Genesis 14 and "the four quarters"

  • Alice Deken University of the Free State
Keywords: Metaphor, Semantics, Genesis 14, four quarters, fifth empire, Melchizedek, Abram, Lot.


The first twelve verses of this episode represent an event which was representative of the relationship of the Assyrian Empire with vassal states. These events, reflect what the writer regards as the typical behavior of kings both the invaders and the defenders, who reject the role of the priesthood and hence their subordination to God. These kings are compared in increasing degrees of approval to: the king of Sodom, Melchizedek who is both priest and king, and to Abram who is not a king. This episode takes place within the ongoing debate both within the bible and in the Ancient Near East on the relationship between palace and temple. This text itself becomes a metaphor for the “four corners of the world” represented by empire and including a representation of the “fifth empire” - Abram’s victory, under the guidance of not a king, but God.

Author Biography

Alice Deken, University of the Free State

Department of Theology

Research Fellow


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