Pax Hart

Genesis 14: One Just King

Following the Battle of Siddim, Abram declines the spoils of war, asking only for food for his army. This is a principle of humility that set Abram apart from other kings.

The moral of this tale is being a servant of God and enacting his will is more important than material riches.

And Melchizedek king of Salem brought forth bread and wine: and he was the priest of the most high God. And he blessed him, and said, Blessed ne Abram, of the most high God, possessor of heaven and earth.
And blessed be the most high God which hath delivered thine enemies into thy had. And he gave him tithes of all.
And the king of Sodom said unto Abram, give me the persons, and take the goods to thyself.
And Abram said to the king of Sodom, I have lift up mine hand unto the Lord, the most high God, the possessor of heaven and earth. That I will not take from a thread even to a shoe latchet, and that I will not take anything that is thine, lest thou shouldest say, I have made Abram rich. Save only that which the young men have eaten, and the portion of the men which went with me, Aner and Eshcol, and Memre; let them take their portion.

Genesis 14:18-24

There is no archeological evidence that Abram existed. Other kings listed in this story are identified in other sources and date from around 1800 BCE.

When cuneiform was first deciphered in the 19th century Theophilus Pinches translated some Babylonian tablets which were part of the Spartoli collection in the British Museum and believed he had found in the “Chedorlaomer Tablets” the names of three of the “Kings of the East” named in Genesis 14. As this is the only part of Genesis which seems to set Abraham in wider political history, it seemed to many 19th and early 20th century exegetes and Assyriologists to offer an opening to date Abraham, if the kings in question could only be identified.

In 1887, Schrader was the first to propose that Amraphel could be an alternate spelling for Hammurabi. The terminal -bi on the end of Hammurabi’s name was seen to parallel Amraphel since the cuneiform symbol for -bi can also be pronounced -pi. Tablets were known in which the initial symbol for Hammurabi, pronounced as kh to yield Khammurabi, had been dropped, so that Ammurapi was a viable pronunciation. If Hammurabi were deified in his lifetime or soon after (adding -il to his name to signify his divinity), this would produce something close to the Bible’s Amraphel. A little later Jean-Vincent Scheil found a tablet in the Imperial Ottoman Museum in Istanbul from Hammurabi to a king named Kuder-Lagomer of Elam, which he identified with the same name in Pinches’ tablet. Thus by the early 20th century many scholars had become convinced that the kings of Gen. 14:1 had been identified, resulting in the following correspondences:

Name from Gen. 14:1Name from Archaeology
Amraphel king of ShinarHammurabi (=”Ammurapi”) king of Babylonia
Arioch king of EllasarEri-aku king of Larsa
Chedorlaomer king of Elam (= Chodollogomor in the LXX)Kudur-Lagamar king of Elam
Tidal, king of nations (i.e. goyim, lit. ‘nations’)Tudhulu, son of Gazza

Elam and the king Chedorlaomer were the aggressors who attacked the cities in the Jordan River plain.

The Vale of Siddim was the battleground for the cities of the Jordan River plain revolting against Mesopotamian rule.

The Vale of Siddim is thought to be the southern end of the Dead Sea, the “slime pits” are the bitumen tar pits found there Not was there a Battle of Siddim.