Notes & Commentary:
Ver. 1. Sennaar, or Babylon. — Pontus, Hebrew: Ellasar, perhaps Thalassar, as Jonathan writes, not far from Eden. — Elamites, or Persians. — Nations in Galilee, east of the Jordan, whither the conquered kings directed their course. Josue xii. 23, mentions the king of the nations (foreigners) at Galgal. (Calmet)
Ver. 3. Now, in the days of Moses. — Salt sea; called also the vale of salts, and the dead sea.
Ver. 4. Served. Thus Noe’s prediction began to be fulfilled, as Elam was the eldest son of Sem, to whose posterity Chanaan should be slaves, chap. ix. 26.
Ver. 5. Raphaim, Zuzim, and Emim, were all of the gigantic race, robbers, like the Arabs. (Du Hamel) — These dwelt in the land of Basan, or of giants, Deuteronomy iii. 13.
Ver. 6. Chorreans, or Horreans, who dwelt in one part of that extensive range of mountains, which took their name from Seir; perhaps about mount Hor, where Aaron died. (Calmet) — These also were auxiliaries of the five kings, and hence experienced the fury of the four confederates; who cut off all their opponents, before they made their grand attack upon Sodom. (Haydock)
Ver. 7. Misphat, or of judgment and contradiction, because there the Hebrews contended with Moses and Aaron: it was afterwards called Cadez, Numbers xx. 11. — Amalecites, that is which they afterwards possessed; for as yet Amelec was unborn, chap. xxxvi. 16. (Menochius) — Amorrheans, to the west of Sodom. (Calmet)
Ver. 10. Of slime. Bituminis. This was a kind of pitch, which served for mortar in the building of Babel, Genesis xi. 3, and was used by Noe in pitching the ark. (Challoner) — Moses does not make this remark without reason. This bitumen would easily take fire, and contribute to the conflagration of Sodom. (Calmet) — Overthrown, not all slain, for the king of Sodom escaped ver. 17.
Ver. 13. The Hebrew, or traveller who came from beyond the Euphrates, (Calmet) or who dwelt beyond the Jordan, with reference to the five kings. (Diodorus)
Ver. 14. Servants, fit for war. Hence we may form some judgment of the power and dignity of Abram, who was considered as a great prince in that country, chap. xxiii. 6. He was assisted by Mambre, Escol, and Aner, with all the forces they could raise on such a short warning; and coming upon the four kings unawares, in four divisions, easily discomfits them, while they were busy plundering the cities, and pursues them to Dan; which is either the city that went by that name afterwards, or more probably one of the sources of the Jordan, (Haydock) which the people of the country call Medan. Neither did he suffer them to repose, before he had retaken all the plunder at Hoba, or Abila, north of the road leading to Damascus. (Calmet)
Ver. 18. Melchisedech was not Sem: for his genealogy is given in Scripture. (Hebrews vii. 6.); nor God the Son, for they are compared together; nor the Holy Ghost, as some have asserted, but a virtuous Gentile who adored the true God, and was king of Salem, or Jerusalem, and Priest of an order different from that of Aaron, offering in sacrifice bread and wine, a figure of Christ’s sacrifice in the Mass; as the fathers constantly affirm. (Haydock) — See Pererius. St. Jerome, ep. ad Evagrium, says, “Melchisedech offered not bloody victims, but dedicated the sacrament of Christ in bread and wine…a pure sacrifice.” See St. Cyprian ep. 63[62?], ad Cæcil.; St. Augustine, City of God xvi. 22, &c. Many Protestants confess, that this renowned prince of Chanaan, was also a priest; but they will not allow that his sacrifices consisted of bread and wine. In what then? for a true priest must offer some real sacrifice. If Christ, therefore, be a priest for ever according to the order of Melchisedech, whose sacrifice was not bloody, as those of Aaron were, what other sacrifice does he now offer, but that of his own body and blood in the holy Mass, by the ministry of his priests? for he was the priest: this is plainly referred to bringing forth, &c., which shews that word to be sacrificial, as in Judges vi. 18. The Hebrew may be ambiguous. But all know that vau means for as well as and. Thus the English Bible had it, 1552, “for he was the priest.” (Worthington) — If Josephus take notice only of Melchisedech, offering Abram and his men corporal refreshment, we need not wonder; he was a Jewish priest, to whom the order of Melchisedech might not be agreeable. It is not indeed improbable, but Abram might partake of the meat, which had been offered in thanksgiving by Melchisedech; and in this sense his words are true. But there would be no need of observing, that he was a priest on this account; as this was a piece of civility expected from princes on similar occasions. (Deuteronomy xxiii. 4; 2 Kings xvii. 27.) (Haydock)
Ver. 19. Blessed him, as his inferior, and received tithes of him, Hebrews iv. 7.[vii. 4.?] This shews the antiquity of the practice of supporting God’s priests by tithes.
Ver. 21. The persons (animas) the souls subject to my dominion. (Haydock)
Ver. 22. I lift up. This is the posture of one swearing solemnly, by which we testify our belief, that God dwells in the heavens, and governs the world. (Calmet)
Ver. 23. Woof-thread. The first word is added by way of explanation. Abram declares he will not receive the smallest present for himself.
Ver. 24. Their shares, due to them on account of the danger to which they had exposed themselves. The king of Sodom could not but accept these conditions with gratitude. In a just war, whatever is taken by the enemy, cannot be reclaimed by the original proprietor, if it be retaken. (Grotius, iii. 6. de Jure.)
Bible Text & Cross-references:
The expedition of the four kings: the victory of Abram: he is blessed by Melchisedech.
1 And it came to pass at that time, that Amraphel, king of Sennaar, and Arioch, king of Pontus, and Chodorlahomor, king of the Elamites, and Thadal, king of nations,
2 Made war against Bara, king of Sodom, and against Bersa, king of Gomorrha, and against Sennaab, king of Adama, and against Semeber, king of Seboim, and against the king of Bala, which is Segor.
3 All these came together into the woodland vale, which now is the salt sea.*
4 For they had served Chodorlahomor twelve years, and in the thirteenth year they revolted from him.
5 And in the fourteenth year* came Chodorlahomor, and the kings that were with him: and they smote the Raphaim in Astarothcarnaim, and the Zuzim with them, and the Emim in Save of Cariathaim.
6 And the Chorreans in the mountains of Seir, even to the plains of Pharan, which is in the wilderness.
7 And they returned, and came to the fountain of Misphat, the same is Cades: and they smote all the country of the Amalecites, and the Amorrhean that dwelt in Asasonthamar.
8 And the king of Sodom, and the king of Gomorrha, and the king of Adama, and the king of Seboim, and the king of Bala, which is Segor, went out: and they set themselves against them in battle array, in the woodland vale:
9 To wit, against Chodorlahomor king of the Elamites, and Thadal king of nations, and Amraphel king of Sennaar, and Arioch king of Pontus: four kings against five.
10 Now the woodland vale had many pits of slime. And the king of Sodom, and the king of Gomorrha turned their backs, and were overthrown there: and they that remained, fled to the mountain.
11 And they took all the substance of the Sodomites, and Gomorrhites, and all their victuals, and went their way:
12 And Lot also, the son of Abram’s brother, who dwelt in Sodom, and his substance.
13 And behold one, that had escaped, told Abram the Hebrew, who dwelt in the vale of Mambre the Amorrhite, the brother of Escol, and the brother of Aner: for these had made a league with Abram.
14 Which when Abram had heard, to wit, that his brother Lot was taken, he numbered of the servants born in his house, three hundred and eighteen, well appointed: and pursued them to Dan.
15 And dividing his company, he rushed upon them in the night, and defeated them: and pursued them as far as Hoba, which is on the left hand of Damascus.
16 And he brought back all the substance, and Lot his brother, with his substance, the women also, and the people.
17 And the king of Sodom went out to meet him, after he returned from the slaughter of Chodorlahomor, and of the kings that were with him in the vale of Save, which is the king’s vale.
18 *But Melchisedech, the king of Salem, bringing forth bread and wine, for he was the priest of the most high God,
19 Blessed him, and said: Blessed be Abram by the most high God, who created heaven and earth.
20 And blessed be the most high God, by whose protection, the enemies are in thy hands. And he gave him the tithes of all.
21 And the king of Sodom said to Abram: Give me the persons, and the rest take to thyself.
22 And he answered him: I lift up my hand to the Lord God the most high, the possessor of heaven and earth,
23 That from the very woof-thread unto the shoe latchet, I will not take of any things that are thine, lest thou say: I have enriched Abram.
24 Except such things as the young men have eaten, and the shares of the men that came with me, Aner, Escol, and Mambre: these shall take their shares.
3: Genesis xix. 24.
5: Year of the World 2092, Year before Christ 1912.
18: Hebrews vii. 1.