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War of the Ten Kings

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The War of the Ten Kings is described in Genesis as taking place in the Dead Sea region (Valley of Siddim) before the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. The battle was fought between the five kings of the Cities of the Plain (which included Sodom and Gomorrah) and a coalition of five kings led by Chedorlaomer.

The battle is one of several wars that provide points of synchrony between Biblical and secular chronology. James Ussher dates the war to Date::1912 BC. The Bible mentions it as occurring early in the career of Combatant::Abraham, who was one of the major participants.[1] Comparison with secular history strongly suggests that this war cleared the path for Combatant::Hammurabi, another of the combatants, to secure all of Babylonia as a united empire for the first time.

Two competing alliances

Nine of the ten kings of this war actually fought in it; the tenth (Melchizedek) was not a participant but did give his blessing to Abraham after it was over.

Hammurabi, or Amraphel,(In the Midrash and the later Rabbinical literature, Amraphel was identified with Nimrod this is also attested to in the 11th Book of Jasher).[2] was not the leader of the first coalition. The leader was Combatant::Chedorlaomer, king of Elam, who earlier had conquered all the cities of the plain country in the Valley of Siddim—the Dead Sea. The other two members of Chedorlaomer's coalition were Combatant::Arioch, king of Larsa (Ellasar), and Combatant::Tidal, listed as "king of the nations" (literally, "king of goyim").[3]

The five kings of the plains cities were Combatant::Bera, king of Sodom; Combatant::Birsha, king of Gomorrah; Combatant::Shinab, king of Admah; Combatant::Shemeber, king of Zeboyim; and the unnamed king of Zoar.[4]

Chedorlaomer had conquered these five kings some thirteen years ago. In 2031 AM they rebelled, and in 2032 Chedorlaomer called upon his coalition partners to help him deal with the rebellion.

Early success

At first, the war went well for Chedorlaomer's side. They wiped out the Rephaimite, Zuzimite, and Emimite populations in the surrounding region. along with the Horites or Amorites. Upon their return, the five kings of the plains cities met them in battle in the Valley of Siddim.[1]

The Bible tells why Chedorlaomer prevailed against the rebels:

And the vale of Siddim was full of slimepits, and the kings of Sodom and Gomorrah fled, and fell there; and they that remained fled to the mountain. Genesis 14:10 (KJV)

The "slime" mentioned in that verse is probably bitumen. In any event, Chedorlaomer plundered Sodom and Gomorrah and took several hostages, among them Lot and his family.[1]

Abraham Joins Battle

At least one man escaped Chedorlaomer's chase, came to Abraham's camp, and told him everything. Abraham immediately armed 318 men in his camp, and then called in favors from three of his neighbors: Combatant::Mamre, Combatant::Eshcol, and Combatant::Aner, three Amorite brothers. The four gave chase to Chedorlaomer's forces and caught them in the country that would, centuries later, be the inheritance of the Danites. Abraham split his forces and attacked Chedorlaomer's coalition on several fronts, killing several and chasing the rest as far away as Hobah, a city west of Damascus.[1]

Chedorlaomer likely fell in that battle. Presumably, Hammurabi turned this defeat to his own advantage and expelled the rest of the coalition from Babylonian country. He then continued as the sole ruler of a united Babylonian Empire.[3]


Abraham rescued all of Chedorlaomer's hostages, including Lot, and recaptured all the spoil taken from Sodom. Sodom's King Bera offered to surrender all the goods to Abraham in return for the hostages. Abraham declined, and took no portion except whatever his troops had eaten on the march.[1]

Melchizedek, king of the nearby city of Salem (which is Jerusalem), also received Abraham and gave Abraham his blessing. Abraham gave Melchizedek a tenth of everything he had.[1]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 James Ussher, The Annals of the World, Larry Pierce, ed., Green Forest, AR: Master Books, 2003 (ISBN 0890513600), pgh. 77
  3. 3.0 3.1 Entry for Chedorlaomer, Easton's Bible Dictionary. Accessed December 26, 2007.
  4. Genesis 14

See also