Friday, March 6, 2009

GENESIS: Chapters 14 & 15

Chapter 14
Summary:War has broken out amongst the following:
  • Amraphael - king of Shinar
  • Arioch - king of Ellasar
  • Ched-or-laomer - king of Elam
  • Tidal - king of Goiim
  • Bera - king of Sodom
  • Birsha - king of Gomorrah
  • Shinab - king of Admah
  • Shember - king of Zeboiim
  • King* of Bela (later called Zoar)
The kings of Sodom, Gomorrah, Admah, Zeboiim, and Bela mobilized their armies in the Siddim Valley. For twelve years they had all been subject to King Ched-or-laomer, but decided to rebel in the thirteenth year. A year later King Ched-or-laomer and his allies arrived and the slaughter began.

King Ched-or-laomer and his allies prevailed over the following tribes at the places indicated:
  • The Rephraim in Ashteroth-karnaim
  • The Zuzim in Ham
  • The Emim in the plain of Kiriathaim
  • The Horites in Mt. Seir, as far as El-paran at the edge of the desert
They then swung around to Emmishpat (later called Kadesh) and destroyed the Amalekites and also the Amorites living in Hazazan-tamar.

The rebel armies unsuccessfully attacked King Ched-or-laomer and his allies at the Siddim Valley. As they fled some of the armies of Sodom and Gomorrah slipped into tar pits, while the rest escaped to the mountains. The victors plundered Sodom and Gomorrah, carrying off their wealth and food before heading back home - taking with them Lot and all he owned. One of the men who escaped came and told Abram the news.

14:14 "And when Abram heard that his brother was taken captive, he armed his trained servants, born in his own house, three hundred and eighteen, and pursued them unto Dan."
When Abram learned of Lot's capture he gathered together the slaves born to his household (318 in all) and chased the retiring army as far as Dan, successfully attacking them and chasing the fleeing army to Hobah, north of Damascus. Abram recovered everything: his nephew Lot, the loot that had been taken, all the captives, and all of Lot's possessions.

As Abram returned from his strike against King Ched-or-laomer and his allies, the king of Sodom came out to meet him, and King Melchizedek of Salem (Jerusalem) brought him bread and wine. Melchizedek blessed Abram and Abram in turn gave him a tenth of the spoils. The king of Sodom told Abram that he just wished for his people to be returned and that Abram could keep the stolen loot from the city of Sodom.

Abram tells the king of Sodom that he has promised God that he will not take so much as a single thread from the city of Sodom, but tells the king to share the loot with Aner, Eschol, and Mamre - whom Abram calls his allies.
Notes:1.) This king is not named.
Thoughts:It seems a little odd to me that King Bera of Sodom is portrayed as humble in this chapter considering the description of the inhabitants of the city of Sodom to be "unusually wicked" in the previous chapter, however I think it's written that way to show moreover how unselfish Abram is supposed to be in contrast.

It also seems strange that Abram is able to amass a small (presumably untrained) army of 318 that is able to defeat the trained armies of King Ched-or-laomer and his allies, but I think the point that is trying to be conveyed is that God was on the side of Abram and his militia.
Chapter 15
Summary:God speaks to Abram in a vision and tells him not to be afraid, as God will defend him and bestow great blessings upon him.

Abram complains to God asking what good are all these blessings to him when he has no son to inherit his wealth, mentioning that someone "undeserving" in his household might instead inherit his wealth. God assures him that he will in fact have a son to inherit his wealth and brings him outside to look at the stars in the sky. He then shows Abram the stars and claims that the number of Abram's descendants will be as difficult to count as the stars in the sky. God reminds Abram that he brought Abram out of the city of Ur and gave him this land forever.

When Abram asks how he can be sure that God will in fact give it to him, God tells him to gather up a three year old heifer, a three year old goat, a three year old ram, a turtle dove, and a pigeon, and tells him to slay them all and split them all down the middle except for the birds. After doing so, Abram shoos away the vultures who try to feed off the carcasses.

That night as Abram goes to sleep, God comes to him in another vision, this time a vision of terror and darkness. God tells him that although his descendants will indeed inherit this land that they will first be enslaved in a foreign land for 400 years. However, God continues on saying that he will punish the nation that enslaves them, and in the end Abram's descendants will come away from their slavery with great wealth.
15:18 "In the same day the LORD made a covenant with Abram, saying, Unto thy seed have I given this land, from the river of Egypt unto the great river, the river Euphrates:"
Continuing on, God says that the people will return to this land as the wickedness of the Amorite nation living here now won't be ready for punishment for another 400 years. Abram apparently wakes up and sees a smoking fire-pot and a flaming torch pass through the halves of the animal carcasses.

God makes a covenant with Abram telling him that the land from the Wadi-el-Arish to the Euphrates River will belong to Abram's descendants, and lists these nations that will belong to them: Kenites, Kenizzites, Kadmonites, Hittites, Perizzites, Rephaim, Amorites, Canaanites, Girgashites, and Jebusites.
Thoughts:The most interesting thing I find here is God's apparent sense of clairvoyance, and it almost begs the question of whether it is actually God foreseeing the future or if he is simply guiding it that way. However, God specifically predicts that the Amorite nation won't be ready for punishment (meaning that they probably haven't sinned enough yet) for another 400 years.

Now the problem I have here with God's apparent clairvoyance is that it makes the genocidal flood seem rather senseless when Abram would still be born through Noah's lineage and could have inherited the same land without all the world wide death and destruction. It also seems to make the Adam and Eve story even grimmer if God apparently has the power to see the future and willing knew that Adam and Eve were doomed from the beginning.

Also of note, this is the first time God specifically calls for an animal sacrifice, and a pretty gory one at that.

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