War of the Four Kings vs. the Five Kings
The Torah now provides some political background to Abram’s life. An alliance of four kings waged war against five kings, oppressing them. The five kings fought back, briefly gaining the upper hand, but by the time Abram — or more precisely, his nephew, Lot — arrives on the scene, the four have beaten down the five again. They take the local population prisoner, Lot among them.
When Abram hears the fate of his nephew, he springs into action. With just 318 men, Abram defeats the four kings and frees the prisoners. The newly-rescued king of Sodom offers Abram a reward, but Abram refuses to give the king the chance to say he made Abram rich. Instead, he asks only that his allies be recompensed for their efforts.
Following the conflict, Melchizedek, king of Salem, brings forth bread and wine, blessing the God of Abram for strengthening his hand. The Israel Bible cites the Sages, who identify Melchizedek as Shem, son of Noah, and Salem as the future site of Jerusalem. Even before knowledge of God was widespread in the Land, the concept of divine justice was present in Jerusalem.
Virtual Classroom Discussion
Why do you think Abram refused to accept gifts from the king of Sodom, but took them willingly from Pharaoh earlier?