You will remember *from last time* that Abraham, after the Pharaoh kicked him out of Egypt, went back to Canaan with his entourage, which included his nephew Lot. On arriving back, Abraham and Lot decided to go their separate ways. Lot opted for somewhere that was unhealthily close to Sodom. Abraham, on the other hand, chose to make his home among the terebinth trees of Mamre.
How nice it would have been for Abraham simply to dwell undisturbed among the terebinth trees at Mamre for the rest of his days. However, one can never remain unaffected by what goes on around one. This, unhappily, was the case with Abraham, whose misfortune it was to live at the time of King Amraphel of Shinar, King Arioch of Ellasar, King Chedorlaomer of Elam, and King Tidal of Goyim.
These four kings, while they may have got along among themselves, seemed not to get along with the five other kings in that neighbourhood, who were King Bera of Sodom, King Birsha of Gomorrah, King Shinab of Admah, King Shemeba of Zeboyim, and the king of Belar, that was Zoar. This last king, the one who was king of Belar (Zoar) appears, oddly, not to have had a name.
Four kings plus five kings amounted to nine kings. That was a lot of kings for so small an area. No wonder they couldn’t all get along.
For twelve years the latter five kings were subordinate to the first-mentioned four kings. In the thirteenth year the five kings rebelled. In the fourteenth year there were many battles which culminated in a grand showdown. King Bera of Sodom, King Birsha of Gomorrah, King Shinab of Admah, King Shemeba of Zeboyim, and the nameless king of Belar (Zoar) marched all their soldiers into the Valley of Siddim, which is now the Dead Sea. They confronted all the soldiers of the other four kings who had also marched in. Since there were more subordinate kings (five) than the other kings (four), you’d think that five kings would defeat four. Not a bit of it, for, when the five kings saw the other four kings, they were overcome with an inchoate courage-draining fear, and fled.
Not only did all five flee, two of them – King Bera of Sodom, and King Birsha of Gomorrah – while fleeing, foolishly fell into slime pits, which numbered many in that valley. The other three kings, who had prudently not fallen into any slime pits, escaped to the hills.
The four victorious kings captured all the flocks, herds and provisions that were in Sodom and Gomorrah, whose kings, Bera and Birsha, having fallen into slime pits, weren’t able to climb out and to remove their stuff from the grasp of the four victorious, but avaricious kings.
The four victorious kings also carried away Abraham’s nephew Lot, and Lot’s flocks and herds. Lot, if you remember from the last posting, had settled very close to Sodom, much to God’s displeasure. A fugitive, who had seen Lot being carried off, rushed off to tell Lot’s uncle Abraham.
“Sire, sire”, shouted the fugitive as he approached Mamre and saw Abraham lolling among the terebinth trees where he dwelt, “I’ve just come from seeing Kings Amraphel, Arioch , Chedorlaomer and Tidal carry away Lot and all his animals.”
“That’ll serve Lot right”, said Abraham, “I’d told him God didn’t like him living so near Sodom. This is what happens when you go against God. Where did these kings take Lot to?”
“They were going to take him to Dan”, said the fugitive, “well, that’s what I heard them say”.
“Dan!!?” said Abraham, “that’s a long way north. You’re sure they said Dan?”
“I’m quite sure”, said the fugitive, “Dan’s a one-syllable word, which is unusual for places in our land. I’m certain they said Dan”.
“You’d better be right”, said Abraham, “for I’m going to have to try to get Lot back. I don’t like him particularly, but he’s family. Blood-ties are important around these parts.”
Abraham immediately got together three-hundred-and-eighteen of his household retainers (servants) and went after the four kings who were elusive. Abraham and his men finally tracked them down and defeated them at Hobah, which is north of Damascus. The victorious Abraham returned with Lot, as well as with Lot’s flocks and herds, and with women and other captives.
Meanwhile, King Bera of Sodom, who, you’ll remember, was one of the kings who fell into a slime pit after the battle in the Valley of Siddim, had finally climbed out and made his way to the Valley of Shiveh. Learning that Abraham was passing through the Valley of Shiveh on his way home from Hobah, King Bera came out to meet Abraham and to say “hi”. King Bera, aware that Abraham had defeated the kings who had defeated him (King Bera), had thought it best to be on good terms with the formidable Abraham.
Abraham’s formidable reputation had got around, for another king, Melchizedek of Salem, brought food and wine to Abraham, saying, “Blessed be to you, Abraham, by God Most High, the creator of heaven and earth. And blessed be God Most High, who has delivered your enemies unto you.” Abraham felt so flattered that he gave all the booty he’d taken from the four kings, to Melchizedek.
King Bera of Sodom, watching all this, felt emboldened to say to Abraham, “Give me the women and captives, and you can take any goods here that you want”.
Abraham, drawing himself up to his full height, said, “I’ll accept nothing from you, oh king, nothing, not even a thread or shoestring. So you won’t be able to boast to your little friends that you made me, Abraham, rich.”
Source: Genesis 14