War of the Four Kings vs. the Five Kings

Genesis 14:1-24

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?


Comments ( 10 )

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  • Mary lott

    Melchizadek was a priest from heaven-not born on this earth-read about his description and he was not Jesus.

  • Though Avram was entitled to have all the spoils of war (he was the victor) he declined. Avram didnt want anything because not he was the victor but he thanked his G-d for the victory. Moreover people would say of the wealth of Avram he has gained it through those wars and they wouldn't see it was HaShem that blessed him. In Egypt it was a quite different situation because the pharao was the one that was wrong.And he begged to leave the country.

  • I agree with most of your sentiments. I would add that it goes down to the intention of the giver, Pharoah's intention was simply to bless Abram, while for the King of Sodom, it was for a pagan alliance, like someone above here mentioned.

  • "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."
    When I read this commentary, I think of tremendous odds. I would think it a good possibility all of these kings each had more than Abram had. That would make the odds at least greater than 5 to 1. When I think of these possible odds, I think of Gideon who went up against several thousand with just 300 men, and destroyed them all "without firing a shot".
    The glory rightfully goes to HaShem. He's the one that gave the victory. Avram was already rich and didn't need anymore, especially from a wicked king. A reimbursement in this situation was the most equitable agreement for all. YHVH got His due glory. Avram and his men got their expenses back, and the king of Sodom got his freedom.

  • I think both Kara and SueJean have made great comments. On one hand, I think Abram knew the spiritual nature of Sodom from the moment he and Lot arrived in the area. I also think it a good possibility Abram would not have intervened if not for Lot being among the captives. It's like Elohim does for us sometimes. We make stupid mistakes and get into trouble. Then, He does what any father would do, rescue us from our trouble.
    On the other hand, Abram had grown a lot since the beginning of his journey. In leaning upon HaShem, and learning a lot by trial and error, he had become spiritually stronger. I also think the more of Elohim he had in his heart and thinking, the less he wanted anything to do with evil entanglements. The more we as YHVH's children travel in this direction, the more "set apart" we become.

    • Well put all of you. The L-rd, HaShem fought the battle, He made Abram rich not man.

  • I believe this story reflects Abram’s growth and spiritual maturity.
    When he first set out on his journey, he probably didn’t know a lot about what it meant to live by faith on a day to day basis – most people don’t. As he see’s Elohim’s hand directing his life and the provision that has been made for him along the way, he starts to understand just how involved in his life Elohim actually is and gains confidence in that.
    It seems clear to me that Abram has a clear understanding of Who his help and his provider truly is and no longer needs to look to the hands of men for anything. Add to that the wickedness of the Sodomite king with his own agenda and Abram has the wisdom not to enter into any kind of relationship with an idolater. This never works out for anyone in the Scriptures or today either.
    Baruch Hashem.

  • Sodom was a pagan, sinful place destined for destruction, Egypt would shelter the children of Israel for a time because of famine. God had a destiny of the salvation of His people to begin there.

  • Sheila

    Abraham received blessings from the Lord God Most High —v20 who has delivered your enemies into your hand— when Melchizedek king of Salem greets him with bread and wine and sustains him. Abram refused the spoil from the king of Sodom as he did not want any form of alliance with this pagan king which could affect his family. Abram made a stand and worshipped the one true God with great faith. Earlier with Pharoah, this related to his wife Sarai who was also his half sister —- comment in the KJV Bible —- she was his sister in another manner—– the custom of ‘adopting’ one’s wife as sister in order to confer privileges—- however Abimelech was angry and terrified when he realised what Abram had done and gave gifts in order to gain favour with Abram and his God. Abram’s faith had become stronger also. Ahuva you may need to add more insight here, thank you.

    • You make some great observations here. Let’s not confuse stories, however; the incident with Pharaoh and with Abimelech are two different stories. Interestingly, as we will see this coming week, whereas Pharaoh gave Abraham gifts BEFORE he knew Sarah’s true identity, Abimelech gives Abraham gifts AFTER finding out Sarah is actually Abraham’s wife, not (just) sister. Perhaps accepting Pharaoh’s gifts was an important part of Abram’s ruse, while, as you mentioned, with the king of Sodom he wanted to emphasize God’s hand in their salvation — and in his own successes.

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