Abram had returned from Egypt with the wealth and riches bestowed on him by the Pharaoh. The flocks and herds of Lot had also grown, so that it wasn’t possible for the two clans to live near each other anymore. Their abundance was so great that there wasn’t enough for all the animals to eat. So Abram gave Lot the first choice of the land, and Lot moved to the lush green plains of the Jordan. This put Lot and his family right next to the city of Sodom, which was thoroughly corrupted by wicked and greedy men.
It is important to imagine what this city was like to understand the foolishness of Lot’s decision. It was a place where it was acceptable to deceive, cheat, and bring harm. It was a place where the vulnerable were not protected by honorable, powerful leaders. The strong could do whatever they wanted at the expense of the weak, spending their power on getting their own pleasures instead of creating a healthy and whole community. It wasn’t just a bad decision, it was a dangerous one.
Meanwhile, Abram chose to live off in tents under the trees of Mamre, and there he worshiped God.
At about that time, a war broke out between the nations and cities of the region. Nations and cities back then were not the same as they are now. Each nation was really more like a clan or tribe, and cities would only have a few hundred people at the most. Today we would call them villages. But even though they were small, they could still become warlike. The human ability to create tension and hostility is everywhere.
The Bible shows that at Babel (see Story 18), humans turned their rebellious, broken nature against God. Once humanity had so completely turned away from God, they had to direct their vengeance and malice somewhere else. They began to turn on each other. Sin was intensifying on the earth, and with it came all the suffering and loss that we still see around us. The Curse that Adam and Eve plunged the world into was far more devastating and horrific than anything they could have imagined when they believed the lie of the Serpent.
Four kingdoms from the east were united together against an alliance of five other kings. Kedorlaomer was the king of Elam, and he was among the allies of the first group of four kingdoms. For twelve years, he forced the other five nations to live under his rule and power. But in the thirteenth year, they rebelled. In the fourteenth year, Kedorlaomer came back to fight again, and this time he and his allies conquered the entire region. Imagine how terrifying it would be to live in one of those cities.
Their victory did not last long. The five kings, marched out against them as a mighty army in the Valley of Siddim. They were ready for battle.
The four eastern kings came out against the five and the fighting began. As the four kings and their men began to win the victory, the armies of Sodom and Gomorrah began to run back towards home. Instead of standing and fighting, they fled the field of battle. The only problem was that the Valley of Siddim was full of tar pits. The cowardly soldiers fell into the thick, black pools of tar as they ran away. The four kings chased them all the way home. They plundered the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah and carried off all their precious valuables and food. They took their wives and children captive as well.
Can you imagine the terror of soldiers, fresh from battle, storming through your city? They broke down doorways and ransack homes, grabbing anything they could find that might be worth something. They would grab their men, women, and children as prisoners. They would often force them on long marches back to the lands of the victorious army. Once there, the captives would often be sold as slaves to whoever paid the highest price. It is hard to imagine the horrors of warfare, but it has been common throughout the history of humanity since the Fall.
Now, Lot had moved from living out on the plain into the actual city of Sodom. He was utterly foolish to build his life so close to such corrupt and depraved people. When the armies stormed Sodom, they took him, his family, and all of his things, too. One of the men escaped and ran to tell Abram what had happened to his nephew.
Abram had wisely chosen a life set apart from the evils of the nations around him. But now those evils were invading his world because of his nephew’s choice to live in their midst.
As the faith of Abram had grown over the years, his courage had grown as well. As a wanderer in Egypt, he cowered before the king and offered him his wife. But now he was roused to duty against the armies of four kings, and nothing could stop him.
Abram was also prepared. He had trained three hundred and eighteen men from his own household to be soldiers skilled in battle. He had also made an alliance with three of his neighbors. Together, they would go after those four kings. Such had become the wealth and wisdom of Abram! What would happen to the army of Abram when they attacked? Would they be able to rescue Lot? Would it start a whole new round of battles and wars, with Abram right in the middle?