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.