Welcome back to my study/review of Genesis. If you missed the previous parts of this study, you can find them HERE.
21 And the king of Sodom said to Abram, “Give me the persons, but take the goods for yourself.” 22 But Abram said to the king of Sodom, “I have lifted my hand to the Lord, God Most High, Possessor of heaven and earth, 23 that I would not take a thread or a sandal strap or anything that is yours, lest you should say, ‘I have made Abram rich.’ 24 I will take nothing but what the young men have eaten, and the share of the men who went with me. Let Aner, Eshcol, and Mamre take their share.”
(21) Grive me the persons.—To this day it is the rule among the Arabs that, if a camp be plundered, anyone who recovers the booty gives up only the persons, and takes the rest for himself. But Abram, with noble generosity, will accept nothing. The “lifting up of the hand” to give solemnity to an oath is mentioned here for the first time.
2. (Gen 14:21-24) Abram refuses the booty from the battle.
Now the king of Sodom said to Abram, “Give me the persons, and take the goods for yourself.” But Abram said to the king of Sodom, “I have raised my hand to the Lord, God Most High, the Possessor of heaven and earth, that I will take nothing, from a thread to a sandal strap, and that I will not take anything that is yours, lest you should say, ‘I have made Abram rich’; except only what the young men have eaten, and the portion of the men who went with me: Aner, Eshcol, and Mamre; let them take their portion.”
a. Take the goods for yourself: As seemed proper, the king of Sodom wanted to reward Abram for all he did in recovering what was taken by the partnership of four kings, and he offered Abram a tremendous amount of plunder.
From the Pulpit Commentary:
And the king of Sodom (who, though first coming, appears to have retired in favor of the greater personage, Melchisedeck, and to have witnessed the interview between him and Abram, but who now, on its termination, advances—said unto Abram,—perhaps anticipating that like donations from the spoils might be made to him as to Melchisedeck, in which case he evinced a remarkable degree of generosity—Give me the persons—literally, the souls, i.e. those of my people whom you have recovered (cf. Genesis 12:5, in which the term is employed to describe domestic slaves)—and take the goods to thyself (which, Michaelis observes, he was justly entitled to do by right of conquest).
We get three different takes, above, on this offer from the King of Sodom and the consensus is that the offer is very generous, customary, and / or earned on Abram’s part. The King of Sodom even waited behind Melchizedek in meeting with Abram. Abram was already wealthy and powerful. He just defeated four of the most powerful kings in the region and they themselves had just defeated the five city-state kings of Canaan. Abram could have set himself up as a significant world power potentially with all of that wealth consolidated under his stewardship.
Regarding the King of Sodom, it is also worth the reminder – because we might be inclined to forget given the above respect he showed Abram – that unlike Melchizedek, he is said to be an evil king, ruler of an evil people.
Going on to verse 22:
The Pulpit Commentaries:
And Abram said unto the king of Sodom, I have lift up mine hand—a common form of swearing (Deuteronomy 32:40; Ezekiel 20:5,Ezekiel 20:6; Daniel 12:7; Revelation 10:5, Revelation 10:6; cf. Virg; ‘AEn.,’ 12.195)—unto the Lord (Jehovah;which, occurring in the present document, proves the antiquity of its use as a designation of the Deity), the most high God,—El-Elion;thus identifying Jehovah with the God of Melchisedeck, and perhaps of the king of Sodom (vide supra)—the possessor of heaven and earth.
And from Guzik:
b. I will take nothing: Yet, Abram would not take it – because of a vow he has made to God Most High – a phrase he used after hearing Melchizedek use this particular title for God (Genesis 14:19).
Isn’t it interesting that Abram begins using a new (newly recorded in the text, at least) name for God – El Elyon – after meting Melchizedek? How long did they really talk and what did they talk about? It is a fair assumption that more was said than what is recorded in the text, isn’t it? Bread and wine take a while to eat and drink.
Continuing on with verse 23, let’s look some more at Guzik’s commentary:
c. Lest you should say, “I have made Abram rich”: Abram refused the spoil because he would not allow anyone say that a man had made Abram rich. Abram demanded all of the credit for his success and wealth go to God and God alone.
i. When we are willing to pursue human measures of success, using man-centered wisdom and methods, if success does come, how can we really say that God gave the success? It is much better to follow God’s wisdom so that when success comes He gets the glory, and it is evident to everyone that it was His work.
Abram was, of course, already rich. However, he did not want it to be believed that any part of his wealth derived from any place other than his God. There is something else to it, too. See from the Pulpit Commentaries:
That I will not take—literally, if (sc. I shall take); an abbreviation for “May God do so to me, if …!” (cf. 1 Samuel 3:17; 2 Samuel 3:35). The particle אִם has the force of a negative in adjuration—from a thread even to a shoe-latchet, and that I will not take any thing (literally, and if I shall take anything)that is thine,—literally, of all that (sc.belongs) to thee—lest thou shouldest say (literally, and thou shalt not say),I have made Abram rich. Though not averse to accept presents from heathen monarchs (Genesis 12:16), the patriarch could not consent to share in the wealth of the impious Sodomites; in this a striking contrast to Lot.
It is not only that Abram did not want credit being removed from God, he also did not want to share wealth from the evil Sodomites – which is a contrast with his nephew Lot.
Finishing the section of verses, let’s look again at the Ellicott Commentary:
(24) The young men . . . the men which went with me.—The former are Abram’s 318 servants, and they are to take only their food. The latter are the Amorites, and they are to have their fair share of the spoil.
We must notice in Abram’s policy that, while Lot had joined himself to the Canaanites, he stood aloof, ready to help on fit occasion, but even so maintaining his independence, and refusing to draw the bonds of friendship close together. Such, too, was the true policy of the people sprung from him. Standing apart from all nations, they were to trust in Jehovah alone for the maintenance of their liberty and rights; and so long as they did thus act they found in Him peace and security.
d. Let them take their portion: However, at the same time, Abram did not impose his principles on his Amorite allies (Genesis 14:13). They were entitled to as much of the spoil as is appropriate under the customs of the time.
From the Pulpit Commentaries:
Save— בִּלְעָדַי, compounded of בַּל, not, and עַד, unto—not unto; a particle of deprecation, meaning, “nothing shall come unto me” (cf. Genesis 41:16)—only that which the young men— נַעַר, a primitive word (cf. Sanscrit, nara, man; nari, nari, woman; Zend; naere;Greek, ἀνήρ), applied to a new-born child (Exodus 2:1-25 :26; 1 Samuel 4:21), a youth of about twenty (Genesis 34:19; Genesis 41:15), a servant, like παῖς (Genesis 37:2; 2 Kings 5:1-27 :50), a common soldier (1 Kings 20:15, 1 Kings 20:17, 1 Kings 20:19; 2 Kings 19:6)—have eaten, and the portion of the men who went with me, Aner, Eshcol, and Mature; let them take their portion.
Here we see applied a principle wherein God’s rules are applied only to God’s people. Abram allows the Amorites in his company to live separately. In this way, God’s provision has an opportunity to prove itself – including to the Amorites – superior.
Aner = “boy”; עָנֵר ʻÂnêr, aw-nare’; probably for H5288; Aner, a Amorite, also a place in Palestine:—Aner.
Eschol = “cluster”; אֶשְׁכֹּל ʼEshkôl, esh-kole’; the same as H811; Eshcol, the name of an Amorite, also of a valley in Palestine:—Eshcol.; אֶשְׁכּוֹל ʼeshkôwl, esh-kole’; or אֶשְׁכֹּל ʼeshkôl; probably prolonged from H810; a bunch of grapes or other fruit:—cluster (of grapes).
Mamre = “strength” or “fatness”; מַמְרֵא Mamrêʼ, mam-ray’; from H4754(in the sense of vigor); lusty; Mamre, an Amorite:—Mamre.