The Covenant and the Seed


VERSES 1-12  “And it came to pass in the days of Amraphel king of Shinar, Arioch king of Ellasar, Chedorlaomer king of Elam, and Tidal king of nations;
“That these made war with Bera king of Sodom, and with Birsha king of Gomorrah, Shinab king of Admah, and Shemeber king of Zeboiim, and the king of Bela, which is Zoar.
“All these were joined together in the vale of Siddim, which is the salt sea.
“Twelve years they served Chedorlaomer, and in the thirteenth year they rebelled.
“And in the fourteenth year came Chedorlaomer, and the kings that were with him, and smote the Rephaims in Ashteroth Karnaim, and the Zuzims in Ham, and the Emims in Shaveh Kiriathaim,
“And the Horites in their mount Seir, unto Elparan, which is by the wilderness.
“And they returned, and came to Enmishpat, which is Kadesh, and smote all the country of the Amalekites, and also the Amorites, that dwelt in Hazezontamar.
“And there went out the king of Sodom, and the king of Gomorrah, and the king of Admah, and the king of Zeboiim, and the king of Bela (the same is Zoar;) and they joined battle with them in the vale of Siddim;
“With Chedorlaomer the king of Elam, and with Tidal king of nations, and Amraphel king of Shinar, and Arioch king of Ellasar; four kings with five.
“And the vale of Siddim was full of slimepits; and the kings of Sodom and Gomorrah fled, and fell there; and they that remained fled to the mountain.
“And they took all the goods of Sodom arid Gomorrah, and all their victuals, and went their way.
“And they took Lot, Abram’s brother’s son, who dwelt in Sodom, and his goods, and departed.”

Critics have scoffed repeatedly at this account, which tells how Abram and his servants rescued Lot and his family from the combined armies of four powerful allied kings. Historians had said that the story was fiction, that no such kings as these mentioned in the Bible were reigning in the days of Abram.

Archeological research has thrown entirely new light upon this ancient period of human history, and this record emerges as absolutely authentic. The kings mentioned in this passage are now identified as true historical characters, and contemporary tablets show that they were reigning at the very time when, according to Bible chronology, Abram was living in Canaan.

Furthermore, archeologists have discovered that these four kings were actually confederated, and at this time were dominating most of the land known in recent times as Palestine, just as this account indicates. Kudor, or Chedor-laomer, as expressed in the Hebrew language, was apparently the chieftain in this alliance of kings. His three allies were Hammur-abi (or Ammur-aphel) of Babylon, which was the land of ‘Shinar’; Eriaku (or Arioch) of El-lasar, or Larsa, which was a district in southern Mesopotamia between Babylon and Elam; and that his third ally was the ruler of the Hittite empire, whose capital was at Boghazkeui, in Asia Minor.

This ancient Hittite empire was really a confederacy of several tribal nations, and the excavations show that the Hittite kings always called themselves “king of the nations,” or “king of countries.” Clearly, therefore, ‘Tidal, king of nations’, mentioned in this account was one of the Hittite confederated kings of Abram’s day.

The archeological records reveal that King Kudar, Chedor-laomer, the Elamite monarch, was nearly eighty years old when he directed this allied raid against Palestine to put down the rebellion against him. He had conquered Ellasar forty-three years before, and had placed his son, Warad-Sin, upon its throne. That son died a few years later; but his second son, Eriaku (also called Rim-Sin), was king of Ellasar at the time of this Palestinian revolt. Chedor, it is now known, conquered Palestine about twelve years before this revolt occurred, exactly as the Genesis story declares.

VERSES 13-17  “And there came one that had escaped, and told Abram the Hebrew; for he dwelt in the plain of Mamre the Amorite, brother of Eshcol, and brother of Aner: and these were confederate with Abram.
“And when Abram heard that his brother was taken captive, he armed his trained servants, born in his own house, three hundred and eighteen, and pursued them unto Dan.
“And he divided himself against them, he and his servants, by night, and smote them, and pursued them unto Hobah, which is on the left hand of Damascus.
“And he brought back all the goods, and also brought again his brother Lot, and his goods, and the women also, and the people.
“And the king of Sodom went out to meet him after his return from the slaughter of Chedorlaomer, and of the kings that were with him, at the valley of Shaveh, which is the king’s dale.”

These four allied kings probably did not need a force of more than a few hundred men to put down this rebellion of petty tribal chiefs of the valley people around the Dead Sea. They conquered them easily, and proceeded to loot the rebellious towns, notably Sodom and Gomorrah. When they sacked Sodom, and captured Lot, and his family and his goods, Abram was aroused.

Abram was very wealthy, employing hundreds of servants; and he quickly mobilized 318 of them and went in hot pursuit. Overtaking the remnant of the satiated and exhausted troops that night, he proved his prowess by making a successful surprise attack from two sides and quickly rescued the prisoners and their goods.

Some have hastily concluded that Abram and his servants actually slew these four powerful monarchs. But manifestly this is not the case, for the archeological records reveal that they lived for many years thereafter. This account of the raid merely mentions that Abram rescued the prisoners and goods, and says nothing about his killing any kings. The seventeenth verse speaks of his returning from the slaughter of Chedor-laomer and the kings which were with him, but the Hebrew word nakah, translated ‘slaughter’, means merely ‘to smite’, and is so translated many times throughout the Old Testament, and, indeed, is translated , ‘smote’ in the fifteenth verse of this narrative. ‘Smiting’ the armies of these kings would properly be referred to as a smiting of the kings themselves.

VERSES 18-20  “And Melchizedek king of Salem brought forth bread and wine: and he was the priest of the most high God.
“And he blessed him, and said, Blessed be Abram of the most high God, possessor of heaven and earth:
“And blessed be the most high God, which hath delivered thine enemies into thy hand. And he gave him tithes of all.”

When Abram returned from his successful smiting of the four kings he was heralded as a hero by the afflicted survivors around the Dead Sea, whose cities these monarchs had just ravished, and the ‘king’ or ‘mayor’ of Sodom went out to meet him. Melchizedek, who not only was ruler of the city of Salem (Jeru-salem) but also its high priest, likewise met Abram, and blessed him, and Abram paid him tithes of all that he had captured.

This Melchizedek is said to have been a “priest of the most high God,” and not a director of idol worship. This seems to suggest that he may have been a Semitic kinsman of Abram, rather than a member of some idolatrous Canaanite tribe. Although Abram had been in Canaan only twenty-five years when this incident occurred, there were probably many hundreds of Semites there at that time. Abram’s household alone contained hundreds of persons, and possibly Melchizedek had become a ruler over a Semitic settlement at a peaceful place west of the Jordan which later came to be known as Jebu-salem, or Jerusalem, and there directed his kinsmen in the worship of the true God.

Melchizedek’s identity has been made mysterious by a statement in Hebrews 7:1-3, which says that he was “without father, … without descent.” This has been explained to mean that he was without father or mother in the priesthood, and we do not know his genealogy. Recently deciphered tablets unearthed at Tel Amarna, in Egypt, substantiate this thought. They indicate that the portion of Palestine in which Jerusalem was located was claimed by Egypt in Abram’s day, and that the pharaohs appointed all the kings or chieftains of that particular district.

Although no tablet has yet been found that mentions the name of Melchizedek, yet the Tel Amarna records of this period do declare that Palestinian appointees of the pharaohs in those days were obliged to foreswear all hereditary rights before being enthroned, and were made to take the following oath: “It was not my father, and it was not my mother, who established me in this place; but it was the mighty arm of the king [pharaoh] himself who hath made me a ruler.”

This was a very unusual regal arrangement, not only for those days but since then as well. Probably Melchizedek’s priestly office had been given to him by Divine appointment, hence the statement in Hebrews would also be true of him as a priest. He is used in the Scriptures as a picture of Christ Jesus in his official role as King and Priest over the whole earth during his kingdom reign. The psalmist says of Jesus, “Thou art a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.”—Ps. 110:4

Not only are we glad to see even the historic portions of the Bible substantiated by the research of modern science, but we are especially glad to learn from its pages that the antitypical Melchizedek, the great King of Peace and Priest of the Most High God, is soon, together with his church, to manifest himself to all mankind, extending blessings of joy, health and life to all the willing and obedient.

VERSES 21-24  “And the king of Sodom said unto Abram, Give me the persons, and take the goods to thyself.
“And Abram said to the king of Sodom, I have lift up mine hand unto the Lord, the most high God, the possessor of heaven and earth,
“That I will not take from a thread even to a shoelatchet, and that I will not take any thing that is thine, lest thou shouldest say, I have made Abram rich:
“Save only that which the young men have eaten, and the portion of the men which went with me, Aner, Eshcol, and Mamre; let them take their portion.”

In these closing verses of the story of Abram’s encounter with the four kings we have another example of his generosity, and his lack of self-seeking in material things. He had risked a great deal to rescue Lot and his family, but he wanted no reward for it. No doubt he felt that the satisfaction of having done something for his relatives was reward enough. Aner, Eshcol, and Mamre cooperated with him, and he was quite willing that they share in the spoils of the victorious battle; but, as for himself, he would take nothing. Abram’s purpose in moving into Canaan was a higher one than that of material gain—especially the spoils of battle.


VERSES 1-7  “After these things the word of the Lord came unto Abram in a vision, saying, Fear not, Abram: I am thy shield, and thy exceeding great reward.
“And Abram said, Lord God, what wilt thou give me, seeing I go childless, and the steward of my house is this Eliezer of Damascus?
“And Abram said, Behold, to me thou hast given no seed: and, lo, one born in my house is mine heir.
“And, behold, the word of the Lord came unto him, saying, This shall not be thine heir; but he that shall come forth out of thine own bowels shall be thine heir.
“And he brought him forth abroad, and said, Look now toward heaven, and tell the stars, if thou be able to number them: and he said unto him, So shall thy seed be.
“And he believed in the Lord; and he counted it to him for righteousness.
“And he said unto him, I am the Lord that brought thee out of Ur of the Chaldees, to give thee this land to inherit it.”

‘After these things’—that is, after the rescue of Lot, the paying tithes to Melchizedek, and Abram’s refusal to share in the spoils of battle, the Lord spoke to him and said, ‘Fear not, Abram: I am thy shield, and thy exceeding great reward’. One cannot but think that the Lord took particular notice of Abram’s refusal to accept any of the goods offered to him by the King of Sodom, and was pleased, and that now he is assuring him of a much better portion—‘I am thy shield, and exceeding great reward’. This was God’s promise to protect the patriarch, and to supply all his needs.

Before Abram left Ur of Chaldees, God had made a promise to him involving a ‘seed’, a child. Sarah, his wife, was barren, and it would seem that Abram was beginning to wonder just how that promise would be fulfilled, so he said to the Lord, ‘Behold, to me thou hast given no seed: and, lo, one born in my house is mine heir’. This appears to be Abram’s way of asking the Lord if this is the arrangement he had in mind when he made the promise of the ‘seed’.

The Lord explained to Abram that the one he referred to was not to be his heir, that he would have a child born of his ‘own bowels’. Abram had great faith, yet it was being tested by his long wait for the birth of the promised heir. But the Lord strengthened his faith by reaffirming the promise. He told Abram to look at the stars, and then assured Abram, ‘So shall thy seed be’.

‘He believed in the Lord’, the account states, ‘and he [the Lord] counted it to him for righteousness’. Here was the exercise of a faith that justified, a faith that trusted implicitly in the promises of God. It was upon the basis of this confidence in the Word of the Lord that Abram became a friend of God. All true friendship is based on confidence—mutual confidence. Abram believed God, and God had confidence that Abram would do his will.

VERSES 8-21  “And he said, Lord God, whereby shall I know that I shall inherit it?
“And he said unto him, Take me an heifer of three years old, and a she goat of three years old, and a ram of three years old, and a turtledove, and a young pigeon.
“And he took unto him all these, and divided them in the midst, and laid each piece one against another: but the birds divided he not.
“And when the fowls came down upon the carcasses, Abram drove them away.
“And when the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell upon Abram; and, lo, an horror of great darkness fell upon him.
“And he said unto Abram, Know of a surety that thy seed shall be a stranger in a land that is not theirs, and shall serve them; and they shall afflict them four hundred years;
“And also that nation, whom they shall serve, will I judge: and afterward shall they come out with great substance.
“And thou shalt go to thy fathers in peace; thou shalt be buried in a good age.
“But in the fourth generation they shall come hither again: for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet full.
“And it came to pass, that, when the sun went down, and it was dark, behold a smoking furnace, and a burning lamp that passed between those pieces.
“In the same day the Lord made a covenant with Abram, saying, Unto thy seed have I given this land, from the river of Egypt unto the great river, the river Euphrates:
“The Kenites, and the Kenizzites, and the Kadmonites,
“And the Hittites, and the Perizzites, and the Rephaims,
“And the Amorites, and the Canaanites, and the Girgashites, and the Jebusites.”

The remainder of this chapter is chiefly concerned with the Lord’s answer to Abram’s question: ‘Lord God, whereby shall I know that I shall inherit it?’—that is, the land. The term ‘whereby’, rather than ‘when’, makes the question pertain to how the patriarch would know for certain that he would inherit the land, not when he would know. We should expect, then, that the Lord’s answer would be in keeping with this.

The Lord instructed Abram to prepare a sacrifice, which he did, and the pieces were cut and separated to make it possible for one to pass between them. This seemed to be a custom of ancient times in connection with the making of a covenant. See Jeremiah 34:18-20. When the evening came Abram fell into a deep sleep. It was then, and apparently as in a vision, that the Lord said to him, ‘Know of a surety that thy seed shall be a stranger in a land that is not theirs—and shall serve them; and they shall afflict them—four hundred years. And also that nation, whom they shall serve, will I judge: and afterward shall they come out with great substance’.

In brief, God’s answer to Abram’s question as to how he might know that he would surely inherit the Land of Promise, was this combined prophecy and covenant pertaining to the experiences of the ‘seed’, virtually from Abram’s day to the time they left Egypt en route for Canaan. Instead of passing between the pieces of the sacrifice himself in order to confirm the covenant, the Lord caused the furnace and the lamp—symbolic of the experiences outlined in the prophecy just given—to pass between them. See Deuteronomy 4:20; I Kings 8:5; 11:36; and II Samuel 21:17.

This would be another way of saying that the fulfillment of the prophecy as here given would substantiate the Lord’s Word, and would thus be a guarantee that both Abram and his ‘seed’ ultimately would inherit the land, and dwell therein forever.


VERSES 1-3  “Now Sarai Abram’s wife bare him no children: and she had an handmaid, an Egyptian, whose name was Hagar.
“And Sarai said unto Abram, Behold now, the Lord hath restrained me from bearing: I pray thee, go in unto my maid; it may be that I may obtain children by her. And Abram heartened to the voice of Sarai.
“And Sarai Abram’s wife took Hagar her maid the Egyptian, after Abram had dwelt ten years in the land of Canaan, and gave her to her husband Abram to be his wife.”

When studying God’s dealings with Abram it is important to keep in mind the Divine promise concerning a ‘seed’. Abram was to have an offspring, a progeny, that would occupy an important place in the plan of God. When this promise was first made to the patriarch, his wife Sarai was childless. Nevertheless, they both believed God’s promise, and waited patiently for a child to be born. But no child came.

It was a long wait. To begin with, there was the time that elapsed from the making of the promise until the death of Abram’s father Terah, just before they entered the Promised Land. Now another ten years had passed, and still no child. Sarai, in addition to being barren, was well along in years, and her faith that she would become the mother of the promised seed began to wane. Apparently she still believed God’s plan concerning a seed, but began to wonder if it were his will that she should be the mother.

Meditating along this line, and desiring to Cooperate with the Lord, if possible, she suggested to Abram that Hagar, their bondmaid, mother a child for him. According to Christian standards today this was a very unethical procedure, but apparently it was not considered improper at that time. In any event, neither Sarai nor Abram were rebuked for it by the Lord, although he did not acknowledge the child of this union as being the promised seed.

An interesting sidelight on this incident is the discovery in 1901 by archeologists of the Code of Amraphel (Khammurabi)—a code of laws which apparently served as a standard of living at that time for the people in Canaan and surrounding territory. According to this code Sarai’s giving Hagar to Abram for a wife was quite proper.

VERSES 4-6  “And he went in unto Hagar, and she conceived: and when she saw that she had conceived, her mistress was despised in her eyes.
“And Sarai said unto Abram, My wrong be upon thee: I have given my maid into thy bosom; and when she saw that she had conceived, I was despised in her eyes: the Lord judge between me and thee.
“But Abram said unto Sarai, Behold, thy maid is in thy hand; do to her as it pleaseth thee. And when Sarai dealt hardly with her, she fled from her face.”

Even from a natural standpoint, however, it did not turn out to be a satisfactory solution to the matter. Quite unexpectedly to Sarai, as soon as Hagar learned that she would bear a child, she became insolent to her mistress. In those days the ability to have children was prized very highly, and evidently Hagar began to feel that she was quite superior to Sarai, and acted accordingly.

Sarai reported the situation to Abram, exclaiming, ‘My wrong be upon thee’. Leeser’s Translation reads, “I suffer wrong through thee.” It is quite possible that Sarai expected that in the event Hagar had a child, she would in some way become its foster mother, and Hagar would step aside, not claiming the rights of motherhood. But now Sarai realized from Hagar’s attitude that there was no hope for an arrangement of this sort, so she knew that she had done wrong in suggesting this method to obtain a seed for Abram and the Lord—that it would not solve the problem.

Abram also realized that matters were not working out as they had hoped, so in loyalty to Sarai he permitted her to deal with Hagar in any way she saw fit. According to the Hebrew text, Sarai afflicted Hagar, probably by increasing her duties and tasks. Her burdens were increased, perhaps with the hope that she might desert the household and run away, which is exactly what she did.

VERSES 7-16  “And the angel of the Lord found her by a fountain of water in the wilderness, by the fountain in the way to Shur.
“And he said, Hagar, Sarai’s maid, whence camest thou? and whither wilt thou go? And she said, I flee from the face of my mistress Sarai.
“And the angel of the Lord said unto her, Return to thy mistress, and submit thyself under her hands.
“And the angel of the Lord said unto her, I will multiply thy seed exceedingly, that it shall not be numbered for multitude.
“And the angel of the Lord said unto her, Behold, thou art with child, and shalt bear a son, and shalt call his name Ishmael; because the Lord hath heard thy affliction.
“And he will be a wild man; his hand will be against every man, and every man’s hand against him; and he shall dwell in the presence of all his brethren.
“And she called the name of the Lord that spake unto her, Thou God seest me: for she said, Have I also here looked after him that seeth me?
“Wherefore the well was called Beer-la-hai-roi; behold, it is between Kadesh and Bered.
“And Hagar bare Abram a son: and Abram called his son’s name, which Hagar bare, Ishmael.
“And Abram was fourscore and six years old, when Hagar bare Ishmael to Abram.”

At this juncture, the Lord took a hand in the matter. His angel, or messenger, found Hagar ‘by the fountain in the way to Shur’. Shur was the name of the great fortified wall shutting Egypt off from Israel. Evidently Hagar was endeavoring to make her way back to her own people in Egypt; but the Lord interfered, and through his angel, instructed her to return and be subject to her mistress.

Then the angel uttered a remarkable prophecy (vss. 10-12), one which many now see fulfilled in the experiences of the Arabic race. Today, many Arabs trace their ancestry directly back to Hagar’s son, Ishmael. Hagar was greatly impressed by the visit of the angel of the Lord, and the well where the angel found her was called Beer-la-hai-roi, which according to the Marginal Translation means ‘the well of him that liveth and seeth me’. Hagar seemed to realize that the Lord had been watching over her, and that although she had escaped from Abram and Sarai, she had not been able to escape from the God of Abram. She returned to her mistress, and in due time Ishmael was born.

There was a lesson in this for Sarai, also, and indeed for all who are endeavoring to serve the Lord. The lesson is that nothing is accomplished by endeavoring to run away from our trials, or to force them away from us. Sarai’s lack of faith had brought a severe trial into her life, and she thought to get rid of it by forcing Hagar to run away; but the Lord brought the trial right back to her. Probably the experience softened Hagar’s attitude also; but in any event, the two women lived together after this for sixteen years.

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