So who is Abram, and what makes him so special? This chapter, while mostly not about Abram, gives us a great picture of who he is and what makes him so different.
The majority of this chapter is all about politics. Five kings came up in battle against four. One king Chedorlaomor had subjugated numerous other nations for 12 years, these other nations ended up rebelling, a bunch of other stuff happened, and there was a battle. Five kings came up in battle against four. In the end, the kings and armies of Sodom and Gomorrah fled. When that happened, the enemies of these kings came and took spoils of war. As part of those spoils, they kidnapped Lot, his family and things, and a bunch of other people and goods.
Needless to say, Abram was not too pleased with this turn of events, so he set out to resolve the issue. So he took 318 men born in his house and pursued the victors. He got back Lot and all that was his, as well as the other spoils taken from Sodom and Gomorrah.
I found it interesting that through much of this chapter, Abram does what he can to avoid the politics of the day. He remains neutral in any way he can. He does not take part in the fight. In fact, it appears that he avoids it. He is not interested in getting involved in petty disputes. However, when it hits home (Lot is taken) then he turns around, takes a group of men (much smaller than the armies he is pursuing), attacks and drives off the victors. Then, not only does he not desire reward from those he helps, but he refuses to take anything apart from the food that his people ate (after he pays tithe to the King of Salem, priest of the Most High God no less). Why? Because he does not want the other kings to be able to turn around and say, “Look, I made Abram rich.” He is not interested in politics and trading favors. He is interested in what is just, righteous, and holy. Are we more interested in what is right, or what we can get out of a deal?
Also of note in this chapter: We see El-Elyon (God Most High) and YHWH El-Elyon (YHWH God Most High) used what appears to be for the first time in this chapter. We see the Melchizadek king of Salem referred to as the priest of El-Elyon, and Abram tells the king of Sodom that he has sworn to YHWH (the LORD) El-Elyon, possessor of heaven and earth that he would not take even a thread from the spoils.