O Lot lived in Sodom, and Abram lived in his tent on the mountains of Canaan. At that time in the plain of Jordan, near the head of the Dead Sea, were five cities, of which Sodom and Gomorrah were two; and each of the five cities was ruled by its own king. But over all these little kings and their little kingdoms was a greater king, who lived far away, near the land of Chaldea, from which Abram had come, and who ruled all the lands, far and near.
The Dead Sea near where stood Sodom and Gomorrah
After a time these little kings in the plain would not obey the greater king; so he and all his army made war upon them. A battle was fought on the plain, not far from Sodom, and the kings of Sodom and Gomorrah were beaten in the battle, and their soldiers were killed. Then the king who had won the victory over his enemies came to Sodom, and took everything that he could find in the city, and carried away all the people in the city, intending to keep them as slaves. After a battle, in those times, the army that won the victory took away all the goods, and made slaves of all the people on the side that had been beaten.
So Lot, with all that he owned, was carried away by enemies, who went up the valley from Sodom, and did not stop to rest until they came to the head-waters of the river Jordan, at a place afterward called Dan. So, all that Lot's selfish choice gained for him was to lose all that he had, and to be made a prisoner and a slave.
Some one ran away from the battle, and came to Abram, who was living in his tent under the oak tree near Hebron. As soon as Abram heard what had happened, he called together all the men who were with him, his servants, his shepherds, and his people, and his friends; and he led them after the enemy that had taken away Lot. He followed as fast as his men could march, and found the enemy, with all the goods they had taken and all their prisoners, at Dan, one of the places where the Jordan River begins.
Abram rushed upon the enemies at night, while they were asleep, and fought them, and drove them away; so suddenly that they left behind them everything, and ran far off among the mountains. And in their camp Abram found his nephew Lot, safe, with his wife and daughters, and all his gods, and besides, all the goods and all the other people that had been carried away from Sodom.
Then the king of Sodom came to meet Abram, at a place near the city of Jerusalem, which was afterward called "The King's Valley." And with him came the king of Jerusalem, which at that time was called Salem. The name of this king was Melchizedek, and unlike most other kings in the land at that time, he was a worshipper of the Lord God, as Abram was. And the King Melchizedek blessed Abram, and said, "May the Lord God Most High, who made heaven and earth, bless Abram; and blessed be the Lord God Most High, who has given your enemies into your hand."
And Abram made a present to the King Melchizedek, because he worshipped the Lord. And Abram gave to the king of Sodom all the people and all the goods that had been taken away; and he would not take any pay for having saved them.
Abram meets King Melchizedek
You would have thought that after this, Lot would have seen that it was wrong for him to live in Sodom; but he went back to that city, and made his home there once more, even though his heart was made sad by the wickedness that he saw around him.
After Abram had gone back to his tent under the oak trees at Hebron, one day the Lord God spoke to him, and said:
"Fear not, Abram; I will be a shield to keep you safe from enemies; and I will give you a very great reward for serving me."
And Abram said, "O Lord God, what good can anything do to me, since I have no child to whom I can give it; and after I die, the man who will own everything that I have is not my son, but a servant." For although Abram had a large family of people around him, and many servants, he had no heir, and he was now an old man, and his wife Sarai was also old.
And God said to Abram, "The one to receive what you own shall not be a stranger, but shall be your own son."
And that night God brought Abram out of his tent, under the heavens, and said to him:
"Look now up to the sky, and count the stars, if you can. The people who shall spring from you, your descendants, in the years to come, shall be many more than all the stars that you can see."
Abram did not see how this promise of God could be kept; but he believed God's word, and did not doubt it. And God loved Abram because he believed the promise. Although Abram could not at that time see how God's promise could be kept, yet we know that it was kept, for the Israelite people in the Bible story, and the Jews everywhere in the world now, all came from Abram.
After that, one day, just as the sun was going down, God came to Abram again, and told him many things that should come to pass. God said to Abram:
"After your life is ended, those who are to come from you, your descendants, shall go into a strange land. The people of that land shall make slaves of them, and shall be cruel to them. And they shall stay in that strange land four hundred years; and afterward they shall come out of that land, not any more as slaves, but very rich. And after the four hundred years they shall come back to this land, and this shall be their home. All this shall come to pass after your life, for you shall die in peace and be buried in a good old age. And all this land where you are living shall belong to your people." ? Editnote ("change", "'", "\"") ?>
So that Abram might remember this promise of God, God told Abram to make ready an offering of a lamb and a goat and a pair of pigeons, and to divide them in pieces, and place them opposite to each other. And that night Abram looked, and saw a smoke and fire, like a flaming torch, that passed between the pieces of the offering.
So a promise was made between God and Abram. God promised to give Abram a son and a people and a land, and Abram promised to serve God faithfully.
Such a promise as this, made by two people to each other, was called a covenant; and this was God's covenant with Abram.