King's Cunning by Doniel Sherman


In this week’s Parasha, Kedorlaomer and his three monarchical allies capture all of the inhabitants and possessions of Sedom.  After chasing and besting the four sovereigns, Avraham returns to Sedom with the captives and is greeted by the king.  At first, we are told, “VaYeitzei Melech Sedom LiKrato Acharei Shuvo MeiHakot Et Kedorlaomer VeEt HaMelachim Asher Ito El Eimek Shaveih Hu Eimek HaMelech,” “And the king of Sedom went out to meet him after his return from defeating Kedorlaomer and the kings that were with him to the Valley of Shaveih, which is the king’s valley” (Bereishit 14:17).  After an interruption, the Torah continues, “VaYomer Melech Sedom El Avram Ten Li HaNefesh VeHaRechush Kach Lach,” “And the king of Sedom said to Avraham, ‘Give me the people and take the spoils for yourself’” (14:21).  It would seem that these two Pesukim should be placed together, one flowing directly into the other.  Yet, they are separated by three Pesukim about Avraham’s encounter with the priest Malkitzedek, who gave Avraham bread and wine and then blessed Avraham and Hashem.  Immediately thereafter, Avraham gave Malkitzedek a tenth of all that he owned.

Why was it necessary for the interaction between Avraham and the king of Sedom to be interrupted in this way?  Would it not have made more sense for the text to have concluded the story of Avraham's interaction with the king of Sedom before introducing Malkitzedek?

The Abarbanel suggests that the insertion of the Malkitzedek episode reveals the king of Sedom’s cunning.  The king had lost his entire kingdom only to have it returned in its entirety by Avraham.  It would have been brazen of the king to request anything from Avraham at this point.  However, after he saw Avraham’s generosity in donating a tenth of his assets to Malkitzedek, he took advantage of the situation and asked Avraham for something, too.

-Adapted from a Devar Torah by Nechama Leibowitz

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