13¶ And there came one that had escaped, and told Abram the Hebrew; for he dwelt in the plain of Mamre the Amorite, brother of Eshcol, and brother of Aner: and these were confederate with Abram. 14 And when Abram heard that his brother was taken captive, he armed his trained servants, born in his own house, three hundred and eighteen, and pursued them unto Dan. 15 And he divided himself against them, he and his servants, by night, and smote them, and pursued them unto Hobah, which is on the left hand of Damascus. 16 And he brought back all the goods, and also brought again his brother Lot, and his goods, and the women also, and the people.
The first mention of Hebrew is here, which Strong’s dictionary said means, “one from beyond,” indicating Abram’s status as an immigrant from outside of Canaan. Other scholars have tried to link an ancient word for brigand or robbers, fringe desert dwellers on the borders of society, the hapiru or habiru, with the Hebrew but that idea is discredited by reputable scholarship today.(42)
Abram, an influential and wealthy man, maybe not only had his armed servants to call on but allies among the inhabitants of the land, his confederates. Confederate is defined in the following verse as allies agreeing in a cause. Notice that the phrase after the colon defines the phrase before it and vice versa throughout the Bible.
Psalm 83:5 For they have consulted together with one consent: they are confederate against thee:
Referring to Lot as Abram’s brother simply means that Lot and Abram were alike, closely related, of the same kind. Notice in the following verse from earlier in Genesis how brother is used even more expansively, not just referring to another son of one’s mother.
Genesis 9:5 And surely your blood of your lives will I require; at the hand of every beast will I require it, and at the hand of man; at the hand of every man’s brother will I require the life of man.
And here, see how brother is used to link people alike in habit.
Proverbs 18:9 He also that is slothful in his work is brother to him that is a great waster.
It is also used as a definition of one’s neighbour, which we spell neighbor, in the following verse. Think of the sentiment expressed by some throughout history that, “all men are brothers.”
Jeremiah 23:35 Thus shall ye say every one to his neighbour, and every one to his brother, What hath the LORD answered? and, What hath the LORD spoken?
This surprise attack at night against a relatively small invading expedition made by 318 armed and trained servants and Abram’s confederates among the locals whose number we do not know, perhaps eager for revenge against a foreign conqueror’s coalition, was successful. The invaders were bloated with the spoils of various cities they had robbed and probably filled with the pride of success at how little this expedition had cost them, until now. Although we know that nothing happens without God’s permissive will or His directive will so He was involved in that He permitted Abram to win this is not specifically the kind of supernatural deliverance of Gideon with tactics directed by God, but a simple shock attack against an unsuspecting and arrogant force in the middle of the night.
This presents a very important point about reality that is the subject of the Book of Job. All that happens is a manifestation of God’s will, even when men commit horrible evil which He permits for a reason we may never know in this life and which in its brutality and seeming randomness makes no sense to us, but there are times when God’s involvement is obvious and apparent, as in Gideon. But, all victory or defeat, whether of good guys or bad, points to His will, either by permission or direction. It is up to us to understand that we may never know why in this life and that we are to trust Him, as He has everything under control and knows what He is doing. We must fight evil, as Abram has done, but not be mistaken in thinking that the outcome is in our hands or that it will even by necessity because we are fighting for God be a good outcome. Many preachers make the mistake of thinking that if they do something in God’s name He must bless it because of their intention. This is not true. God will bless what He will bless if it is to His purpose but you do not determine that.
We assume we will know the “whys” when we stand before Christ but how ashamed we will be if we do find out that our lack of faith was an impediment to great blessings in this life we can only imagine. I can picture that our works will be sorted out. What was done for our flesh or out of fear of man or desire for approval of man even though we said it was for God and what was done out of faith in God or desire for His approval will be treated differently I suspect regardless of whether the outcomes were worldly success or martyrdom.
(42)Daniel Snell, Life in the Ancient Near East (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1997), 68.