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Abraham, Part 4: Does Holiness Get Lost in the Fog of War?

Sometime later a very different crisis — though also involving Lot — develops. The surrounding region is strife-ridden (what’s new under the sun?), and a battle erupts at the vale of Siddim between an alliance led by five kings and an alliance led by four kings.

Though the vale of Siddim — thought to be the southern shore of the Dead Sea — is not far from where Abraham lives, he seems to have no dog in the fight and stays out of it. Until, that is, the victorious four-king alliance,

took Lot, Abram’s brother’s son, who dwelt in Sodom, and his goods, and departed….

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.

There he employs military tactics and deals the enemy a decisive defeat:

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.

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 same pacifist Abraham then, who sees no reason for strife with his nephew, doesn’t hesitate to turn his household into a war party and himself into a general when that same nephew is kidnapped. He makes peace among his kinfolk, but also knows he has to ensure that they exist at all.

For today’s Israel, the need for such military action — including, sometimes, in the Damascus direction — is of course quite familiar.