Genesis 14:17-24 The Spoils
Abram returns from the battle victorious! On his way back he is met by the king of Sodom and the king of Salem. They have two very different agendas.
I can imagine the worry the king of Sodom has been feeling. He was just defeated in battle and everything he had, people and goods, was taken away. He was left with a few surviving soldiers and an empty city while he was hiding in the hill country. Interesting that the invading army didn’t burn the city when they took the people captive. Something else I find interesting is that the invading army was able to capture the citizens in the first place. Wouldn’t they be busy with the battle itself? How did they get enough troops away from the skirmish to round up the people and their goods? Was the battlefield right outside Sodom’s door?
Did the king of Sodom expect Abram to be successful in liberating his people? Was the escaping soldier who told Abram of Lot’s capture one of Sodom’s soldiers? I have a feeling he was. How else would he have known of Abram and Lot’s relationship unless one or the other of them disclosed it? Did the king of Sodom send this emissary to Abram with the hopes of Abram riding to Lot’s rescue? What was it about Abram and his band that would have prompted the king of Sodom to appeal to him for help? Abram had a LARGE contingency of people but there had been FIVE kings and all their resources committed to the battle and they LOST!
The king of Sodom has been watching from his hiding place waiting for some sign of how Abram fared in this new battle. He is beside himself when he sees Abram and company returning with a LARGE contingent of people following him. He quickly gets up from his observation place and goes out to meet Abram. His heart if full of gratitude and excitement. He is not the only one who will meet Abram. There is another who has been preparing for this moment.
This “other” is the king of Salem; Melchizedek. Melchizedek doesn’t come empty handed like the king of Sodom does. Melchizedek brings out bread and wine. His coming to Abram completes three roles. The first is king. He is the king of the city of Salem; Jerusalem. He is also the first priest of God mentioned in the bible. Isn’t it amazing how when God calls His first people through Abram He also calls His first priest to bless him? The last role that Melchizedek fills is servant. He brought out bread and wine to offer Abram and company.
We are told in Hebrews that Jesus is “a priest forever, after the order of Melchizedek” (Hebrews 7:17b). Jesus fills all three of those roles too. He is our High Priest; our intercessor before God. He is our King and He is our servant. He set aside His royal rights to step down into human form to be our substitution. “The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:28; Mark 10:45). Let’s get back to our story.
I would think that if anyone should bring something as a gift to Abram it should be the king of Sodom. But he brings nothing for Abram. The king of Salem brings refreshments and a blessing. You could call this offering the first communion. The blessing he gives Abram stands as witness to the king of Sodom as to Who actually won the battle. “Blessed be Abram by God Most High, Possessor of Heaven and earth; and blessed be God Most High, who has delivered your enemies into your hand!” (verses 19b-20). God delivered Abram’s enemies into his hands. God fought the battle. God owns EVERYTHING and EVERYONE to begin with.
I wonder if the words of this blessing sunk into the heart of the king of Sodom. The behavior of the men of his city speak against it. And the behavior of the kings subjects is a direct reflection of the values of the king. A king would put a stop to behaviors that he found abhorrent.
Abram’s response to Melchizedek’s blessing is surprising. Not only have we seen the first communion but we also see the first recorded tithe. We have seen offerings before but this time we see God’s man responding to His priesthood. Abram doesn’t ask how much he should give or even if he should give. Instead he opened up EVERYTHING he had with him and gave a portion of it to Melchizedek.
So what was it that Abram gave? He gave of the spoils of war and of any of his own possessions. I’m wondering if this included a tenth of the people, both those recovered and those who accompanied Abram.
After this spontaneous offering Abram is approached by the king of Sodom. The king of Sodom’s request is presumptuous. As the conquer Abram isn’t required to give him anything. Not the people nor the goods. He could have rightfully enslaved all those he brought back with him. He was not acting under the king of Sodom’s direction or authority when he went into battle. He was acting under his own and God’s authority. Also the men who went with him only agreed to go because they were Abram’s allies. No one had any loyalty to this king.
But Abram had taken an oath before God. To him this was worth more than ANYTHING brought back, including Lot. Abram wanted NOTHING to do with this wicked king’s goods or people. He didn’t want him to have ANY hold on him or claim to his successes. Abram willingly surrendered EVERYTHING he had taken from the enemy that originally belonged to the king of Sodom. He only kept the food that had been eaten by his men to that point. However, he could not speak for his allies. They were not bound by his oath. They had earned something for their part in the battle. They were entitled to a share of the spoils, both people and goods. I suppose Abram would let them individually make up their own minds as to the king of Sodom’s proposal. Let them bargain with him over people for goods.
We each get to make the same decisions Abram did that day. Do we willingly give God a portion of “the spoils” He has given into our hands? Also, do we exercise care and discretion in what we allow to increase our “wealth?” Abram gave to God out of thankfulness. He was thankful for the victory, His provision, and His protection in the battle. I’m thankful for those same things in my life. I’m astounded at how He has provided for my family’s needs! He has brought resources to us that meet more than just our needs. I don’t have a “Melchizedek” to give our tithe to but we give back in other ways. We support some of God’s ministries financially. I also give of my time to Him. This blog is part of my gift to Him. Reading my bible and sharing my study time is an honor that He has allowed me. I am SO grateful for this privilege! It would take much less time to do this on my own but because of His love for me; I am honored to share this time with others. My mother-in-law gives back of her time and resources by baking for the youth group and ladies meetings every week. She spends hours in the kitchen every week. I don’t think she even realizes it as a gift to God. Maybe I will point that out to her one day.
Father God, thank You for Abram’s example of how I am to treat my “investments” in time and resources. Help me be discerning with my resources and only commit them to things that honor You. Thank You for the “preview” of Jesus’ role. I am no bible scholar nor am I one in genealogy but Melchizedek’s inclusion in this story was a blessing forever. You don’t specify where he came from or what became of him but his attitude and commitment to You is honored forever. He was an earthly representation of what Jesus fully embodies; King, Priest and Servant.
THANK YOU Jesus for fulfilling ALL these roles in my life! Please help me be as quick to honor You as Abram was that day. He honored Melchizedek because Melchizedek represented You. Help me always look for You in those I give to, or to at least look for the opportunity to do as You would do for them. Let me be YOUR hands and feet. Taking NONE of the glory for myself either Jesus.