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?