Abraham Refuses Booty – The Temptation Is Strong


At first, Genesis 14 seems unrelated to the previous chapter. Four kings from the east come to wage war against the kings and people groups of Canaan, including five kings from cities around the Dead Sea.

The eastern kings defeat all challengers, looting Sodom and carrying off Lot and his entire family.

Now Abram reappears in the story to chase down the departing army, defeat them in a single night, and retrieve all that was lost.

But the king of Sodom is clever; he says, “Give us the persons, and you take the booty—it’s yours.” That was a temptation to Abram.

This is the temptation. According to the Code of Hammurabi of that day, this man Abram had a perfect right to the booty and even to the persons.

On the way home, he is met by a mysterious king and priest of God Most High known as Melchizedek.


Genesis 14:21-24 KJV

[21] And the king of Sodom said unto Abram, Give me the persons, and take the goods to thyself.

[22] And Abram said to the king of Sodom, I have lift up mine hand unto the LORD, the most high God, the possessor of heaven and earth,

[23] That I will not take from a thread even to a shoelatchet, and that I will not take any thing that is thine, lest thou shouldest say, I have made Abram rich:

[24] Save only that which the young men have eaten, and the portion of the men which went with me, Aner, Eshcol, and Mamre; let them take their portion.


Genesis 14:21

And the king of Sodom said unto Abram, Give me the persons, and take the goods to yourself.

Satan will now use the king of Sodom, endeavoring to draw Abraham into his web. He will use money to do so. Forever after, when anybody would say, “That man Abram is certainly a wealthy man. God has blessed him,”

I think that the king of Sodom would have said, “Blessed him, my foot! God didn’t bless him. I gave it to him; I’m the one who made him rich!” Abram knew that. Listen to him now.

Both Melchizedek (Genesis 14:18) and Bera, the king of Sodom (Genesis 14:2) have come out to meet Abram on his way home from defeating the enemy and rescuing all that had been taken by the four kings of the east.

The structure of this passage is meant to compare Bera, the King of Sodom, to Melchizedek, the King of Salem, and their interaction with Abram. At this time, Sodom was already known for its extreme wickedness (Genesis 13:13).

The demand given here from the king of Sodom stands in stark contrast to the exchange which just took place between Abram and Melchizedek.

Melchizedek greeted Abram with a royal meal of wine and bread and a blessing from God. Abram responded by giving ten percent of all of the plunder to this priest and king.

Bera has witnessed this, but only offers a curt order to Abram: “Give me the people; keep the material possessions.” This might have been the beginning of negotiations to recover from Abram some of what was taken by the enemy.

The people likely would have included both the citizens of Sodom, as well as the slaves and servants of the king.

Bera’s lack of humility seems all the more rude considering that he had been conquered and sent running by the very enemy Abram—really, Abram’s God—had so quickly defeated.

The next verse contains Abram’s humble, faithful response.


Genesis 14:22

And Abram said to the king of Sodom, I have lift up my hand unto the LORD, the Most High God, the Possessor of heaven and Earth

The king of Sodom may have proposed an amalgamation of sorts with Abraham.

But the Patriarch proclaims to all concerned that his allegiance is totally and completely to “the LORD, the Most High God, the Possessor of heaven and Earth”.

In this, he proclaims the fact that he is beholden to no man, but yet gracious to all men.

Abram has recaptured from the four kings of the east all that formerly belonged to Sodom, including all of the possessions and the people. Bera, Sodom’s king, (Genesis 14:2) has come out to meet Abram.

In doing so, he has observed a blessing (Genesis 14:19) given by Melchizedek. This mysterious figure’s name means “King of Righteousness.” Bera has also witnessed Abram’s gift of a tithe to Melchizedek (Genesis 14:20).

Not only does Bera fail to bring anything to Abram, he steps in with a demand: Keep the possessions, and give me the people (Genesis 14:21).

Abram’s response to the king of Sodom’s begins in this verse and continues through the following two verses.

As the victor over those who had plundered Sodom, Abram could have claimed the right to keep everything for himself.

Instead, he tells Bera that he has sworn an oath to God not to keep any of it. Specifically, Abram says that he has raised his hand to swear this oath to “the Lord, God Most High, Possessor (or Creator) of heaven and earth.”

Having just received a blessing from the Lord’s priest Melchizedek and giving a tenth of the plunder to him, Abram now declares his own loyalty to the One who owns all things.

This contrast is spectacular in its implications for Christians today. Faced with both the “king of righteousness” (Genesis 14:18) and a king of depravity (Genesis 13:13), Abram accepts a blessing from the righteous king and gives him a tithe.

Abram flatly refuses to keep even a single coin—not even a thread—from the king of depravity. Abram’s stance is explicitly clear: His oath to God means having absolutely nothing to do with wicked Sodom or its king.

This choice parallels the need for believers, today, to draw a hard line between godly pursuits and a love of this fallen world, even material things associated with the world (1 John 2:15; Jude 1:23).


Genesis 14:23

That I will not take from a thread even to a shoelatchet, and that I will not take any thing that is yours, lest you should say, I have made Abram rich

The temptation is strong, and in more ways than one; however, the Patriarch passes the test with flying colors.

Abram’s response to the king of Sodom continues in this verse. Bera, Sodom’s king (Genesis 14:2), has demanded that Abram give him back the people he has rescued from the enemy and keep the possessions for himself.

This was after watching Melchizedek, whose name means “King of Righteousness” bless Abram and receive a tithe of Abram’s spoils (Genesis 14:19–20). The contrast between these two kings is a major factor in interpreting this story.

Abram could have claimed the right to keep all of the war loot for himself. Instead, he responds by saying that he has taken an oath before God not to keep even a thread or a sandal strap from Sodom.


He doesn’t want the king of Sodom, or anyone else, to take credit for Abram’s success. Abram does not want to be associated, in any way, or in any sense, with the wicked culture of Sodom, or her king (Genesis 13:13).

This oath demonstrates Abram’s commitment to making it clear that all he had was given to him by the Lord.

For God’s glory, Abram didn’t want any hint of confusion about the source of his wealth, or his victory over the enemy, or his allegiance to God. God Most High was the one who would get the credit for Abram’s success.


Genesis 14:24

Save only that which the young men have eaten, and the portion of the men which went with me, Aner, Eshcol, and Mamre; let them take their portion.

Abraham was held to a much higher standard than those with him. While it was no problem for them to take some of the goods, he could not take even as much as a “shoelatchet.”

The man of God presently should understand the lesson taught here, that while we are in the world, we are never to be of the world.

The king of Sodom has demanded that Abram return to him the people Abram rescued from the four kings from the east. Abram’s response began in verse 22 and concludes here.

Abram had taken an oath before God not to keep even a thread of the plunder for himself; he would return both it and the people to Sodom. In fact, from Abram’s perspective, he never took it in the first place!


Abram didn’t want the king of Sodom (or anyone else) to be able to take the credit for his wealth. That credit belonged to God. Abram understood God to be the one who blessed him and made him successful.

He wanted others to see that, as well.

However, in this concluding verse, Abram does say that those who fought with him, his allies, the brothers Mamre, Aner, and Eshkol, are entitled to their fair share of the plunder.

Abram is not going to speak for them—this oath is his, and the burden in his. In the same way, Abram will not repay the food his men have already eaten on the way; strictly speaking, he cannot, since it’s already gone.

Everything that can be returned to Sodom will be returned.

In making this statement, Abram also makes it clear that this is not a gift to Bera, the king of Sodom (Genesis 14:2). From Abram’s perspective, these people and goods are still the property of Sodom—he had sworn not to take any of it.

Abram’s commitment to avoid any connection with the wickedness of Sodom and Gomorrah is crystal clear (Genesis 13:13).

Of course, the share of the plunder that went to Melchizedek and Abram’s three allies would have been significant. In this way, God continues to keep His promise to bless those who bless Abram (Genesis 12:3).



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2 thoughts on “Abraham Refuses Booty – The Temptation Is Strong

  1. Thank you for providing such a detailed analysis of the interactions in Genesis 14. 

    It’s fascinating to see how Abram’s actions reveal his unwavering commitment to God and his refusal to be associated with the wickedness of Sodom. The comparison between the interactions with Melchizedek and the king of Sodom highlights Abram’s dedication to giving credit to God for his success. 

    This passage serves as a powerful reminder of the importance of staying true to our values and maintaining our allegiance to what is righteous.

    1. Hello Les,

      Thank you for your continued support, reading and commenting on these HBS & DwJ Podcast episodes.

      Thank you for checking out this Abraham Refuses Booty – The Temptation Is Strong episode. I absolutely agree with your comments.

      It pleases me to learn that you are receptive of the information contained in these episodes. Thank you for your appreciation of this topic. I am so thankful that it peaks your interest at all.

      Please come back and visit this website, the podcast, and the store anytime.

      Blessings My Friend!

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