I love the details included in this account — the kings of the Dead Sea Valley had been oppressed by Kedorlaomer for twelve years. When Abram went after them to rescue his nephew Lot, he took 318 trained men born in his household. What purpose do these specific numbers serve? Do they represent some cosmic equation?
No. They are included because the story of an actual event is being told and when you report an event, you include the details.
This story records the first time God provided a military victory, allowing Abram and his 318 trained men to route an army from five kingdoms (probably representing five cities or large towns).
God gave victory to Abram even though he was allied with Sodom and Gomorrah, which have already been identified as wicked. Just because God grants success does not prove that those who have won are godly. God is able to use even those outside His will to accomplish His purposes. In this case, God’s eye is on Abram, on the promises He made to Abram, and on growing the mustard seed of faith that Abram demonstrated in leaving Haran.
Abram recognizes the hand of God in His victory when he offers the first tithe, through Melchizedek, to honor God.
Melchizedek is one of my favorite people in the Bible even though know almost nothing about him. Not where he came from, whose family he descended from, or who were the people he served as priest. It’s a great lesson in how “God is doing 10,000 things in your life at any moment, and we are only aware of about 3 of them,” to quote John Piper.
Melchizedek's appearance tells us that Abram was not the only human worshipping God at this time. There was apparently a group, even in the midst of the sinfulness of Sodom and Gomorrah, who were still worshipping the Most High God.
Abram also demonstrates an important precept when he refuses the king of Sodom’s offer to keep the plunder from his victory. We often make the mistake of aligning ourselves with sin for the sake of material gain, but Abram wanted nothing to do with Sodom. His purpose was to rescue his nephew, not to forge a relationship with those in rebellion against God. He also notes the power that partnering with sin exerts. “I will accept nothing belonging to you, not even a thread or the strap of a sandal, so that you will never be able to say, ‘I made Abram rich.’”
Paul advised the church at Corinth, “Don’t become partners with those who do not believe. For what partnership is there between righteousness and lawlessness? Or what fellowship does light have with darkness?” (2 Corinthians 6:14) We often apply this verse to marriage, which is reasonable, but it is not only about marrying an unbeliever. It also applies to entering into business partnerships or employment relationships with those who have a different foundational worldview.