor—so Onkelos and Calvin; but koneh, from kanah, to erect, set up, hence found or create, means founder and creator (Gesenius), combines the meanings of κτίζειν and κτᾶσθαι (Keil), contains no indistinct allusion to the doctrine of Genesis 1:1 (Murphy), and is rendered ὃς ἔκτισε (LXX.) and qui creavit (Vulgate)—of heaven and earth.
And blessed be the most high God (cf. Gen 9:1-29 :56), who hath delivered—miggen, a word peculiar to poetry—nathan (cf. Proverbs 4:9; Hosea 11:8)—thine enemies—tsarecha, also a poetical expression—'ōyeb (cf. Deuteronomy 32:27; Job 16:9; Psalms 81:15)—into thy hand. And he—not Melchisedeck (Jewish interpreters), but Abram (Josephus, LXX; Jonathan, Hebrews 7:6)—gave him (not Abram, but Melchisedeck) tithes "tenths." These, being the customary offering to the Deity, were an acknowledgment of the Divine priesthood of Melchisedeck. The practice of paying tithes, primarily a voluntary tax for the servants of the sanctuary, appears to have obtained among different nations from the remotest antiquity (vide Dr. Ginsburg in 'Kitto's Cyclopedia,' art. Tithes). The tithal law was afterwards incorporated among the Mosaic statutes (Le Genesis 27:30-33; Num 18:1-32 :51-32)—of all—the spoils which he had taken (Hebrews 7:4.)
And the king of Sodom (who, though first coming, appears to have retired in favor of the greater personage, Melchisedeck, and to have witnessed the interview between him and Abram, but who now, on its termination, advances—said unto Abram,—perhaps anticipating that like donations from the spoils might be made to him as to Melchisedeck, in which case he evinced a remarkable degree of generosity—Give me the persons—literally, the souls, i.e. those of my people whom you have recovered (cf. Genesis 12:5, in which the term is employed to describe domestic slaves)—and take the goods to thyself (which, Michaelis observes, he was justly entitled to do by right of conquest).
And Abram said unto the king of Sodom, I have lift up mine hand—a common form of swearing (Deuteronomy 32:40; Ezekiel 20:5,Ezekiel 20:6; Daniel 12:7; Revelation 10:5, Revelation 10:6; cf. Virg; 'AEn.,' 12.195)—unto the Lord (Jehovah; which, occurring in the present document, proves the antiquity of its use as a designation of the Deity), the most high God,—El-Elion; thus identifying Jehovah with the God of Melchisedeck, and perhaps of the king of Sodom (vide supra)—the possessor of heaven and earth.
That I will not take—literally, if (sc. I shall take); an abbreviation for "May God do so to me, if …!" (cf. 1 Samuel 3:17; 2 Samuel 3:35). The particle אִם has the force of a negative in adjuration—from a thread even to a shoe-latchet, and that I will not take any thing (literally, and if I shall take anything) that is thine,—literally, of all that (sc. belongs) to thee—lest thou shouldest say (literally, and thou shalt not say), I have made Abram rich. Though not averse to accept presents from heathen monarchs (Genesis 12:16), the patriarch could not consent to share in the wealth of the impious Sodomites; in this a striking contrast to Lot.
Save—בִּלְעָדַי, compounded of בַּל, not, and עַד, unto—not unto; a particle of deprecation, meaning, "nothing shall come unto me" (cf. Genesis 41:16)—only that which the young men—נַעַר, a primitive word (cf. Sanscrit, nara, man; nari, nari, woman; Zend; naere; Greek, ἀνήρ), applied to a new-born child (Exodus 2:1-26; Exodus 2:1-26; 1 Samuel 4:21), a youth of about twenty (Genesis 34:19; Genesis 41:15), a servant, like παῖς (Genesis 37:2; 2Ki 5:1-27 :50), a common soldier (1 Kings 20:15, 1 Kings 20:17, 1 Kings 20:19; 2 Kings 19:6)—have eaten, and the portion of the men who went with me, Aner, Eshcol, and Mature; let them take their portion.
IV. THE SKILFUL TACTICS; proclaiming the same doctrine as Christ—that his people should be wise as serpents; revealing the necessity for the Church making use Of the most brilliant abilities she can command on all her different fields of action.
V. THE SPLENDID VICTORY; a foreshadowing of the final triumph which awaits the Church, and of the blessing which, through its instrumentality, will eventually descend upon the world.—W.
Visited by kings.
I. THE KING OF SALEM.
1. His exalted person. Neither a supramundane being, an angel, the Holy Ghost, or Christ; nor one of the early patriarchs, such as Enoch or Shem; but a Canaanitish (Shemite?) prince, whose capital was Salem (Jerusalem), and who united in his person the double function of priest and monarch of his people; probably the last official representative of the primitive religion, who here advances to meet and welcome the new faith in the person of Abram, as at a later period John Baptist recognized and saluted Christ.
2. His twofold designation. Melchisedeck, king of Salem, i.e. king of righteousness and king of peace (Hebrews 7:2); descriptive of—
(1) Personal excellence. Pious in spirit and peace-loving in disposition, he was not only fitted to be a type of the Meek and Holy One, but admirably qualified to be a governor of men and a minister of religion. Happy the land whose throne is filled by purity and love, and the Church whose teachers illustrate by their lives the religion they profess!
(2) Regal sway. Righteous in principle, as a consequence his kingly rule was peaceful in administration; thus again constituting him an eminent foreshadowing of the righteous King and Prince of peace, as well as an instructive pattern and guide to earth's rulers. When righteousness and peace occupy the throne they seldom fail to reign throughout the land.
(3) Priestly work. The specific function of his sacerdotal office being to make peace between God and sinful men, probably by means of sacrifice, and thus to cover with righteousness as with a garment those who were exposed to condemnation, he a third time symbolized the great King-Priest of the New Testament Church; while at the same time he seemed to proclaim this important truth, that they who labor in the priest's office should diligently strive for the salvation of souls.
3. His mysterious appearance. Of unknown parentage, of unrecorded genealogy, of unchronicled existence, the unique personality of this grand old king-priest flashes meteor-like across the path of the conquering patriarch, emerging from the gloom of historical obscurity, and almost instantaneously vanishing into inscrutable seclusion. Spirit-taught writers of later times discerned in this ancient figure, so enigmatical and mysterious, a Divinely-appointed type of the ever-living High Priest, "the Son who is consecrated for evermore."
4. His regal hospitality. Whatever additional significance attached to the banquet on the plain of Shaveh, it was clearly designed as a refreshment for the victorious patriarch and his wearied soldiers. So should earthly monarchs gratefully and sumptuously reward those who at the risk of their lives maintain the cause and vindicate the rights of the oppressed within their borders. So does heaven's King provide for his toiling followers.
5. His priestly benediction.
(1) The blessing conferred on Abram was not simply the expression of a wish, but the actual conveyance by Divine authority of the good which it proclaimed; and so is Christ invested with supreme power to bless and save.
(2) The ascription of praise to God was a sincere declaration of the patriarch's gratitude for the heavenly succor vouchsafed in connection with his military expedition; and so should God's redeemed ones, whom he has delivered out of the hands of the enemy, cherish a lively recollection of Divine mercies, and offer heartfelt thanksgivings through the one Mediator.
6. His public recognition. In presence of the king of Sodom and his people, his confederates and their forces, as well as of his own domestics, the patriarch delivered into the hands of Melchisedeck a tenth part of the spoils. Designed as a solemn act of worship to Jehovah, it was both an acknowledgment of the claim which God's minister had upon his countenance and support, and a symbol of the service,—the voluntary devotement of a liberal portion of their substance,—which should by all saints be yielded to him who has been constituted a Priest for ever after the order of Melchisedeck.
II. THE KING OF SODOM.
1. His courteous behavior. Displayed in retiring before Melchisedeck's advance, and deferring the prosecution of his suit till the termination of the king-priest's interview with the patriarch, it may be regarded as suggesting
(1) the politeness which in all ranks of society, but especially in intelligent and educated circles, should regulate the intercourse of man with man;
(2) the deference which should be paid, by even kings and those in authority, to the ministers of religion;
(3) the homage which, though unwillingly, the world sometimes is obliged to render to the Church; and
(4) the preference which should ever be assigned to heaven's business over that of earth.
2. His generous proposal. Made to Abram, this evinced—
(1) Lively gratitude towards the patriarch for his distinguished services. Persons of known profligacy of character and life at times discover sparks of true nobility which proclaim them not entirely lost; and not infrequently individuals not professing to be pious outshine the followers of Christ in acts of self-renunciation, and in thankful acknowledgment of benefits (Luke 17:17).
(2) Peaceful disposition in himself, which, while it might have claimed the entire spoil, and perhaps vindicated the justness of such claim by an appeal to arms, was forward to avoid strife by asking only the persons. Even the world may occasionally instruct the Church how to follow peace with all men.
(3) Remarkable discernment as to the respective values of men and things, being prepared to forego the goods and chattels if only the persons were restored to his dominion.
3. His rejected liberality. Generous as from the king of Sodom's standpoint the proposal was, it was repudiated by the patriarch—
(1) In absolute entirety, without the reservation of so much as a thread or shoe-latchet; another proof of the wholly unworldly character of the patriarch, another instance of self-sacrificing magnanimity, of a piece with his surrender of the land to Lot.
(2) With shuddering apprehension, lest his fair name should be contaminated by participation in the wealth of Sodom. So should God's people not let their good be evil spoken of, and in particular look well to the channels through which the treasures that enrich them come. There is ever an important difference between the wealth which proceeds from the devil and that which is bestowed by the hand of Christ.
(3) With unmistakable sincerity, as revealed by his solemn adjuration. God's name, while to be taken in vain by none, may on appropriate occasions be appealed to by his servants to vindicate their truthfulness.
(4) After equitable reservation of the just claims of others, of the rations of his soldiers, which were not to be repaid, and the portions of his allies, which were not to be appropriated unless with their consent. The sacrifices made by God's people should be composed of their own, and not of their neighbor's property.
1. That God's faithful servants are sure to win the approbation of good men and the benediction of Heaven.
2. That the friendship of wicked men and the congratulations of the world should never be desired by the saints.
HOMILIES BY F. HASTINGS
"And Melchizedek king of Salem brought forth bread and wine: and he was the priest of the most high God. And he blessed Abraham," &c. When the king of Sodom was beaten in a war with Chedorlaomer, Lot was involved in the overthrow. Chedorlaomer was a warrior of great power, and his very name was terrible. Five confederate kings had in vain resisted him with his three auxiliaries. He whom kings could not oppose the simple patriarch Abraham, with armed herdsmen, will attack and conquer. His kinsman Lot is in captivity; Abraham will deliver him or die in the attempt. How nobly shines the character of Abraham in this determination. Lot had separated from him through a misunderstanding, and had chosen the most fertile district, and left Abraham the least promising, yet Abraham forgets all, when his relative is in danger. At great risk he undertakes his deliverance. He armed his "trained servants," pursues the enemy, comes upon them "by night," divides his small band into three companies, and makes an assault at once on the right, the center, and flank of the enemy. He routs and pursues them, smiting many and taking much spoil. He accomplishes above all his one desire, the restoration of Lot to liberty. As Abraham returns, flushed with conquest, he is met at the gates of Salem by Melchizedek, bringing to him bread, wine, and the Divine benediction.
I. THE DESIGNATION AND CHARACTER OF MELCHIZEDEK. He is king and priest. His name means, king of righteousness. He dwells in Salem, the place of peace. He did not go out to war, and had no part in the quarrel between Chedorlaomer and the king of Sodom. He had lost no relatives, and had no reason for fighting. Had cunning foes attacked his city of peace, he would doubtless have driven them off if possible. A king of righteousness, he would not think it his duty to submit to unrighteousness. He was, however, left unattacked by the fierce Chedorlaomer, and took care to provoke no quarrel. Perhaps he was not assailed because universally respected as a man of peace and a priest of God. This reason may have availed in that early age, and in respect to the first war of which we have any account, but it is not certain that it would be accounted a sufficient reason now. Various have been the speculations as to who Melchizedek was. Some believed that he was Enoch come back to earth, or Job, the tried one; others, that he was Shem, the best son of Noah. This is possible, as, according to calculations made, Shem survived Abraham forty years; but it is improbable, because Moses would have spoken of Shem by his proper name, and because that would not apply which is said of Melchizedek, in Hebrews 7:3—that he was "without father, without mother, without descent, having neither beginning of days, nor end of life." We know the ancestry of Shem, but not that of Melchizedek. The difficult passage, the third of the seventh chapter of Hebrews, means, probably, merely this—that his descent was not known, and that his priesthood was not inherited or derived from others, but one resting in his individual character. Thus Noah, Job, Hobab or Jethro, and Balaam acted as independent priests, and their offerings were recognized by God. Melchizedek, in his maintenance of the worship of God, came to be accepted as a priest, and his life was like a star shining amid the general heathenism of Canaan. He also came like a streak of light, neither the coming nor the going of which could easily be discerned. We are told of him that he was "without beginning of days or end of life." Some have therefore thought that Melchizedek was an angel or a pre-incarnation of Christ; if so, Christ would have been the type and the antitype. But that which is thought to be spoken of the man refers to his office; it was without definite beginning or ending. The Levitical priesthood had a definite beginning and ending; that of Melchizedek is never ended. The one stood in carnal ceremonies, the other in the power of a holy character. The Levitical was introduced because of the unfitness of all to become "kings and priests unto God;" but that of Melchizedek, being according to character, has no "end of days." It foreshadowed the priesthood of Christ, whose work never passeth away, but who abideth a priest continually. Melchizedek was a type of Christ, the one great High Priest, the holiest of all on earth, and who enters for us into the holiest place. The omissions concerning parentage or the beginning of his priesthood were probably designed by God, that in Melchizedek—the most prominent of patriarchal priests—there might be a more significant type of him who is a Priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek. This would explain the force of the prophecy in Psalms 110:1-7; and the words in Hebrews 7:1-28. Indeed the Levitical priesthood could not supply a perfect type, for it had no one who was at once a priest and king. Moses claimed not to be priest or king. David ventured not to intrude into the priestly office. Solomon, at the dedication of the temple, when he blessed the people, gave sacrifices for the priests to offer, but he slew them not. Uzziah attempted to intrude into the priestly office, but was stricken with leprosy. Under the Jewish dispensation there was no one who in his person could represent the twofold character of Christ as the only High Priest and universal King. Under the patriarchal dispensation, and in Melchizedek, there is this very plain type of Christ in his priestly and regal character. Melchizedek may never have imagined how great was the dignity put upon him as a type of Christ. Living a quiet, pure, and devoted life, he becomes accepted by his fellows as a priest of the Most High, and becomes the type of him who was the Savior of the world.
II. THE SIGNIFICANCE IN THE RECORDED ACTS OF MELCHIZEDEK.
1. Refreshing the weary. "Brought forth bread and wine," that Abraham might eat and be strengthened. Possibly part of the wine was poured out as an oblation. When those who met wished to seal a friendship, they brake bread or partook of a meal together. Thus the Lord's Supper is the indication of our union with Christ—of a friendship on his part for us sinners, cemented by his suffering. He gave himself to be the Bread of Life for us. We are in a spiritual sense to eat of his flesh and drink of his blood, or we have no life in us. Christ oft thus comes forth to meet the weary pilgrims and soldiers of the cross. We must remember that it is the previous weary march, the confusion and the conflict, that fits us for the enjoyment of the sacred ordinance of the Lord's Supper. We have had to battle with temptations of various kinds, and come stained with the dust and blood of battle to the table of our Lord, and here he meets us and refreshes us. We begin here to see the meaning of all the conflict and burden of life. His word acquires more meaning, and his Spirit rests upon us with greater power, as, just outside the gates of the heavenly Jerusalem, we sit and rest awhile ere pursuing our way and battling again with sin. What thoughtfulness there was in this act of Melchizedek I Single acts like these tell what is the character of a man. How it hints at the thoughtfulness of Christ for us in all our spiritual struggles!
2. Melchizedek also "blessed" Abraham. He pronounced upon him the blessing which belongs to an unselfish performance of duty. God's blessing is Abraham's great reward, and a man was its mouthpiece. Because God's approval was his reward he would not retain the spoil, although urged by the king of Sodom to keep the goods, and simply hand over the persons of his captive subjects. The approval of God expressed through conscience or the words of the good should be the Christian's one desired reward. The blessing will always come in the way of duty.
3. Melchizedek claimed the honor of the victory for God. "Blessed be the most high God, who hath delivered thine enemies into thine hand." Before the king of Sodom Abraham is reminded of his dependence on God; thus before the world the Christian shows forth his dependence on the Spirit's help and "on the Lord's death till he come." We may never be ashamed to confess Christ. Abraham readily recognized the claim of God. He gave as a thank offering a tenth part of all he had taken. That which he gave, was his by custom and right. He gives it to God. God would not accept that which is wrung, by force, from another. He would say, "Who hath required this at your hand?" "I hate robbery for burnt offering." God only accepts that which is righteously and willingly offered. If taxes are imposed men pay them, but often when it is left to their conscience they neglect their duty. Better, however, that no tenth or tithings, no ratings and taxings, should be paid than that God's cause should be sustained unwillingly. As God gives us all we possess in love, as he sustains and pardons us in love, the least we can do is to love him and readily serve in return. We should devote all we are and have to Christ. Talents and possessions are his, and should be held in stewardship as from him. Let us not, however, make the mistake of thinking that it is by our gifts or good works we are saved. Many err here. It is only through Christ that our doings or persons can be accepted, even as Abraham's gifts were through Melchizedek. Christ is our Priest and Sacrifice. Do not attempt to slight him. Trust in his merits, work, and intercession. Let him have the pre-eminence. Christ must rule in our hearts and lives. The will must be given into his hands. Life must be held as a gift from him, and eternal life will be his certain bestowal hereafter.
4. Melchizedek gave to Abraham cheering words and stimulus. This was more almost than the refreshment. Here, as we meet in communion with one another and with Christ, we have great joy. Christ cheers us. We feel we can go forth boldly, and that when sin meets us we can, in Christ's strength, say, "Stand aside;" when hopes are cut off, as Lot was from his home, we can recover them through the cross. Thus our arms are nerved and hearts made strong for the future conflict. All the joy, however, is only a foretaste of that which will be ours when Christ shall meet us at the gate of the New Jerusalem, and shall lead us in to sit down with Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Melchizedek, and all those who have been faithful to him. What will be our joy when we shall enter to abide in the "city of peace" with the "King of righteousness'' for ever I May none of us know what will be the bitter pain of those who shall vainly call from without, because the door is shut, and the Master has entered in with those who were ready.—H.
HOMILIES BY J.F. MONTGOMERY
Melchizedek blessing Abraham.
"And he blessed him, and said, "Blessed be Abram of the most high God, possessor of heaven and earth." Wherever in Scripture Melchizedek is spoken of, it is as a type of Christ (Psalms 110:4; Hebrews 5:1-14; Hebrews 6:1-20; Hebrews 7:1-28.). We may so regard him here, and consider his act in its typical light. Outwardly the transaction was of little mark. A band of men under Chedorlaomer carried off Lot, along with other spoil, from Sodom. Abram, on learning this, armed his household, pursued the invaders, routed them, and set the captives free. On his return Melchizedek, the head of a tribe near the line of march, came out to offer refreshment to his men; and as priest of his tribe he blessed Abram. Whether the type was understood by Abram or Melchizedek matters not. These things are written for our learning. We see in them Christ bestowing his blessing.
I. THE OCCASION OF THE BLESSING. After conflict. Our Lord the antitype of Melchizedek, as King of peace (Isaiah 9:6; cf. Luke 2:14; John 14:27). Yet the Christian life is emphatically one of warfare (Ephesians 6:11-13; 2 Timothy 2:3; cf. Gen 32:24; 1 Peter 5:8; also Revelation 2:1-29; Revelation 3:1-22.—"to him that overcometh," &c.). The nature of that fight is against temptations to unbelief. The fight of faith (1 Timothy 6:12). The renewal under Christ of the battle lost in Eden (2 Timothy 4:7; 1 John 5:4). Circumstances may vary. The trial may be apparent or not. There may be no outward suffering, no visible hindrance. But what a struggle is implied in 2 Corinthians 10:5. It is the struggle against unbelief; to resist the power of things seen; to overcome "How can these things be?" to realize habitually the "city which hath foundations" (cf. Philippians 3:20); to rest on God's promises in simplicity (Philippians 3:7). As often as this struggle is honestly waged a blessing is bestowed (James 1:2; cf. Matthew 7:13; Matthew 16:24; Acts 14:22). We naturally love spiritual ease, but trial is better (Psalms 119:71).
II. THE SOURCE OF THE BLESSING. "The most high God, possessor," &c.
1. All blessing is from God. We acknowledge this; but Isaiah 10:13 is a natural feeling. We instinctively look to second causes; yet without this "looking upward" we cannot truly pray, "Thy will be done;" we cannot really live a Godward life. Compare Melchizedek's words with our Lord's (John 14:13-16; John 16:23), and their fulfillment in his receiving for men (Psalms 68:18) all needful gifts—forgiveness, sonship, right to pray, means of grace, opportunities of work.
2. All creation used by him as means of bestowing his blessing (cf. Romans 8:28). Sorrows (Romans 5:3; Hebrews 12:11) and joys (Romans 2:4) are alike instruments of good (cf. Psalms 116:12; Psalms 119:67).
III. THE FRUIT OF THE BLESSING. Closer walk with God. The events of this chapter were followed by more vivid spiritual manifestations to Abram. And thus our spiritual life advances. The blessing is God's free gift; but through conflict with evil the soul is prepared to receive it (cf. Psalms 97:10). As in natural life powers are increased by exercise, or rather by God's gift on this condition, so in the spiritual the conflict of self-denial, our Savior's blessing, and the "spirit of adoption" are inseparably linked together. "Grace for grace" should be the Christian's motto; ever pressing onwards. And as we can assign no limits to God's blessing, so neither is there any limit to our nearness to him.—M.
HOMILIES BY W. ROBERTS
The Church militant.
I. THE ENEMIES OF THE CHURCH. Like Abram's—
II. THE TRIUMPH OF THE CHURCH. Like Abram's—
III. THE THANKSGIVING OF THE CHURCH. Like Abram's—
1. Due to God most high.
2. Offered through the priest of the most high God.
3. Expressed in self-consecration to the service of God.—W.
HOMILIES BY F. HASTINGS
Genesis 14:22, Genesis 14:23
Abraham's independent spirit.
"And Abraham said to the king of Sodom, I have lift up my 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 shoe latchet," &c. When Lot chose the plains of Sodom he knew not what trials awaited him there. The king of Sodom was attacked and defeated. He escaped, but many of his subjects were either slaughtered or made captive. Lot was carried away by the invading host. Abraham delivers him. On his return, flushed with victory, he is met by two persons—Melchizedek and the king of Sodom. To the first he gives tithes, as a thank offering; from the second he will not receive anything for all the risk he had run in the conflict. If Abraham had taken all the spoil, it would only have been in accordance with the general practice of that age; but a principle, and not a custom, is his guide.
I. ABRAHAM WISHED TO AVOID PLACING HIMSELF UNDER OBLIGATION TO A WORLDLY MAN.
II. ABRAHAM WISHED TO AVOID THE APPEARANCE OF TOO GREAT INTIMACY WITH AN UNRIGHTEOUS MAN.
III. ABRAHAM WISHED TO SHOW THAT THE SERVANT OF THE MOST HIGH GOD CAN DO GOOD WITHOUT HOPE OF REWARD.
IV. ABRAHAM WISHED TO SHOW HOW UNDESIRABLE A PRACTICE IT WAS, TO GAIN BY THE MISFORTUNES OF OTHERS.
V. ABRAHAM WISHED TO SHOW THAT GOD, AND A SPIRIT OF CONTENTEDNESS, WERE A GOOD MAN'S TRUE RICHES. How much better to act thus than to permit the ungodly to point the finger of scorn and say, with respect to professedly religious men, that they are just as greedy and worldly as the most irreligious.—H.