The man who burst into Abraham’s camp looked more dead than alive. He ran the last few stumbling steps and then collapsed at the patriarch’s feet gasping. “Help, my lord!”
Abraham waved a hand, and a servant offered the man a waterskin. He drew hard on the spigot, coughed, then drank again. His breathing began to settle, and he nodded in gratitude.
Abraham drew him to his feet. “What is it man? Speak.”
Still breathless, the man poured out the story. Four kings from Mesopotamia had been collecting tribute from the king of Sodom and four other cities in the Jordan Valley. For twelve years, Sodom and the other cities had paid, but the thirteenth year they had rebelled. Then this year the four kings had invaded and ravaged the land.
“They’re unstoppable!” he said. “They’ve even defeated the Rephaims, the Zuzims, and the Emins!”
A murmur ran through the servants crowding around Abraham and the messenger. These invaders from the east had defeated three races of giants!
There was more. These four kings under Chedorlaomer had also defeated the Horites in the mountain fortresses of Seir, smitten all the country of the Amalekites, and also conquered the Amorites. Finally, flushed with victory, they had descended on the city states along the Jordan Valley.
“We went out and fought them,” the man said, a haunted look in his eyes. “I’ve never known men to fight like them. They are devils! We fled. Many fell into the slime pits and perished. I managed to escape back to Sodom, but the kings followed hard after us. They took the city by storm and looted it, taking men, women, and children as slaves and carrying everyone away. I was one of the few who escaped.”
Abraham stroked his beard and shook his head. “I am but a peaceful sojourner in this land. The wars of nations and battles of kings are none of my concern.”
“There’s more,” the man said. “They took your brother Lot.”
Instantly, Abraham’s visage changed. Turning to his servant Eliezer, he began snapping orders. “Arm the men. Saddle the camels. We will pursue them.”
Abraham’s servants looked at one another. They had heard everything the refugee had said and knew their master intended to battle the combined armies of four victorious kings. Giant killers. Conquerors of nations. Yet none of them raised their voice in protest. None refused. As Eleazar began issuing swords and shields, bows and quivers of arrows, each man stepped up to take his weapons. Familiar weapons. Weapons worn by years of training. Today, for the first time, they would be used in actual combat.
A finger of smoke rising skyward beckoned the warrior servants. Abraham stood before the smoking altar, wind tugging at his white beard, sword belted on, hands raised to the sky. As the men coalesced around him, one by one they added their deep male voices to his until a rumble of prayer filled the air. The words of praise and worship to Yahweh were as familiar to them as the swords and bows they held, honed at innumerable altars they had raised to dot the landscape throughout their travels.
Abraham’s voice rose above the rumbling words. “Almighty Yahweh, possessor of heaven and earth, we pursue after these kings and armies far beyond our power to overcome. We fight not for spoil, but for my brother Lot and his family.” His voice shook with passion. “Deliver them from slavery and death, O LORD, and I will take naught of the spoil, not even a thread or a shoelatchet.” His voice rose to a shout. “Yahweh, grant us victory!”
The warrior servants, weapons raised, echoed the prayer until the air over the camp rang.
With the air still ringing and the smoke of the sacrifice still rising, three hundred and eighteen men swung onto their camels and followed the white-bearded patriarch north. As they rode, another group of riders approached, bristling with weapons. The servants cheered as they recognized their allies Aner, Eshcol, and Mamre. The augmented force surged on.
The pursuit was long. The armies of Mesopotamia were several days ahead, but the enemy moved slowly, weighted down by spoil and slaves. Abraham and his men followed the trail of destruction in their wake. Overdriven lambs who died and were abandoned to scavengers and wolves. Villages pillaged and fields burned. Captives who could not keep up the pace and fell by the roadside. Abraham swung down to examine each body, whispering a prayer of thanks each time it was not Lot. They followed the circling carrion birds and plumes of black smoke northward, pressing hard to close the gap.
Their camels moved at a steady lope, eating up the distance. Hour after hour passed. They ate and drank in the saddle, stopping for nothing. Half a day passed and even the youngest and strongest of them ached to the bone, but still the eighty-four-year-old man at their head pressed on, and they followed. By nightfall they had traveled over a hundred miles.
They could tell that they were gaining. Huts still blazed. Bodies were still warm. Man sat straighter in their saddles and checked their weapons. The moon rose. And then they saw the enemy’s camp, its fires like a constellation of stars against the black horizon.
Abraham drew up and held a short war council with Eliezer, Aner, Eshcol, and Mamre. “We cannot fight a pitched battle against so many. We will divide and attack them now, in the night. We must confuse them. Make them think that we are more numerous than we truly are. We will drive them before us like cattle before the herdsmen and force them to abandon their captives.” The men nodded, faces shadowed and grim in the dim moonlight.
Swiftly, Abraham divided their small force into three bands. As he did he cautioned them to strike down only those wielding a weapon. “My brother is in that camp,” he said. “He must not be slain.”
Their camels’ padded feet made no sound as the three bands manoeuvred into position on three sides of the camp.
“For Yahweh!” Abraham cried. His sword swept forward and he kicked heels to his camel. Then all was a cacophony of wildly-shouting riders as the attack drove home.
Cries of alarm rose from the camp. Men sprang up from around campfires and boiled from tents, scrambling for weapons. Arrows whistled home, blades flashed in the moonlight, and men fell. Before the enemy could mount an organized defense, Abraham shouted an order and his men wheeled and broke free of the encampment.
Already, some of the enemy were running for their horses and galloping madly north. Abraham shouted and his men charged again. The men of Shinar had formed a hasty shield wall, backlit by burning tents, but the mounted warriors struck them from three sides and shattered their formation before breaking off again. The battle became a rout.
In the light of the fires, Abraham could see some of the enemy dragging bound men, women, and children across their saddles before pounding north. He caught a glimpse of Lot and his wife before they were obscured by the dust of the fleeing army.
“Pursue them!” he shouted. “Drive them hard!”
From three sides, Abraham’s forces harried the men of the east, picking them out of their saddles with arrows and rushing in to cut down the outliers and stragglers. One by one the panicked men began dropping their captives, freeing their mounts of the extra weight. For twenty-five miles Abraham and his allies pursued them, until at last, as dawn broke, Abraham saw Lot fall to the sand. He drew up his camel and flung himself from the saddle to run to his nephew. A slash of his sword cut Lot’s bonds, and then Abraham hugged him with fierce strength.
“You came for me,” Lot said, amazement in his voice. “Even after I–”
Abraham cut him off. “You are my brother,” he said. “What else was I to do?”
Though Abraham was a man of peace, still he prepared for war. The training he gave his servants was not only weapons training. The word ‘trained’ used in Genesis 14:14 can also mean ‘catechized’. Everywhere Abraham traveled he built altars, and no doubt he gathered his servants to these sacrifices and as the smoke rose he began to say, “Yahweh is the Almighty God. The all-powerful God. The ever-present God. The only true God.” So when these warrior servants rode out behind their master they rode with the assurance that Yahweh would fight for them.
We too, need to train with the weapons that God has given us. The shield of faith. The Sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God. Consistency in godly disciplines alone can prepare us for the battles we will inevitably face in life. In the same chapter that Paul told Timothy to endure hardness as a good soldier of Christ he also said this:
Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth
not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.
(2 Timothy 2:15)
Abraham pursued until everything stolen was recovered and every captive was freed. From the point where he first attacked the Mesopotamian armies at Dan till the point he broke off the pursuit at Hobah, near Damascus, was approximately 25 miles. This after a grueling chase of 125 miles from Hebron to Dan.
We must fight and pursue the enemy until we have recovered everything and everyone the Devil stole. This does not mean we pray through at a single altar call, or pray for a lost loved one a time or two, or witness to a friend once or twice. This means consistent pursuit until victory is total.
Abraham did not reproach Lot. His nephew had broken with Abraham and chosen the best land in sight. He had pitched his tent toward Sodom, then moved into the city itself, inexorably drawn by the allure of that immoral society. Yet Abraham didn’t blame him, refuse to help him, or castigate him when he had rescued him. Twice Lot is referred to as Abraham’s brother, even though he was actually his nephew, and it was when Abraham heard that his brother was taken that he decided he had no choice but to fight against the odds.
We must fight for our brothers and sisters, and welcome them back with open arms. It’s easy to feel hurt and betrayed when those who have been so close to us seem to turn their back on us and the faith we have shared. But the Devil has carried them away captive, and God calls us to fight for them in prayer and welcome them back when they return without reproach or blame.
Abraham took no profit from his victory. When the king of Sodom offered to give him all the spoil as a reward for his bravery Abraham refused, citing an oath he had sworn to the Lord that he would not take “from a thread even to a shoelatchet.”
We don’t fight for profit or glory. We shouldn’t pray just to get bragging rights. We shouldn’t fast so people will think us spiritual. We shouldn’t read our Bible so we can say we’ve read it through five times this year. We shouldn’t witness so we can pat ourselves on the back. And when victory comes we shouldn’t attribute the glory to our own efforts, but to God. As the priest Melchizedek said,
Blessed be the most high God, which hath delivered thine enemies into thy hand.
Matthew Henry, in his concise commentary on the entire Bible described Abraham’s victory this way:
“All things considered, it was, for aught I know, as great an instance of true courage as ever Alexander or Caesar was celebrated for. Note, Religion tends to make men, not cowardly, but truly valiant. The righteous is bold as a lion. The true Christian is the true hero.”
The land that Abraham had been granted by God he now had title to by conquest. Looking back in time, the prophet Isaiah would describe Abraham’s victory this way:
Who raised up the righteous man from the east, called him to his foot,
gave the nations before him, and made him rule over kings?
he gave them as the dust to his sword, and as driven stubble to his bow.
Notice the prerequisite for victory. God called Abraham to His foot. When Abraham bowed before God’s footstool and placed himself under God’s authority, God in turn could place all of Abraham’s enemies under his feet. Do you want victory today? Heed the call of God to His foot.
Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.
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