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B'resheet/Genesis 14:13 And the one who escaped came to Avram the Hebrew
Nahum Sarna, in the JPS Torah Commentary to B'resheet (page 101 ff.) describes the factors that contribute to the uniqueness of Genesis chapter 14. According to modern scholars, the section of text is separated from the text before and after in many ways: linguistic, style, vocabulary and even content. In a word, scholars tell us that these verses do not belong in this place, having been inserted by same ancient editor, and probably come from an even older documentary source that has been spliced into the main narrative text at this point. The passage is the only occasion when we see Avram/Avraham acting in such a definite and military way; it offers the few potentially dateable sets of names and events which could locate the larger Genesis narrative in a wider historical context and it provides an example of the volatility of ancient Middle East kingdoms, city states and power struggles.
Notwithstanding the differences, the story is clearly linked to the surrounding texts: Avram risks his own life to rescue his nephew Lot from whom he had separated in the previous chapter when Lot chose to occupy the fertile Jordan valley; after Avram has been renamed Avraham (17:5) he finds himself bargaining withHaShem over the judgement of S'dom and Amorah (18:16-32) where Lot return to live after this episode, and Lot then escapes from the destruction of the two cities (ch. 19).
Moreover, we see two important things coming from this story. Firstly, this is the only occasion when Avram/Avraham is given the title 'The Hebrew'; coming from the root , to pass or cross over, it affirms that Avraham had crossed over - not just the fertile crescent to come to the Land of Canaan, but from the world of pagan religions into a faith relationship with the One True G-d. The Midrash comments that "all the world was on one side and he was on the other" (Genesis Rabbah 42:13). Yeshua uses the same vocabulary when He says, "I tell you that whoever hears what I am saying and trusts the One who sent Me has eternal life - that is, he will not come up for judgement but has already crossed over from death to life" (John 5:24, CJB) and Rav Sha'ul completes the picture by adding, "Therefore, be sure that it is those who are of faith who are sons of Abraham" (Galatians 3:7, NASB).
Secondly, Malki-Tzedek - Melchizedek, the priest of G-d Most High (an unusual name for G-d, found only here and in Psalm 78:35) appears with bread and wine to pronounce a blessing on Avraham and on G-d. Melchizedek, a priest without beginning and end - for there is no record either of his genealogy or his appointment to the priesthood - is the type for the eternal priesthood of Yeshua, prophesied of the Messiah by David: "You are a cohen forever, to be compared with Melki-Tzedek" (Psalm 110:4, CJB), who although He was a descendant of David and therefore from the tribe of Judah and not a son of Aharon from the tribe of Levi, was nevertheless a priest forever because He Himself is without beginning and without end and serves as our Cohen Gadol - High Priest - in the heavenly tabernacle (Hebrews 8:2), interceding for us before the Throne of Grace (Hebrews 7:25).
Whatever the exact provenance of Genesis 14, then, we can see that the Ruach HaKodesh - as Editor-in-Chief of the Scriptures (2 Peter 1:20-21) - made sure that key pieces of our tradition, faith and heritage were preserved and included in G-d's revelation for us: "For everything written in the past was written to teach us, so that with the encouragement of the Tanakh we might patiently hold on to our hope" (Romans 15:4, CJB).
Further Study: Hebrews 7:1-7; 1 John 5:11-13
Application: Is your faith shaken by the various pronouncements of so-called scholars or pundits concerning the reliability of the Scriptures? Do you wonder, as in "The Da Vinci Code", whether there is some elaborate hoax being played out through history, that makes it impossible for you to be secure in your faith? If so, then use this opportunity to realise that the prophetic word is sure (2 Peter 1:19) and that G-d has already provided all the answers in His word, which is sure and can be trusted completely.
© Jonathan Allen, 2006
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