New Defender's Study Bible Notes
14:1 king of Shinar. Shinar probably refers to Sumeria and Elam to early Persia. Ellasar was the leading tribe in southern Babylonia and “nations” (Hebrew Goiim) was probably a tribe of northeastern Babylonia. Chedorlaomer seems to have been the chief leader of this confederacy (Genesis 14:4).
14:2 king of Sodom. These five “cities of the plain,” listed in this verse–Sodom, Gomorrah, Admah, Zeboim and Zoar–were formerly thought by critics to be fictional. However, the Ebla tablets found in northern Syria beginning in 1964 contain numerous names of cities mentioned in Genesis, including these five, listed the same as in this verse. They antedate the time of Abraham, who probably passed through Ebla on his migration from Haran to Canaan.
14:3 Siddim. “Siddim” meant “cultivated fields,” and the vale of Siddim at this time was extremely fertile, supporting the five cities of the plain. The reference to “the salt sea” was probably a later editorial insertion by Moses. At the time of Abram, what is now the Dead Sea was still a freshwater remnant of the great Flood, and the whole region was “well watered every where” (Genesis 13:10). The exact location of Sodom and her four sister cities is uncertain, although most authorities believe their remains are now submerged beneath the waters of the shallow southern arm of the Dead Sea. There is also the possibility that the actual cities were located on higher elevations overlooking five ephemeral streams (“wadis”) emptying into the lake, with the inhabitants working the fields below during the daytime, then living in the cooler heights above at night.
14:5 Rephaims. Some of these Canaanite tribes seem actually to have been demon-possessed, in the same manner as the demon-energized population before the Flood (see notes on Genesis 6:1-4). The Rephaim (“strong ones”) and the Zamzummim (“powerful ones,” probably the same as the Zuzim) along with the Emim, all seem to have been of “the sons of Anak” or the Anakim, and all seem to have been giants (note Deuteronomy 2:10,20; Joshua 15:13). In Numbers 13:33, these Anakim are actually said to have been “giants” (Hebrew nephilim, the same word as used in Genesis 6:4). Furthermore, the term rephaim is also used to refer to some of the spirits of the wicked dead in Hades (Job 26:5; Proverbs 2:18; 9:18; 21:16; Isaiah 14:9; 26:14). All of this suggests another irruption of demonic spirits after the Flood, possibly at the rebellion at Babel, with giant progeny again being produced through demon-possessed parents. Their descendants inhabited Canaan.
14:6 Horites. The Horites are known to archaeologists as the Hurrians, a leading tribe of the ancient Middle East.
14:7 Amalekites. The Amalekites probably were descended from Amalek, a grandson of Esau, and later inhabited a region west of the Dead Sea. This note was evidently inserted by Moses in his editing of Genesis.
14:7 Amorites. The Amorites were probably the dominant tribe in Canaan at this time.
14:9 and Arioch. Several of the names of kings in this chapter, once charged by higher critics as being nothing but late fiction, have actually been found in excavations dating from the patriarchal period. These include Chedorlaomer and Arioch, found on the Mari Tablets.
14:10 slime pits. These asphalt pits were so extensive that the Dead Sea was called the Asphalt Sea by early writers. They probably represented accumulations of organic debris from the Flood, collecting in the unique basins of the Great Rift Valley which traverse the region.
14:15 by night. It is possible that this was in the nature of a commando raid on a relatively small contingent of the armies of the northern confederacy.