Genesis Overview: Abraham's Victory over the Eastern Kings and His Encounter with Melchizidek

This Chapter contains highly problematical material: its substance differs from all the patriarchal stories, bringing Abraham into an international arena; the material is not vivid but like an antiquarian chronicle; "... none of the patriarchal stories contains so much that is fantastic, historically impossible, and miraculous" (p175). The material is very old and a world within itself. It is separate from all other Hexateuchal sources.

14.1-4: Chedorlaomer is an Elamite name but Elam is East of Babylon, North of the Persian Gulf, not powerful and incapable of heading a coalition (cf. 14.5); Tidal may be a Hittite king (c 1730); only two kings may be known. It is impossible that the destruction of the cities (cf. 14.3b) is connected with the origin of the Dead Sea.

14.5-7: The route is problematic and the names in 14.5-6 are unknown.

14.12-16: "This victory of 318 men against the allied armies of the Eastern kings is the most wonderful event in a story so filled with marvels." (p178). Abraham appears at the end, not the beginning. The meeting with Melchizidek is etiological, unlike the earlier material. A radical break between 14.11 and 14.12.

14.17-20: 14.18-20 is inserted between 14.17 and 14.21-24. Melchizidek's Jerusalem Canaanite cult was practised before the Israelite occupation; the strangeness is that the author links this with Yahweh and seems to be atypically tolerant. Abraham's homage to a servant of a heathen cult is "... quite unusual from the standpoint of the Old Testament faith in Yahweh" (p180). The primary purpose of the narrative seems to be to connect Abraham with the locus of the Davidic throne of which Melchizidek was the prototype. It appears, too, that this is a justification for taxes levied from Jerusalem.

Many scholars are less generous than VR in assigning significance to Chapter 14 in general and 14.18-20 in particular. The adoption of Eucharistic symbolism derived from a heathen 'priest' has a history of its own.

KC V/14

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