When Abraham and Lot and all their families and herds left Egypt they attempted to settle in Bethel. There were so many of them, the land simply couldn’t support them. So, Abraham told Lot to separate his family and livestock and move out. Well, Lot had a look around and saw that the plain of Jordan was well watered, and even compared it to the Garden of Eden and to Egypt. So, he pitched his tent down near Sodom in the Vale of Siddim, while Abraham took off for Canaan.
Some years before, the Mesopotamian armies had conquered parts of the region and were moving in on Sodom and Gomorrah. The kings of Shinar, Ellasar, Elam and another one (Tidal, king of nations) went to war against the kings of Sodom, Gomorrah, Admah, Zeboiim, and Zoar because they had collectively decided to stop paying tribute. They all got together in the Vale of Siddim which is at the southern end of the Dead Sea.
The local armies were vanquished, primarily because they got themselves caught in the bitumen pits. You’d think that since it was their home ground, they would have known where they were and used them to their advantage against the Babylonians.
Lot and his family were taken hostage when the battle was finished. News of Lot’s predicament reached Abraham and he decided to take matters into his own hands. He gathered more than 300 trained fighters from his own household. Ander, Eshcol, and Mamre brought some men with them and they headed out for Siddim with vengeance in their minds.
When he caught up with the offending army, Abraham divided his troops and surprised them by attacking at night. He managed to completely rout the larger force of Kadarlaomer. He risked his own life, and the lives of his servants to save Lot.
Abraham was greeted as a returning war hero by the King of Sodom and Melchizedek, the King of Jerusalem. Melchizedek brought bread and wine and gave his blessing to Abraham. “And he blessed Abram, saying, ‘Blessed by Abram by God Most High, Creator of heaven and earth. And blessed be God Most High, who delivered your enemies into your hand.” (Genesis 14:19-20) In return, Abraham gave him a tithe of the spoils of war.
It’s unclear whether tithing was a custom at that time, or if Abraham came up with the idea on his own. This is the first mention of it in the Bible.
Bera, the king of Sodom offered Abraham all the material wealth of Sodom if he will only give back his people. Abraham declined his generous offer saying, he wouldn’t take even a shoe lace from Sodom, but the people were welcome to return to their homes.
**Note: I am using the Prophet’s name, Abraham; in these times he was still known as Abram.