June 23, 2009

Genesis 14

In the days of King Amraphel of Shinar, King Arioch of Ellasar, King Chedorlaomer of Elam, and King Tidal of Goiim, these kings made war with King Bera of Sodom, King Birsha of Gomorrah, King Shinab of Admah, King Shemeber of Zeboiim, and the King of Bela. All these joined forces in the valley of Siddim (the Dead Sea.)

Twelve years they had served Chedorlaomer, but in the 13th year they rebelled. In the 14th year Chedorlaomer and the kings who were with him came and subdued the Rephaim in Astoroth-karnaim, the Zuzim in Ham, the Emim in Shavehkiriathaim, and the Horites in the hill country of Seir as far as El-paran on the edge of the wilderness; then they turned back and came to Enmishpat (that is, Kadesh), and subdued all the country of the Amalekites, and also the Amorites who lived in Hazazon-tamar.

Then the king of Sodom, the king of Gomorrah, the king of Admah, the king of Zeboiim, and the king of Bela went out, and they joined battle in the valley of Siddim with King Chedorlaomer of Elam, King Tidal of Goiim, King Amraphel of Shinar, and King Arioch of Ellasar, four kings against five.

Now the Valley of Siddim was full of bitumen pits, and as the kings of Sodom and Gomorrah fled, some fell into them, and the rest fled to the hill country.

So the enemy took all the goods of Sodom and Gomorrah, and all their provisions, and went their way; they also took Lot, the son of Abram's brother, who lived in Sodom, and departed.

Then one who had escaped came and told Abram the Hebrew, who was living by the oaks of Mamre the Amorite, brother of Eshcol and of Aner; these were allies of Abram. When Abram heard that his nephew had been taken captive, he led forth his trained men, born in his house, 318 of them, and went in pursuit as far as Dan.

He divided his forces against them by night, he and his servants, and routed them and pursued them to Hobah, north of Damascus. Then he brought back all the goods, and also brought back his nephew Lot with his goods, and the women and the people.

After [Abram's] return... the king of Sodom went out to meet him at the Valley of Shaveh.

And King Melchizedek of Salem brought out bread and wine; he was priest of God Most High. He blessed him, saying:

"Blessed be Abram by God Most High,
Maker of Heaven and Earth;
And blessed be God Most High,
Who has delivered your enemies into your hand."

And Abram gave him 1/10 of everything.

Then the king of Sodom said to Abram, "Give me the persons, but take the goods for yourself."

But Abram said to the king of Sodom, "I have sworn to the Lord, God Most High, maker of Heaven and Earth, that I would not take a thread or a sandal thong or anything that is yours, so that you might not say, 'I have made Abram rich.'

"I will take nothing but what the young men have eaten, and the share of the men who went with me--Aner, Eshcol, and Mamre. Let them take their share."


At 5:02 p.m., Blogger forrest said...

Phew! That was a typist's nightmare!

At 11:24 a.m., Blogger Diane said...

To try to reimburse your effort, I offer notice of the numbers of significance.

From wikipedia: "the number 318 (in Greek numerals, ΤΙΗ) was a foreshadowing (a "type") of the cross (T, an upright with crossbar, standing for 300) and of Jesus (ΙΗ, the first two letter of his name ΙΗΣΟΥΣ, standing for 18)" (Source: Clement of Alexandria, Stomata, Book VI, Chap. 11)

And the 1/10th offering more symbolism than I can handle at the moment. Maybe later.

At 2:02 p.m., Blogger forrest said...

Okay, numbers can be there for some symbolic purpose... but you are saying, "The author of this book put in the number '318' as a sign that somebody with two particular Greek letters at the start of his (rather common around 0 CE) Aramaic name was someday going to get hung up on a T-shaped thing"?

Mainly I posted this part--because it's there. But there's also this person Melchizedek. He's the local priest of El, the chief of the Canaanite pantheon, whom Abram evidently considers equivalent to 'God' as he knows him.

Are we done with these chapters, time for the next?

At 4:00 p.m., Blogger Diane said...

Okay, I guess I'm saying that I don't look at the bible as a straight history of any kind, that it is its coded book full of symbolism and metaphor. This passage was an overwhelming grouping of names that moved the history along, but to me they represent the cycles of evolutionary development (for the spiritual realm), which is much more than a few 1000 years (thinking more along the Hindu cycles).

The names don't mean much to me without some research but I recognize the numbers as symbolic as soon as I saw the 12, which corresponds to many things but especially the big cycles of life. And 10 to the 10 states of human consciousness (or constitution, though many would say it's 7 or some other number depending how its compressed or expanded). I don't know if 13 or 14adds anything to that stage, but I would bet the names do.

This made me suspect 318 so I looked it up and it indeed refers (probably through the Gnostics but don't quote me) to the cross (which represents to me the significance of how humans communicate with the Divine, as represented by Christ's death). I may be making a lot of connections here, but if the Bible is understood on a symbolic level, why wouldn't they have known the meaning when they wrote it?

George Fox's understanding of Christ's Cross had a similar meaning if I'm recalling what I read.

So perhaps, and I'm not saying I can pull this together neatly, this is a passage summarizing the major cyclic development that leads us to the Christ-era.

I recognize Melchizedek's name as a priest (or the first priest?) and if Abram considers him God then perhaps that reinforces that we are ending that relationship to priesthood as the intermediary.

Part of me is very impressed that this is much more powerful a story than it appears, but I can't go any further with this, however, so we can indeed move on if you're so inclined. Thanks.

At 11:12 a.m., Blogger forrest said...

Rather, Abram considers his god El to be Abram's God. In view of the later hostility between the Jerusalem cult and the gods of other Canaanites (including probably the bulk of rural Israelites up to the exile & return of their leaders), this interests me.

I am inclined to believe the writers of these books that they are, in fact, writing history. This is history-as-they-know-it, with a generous heaping of legend--and the properties of numbers are part of their culture. Numbers like '40' are probably much more idioms than literal numbers. 318 is something else... a pretty strong force of trained fighters for a nomad chief, not much against a city-state army, unless as this says he surprised them at night. But whereas small numbers have pretty obvious properties--Three makes for a stable balance of hostile alliances; four is a convenient number of sides for a building; twelve can be evenly divided many ways... It is hard to say much about 318 except that it's what you get by adding one to 317, and that you get 319 if you add one more. While it might conceivably have some eternal significance that recommended it to tribal storytellers, I expect that 1) it was factual or 2) it scanned well poetically or 3) they just made it up.


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