Genesis 18:1–8

181 YHWH appeared to Abraham at the Terebinths of Mamre while he sat in the entrance to his tent in the heat of the day. 2He raised his eyes and, behold, he saw three men standing before him. As soon as Abraham saw them, he ran toward them from his tent entrance to greet them and bowed to the earth. 3He said, “My lord, if I have found favor in your eyes, pray don’t go past your servant. 4Let a little water be fetched so you may wash your feet and recline under the tree. 5Let me fetch you a bit of bread so you will be refreshed. Then you may travel after visiting your servant.”
     They said, “Do as you have spoken.”
      6So Abraham hurried into his tent, to Sarah, and said, “Hurry! Knead three measures of the finest semolina flour and make some loaves!” 7Abraham also ran to the herd, brought a tender calf, and gave it to a young servant, to hurry and prepare it. Then Abraham fetched curds and milk and the prepared calf and set the food in front of them, and stood over them under the tree while they ate.

The author gives the reader information the character doesn’t know. It will be just a bit before this becomes clear. In the meantime, this unbalanced knowledge becomes a test of Abraham in his newly circumcised state. Can Abraham look past the mirage of life to glimpse its background state and participate in its generosity?

The setting is once again at the Terebinths of Mamre where, as Abram, he heard of Lot’s capture and the need to rescue him. Now, as Abraham, he looks out through the shimmering waves of heat to see three persons. This number is as suspect as any mirage. He begins in the singular and progresses to plural references to the visitor(s).

In a seeming moment, they stand before Abraham. Like a later prodigal father, Abraham runs to meet them. Again a mirage-like moment as this run didn’t take long because they were right there. The enthusiasm suggested by the speed of his welcome continues with importuning that the stranger(s) tarry. The offer is for water in a weary land, rest and refreshment, and nourishment on which to travel further.

Such an offer is both too good to turn down and an invitation that cannot be avoided without dishonoring the host.

In typical patriarchal fashion, Abraham’s generosity requires Sarah’s time and energy to provide a sizeable amount of bread. Abraham did select the fatted calf, but the actual slaughtering was delegated.

It takes some time to move from a little refreshment to a grand feast. There was time for the stranger(s) to have an extended siesta. So it was, Abraham welcomed strangers, unaware of their messenger (angelic) function. He attended to their eating with a solicitous urging to have more.

Abraham’s hospitality is a model of “premeditated mercy” that will later be codified. It is also a standard against which other opportunities for hospitality will be measured.

Genesis 17:18–27

1718 Abraham said to God, “If only Ishmael might live in your presence!”
     19 God said, “Sarah, your wife, will bear a son for you, and you shall name him Isaac. I will establish my covenant with him and with his seed as a covenant for the ages. 20 As for Ishmael, I’ve heard you. I will bless him and make him fruitful and abundantly multiply him. He will beget twelve tribal leaders, and I shall make a great nation of him. 21 But my covenant will be established with Isaac, who will be born to Sarah by this season next year.” 22 When God finished speaking to him, God ascended from beside Abraham.
     23 Abraham took Ishmael, his son, and all those born in his household, and all those purchased with silver—every male in Abraham’s household—and he circumcised the flesh of their foreskins on that very day, just as God had spoken to him. 24 Abraham was 99 years old when the flesh of his foreskin was circumcised. 25 Ishmael, his son, was 13 years old when the flesh of his foreskin was circumcised. 26 On that same day, Abraham and his son Ishmael were circumcised. 27 All the males of his household, whether house-born or money-bought with silver from foreigners, were circumcised with him.

Having heard of a son coming from Sarah, Abraham not only laughs but raises a request regarding Ishmael, his son from Hagar.

G*D first confirms a next son, who is to be called Isaac (“Laughter”). The Hebrew word for “laughter,” here, carries with it multiple valences, “joyous laughter, bitter laughter, mockery, and sexual dalliance.” [Alter, p. 55]

Then G*D, like Isaac later, pronounces a blessing for the first born when it is clear that the second born has carried away the birthright. Fruitfulness and multiplication to the point of nationhood are continued for Ishmael, though they contain conflict and defiance. Ishmael has his blessing but without a promise of a continued preference or presence of G*D. If it becomes a choice, G*D will favor Isaac, his laughing boy.

With a reference to G*D leaving by ascending, it is important to ask if this is a deus ex machina lowered on ropes to appear and disappear. Is this G*D’s story or our attempt to make sense of an impossible adventure we are on to wrestle meaning from happenstance and reactive responses to previous reactions to particular circumstances?

As abruptly as Abram left Haran, so Abraham, following Noah, sets to enacting the latest vision—off with foreskins! A circumcision line is set up for all the males in Abraham’s household (Welcome Back, Ishmael!). Abraham is included in the lineup. The cadence of the passage suggests that Abraham may have led the way in this first call for circumcision. Age (Abraham, 99) before Beauty (Ishmael, 13).

Note that even though Ishmael was circumcised, he was conceived before Abraham was circumcised. If this is a new requirement, Isaac is the first sired by a circumcised parent and also circumcised on his 8thday—True lineage, favored son.

Genesis 17:9-17

17God said to Abraham, “As for you, you are to keep my covenant, you and your seed through every generation. 10 This is my covenant you shall keep between me and you and your seed: Every male among you shall be circumcised. 11 You shall circumcise the flesh of your foreskin, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between us. 12 On the eighth day after birth, every male among you must be circumcised, even slaves born in the household and those bought with money from foreigners. 13 Those born in your house and those purchased with your silver shall be circumcised, so my covenant may be in your flesh for all time. Your flesh will embody my covenant as an enduring covenant. 14 Any male not circumcised, that person shall be exiled. He has violated my covenant.”
     15 God said to Abraham, “Sarai, your wife, will no longer be called Sarai. Sarah is her name! 16 I will bless her and I will give you a son from her, and I will bless him. I will bless her so that she will become nations; kings of peoples shall come from her.”
     17 Abraham fell on his face, and he laughed, saying to himself, “To a 100-year-old man a child shall be born! Sarah, a 90-year-old woman, shall have a child!”

The covenant relationship runs from G*D to, now, Abraham. A repetition of its details adds in circumcision—not a medical benefit, not a rite of passage, but a sign of being yoked to a G*D, a tribe, a nation, a people, a culture. Circumcision is a physical Shibboleth. Circumcision is not just for Abraham’s lineage but their human property (slaves) as well—a branding.

We have just experienced a covenant binding ritual that cut or divided animals. Now we shift that one-time event to an every generation act of cutting. In sales, this is an undocumented “feature” only discovered after a purchase is completed.

There are later stories that will use circumcision as a charm to ward off evil, but here it is simply requirement.

If a male sports the communal sign of circumcision, they meet the lowest bar of community. Without it they are exiled and, in tribal culture, this is a capital act—death.

The intensity of the significance of circumcision is that G*D will take any exception as a breaking of covenant. With this break comes the loss of possessions and land—the loss of power.

As the shift from Abram to Abraham didn’t change the meaning of his name, only its form, so, too, with a change from Sarai to Sarah (even less of an orthographic change).

Now we receive confirmation that it is specifically Sarah who is to be noted in this line of Abraham. The whole Hagar/Ishmael line will continue, but not as a “chosen” or preferred line.

With the specificity that it is Sarah who will bear a son (and at her age of 90, even one seems a bit much), Abraham finally gets the joke about impossibility as the likeliest route forward and falls down laughing.

Readers will need to decide if this laughter is of absurdity or is a confirmation of everything after a first vision in Haran.

Genesis 17:1–8

171 When Abram was ninety and nine years old, YHWH appeared to Abram and said to him, “I am El Shaddai. Walk in my presence and be blameless. I set a covenant between us and multiply you greatly.” Abram flung himself on his face, and God spoke, “As for me, my covenant is with you; you will be the ancestor of a throng of nations. Your name will no longer be Abram but Abraham, father of a multitude of nations. I will make you exceedingly fruitful and turn you into nations and king upon kings. I will establish my covenant with you and your seed throughout the generations, a covenant for the ages to be God to you and your seed. I will give you and your seed after you the land in which you travel, the whole land of Canaan, as an everlasting possession, and I will be God to them.”

Just prior to turning to a new page, a new stage of life, a new century, Abram has another encounter with G*D. With Melchizedek, we heard a reference to El Elyon—The Sky God, Most High. Now we hear another ancient designation—El Shaddai—The God of Mountains or The God of Fertility. Given the context, the reference to fertility is the most apt.

After the identification of who is visiting Abram, we hear the deal being proposed (or reconfirmed from the ritual in Chapter 15), “Do as we agreed and I’ll do as I agreed.”

[Note: The “walk” talk is connected to the old story of Enoch, who didn’t die but walked “with” G*D. Here that “walk” is distanced to suggest a following of instructions.]

We hear, again, a promise of a prolific family tree to come. We might begin to anticipate Eliza Dolittle singing, “Words, words, words, I’m so sick of words. All I get from you are words (promises).”

Although there is still an implied hierarchy to an agreement between YHWH and Abram (vs. a partnership such as with ’adam and Eve* in their cool-of-the-evening conversations and with Enoch), Abram is given a new name to indicate a change in the relationship. This name change gives readers a hint that the heretofore promises might begin to come to pass. It still must be asked if this is simply an upgraded title that comes with no increase in benefits.

Exit Abram—Exalted High Father; Enter Abraham—Exalted High Father. The meaning of the names doesn’t change. This formal change in status is not unlike a Pope taking a name to reflect who he comprehends himself to be. Here there is no substantive shift from Abram to Abraham—a change that is no change.The old deal is the new deal—fruitful descendants, everlastingly connected to YHWH (without a mention of slavery), military and economic power, and land.

Genesis 16:7–16

     16Then YHWH’s messenger found Hagar by a spring in the wilderness, the spring on the way to Shur. The messenger said, “Hagar! Sarai’s slavegirl! Where have you come from, and where are you going?”
     She said, “From Sarai, my mistress. I’m fleeing.”
     Then YHWH’s messenger said to her, “Return to your mistress and be afflicted by her hand.” 
     10 The Lord’s messenger also said to her, “I will give you many children, too many to count!”
     11 The Lord’s messenger said to her, “You have conceived and will bear a son and call him Ishmael [God Hears] for God has heard your suffering.12 He will be a wild-ass of a man; his hand against everyone, the hand of all against him. He will camp in defiance of all his relatives.”
     13 Hagar called the name of YHWH, who spoke to her, “You are El Roi [God of Seeing],”for she said, “Do I not still go on seeing after he saw me?”] 14 Therefore, that well is called Beer-Lahai-Roi [Well of the Living-One Who-Sees-Me]; it’s the well between Kadesh and Bered. 15 Hagar bore a son to Abram, and Abram named the son Hagar bore Ishmael. 16 Abram was 86 years old when Hagar bore Ishmael to Abram.

Sarai may be an included part of the first promise to Abram—to be a great nation in those days included its continuation through the bloodline of the founder. Up to this point, multiplication was going to go through Sarai’s body.

At question now is whether that understanding continues or has been set aside with this new wife—Hagar. From the standpoint of having read this story before, Hagar carries the irony of setting up the reversing of a later account of slavery in Egypt and release through a desert journey back to Canaan.

As Abram’s wife, Hagar is worth following, if for no other reason than to keep this moment of tension, and, thus, the attention of those hearing or reading this account.

We now hear a specific reference to a messenger (an “angel” of G*D) searching for a particular person and spotting her on her way south, toward her native land. This encounter takes place by a spring. There will be many more tales told about meetings at springs and wells. It is helpful to begin a list and see what it tells you. 

A first thing to note is the lack of surprise at an encounter with an angel. It is only later iconography that will add weird wings and glowing halos. Initially, angels look like humans.

Another thing to note is the advice no one should give today—go back into an abusive situation and expect a reward for being additionally harmed.

Pregnant and alone in the Negeb, the direction to return can be seen as care for the one to be born (forenamed, here, as Ishmael). The oracle about Ishmael prepares us for difficulties as he will reside in defiance of his kin (a hint that Sarai may yet have a line of descendants).The unnamed spring becomes a well; the messenger espying Hagar to her seeing a way out (though requiring her to travel a way back to an intolerable situation) morphs into YHWH. Seeing and not just hearing a promise is highlighted. “Beer-Lahai-Roi,” where we see what sees us, will be a recurrent place in Genesis. Where would you identify as your Beer-Lahai-Roi—your place of “being seen” in a time of travail?

Genesis 16:1-6

161 Now, Sarai, Abram’s wife, had not borne him children. She had an Egyptian slavegirl named Hagar. 2 Sarai said to Abram, “The Lord has kept me from bearing children. Pray, come to bed with my slavegirl. Perhaps I will be sonned through her.” Abram listened to the voice of Sarai. 
     3 Sarai, Abram’s wife, took Hagar the Egyptian, her slavegirl, after Abram was settled for ten years in the land of Canaan, and gave her to her husband, Abram, as a wife. 4 He came to bed with Hagar, and she became pregnant. When she realized that she was pregnant, her mistress was lowered in her eyes. 5 Sarai said to Abram, “This wrong is your fault. I put my slavegirl in your lap, and when she saw she was pregnant, she lost respect for me. May YHWH see justice done between me and you!”
     6 Abram said to Sarai, “Look, she’s your slavegirl; do whatever seems good to you.” Sarai bullied her, and she fled from Sarai.

Having participated in a dramatic ritual beyond becoming blood brothers, that contained a threat if it is broken, a question about the promise of offspring needs to be considered—what happens if G*D’s side of the bargain is not kept? Best to not overthink this and proceed to help G*D out by all possible means.

Immediately after this bloody, flaming, ritual, we are reminded that Sarai remains childless. Speculation is available at all times, and this moment in particular. Abram had not been sworn to secrecy about the ritual; did he tell Sarai about it? If so, she may have decided this promise-business had gone on long enough and it was time for her to do her part—step away and place her slavegirl on Abram’s lap herself.

Sarai is quite thorough in her actions. Presumably, there is another ritual that now happens when Hagar is promoted to Abram’s wife. Some translations bowdlerize this action by calling Hagar a concubine rather than a wife, but the Hebrew uses the same terms for Hagar as was used to describe Sarai at the beginning of the chapter—“wife.”

All is well and good in theory. When Hagar conceives, relationships change. Who’s the real “wife” now? Sarai feels slighted, diminished, demoted. Hagar has usurped the process of inheritance. Abram’s family tree will have Hagar as the main branch and Sarai as a dried-up side twig.

Sarai had been put aside as a “wife” once already, in Egypt. Now she is set aside as a “wife” who could not bear Abram a son (remember this is a patriarchal story).

Having contrived a situation, Sarai now complains about it. Coming to Abram, Sarai brings an ultimatum beyond rituals and promises—“Choose, now, whether I remain your wife!” We do not know what went into Abram’s response beyond Sarai’s famous beauty and years of common experience. All we know is that Abram washed his hands and left Hagar in Sarai’s. Whereupon, Sarai bullied Hagar until she fled into a deadly desert as the last best choice left her.

Genesis 15:7-21

157 G*D said to Abram, “I am YHWH, who brought you out of Ur of the Chaldees to give you this land, to inherit it.”
     8 But Abram said, “Lord YHWH, how do I know that I will actually inherit it?”
     9 G*D said, “Bring me a three-year-old heifer, a three-year-old female goat, a three-year-old ram, a dove, and a young pigeon.” 10 He took all of these animals, halved them down the middle, and laid the halves facing each other, but he didn’t cleave the birds. 11 When vultures descended upon the carcasses, Abram drove them off. 12 As the sun set, Abram slept deeply. A deep dark dread settled over him.
     13 Then the Lord said to Abram, “Know deeply that your descendants will live as strangers in a land that isn’t their own, where they will be enslaved and afflicted for four hundred years. 14 But I will punish the nation they serve, and they will leave it with great property. 15 As for you, you will join your ancestors in peace and be buried at a ripe old age. 16 The fourth generation will return here since the Amorites’ iniquity won’t have reached full-measure until then.”
     17 After the sun had set and night-blackness had deepened, a smoking oven, a fiery torch passed between the divided animals. 18 That day the Lord cut a covenant with Abram: “To your seed I give this land, from Egypt’s river to the great Euphrates: 19 the Kenite, the Kenizzite, the Kadmonite, 20 the Hittite, the Perizzite, the Rephaim, 21 the Amorite, the Canaanite, the Girgashite, and the Jebusite.”

There is an unspecified period between the previous promise and this sealing of it. We have just noted the uncountable stars (at night) and are now leading up to a ritual at sunset.

This ritual began in Ur where Terah had left with Abram and all toward Canaan. Was this an implicit acknowledgment of G*D’s presence with Abram before he was instructed to leave Haran for an unnamed place (that we were already clued into as Canaan?).

At question is what will confirm the surety of a strange and increasingly improbable promise of descendants. Readers are encouraged to consider what they use for confidence in an unprovable future.

Three-year-old cheddar is a minimum for good flavor. From this distance, it is difficult to know if the age of a heifer, she-goat, or ram goes beyond the mystery of the number 3.

Of note here, the Hebrew, “each set his part,” applies to living beings, not to things like halves of animals. This linguistic detail brings a picture of G*D and Abram facing each other, unlike later Mosaic stories where G*D’s face cannot be survived if it is seen. Here, we are dealing with life issues, including future descendants.

After dividing the animals down their bilateral seam, each takes a half part and places it opposite its other half—except for the birds, of which we hear no more.

As the sun set, Abram finds doubt darkening into fear as the ritual makes clear that if he fails in his part, he, too, will be bilaterally divided.

The number of generations (4) and years (400) don’t line up, but we get a flavor of what is being said—there will be a long time of difficulty before things begin to move in a different direction. It is difficult to be precise when dealing with future events. The Butterfly Effect works in time as well as in weather forecasting.

The pyrotechnics of a flaming torch and smoky grill do have elements that look back to reversing menacing cherubim and look ahead to travel through the desert from enslavement in Egypt to this promised return to Canaan (reversing its curse?).

Note: From the Nile to the Euphrates is not merely a long distance, but essentially the known universe of the storyteller.

Genesis 15:1–6

151 After these events, YHWH’s word came to Abram in a vision, saying: “Be not afraid, Abram, I will shield you. You will be greatly rewarded.”
     2 Abram said: “My Master, YHWH, what can you give when I am going to die bare-of-children, and my chief domestic is Eliezer, a Damascan?” 3 And Abram continued, “Look! To me you have given no seed, so the head of my household will be my heir!”
     4 The word of YHWH came to him, saying, “This man will not be your heir; the one who comes from your own loins will be your heir.” 5 Then YHWH took Abram outside and said, “Look to the heavens and count the stars—if you can. So shall your seed be.”
       Abram trusted in YHWH, and was recognized as “Set-Right-with YHWH.”

After not claiming the spoils of war as his, Abram is reminded that his “reward” is of more significance than a moment of surplus. The promise Abram is working on was last described as dustier than dust. The image moves from beneath his feet to the sky above. The promised seed is more than the stars that can be seen with eye alone and even more than the next seeing with a bigger-than-Hubble telescope or an earth-wide array of radio receivers.

When introduced to Abram, G*D “said” to Abram, “Go!” The phrase, “G*D came to Abram in a vision,” is a formula later used of the prophets, not these stories of the patriarchs. Additionally, Abram will be called a prophet in Chapter 20. A prophetic engagement with the future intruding right here and now marks a change in Abram from a passive obeyer of G*D’s directions. We are now in the presence of a dialogue, which is a step toward partnership.

As often with the sudden appearance of an unexpected tomorrow showing up in the middle of everyday life, our startle-response is indistinguishable from fear. This knee-jerk response needs to be addressed at the top. This is still the case today. Until fear is addressed, we will not find a healthy way through a next surprise, or change in general, either small or large. This points to the importance of lived assurance and the needed tools to walk a path both based on it and toward it.

The echoes of Abram’s first encounter with G*D in Haran are strong. We revisit it to see it afresh. It is time to hear again about being fruitful (a basis for becoming a nation) and greatness (beyond military prowess just demonstrated).

What is not echoed here is the issue of blessedness, either a blessing of Abram or a blessing flowing forth from him.

It is usually problematic to have an implied blessing for it is so easily covered over by the least of the processes generated by the Seven Deadlies. A result is that our sense of entitlement turns blessing into a one-way street where blessing flows to us, and we store it as a limited commodity. Somehow, it never flows as freely from us, and we don’t recognize its manna-nature has spoiled (more about this detail if we get to Exodus).

After this cool-of-the-evening conversation, Abram returns to his prior response of acceptance, of deciding to place trust in this “Other!”

Genesis 14:17–24

1417 After Abram returned after striking down Chedorlaomer and the kings with him, the king of Sodom came forward to meet him at the Valley of Shaveh, now known as the Valley of the King.
     18 And Melchizedek, king of Salem, brought bread and wine. He was priest of El Elyon (God Most-High). 19 And Melchizedek blessed Abram, saying: 
          “Blessed be Abram by El Elyon,
               possessor of heaven and earth,
          20 and blessed be God Most-High
               who delivered your foes into your hand
And Abram gave Melchizedek a tenth of everything.
     21 And the king of Sodom said to Abram, “Give me the persons, and take the property for yourself.” 
     22 Abram said to the king of Sodom, “I promised YHWH, God Most-High, possessor of heaven and earth, 23 that I will not take even a thread to a sandal-strap of anything that is yours, so you can’t say, ‘I’m the one who made Abram rich.’ 24 Nothing for me! However, what the servants have consumed they may keep, and those who went with me (Aner, Eshkol, and Mamre) may take their share.”

After a successful adventure, Abram meets two leaders with different responses to his return of the people kidnapped and property confiscated.

The first met was Melchizedek, the priest/king of Salem. [Note: A mnemonic for spelling this name is the cadence of the Mickey Mouse Club song—MEL-CHI-ZEDEK.] Later interpreters will associate his presence with the Davidic reign from JeruSalem.

Melchizedek comes forward with bread and wine and a blessing. For those in a later branch into Christianity, it is a reminder of how common is their tradition of communion/eucharist—simple gifts, simply offered. In response Abram gives 10% of the recovered property.

King Bera of Sodom, still sticky from his time in a tar pit, comes with his generous offer to receive the recovered people (you can’t be king without subjects, even poor ones) and to leave all the property in Abram’s hands.

With all the recovered people to feed and 90% of the property, Abram rejects this offer by Bera in no uncertain terms. Abram sees this “bargain” as a future trap that will diminish his care for his extended family and turn it into a suspected means of his own aggrandizement. Bargainers for deals usually carry an unspoken assumption of being able to take, later, what they left on the table—to put the giver in debt to them.

Abram does look after the needs of those who adventured with him, those who risked their lives with him.

Some scholars see here the adaption of an old Akkadian story that glorifies a victorious king. If so, it is undercut by Abram’s underhanded tactic of a surprise night attack and his disinterest in profiting from a successful venture.

Who would you bless, today, without an expectation to profit?

Genesis 14:1–16

141 When Amraphel was king of Shinar, Arioch king of Ellasar, Chedorlaomer king of Elam, and Tidal king of Goiim: 2 they went to war with Bera king of Sodom, Birsha king of Gomorrah, Shinab king of Admah, Shemeber king of Zeboiim, and the king of Bela (now Zoar). 3 These last five kings joined forces in the Valley of Siddim (the Sea of Salt). 4 For twelve years they were subjects of Chedorlaomer, and they rebelled in the thirteenth year. 5 In the fourteenth year, Chedorlaomer and his three allied kings attacked the Rephaim at Ashteroth-Karnaim and the Zuzim in Ham, the Emim in Shaveh-Kiriathaim, and 6 the Horites in the mountains of Seir near the wilderness of El Paron. 7 Returning, when they came to En-Mishpat (Kadesh) they struck at the Amalekites and the Amorites who lived in Hazazon-Tamar.
     8 Then the kings of Sodom, Gomorrah, Admah, Zeboiim, and Bera/Zoar, battled 9 Chedorlaomer king of Elam, Tidal king of Goiim, Amraphel king of Shinar, and Arioch king of Ellasar in the Valley of Siddim—four kings against five.
     10 The Valley of Siddim had pit after pit of tar (bitumen/asphalt). Retreating, the kings of Sodom and Gomorrah hid in the pits and the rest fled to the mountains. 11 The four kings took everything of substance from Sodom and Gomorrah, including their food, and went away. 12 They also took Lot, Abram’s nephew, who was living in Sodom, and all he had.
     13 A survivor came and told Abram the Hebrew, who was dwelling by the Terebinths of Mamre the Amorite, brother of Eshkol and Aner who were allies of Abram. 14 When Abram heard his relative was taken captive, he marshaled his house-born slaves (318) and went in pursuit as far as Dan. 15 Abram divided his force during the night and struck and pursued them as far as Hova, north of Damascus. 16 Abram brought back all the looted property, returned his relative, Lot, and his property, and women and others as well.

And now for something completely different. If you follow the Documentary Hypothesis of JEP, we are here engaged with a D of historical record. All the arguments of what passage falls under which rubric reminds us of the futility of trying to dissect an animal to find its life essence or finally separate the good from the no-good within our self. A literary collage cannot be explained, only experienced. Though, to explain, we will attempt.

From coming to dwell at Hebron, now the seat of one small incipient nation, we are summarily tossed into international intrigue and war. Abram eventually comes to do battle with far-off Mesopotamian kingdoms (his birthplace) and engage the leadership of a principal city in his own Canaan area (Salem/Jerusalem).

Rather than continue an intimate description of the stages of Abram’s on-going relationship with G*D’s promises, we are flown to a height of 30,000 feet to see a geostrategic structure within which Abram’s small footprint is located. We should be reminded of the frailty of this post-Flood project so dependent upon progeny and the risks of such already run in Egypt.

The spectacle includes 4 kings vying against 5 and the losers jumping into tar pits. There is a mandatory film car chase to rescue the Capo’s nephew, Lot, and their related, extended family property. Abram trains his Dirty Dozen (118 vs. a horde) and essentially claims influence to north of Damascus (a fourth of the way back to Haran).Lot, and all his property, were rescued and returned to Sodom. What a relief. Will Sodom be so grateful it will change its wicked ways, which were described in verse 1? Well, we’ll see.