Summary: Lot and Abram, plus their respective households, separated from one another. Lot and his group chose to settle near Sodom. War broke out and Lot was captured. Abram came and rescued him!
Introduction: After Abram and his household were ordered to leave Egypt, they returned to Canaan. Genesis 13 describes how Abram and Lot both realized there wasn’t enough room (and probably food) for both of them to live together. Abram gave Lot the first choice and said that he would go in the other direction from Lot to keep the peace. Lot made a bad decision, choosing to live near Sodom, even though it looked like a good choice, humanly speaking.
Lot’s decision was doubly bad when war broke out and he and his goods were captured. He and his property, such as remained, were now at Dan, the far north of Canaan. Word eventually reached Abram, Lot’s uncle, then Abram led a rescue mission to save Lot and the other captives.
1 What Abram heard
Text, Genesis 14:1-12, KJV: 1 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; 2 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. 3 All these were joined together in the vale of Siddim, which is the salt sea. 4 Twelve years they served Chedorlaomer, and in the thirteenth year they rebelled. 5 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, 6 And the Horites in their mount Seir, unto Elparan, which is by the wilderness. 7 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. 8 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; 9 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. 10 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. 11 And they took all the goods of Sodom and Gomorrah, and all their victuals, and went their way. 12 And they took Lot, Abram's brother's son, who dwelt in Sodom, and his goods, and departed.
This section is background material for the rest of the message itself. Moses explains how one of the first world wars started, with Semitic peoples from Shinar, not far from Babylon; Ellasar (location not certain); Elam (modern day Iran) and the “king of ‘nations’” came to fight against some Hamitic peoples south and east of Canaan. Some of the locations mentioned are known, such as Mt Seir, which was later given to the Edomites or descendants of Esau many years later (compare Genesis 33:14-16 with Deuteronomy 2:1-12).. Other locations are not certain. The thing to remember is that a large army from the north and east of Canaan, led by four kings, came to fight a rebellion led by five kings of the south. The kings of Sodom and Gomorrah were included in the group of five kings.
Not much is said about the battles themselves, except to note that the “Vale of Siddim” was full of tar pits (“slime” pits, KJV). The kings of Sodom and Gomorrah “fled, and fell there”; the others fled to the mountains. Nothing really is known about these pits, as to size, depth, or anything else, but they were apparently large enough for people to become trapped in them. The time of day this battle took place is never stated but it is likely the people of Sodom and Gomorrah fled at night. Otherwise, if this happened during the day, chances are the people would have seen these pits and avoided them.
The invading army, led by the four kings of the north, didn’t seem to have any trouble avoiding these pits. They didn’t have any trouble capturing or plundering all the goods of Sodom and Gomorrah. Even worse, they captured Lot, Abram’s nephew, and all his goods or property. Lot had chosen to live near Sodom, in chapter 13, but now he is paying the price for that decision. Instead of living in fellowship with Abram, he’s now living in fear of an invading army—and he wasn’t even a resident of Sodom at this point! None of that seemed to matter to the invaders, who came, conquered, plundered, and left.
“And they departed”. None of the captives knew where they were going but some might have guessed that it was going to be a long way from their homes. And none of them seemed to have any way of escaping the fate or future awaiting them. What hope they might have had was probably gone by the time they were out of sight of Sodom.