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Genesis Chapter 14
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The War
14:1 It was around this time that Amraphel king of Shinar, Ariokh king of Ellasar, Chedorlaomer king of Elam, and Tidal king of Goyim
14:2 waged war against Bera king of Sodom, Birsha king of Gomorrah, Shinav king of Admah, Shemever king of Tzevoyim, and the king of Bela (now Tzoar).
14:3 All of these had come together in Siddim Valley (now the Dead Sea).
14:4 They had served Chedorlaomer for twelve years, but in the thirteenth year they rebelled.
14:5 In the fourteenth year, Chedorlaomer and his allied kings came. They defeated the Rephaim in Ashteroth Karnaim, the Zuzim in Ham, the Emim in Shaveh Kiryathaim,
14:6 and the Horites in the hill country of Seir, as far as Eyl Paran, which borders the desert.
14:7 They then turned back and came to Eyn Mishpat (now Kadesh), and they conquered the entire field of the Amalekites, as well as the Amorites who lived in Chatzatzon Tamar.
14:8 The kings of Sodom, Gomorrah, Admah, Tzevoyim and Bela (Tzoar) marched forth. They set up battle lines in Siddim Valley,
14:9 against Chedorlaomer king of Elam, Tidal king of Goyim, Amraphel king of Shinar, and Arioch king of Ellasar. There were four kings against the five.
14:10 Siddim Valley was full of tar pits, and when the kings of Sodom and Gomorrah tried to flee, they fell into them. The others fled to the mountains.
14:11 [The victors] seized all the goods of Sodom and Gomorrah, and all the food, and they departed.
14:12 When they left, they [also] took Abram's nephew Lot and his possessions, since he had been living in Sodom.
14:13 Those who escaped came and brought the news to Abram the Hebrew, who was living undisturbed in the plains of Mamre the Amorite, brother of Eshkol and Aner. They were Abram's allies.
14:14 When Abram heard that his kinsman had been taken captive, he called out all his 318 fighting men who had been born in his house. He hurried after [the invaders], catching up with them in Dan.
14:15 He divided [his forces] against them [and attacked] that night - he and his servants. He attacked, and pursued [the invaders] as far as Chovah, which is to the left of Damascus.
14:16 [Abram] brought back all the property. He also brought back his kinsman Lot and all his goods, along with the women and the [other] people.
14:17 After he returned from his victory over Chedorlaomer and his allied kings, the king of Sodom came out to greet him in Level Valley (now King's Valley).
14:18 Malkhi-tzedek king of Salem brought forth bread and wine. He was a priest to God, the Most High.
14:19 He blessed [Abram], and said, 'Blessed be Abram to God Most High, Possessor of heaven and earth.
14:20 And blessed be God Most High, who delivered your enemies into your hand.' [Abram then] gave him a tenth of everything.
14:21 The king of Sodom said to Abram, 'Give me the people. You can keep the goods.'
14:22 Abram replied to the king of Sodom, 'I have lifted my hand [in an oath] to God Most High, Possessor of heaven and earth!
14:23 Not a thread nor a shoelace! I will not take anything that is yours! You should not be able to say, 'It was I who made Abram rich.'
14:24 The only exception is what the young men have eaten, and the portion of the men who went with me, Aner, Eshkol and Mamre. Let them take their share.'



Commentary:

It was around this time...
  (Rabenu Meyuchas). Literally, 'It was in the days of Amraphel,' or 'It was in the days when Amraphel....'

Amraphel
  Talmudic sources identify him with Nimrod (Genesis 10:8; cf. Targum Yonathan; Eruvin 53a; Rashi). Some identify him with the famed Hammurabi, who in ancient writings is referred to as Ammurapi. This may have occurred at the beginning of his reign, before he had built his famed empire, and hence, the leading king is seen as Chedorlaomer (Genesis 14:4,5,9). However, since he later became famous, the age is identified with him.

Shinar
  This is identified with Sumer. The Targum Yonathan renders it as Pontus (see note on Genesis 10:10). In some manuscripts, however, the reading is Bogtos, denoting Baghdad.

Ariokh
  A king of Larsa by the name of Eriaku is found in ancient writings. It was later also a popular name (cf. Daniel 2:14).

Ellasar
  This is the same as Larsa, a city just south of Erekh, and 100 miles south of Babylon. It was a major power center in ancient times. See note on Genesis 10:10.

Chedorlaomer
  K'darla'omer in Hebrew. Some sources indicate that he was originally one of Amraphel's generals, who rebelled and established an independent kingdom (Sefer HaYashar). The name itself is a Hebraicized form of Kudur (servant of) and Lagamar, the name of an Elamite deity.

Elam
  A city-state in the area of Shushan. See note on Genesis 10:22.

Tidal
  He can be identified with the Tudghala or Tudhaliya of cuniform texts, who was king of the Northern Kurdish or Hittite nations.

Goyim
  Literally 'nations' or 'hordes' (see Targum). This might indicate that he was the king over a number of nations, or perhaps, a barbaric king. Others, interpret Goyim as a place name (Rashi). It may be identified with Gutium in Kurdistan. See Joshua 12:23.

Sodom...Tzevoyim
  See Genesis 10:19. Also see Deuteronomy 24:22, Hosea 11:8.

Tzoar
  See note on Genesis 13:10. The name was changed after the other cities were destroyed (Genesis 19:22). Bela was still used as a name (Genesis 36:32).

had come together
  That is, the kings of Sodom and its sattelites had made a treaty to serve Chedorlaomer, and this treaty was made in Siddim Valley (Rashi). Others say that the five cities of the plain had made a mutual defense pact in this valley. Another possible explanation is that they gathered for war in Siddim Valley (see Genesis 14:8).

Siddim Valley
  After the destruction, this area was submerged to become the Dead Sea. The name Siddim is from the root sadad (cf. Isaiah 28:24, Hosea 10:11), which is also the root of the word sadeh, a field (Radak). Hence, Onkelos translates it, 'Field Valley,' or 'Valley of Fields.' Targum Yonathan renders it, 'Orchard Valley,' but, since the word for orchard is pardes, it can also be rendered 'Paradise Valley' (see Bereshith Rabbah 42).

Dead Sea
  Yam HaMelach in Hebrew, literally the Salt Sea. In Moses' time, Siddim Valley was no longer known, and it had to be identified. This plain was in what is now the southern part of the Dead Sea, which is much shallower and more recent geologically than the northern part.

They
  That is, the five cities of the plain.

thirteenth year
  According to others, 'then for 13 years they rebelled' (Bereshith Rabbah 42). According to some, the servitude began immediately after the Tower of Babel (Seder Olam Rabbah 1; cf. Shabbath 11a, Rashi ad loc. s.v. Esrim).

defeated
  Literally, 'struck.' It can also mean 'killed,' 'attacked,' or 'conquered.'

Rephaim
  The Targum has 'mighty ones,' or 'giants,' cf. Deuteronomy 2:11, 2:21. Their land was promised to Abraham (Genesis 15:20), and part of it was given to Lot's descendants (Deuteronomy 2:20). Og, a giant reputed to be over ten feet tall, was reputed to be one of the survivors of the Rephaim (Deuteronomy 3:11; Joshua 12:4, 13:12). Their land was later called Bashan, to the east of the Jordan (Deuteronomy 3:13). They were associated with the Perizites (Joshua 17:15, see Genesis 15:20). Some sources identify them with the Hivites (Bereshith Rabbah 44).

Ashteroth Karnaim
  Ancient twin cities, some 22 miles east of the Sea of Galilee (Kinereth Sea), on what is now the Golan Heights. Actually Karnayim was a little over two miles northeast of Ashteroth. Later, Og lived near there (Joshua 9:10, 12:4, 13:12) in Edrei (Deuteronomy 1:4. Cf. Rashi on Deuteronomy 1:4). Ashteroth was also the name of a Sidonite deity (cf. 1 Kings 11:5 etc.). Karnayim literally means 'twin horns' (Radak).

Zuzim
  These are identical with the Zumzumim of Deuteronomy 2:20 (Rashi). Zumzumim was the name given to this race of giants by the Amonites (Deuteronomy 2:20). The Targum renders it takifin, literally 'the powerful ones.'

Ham
  A city 14 miles to the east of the Jordan River, and 25 miles southwest of Ashteroth Karnayim. We thus see that the attackers were coming from the north and heading south. Some sources, however, render this verse, 'the Zuzim among them' (Bereshith Rabbah 42). This follows from Deuteronomy 2:20, where the Zuzim are identified with the Raphaim.

Emim
  Literally, 'fearsome ones' (Targum), a name given to the Rephaim (giants) by the Moabites (Deuteronomy 2:11). They lived in what was later Moabite territory (see note on Genesis 14:5, 'Shaveh Kiryathaim' ).

Shaveh Kiryathaim
  An ancient city, 8 miles east of the Dead Sea, 5 miles north of the Arnon River, and 67 miles south of Ham. It is literally, 'the plain of two cities.' It was on the frontier of Moab (Ezekiel 25:9; cf. Jeremiah 48:1,2,23,24). It later became part of Reuben's territory (Numbers 32:37, Joshua 13:19).

Horites
  Chorites in Hebrew. These were the original inhabitants of Seir who were later driven out and destroyed by Esau's descendants (Deuteronomy 2:12, 2:22; cf. Genesis 36.8). Seir may have been named later, after Seir the Horite (cf. Genesis 36:27). See note on Genesis 36:2.

Seir
  The area later occupied by Esau (Genesis 36:8). Seir is the hill country to the south of the Dead Sea. This means that the invaders swung around the Dead Sea and headed west.

Eyl Paran
  To the west of Seir. Eyl is translated 'plain' in the Targum. According to this, it might be associated with the plain known as Arabah directly south of the Dead Sea (see below). Other sources render this 'Terebinth of Paran' (Ramban; Septuagint), indicating a grove or oasis. It would then be related to the word elon (see note on Genesis 12:6). See Rashi, Targum on Ezekiel 31:14.

Paran was the area settled by Ishmael (Genesis 21:21). It was on the way from Sinai (Numbers 10:12), from where the spies were sent out, heading through the Tzin Desert (Numbers 13:3,21). The Arabah is between Paran and Tophel (Deuteronomy 1:1).

the desert
  Probably the Tzin Desert, see note on Genesis 14:6, 'Eyl Paran'.

Eyn Mishpat
  Literally, 'Well of Decision,' or 'Well of Judgment.'

Kadesh
  This is Kadesh Barnea (compare Numbers 13:26 and 32:8). The Targum renders this Rekem, which is identified as Petra, 43 miles due south of the Dead Sea (cf. Genesis 16:14, 20:1). Others say that it is an area some 55 miles southwest of the Dead Sea. (Cf. Tosafoth, Gittin 2a, s.v. Ashkelon).

Amalekites
  These were not the descendants of Esau (Genesis 36:12), since the latter were born much later and named after this earlier tribe (Ramban). Otherwise, it may denote the field where the Amalekites later lived (Radak; Ramban).

Amorites
  See note on Genesis 10:16.

Chatzatzon Tamar
  This is Eyn Gedi on the western shore of the Dead Sea (2 Chronicles 20:2; Targum; Rashi). See Judges 1:16, note on Genesis 15:19, regarding the Kenite.

tar pits
  Even now, asphalt is found in the Dead Sea region. The Romans referred to it as Mer Asphaltitis, the Asphalt Sea, and it was known to cast up lumps of asphalt (Josephus, Wars 4:8:4; Tacitus, Histories 5:6).

mountains
  That is, to the mountains on the west of the Dead Sea, toward Hebron, where Abram was living.

Those who escaped
  Some have it in the singular, 'the refugee.'

Hebrew
  See note on Genesis 10:21.

living undisturbed
  See Hirsch.

Amorite
  One of the defeated nations. See Genesis 14:7.

called out
  Or 'hurried' (Targum), or 'armed' (Ibn Ezra).

fighting men
  (Ibn Ezra). Or 'students' (Rashi).

Dan
  A city at the northern end of the Holy Land, 12 miles north of Lake Hula, and 120 miles north of Hebron. It may have been called that since it would later be named Dan, or else there may have been an ancient city there by that name (Radak). Targum Yonathan identifies it as Dan of Caesarea, since Caesarea was some three miles to the east of Dan. (See Joshua 19:47, Judges 18:29). Saadia identifies it with the Banias River.

This indicates that the invaders had a head start, and Abraham did not catch up with them until Dan.

Chovah
  See Judith 4:4, 15:4. This is unidentified, but since they were heading northeast, it would be to the northwest of Damascus, possibly in the valley where the Albana River comes through the mountains. The Targum has 'north of Damascus.'

Damascus
  The capital of Syria, 42 miles northeast of Dan. This was probably as far as they could pursue in a single day. See note on Genesis 30:36.

Level Valley
  Emek Shaveh in Hebrew.

King's Valley
  Emek HaMelekh. It was probably near Jerusalem; see 2 Samuel 18:18.

Malkhi-tzedek
  Usually transliterated Melchizedek, literally 'Righteous King' or King of Tzedek.' See Psalms 110:4. He is identified as Shem, the son of Noah (Targum Yonathan; Nedarim 32b; Rashi. However, see 2 Enoch 23:26). Tzedek was a name of Jerusalem, and Malkhi-tzedek was the title given its king, like Pharaoh in Egypt (Radak, Ralbag on Joshua 10:1; cf. Isaiah 1:26).

Salem
  Jerusalem, cf. Psalms 76:3 (Targum Rashi; Josephus, Antiquities 1:10:2).

tenth
  Maaser in Hebrew, literally a tithe. See Genesis 28:22, Deuteronomy 14:22.

shoelace
  Or 'shoestrap.' Cf. Isaiah 5:27.

The only exception
  See Radak, Sherashim; Ibn Ezra.





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