When the history of Abram opens, God had given Abram a two- fold promise of descendants, and land for his descendants to dwell in (Gen 12:1-4, 7). Almost as soon as he had received this promise, a famine arose in the land, so that he could not dwell there any longer, but had to sojourn in Egypt. Then almost as soon as he arrived there, his wife was taken from him by Egypt’s powerful ruler (Gen 12).
We know the outcome of this history. But if we put ourselves in Abram’s shoes, can you imagine what he must have thought? He left everything he knew to obey the LORD. I am sure he wanted a place to call home, and children. But Sarai was barren, and he became a wanderer and a stranger. God had given him a wonderful promise, and he must have been excited at the prospect of children and dwelling in his own home after all. But now here he was in Egypt, since the place he was promised could not produce food and sustain life. So there goes the promise of land. And to top it all off, his wife was gone – so there goes the promise of children.
Abram’s faith in the promise was being tested. Rather, his faith in the promise Giver was being tested. A promise is only as sure as the One who makes it. But Yehovah shows Himself strong on Abram’s behalf, and his wife is restored to him, and they are restored to the land.
Next, Abram and Lot both become so great, that the land cannot sustain them. This is another test in Abram’s faith in the promise of land. Abram’s response to the test is amazing: he yields his right. He is the elder in the family. He has the right to tell Lot the way things will be. And God Himself promised the land to Abram! But Abram does not force the fulfillment of the promise by striving for what is rightfully his. He allows Lot first choice, and withdraws to the portion that was left over.
And the LORD said to Abram, after Lot had separated from him: “Lift up your eyes now and look from the place where you are – northward, southward, eastward, and westward; for all the land which you see I give to you and your descendants forever. And I will make your descendants as the dust of the earth, so that if a man could number the dust of the earth, then your descendants also could be numbered. Arise, walk in the land through its length and its width, for I give it to you.” Gen 13:14-17
God’s response was to reaffirm His promise of land and descendants, and He added to it! (If you are keeping track of God’s word to Abram, find what was added to the original promise.) Abram pleased Him by responding to the test in true humility. The character trait of yielding rights is also one displayed by our Lord (Phi 2:5-8).
For further study: The history of Abram’s life is the history of obedience, faith in God and in God’s promise, and the testing of that faith. How does Gen 14 reveal a test in Abram’s faith, this time in the promise of children? How does Abram again display humility and yielding what is rightfully his? We have now seen three times in three chapters, the testing of Abram’s faith in God’s promise. Pattern and repetition is a teaching tool of Scripture! Keep your eyes open for this same theme in the chapters ahead.
Then Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine; he was the priest of God Most High. And he blessed him and said: “Blessed be Abram of God Most High, Possessor of heaven and earth; and blessed be God Most High, who has delivered your enemies into your hand.” Gen 14:18-19
The name “Melchizedek” in Hebrew is a contraction of two words; melech, meaning king, and tsedek, meaning righteousness. This is why the writer of Hebrews says that Melchizedek was both the king of peace (Salem or shalom) and the king of righteousness (Heb 7:2). So from these two verses, we learn that Melchizedek was king, priest, and prophet (since prophets speak on God’s behalf to men). Heb 7 explains how Melchizedek was a preincarnate appearance of Jesus our Lord, the Promised Seed, who also serves as king, priest, and prophet (as we will see God reiterate as we go through Scripture). Notice the first appearance in Scripture of bread and wine, and tithes, in Abram’s meeting with Melchizedek – Messiah.
For further reading:
Did Chedorlaomer and the other kings really exist?
Abram’s 318 men (I love Biblical Horizons and Biblical Chronology newsletter. They respect the accuracy and authority of Scripture, and they answer puzzles that geeks like me like to puzzle over, LOL).