Explanatory Notes on the Whole Bible, by John Wesley, [1754-65], at sacred-texts.com
gen 14:1We have here an account of the first war that ever we read of in scripture, in which we may observe. [1.] The parties engaged in it. The invaders were four kings; two of them no less than kings of Shinar and Elam - That is, Chaldea and Persia; yet probably not the sovereign princes of those great kingdoms, but rather the heads of some colonies which came out thence, and settled themselves near Sodom, but retained the names of the countries from which they had their original. The invaded were the kings of five cities that lay near together in the plain of Jordan, Sodom and Gomorrah, Admah, Zeboiim, and Zoar. [2.] The occasion of this war was, the revolt of the five kings from under the government of Chedorlaomer.
gen 14:4Twelve years they served him - The Sodomites were the posterity of Canaan, whom Noah had pronounced a servant to Shem, from whom Elam descended. Thus soon did that prophecy begin to be fulfilled. In the thirteenth year, beginning to be weary of their subjection, they rebelled - Denied their tribute, and attempted to shake off the yoke.
gen 14:5In the fourteenth year - After some pause and preparation, Chedorlaomer, in conjunction with his allies, set himself to reduce the revolters.
[3.] The progress of the war. The four kings laid the neighbouring countries waste, and enriched themselves with the spoil of them, Gen 14:5-7. Upon the alarm of which, the king of Sodom and his allies went out and were routed.
gen 14:13We have here an account of the only military action we ever find Abram engaged in; and this he was not prompted to by avarice or ambition, but purely by a principle of charity.
gen 14:14He armed his trained servants, born in his house - To the number of three hundred and eighteen: a great family, but a small army; about as many as Gideon's that routed the Midianites, Jdg 7:7. He drew out his trained servants, or his catechized servants; not only instructed in the art of war, but instructed in the principles of religion; for Abram commanded his household to keep the way of the Lord.
gen 14:16His brother Lot - That is, his kinsman.
gen 14:18The Rabbins say, that Melchizedek was Shem the son of Noah, who was king and priest to those that descended from him, according to the patriarchal model. Many Christian writers have thought that this was an appearance of the Son of God himself, our Lord Jesus, known to Abram at this time by this name. But as nothing is expressly revealed concerning it, we can determine nothing. He brought forth bread and wine - For the refreshment of Abram and his soldiers, and in congratulation of their victory. This he did as a king. As priest of the most high God he blessed Abram, which we may suppose a greater refreshment to Abram than his bread and wine were.
gen 14:19Blessed be Abram, of the most high God - Observe the titles he here gives to God, which are very glorious. The most high God, which speaks his absolute perfections in himself, and his sovereign dominion over all the creatures. Possessor of heaven and earth - That is, rightful owner and sovereign Lord of all the creatures; because he made them.
gen 14:20And blessed be the most high God - Note, In all our prayers we must praise God, and join hallelujahs with all our hosannas. These are the spiritual sacrifices we must offer up daily, and upon particular occasions. God as the most high God must have the glory of all our victories. In them he shews himself higher than our enemies, and higher than we, for without him we could do nothing. And he gave him tithes of all - That is, of the spoils, Heb 7:4. This may be looked upon, As a gratuity presented to Melchizedek, by way of return for his respects. As an offering dedicated to the most high God, and therefore put into the hands of Melchizedek his priest. Jesus Christ, our great Melchizedek, is to be humbly acknowledged by every one of us as our king and priest, and not only the tithe of all, but all we have, must be given up to him.
gen 14:21Give me the souls, and take thou the substance - So the Hebrew reads it. Here he fairly begs the persons, but as freely bestows the goods on Abram. Gratitude teaches us to recompense to the utmost of our power those that have undergone fatigues, or been at expence for our service.
gen 14:22I have lift up mine hand to the Lord that I will not take anything - Here Observe, The titles he gives to God, the most high God, the possessor of heaven and earth - The same that Melchizedek had just now used. It is good to learn of others how to order our speech concerning God, and to imitate those who speak well in divine things. The ceremony used in this oath; I have lift up my hand - In religious swearing we appeal to God's knowledge of our truth and sincerity, and imprecate his wrath if we swear falsely; and the lifting up of the hands is expressive of both. Lest thou shouldst say, I have made Abram rich - Probably, Abram knew the king of Sodom to be a proud and scornful man, and one that would be apt to turn such a thing as this to his reproach afterwards, and when we have to do with such men, we have need to act with particular caution.
gen 14:23From a thread to a shoe - latchet - Not the least thing that had ever belonged to the king of Sodom.