Abraham had two brothers, Nahor and Haran.
They and their father Terah lived in Ur of the Chaldees. This city, famous for the worship of the Moon God, was located on the banks of the Euphrates near the Persian Gulf, just before the Tigris River enters into it.
In Ur, the Stela of Ur-Nammu has the crescent symbol placed at the top of the register of gods because the Moon-god was the head of the gods. Even bread was baked in the form of a crescent as an act of devotion to the Moon-god. The Ur of the Chaldees was so devoted to the Moon-god that it was sometimes called Nannar (the Sumerian name for the God) in tablets from that time period.
While the family lived there, Haran died. It seems that as a result, Abram and Nahor shared the responsibilities of taking care of Haran’s family. Abram took Haran’s son Lot under his wing, while Nahor married Nahor’s daughter Milcah (Gen 11:28-31).
When Abram’s father left for Canaan and settled in Haran (possibly named after his dead son), he took Abram and his family with him. Since the Bible does not mention Nahor, it seems that he remained in Ur. Later, (Gen. 22:20) the Bible implies that Nahor moved from Ur to the city of Nahor, and it is there that Abram’s servant finds a wife for Rebeccah.
The city of Nahor, which was Rebeccah’s home (Gen. 24:10) where Abraham sent his servant to bring her for his son Isaac’s wife, occurs often as Nakhur in the Mari tablets, discovered in 1935 and belonging to the eighteenth century B.C. The Mari references and Assyrian records of the seventh century B.C., where Nahor occurs as Til-Nakhiri ("the Mound of Nahor"), located in the Balikh Valley below Haran.
It is in the city of Haran that Abram hears the call of God to move to Canaan (Gen. 12:1).He left with his wife and servants, and all his goods
Abram also took Lot with him (Gen. 12:5).
After their trip to Canaan, Abram and his company left for Egypt, since there was a famine in the land. By the time they returned their group had grown so much in size that strife arose between the servants of Abram and the servants of Lot (Gen. 13:6). Therefore, they made a decision to deal with that problem.
They made that decision near Bethel.
Bethel lies on an ancient route known as "The Way of the Patriarchs". This road, also called the "Ridge Route" (because it followed a key mountain ridge stretching for a distance of 50 miles), traveled south from Shechem through Shiloh, Bethel/Ai, Ramah, Gibeah, Jerusalem, Bethlehem, and Hebron. This route appears continuously in the Biblical text.
The land of Canaan rises up from the Mediterranean into a row of mountains . Near Bethel are Mount Ebal (940m.) and Mount Gerazim (881 m). Bethel is about half way between the Lake of Galilee and the Dead Sea. It is no surprise then that Lot was able to see the entire watershed of the Jordan River.
And Lot lifted up his eyes, and beheld all the plain of Jordan, that it was well watered everywhere, before the LORD destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah, even as the garden of the LORD. Then Lot selected for himself all the plain of Jordan; and Lot journeyed east: and they separated themselves the one from the other (Gen. 13:10-11).
When David joyously danced before the ark (karar 02769), he whirled about in circles. The word for plain derives from this thought (kikkar 03603). Its root meaning implies a circle and all that is in it. The word describes a circle, a talent (a round valuable coin), and a round loaf of bread.
The implication here is that the plain of the River Jordan was a cause of celebration, was of value, and was a source of food.
Lot’s choice of this area therefore held the promise of great joy, great wealth, and great comfort. From the Lake of Galilee all the way south to the Dead Sea, the entire area of this valley was available to Lot and his family, his servants, and his flocks. Meanwhile, Abram remained in the Hill country of Shechem, eventually settling in Hebron.
Abram settled in the land of Canaan, and Lot settled in the cities of the plain, and pitched his tent up to (aead 05704) Sodom. But the men of Sodom were wicked and sinners before the LORD exceedingly. Moreover, the LORD said to Abram, after Lot separated from him, "Now lift up your eyes, and look from the place where you are, northward, southward, eastward, and westward For all the land which you see, I will give it to you, and to your seed for (aead 05704) ever (up to time out of mind) (Gen. 13: 12-15).
There is now no further mention of Lot’s servants, or Lot’s herds. Not only that but as Abram’s eyes drifted eastward to where Lot was moving, God seems to have promised that land to Abram as well.
Lot, on the other hand, moved to the cities of the plain, even up to Sodom. Lot must have been quite accomplished in business, since he eventually found a place at the gate of the city (Gen. 19:1), which is a sign of prominence within the city.
First, he pitched his tent up to Sodom (Gen. 13: 12).
Then he lived in Sodom (Gen. 14: 12).
Finally, he had a place of importance in Sodom (Gen. 19: 1).
Following after the God of Lot.
Lot went to the cities, which were places of business (Gen. 13: 12). Abram pitched a tent (Gen. 13: 18).
Lot conformed to the practices that surrounded him (Gen. 19: 8). Abram formed covenant relationships with like-minded people (Gen. 14: 13).
Lot exchanged the wealth God had given him (his flocks, his servants) for the wealth of the world (the business world of Sodom). Abram prospered in the wealth God granted him freely (Gen. 15: 1).
Lot stayed close to his business interests. Abram travelled.
Lot tied himself to the world. Abram sought after the Lord.
Sodom was part of a coalition of cities that owed their allegiance to the King of Shinar (Babylon). Twelve years they served Chedorlaomer the King of Shinar, and in the thirteenth year, they rebelled (Gen. 14:4).
As a result, the kings allied with Chedorlaomer came to the plains of the Jordan River to quell the rebellion. In the ensuing battle, they took Lot, Abram’s brother’s son, who lived in Sodom, and his goods, and departed (Gen. 14:12).
And one that had escaped came and told Abram the Hebrew; who lived in the plain of Mamre the Amorite, brother of Eshcol, and brother of Aner: and these were confederate with Abram. When Abram heard of his Lot’s capture, he armed his trained servants, born in his own house, three hundred and eighteen, and pursued them to Dan. He divided himself against them, he and his servants, by night. He slaughtered them, and pursued them to Hobah, which is on the left hand of Damascus. He brought back all the goods, and also brought again his brother Lot, and his goods, and the women also, and the people. (Gen. 14:13 - 16)
The first tithe
Had Abram wanted to return the spoils of war directly to Sodom, he could have gone through the Jordan valley. The road through the valley was more direct, and less hilly. Instead, he must have taken "The Way of the Patriarchs." It seems that he preferred to go directly to his home in Hebron.
It was on this road, in the valley of Shaveh or Kidron Valley, which separates the Temple mount from the Mount of Olives, that the next important event in the story takes place.
As you read the following passage, bear in mind that Abram and Melchizedek were not the only people at the meeting. The Bible makes it quite clear that the King of Sodom went out to meet Abram. It was after this that the King of Salem came to bless Abram in the presence of the King of Sodom.
The king of Sodom went out to meet Abram at the valley of Shaveh, which is the king’s dale , after his return from the slaughter of Chedorlaomer, and of the kings that were with him. Melchizedek, king of Salem, brought forth bread and wine. He was the priest of the most high God. He (Melchizedek) blessed him (Abram), and said, "Blessed be Abram of the most high God, possessor of heaven and earth. And blessed be the most high God, who has delivered your enemies into your hand".
The Hebrew then says the following:
And he delivered up (05414 nathan) the tithe (Gen. 14:17-20).
What did Abram pay tithes on? The Bible does not explain this in detail. However, it is safe to draw a few conclusions from the story. As the leader of an army that had just defeated an enemy, he returned with four things.
All the people that Chedorlaomer and his army had carried away with him (All of them returned to their home).
All the goods that belonged to Lot (these were returned to Lot in their entirety).
Everything that Chedorlaomer and his army had plundered from the King of Sodom and his compatriots (these were returned to the King of Sodom in their entirety).
All the things belonging to Chedorlaomer and his army that Abram and his army had brought home with them (Since Abram had rightfully acquired this through the right of plunder, he delivered up the tithe for the plunder).
Life is full of constant decisions.
Some will affect your future life far more than others will. Like many others, Abram did not face very many major life-altering decisions. Yet, the decisions he made at the time still reverberate through to this present day.
His decision to heed the call of God and move to a land God would show him.
His decision to attempt to father a child before the time God had appointed.
His willingness to sacrifice Isaac.
Abraham lived for one hundred and seventy five years and the consequences of just three decisions affected our view and God’s view of his entire life.
This is the story of the fourth important decision.
Abram now faced a major temptation.
He was carrying home the plunder from his great victory. He was also bringing back the people and goods of the people of Sodom and its allies. While Abram felt the flush of victory, the King of Sodom proposed the following. "Give me (05414 nathan) the people, and take (03947 laqash) the goods yourself (Gen 14:21).
An expanded version of this offer reads this way.
Just as you delivered up the tithe, deliver up the people as well (it is the same word).
If you do that then I give you permission to lay hold of, acquire, marry yourself to, and carry away all the goods that I have under my control.
There is a small problem. Temptations do not arrive in large self-explanatory packages.
The King only spoke four words. "Give people, take things".
Life changing decisions sometimes arrive in small packages. Furthermore, they do not happen that often. However, the way you live your life from moment to moment, day by day, thought by thought, will affect how you react when the time of decision arrives.
The king of Sodom was watching when Melchizedek came to greet Abram. Many have argued that this was probably a chance encounter. Nevertheless, remember that Jerusalem was on "The Way of the Patriarchs". I suspect Abram travelled on this way more than once.
The king of Sodom was watching when Melchizedek blessed Abram.
The king of Sodom was watching when Abram delivered the tithe.
The area that the King of Sodom controlled was in the plain of the Jordan River in what is now the Dead Sea. The hill country where he met Abram was outside of his dominion. He may not have known the significance of what was happening. Immediately after he watched Abram deliver up a tenth of his own possessions, he made the offer. "Give people, take things".
The tithe as covenant.
The King of Sodom knew business. His city thrived on it. When Abram delivered the tithe, a king with an understanding of business would assume that this was a form of tribute. He would assume that this was a way of a subject acknowledging his allegiance to a king. He probably assumed that the tithe was an obligation.
The King of Sodom pounced on this idea. If Abram accepted his offer, then Abram would be under the same obligation to him. From the King of Sodom’s point of view, it was virtually a free offer. He would only give up the goods that their enemy had taken away already. On the other hand, Sodom would gain influence in an area they did not yet control.
It seems that the King of Sodom was not paying attention.
Abram said to the king of Sodom,
I have lifted up my hand unto the LORD, the most high God, the possessor of heaven and earth. I will not take a thread even to a shoe latchet. I will not take any thing that is yours. Lest you should 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. (Gen. 14:22-24).
Most covenants in the Bible are sealed with an offering that involves the sacrifice of an animal. When Abram lifted up his hand to the Lord, he was making a covenant as well. This time it did not involve the offering of an animal. This time it involved the offering of his possessions.
The King of Sodom offered Abram wealth and riches that came from the world that Abram was walking away from. He was seeking a country that was not of this world (Hebrews 11:16). Abram received an offer that would have permanently tied him into the obligations of this world. Years of walking after his God had already prepared him for the decision he faced. Even before he heard the offer, he had made his decision by cutting a covenant in full view of his tempter. Abram tithed a tenth of his newly acquired wealth as a sign that he refused to accept the world’s way of gaining wealth.
Remember the other side of the offer. "Give me the people".
Years later Abraham interceded with God as they discussed the imminent destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. Abraham interceded for the people. Had Abram accepted the goods of Sodom he would have forfeited the right to intercede for their people.
Abram maintained the right to intercede for the people by making a tithe covenant so that the King of Sodom could never say, "I have made Abram rich."
Abram maintained the right to intercede for the people by making a tithe covenant so that the King of Sodom could never say, "Because I have made Abram rich the people belong to me."
Jesus said "No servant can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. You cannot serve God and Mammon.
The King of Sodom is a perfect example of how Mammon operates. Access to wealth is not a problem for Mammon. Nevertheless, the offer of wealth always comes with a catch.
Mammon wants people.
Mammon wants to control people.
Mammon uses wealth to bind people to himself.
Mammon uses wealth to prevent his enemies from freeing those under its control.
The tithe Abram offered was a sign of the covenant he made between himself and his God.
The covenant acknowledged God as his source of wealth and riches.
The tithe was not a tribute to the King of Salem. Both Abram and Melchizedek served the same God.
The tithe inextricably bound Abram to the provision of God.
The tithe visibly removed him from the control of the God of Mammon.
The tithe allowed Abram to intercede with power for the people of Sodom.
Consequently, God revealed himself as
A protector from fear.
A shield of protection.
A source of great reward.
After these things the word of the LORD came to Abram in a vision, saying, "Fear not, Abram: I am your shield, and your exceeding great reward. (Gen. 15:1)
Recognizing and protecting yourself against the God of Mammon
Using the King of Sodom as an example, helps to recognize some of the tactics of Mammon
Mammon wants to control people.
Mammon wants to disable his enemies from effectively taking back the people in his control.
Mammon uses the promise of wealth to disable his enemies.
Mammon uses sexual sin, and other forms of immediate gratification, to keep people under his control.
Mammon freely gives people a sense of power and importance, especially if Mammon can use them to attack his enemy.
Mammon gives wealth to bring a sense of obligation.
Mammon never gives wealth in order to bless the recipient.
Mammon has access and distributes the wealth of this world.
Mammon never gives wealth that is accessible in the world to come.
Protecting yourself from the God of Mammon
Jesus said, "You cannot serve God and Mammon".
These are some of the ways to firmly establish yourself on the side of God.
Make a decision that you will never allow the God of Mammon to say, "I have made him rich".
Make a decision that your source of wealth will be from the God of Abraham rather than the God of Mammon.
Make a decision to commit yourself to a covenant relationship with the God of Abraham that recognizes Him as the source of your supply.
Make a decision to allow God to remove fear in your life (Jehovah Chacah; The Lord is my refuge).
Make a decision to allow God to be your shield of protection (Jehovah Magen; The Lord is my shield).
Make a decision to allow God to be your exceeding great reward (Jehovah Sakar; The Lord is my reward).
Make a decision to allow God to free you completely to powerfully intercede for the people (Jehovah Shama; The Lord who hears me).
This is a note by way of an observation.
Our God, the God Abraham worshipped, concerns Himself for the poeople. He blesses those who follow after Him. Therefore the businesses that He blesses his people with have, at the heart of them, a concern for the employees and the customers they serve. The wealth they generate are of secondary importance to this primary concern. Our God uses wealth to bless people.
One of the signs that Mammon has control of a business is if that concern for the customers, and especially that concern for the employees takes second place to the bottom line. I would argue that the more the bottom line is worshipped, and the more the employees are treated as a commodity, the more Mammon controls the business. Mammon uses people to bless wealth.
Every covenant has a sign associated with it.
God gave Noah a rainbow.
God gave Abraham circumcision.
God gave Israel the Law.
Abram gave God the tithe.
You can give God the tithe.
It is a sign faith. Through the tithe you publicly state, "God is my shield, and my exceeding great reward."
It is a sign of commitment. Through the tithe you publicly state, "Let no one say that mammon has made me rich."
It is a sign of power. Through the tithe you publicly state, "My prayers and intercession will bring souls into the kingdom."