Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Chedorlaomer is my Homeboy: A Reader Response to Genesis 14:1

Growing up, I always felt a bit of isolation in Sunday School when the teacher and kids would start talking about people's names and where they came from.

David. Oh, we know David. He was a mighty King, and the writer of wonderful Psalms.
Stephen. Yes, he was such a bold witness for the faith.
Paul. Well, Paul wrote most of the New Testament.
Rebekah. Ahh, the wife that God brought to Isaac. What a wonderful story.
Michael. Michael means "who is like our God." He was also a Mighty Arch-Angel...
Ched. Umm, well. Isn't it time for refreshments?

Needless to say, I was instantly interested in Gen 14:1 the last time I read through the Pentateuch. The text reads, "And it came about in the days of Amraphel king of Shinar, Arioch king of Ellasar, Chedorlaomer king of Elam...."

Chedorlaomer! Who is this character? And is his semantic designator from whence my name derives? Now, I've been called many things in my life thus far: "cheddar cheese"; "Chedikins"; "Ched-Ed" (my middle name is Edward); "Chedward"; "Chedroe"; But, none of these had the regal nobility of "Chedorlaomer."

Eager with anticipation I read the narrative looking to find out what kind of character I shared a semantic domain with.

14:1: "King of Elam"--That's good.
14:4: Many formerly loyal kings rebel against him--That's not so good.
14:5: He defeats the rebels that have rebelled against him--That's good.
14:10: Drove their enemies into tar pits and took all their stuff--Still Good.
14:12: Took Lot, the primary Patriarch's nephew: Not so Good.
14:13-16: Abram mounts up and defeats him and chases him to the North of Damascus: Considerably more, "not so good."
14:17: "Then after [Abram's] return from the defeat of Chedorlaomer and the kings that were with him...." Thus ends the Biblical record of Chedorlaomer.

In the narrative, Chedorlaomer is shown to be a formidable force. On a global scale, he is a mighty conquering king. Therefore, it is striking when Abram defeats him with only 318 men. This is probably intended to demonstrate that the LORD is indeed with Abram and will act on his behalf. The defeat of Chedorlaomer also sets the stage for the Melchizedek narratives in the next section (14:17-24).

Alas, what is emphasized and highlighted about Chedorlaomer is his capture of Lot and his defeat at the hands of an inferior physical force.

Though I probably won't bring this reference up the next time I am in 5th grade Sunday School, if any of you wish to make "Chedorlaomer is my homeboy" shirts, I would certainly not object.

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