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Verses 1-12

The four kings (Genesis 14:1) resided in the eastern part of the Fertile Crescent. They sought to dominate the land of Canaan by subjugating five kings (Genesis 14:2) who lived there. They probably wanted to keep the trade routes between Mesopotamia and Egypt open and under their control. It is interesting that people living around Babylon initiated this first war mentioned in the Bible (Genesis 14:2).

Scholars have debated the identity of the Rephaim (Genesis 14:5; cf. Genesis 15:20; literally "ghosts" or "spirits of the dead"). Some believe they were gods, others that they were the deified dead, and still others the promoters of fertility. [Note: Conrad L’Heureux, "The Ugaritic and Biblical Rephaim," Harvard Theological Review 67 (1974):265-74.] Most likely they were one of the early tribal groups that inhabited Canaan when Abram entered the land. They appear to have been very powerful, and apparently some of their neighbors regarded them as superhuman before and or after their heyday. [Note: See The New Bible Dictionary, 1962 ed., s.v. "Rephaim," by T. C. Mitchell.]

The scene of the battle of the nine kings was the Valley of Siddim (Genesis 14:3; Genesis 14:8). This valley probably lay in the southern "bay" of the modern Dead Sea south of the Lissan Peninsula. The Old Testament calls this body of water the "Salt Sea" because its average 32 percent saline content is about ten times more than the three percent average of the oceans.

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