I have always been intrigued by the brief exchange between Avram and the King of Sodom in this week’s parshah, Lekh-Lekha. Avram the man of faith proves to be quite capable as a man of war. After hearing that his nephew Lot has been taken captive when Sodom ended up on the losing side of a regional battle, Avram raises a militia and rescues the captives. The spoils of war are there for the taking, and the King of Sodom can’t help but notice.
“Then the king of Sodom said to Abram, ‘Give me the people, and take the possessions for yourself.’ But Abram said to the king of Sodom, ‘I swear to the Lord, God Most High, Creator of Heaven and Earth: I will not take so much as a thread or a sandal strap of what is yours; you shall not say, ‘It is I who made Abram rich.'” (Genesis 14:21-23)
We can learn a great deal about both Avram and the king from this dialogue. On the surface, the king’s offer seems fair and generous. Avram’s reply, in contrast, borders on the obnoxious, even full of contempt. What triggers this response?
As you think about this episode, consider a brief interlude in the narrative that comes just before it. The King of Sodom has gone out to meet Avram, as has Malki-Tzedek, King of Shalem. The latter brings bread and wine, presents them to Avram, and proposes a victory toast to God. What do we learn about the King of Sodom here, even before he makes his offer to Avram?
We’ll delve into this rich narrative on Shabbat morning. I hope to see you there!
Wishing you Shabbat Shalom,
Rabbi David Wise