The hidden conflict behind the Battle of the Kings

Why would a battle between ancient kingdoms get such prominence in the parasha? Was it all that it seems?

Danny Ginsbourg ,

Dead Sea Sink Hole
Dead Sea Sink Hole
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We read in our Parasha of the defeat of the five kings by the four kings:(14:1-)’In the days of Amraphel, king of Shinar’- Rashi:Nimrod, who cast Avraham into the fiery furnace-‘Chedorlaomer the king of Elam’, and two other allied kings, ‘made war on Bera, king of Sodom, and four other kings, who rebelled against Chedorlaomer, whom they had previously served, and ‘Chedorlaomer and the kings who were with him’ defeated the five kings, and seized all their wealth, ‘and they captured Lot..Avraham’s nephew..for he was residing in Sodom..And when Avraham heard that his kinsman was taken captive, he armed his disciples..he struck’ their captors, ‘and brought back his kinsman’.

Rav David Hofstedter comments :’Read literally, there was no connection between the ‘war of the kings’, and Avraham; Avraham only became involved, because his kinsman, Lot was captured, together with other residents of Sodom, because he ‘happened’ to be in their midst.

‘However, our Sages expound that Avraham was, in fact, the reason for this battle, and that the intention of the victorious four kings was to kill him; and, they determined that the best way to do so, was to first capture his kinsman, Lot, and then deal with him.

‘To this end, that they went to war against Sodom, and its allies, to capture it and all of its residents, their target being Lot.

‘The Zohar Hakadosh expands:’The four kings united, to rid themselves of Avraham. Why? Because he taught the people that the ‘gods’ they served were false, and brought the people to believe in, and serve, Hashem.

‘Therefore, Hashem ‘wakened’ the four kings to declare war against Avraham, to make his name great when he defeated them, and, thereby, bring more people to believe in Hashem.

‘We find that the war of the kings was not for physical ends, but on the spiritual conduct of the world, the kings aiming to uproot and destroy the Emunah that Avraham introduced to the world’.

The Alshich Hakadosh adds:’Who master-minded all this: that Avraham should miraculously triumph, and defeat four mighty kings? He to Whom all that is to happen is revealed before it happens, acted to give Avraham assurance for the future of his mission’.

Asks the Rav:’Why, if Avraham was their target, didn’t the four kings directly attack him, instead going in such a round-about way?’

He answers:’Because they decided that it was ‘beneath the dignity of a king’, and more so, four kings, to go openly to battle against one man.

‘Second, they concluded that if they acted directly, and made Avraham aware that he was their target, he would mobilize the many individuals, and even nations, who had come to admire him, to join him, against his enemies.

‘They therefore went about it in their circuitous fashion, not even going directly to war against Sodom, but first going to battle against several other nations, even though their intention was to capture Lot, who resided in Sodom, so that Avraham would seek to rescue him, and be killed כלאחר יד: ‘accidentally’, before he had time to call on his allies.

‘This is alluded to by this Parasha opening with the words:’And it was in the days of Amraphel’, and not ‘the days of Chedorlaomer’, as we might have expected, since it then gives the rebellion against him as the ‘reason’ for the four kings going to battle against the five kings.

‘This teaches that the main actor was not Chedorlomer, but Amraphel, who, as Rashi comments, was Nimrod, who had ‘unfinished’ business with Avraham, as he had ‘shamed’ him and his idols, in Ur Kasdim’.

Rav Elimelech miDinov sweetens this understanding:’From the Torah ascribing the ‘time’ to that of Amraphel, we can conclude that he was the greatest of the four kings. Why, then, did he allow the campaign to be led by the ‘lesser’ king, Chedorlaomer?

‘Because, as our Sages teach :שנאה מקלקלת את השורה: ’Hatred spoils the order of things’; despite his hatred of Avraham- whom he had cast into the furnace, from which Avraham had miraculously emerged unharmed- led him to understand that he would not be able to defeat him, single-handedly.

‘He therefore concluded that the only way to be rid of his nemesis, was by joining in the duplicitous war of the four kings, against the five kings, who marauded against Chedorlaomer.

‘However, He who knows what is in the hearts of men, repaid him his ‘just rewards’, by leading him to his defeat, by His beloved, Avraham’.

Rav Chaim miChernowitz expounds: ’Avraham understood that the sole purpose of the capture of Lot was to mock Avraham and his G-d, by showing the world that Avraham, and, more importantly, his G-d, was helpless against them.

‘To sanctify Hashem’s Name, Avraham felt compelled to go to war to release Lot, even against these seemingly overwhelming odds.

‘He did so, praying to Hashem, that He help him so that the people of the world would see that You, Hashem are the One who performs miracles, and comes to the aid of those who put their trust in You- so that no longer will unbelievers dare to mock Your Name’.

A concluding thought from the Shem miShmuel:’The four kings that Avraham vanquished, are the ‘fore-runners’ of the four kingdoms that were to subjugate Bnei Israel’; and, just as the four kings, in our Parasha, fell at the hands of Avraham, so too will our four subjugators’- The deeds of the forefathers are a sign to their descendants -מעשה אבות סימן לבנים!

לרפואת נועם עליזה בת זהבה רבקה ונחום אלימלך רפאל בן זהבה רבקה, בתוך שאר חולי עמנו



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