Genesis 14–17: Lot Rescued, Melchizedek, Ishmael, Abraham, and Circumcision EGP Blog post from January 5, 2013

In Genesis 14, we find that several kings revolt against a more powerful king (four kings against five) and they plundered Sodom, Gomorrah, Lot’s possessions, and even kidnapped Lot. When Abram found out, he sent 318 of his trained men and got back Lot, all his possessions, and all the other captives. These people had taken down and looted at least two cities, and Abram’s men overcame them and took back everything they wanted. We’re never given the numbers taken out or survivors, but you can keep your 300 and I’ll take the 318!

After all this, Abram met with Melchizedek (pronounced mal-kee-tseh’-dek [H4442]), a king and priest of God Most High (El Elyon [H410] [H5945]). Melchizedek blessed Abram, blessed God, and said that God granted the victory. So Abram gave him a tenth of all he’d recovered (a tithe). Melchizedek is compared to Christ in the New Testament, because he was a priest and a king from Salem (modern-day Jerusalem [H8004]).

Hebrews 7:1–3 (NASB)

[1] For this Melchizedek, king of Salem, priest of the Most High God, who met Abraham as he was returning from the slaughter of the kings and blessed him, [2] to whom also Abraham apportioned a tenth part of all the spoils, was first of all, by the translation of his name, king of righteousness, and then also king of Salem, which is king of peace. [3] Without father, without mother, without genealogy, having neither beginning of days nor end of life, but made like the Son of God, he remains a priest perpetually.

In Genesis 15, God promises again that Abram will have countless descendants (like the stars in the sky). Though Abram doubted Him at first, when God showed him the stars, he believed. Genesis 15:6 says, “Then he believed in the Lord; and He reckoned it to him as righteousness.” This verse is quoted several times in the New Testament (Romans 4:3, Galatians 3:6, James 2:23), because it’s the first major example of righteousness by faith, not works.

Ironically, the very next thing Abram said to God after this (in response to receiving the Promised Land) was, “O Sovereign Lord, how can I be sure that you will give it to me?” (Genesis 15:8 NLT) This is proof that you can have faith and doubts/questions at the same time. Abram already lived there and was apparently rich, but was under a king’s rule and didn’t have children to inherit it. God reaffirmed that the land would belong to his descendants, but they would first be enslaved for 400 years.

Abram and Sarai were getting quite old (about 85 and 75 respectively), but still didn’t have any children, so Sarai suggested Abram have a child with her handmaiden, Hagar. While many think that Abram was being a “typical man” and wouldn’t turn that kind of opportunity down, we must note that up to this point, God had just said, “your descendants” to Abram (Genesis 12:7, 13:15–16, 15:5). On top of that, the last thing God had told him about this was, “[the] one who will come forth from your own body, he shall be your heir” (Genesis 15:4). So, technically, there had been no mention of Sarai…not that it justifies Abram or Sarai, but how often have we taken God’s promises into our own hands, especially after years of them not being fulfilled?

Hagar gets pregnant, Sarai gets upset (probably fueled by her own insecurities caused by being barren for all these years), and bullies Hagar into running away (Hagar’s name means “flight, flee, run away” [H1904]). The Angel of the Lord (which many believe to be pre-incarnate Christ) met with Hagar in the wilderness, told her to return home, submit to Hagar, and that she would have many children (too many to count). He also said that she will name her son “Ishmael” (meaning “God Hears” or “God Will Hear” [H3458]) because, “the Lord has heard your misery” (Genesis 16:11 NLT). She named that place “Beer-lahai-roi” (pronounced be-ayr’ lakh-ah’ee ro-ee’ [H883]), which means, “well of the Living One who sees me.”)

In Genesis 17, God makes a covenant with Abram (previously He’d just made promises, but a covenant is more of a binding contract). Part of the blessings of this covenant was that Abram (which means “Exalted Father” [H87]) was renamed Abraham (meaning “Father of Many” [H85]…just when I got used to calling him Abram) and Sarai (which means “Dominative”… [H8297]…just ask Hagar) was renamed Sarah (meaning “Princess” [H8283]). The main blessing was that his descendants would be kings and possess the land of Canaan forever. While much of this would happen in the coming years, this is also a prophecy of Christ: the King of Kings, who would bring eternal life (Everlasting Father), and restore the Promised Land when He redeems the world.

Abraham’s part of the covenant is to, “walk before [God] and be blameless” (Genesis 17:1) and for all men to be circumcised. Circumcision has many health benefits, but at the same time is representative of the covenant being passed on to his descendants. We find out later that that it is also an outward expression of a changed heart (Deuteronomy 10:16, 30:6, Jeremiah 4:4) and this meaning being the only meaning in the New Covenant (Galatians 5:2–6). In verse 14, God uses a clever play on words, saying that those who don’t get circumcised will be “cut off” from His people. So Abraham was faithful and had all men get circumcised, no matter their age (him being 99 years old).

Tomorrow’s reading for the Bible in a year: Genesis 18–20