Written by On Sunday, 29 May 2016 17:21

Abraham, formerly known as Abram is a well known figure in scripture. Infact all the three major religions of west and the middle east consider this man as the father of their faith. What kind of person was he? Lets start in Genesis 14.

1 At the time when Amraphel was king of Shinar, Arioch king of Ellasar, Kedorlaomer king of Elam and Tidal king of Goyim, 2 these kings went to war against Bera king of Sodom, Birsha king of Gomorrah, Shinab king of Admah, Shemeber king of Zeboyim, and the king of Bela (that is, Zoar). 3 All these latter kings joined forces in the Valley of Siddim (that is, the Dead Sea Valley). 4 For twelve years they had been subject to Kedorlaomer, but in the thirteenth year they rebelled.

5 In the fourteenth year, Kedorlaomer and the kings allied with him went out and defeated the Rephaites in Ashteroth Karnaim, the Zuzites in Ham, the Emites in Shaveh Kiriathaim 6 and the Horites in the hill country of Seir, as far as El Paran near the desert. 7 Then they turned back and went to En Mishpat (that is, Kadesh), and they conquered the whole territory of the Amalekites, as well as the Amorites who were living in Hazezon Tamar.

8 Then the king of Sodom, the king of Gomorrah, the king of Admah, the king of Zeboyim and the king of Bela (that is, Zoar) marched out and drew up their battle lines in the Valley of Siddim 9 against Kedorlaomer king of Elam, Tidal king of Goyim, Amraphel king of Shinar and Arioch king of Ellasar—four kings against five. (Gen 14: 1-9)

First we are presented with two adversaries. On one side, we have 5 kings who had been subjects to Chedorlaomer but decided to rebel against him. On the other side we have 4 kings whose armies are reasonably battle hardened. The bible records that before coming to battle with the coalition of the Kings of Sodom & Gomorrar, they had started their campaigns by beating the Rephaims, the Zuzims, the Emims , the Horites, the Amalekites and the Amorites. By the time the battle lines are drawn against each other in the valley of Siddim, it is clear that the armies allied to Chedolarmer have the advantage of having won appx. 6 previous battles. The smart money would be on Chedolamer and his team.

 10 Now the Valley of Siddim was full of tar pits, and when the kings of Sodom and Gomorrah fled, some of the men fell into them and the rest fled to the hills. 11 The four kings seized all the goods of Sodom and Gomorrah and all their food; then they went away. 12 They also carried off Abram's nephew Lot and his possessions, since he was living in Sodom. (Gen 14: 10-12)

The funny thing here is, the bible does not actually record a fight taking place. We just read of battle lines being drawn and the Kings of Sodom & Gomorrah fleeing & falling. Maybe the Chedolarmer’s team could do a really mean Haka. But the message here is clear, Chedolarmer & his team were heavy weights in battle and not to be taken lightly. Enter Abram.

13 A man who had escaped came and reported this to Abram the Hebrew. Now Abram was living near the great trees of Mamre the Amorite, a brother of Eshkol and Aner, all of whom were allied with Abram. 14 When Abram heard that his relative had been taken captive, he called out the 318 trained men born in his household and went in pursuit as far as Dan. 15 During the night Abram divided his men to attack them and he routed them, pursuing them as far as Hobah, north of Damascus. 16 He recovered all the goods and brought back his relative Lot and his possessions, together with the women and the other people. (Gen 14: 13-16)

I’d like to point out here that unlike King Saul,King David or Gideon,  the bible does not record Abram seeking guidance from God before pursuing the armies of Chedolarmer. It seems Abram was confident enough in his strategies, his skills and that of his 318 trained men in his household; enough to take it for granted that he could pursue and rescue Lot from Chedolarmer and the 3 kings allied to him. How many times do we in our day to day work as Lawyers, Doctors, Mechanics, Chefs just tackle the tasks ahead of us with confidence out of our experience & training without thinking of saying a prayer? It seems natural that we only pray when confronted with a seemingly insurmountable task.  Lastly, we have to take note that Abram did not send the men and stay behind, he went with them and from the text, its reasonable to assume that he was like the commander or general at the front-lines with his men.
I’d like to also point out that the writer uses juxtaposition to give us a detailed picture of what kind of man Abram was. By giving us the exploits of Chedolarmer, and the reactions of the Kings of Sodom & Gomorah to Chedolarmer, Abram is clearly portrayed as  a man who is fearless in the face of such a powerful enemy. A man who did not hesitate to jump into action when action was required. A man who was a capable general with a personal professional army.

This picture clearly contradicts the picture of Abram that has always been in my mind, that of an old wizened man. Considering the bible introduces us to Abram as a 75 year old in Gen 12, it is not surprising if anyone of us has that old man image in his/her mind. So let me propose, from now on, when you hear Abram, think King Leonidas from the movie 300.

After these things the word of the Lord came unto Abram in a vision, saying, Fear not, Abram:I am thy shield, and thy exceeding great reward (Gen 15:1)

Isn’t it funny that God’s first words to Abram  “After these things” are “Fear not”. Just imagine welcoming a navy seal returning from a successful but dangerous mission behind enemy lines with the words “Fear not”.

Back to Abram. Having seen this picture of Abram as a fearless man as presented to us in chapter 14, let  us compare it with an earlier picture of him back in chapter 12:10

10 Now there was a famine in the land, and Abram went down to Egypt to live there for a while because the famine was severe. 11 As he was about to enter Egypt, he said to his wife Sarai, "I know what a beautiful woman you are. 12 When the Egyptians see you, they will say, 'This is his wife.' Then they will kill me but will let you live. 13 Say you are my sister, so that I will be treated well for your sake and my life will be spared because of you."

14 When Abram came to Egypt, the Egyptians saw that Sarai was a very beautiful woman. 15 And when Pharaoh's officials saw her, they praised her to Pharaoh, and she was taken into his palace. 16 He treated Abram well for her sake, and Abram acquired sheep and cattle, male and female donkeys, male and female servants, and camels.(Gen 12:10-16)

When Abram was in the queue at the immigration desk at the Egyptian border, he suddenly became paranoid and afraid for his life on account of his wife’s beauty. Maybe its the way the immigration police were staring at his wife that got to him. He also goes ahead and acquires wealth at the expense of his wife who has now been handed over to Pharaoh.
This picture of an Abram chickening out at the immigration desk does not compare well to our King Leonidas picture of him in Gen 14. Also his refusal to accept goods from  the king of Sodom contrasts the chapter 12 Abram who gladly acquired sheep and cattle at Sarah’s expense. Maybe I’ve exaggerated abit with the use of the word “gladly” but you get the point. The question that comes to my mind is what happened in Abram’s life after that that turned him from a fearful man to a fearless warrior?
I want to propose that the event described below was the defining event that transformed Abram from the pre chapter 12 Abram to post chapter 12 Abram.

17 But the LORD inflicted serious diseases on Pharaoh and his household because of Abram's wife Sarai. 18 So Pharaoh summoned Abram. "What have you done to me?" he said. "Why didn't you tell me she was your wife? 19 Why did you say, 'She is my sister,' so that I took her to be my wife? Now then, here is your wife. Take her and go!" 20 Then Pharaoh gave orders about Abram to his men, and they sent him on his way, with his wife and everything he had.(Gen 12:17-20)

The LORD defended Abram in spite of his unfaithfulness at the time. 2nd Timothy 2:13 states “if we are faithless, he remains faithful, for he cannot disown himself.”
When Pharaoh gave Sarah back to Abram and sent him away unmolested and he most probably was told about the LORD inflicting serious diseases on Pharaoh’s household, Abram’s faith in God must have been impacted positively. He must have realised God is really watching over him as he promised, blessing those who bless him and cursing those who curse him. His next decision after this event reinforces my opinion on this event. When Lot & Abram’s servants started quarreling over pasture, Abram gave Lot the first pick. He must have been confident in his heart that the God who rescued my wife from Pharaoh, will provide for me no matter where I go or whether the land has water or not.
Have you been a recipient of God’s mercy and grace even when you knew you had sinned or had been disobedient in one way or another? Share your story.

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