Genesis Chapters 13 & 14

Author’s Note: From this point forward, I will cite textual evidence by verse number only for convenience’s sake, since the book and chapter is already listed in the title. However, I will include both the chapter and verse if a post includes more than one chapter (like this one).

Chapter 13 wastes no time in telling us that, by the time he got out of Egypt, “Abram was very rich in cattle, in silver, and in gold” (13:2). Great, he really is a carpetbagger. Even so, Abram comes off pretty good in these chapters.

Though he continues to head south (13:3), Abram is metaphorically entering the Wild West, with wide open lands apparently ripe for the taking. But he soon learns, as The Notorious B.I.G. famously stated, “mo’ money, mo’ problems” —

See, it turns out that “the land was not able to bear” both Abram and Lot, “for their substance was great, so that they could not dwell together” (13:6). So wealth eventually separates those who have it from their family, the first indication of the Bible’s later themes on wealth. (Jesus had a lot to say on it, I know that much.)

So this town ain’t big enough for the two of them, but the trope is actually resolved peacefully, thanks to Abram. He says to Lot, “Let there be no strife” (13:8) and proves to be surprisingly accommodating, giving Lot the choice of where to settle. It’s the most practical moral lesson we’ve seen so far in this book.

Even so, Abram may have known he must become separated from Lot eventually because, even though Lot is Abram’s “brethren” (13:8), he is not his “seed,” the direct descendants God has promised him. God again promises “all the land which thou seest” (13:15) to Abram, and seed that number as much as “the dust of the earth” (13:16), a metaphor that promises a seemingly infinite lineage. As a man who has yet to father children, this promise is the ultimate desire — no wonder Abram keeps going wherever God tells him, pitching tents and building altars.

Lot, meanwhile, “pitched his tent toward Sodom” (13:12), and I don’t have to be religious to recognize the negative connotation of that name. Lot’s literal journey and settlement near the sinners of Sodom will likely have metaphorical implications, either creating or revealing Lot’s potential corruption. Either way, this hints that Abram is getting the better end of this deal, and the next Chapter only confirms this.

Chapter 14 reads more like Tolkien’s The Silmarillion than anything else, with names like Amraphel and Ellasar (literally just a different spelling of Aragorn’s elven name). We are introduced to the war between Chedorlaomer and his four loyal kings, and five kings (including those of Sodom and Gomorrah) who served him for twelve years, but “in the thirteenth year they rebelled” (14:4). We already know God doesn’t care for rebellious behavior, and the “men of Sodom were wicked and sinners” (13:13), so clearly Chedorlaomer’s team are the good guys.

WAIT. 13:13. THEY REBELLED AFTER 13 YEARS. I’m sure the author of the Bible had fun constructing that little Easter egg. I wonder if the other 13:13 verses are equally fitting…

Anyway, Chedorlaomer and his four loyal kings flex their muscles a bit by conquering numerous other peoples, from the Amalekites the Zuzim (14:5-7), proving their might and building up to their final battle against the five disloyal kings. Like any sports team in a classic playoff narrative, they will either continue to steamroll the opposing team, or be unwittingly crushed, making defeat even more sour.

In this battle, the kings of Sodom and Gomorrah “fled, and fell” into the “slimepits” that covered the battlefield (14:10). This defeat in the “slimepits” tells you all you need to know about the author’s attitude toward these kings — not only are they wicked, but they are cowards, too. However, confusingly enough, perhaps they were only temporarily halted. Later, the king of Sodom is described as having returned from “the slaughter of Chedorlaomer, and of the kings that were with him” (14:17). Wow. So the bad guys won. (And no epic battle scene, either. I guess the Bible isn’t exactly like Lord of the Rings.)

Lot, the poor guy, gets caught up in the war; he’s kidnapped by the survivors of Sodom and Gomorrah’s lot. This gives Abram a chance to prove his hero status — the sheriff of the Wild West, as it were. Abram defeats Sodom’s people and brings back “all the goods, and…his brother Lot, and his goods, and the women also, and the people” (14:16). (Basically, he brought everything back.)

But then, the king of Sodom, the slimy bastard, prostrates himself before Abram, calling him “blessed,” and offers the “goods” of his kingdom to Abram as long as he can have all his people (14:19-21). Abram again proves his hero status: he sees right through this, saying:

“I will not take from [you] a thread even to a shoelatchet, …lest thou should say, ‘I have made Abram rich.'” (14:23)

Abram refuses to be financially tied to the king of Sodom, therefore refusing to repeat the cycle that cost Chedorlaomer everything. This is my favorite line, since I believe it serves as a positive model for diplomacy. Should all our leaders be like Abram…

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