War: It's not like Abram's Battle

War: It's not like Abram's Battle
smiling World War II soldier with his donkey

War rages. And Abram rescues the captives (Gen 14). It’s an inspiring story. And we need inspiration.

But it’s also a simple story. Worthy of a place in the Marvel universe. And sometimes simplicity is misleading. Heartbreakingly so. This is your trigger warning.

Here’s Abram’s story. 

Abram the War Hero

Chedarla’omer and the Four Kings are a fearsome group of warriors. They even defeat the giant Nefilim. (Or at least their descendants, the Refaim.)

Bera of Sodom and the Five Kings are also tough. At least, they have badass names like “Bad Guy,” “Wicked” and “Destroyer.”

Still, Chedarla’omer and the Four Kings declare war on Bera and the Five Kings.

Chedarla’omer and the Four Kings win. For twelve terrible years, they dominate the Five Kings and their cities. Then, Bera and the Five Kings rebel. But Chedarla’omer and the Four Kings crush the rebellion. 

Bera’s Five Kings and their warriors flee. They hide in the hills and quarries. So, Chedarla’omer’s Four Kings enter the unprotected cities. They loot, taking everything from food to luxury goods. And they also take civilian captives. Including Abram’s troubled nephew Lot.

One refugee flees to Abram’s camp. He tells Abram about Lot. Immediately Abram assembles his loyal crew of 318 people. (Some interpreters say Abram sets out with only one partner. That’s the superhero Eliezer, whose name has a gematria of 318.)

Abram and his 318 mount a surprise nighttime attack against Chedarla’omer and the Four Kings. Victorious, they liberate all the captives, including the women.

Suddenly Abram’s spiritual mentor Melchizedek pops in from another dimension. They share bread and wine. Then Melchizedek blesses Abram, blesses God, and pops back out.

The King of Sodom wants to bring his people home. That’s all he wants. So, he offers Abram all the recovered property. But Abram says no, I won’t even take a shoelace. Just reimburse my warriors for their expenses, please.

And the story ends. 

Longing for Abram

But the seeds are planted for a sequel. Can Sodom’s King Bera—Bad Guy–actually be a good king? Will he succeed in healing his war-torn city? Or will he try to profit from the chaos? Then, what will happen to Lot in Sodom? How many times can Abram save Lot? (For spoilers, peek at Gen 18-19).

Oh, how we long for an Abram. He cares deeply about his own kin. As soon as he learns Lot is captured, he mobilizes. He and his team plan a careful strategy. Their only aim is to free the captives. None of them want to profit from the war. Instead, they are disciples of Melchizedek, King of Justice.

And, oh, how we yearn for a simple storyline. Bad guys. Good guys. Neutral guys who are good under Abram’s influence. Humane motivations. Precise goals. Wise strategies. Spiritual clarity.

If only modern war was like this. Then we could find our Good Guys and cheer them on. We could expect few casualties. And a quick resolution. 

Modern War isn’t like Abram’s War

But modern war isn’t like this at all. Always, more civilians than soldiers die. More children than adults die. Typically, people caught in the crossfire become victims of rape, torture, starvation, displacement. 

Modern military industry is huge. Think of how many fighters a country or faction has. Then double that number. That’s how many civilians work to support the industry. Think, for example, of any weapon: it needs designers, factory workers, managers, salespeople, shippers, trainers, and more. 

Modern wars aren’t waged by concerned relatives. Instead, politicians with complex responsibilities are in charge. They report to their citizens, but also to their parties, donors, and international peers. Usually, they have complex goals. Civic peace—if it’s a goal at all—is only one among many. Leaders also hope to stimulate an economy, promote big business, strengthen international alliances, pay debts, return favours, and stay in power.

And those are the well-meaning leaders. Corrupt leaders have other entanglements, too. So, for them, civic peace is even less important. Some even want to become kings or queens or dictators. And may plan to benefit from the chaos.

And that’s why, when it comes to war, I can’t cheer. No matter how just I believe a cause to be.

All I can do is pray that the inevitable cease-fire happens soon. That hostages and prisoners come home. And that ordinary people, now torn by grief, can live and love in safety. 

Image: WWII Soldier with his donkey. It made me think of Abraham (Abram) and his donkey (Gen. 22).

  1. R. Laura —

    All I can do is pray that the inevitable cease-fire happens soon.

    Someone to my left (politically) has suggested that it’s time for a call for an _immediate_ cease-fire, since bombing Gaza is also bombing the hostages.

    I suggested that all the parties involved in initiating and prosecuting the war (the Israeli government, the Israeli people, and Hamas) fully understand that prolonging the war, means more hostages will die. (The people of Gaza are passive in all this; I don’t discount their suffering, but they are powerless.)

    I think _you_ are talking about a cease-fire that’s _negotiated_, among Israel, Hamas, and some third parties,
    . . . rather than Israel saying “OK — we’re done” unilaterally.

    Perhaps I’ve been infected by the spirit of the times. I don’t have a strategy for Israel to follow. But stopping the war, without a genuine change in Gaza, means all the deaths, on both sides, have been in vain.

    Thanks — we were studying Lech Lecha this morning, and things _are_ way more complicated now.

    . Charles

    1. Charles, we talked in person. But just adding here, yes of course, a unilateral cease fire is not a cease fire. Much more to say, but don’t need to say it here!

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