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What are we after in Libya?

Abram gave him [Melchizedek, king of Salem] a tenth of everything. 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 taken a solemn oath to the LORD, God Most High, Possessor of heaven and earth, that I would not take a thread or a sandal strap or anything that is yours, lest you should say, “I have made Abram rich.” Genesis 14: 20-23


The three monotheistic (mono=one; theistic=relating to God) world religions (Jewish, Christian and Muslim) all hold Abram (later re-named Abraham) in the highest regard. Many, many people in Jersey today therefore know something about this Abram and about “Sodom” (see bold above). That city has given rise to a well known noun that we daren’t use today.


The incident in bold above has been dated to between 2000 BC and 1700 BC. But it is nevertheless highly relevant today. What happened?


Well, there was an alliance (like NATO) of four kings in the area around what is today the Dead Sea in Israel. Their leader was King Chedorlaomer. They made war with five other kings in the area. The reason was that, after 12 years of serving Chedorlaomer, the five had rebelled in his 13th year.


The alliance was successful as it made its way into the five regimes, one of which was Sodom, under its King Bera. All four in the alliance met all the five in the coalition in the valley of Siddim, the territory of King Bera.


King Chedorlaomer and the alliance took all the possessions and all the provisions and all the people out of Sodom.  Abram, living some distance away in Hebron, had a nephew who lived in Sodom. That nephew was taken captive with his entire household and all he had.


Abram was not a king, not a fighter. He was a man of faith – true monotheistic faith in the living God. He was also an alien in Hebron. But he was friendly with three brothers – and they agreed to go with him to overcome the alliance and to free Abram’s nephew.


Some hopes! Abram only had 318 trained men, all born in his household. The details recorded in the Jewish national and religious archives indicate that Abram had to travel over 100 miles to catch up with the enemy – and a further 50 miles to ensure no return. But by tactics and surprise he won.


Abram brought his nephew back. And those taken captive in Sodom. And their possessions. And their provisions.

On his return he was met by two kings. King Melchisidek of Salem (meaning “peace” and from which the name Jeru-salem developed) and King Bera of Sodom. King Melchisedec was an enigmatic figure, described as “priest of God Most High” in the ancient texts. Melchisidec blesses Abram in the name of “God Most High” and attests that it is “God Most High” who has delivered Abram’s enemies into his hand.


It seems (see bold above) that Abram acknowledges this truth by giving this representative of God Most High a tithe one tenth of everything. (It was, of course, a descendant of Abram, Jesus Christ, who, at the cross in AD 33, redeemed from captivity to sin, corruption and death whoever now believes in him. It was God Most High who raised him from the dead in order to attest Jesus’ hard won success in freeing all such captives.)


But there’s more. What does the other King – King Bera of Sodom – say to Abram? Give me the persons, but take the goods for yourself.


There is little doubt that Sodom had been, until a few days earlier, a wealthy place. Much like Libya with its huge oil revenues. Here’s your chance, Abram. You deserve it. Take all the possessions of the residents of Sodom whom you have freed.


But Abram would have none of it. Not even a thread or a shoe-lace. He wanted nothing of Sodom’s wealth. He wanted to free the captives. Is that what the coalitions of the 21st century are after? Or is it oil? Is that what leaders who seemingly adhere to monotheistic religions are after? Or is it wealth? 

It’s definitely what Jesus is after: to free the captives.

‘Faith always shows itself in the whole personality.” (Dr D Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Writer and Preacher, 1899-1981)
‘What is the life of saving faith, when once begun, but a continual leaning on an unseen Saviour’s word?” (J C Ryle, Author and Preacher, 1816-1900)
Richard Syvret

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